Stuff I Didn’t Ask Apple For, But Got Anyway and Really Like

Here’s a list of capabilities Apple added to the Appleverse that I never really asked for, or at least didn’t write a blog entry asking for, that I really like.

End to End Encryption in Notes – This was a big one. I had long wanted to be able to share notes with my wife and Apple delivered on that several of years ago. That took notes to a usability level that let me get rid of Evernote and the thrice damned OneNote. Now that the notes are encrypted my wife and I can use them together for just about every aspect of our lives from caring for our aging parents to recipes. A useful product just keeps getting better.

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Follow Up on Things I’d Like from Apple

It’s been a long time since I last wrote in this space and the blog had another name at the time. So it’s time to get back in the saddle. The world was in a much different place in April of 2021 than it finds itself in in June 2023, but some things remain constant, like the things we’d like for Apple to gift us with on iPhone, iPad, Mac and all the other Apple platforms.

Among the things I was asking St. Apple for in 2021 were the ability to use Excel formats natively in Numbers, a capability for the Apple TV make and receive FaceTime calls (with the use of an attached mic and camera), and an Apple display that did did not cost $5,000. So how did I do with my wish list? I score it 1.5 out of three.

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Three Things I’d Like From Apple This Year

My Apple wish list is really not very long. Just a very few things I believe Apple could accomplish very easily that would make my life, and that of a great many others, much easier and cause us to snuggle even more tightly into the warm, accepting embrace of the closed garden. And here they are without further ado.

First, give us the choice to work natively with Microsoft Office formats in iWork applications like Libre Office does. It’s just fine that I can import and export MS Office Formats to Numbers and Pages, but that little bit of friction is enough that I don’t bother to use the applications at all. Why? Because almost zero people in the business world even know what Numbers and Pages are much less what formats they use. If I am going to share a document with anybody it needs to be an xlsx or docx file. And if I need to share that document I need to do it now, not after exporting, figuring out where the file is and sending it along its way. And if an associate wants me to edit a file, I don’t need to import the file, work on it, export it and send it back as many times as are required.

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What Space Exploration Is Really All About

What was it that the early European explorers came to the Americas for? Was it for the unknown? To seek out new life and new civilization? To boldly go where no man had gone before?


They came for resources. For gold, for furs, for land. They wanted to get rich and make their countries rich. And that’s what’s really going to drive the move to space as well.

This article, from Observer, notes a NASA announcement of the discovery that the Asteroid 16 Psyche, might be composed totally of nickle and iron. Given the asteroid is the size of West Virginia, they calculate the value of the metals at $10,000 Quadrillion or 10,000 times the size of the global economy.

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Kudos Apple

According to this article on Apple Insider, Facebook’s CFO is complaining that iOS 14 will hinder Facebook’s ability to track users across apps and the web and will reduce its ability to serve targeted ads and measure ad effectiveness.

Targeted ads, and ads in general, are not a problem for me because I block them all. If a web site will not let me see their content without ads (their right), I move on to other sites that will. But tracking me across the internet, even when I will never see ads or even if I will, is a problem. It’s the tracking, not the ads I want stopped.

The internet is not working correctly until Facebook and Google are broken. So kudos to Apple for anything they contribute in that regard.

About Time

Protocol is reporting on a cloud computing “hiring spree” at Apple. According to the article, the folks in Cupertino are stocking up on talent from Docker, AWS and Google.

And its about time. Apple is in the services business but its services are not the best of breed. In terms of reliability and stability, iCloud drive is not as good as Dropbox and Notes is not as good as Evernote, by way of example.

I’m not talking about features in those two examples, I’m talking about how reliable syncing and storage are as well. They also need features to be truly first class services, but they need a solid foundation before the feature set is built out.

I’m thinking that this may be a reaction to the failure to push out Notes and iCloud folder syncing in the originally announced time frames. Those were big misses.

Harvard’s Duplicity

Harvard University, home of the $41 Billion endowment, has received nearly $9 million in aid from the Federal Government under the CARES Act. President Trump has, rightly in my opinion, demanded that it be given back. Harvard has responded it intends to keep the money and that it will be spent on student aid and that none will be spent on University operations.

Harvard’s response is clearly deceptive. Student aid, scholarships, student grants, etc. go to students to pay their tuition and other fees at Harvard. So the money does go to Harvard to support its operations, filtered through the students.

What Harvard should do instead is forgive payments by students, make up the money lost from its massive, tax exempt nest egg, and return the money to the Federal Government to be used where it is really necessary.

Web Clipping With Apple Notes

Sometimes when changing the applications we use to do things, our workflows must change. Such is the case with web clipping in Evernote. To clip a webpage to Evernote all you had to do was click on the clipper extension in the web browser and follow you nose to create a new note or add to an existing note. This created a static note with the information from the web page, not just a link to the page. It also stripped out ads and other cruft you didn’t want in the note.

Using iPad OS or iOS and Notes this experience can be largely replicated and pretty much just as simply. First you must know that if you are in Safari and use the share sheet to send a web page to notes, what you will get is a note with a link to the web page. This is not generally what I want because pages can change or disappear over time.

Instead the following work flow will produce a note with a clean PDF of the web site in it.

  1. Display the reader view of the website this cleans up the ads and other cruft. This will not work on a website without a reader view, but my experience is that most have a reader view.
  2. Use the share sheet to send the website to Markup, this will create a PDF of the page.
  3. Use the share sheet to send the created PDF to Notes. Select to create a new note and which folder or add to an existing note.

That’s really it. The only difference in clipping pages this way is that the links internal to the page are note live in the new note.

Blogging With WordPress’ Browser Interface

I’ve been somewhat frustrated with the WordPress application on iPad OS. There are settings, like drop cap, that you just can’t access through the application and you really have to use a WordPress account to use the tool, which I definitely don’t like.

So, I thought I’d start writing directly in the web app to see if there were differences that would make me choose to go back to the application. As this blog is infrequently updated (I intend to do more, but seldom do), this could take some time.

One thing I had noted before that kept me on the iPad application vs the web app was the lack of autoscrolling in the writing window as I typed. I note now that this is no longer an issue as the window is scrolling as I type.

The interface is also relatively uncluttered and offers me full access to the full power of the block editor. Now that iPad OS provides the ability to have a browser window dedicated to a web app with another either in side by side mode or slide over, I can still do research as I write or open Notes with prior research to use as I write.

We’ll see how this experiment goes and I’ll post the outcome.

Transition Complete

With the rollout of folder sharing in iOS 13.4 and MacOS 10.15.4, my quest to be all into on Apple cloud file system using iCloud Drive and Notes is complete and seems to be working quite wellThings got off to a rock start when folder sharing got pulled from iOS 13 just prior to launch last year, and continued to spiral down with the initial quite buggy (in my experience) release of Notes folder sharing.

Something must have changed on the backend though because where before new notes might not appear in a shared folder for hours or days, today they are syncing immediately. Ditto for files shared with iCloud drive.

I have bid a fond farewell to Evernote and Dropbox. I would do the same for Last Pass if keychain would let me group my passwords in folders and share them with my family. And I would ditch Office 365 if iWork would support Excel and Word formats transparently and allow them to be default formats for creating new documents. The iWork formats would be fine if I worked in a vacuum or if more than .0001% of spreadsheet and word processor users used iWorks formats. Alas this is not the case.

Changes like that to iWorks are never likely to happen, but I have some hope apple will give us a better shared way to manage our photos.