Focus mode for musicians on iOS

I’m sure there are a bunch of really excellent use cases for the new focus mode in iOS but this one that I created yesterday is a total game-changer for me. On so many occasions I’ve been playing guitar or recording something in garage band and had a phone call or text interrupt the recording session and it is really a challenge to remember to put on do not disturb each time I launch a recording session in GB.

Enter focus mode! I created a focus mode that turns off all alerts/interuptions called “Recording” and set it so that the mode is engaged every time I launch Garage Band. Focus mode is pretty intelligent and automatically puts all of my iOS devices in “Recording” mode as soon as I launch Garage Band. This is awesome and I highly recommend it!

 

IMG 93EB1D5212B0 1

AirPlay 2 on Shairport

This is still in its infancy but it’s fantastic to see AirPlay 2 support making its way into Shairport/Linux. I haven’t tested this yet as I’ve been buying old AirPort Express (amazingly, they support AirPlay 2) devices to replace my Raspberry Pi’s but it’ll be fun to pull out a raspberry pi and try to get synchronized audio playing out on my patio speakers.

Published
Categorized as Music, Tech

Long Form Article Reading on Kindle, Improved

Over the past year I’ve been using a service called Readwise.io to surface highlights from books I read on my Kindle and from articles I read on my iPad using Instapaper.

Screen Shot 2021 06 30 at 3 46 07 PM

The service has its flaws but all in all has been useful to me in helping me to remember what I’ve read and found important.

That said, I’m finding myself less inclined to wanting to read long form journalism on my iPad, especially at night in bed when I’m trying to stay away from screens or at the beach where my Kindle feels easier to read than my iPad.

I have spent the past couple of weeks cobbling together a collection of tools that makes reading long articles on my Kindle easier as well as saves any article highlights I’ve made to Readwise.

I wish that I could use Instapaper for this workflow but, while you can read Instapaper articles on the Kindle pretty easily, tracking highlights doesn’t work so well. So I’ve landed on the following:

Push to Kindle from fivefilters allows me to easily push web articles to my kindle from my Mac (via Safari extension), iPhone or iPad (nice, easy to configure dedicated iOS app)

I then read/highlight on my Kindle paperwhite

When I plug my Kindle into my Mac’s USB connection, the highlights are automatically sent to my Readwise account

This last bit requires a good bit of AppleScript sorcery but it’s pretty easy to achieve using EventScripts.

Basically, EventScripts notices when my Kindle is plugged in. Once it sees the Kindle is plugged in, it executes this AppleScript which emails the My Clippings.txt file automatically to readwise who then imports it.

Really pretty elegant stuff here that, I hope, shows the value proposition of many small/lightweight tools loosely coupled as opposed to some monolithic solution.

Apple Lossless Dolby Atmos

I scored a great deal on a NAD receiver/amplifier (with a phono preamp!) recently and finally had a chance to run it through its paces into my KEF Q150s. I primarily listen to vinyl through this setup but also have an older AirPort Express going into an outboard DAC via optical out so that I can stream music from Apple Music and Spotify via AirPlay from my iPad/iPhone.

Which is how I stumbled across the opportunity to check out some of Apple’s new Dolby Atmos versions of albums. First up was a quick run through Rush’s Moving Pictures. The Dolby Atmos logo showed up under the album art and I sent Tom Sawyer over to the NAD via AirPlay ready to have my socks blown off.

And it sounded like garbage. I did some A/B between the Apple version and the Spotify version and the plain old Spotify version sounded way better. So I did some digging and it turns out I was doing it all wrong.

The thing with Atmos-enabled albums is they should only be played on Atmos-capable speakers/headphones (like AirPod Pros or HomePods via Apple TV) not on a pair of regular KEF’s. It took me a while to figure out that it’s important to sanity check the Music settings on your iOS device to make sure everything is all cool before sending music over AirPlay.

When you go to Settings->Music->Dolby Atmos on your iPhone or iPad make sure it’s not set to Always On! If you put it on Automatic what happens is if you are playing through AirPod Pros (or other Atmos-enabled speaker) is that it plays that Atmos-version of the album but if you AirPlay to a regular stereo, it plays the Lossless instead.

I confirmed this and now when I choose to AirPlay to my HiFi system the logo under Moving Pictures changes from “Dolby Atmos” to “Lossless.” Pretty cool.

