Wrapping My Head Around WWDC23

Next to the iPhone reveal each September, Apple’s WWDC is one of its biggest and best annual events. The usual keynote is jam-packed with all of the company’s newest ecosystem features and upgrades. This year’s was all of that plus…one more thing: an AR/VR headset. And while that may be the star of the show, I’m more interested in the down-to-earth improvements to Apple’s traditional gadgets.

Vision Pro

I’ve been enjoying the media’s first impressions of the announced virtual reality goggles, dubbed “Vision Pro." There seem to be three basic take-aways about the device:

  1. It’s by far the most impressive headset of its kind.
  2. It’s very expensive.
  3. Its usefulness is unclear.

The Apple Vision Pro is an interesting wearable immersive computer. Apple says it represents what it calls, “Spatial Computing." The intriguing philosophy behind that is something I hope is written and talked about over time.

But since the headset is practically out of my league and is a version 1.0 product, I’m most interested in what Tim Cook referred to in the WWDC23 keynote as “Personal” and “Mobile Computing." You know, laptops and smartphones.

Macs and more

Despite Apple having been busy working on ground-breaking technology, it didn’t seem to take its foot off the gas pedal when it comes to the good ol' iPhone and Mac platforms. Even the Apple Watch is being updated in a big way.

This year’s WWDC might have ushered in the future of computing, but I still prefer its present and what’s coming soon to keep it fresh. A few of my favorite new things to get excited about are:

New to Apple Notes will be the ability to link notes to other notes. This sounds like “linking your thinking” in Obsidian. I’ve yet to see how its implemented, so I’m eager to find out and put it to use.

Also new: you’ll be able to directly send notes to Pages via the Share sheet. I often wondered why such a simple feature wasn’t already an established workflow. Though it might be akin to copy/pasting from Notes to Pages, I think it’s an important feature because it promotes Apple’s great word processing app as a destination within the system. I’m guessing Apple has more ideas in mind for connecting the two text-based apps together, creating new and better productivity workflows.


I wrote about this recently. So, yeah, I’m excited for this, ready to try it out. Apple’s reasoning for it seems sound, and screenshots for it look nice. A whole new Apple app, all about journaling? Count me in!

If it works out, I’ll be able to move my journal entries out of Apple Notes and place them neatly into a dedicated journaling app, much like Day One. But it will be made by Apple, built-into the iPhone, and hopefully span the whole ecosystem via iCloud. No extra charge.

Live Voicemail

I call this one live call-screening. I get very few legit phone calls and always screen all unknown numbers. So this will be a very useful new feature to enjoy, helping me not miss any important calls.


This turns your iPhone into a nice alarm clock/smart display on your bedside table. I think it’s a sign of things to come, like the iPad morphing into an actual smart display. But even as-is, Standby looks like a very nice upgrade, making the iPhone officially subsume yet another single-purpose device.

Safari - web apps and profiles

This one is a small yet welcome addition. Web apps will now get first-class treatment on the Mac! You’ll be able to keep them in the dock with dedicated icons and launch them in their own browser windows. Nice!

Safari is also gaining something I did not expect: Profiles. You can create broad use-cases for web browsing and keep them siloed from each other. I think it helps with privacy and also with general organization.

FaceTime on AppleTV

This is another example of Apple’s ecosystem synergy. It lets you use an iPhone as a webcam with an AppleTV so you can FaceTime with the whole family on the couch in front of the TV. This is a big deal to me because, after many years of having no real need for one, I’m now seriously thinking I’ll buy an AppleTV for this feature alone.

Well played, Apple, well played.

Interactive Widgets

Finally, at long last, ever since the debut of widgets on iPhone, Apple is making them interactive! YES! It’s as simple as you think. The Reminders widget will finally let you tap items as complete. The Music and Podcasts widgets will finally let you tap play/pause. So simple. Yet so nice. And yes, Android has had such a thing since the dawn of smartphones, sure. And iPhone will finally catch up. Better late than never.

Silicon Mac Pro

The Mac Pro now has the new M2 Ultra chip inside. And with that, the transition from Intel to Apple silicon is complete.

Bravo, Apple.

15” MacBook Air

It’s like the 13” MacBook Air. But bigger. It’ll sell a lot. Nice.


Apple’s watch interface is getting a huge overhaul and looks like it will make the watch more useful. It now uses more widgets and better placed complications to make glancing at info and interacting with it easier. I can’t wait to try it out. Also, the Hiking workout is enhanced; I love hiking.

All the things

There are many other cool and new features coming to all of Apple’s software. In fact, there’s so much new goodness that, even without the Vision Pro reveal, this year’s WWDC keynote was as promising and interesting as ever.

What do you think?

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An Apple Journaling App

A juicy guess for Apple’s upcoming iOS 17 is a new app for journaling. When I first heard of it, I thought it might be too invasive or creepy. But now I’m curious to see what it could be. I journal everyday and like Apple’s software design. So an Apple Journal sounds like it could be something worth, uh, journaling about.

With my recent app switching, I’ve gone full-circle in journaling: from Apple Notes to Day One to Obsidian and back to Apple Notes. So now that I’m journaling in an Apple app, I wonder how much better the experience could be if Apple made an app dedicated to journaling. The potential has me excited.1

A question: how could it integrate with Apple Calendar since daily journaling is usually tied to the date like, “What happened today?” And what kind of daily notifications or journaling prompts might Apple use?

Also, how may a widget be useful? Will there be a daily streak feature like Day One has? How would photos be added? And could I dictate a journal entry through my Apple Watch and include my exercises?

It would be sweet to automatically add my daily walk or run stats to a journal entry!

As good as Day One is, I think Apple can make a better journaling app overall, with more polish, using consistent iOS design2. It would also, of course, be super secure and private with end-to-end encryption. That said, would there be a corresponding journaling web app for iCloud.com?

One other definite wish I would have if Apple were to make a journaling app for the iPhone: a version for the Mac as soon as possible.

What do you think?

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  1. When Apple recently released a new app for drawing, called Freeform, I had zero interest. But a new app for journaling? 100% interested. ↩︎

  2. Stuff like the sidebar, standard icons, fonts, etc. ↩︎

Putting Apps In The Apple Basket

It seems as seasons change, so does my tech set up. I flip-flopped again. Boredom and “Greener Grass” syndrome are strong factors. Then logic steps in to justify my moving between apps or gadgets. I succumb to marketing, I fancy the shiny, and I mistake novelty as a virtue. In any case, despite my recent misgivings with Apple’s reach and living in a walled tech garden1, maybe I’m an Apple fanboy more than I thought.

After extolling the benefits of computing flexibility and diversifying your tech set up, I’ve done a hard revert. I’m all-in with Apple again. To be fair, though, I hadn’t truly left the ecosystem. Yes, I stopped using iCloud and many of Apple’s apps2, but I still used an iPhone, MacBook, and Apple Watch3. And given that the company’s software is so well entwined with its hardware, it shouldn’t be surprising that I’ve embraced it all once again.

With all Apple hardware, it just makes sense to use all Apple software.

The cause of this sharp turn-around is mentioned in my recent post about being a creature of convenience. First, I couldn’t resist the ease and elegance of relying on Apple and iCloud Photos. Turning those back on triggered a chain reaction. Next, my gaze was drawn back to Safari and iCloud Keychain, leaving Firefox and Bitwarden in the dust. Quickly following next was a dive back into Apple Notes, Reminders, Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.

There are key things that attracted me to once again entrust Apple with all my data:

  • Elegance: Apple’s iOS apps and their design language are tailor made for the smartphone. For example, Apple Notes is nicer and more intuitive than Obsidian on iPhone.
  • Features: To use Firefox, for example, I gave up Tab Groups and a built-in reading list. With Safari, I regain those nice-to-haves. And iCloud Keychain integration is smoother than Bitwarden.
  • Simplicity: Using the default apps on both my Mac and iPhone minimizes the number of third-party apps I would otherwise tack onto the system. For most of my usage, Apple’s apps are all I need.
  • Consistency: I like Apple’s common UI design language and iCloud persistence.
  • Affordability: While the hardware can be costly4, the software is “free,” built into every Apple device. I don’t need to pay for Affinity Photo or Day One, for example, when Apple Photos or Apple Notes gets the job done well.

Sure, there are pros and cons to going all-in or being cross-platform. I was aiming for the ideal in principle a was trying to be practical. But while my family uses a mix of Apple, Google, and Microsoft apps and devices, I personally own all Apple gear. So for me, it makes plain sense to use the company’s holistic ecosystem.5

I’m not addicted; I can quit any time.

If owning only Apple tech means the company owns me, fair enough. But I know I can switch away despite the costs. Maybe I just needed that reminder. It’s nice to not feel trapped by platform lock-in. Yet Apple’s walled garden sure is a nice one to be locked into. Just don’t throw away the key.

