Monday, May 20, 2019

Lessons Learned and Farewell

It’s hard for me to believe that this blog has gone on for as long as it has. Since September 17, 2012, I’ve written here every single day. In total, 2,470 posts. That’s over six whole years of blog posts, without counting the days before that. A lot has changed since 2012, and as today is my last day of being a teenager, I think that it is poetic to end the daily posts today. With that, I’d like to end off with something that isn’t technology-related: What I’ve learned from writing here everyday for almost seven years.

I think writing everyday has given me invaluable experience, while also teaching me the importance of discipline. It keeps me thinking of new ideas and gives me a responsibility every day. Throughout the day, I might remember a new tip for iOS or hear a news story that I’d like to share my take on. There are a lot of times where I think of an idea in a class or while driving, and I end up forgetting the idea altogether. 

And all of that ties into the idea of how writing everyday can interfere with daily life. Sometimes, you’re just really tired and would rather go to bed instead of thinking of something to write at 11:38 p.m. You weren’t able to think of anything during the day, so you check if there are any interesting news stories. But then you realize it’s Saturday and there’s literally nothing. At this point, you rack your brain for anything that can be used, and I’ve somehow managed to come up with something, even if it isn’t the most interesting topic. 

Sometimes the opposite is true, where life can interfere with writing everyday. I’ve been in multiple situations these past few years where I’ll be camping without access to the internet, so I have to write up to five blog posts in advance. When I studied abroad in Japan last year, I had to account for the time change and make sure I wrote my posts by 4:00 p.m. Japan time. With a responsibility like this, where you can’t just call in sick, you have to be really careful with how you plan events or commit to them. It’s similar to taking a medication in some regards, where if you’re going on vacation, you have to bring x amount of tablets with you. 

The blog has also helped me become more open-minded. I find it interesting how I have changed over the past several years. I find that I’ve changed from an Apple enthusiast to an Apple critic. I find that I sometimes write critical pieces of Apple several days in a row, and I worry it gives off the wrong idea. I write critical pieces because Apple is my favorite technology company and I want what I believe is best for it. I’m still very committed to the company. I recently got an iPad Pro and have been loving it so far. 

With all of that said, I believe it is time for me to move on to bigger and better things. As this book closes, another begins to unfold. Tomorrow, I begin my IT Software Engineering Internship with Viasat, a telecommunications company, and I am excited to start. I remember when I first got 100,000 page views and being amazed. Today, the blog stands at over 400,000 page views and I could not be happier with its progress. And with that, I’d like to thank you for reading my blog. Whether you’ve stayed along for the entire ride, or just read one post, I’m glad you’ve stumbled across this site in the vast sea of websites. Thank you so very much. It’s been an experience.

- Alex Baratti

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Content vs. Platform

I think Apple has historically made a good habit of ensuring they provided platforms for developers, artists, and others, without making too much content for those platforms. It kept Apple's image neutral and professional. However, as of late, Apple has begun making a lot of content that's out of the norm of Apple's regular habits. Whether it's Apple TV+, Carpool Karaoke, or Warren Buffet's Paper Wizard, I find it hard to find the target audience for the content Apple makes. When I ask others about things like these, they tell me they've never heard of it. So, you could narrow the audience down to those who follow Apple news. I personally don't plan to get Apple TV+ or any of the things I've mentioned. I think Apple should focus on what they do best, which is providing a platform for other content creators. We've seen it work with the App Store and the iTunes Store. And if Apple wants to make money with subscription services (which is a can of worms by itself), the solution has to be better than Apple News+. I think the service can be better if it gets more support and lowers its prices. Maybe if Apple provided a single subscription solution that supported App Store developers, we could see both benefit to Apple and less apps that require subscriptions for basic functionality. The App Store is plagued by apps that lock basic functionality behind subscriptions because the App Store is becoming less profitable. I think Apple needs to be looking towards a solution that solves this problem, while giving the user reason to support the solution.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

My Favorite iPad Apps

Good iPad apps are something special because they are designed with a large screen in mind. With such a big canvas at a developer's disposal, there's a lot of potential for great user interfaces and experiences. Below are some of my favorite iPad apps.

iStudiez Pro

iStudiez Pro is a planner app for students. I use it everyday in college to keep track of assignments, classes, exams, and overall GPA. It's really useful. I think my only criticism of it is that it doesn't use iCloud, so syncing is manual. The overview screen is very useful on the iPad, as it shows your schedule, calendar, and assignments on one screen. In short, if you're a college student, I highly recommend this app [Direct Link].