So, the regular stereo Lossless stuff sounds, as expected, pretty excellent through the NAD->KEF setup. Also, the Atmos stuff sounds pretty cool through the AirPod Pros I have, not sure if it’s anything more than a novelty at this point. Some mixes just sound a little wider but others (I stumbled on I Want You Back by Jackson 5) you can really hear the soundstage way more distinctly in the Atmos version as opposed to the plain stereo version.

I don’t do a lot of serious listening through my AirPods but if you have a pair and want to hear something really cool, click this link and wait about 10 seconds and then start to turn your head from side to side. Pretty cool, right?

So the next step here is to check out some Atmos stuff on my pair of stereo HomePods. I have a pair of the original HomePods and they sound killer as a stereo pair. Unfortunately you can’t airplay right from your phone to the HomePods and get Atmos-enabled sound. Instead you need to send audio from an Apple TV to the HomePods to get the Atmos features. Which isn’t too big of deal since we’ve got an Apple TV in the room with the stereo pair. I’m looking forward to checking that out.

Three key health metrics from Apple Watch – V02 Max, HRV and resting heart rate

As I finished up my run this AM, I checked my phone to look at the health data captured during the run. This is my habit and it got me thinking that based upon some recent conversations with friends of mine who got Apple Watches for Christmas, it feels like more than a few Apple Watch users are missing out by not regularly reviewing some of the key health metrics that the watch captures.

Of course, these metrics become more illustritive and valuable the longer you wear your watch. Meaning, you won’t learn a whole lot for a couple of weeks of data but, wear your watch for a few months or years and you’ve got some terrific baseline data to help you get a clearer picture of your overall health. Note, too, that the data your Watch sends to your phone can be viewed in both the Health app and the Fitness app. They offer different views into similar data but the Health app allows access to more data points and allows you to create favorite metrics, etc.

SummaryScreenshot 2021 01 05 at 1 06 03 PM

The first step is realizing how much valuable information the Apple Watch (or other fitness tracker) sends to the Health app. That’s the white icon with the heart on it on your phone. Your watch sends all sorts of data to that app and you’ll want to just view the highlights using the “Summary” view in the Health app.

The first two metrics that I always make sure are on my iOS Health Summary screen are Resting Heart Rate and Heart Rate Variability. (If you’re not sure how to edit your iOS Health App Summary view: Launch Health app, click Summary in bottom left and then “edit” in upper right.)

The more fit you are, the lower your resting heart rate. In theory. More importantly, if you see your resting heart rate trending up or having huge spikes it could be a sign that you’re getting sick or something else is going on to impact your overall health.

Likewise, with heart rate variability (HRV). The greater the variability of your beat-to-beat rate, the healthier your autonomic nervous system. So, higher numbers here are better. If you see your HRV trending downwards it could be a sign that you’re getting sick or something else is going on. I wrote a post a while back about how big changes in both my resting heart rate and my HRV were clearly visible on my phone when I had Lyme’s disease.

Then there’s V02 Max (aka Cardio Fitness). This is a great indicator of your overall fitness. Higher is better. With iOS 14, Apple changed this metric to be called “Cardio Fitness.” I’m glad to see Apple paying attention to this metric. For a while my Apple Watch was very inconsistent in updating my V02 max but since September my watch has updated my V02 max every time I’ve run or walked for longer than 20 minutes.

Combined, these three metrics can tell me a lot about how stressed out I am, if I am getting enough sleep and if I am exercising enough, too little or too much. Definitely worth adding to your Summary screen if you have an Apple Watch.

iPad Pro for home studio recording

I love my iPad Pro for recording. My current workflow involves laying tracks into GarageBand and then either exporting the stems out to a Google Drive where one of my band mates adds them to our band’s Reaper projects or I dump the project to my Mac and play around with the mix in Logic.

But the best part about the iPad Pro as the nucleus of my recording setup is this:

I can use the portable setup in the early AM with headphones and not disturb anyone . . .
…and then later just bring the iPad into my office for this setup.

This kind of flexibility can’t be beat. I’ve made and recorded more music over the past two weeks with this setup than I’ve made in years. Some of the motivation to record surely comes from Mirror Sound and just thumbing through those pages gave me all sorts of setup ideas.

Being able to just use a USB dongle and a midi keyboard/headphone setup for moving from room to room is very lightweight/portable setup. I am also very happy with my Akai MPK mini even if I don’t totally know how to use it to its full potential.