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  1. This was partly because I was brooding on the weak points in Apple’s ecosystem. ↩︎

  2. Thankfully, I didn’t switch from using Apple Mail, Calendar, and Contacts. But I came close to adopting Microsoft’s versions of these. ↩︎

  3. I did go so far as to consider a Garmin fitness watch, a Windows laptop, and an Android phone. ↩︎

  4. I rarely buy new Apple gear, instead buying used or refurbished yesteryear models. ↩︎

  5. My family also relies on the Apple One subscription bundle, so we share iCloud storage, Apple Music, etc. ↩︎

Apple WWDC23 Wishlist

Peaking out from around the corner is Apple’s next annual developer conference — WWDC. I’m curious about what’s coming in software and hope for a few new things. It’ll also be nice to see if Apple reveals a bigger MacBook Air that would…make me suddenly discontent with the one I’m enjoying now (I mean, if I’m being honest).


First, I hope Apple finally brings some basic implementation of the Apple Notes app to the Apple Watch. If all we get are read-only notes for the Watch, I’ll be glad.

Next, another “finally” would be if Apple makes iPhone widgets interactive. All I really would like is for the Music and Podcasts app widgets to feature the same basic controls found on the Apple Watch app. You know, like play/pause and next/previous. Easy, right?

Third, how about a stand-alone app for iCloud Keychain, like a dedicated password manager app? Moving the current passwords features out of the Settings app and extending them would promote how important and useful iCloud Keychain is. I’d go for that. It could be easier to access or manage as Apple advances passwords and now passkeys.

Speaking of Settings, besides the longstanding app, I’ve always wanted to see the gear icon added as a button to the pull-down shade of Control Center. That way, Settings is always just a swipe and a tap away no matter where you are on the phone, kind of like on Android.

Then there’s Stage Manager, which debuted last year. It was promising. But after trying it for a month, I turned it off and never looked back. I hope Apple improves it. I think Stage Manager still has potential to be a good way to handle apps. But if it were to disappear, that’d be fine I guess; Apple’s other multitasking features are already quite good.

I’d also like Apple to adopt some windows management features from…Windows 11! Cupertino, start your copiers. I really like how handy it is in Win11 to snap a window to a side or corner simply by dragging it there. And Win11’s new window pane quick selections, when you hover over the maximize button, are very nice. I think Apple could take these features and put its own polish on them.

UPDATE 5-26-23: How could I forget? For WatchOS, I’d love to see Apple create a watch complication for Step Count! To enjoy this now, I must rely on a third party app. But step count is already built into Apple Watch, so why not simply have a complication for it, or a discreet daily ring to close for it?


Yes, there are rumors about a new AR/VR headset; I’m not really interested. I’d rather see rumors of a 15” MacBook Air become reality. I love the 13" M1 MacBook Air, but it’d be better with a bigger display and more resolution. I want to see more apps and windows at once, especially when they’re side-by-side. This means the laptop would be bigger and heavier, but it’d still be thin and light — a fair trade-off. So a 15" version would be a nice option to have.

As for the headset, maybe AR is the future of computing and we don’t realize it yet. But it seems Apple could make more money, at least in the short term, if it instead sold a foldable iPhone or iPad, if Macs finally got touch-screens, or if much simpler and more affordable accessories were made, like AirPods in a variety of colors.1

Other than these few things, I’ve been happy with Apple’s current iPhone and Mac offerings. As long as they keep working, I should be content with that, and thankful.

What do you think?

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  1. Current color options for AirPods and AirPods Pro are white, white, or white. Surely black, if nothing else, could be added. ↩︎

A Creature Of Convenience

A few months ago, I wrote about the convenience of cloud computing. I tried to have a balanced view of it but was leaning more towards local storage over cloud storage as a default. So I leaned away from cloud storage hard. The result? I couldn’t do it! I love convenience far more than I realized.

After writing about the benefits of local storage, I stopped using Apple Photos (the app) and iCloud Photos (the syncing). I went old-school, using a cable to import my phone snaps onto my Mac and manually organizing my pictures in the files app (Finder). It worked. And sure, it was more laborious — less convenient — but it wasn’t hard.

I also found a new-to-me photo editing app I was loving: Affinity Photo. It had all the adjustment sliders I was accustomed to. Plus it had all the brushes and layers I was missing, which gave me more photo-editing power. But…it took more work to edit my pix, which is less convenient. Affinity Photo also lacked any photo management, so no albums or special ways to organize. I could only sort pictures into individual folders in the file system.

None of the above is actually hard or too much work; it’s the way it used to be done and was fine. But all those little inconveniences added up. More friction. More work.

And…old habits die hard.

My habit of taking pictures, seeing them in the Photos app, and editing them there, all on my iPhone, was more ingrained than I realized. Not only were pictures synced back to my MacBook auto-magically, but so were all the edits I’d made on my phone. That is powerful and totally convenient.

Added to that is the fact Apple makes the iPhone and MacBook default to the Photos app for doing any work with pictures, like sharing them to other apps.

Apple Photos and iCloud Photos are too sticky and too convenient to ignore. Last week, I quickly reverted back to relying on them. I feel relief. And while I also feel kind of split for flip-flopping back and forth in my tech setup, the relief and the convenience override that easily.

Missing Apple Photos for a season made me realize how much I love it. Try to not love it too much, eh?

What do you think?

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Passkeys Don't Pass Across Platforms

I’d heard a while back that Apple was going to make passkeys a thing. Now there’s a new article about Google promoting passkeys as an alternative to old-school passwords. Overall, passkeys are supposed to be both more secure and easier to use than passwords. What’s not to like?

Well, there’s a major technical issue that in one way makes passkeys harder to use. How so? They promote platform lock-in more than ever — not good. In other words: passkeys are not cross-platform compatible.

From Ron Amadeo at Ars Technica,

…passkeys sync via your operating system ecosystem, not via a browser, which represents a major regression over the way passwords work.

…having such a major cross-platform regression in the default setup—which is what most people will use—will seriously limit the appeal of passkeys.

As it seems to go with these things: the more secure, the less convenient.

If you’re going to be all-in on a single platform, then you’ve really got to be committed; you’re all-in for the long haul. As Apple, Google, and others continue to grow, their platforms will be harder to be unlocked from. The cost of switching will become extreme. So even if the grass is truly greener on the other side, you’ll either be unwilling or unable to switch. You’re stuck. That’s platform lock-in.

Passkeys is a good example of more lock-in. Because of the way they work, your passkey is tied directly to your device and thus whatever computer company operating system it has. So if you create a passkey on an iPhone, for example, it will only work on Apple devices. Want to use that passkey on an Android device? That might be technically possible, but from what I’ve heard, the process is too onerous. It’s very inconvenient.

I hope passkeys, or something similar, can make the future better than the passwords of the past. But there must be a feasible way to make passkeys cross-platform. Not everyone can or wants to be locked into a single platform. Many people, for example, use an iPhone with a Windows computer. There is no Windows phone anymore; what are they to do?

The whole idea of passkeys is to make things easier so everyday people’s daily lives will be made better. That doesn’t work if they must jump through hoops to make passkeys work on all their different devices.

What do you think?

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Grasping Apple's Reach

Rumors are swirling: Apple will soon unveil a virtual reality headset, adding another device to its lucrative portfolio. There’s also talk that Apple’s grasp is stretching to reach the mental health space with a new journaling app. And recently, it debuted a new Apple Pay Savings Account; could this portend a forthcoming Apple Bank? It seems the tech giant’s ecosystem knows no bounds.

Meanwhile, I’ve grown wary of ceding so much of my digital life to Apple’s walled garden. It’s time to step back and rethink being “all-in”.

Too much of a good thing

After using only Apple products for years, I started to ”think different.”

First, I let my AirPods go. Next, I sold my iPad. Then I decoupled from many of Apple’s apps and services.1 I was happy to embrace its ecosystem but now I’m cautious — with healthy suspicion — about placing all my eggs in the Apple basket.

It’s eye-opening when you realize how far reaching Apple’s tech platform is. From computers of all kinds to entertainment, financial services, and more, the company has managed to grasp a lot. And though praised for privacy and security, its pervasive ecosystem has me concerned. Going all-in is risky. And it’s harder to use competing options, especially as Apple’s basket expands, tempting you to give it more of your time, money, and data.

More new Apple things

What more could Apple market to the masses? Maybe an electric car; maybe not. Other things are more likely.

Apple Pay Savings Account

This one isn’t a rumor; it’s available now. Though it sounds simple enough and seems like a good way to earn some cash, I’m reluctant to move any money from my traditional bank to Apple’s quasi-bank. I don’t think it’s a good idea to trust Apple so much, or to grant it more reach and power in such a way.

Apple Reality Headset

No longer content to make a computer for your car, desk, lap, pocket, wrist, and ears, Apple reportedly will make one for your entire head. Do we really want more screen time? Don’t studies show we need less?2 I’m skeptical about the rumored headset. It sounds expensive, unnecessary, and like it will add complexity.

Apple Journaling App

Apple makes a Notes app; you might already give it your thoughts. Apple also records your physical health data if you want, thanks to the Fitness and Health apps with the Apple Watch. If that’s not enough, you may soon be able to let Apple record or interpret your emotions.

