Subscription Apps, Default Apps, and Cloud Services

1Password has received some negative press because of their push for more users to switch from purchasing the app outright to a subscription model and the use of their own syncing service. They have responded on Twitter in this fashion to see of the complaints:

On a recent episode of Accidental Tech Podcast, the hosts talked at length about some of the issues around this push from 1Password (and others) and, overall, are sympathetic to the needs of software developers for recurring revenue but are a little bit sour to the push toward more cloud services from software development partners. Panic, makers of Transit (my favorite SFTP and more software), has their own sync service and so does The Omni Group.

However, this proliferation of cloud sync services along with the continued push to never own software but need to continually pay a subscription has me rethinking some of the applications I use on a daily basis.

For one thing, I have an adverse reaction to paying a subscription for things. It doesn’t need to make sense, but I hesitate every time I am asking to pay, via a subscription, for a piece of software (even one I use often). I’m far more likely to search out alternatives at that point.

Another issue is that paying a subscription, especially to another vendor, requires maintaining correct payment information over time. When my credit card expires, I need to find all of the places I have used that card and update it. If I want to change my banking provider, then I need to search out all of those areas as well.

I pay Apple for iCloud storage and an Apple Music subscription. I pay Netflix for entertainment. I pay a VPS provider for my virtual server. After that, I pay for a lot of software but I pay once, use the software, and then purchase the next version the next time I am asked to pay. It is a one time purchase. I don’t need to maintain payment information. It is simple, low maintenance, and understandable.

I have the feeling we will continue to see more software vendors moving to subscriptions models (or trying it out), and so it has me looking hard and long at utilizing built-in apps on my Apple devices. Reminders, Notes, and some others might have a more prominent places in my life especially with the ability to lock Notes, I might be able to move off of 1Password if it ever comes to that point.

Moving from OmniFocus to Reminders would be more of a challenge.

The First Days with MacBook

Another Mac has been added to the fold.

MacBook GroupI was given the opportunity to procure a used MacBook to add to my stable of computing devices and I decided to go ahead and do so. I have had my eyes on a super small Mac since 2010 when I was sitting in an Apple Genius training facility with a group of new Genius candidates from various stores and watched the relaunch of the MacBook Air. The 11-inch MacBook Air always intrigued me because of how small and light it was and how portable the machine would be compared to even the 13-inch MacBook Pro I was more accustomed to.

So, now I have this supplementary Mac meant only for using away from my normal desks and being as portable as possible. So, here are my uninformed and premature thoughts.

  • It is just fast enough. I know that this machine is going to be resource constrained, so I am trying to be purposeful in what I actually end up loading onto this device (applications) and what things I end up doing on here (tasks).
  • The keyboard continues to grow on me. I was fearful that I would hate it, but I do not. Definitely in the top half of keyboards I have used on laptops. The biggest thing is that it is super solid, I will continue to adjust my typing to accommodate the lack of typing distance.
  • I am still sold on the idea that USB-C is the future, but right now that future is confusing. I am hopeful that the future will bring better multi-port USB-C chargers, more and cheaper cables, and better adapters. As of right now, I am probably going to be trying out some of the cheaper ones all around.
  • For what I will use this machine for … one port is fine.
  • This. Thing. Is. Tiny. I am shocked with how small it is … but it is an astonishing how light it feels. Perfect as a portable.

I will have more to say in the future, but this is an amazing device. As to where it will ultimately fit in my computing landscape … I have no idea.

Laptop Replacement

Laptop Replacement by Matt Gemmell

So you want to potentially not use a laptop anymore, but you also want a computer that does all the same things as a laptop, in pretty much the same way. In which case, I think the computer you’re looking for is a laptop.

This is the mindset Apple seems to be working in: that is you are looking for a laptop, then you want a laptop, and that their other devices are meant to be used for similar tasks but in different ways. Is Apple correct? Will the combination of the new iPad Pro and, especially, iOS 11 be able to move more people from laptops to iPads?

I know my parents have completely switched from laptops to iPads, and my dad continues to be iPad-only, having never been comfortable with traditional computers. He, obviously, would wonder why we want to use laptops at all.