Using the iPad Pro, I can also plug in an audio interface and do the full microphone recording setup in my office is great. I’ve got a good template setup in GarageBand for the two mic multitrack setup so as soon as I have something to record I can just pop down on my stool, start a new project based on the template and hit record. Takes about 1 minute to get setup and it sounds really damn good.

That said, I’m hoping that Santa brings the new audio interface that I’ve asked for so I can stop using my Zoom H4N as that minute of setup time is due almost solely to how long it takes the zoom to connect as an audio interface. That, and I still haven’t found a really stable USB hub that allows me to run the interface, power and my midi keyboard concurrently in my iPad. But them’s first-world problems.

 

Joni Mitchell’s River

Kül d’Sack put together a little Christmas present for our listeners. Usually at this time of year we’d be doing our Christmas show at a local bar and cajoling the crowd to join us in the caroling. This year COVID kept that from happening.

Instead we each recorded our parts for Joni Mitchell’s River at home and John, our bass player, did a super pro job editing a video together of us playing at home. I did a write up a while back on my home recording gear, you can read here.

Here’s the thing, at the same time we were all recording our parts at home, I was reading Spencer Tweedy’s book, Mirror Sound. I can’t recommend this book enough. I ultimately ended up buying copies for all the guys in Kül d’Sack and if i had the money, I’d buy it for every one of my musician friends.

Tweedy’s book is useful and inspiring for a few reasons: it dispells the imposter syndrome fallacy that so many home-recorded musicians can suffer from by showing that it doesn’t matter where you make your music, so long as you make it.

It also dispells the falacy that music recorded at home will always sound less-than-pro. Reading these interviews with musicians about their home-recording setups and process makes it clear you can make music at home that sounds just as good as music recorded in an expensive studio. Moreover, so many of these musicians extol the benefits of recording at home over a fancy studio: luxury of time, getting into the zone more easily, being more comfortable, etc.

This book comes at just the right time for me. I know musicians who record at home, a lot. For a bunch of reasons though, I never thought that I could do it. But after reading Mirror Sound cover to cover a few times (it’s that kinds of book) I am seeing that the real limitations presented by recording at home are my inertia and the time constraints of working and having a family. But those are small potatoes compared to the imaginary barriers that Tweedy’s book help me dismantle.

Published
Categorized as Post

Deleting minutes from Apple Watch Exercise

I accidentally left Zwift running in the background on my Apple TV the other night and ended up with a few thousand exercise minutes showing up on my Apple Watch rings. In the interest of maintaining clean data I set about trying to remove the unearned minutes. Whoa. What a rabbit hole!

– you can remove the activity: iPhone Health App->Browse->Search for Workouts->select Workouts, scroll to bottom->Show All Data->Delete the workout.

But that doesn’t seem to get rid of the minutes. Crazy, right?

To do that: iPhone Health App->Brows->Search for Exercise Minutes->Scroll to bottom->

Pick the device that recorded the spurious data (in my case it was the iPhone as that’s where the Zwift companion app lives) and you can delete all of the exercise minutes registered by that device for a given day in one shot (as opposed to deleting each individual minute).

Tedious, but it seemed to work. The “rings” retained my legitimate Apple Watch recorded minutes and discarded the inaccurate/unearned iPhone recorded minutes.

Published
Categorized as HowTo, Tech

Goodreads. The roach motel for your reading data?

Have never had a whole lot of love for Goodreads as the site feels like Amazon stealth research department. Now that they’ve made it impossible for me to get out my annual stats via API, I’d really like to find a good alternative.

 

UntitledImage

Readwise feedback and remembering what you’ve read

The value of reading is proportional to the ability to remember what you have read. Reading is a richer experience when you are reading through a lens informed by the context of everything you’ve read and experience before.

Indeed, how much richer is daily life when you can call on a piece of verse or a quote to help inform or understand a given experience?

Meaning, there is real life-enriching value in being able to remember what you’ve read.

That said, I have a horrible, horrible memory.

For reasons not entirely clear to me I have very poor autobiographical memory and remember very few details about the past days of my life. There are all sorts of theories about why autobiographical memory deficit exists but ultimately all that matters are the workarounds that one can come up with to compensate for it.

Fortunately for me, I am very dedicated to journaling and I try to take a lot of photos!

On top of that, as a musician, I’ve always struggled with trying to remember chord progressions, melodies, song lyrics, etc. It takes me countless rehearsals of a single piece to commit it to memory. Though once committed, material tends to stay there, so that’s promising. 