Various reports suggest the company hopes its algorithms will help improve your mental health. But this sounds creepy and invasive. And for a subject like mental health, I think Apple might tread on sensitive ground.

From Apple Insider,

But in the future, Apple wants algorithms built into the iPhone to infer a user’s mood from their speech, the words they type, and other information stored on their devices.

Andrew Orr

Most tellingly, from Bloomberg’s “Power On” newsletter, April 30, 2023,

The company is looking to further lock users into its ecosystem with major new health initiatives

Apple, after many years of development, is also getting into mood and emotion tracking, aiming to put people in better touch with how they feel on a daily basis.

Mark Gurman

I’m an adult. And I already journal daily. Why do I need an iPhone to tell me how I feel? As Gurman says, Apple is “…looking to further lock users into its ecosystem…

I don’t need an iPhone to know how I feel about such lock-in.

One less thing

Should Apple make “one more thing?” How much more of my digital life does Apple want to consume?

The more Apple products and services I own, the more the company owns me.

Maybe I should have one less Apple thing.

I might replace my Apple Watch with a Garmin fitness watch or go back to a “dumb” watch. I could cancel my Apple Card or stop using Apple Pay. I’m also considering a Windows laptop instead of my MacBook. Whatever I choose, I likely won’t stop using my iPhone3,4.

How about the convenience of adding my driver’s license to the Apple Wallet, or my car keys? These could be so convenient…to be more locked into Apple’s ecosystem.

What is the true cost of total dependence on one for-profit company?

Don’t buy all the things

The point is to not be swayed by marketing into buying all the Apple things. Don’t totally rely on its ecosystem no matter how well each part works together.

Consider these cautions:

From NBCNews,

The excessively optimistic rhetoric of the tech giants, their slick PR and the years of uncritical coverage they have garners have let us sleepwalk into handing them control over the global information ecosystem beyond that of even the largest media conglomerate.

…we should remember we still have the means and ways to hold them to check — our wallets and our laws — and we should get ready to use them.

James Ball

And from Slate,

Apple has, for the most part, avoided the appearance of outright malevolence—a contrast with some of its Big Tech contemporaries. But it is also, in the end, operating toward the same end goals: growth and profit. For that reason, if not others, consider well how much of your life you cede to its digital realm. You may find it’s hard to take it back.

Damon Beres

A little bit of everything

Instead of using only Apple products, consider what’s outside the walled-garden. And while one might say using cross-platform apps and devices is “fragmented,” it’s a good way to diversify your tech portfolio.

This opens you to enjoying the best tech solutions irregardless of company origin. For example, Microsoft Surface devices may be great; don’t automatically reject them due to lacking an Apple logo. And though the Apple Watch is excellent, it doesn’t work with an Android Phone. But Garmin fitness watches work with either iPhone or Android and have great ratings.

Given Apple’s expensive ecosystem, diversifying also opens you to more affordable offerings. Want good noise canceling headphones? You can buy JBLs instead of AirPods Pro, saving a lot a money.

Spreading your computing needs across multiple platforms protects you from lock-in. You’re free to be flexible and adapt your workflow from far more tech tools than Apple alone can offer.

Using various services also protects from single-point failure. If all your data is in iCloud and the service suffers a hack, breach, or a data-center meltdown, then all your data is compromised or lost.

Here’s the thing

I admire Apple for its many strengths as a computing platform. It does a lot of things and does them very well. But I’m afraid it tries to do too much. And I’m afraid I gave it too much credit and trust. It happened by small steps over time; I realized how much they added up. It’s time to take a few steps back.

What do you think?

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  1. I quit using: Safari, Notes, Reminders, News, Maps, Podcasts, Pages, Numbers, Photos, Time Machine, and iCloud Keychain. ↩︎

  2. Whether excess screen time is a negative or not remains a subject of study and debate. ↩︎

  3. Though Android phones are tempting since they: are inexpensive, have USB-C ports, microSD card slots, headphone jacks, longer zoom lenses, or no display notches. ↩︎

  4. If I gave up my iPhone, I’d also lose: AirTag, Apple Card, Apple Pay, Apple Watch, iMessage, Find My, and FaceTime. ↩︎

Platform Agnosticism Is User Friendly

Sometimes you discover an exciting new app but then your bubble bursts because you quickly realize it’s only on the iPhone and not Android. Or, “There’s an app for that,” but not on Windows. Sometimes this isn’t too bad because there are usually other apps with similar features that’ll work. But not always. The inconvenience can be frustrating.

Apple’s Mac is a great platform with many great apps, but many are exclusive. So if you’re on Windows, sorry, you’re out of luck. On the other hand, Microsoft’s Windows is almost the only way to play computer games. Too bad if you have a MacBook Pro that’s powerful yet unable to run PC games.

Like computers, gaming platforms also suffer exclusivity. Some titles work only on a certain console. Others are made to run on Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch. They’re what you’d call cross-platform. A fancier term is Platform Agnostic.

This capability is great for gamers since any and all can play such a game and won’t miss out on the fun regardless of their chosen console. And there’s no need to buy every console, which is impractical. It’s also great for developers as they’ll likely earn more revenue from more sales across multiple platforms.

I’d love to play Horizon Forbidden West but I can’t. It’s not on the Nintendo Switch, and I don’t own a PlayStation — womp-womp. Great game but not platform agnostic. Then again, since I game on Switch, I have access to many platform exclusive titles like those from Nintendo’s biggest franchises: Zelda, Mario, Metroid, and Xenoblade. It’s a trade-off. But I still feel like I’m missing out when exclusive games don’t land on Switch.

Another feeling I try to avoid is from “platform lock-in.” This is apparent in the computing world. Like I mentioned, you might enjoy your smartphone or laptop most of the time. But sometimes you find an app or service that looks great…yet it’s not on your platform of choice. It can make you feel stuck with an expensive device that suddenly feels a bit more limited, unable to access or use an otherwise handy piece of software.

FaceTime is a great video chat app. But not on Android — not really. My parents use Android phones and Kindle Fire tablets but can’t call me on FaceTime.

The Apple Watch is a wonderful fitness tracker…but not if you have an Android phone. Garmin, though, makes great fitness watches and has apps on both Android and iPhone — that’s platform agnostic, or at least cross-platform 1.

I don’t mean to single out Apple — I really like my iPhone and MacBook — but due to its synergistic design of both hardware and software together, the Apple platform is, uh, a bit notorious for exclusive apps. Long ago, the Safari web browser was made available on Windows, but that’ll likely never happen again. And back when iTunes was released on Windows, Steve Jobs described it as giving a glass of ice water to someone in hell. Lucky Window users!

So if you want to use Apple software, you’re limited to using Apple hardware. But if, say, you want to use Microsoft’s OneNote for example, then you can use it on any PC, Mac, Android, etc. It’s available across all the platforms — even on Kindle Fire tablets 2.

As much as I like Apple’s platform (and was all-in), I prefer cross-platform apps. Services that don’t care what platform you’re on are more flexible and accessible since they’re available on more devices. I love this. For example, I rely on Firefox for the web and Obsidian for notes. I mainly use these on my MacBook, but sometimes I need or want to use them on my Windows machine. It’s convenient and powerful. While those are third-party apps, I also rely on Microsoft’s To Do app, which is installed on my Mac and iPhone as well as my PC — works great!

Best of all, those apps I just mentioned are “native” ones, meaning they’re installed programs on the different hardware platforms.

I mention this to point out that sometimes an app or service is cross-platform simply because it’s online — it’s a web app. The reason such apps are platform agnostic is because they’re on the most widespread platform of all, the web. Thanks, internet!

The biggest example is Google’s Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides web apps. While those have native apps to install on smartphones and tablets, they don’t have native apps for Windows or Mac. Instead, you just access them in any browser.

Platform Agnosticism is a mouthful. But it stands for the ultimate in user-friendliness. This is better for everyone who needs to rely on apps without worrying if they can be used on whatever expensive computer they invested in. The last thing someone wants is to bring home a costly gadget only to learn a certain app won’t run on it. That’s lame.

Savvy cross-platform solutions.

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  1. Technically, the iPhone and Android apps are not compatible on either platform. But the same Garmin Fitness service and features are available on both. ↩︎

  2. I assume the apps sync with OneDrive for Kindle. ↩︎

I'm A Computer Guy Among Other Things

Remember those funny, “I’m a Mac. I’m a PC,” ads back in the iPod days? They remind me of the tendency to identify with a certain brand or team. So am I an Apple fanboy, a PC nerd, or a Google geek? Am I an Android or iPhone guy? I’m a mixed bag; just a computer guy.

If I had to choose just one, though, I think I’d be a PC person. Why? Our first computer at home was a Windows 95 PC. And in college, I bought my very own Win 98 SE setup. Professionally, I’ve always worked on a PC. And even though, at different points, I’ve gone all-in with Android plus Chromebook or MacBook plus iPhone, I always lean back toward a PC, which is still the main computer in my home.