Procreate is a drawing app that rivals Adobe Photoshop's abilities. It has a great interface, a wide selection of brushes, and a ton of control given to the user. It was clearly written from the ground up for the iPad. It even has an entire Apple Book written as a guide for how to use the app [Direct Link].  It also has no in-app purchases or subscriptions. Procreate is available from the Apple App Store and is exclusive to iPad [Direct Link].


Bear is a beautiful writing app that uses Markdown to format text. It's very simple, and that's what makes it so great. My only issue with it is that a good amount of its features require a subscription. I'd happily pay $5 for the full version, but that isn't an option. It's a great way to jot down a few notes or an idea quickly, with a great organization system [Direct Link]


If you want an alternative to OneNote, GoodNotes is a pretty nice notebook app that gives you a lot of customizability for notebook covers and paper. I like how you can search text, regardless if it was typed or handwritten. With a variety of paper sizes, this app is best experienced on an iPad with an Apple Pencil. I plan to use this app for my notes this fall semester [Direct Link].

Honorable Mentions

There are too many apps that I love on the iPad to name, but here are a few more. 1Password, Day One, Concepts, Paprika, and Flipp are apps that are all worth checking out.

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Spotlight Glitch on iOS

This has been a glitch that has annoyed me for the longest time. I finally found out how to consistently recreate it on multiple devices. The process is fairly simple. Unlock your iOS device to the home menu and swipe down to reveal the Spotlight search screen. The keyboard will appear, then disappear, and reappear again. This has been driving me insane. As someone who uses Spotlight for nearly everything, it's frustrating when the keyboard decides to seemingly randomly disappear. I now know that this only seems to happen when Spotlight is opened immediately after unlocking the device, but this has been going on for sometime now. You'd think Apple would've found it and fixed it by now. I wish I had the time to make a video demonstrating it, but I've found that the screen recording seems to cause the glitch to not occur. In short, you can try it out for yourself. Maybe you've noticed this glitch but didn't know the cause. Regardless, hopefully Apple fixes it soon.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Using the iPad Pro Left-Handed

The iPad Pro introduces a new magnet that holds the new Apple Pencil to one of the sides of the tablet. In the portrait orientation, the Apple Pencil goes on the right side. However, if you're part of the 10% of the population who are left-handed, like myself, you'd obviously prefer it on the left side. But there's no magnet on the left side. Apple did design an interesting solution to this. They advertise the new iPad Pro to work in any orientation you prefer. This means, functions like Face ID will work no matter which orientation its in. And because of the even design all around, using the iPad Pro upside down won't look too different than normal portrait mode. Now, you can have the Apple Pencil attach to the left side of the iPad. You can even flip it so that the tip of the Pencil is pointed towards you. Whether fully intentional or not, Apple's new design choice made this iPad work for both dominant hands.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Steam Link App Finally Available on iOS

The Steam Link app was announced just over a year ago and aimed to let iOS devices stream desktop games. This would let users play the games on their smartphones, away from the computer. Apple rejected the app citing business conflicts. Valve has since removed the ability to buy new games within the iOS app, which is believed to be the cause of the rejection. Today, it was released and can be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store [Direct Link]. It requires a computer (Mac or PC) that can run Steam on the same network as your phone, with the Steam Link app installed.

The interesting discussion this brings up is the rejection of the app in the App Store. If being able to buy games using a streaming service is the issue, then where is the line drawn? The PS4 Remote Play app [Direct Link] streams a PS4's video output, which can be used to buy PS4 games. Maybe this doesn't count because it seems the Steam Link doesn't seem to stream an interface. Will Google Stadia be affected, or will it not be a business issue because you're streaming games as part of a subscription, rather than buying them à la carte? Maybe Apple doesn't even realize what apps are capable of this? I'm curious on if this could affect the other apps in question.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Alexa Guard

Today, Amazon is rolling out a new feature called Alexa Guard. It's a pretty cool way of giving your home a new layer of security, as well as bringing more value to your Echo device. When you leave your house, you say "Alexa, I'm leaving." Echo will show a white light to signal guard mode is enabled. Once in this state, Alexa will listen for broken windows and fire alarms. If it hears this, it will send you a notification. In addition, it will turn on and off your lights in a similar fashion to when others in your area have their lights on. This makes it appear like you're home. Overall, it's a pretty nice feature that works out of the box with your Echo device. It works with the Ring and ADT security systems for more sophisticated responses than a notification. To set up Alexa Guard, go to the device settings of your Alexa app.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Adobe Warns of Legal Risk to Customers Using Old Versions of Software