It is just that the effort to get the material committed is so great that I have to be very specific, precise and intentional about how/what material I will work on to commit to memory.

All this is to say that early on during quarantine, I spent a few weeks writing a handful of python scripts that would present me with highlights and notes that I have made concerning what I’ve read. My reading tends to take place in three buckets: Kindle (for fiction/non-fiction books), Instapaper for feature length articles from magazine/blogs and Reeder/RSS for shorter material.

I wrote some code that would extract my highlights and notes from Kindle and Instapaper and store them locally so that I could periodically review them as a united collection.

Then a few weeks ago, I discovered Readwise which does EXACTLY the same thing but SOOOO much better.

Readwise takes your notes/highlights from what you’ve read and sends you a daily email with a handful of these highlights. I can say that there is no email I look forward to receiving each day as much as I look forward to the Readwise daily digest.

I have years’ worth of highlights that the service pulls from and I am regularly presented with wisdom that some past version of myself mined from the pages of books and articles but that my present self has entirely forgotten about. The re-presentation of material that was at one point meaningful enough to highlight is powerful.

It helps to cement the foundation of understanding what you’ve read.

It helps you to draw together and synthesize disparate subjects and highlights that you would have never been able to synthesize without the re-presentation of the quotes in this new context.

Readwise is a wonderful and valuable tool, especially for someone who has a difficult time with memory to begin with.

That said the biggest area that Readwise is lacking in is providing context for the highlights that are being presented. So I reached out to them with some feedback on the service and thought I’d like to share publicly a few of the things that might make this service even better:

Hi,

Some feedback. I would like to see for any given highlight, whether viewing on the web or in my daily email:

For books: 
– the ability to open kindle desktop and see the highlight. 
– Bonus points for being able to leverage https://read.amazon.com/notebook for viewing notes so that we’re not dependent upon having the kindle app installed
– the ability to view the book on bookshop.org (or amazon) so that you could see the cover image (I read a lot of books and sometimes need more than just a title/author to help jiggle my memory
– bonus points for pulling in a cover image to display with the quote
– a link to goodreads (or any other user defined service for storing reviews)
– data around when the book was read, when the highlight was saved.
– basically as many affordances for context as possible

For instapaper articles
– the ability to open the article in instapaper
– the ability to open the article at its original source URL
– data around when the article was read/when the highlight was saved
– when presenting the title of the article, include the title of the publication and the author (right now the presentation is inconsistent, sometimes shows author, sometimes shows publication)

The ability to get this contextual information right from the email would be great. I see that there is dropdown menu available in the email that ought to bring up the quote as presented in readwise in a popup window but that doesn’t work in mail on Mac (the window pops up but the quote never appears).

Likewise, I really like the idea of being able to share quotes/highlights on twitter/micro.blog etc but the current method of using an image of the quote seems like it could be improved by giving the user the ability to include more of this contextual information via the share feature (source url, title, etc.).

I would be really happy to promote that the quote was surfaced by readwise when sharing through the sharing function but right now I have to handcrank the appearance/data for what I’m sharing and by the time I get done adding the title/source etc to my tweet or post I’ve generally forgotten to add “via readwise” at the end of it. Make it easier to share source url, book title/cover image, link to bookshop.org, etc. using the built in tool without having to do a bunch of editing/adding and that would create a great incentive to keeping that “via @readwise” on the share. Does that make sense?

Thanks for building such a useful tool,

Jim

Why You Been Gone So Long

This has been one of my favorite songs lately. Really enjoy the Tony Rice version. Now that I’ve got my recording corner set up again in my home office I hope to be posting more videos. Enjoy:

Published
Categorized as Music

Reminder to Charge Apple Watch

Wrote up a handy little Keyboard Maestro macro that will remind me to charge my Apple Watch.

The special sauce here is that it runs any and every time I wake up my Mac between 5AM and 10:30AM.

You can download the Keyboard Maestro macro here.

[update: So, Keyboard Maestro doesn’t have a trigger for “password unlocks screensaver” And that is really when this thing needs to run. Enter the amazing EventScripts. Had no idea this tool existed but it kicks off AppleScripts for various system events (unlock screensaver, song change in iTunes, etc.). So worth the $6. Hope it continues to work once I upgrade to Big Sur!)