But my tendency to prefer a PC is weird to me in a way. On some level, I’m a fan of Apple thanks to the iPhone, and my current M1 MacBook Air is excellent. Yet even if macOS is objectively better than Windows overall, I like some Windows features more. I think it’s simply what I’m most familiar (and comfortable) with. Like I said, I’m a mixed bag.

At this point, since I like both Windows and Mac, if I had to choose one over the other as “my daily driver,” I’d choose Windows because it’s more practical in my household among other PC users.

I don’t know the psychology behind identifying with brands and such, but let me say I’m not having some kind of identity crisis, wondering whether I’m a Mac or PC. I’m a computer dude, simple as that. And these things are just tools; use the best one for the job. Right?

But I’ll admit that when I was all-in with Apple, I thought I might be counted as a cool guy among the hip Apple community. No such luck. Being an “Apple guy” doesn’t work for me because:

  1. I’m just not that cool in general. No surprise there.
  2. It’s not good to try to fit in with something that you don’t really fit into. And it’s not good to find your identity in a brand or object. Brands disappear or can worsen over time. Objects eventually break or at least lose their shine. Then there goes your identity.
  3. I switch my tech setup too much to ever stay settled in one camp, whether it’s Google, Apple, or Microsoft. Besides, going all-in means you must accept platform lock-in. That kind of works, so long as you’re content. But the lock-in that seems to protect you can turn to feel like it confines you.

So as I’ve decouple from Apple lately, I’ve sought to make my tech setup a mix (just like me) of cross-platform tools that are most practical in my situation. The pragmatism is very handy and kind of liberating. I’m open to many tech solutions, not just ones that belong to a certain brand. And I don’t have to settle in a single camp but can use bits and pieces of them all; it’s more flexible.

Using a mix of computer stuff speaks to the practical. But for me, it’s the psychological side about identity that’s got my brain gears cranking. There’s still a part of me that wants to use what some of my peers use, to be part of the crowd. I think one aspect of being human means always wrestling with the desire to “fit in.” We are made for community after all.

What do you think?

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Unclouding The Benefits Of Local Data Storage

It’s great when you find something that resonates, like this article I just read. It brings to boil core points about digital well-being that have been simmering in me lately. The Verge author, David Pierce, talks about journaling in Day One and note taking in Obsidian - just like I do. But more important are points about trust, convenience, and the trade-offs of cloud computing.

Pierce writes,

As more of life moves online, we’re being asked to give more and more of our time, attention, and information to digital services. In return, we get a wealth of convenience…

I wrote recently that the biggest benefit of cloud computing is really nothing more than convenience.

In this digital world, are there any spaces left that are just mine?


Local storage

I’ve thought more and more about storing things only locally (like we all did before cloud computing). It’s still a feasible option today. Just because a device is connected to the internet doesn’t mean you must store all your personal or private data in “the cloud” on someone else’s hard drive.

Can I have all of those modern conveniences without constantly being asked to share, to socialize, to upgrade to the enterprise plan?

One thing I’ve had to accept when moving data out of iCloud, going local, is that my digital life may be a little less convenient. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s worth the trade off. I gain more direct control over my own data and reduce dependence on a for-profit business. Bonus: it can also mean one less subscription fee.

This minimizes the excessive trust I’ve placed in a single corporation, which can change for the worse or cease to exist altogether. This is partly why I’ve been decoupling from Apple lately. And speaking of a company suddenly ending, look at DPReview, which after a quarter century is being deleted from the internet by its owner, Amazon.

Personal apps

We too often underestimate the true cost of convenience.

We take risks with our data, entrusting it to others who only have our best interest in mind in so far as it profits the company’s bottom line. So while your personal and private data is precious to you - like irreplaceable photos - that data will never be as precious to a capitalistic corporation that has zero personal connection to said photos. Your images and memories only matter to a company if they somehow align to its revenue stream.

The internet is useful for sharing public information, but it doesn’t need to store all your private data. It’s safest to assume that any data you upload is public - even when it’s meant to be private. The most sensitive data - passwords - can be hacked, like with LastPass.

Day One

Journaling with Day One, which has been known for being serious about security and privacy by way of data encryption, has finally broached using a web app in a browser to record your most private thoughts. That’s certainly convenient, especially if you use a PC. But Day One lists several caveats to consider, which clearly shows one must trade off or risk security and privacy for the sake of gaining some convenience.

Keep in mind that some browsers and browser extensions can compromise security in a number of ways.

- Day One

Day One then lists several things to consider - risk assessment. Are you willing to potentially compromise security and privacy for a little convenience?

I used to keep my journal entries in my notes app. Then I moved them to Day One. But now that I’ve switched to Obsidian for my notes, I’ve been considering also moving my journal entries into their own vault there. I would need to give up some nice features from Day One. But I would gain the benefit of all my journals being simple text files in a simple folder system - no export ever needed.

Like the author of the Verge article said, I need “to decide which compromises you can live with.


The note-taking app Obsidian, another Personal App I’ve come to like, tackles the problem a bit differently…when you first install it, it’s really just a simple text editor on top of a folder of files on your device.

-David Pierce

This is exactly why I switched from Apple Notes to Obsidian. I’ll never need to export my notes from Obsidian. By default, they’re just text files on my local hard drive; they’re not kept in a proprietary data silo or app container. Obsidian references the files and doesn’t copy them into its own library.

Optionally, I can sync notes to my phone via Obsidian’s own solution, or I can use one from “Big Tech” like OneDrive, iCloud, or Google Drive. There’s also DropBox, Syncthing, or whatever cloud service I choose. Or I can trade off that bit of convenience and only keep my notes on my local device. Plain and simple.

No app is forever, and my journal entries and notes need to outlast Day One and Obsidian.


Being wary of “the cloud” overshadowing your digital life can help you avoid unecessary risks. Trading away the convenience of cloud computing and relying on local storage brings a highly valuable virtue besides safety or privacy: simplicity. It’s simple to keep local files in a local folder system. They’re easily accesible, directly tangible, and always available - even offline!

While default cloud sync solutions have become easier to use these days, the general framework is still complex as it uses multiple energy-hungry servers in data centers with your files and info zooming across the web, always in need of a wi-fi signal.

In contrast, old-school local storage is simple: no internet required. The most cumbersome example I have is still easy enough: moving all my Nintendo Switch media to my Mac. The Finder on Mac won’t/can’t recognize the Switch. So first, I connect my Switch to my PC via cable and transfer the media files to a folder. Next, I move that media onto a flash drive that works on both PC and Mac. Then I move the files from the flash drive onto my Mac.

Getting my photos from either my iPhone or my Canon camera onto either my Mac or PC is likewise simple, using a cable or USB card adapter.

These old-school workflows are easy. I have the benefit of all my data staying local for full and private access. I don’t need to pay for cloud storage. And cloning or backing up is as simple as a copy/paste onto another local drive.

If I really want all my files on all my devices, I can do that. The only real trade-off is that doing so isn’t automatic, and the files are not always in sync. But that’s easy enough to manage.

We relied on local storage; it was fine. Then cloud computing took over. The convenience of it made the cloud seem indispensable. But its benefits clouded the fact that we must trade off a level of security and privacy. Yet we don’t have to.

A mixed approach, relying more on local storage and less on the cloud, is the best practice moving forward.

What do you think?

And for more on this topic, check out this related article.

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Decoupling From One Computing Platform

Being the tech geek that I am, one of my quirks is that I go all-in on a single computing platform. Until I don’t. As I wrote earlier this month, the pendulum swung from Apple to a smorgasbord of apps and services from various developers. And of course, ones from Big Tech are hard to avoid. The trick is to not end up all-in anywhere, be it Google, Apple, or Microsoft; it’s paramount to prevent platform lock-in.

Dull, meet shiny

Sometimes, I change my tech setup because I get bored. Though apps and services I’m using are tried and true, they feel stale. Then I’ll see a fresh tech tool and find testing it to be tempting. While this happens with software, it’s most obvious with hardware, like when I sell or trade a perfectly working smartphone for…a newer perfectly working smartphone.

Do I need a new laptop? Nope. Do I want a new laptop? Yep.

Problem, meet solution

Other times, I switch because of some nagging issue with a current solution and finally discover a better option. Example: this month I ditched Apple Notes for Obsidian to solve the long-standing discomfort of all my notes being kind of stuck inside Apple’s special app. Obsidian gave me what I wanted and also what I think is needed, notes that are discreet files in folders, simply referenced by the app.

I’m also aiming to apply this same basic principle to all my photos, like I did years ago. Instead of letting iCloud and Apple Photos (or Google Photos) keep my pictures within their special libraries, I want my photos to be free in the computer’s file system. They can be either on Mac or PC, and any image editing app can edit or reference them. That’s file freedom and flexibility.

Fantasy, meet reality

The biggest reason why I’ve been personally decoupling from Apple’s ecosystem lately is because it’s not so practical; it’s better to be flexible. There are just too many other people using other platforms. Sticking to only one platform kind of segregates me from others. Sometimes there’s compatibility issues.

One example of this is the fragmentation, and friction, people feel when communicating via text messaging services. I don’t think that mess will ever be cleaned up. Some folks are on iPhone, some are on Android. Yeah. Just the way it is.