Giving the iPad a full-time job

Giving the iPad a full-time job by Justin Searls (Medium)

Here is the money quote from the beginning:

As a result, I’ve come around to a more nuanced view of productivity: that of a tenuous balance between friction and focus. “Friction” is the necessary turning of knobs on my tools in order to do work. “Focus” is the intentional ommission of knobs from tools to foster clear thinking. Any knowledge worker must balance their own creative action with thoughtful attention, and every software interface crystallizes an attempt at striking such a balance.

Everything else builds from there. iOS 11 is a really exciting update for iOS and I am very tempted to move it onto my iPad Pro even in its incomplete state. The iPad is my preferred computer in so many ways, and it is SO CLOSE to being my full-time mobile machine.

Maybe the time is now?

Apple’s Oct 2016 Mac Event

Saying that the Mac has been getting the short shrift is an understatement, recently, at least from a hardware perspective. Recently, macOS Sierra was released and I have been running it since a week before its public release and I can say it is the best macOS release I have run so far. Part of that, I would imagine, is that the features continue to be tweaks and integration points between macOS, tvOS, watchOS, and iOS and that leaves a lot of time to work on fixing bugs and minor annoyances. Many annoyances are fixed each and every release, which is great to see.

However, I’m not the normal consumer and I am quite strange, so I do not consider my experience to be typical. While I might consider myself a power user, I tend to be a careful power user who minds the default applications and default settings and does not stray from them unless there is a need. I use as many of the default as possible, in other words. If what I am doing works and allows me to do what I need, I’m pretty happy.

New 2016 MacBook ProThat doesn’t change the fact that Apple’s hardware on the Mac side needs a refresh, and I am not counting the update to the MacBook back in the April 2016, but looking at the rest of the line. Yesterday’s event was the start of the refresh and it is a very Apple start to a very Apple refresh. I’m less interested in the specifics of the new MacBook Pro than I am in what it seems to signal about upcoming refreshes and where the Mac line sits for the future.

What Is A Computer

In case you have not heard the howling, Microsoft held an event on the day before Apple and released some new products as well. These have received some, overall, positive press and feedback from a variety of sources around the web.

I will admit that Microsoft is doing some really interesting, and fundamentally different, things with their Surface lineup of computers. We have deployed the Surface Pro 4 at Martin Luther College to our faculty and so I have been able to use Windows 10 on a Surface device for almost a year. It is a very different idea of what a computer is.

That is where the rub is right now: Apple has a different idea of what a computer is going forward, and this new MacBook Pro continues to drive that home.

Apple’s lineup clearly is stating that the iPad, and more specifically, the iPad Pro, is the entry-level computing device now. Where the MacBook Air was the entry-level mobile computing device, the iPad now filling that role. From there, the traditional Macs are rising in price and pushing the Mac as a professional device in many contexts.

That’s what the lineup says right now with the lowest-priced new 13″ MacBook Pro sitting around $1500. Even the slightly cheaper MacBook starts at $1300 and that device serves an even smaller niche.

However, the 9.7″ iPad Pro starts at $600 and the 12.9″ iPad Pro starts at $800. Those are prices far more palatable to consumers if Apple is able to jump the gap from “big iPhone” to “small touch-based computer”. Will they be successful? I do not know, but these are really awkward times as Apple seems to be attempting to move the lineup while not giving in to the idea that their lines should merge like the Surface lineup has.

One Port To Rule Them All … Almost

USB-C is in … almost everything else is out on the Mac. The only other port is a headphone jack, but USB-C is going to handle everything from displays, to card readers, to power, to storage, and everything else in between. Granted, they are really Thunderbolt 3 ports, but this next generation of Thunderbolt has allowed Apple to simplify their port situation in such a fashion that everyone is going to complain about it.

I am excited!

The fact that we are now able to have a single cable handle everything, including charging, and with a reversible port as well is such a huge step forward that Thunderbolt 3 is maybe the greatest temptation for me to upgrade my current 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina display. The idea of being able to connection two 4K displays hooked up to a single docking station with network, sound, USB 3, and Thunderbolt 3 ports ready to go is extremely enticing and exactly the way I would want to be able to set up a future workstation here at work.

Yes, there is a dongle explosion at the moment to enable the usage of current and older technology, but that is temporary as well. The future is USB-C and I, for one, am happy to see it coming.

That is about it from me. The devices are not as interesting as what it means for the future. There will always be come better, something coming in the future, and something that will appeal to some and alienate others so enjoy what you have, buy when you need to, and enjoy what you are doing!