UntitledImage

Apple Health HRV Data & Lyme Disease

I think Heart Rate Variability data (good overview from Harvard Medical Health Blog) can be a strong indicator of health relative to an individual’s baseline. The problem for me has always been “baseline.”

In the early days of HRV, I measured my beat-to-beat measurements using my iPhone (occasionally paired to a Polar heart rate monitor) to gauge my training load. But it was an inconsistent predictor because I needed to make sure to take the reading every morning under the same conditions, etc. Given the challenges that surround our household’s morning routine, that kind of manual, tedious process for gathering HRV data never really let me get confident baseline data.

Now, the Apple Watch collects HRV data and — given how difficult it was to do it manually and get good baseline data — I was skeptical that the Apple Watch would be able to use sampling my HRV throughout the day to generate anything useful. I’m still skeptical, but my recent/current bout with Lyme disease over this past week has given me more confidence in the Apple Watch’s sampling technique to set a good baseline and show variance from that baseline.

I think this picture is pretty self-explanatory but will add that when my HRV fell to its lowest around 11/12, I could barely get out of bed, was sweating uncontrollably and could not stop shivering. By the 15th, after 36hours of doxycycline, I felt about 80% better. I am still not 100% despite a rebound in HRV. 

So, HRV on the Apple Watch is good at showing when you’re REALLY sick. That seems to be all I can take away from it at this point, but at least it shows that the Watch’s sampling approach does reflect reality, even if it doesn’t yet predict or give early warning.

HRV

Apple One

Signed up. It’s a no-brainer for my family as we were already on the 2TB cloud storage plan.

AppleTV+

It’s got Ted Lasso. Enough said. 

kidding. Still AppleTV+ has some terrific stuff on it. And Ted Lasso.

Apple News+

I’ve hated Apple News ever since it started asking me if I wanted to open RSS feeds in it but it seems to have stopped doing that maybe? And I’m curious to see how the audio version of news works. So, verdict is out on News.

Apple Music

Maybe the worst music service, ever. But I sync my Spotify lists over to Apple Music and can play them on my HomePods so, there’s that. We had Spotify Family. I think I’m the only one who won’t fully make the jump to Apple Music so I kept the individual Spotify plan for myself and we’ll see how the rest of the family makes the transition. I don’t think they’ll miss Spotify like I would.

Arcade?

I don’t know what it is and am not likely going to find out.

Fitness+

Kinda excited to see how this pans out. I use Zwift right now but everything about Zwift’s bluetooth/hardware integration feels janky. Hoping Apple can do this better.

Alan Jacobs – Breaking Bread with the Dead

I’ve just finished Alan Jacobs’ Breaking Bread with the Dead. Reading this book lead me down some wonderful technology-related rabbit holes that, in turn lead me back to people I haven’t thought about or read in a long time, especially Ivan Illich, Mark Hurst (man, The Good Easy takes me back).

Hurst interviews Jacobs on the Techtonic podcast and I got a lot out of their conversation.

One of several interesting ideas that Jacobs’ floats in Bread is that of Personal Density. The term comes from Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow where an engineer named Kurt Mondaugen posits this law of human existence

Personal density … is directly proportional to temporal bandwidth.

Pynchon’s narrator continues: “‘Temporal bandwidth’ is the width of your present, your now. … The more you dwell in the past and future, the thicker your bandwidth, the more solid your persona. But the narrower your sense of Now, the more tenuous you are.”

Jacobs writes about Personal Density in the context of how our current media consumption via The Feed of social media comes at such volume and pressure that our now is becoming more and more compressed and narrow. What seemed so important to us just last week has already faded from our attention as quickly as the last Tweet has scrolled off the screen.

Jacobs’ prescription is to expand our now by reading older books. We need to reach back in time to extend our temporal bandwidth. We need to read, widely and include a lot of classics and older material.

You need the personal density that will hold you firmly until, in your considered and settled judgment, it is time to move. And to acquire the requisite density you have to get out of your transitory moment and into bigger time. Personal density is proportionate to temporal bandwidth.

What I particularly love about this book is Jacobs’ mandate that we be generous and hospitable to the voices of the past even when they are offensive to our current beliefs and ideals.

If it is foolish to think that we can carry with us all the good things from the past—from our personal past or that of our culture—while leaving behind all the unwanted baggage, it is a counsel of despair and, I think, another kind of foolishness to think that if we leave behind the errors and miseries of the past, we must also leave behind everything that gave that world its savor. Wisdom lies in discernment, and utopianism and nostalgia alike are ways of abandoning discernment.