A better example is in my own home; no walled-gardens at all. Our house is open to all the tech. My wife is not swayed by fancy new gear, and she’s never been all-in with any one computing ecosystem. Her mail, calendar, and office apps have been spread across Microsoft, Apple, and Google for years. Likewise, her phone is from one company while her laptop is from another. My kids are in the same disparate boat too. My family uses Chromebooks and Windows PCs while I’m the odd man out, using a MacBook.

Though I can be an Apple fanboy, I must still troublshoot Windows when Microsoft changes a setting or if my kids' homework isn’t being backed up. And though I’ve relied on Apple Photos to manage my pix, my family doesn’t use the same luxury. As I.T. man of the house, I get to ensure that the iCloud for Windows utility is working so they can access all their iPhone snaps without a hassle.

I think instead of saying “fragmented,” it’s better to say computing setups are varied. One must diversify, be flexible. It’s easier to do that by using cross-platform apps and services, accepting the fact that one will sometimes need to rely on multiple providers or solutions. This may feel less synergistic, but it’s simple in a way because it removes bells and whistles and focuses on the basics.

For me, it feels freeing to be released from the confines of only-Apple software. I’m afraid to admit that I had limited myself from some apps, even if they were superior, simply because they were not “Designed by Apple in California.” For example, I now enjoy Microsoft’s To Do app instead of Apple’s Reminders, preferring how it handles daily tasking.

But I must be careful. By opening myself up to things outside of Apple’s walled-garden, I’ve already felt temptation to go too far in the other direction. Once I start using one app, like Google Docs, I find myself gravitating towards Gmail because of how it integrates in some ways. And Google Calendar is made nicer with the omnipresent sidebar that puts Google Tasks and Keep at the ready.

Or with Microsoft’s To Do, the vortex of Outlook tugs on me. I now juggle both iCloud Drive and Google Drive, but it sure would make sense for me to start using a Windows PC and just OneDrive…and then Office…and then I’ll be all-in with Microsoft.

Going all-in with any single computing platform is not the best, or most practical, answer. The bubble it creates will inevitibly burst. Someone will always compute differently. Even with social media, despite “everyone” being on Facebook, not everyone is actually on Facebook, especially these days.

Come to think of it, the most ubiquitous, cross-platform communication platform today is…email. No matter the email provider, everyone can email anyone. Likewise, the internet itself is the social network (Hi, Fediverse). It’s also the most ubiquitous computing platform for developers; web-apps are truly cross-platform, albeit not natively. The sticky part about the web is that, though it’s “everywhere”, it’s not local. Your stuff is in the nebulous cloud, not actually on your device.

Then again, it’s easier to decouple from one computing platform when you’re coupled to the all-pervasive web. Maybe there is a future for the so-called “Metaverse” after all?

What do you think?

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Cloud Computing Is About Convenience

I’m thinking about cloud computing versus the quaint old way we all used to just keep files in folders on our local drive. Do we really need to sync gigs of data in the cloud between devices? Is there a necessary utility to cloud computing, or is it merely about convenience?

I think in most cases, it’s the latter. In the past, our music, files, or photos lived on a desktop computer hard drive; we’d sync certain files (over a cable) to our PDAs, iPods, or phones as needed for being on the go. Or we’d copy the files we wanted onto a disk or thumb drive to use on another computer. Nowadays, cloud sync services basically do the same thing without the cable or the portable medium.

Three inconvenient cloud storage things

I like the convenience of the cloud, but there are things about it I don’t like. I’ll mention three.

One is the misconception that if my data is in the cloud, then it’s backed up. But that’s often not the case. Typically, files are stored “in the cloud” on a data server somewhere — and that’s it. My data is not on my local storage. Instead, I just see a reference (placeholder icon) to it. So all my data has one copy — the original — and no backup copies anywhere. Not good. If anything happens to that one copy, too bad.

Another complaint about relying solely on cloud storage is not having direct access to my data. It’s on someone else’s hard drive somewhere else. Unless I toggle an option to also keep a copy of my data on my local drive too, it’s beyond my reach without a persistent internet connection. So I must ensure that toggle is on because I can’t always guarantee the internet will be on. And unfortunately, many people don’t realize this.

The last problem is the tendency of companies to offer paltry amounts of base storage inside devices, forcing people to rely on cloud storage services — with subscription fees — in order to keep all files and photos somewhere. Why do many laptops today ship with a meager 256GB of internal storage? By now, the minimum base storage configuration on any laptop should be 1TB.

Local storage is underrated

I’m not advocating for everyone to quit using cloud storage; I still use it a lot. But I’m trying to be more mindful of how much I rely on “the cloud.” For-profit companies love for people to totally depend on cloud storage for everything. It’s like renting a remote hard drive and entrusting your entire digital life to a corporation’s server farm in an undisclosed location. Putting all your data-eggs in one basket seems unwise. It also incurs a pesky monthly subscription fee. Bleh.

Back in the day, you paid up-front one time for a physical hard drive (or computer) and simply put all your digital files on it. And if you were ever bit by data loss — drive failure — like me, then you also bought a backup drive “just in case.” So no monthly fees, and all your data was in at least two baskets, not one.

While computing companies may want to prioritize cloud storage, I think the best overall use case today is to make sure you primarily rely on local storage. Keep your data on your own device/drive. That’s the surest way to “own your content.” Then, as needed, sync a copy of your stuff via cable or to a cloud solution for easy access on your mobile device. Local storage should be the default while cloud storage is one option among others.

Your data should not live in the nebulous cloud behind a subscription payment and an internet connection. It should live on your own computer. And living in both places at the same time might be a good option too.

What do you think?

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Taking Apps Out Of The Apple Basket

Somewhere in the universe, a cosmic pendulum must have swung. I’m tilting away from my Apple-centric app focus toward cross-platform apps. For all the benefits of living nigh exclusively within Apple software, I’m reawakening to the wisdom and flexibility of not putting all my apps in one basket.

Big Tech Baskets

Apple’s walled-garden is nice: it gets the job done well, but does it always offer the best tools for every job? Fair question. And while the wall is “a feature, not a bug,” acting like a hedge of protection, what exactly am I protected from? And what sort of adventure might I discover outside the walls? Maybe there’s risk, but what if there’s a pot o’gold at the end of a rainbow?

There are other castles surrounded by moats. I was once all-in with Google, toting just an Android phone and a Chromebook. It was nice, especially when you consider the entry price. I got my tech fix for a fraction of the cost of Apple’s wares, using all the Google things.

Similar can be said of Microsoft with its line of Surface devices, Office suite, and OneDrive, for example. That said, without Windows Phone, one must rely on others.

Whatever tech giant you choose, it’s nice being able to dive in deep with as many apps and services as they make because their offerings look and work better together by design. Your computing is streamlined since your one account grants access to a whole family of apps/services.

But when you look past each tech giants’ synergistic advantages, you’ll see that there are many great third-party apps that deserve a chance. Indie developers, though relatively small, are no less creative and productive. In fact, since such devs can focus on one or a few apps, they tend to be better options with more robust feature sets or expert implementation.

Cross-platform Options

So I started looking over Apple’s wall. This year, I quit using Apple Notes for my journals and reverted back to Day One. The third-party developer was exclusive to Apple for years but went cross-platform with an Android app and now – in beta – a web app. For recording daily life, a dedicated journaling app far surpasses the capability of a general purpose notes app.

Last week, I stopped using Apple Podcasts and switched to Pocket Casts, also third-party and cross-platform. I just find the app better overall. It reminds me that, though Apple is great at software and hardware, it’s not the best in all cases.

Default or built-in apps typically have a low bar to pass, meeting basic functionality. In contrast, dedicated third-party apps typically offer more, better, or both in terms of features.

These moves were a crack in the Apple dam. What other non-Apple programs might I enjoy more? I’m reminded of the benefits of being less entrenched in a single tech giant’s ecosystem. It’s like mitigating risk and maximizing profit by diversifying your financial portfolio.

The Best Tools

For more examples, I’ve tried to use only Apple Books and an iPad for all my eReading in the past. Apple’s tablet is great, its Books app is very nice, and its eBook service is good enough. But despite my sincere efforts, I always run back to my beloved Kindle eInk screen and Amazon’s eBook market; I love it.

When it comes to gaming, I used to play iOS games and have enjoyed Apple Arcade exclusives like JRPG Fantasian from acclaimed Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. But gaming on Apple devices simply doesn’t compare to console gaming. Nintendo with its Switch is much better. Sony’s PS5 must also be greater since it flies off store shelves like the way people used to line up around the block to buy the new iPhones.

A few other moves I’ve made or am making to be less siloed:

  • I stopped using Apple News and now only use a third-party RSS reader, NetNewsWire (and formerly used cross-platform app Feedly).
  • I’m testing Firefox over Safari
  • I may use BitWarden versus iCloud Keychain
  • For reading later, Pocket instead of Safari reading list
  • I might also consider – gasp – a cross-platform alternative to Apple Notes like Simple Note (Markdown!).