I've been vocal on my opinions of the changing landscape of software ownership. I think owning software is a fantasy today, forcing developers to step out of their lane and create subscription models. That's scratching the surface, and I usually don't fault the developers for this, but you can read about that in full here. Adobe recently sent an email to Matt Roszak regarding the use of older Adobe software. It states that because they discontinued some older versions of their software, the user is no longer licensed to use them, and as a result, they may be liable to legal action. Now, please do not take anything I say as legal advice. I don't claim to be knowledgeable about this kind of stuff, but this is what I take from this. Adobe software is used at big companies for big projects. Adobe makes professional software for photo editing, video editing, and way more. So, if a big company were to used software that they technically didn't have the license to because it was out of date, hypothetically, someone could take legal action against them. I'm not saying that's Adobe, but for a company, it's a risk not worth taking. I don't think those using Adobe software for personal use should have much to worry about, but again, I'm not a lawyer. That's just my uneducated, shot-in-the-dark guess. By saying certain versions are no longer licensed to users, Adobe is heavily incentivizing its users to stay up to date with their software. This is a big deal for Adobe because they are able to do this with their subscription model. I'm not saying it's necessarily bad, just clever. Again, I heavily prefer the major update model that lets users choose when to upgrade. The scary part comes when Adobe decides to remove a feature. What if a business needs that feature for a project? What if a professor requires that feature for a class assignment? These features could be deprecated at any time with this rule. In short, this likely won't affect too many people, as most (I believe) are satisfied with the current version enough to not care, but we'll have to see if that changes one day.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

First Look at the Apple Card

It seems that Apple employees are getting the Apple Card a bit early. Ben Geskin has shared images of the cards on Twitter. The card shown below isn't Geskin's, but they have been edited to protect the identity of the original cardholder. I really like how the packaging looks, along with the simple setup text. If employees are getting them now, hopefully we hear news about when the public will get a hold of the card. We will likely hear more around WWDC, or maybe it will just be a random press release. Either way, I'm excited for the release of this card.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

iPhone Cases: Leather or Silicone?

Apple iPhone cases come in a multitude of colors and the choice of two materials: leather and silicone. Which is better for you? Prices aside, let's look at both. Silicone colors are cooler and brighter while leather colors are warmer and darker. While leather will age, it does so in a way that doesn't look too bad. It looks pretty natural. Silicone doesn't age, but in my experience, dark marks often appear after significant use. In addition, silicone is good with water. Aesthetically speaking, both look good in their own lights, but if there's one thing to note, I personally prefer leather because it reminds me of a wallet, something I see the smartphone fully replacing one day. I don't recommend the folio by the way, as it can be awkward to carry cash with and it essentially just a leather case glued on to a piece of leather. In short, take note of these points and see if you prefer one material over the other. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

2019 iPhones Could Charge AirPods

Two-way wireless charging is becoming more common in smartphones, and iPhone may add this to its skillset this year [Source: Bloomberg]. I think this would be very timely, as there is currently no official way to wirelessly charge the AirPods Wireless Charging Case. Because AirPower was canceled, the only way to do so currently is use a third-party wireless charger. Believe me, that isn't the end of the world, but it's very un-Apple-like to have a flagship feature that requires a third-party accessory. Being able to charge the case with an iPhone would be a pretty interesting selling point. I think brining wireless charging to more devices would be great too, like the Beats and iPad lineups.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Amazon Physical Retail Locations

Amazon has long been known for being the go-to place for online shopping. However, Amazon has a multitude of physical stores, some not even using the Amazon name. Of course, there are the fabled Amazon Go stores, which allow you to walk out of the store with groceries without going through a checkout line. And there's Whole Foods, which was acquired by Amazon in late 2017. Amazon 4-Star and Amazon Books are the hidden gems located across the country that sell popular products and books respectively. Amazon Pop-Ups are also located in multiple malls around the country. I went to my local Amazon Books store today and it was a pretty interesting experience. I think there should always be a physical component to shopping because it lets you explore in a way that isn't currently possible online. It's a great way to find new and interesting products. Check out if there is a store near you using Amazon's physical retail site.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Apple's Repair Warranty

If you get a repair from Apple on a product that is out of warranty, if you find any additional problems within 90 days of the completed repair, the issue is likely covered under Apple's repair warranty. If you find yourself in this situation, don't hesitate to bring your product into an Apple Store and see if it will be covered. Things like water-damage are not covered, so don't rely on it as a get out of jail free card. However, if you find the display of your device is acting finicky, you may be able to get it replaced. These repairs usually take less than a week. I highly recommend it because the repair facility often fixes any problems it can find, not just the ones you report. In my case, they didn't charge me extra for those issues, but I'm sure it can vary. They will notify you if there will be an extra charge. A good repair can bring new life to an old device, so check it out if you're having a hardware issue.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Galaxy Fold’s Release Uncertain