We need to be generous. We need to realize that writers were products of their time. That there is still gold to be mined in them hills even if parts of the author’s world view seems out of step with our own.

…the moment of double realization. To confront the reality that the very same people who give us rich wisdom can also talk what seems to us absolute nonsense (and vice versa) is an education in the human condition. Including our own condition, which is likewise compounded of wisdom and nonsense.

This, of course, reminds me of the line from one of Jim Harrison’s characters: “Every day I wonder how many things I am dead wrong about.” I like that idea of hedging our bets, knowing that–in all likelihood and at any point in time–we are wrong about something that is probably very important.

Jacob’s book arrived at an opportune time for me as I try to disengage with Facebook while still trying to participate meaningfully online. I’ve found his approach of broadening my now helpful. So helpful that I’ve picked up two of his previous books that, combined with this one, seem to make up a trilogy of sorts: How to Think and The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. Looking forward to learning what kind of perspective these titles may add to my relationship with being online.

Published
Categorized as Book Notes

iOS Shortcuts and Email interfaces to OneNote

One of the tools in the MS Office suite we use at work that I find myself using more and more is OneNote. It is my “everything bucket.” 

Unfortunately, Microsoft’s OneNote can not be easily targeted by the powerful automation affordances that Apple provides (Apple Script, Keyboard Maestro, iOS shortcuts). Meaning, while OneNote runs on my Mac, iPhone and iPad, adding notes requires opening the application, finding the note I want to edit and adding the relevant information.

That little bit of friction—switching contexts/application from whatever I’m currently doing so I can open OneNote, find the right pages, etc.—stinks. It means breaking my concentration. Losing my flow.

A typical use case for me is that I’ll be working on a project and realize that I want to bring something up at my next developers meeting with my team or raise an issue during my manager meeting. I have different notebook sections for each of my recurring meetings as well as a “To Discuss” page in each one of those notebook sections. Being able to just quickly send these ideas/notes into the relevant page would be great. 

To its credit, OneNote does support emailing content into the application which is marginally useful but you have zero control over where that content goes within your OneNote notebook. So that’s not super helpful here.

Enter Microsoft’s Power Automate. Using Power Automate you can append/prepend content to a given page within Microsoft OneNote via email using a subject line filter:

UntitledImage

 

Power Automate seems very janky. It is a 1.0 release but it seems more beta. That said, this Flow —as it’s referred to in the Power Automate jargon —gets the job done. It can sometimes take a few minutes for the contents of the email to appear on the page. Note, also, that this only seems to work when using OneNote for business. Apparently there is also a non-business version. Leave it to Microsoft to create silly distinctions like that in their product line.

So but anyway, being able to email agenda topics to my relevant pages is very helpful. Still, it feels very un-Apple like. Enter iOS shortcuts and Siri.

UntitledImage

With this handy little shortcut on my iPhone, watch and iPad and I can just say “hey Siri, discuss with devs” and she’ll ask me what I want to discuss and then sh will send that text via email  to the right OneNote page.

I’ve got a few of these different Flows setup. “Discuss with devs” and a few “Discuss with” so and so’s where so and so is one of a handful of names of people with whom I meet regularly. 

I’ve been using these for about a week now (since upgrading to iOS 14 on my iPhone) and it’s been amazingly reliable. 

Prepping for WFH during winter months

As we head out of summer, the shorter days combined with all of this working from home are going to present some real challenges when it comes to keeping my circadian rhythm chugging along.

Over the years, I’ve had a variety of light boxes that I’ve used to try to keep my mood up and my sleep solid. For the past couple of years, I’ve used the smaller desktop ones that purport to put out the recommended 10k lumens.

This year though, I decided to step it up a bit and picked up one with a much larger surface area. These LED lamps are similar to the models that are typically used in light-therapy studies

UntitledImage

This lamp is bright and features a much larger surface area than the the previous (though much cheaper) model that I have used for the past several winters.

As a bonus, I had a couple cheap Gosund wi-fi outlets sitting around so I configured one and created an iOS shortcut to turn the lamp on full blast. I think where I’m headed with this is some kind of trigger to make sure that I have it turned on for at least 30 minutes in the AM and 15 minutes in the afternoon. It’s only September and I can already feel my sleep cycle being interrupted by the shorter days, so here’s hoping.