Caveat: if I use Simple Note in addition to Day One and Pocket Casts, one might say I’m entering the Automattic silo. But Automattic, parent of WordPress, is open-minded and cross platform.

Apple makes quality hardware, very good software, and has the distinct advantage of the most holistic and cohesive computing ecosystem. But the problem of being all-in with Apple (or others) is having a closed mindset that misses out on potentially better apps.

Why rob oneself of the best tool for the job just because it doesn’t have a Big Tech logo on it?

Part of why I tend to switch up my tech setup is due to boredom. But this cross-platform push is more than a mere thought experiment or a geek seeking new tech toys. For me, a key advantage is the ability to compute on my family’s Windows computers, not just my MacBook, when the need arises. Or maybe I’ll someday revert to a PC for Steam gaming (that said, RPGMaker MZ runs great on my M1 MacBook Air).

If for no other reason, being locked into one computing platform seems unwise and feels restrictive. Though I plan to keep enjoying my MacBook and iPhone with much of Apple’s software, at least now I won’t have all my apps in one basket.

What do you think?

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Let's Not Quarrel With A.I.

There’s always a doomsday scenario of A.I. taking over the world, wiping out humanity, like in The Terminator where Skynet becomes self-aware. Such fear can surface with ChatGPT and the like. This Vox article on the topic has a quote that struck me:

“You’re probably not an evil ant-hater who steps on ants out of malice,” the physicist Stephen Hawking wrote in a posthumously published 2018 book, “but if you’re in charge of a hydroelectric green-energy project and there’s an anthill in the region to be flooded, too bad for the ants. Let’s not place humanity in the position of those ants.”Kelsey Piper

Not to be alarming, but it’s a good idea to be careful with A.I.

Also, from The Avengers (2012) movie:

Nick Fury: “We have no quarrel with your people.”

Loki: “An ant has no quarrel with a boot.”

Nick Fury: “You planning to step on us?”

A.I. probably won’t be mischievous. Hopefully it won’t be careless.

Journaling On Day One

The best time to start journaling is a day far in the past; the second best time is today. Whether you have a paper diary or a digital journal, writing your thoughts in it regularly is vital. Over the years, I’ve used different tools to journal, tending to switch them up for various reasons. So, surprising nobody, I’ve moved from Apple Notes back to Day One.

Apple Notes is a general purpose note-taking app and Day One is a dedicated app for journaling. That difference alone should suggest how or why Day One is worth using for a daily habit as important as journaling. Being focused and equipped to the task, Day One shines with many journaling-friendly features, like a built-in calendar view for entries and the ability to efficiently import photos or events into those entries.

There’s much more to like about Day One (owned by WordPress parent Automattic), such as the Streaks widget on Mac and iPhone: it shows a daily checkbox of your recent consecutive entries. This one feature, in fact, was key in helping me finally make a habit of journaling daily, a goal I’d had for long time. And my current streak is now well over a year!

The thing is, I started this on October 2021…then switched from Day One to Apple Notes…and am now switching back. So what happened?

As you might imagine, using Apple Notes for all my notes plus all my journals added up to a lot of stuff, and journal entries didn’t fit well among my notes. I use Notes like a dumping ground for all sorts of things: links, checklists, random thoughts, receipt scans… Journal entries are simple but feel out of place in my mind-space inside Notes. And since I kept them locked, I couldn’t tag them, yet I’m not sure I would because the tags would be mixed with general notes tags. Things felt messy and limiting.

What really drove me to uproot my journals from within Notes was my ongoing process of re-organizing my thousands of notes since Apple introduced tagging capabilities in the last few updates. Upending my folder system to augment it with tags has been quite the productivity exercise; removing my journals would help simplify and declutter things.

So I felt the need to move my journals out of Apple Notes, but why go back to Day One? Sure, it’s great, but I already used it before and left it, so what was the deal?

At the time, I had journaled in Day One exclusively in the Mac app and thought that it would be enough, but I very much needed and wanted to also journal via the iPhone app. To do so required an upgrade from the free version to premium, which cost $35 per year. I wasn’t willing to pay for it.

I think that’s kind of sad. Day One is a great app. Developing and maintaining it requires much work; it shouldn’t be free. It costs people their time and energy to make Day One and make it excellent. The Day One team deserves income to compensate, and their app earns revenue. Storing, syncing, and encrypting everyone’s journaling data is no small feat, for example. And the app simply needs good coding and designing. It’s certainly worth more than $0.99.

So I decided to not be a cheapskate and just subscribe. After my 30-day free trial ends, I’ll be auto-billed for a whole year. Now I’m using Day One with all features unlocked, and it’s syncing across my Mac and iPhone apps beautifully.

Your take-away here is simply to start reaping the benefits of journaling yourself if you haven’t yet made it a daily habit. There are many other journaling apps besides Day One on both iOS and Android. I can recommend Journey, for example, as I’ve enjoyed it before too. Or if you prefer a traditional paper notebook like a Moleskine, go for it.

Do you journal daily? How do you like to journal?

Sold iPad And Dropped AirPods

As one who is all-in with Apple, it may be surprising that I quit using a few of its gadgets. My iPad is gone. And my AirPods are now just backup. Let me explain.


A year ago, I bought a refurbished MacBook Air M1 and still enjoy it today. Prior, I used an 8th-gen iPad with a bluetooth mouse and keyboard (non-Apple gear) as my “computer.” Needing and wanting more drove me to a proper laptop.

So in the past year, I basically never used my iPad. I tried some of its features that let me use it as a connected display for my Mac, but otherwise it stayed out-of-sight/out-of-mind.

My oldest son then told me how much he wanted his own iPad and that he’d use it for not only some games and movies but as a tool to practice digital drawing via Apple Pencil. He had saved up money for all of it and was ready to buy. So I made him a deal, selling my iPad to him.

I’ve blogged before about the tight space between an iPhone and a MacBook. Steve Jobs knew that to have room for a tablet, between a smartphone and a laptop, it had to be exceptional at key things. The iPad is great, but I just didn’t have enough real use for it along with my other Apple devices.

So far, I don’t miss it at all. I doubt I will. That said, it’s a little weird to me that I let such a cool Apple device go from my grasp. Yet I think it’s for the best.


I have used my AirPods (gen. 2) for two years now. By far, their convenience is the best thing about them. But the trade-off in audio quality is wanting, and their expense just doesn’t seem worth it anymore. I realized there are many other good quality yet affordable wireless audio solutions on the market. 

Then for Christmas, I got a new pair of JBL (760NC) noise canceling over-ear headphones. So far they’re very nice. I really like their overall sound, having deep bass in my music, and that they block background noise, creating an inner-quiet soundscape. Plus, they can be wireless or wired!

They’re not perfect: the earcups are a tad small for my ear flaps, and their overall bulk makes them less convenient than AirPods — trade-offs. That’s ok with me; they’re also more affordable.

Now my AirPods are backup. I still use them sometimes while driving long-distance and for occasional phone calls. But once they die, I do not plan to replace them.

What’s left?

As mentioned, my iPhone and MacBook remain. I also still enjoy my Apple Watch — now with a non-Apple (inexpensive!) watchband. So, it’s kind of like small (watch), medium (phone), and large (laptop).

I do love my other Apple-less tech: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite and Nintendo Switch OLED. Sure, I’ve played games and read eBooks on my Apple gear, but the Kindle and Switch are devices dedicated to the task of reading and gaming, so they do it far better.

What device(s) would you drop in order to simplify your tech life?

Metaverse Spectacles Skeptical

A recent piece from Vox by Shirin Ghaffary on the challenge Meta endures as it races towards the so-called metaverse:

“Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg thinks the metaverse will be the next iteration of the internet, a technological shift akin to the mobile phone.”

Nope. I really don’t think so. I remain skeptical. And wary of Zuckerberg productions. Sure AR/VR has cool applications, for example gaming. But even in that genre it’s niche.

I don’t think the metaverse, as described or defined by a virtual space you interact with via sensory-enveloping headgear, will ever become mainstream. Why? Because people won’t wear goggles to text others when a smartphone is enough. And Microsoft Office on your laptop won’t be more fun in virtual reality. Maybe AR/VR will open up new experiences, but that remains to be seen, and if it does, I doubt they’ll be as revolutionary as the smartphone.

The Vox piece also raises a topic I’ve previously encountered and still disagree with as well, the notion that society now needs another tech breakthrough, a revolutionary device:

“Bosworth’s comments come at a time when Silicon Valley is long overdue for a major breakthrough invention. It’s been years since any of the reigning tech giants — Apple, Google, or Meta — have put out a technology as transformative as their earlier products like the mobile phone, the online search engine, the personal computer, or a social media platform like Facebook. For the past year and half, Meta has been positioning itself as a could-be leader on this front.”

In general, I reject the idea that tech revolutions are somehow on a schedule as though due at certain points on the timeline. Otherwise, we’d be long overdue for a Nikola Tesla advancement of wireless electricity. Or we’d be past due for hydrogen fuel cell cars or even just electrical generation via commonplace nuclear reactors; fossil fuels remain king in the age of the atom.