Today, Reuters published an email from Samsung regarding the release of the Galaxy Fold that gave me flashbacks to the disaster of AirPower. 
“If we do not hear from and we have not shipped by May 31st, your order will be canceled automatically.”
This statement was emailed to those who pre-ordered the Galaxy Fold. Needless to say, it has a very uncertain tone to it. While I doubt the device will have the same fate as AirPower, it’s strange to see that Samsung not knowing when it could be released, but having some confidence that it could be released as soon as this month. I have my doubts on the projected date, unless this is just the most confusing marketing scheme ever concocted by a company.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Microsoft Revamps Edge

Microsoft Edge, the successor to Internet Explorer, is getting a pretty big update. Edge has long been the laughing stock of internet browsers, but Microsoft seems to be making strides in the right direction. This new update is built on the Chromium framework, which will display websites better. It will also be on macOS, which is the first time a Microsoft browser has been officially supported on macOS in 16 years. Since many PC users use Chrome over Edge, this may win some users back. I think the big deal is that it can be as good as Chrome, but without sending data to Google. If I trusted my data between Google and Microsoft, Microsoft would be the clear winner as of now. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

The Monitors at the Genius Bar

I had to go to the Genius Bar today and while I’m waiting, I usually like to watch the videos that play on the monitors at the Genius Bar. Usually, they have tips and some support information, along with some marketing. However, when I went, I only saw two videos on loop: a video for the iPhone XS and a video for the iPhone XR. Nothing else. Most people wouldn’t think much of it, but I’ll always prefer the short videos that could teach you something new while waiting. After all, the Genius Bar is for those who already own an Apple product, so why not teach them something new rather than constantly ask them if they want a new phone. I know I’m looking way too into this, but part of the experience of an Apple Store is that the experience is usually more than just buying something. Hopefully this is temporary and they bring back the videos, assuming other Apple Stores are doing this too. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Get $3 Off Any Amazon Purchase with Amazon Music Stream

Amazon is taking an interesting approach to attract new subscribers to their music streaming service. Prime members can earn a promotional code for $3 when they stream a song through Amazon Music. Considering the popularity of the Amazon Echo and Amazon Prime, this is a pretty effective way to lure in new subscribers. The code only works on eligible orders more than $15. The offer is available until May 19, 2019 and the code is delivered via email.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Powerbeats Pro Now Available to Order

Powerbeats Pro is Beats' compliment to Apple's AirPods. I don't think they'll ever reach the popularity of AirPods, but I think the reviews will be interesting. While AirPods don't fall out easily, the Powerbeats Pro do offer a more secure earbud alternative. If you're curious about the differences between the AirPods and Powerbeats Pro, check out my post about them. Powerbeats Pro cost $249.95 and will ship starting May 14, however they are back-ordered to June.

Inline - 1

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Adobe Doubles Price of Photography Plan

I remember working with Adobe Photoshop as a young child, probably around five years old. It was a different time where you could actually own software and opt not to upgrade. That's why it pains me when people my age don't realize that there was a time where you could get Photoshop without buying an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. Today, Adobe says it's "testing" a new pricing for their Photography plan, which includes Photoshop and Lightroom. Previously available for $9.99 a month, some users are seeing it at $19.99 a month.

I get it. A lot of software can't make it work with one-time payments. But I think the model where users can choose to update to a major new version is a fair compromise between consumer and developer. It lets the user have a choice as to if an update is worth it. A lot of these apps have subscriptions when they shouldn't. Note, journal, calendar, and sketching apps really shouldn't have subscription plans for use, additional tools, or dark mode. I won't name any names, but I can't think of a reason to pay a monthly fee to use something like a calendar or a mail client that provides very little over the default calendar or mail client.

If Adobe doesn't change their payment model, I think a new developer needs to step in and take over Adobe's reign with a new payment model. I think Procreate and Pixelmator are the closest to doing so with Photoshop. They both have one-time purchases and they take full advantage of iOS and macOS respectively. I've made it very clear that I'm done with keeping track of so many subscriptions, and that I think the bubble of subscription services is ready to burst. I hope we can move away from this and find a better way to support app developers in the long-term that benefits both the developer and the consumer.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

iPad 2 Declared Obsolete

All Apple products eventually become acknowledged as obsolete by Apple. Apple has recently declared the iPad 2 obsolete. While this doesn't mean much to most people, the iPad 2 has always been interesting to me. It changed the iPad in so many ways so quickly after the original iPad was released just a year before. It had a redesign, introduced the Smart Cover, and added front and back cameras. In addition, it was one of the last products released under the leadership of Steve Jobs. So to see the iPad 2 become obsolete serves as a testament as to how long it has been since his passing. It's good to see that Apple still dominates the tablet market to this day, and we can owe a good portion of that to the strong foundation the original iPad and iPad 2 laid out so many years ago.