Published
Categorized as Post Tagged

Doing the math on Apple Watch 6 vs. SE

I think my next Apple Watch will almost certainly have cellular data on it. I love running in the woods without my phone (using just my watch and AirPods) but could definitely see the benefit of being able to call someone from my phone in an emergency.

Screen Shot 2020 09 16 at 10 55 10 AM

The biggest difference (besides price) between the 6 and SE for me is the always-on screen (and a less powerful chip — S5 vs S6 — though apparently 2x as fast as my current series 3 chip). It makes me nuts that I’m wearing a watch that comes straight out of science fiction but I need to touch it to my nose when my hands are holding something and the screen doesn’t come on when I raise my arm.

But that price difference, man.

The 6, with cellular is $529.

The SE with cellular is $359.

That $170 difference would cover almost a year and half of AT&T cellular data for the SE, so maybe I’d have to touch it to my nose a few times but that seems like a pretty good deal to me. The SE with cellular seems like too good of a deal to pass up.

Published
Categorized as Tech

Diet success with Due App, shortcuts and app launching

Here’s one truth about how I lose weight: nothing is as effective as simply writing down what I eat.

If I track everything I eat in a calorie tracking app (I use one called Track, but there are a bunch of similar apps), I eat less. Maybe seeing what I’m eating makes me more conservative in my snacking or maybe I don’t want to take the time to log that handful of M&Ms so I skip them. Either way, I’ve lost about 15 pounds during this quarantine, all by simply tracking my calories. 

The thing is that I usually stop logging what I eat after a few weeks. Logging what I eat is a nuisance. I regularly forget to open my calorie tracking application right after I eat and by the time I finally get around to it as I’m sitting down to watch a show before bed, I’ve largely forgotten what I’ve eaten throughout the day.

So what makes this time different?

Well, for starters, I’ve been using the Due application on my iPhone to remind me to enter my calories after breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. Due is a persistent reminder application. Meaning, it just keeps annoying you with reminders until you actually do the damn thing it’s reminding you to do. 

Still, after a couple of weeks of using Due, I started just clicking “done” on the reminder because clicking through the reminder and opening my calorie tracker application just seemed like a pain in the ass and was too much friction. So, I solved that friction point by adding a link in the reminder that opens my calorie tracker in one click. 

In other words, tracking what I’m eating has been working for me because I chained together three different, loosely-coupled technologies here:

  • a decent calorie tracking app that makes a tedious task as easy as possible – Track
  • a persistent, annoying reminder application to remind me to log my calories – Due
  • a link in the reminder to make it super-easy, low-friction to open my calorie tracking application right from the reminder. – iOS shortcut

Some apps support a URL Scheme to open the application (for example, music:// opens the Music application). The Track application doesn’t, AFAIK, have URL Scheme support so instead I just created an iOS shortcut to open the application and I call that shortcut in the reminder like this

IMG 9A9E4424A017 1

So, when the alert pops up on my phone, I just click the red link and Track opens up. Nifty.

But, this Reminder + Link to Application has also been helpful for the Day One #photoaday challenge for the month of September. Every day at mid-morning I get an alert to post a photo from today to Day One with a link to the application that opens Day One and creates a new post:

IMG 1D868C3ACF03 1

Here you’ll see that Day One support the URL Scheme directly so there’s no need for me to create an iOS shortcut, I can just call the new post URL and it works (though, why it doesn’t show up in red in Due is beyond me).  You can do a whole bunch of cool things with the Day One URL Scheme, like go right to the activity feed: dayone://activity  or create an entry with a clipboard image dayone://post?entry=Hello Self&imageClipboard=1. See this list if you want more ideas.

Amazon quietly removes ability to download order history

At the end of each month, I run an Automator process on my Mac that loads that month’s Amazon Order History file into a markdown table in Day One. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now and it’s useful for a whole bunch of reasons. When did I buy something? Just search day one. How much did I spend last month on Amazon? Just look in Day One. 

This month though, I went to download the file from Amazon and the interface for selecting a month’s worth of orders and downloading them is gone.

I reached out to Amazon support on Twitter and through the website and was told that the page had been removed and it was replaced by a “Request My Data” page.

UntitledImage

This isn’t a self-service download portal like the previous version but instead allows you to request ALL of your order history and it takes up to 5 days to receive the data. I submitted my request 3 days ago and haven’t seen anything yet. In any case, this seems like a step backwards to me and makes it more difficult to track on a monthly basis what I’m buying.