I really don’t think AR/VR, even if marketed via an Apple device, is going to be a new revolution. In ten years maybe? No, I still don’t think so. Why? Two reasons.

One, the tablet, once thought to be the “post-PC” device and next revolution after the iPhone turned out to be something adjacent to, not a replacement of, the smartphone. Likewise, wearables like Apple Watch are smartphone adjacent. Everybody isn’t doing “ambient computing” via voice assistants either. Even smart-home tech remains a mess after several years of trying to become the next big tech thing. All that’s to say just because a company or segment of people fancy a breakthrough device paradigm doesn’t mean it will inevitably materialize.

Two, the industrial revolution and things like interchangeable parts, though eventually followed by new revolutions, were paradigm shifts that spanned decades, not years. Even with Ford’s assembly line, over a century later and after the advent of computers, cars are still made basically the same way and people still travel via automobile. Flying cars, once thought to be the future of personal transportation, remain on the elusive horizon, the first version of vaporware.

In any case, I don’t think Zuckerberg is right on this one. And if the metaverse does become the next big thing, I doubt Meta will be at the forefront due to negative Facebook inertia. And even if Zuckerberg’s determination is matched by prescience, will it matter if investors remain skeptical and refuse to fund metaverse ambitions? Maybe via a non-Meta company.

But Microsoft seems to have given up on Hololens, its AR/VR headset. And Google killed Google Glass long ago. And Apple would likely price a headset beyond the reach of most consumers, such that Apple Glasses would be as unpopular as Homepod or AirPods Max.

The odds are stacked against AR/VR. Besides, progress in AI might distract or hinder metaverse progress. And what about the true “next big thing,” Quantum Computing? Maybe Nintendo’s Virtual Boy flop in the 90s soured me. Either way, I remain skeptical of the metaverse and am averse to Zuckerberg productions.

What do you think the potential of AR/VR is?

2023 Foresight

With a focus on computing and gaming, here are two things to look forward to this year. One is a super computer. The other: a fantastic game…that cannot be played on that super computer but rather on the equivalent of a six year old Android tablet!

Mac Pro

Though rumors suggest Apple might release mixed reality glasses this year, I doubt it. What can be expected, of course, are the usual iterations to its existing hardware lineup: new versions of iPhone etc.

The one new device to come should be the Mac Pro, as Apple had intended to update all its Macs with new Apple silicon chips in a 2-year time frame that’s now behind us. The Mac Pro is the last, and biggest, computer that’s yet to leave Intel chips behind. That said, there’s a notion that last year’s Mac Studio is already “Mac Pro” enough.

In any case, those high-end things are far more machine than I’d ever need; my M1 MacBook Air is still — after one year of usage so far — plenty fast and powerful!

Now, if Apple’s expensive and impressive computers ran the latest PC games at full specs, then maybe…and speaking of gaming…

Tears of the Kingdom

A mainline Zelda title only comes once every handful of years. The last one, Breath of the Wild, won Game of the Year 2017. It’s arguably the best Zelda title in the highly acclaimed franchise. And its sequel, Tears of the Kingdom, is scheduled to release May 12, 2023. It also won The Game Awards 2022, Most Anticipated Game. So, yes, there are high expectations for it. 

With its pedigree, TotK stands a chance to run for GotY 2023. Most remarkable about this is the fact that it will run on gaming hardware that will be over six years old. It’s also likely one of the last major Nintendo titles for the aging Switch platform.

Having played through Tears of the Kingdom’s predecessor BotW on the Wii U, I’m eager to see how much better this late hardware cycle game looks and feels on the Switch. I’m also curious to know how Nintendo will meet or exceed the level of greatness that is BotW. Will Tears of the Kingdom be emotionally gripping? Who might cry? What if Link, Zelda, or Epona dies?

More to come

There are many things one can look forward to this year. New devices, books, movies, or games. Maybe your favorite artist will release their newest album.

I’m not looking forward to all that much. Tears of the Kingdom, after a long delay, should prove to be worth the wait. With each passing day, that wait only gets shorter. Yet I still can’t wait.

What’s got you excited for this year?

USB-C All The Things

You may have heard news that the EU is mandating that digital devices use USB-C ports for charging. Basically, all tablets, phones, laptops, cameras, etc must have a USB-C port to charge, as opposed to something like Apple’s Lightning port found on iPhones. And you know what? I’m ready for it!

Yes, seriously. I have so many devices now that use USB-C to charge; it’s great! So common, so ubiquitous, so simple. Everywhere I go in my house or at work. Every room. Every charge plug. It’s all USB-C all the time. 

Well, almost. There’s still Lightning for iPhone. And AirPods. Also my 8th-gen iPad.

But I don’t use my iPad much anymore. And I always charge my iPhone via Qi “wireless” inductive pads. So I’m almost 100% USB-C. In fact, for Christmas I received a gift of new over-the-ear headphones. And guess what? They charge via USB-C. Because of course.

Other than my Apple gear with Lightning, I have one micro-USB device hanging around…for now. It’s a JBL Go 2 bluetooth speaker. And it’s on the chopping block, soon to be replaced by a newer version that uses USB-C.

There’s an argument that mandating USB-C may stifle innovation. I think there might be some merit to that point, but overall I think the convenience and simplicity of having a single universal port overrides potential limits to innovation.

There’s also some push back against the precedent of a public government entity dictating what a private company can or can’t do. But I’ll leave such politics to better minds. As an end-user, I’m ready for USB-C in all the things.

Are you ready for USB-C in all devices? Why or why not?

Big Finally For iPhone?

Can I FINALLY just buy a Kindle book (or see its price) in the Kindle app or Amazon app!? That’s all I want to really know after learning that Apple may soon fundamentally change its App Store rules and the like on iPhone. The change could mean more convenience for the average end user. Sounds good to me.

Two recommended reads:

I first learned of these potential sweeping changes via M.G. Siegler at 500ish.

Then I gathered more from Jason Snell at Six Colors

“I can imagine Apple telling Amazon that if it wants to write an iOS app that lets users buy Kindle books directly from Amazon via in-app purchase, it’s welcome to—but that version of the app can’t be in the App Store.” — Jason Snell

That quote is what I’m wondering about. Why can’t I simply see the price of a Kindle book in the current Amazon app or Kindle app? And why can’t I just buy said book via those apps on my iPhone? What’s the big deal?

I understand the desire to protect users from malicious third-party apps, but Amazon as a book seller is kind of an established and trusted entity and has been since the last millennium when it first started out selling books.

I also know there are many other factors to consider; it’s complicated. But we’re also talking about Apple, the company kind of known for its simplicity, its straight forward software design, etc. I like Apple, a lot, so don’t get me wrong. But Apple isn’t perfect (e.g. headphone jack removal).

What’s your take? Do you think Apple should open up its App Store more, or allow third-party app stores on iPhone?

iPhone 11 Thoughts

After turning my iPhone up to 11, I have some thoughts. Yes, it was the upgrade I wanted, substantial enough. All around, it’s a quality smartphone one would expect from Apple. Below are some things that stand out to me most.

Tap to wake

This is one of those quality of life features that seems small on paper, but in practice it’s huge. The ease with which I can now, finally, just tap the screen to see it display relevant or urgent info is so nice. I use it mostly to control audio in the playback widget. It’s more convenient than before.


Technically a superficial thing, yet it has deep impact. I LOVE the color of this iPhone 11 in yellow. I enjoy it every time I see it, often pausing to just look at it. My favorite color is orange; this is close. Even though the shade is a light pastel, it’s still great and feels more like an expression of my own personality. I do tend to be enthusiastic about tech.

Face ID

While I very much liked Touch ID, I find unlocking my phone by just looking at it to be kind of amazingly easy. It’s almost like the thing isn’t even locked when I pick it up. Also, it works in the dark. Not that I ever pick up my phone at night from the bedside table. Right.


Oh yeah, it’s way longer than was my 5 year old iPhone 8 Plus. I can go all day with moderate use and not worry one bit about charging up. It’s so good. Power to actually use your phone is fundamental to functioning. More battery is usually better. I love how long iPhone 11 lasts.


Oh snap! The camera is better, and the Night Mode and low-light shooting is much more improved than I expected. I’m truly surprised how iPhone 11 can get shots in little to no light and they actually turn out good looking. It’s super nice and enabling. Overall picture quality across the board is noticeably better too.

I’m also a fan of the ultra wide lens. Though its quality is a bit lacking in anything other than daylight landscape shots, it’s super useful for indoors when you can’t back up, like a small room or dining table. Also, I can now shoot portrait selfies, and I’m vain enough to enjoy it, thanks. Speaking of, the front camera has higher resolution and can shoot wider, both of which make me extra glad.

Ultra Wideband

I have not tried this out yet, but I plan to get an AirTag in the near future and “accidentally” misplace something important to see if I can find it.


Overall performance is more fluid than my 8 Plus, as it should be. It feels a bit more responsive. The display notch is not a problem at all. The LCD display looks as great as ever. Fit and finish are Apple caliber. The two speakers are much louder and fuller than the ones on my iPhone 8 Plus, which surprised me.

So there a some things that I value in iPhone 11. It’s reliable, it has all the iCloud ecosystem features, iMessage, and it’s the best version of Apple’s smartphone I’ve ever had the privilege to own. Best of all, I snagged this from Apple’s refurbished store for a great discount on a practically new phone. Highly recommended.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns of course; there are a few imperfections with iPhone 11:

  • It lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack
  • It uses Lightning instead of USB-C to charge
  • It is too big to easily use in one hand
  • It lacks a microSD card slot for expanding storage
  • It doesn’t come in orange

Did you upgrade your phone in 2022? Will you upgrade in 2023?

macOS Stage Manager Impression

Stage Manager is a marquee new feature in macOS Ventura, which released to the general public this October. I updated my MacBook Air right away, eager to try it out. After several weeks of using it off and on, I’ve been reminded of the already impressive multi-tasking capabilities with good ol’ fashioned windows on the Mac. Exiting the stage, I’m happy to manage apps and their windows myself.

I think one reason Stage Manager is a prominent addition to the Mac is simply because its so visual. App windows quickly and easily swap out with each other automatically. I’ve tried to nail down the best understanding of what Stage Manager is actually managing: windows, apps, or tasks. I think the answer is, “Yes” to all three.

Essentially, apps and their windows are tools for users to complete tasks. So juggling multiple windows and apps — multi-tasking — is what Stage Manager is supposed to help you do. Most people, though, do one thing at a time and, at most, reference some other thing alongside. So it’s not uncommon to have two apps side-by-side and sometimes three. 

Stage Manager lets users set up multiple apps or windows in groups and then switches between either groups of apps or single app windows. In practice, though, I found the set up portion to be cumbersome and the auto-switching part to be a bit too jarring sometimes. Once set up, it’s simply hard to mentally track what apps and windows are where, especially if you also use Spaces (multiple desktops).

For the sake of brevity, avoiding the technical bits, suffice to say that Stage Manager helped me re-evaluate the Mac’s previously established multi-tasking features: Mission Control, Spaces, and Exposé. And to a small degree, also command-tab app switcher.

I realized how good these features already are and how much I appreciate them. So after several weeks of leaving Stage Manager on, I turned it off. Tellingly, I don’t miss it.

In fact, I now much prefer my new simpler approach: fully zoomed (not full-screen) windows on one desktop Space. I love the Dock for its ability to both launch and switch between apps in a visual way. Its always present, at the ready, and serves as an anchor for the desktop. And I like to keep multiple Pages and Numbers files open. For those, I simply use tabs in their respective apps.

I wanted to like Stage Manager, but one of my initial reactions to it turned out true: it’s redundant. The Mac’s other multi-tasking options were already enough. I think Stage Manager has potential if Apple improves it.

One simple way to make it better would be to allow an option to always show more than four (the current max.) piles or groups at once on a 13” MacBook Air. The app or window I wanted to switch to was often pushed out of view simply because it wasn’t in the four onscreen. Another weak spot that needs work is streamlining the set up process. Somehow, apps and windows should be able to be grouped without also switching back and forth and dragging them back out of their piles.

That said, I find it easier to go full-manual, relying on the complete flexibility and total freedom of windows and apps being in one place, right on the desktop where I left them. To switch between them, I just click the app icon in the Dock. Since my apps are full-zoom most of the time, the app window I want pops into view, totally covering the previous window, which effectively switches it out and keeps my desktop clutter free.

In the end, though Stage Manager managed apps and windows to some degree, I still had to manage Stage Manager itself by setting up groups and mentally tracking where things were. 

Thanks, Stage Manager, for showing me how effective the other long-standing methods of Mac multi-tasking are. I’ll take it from here.

Have you tried it; do you like, dislike, or can’t make up your mind about Stage Manager?

Turned My iPhone Up To 11

A few weeks ago, I had decided to stick with my iPhone 8 Plus and not upgrade until likely next year. Confession: I didn’t hold out that long. I’ve been wanting to upgrade my five year old iPhone and my son’s now unsupported iPhone 7. So when a nice deal appeared, I jumped on it, netting one new-ish smartphone for two phone upgrades.

I can be fickle, leaning hard into minimalism when I feel the need to counter my (and my culture’s) natural bent towards maximalism (hyper-consumerism). I’m also frugal and moderate. So instead of buying the latest and greatest iPhone 14 super-duper-mega-ultra or whatever, I opted for a refurbished iPhone 11. It’s still a great phone today, three years after its first release, and it’s a substantial upgrade from my iPhone 8 Plus. 

The best part might be that for the single price of upgrading my phone, my 16-year old son is also getting a good upgrade — at no extra cost. He will once again have a supported phone, going from the 7 to the 8 Plus, which still has over 80% battery!

As always, I tried to weigh the balance between wants and needs, and I think I’ve struck it close to the center. Sure, I had to spend a bit more money than what might be ideal, but again, my family nets two iPhone upgrades from it. Plus I saved money by choosing a refurbished phone from Apple’s store. This also has the benefit of recycling a phone, getting more life from it, and conserving resources, though Apple’s refurbished iPhones include a new 100% battery — a big plus to me.

My most blogged about topic is Mobile Computing — be it smartphones, tablets, or laptops. The iPhone is one of my most important tools and, admittedly, one of my favorite tech toys too. Upgrading eventually becomes a necessity. And when I can afford them, I don’t mind a few niceties as well.

So I’m eager to switch from TouchID to FaceID, for example, gain Night Mode on the camera, and trade my telephoto lens for an ultra wide one. Speaking of ultra wide, how about the ultra wideband chip for precision AirTag tracking? Yes, please. And while it may be superficial, I’m keen to swap dull black for delightful yellow on the iPhone 11.

If only Apple made an Orange iPhone!

How often do you upgrade your smartphone? Would you rather use a feature-phone or “dumb” phone?

What Is Up With 5G?

Remember a few years back when there was hype that the next cell service upgrade would be mind-blowingly fast? 5G service promised download and upload speeds equal to or exceeding a fiber optic data line wired directly to your phone. The benefits of such a feature were things like…remote real-time tele-surgery? Streaming gameplay in high-res? The question: so how’s that working out for ya?

9to5mac recently asked, “Is 5G worth it?

The piece cites a report showing the answer to be a firm, “Nope.” It also gives other evidence to the same.

Does 5G even exist?

Here’s my take. After the iPhone 12 — with 5G! — debuted two years ago, do you know how many people in my circles I’ve heard say they enjoy the new cellular speeds? Zero. Not a single person has said they’ve even experienced 5G. The only people I’ve ever heard say they’ve seen 5G speeds have been reviewers from tech sites. That’s it. And again, it’s been two years or more since the next-gen cell connection began to launch.

So despite 5G service and multiple 5G phones being in the market for the past few years now, my personal experience so far shows that it has not lived up to any of the hype at all. I have to trust tech reviewers’ reports that 5G service actually exists in a few spots amidst big cities. And I assume it’s eyelid-peeling fast…but to what end?

Do we even need 5G?

There was a push for 4G/LTE cell coverage years ago because people wanted to stream video on their smartphone without buffering or loading and they wanted good quality playback. We consumers finally got that and have been watching YouTube and Netflix on our phones with no problems; it’s great! 

Video streaming on-demand to phones is a solved problem. Any other consumer (normal person) usage of cellular data is less demanding. So 4G/LTE certainly seems to be more than adequate. Thus there seems to be no real need for 5G in the first place. (This is similar to saying we don’t need 4K quality video because HD looks good enough already.)

I actually have been paying for an expensive AT&T cell plan for a couple of years now that includes 5G service though I’ve never seen such speeds. One reason is likely because the area where I live lacks 5G coverage. The other reason is my aging iPhone 8 Plus remains solidly in the past with only a 4G/LTE modem inside.

And you know what? Data speeds are very good and are available everywhere. Besides being plenty fast, the more important point is the ubiquity of my cell data coverage. I can totally rely on the fact that when I need fast-enough service, I’ll have it.

What good is blazing fast 5G speed if it’s not even available?

My next iPhone might have a 5G chip in it. And it still might not matter because I doubt 5G service will be available and reliable in my region, at least for several more years. So I’m not champing at the bit to get a 5G phone. In fact, I’ve considered avoiding a 5G iPhone until I’m certain my area has good 5G coverage. I don’t want a 5G phone battery dying in short time due to hunting for a 5G signal but never finding one. I’d rather turn 5G off or not have it at all. My 4G iPhone works great; its cell data is wonderfully dependable.

As a matter of fact, I’ve written this entire blog post on my MacBook Air tethered to my iPhone 8 Plus hotspot during a rainstorm and have had zero glitches, no dropped connections, all via 4G/LTE.

I don’t know what’s up with 5G, but 4G is great.

Do you experience 5G service on a 5G phone; what’s that like, is it game changing for you?

Wired Audio Sounds Winning

In my recent post where I asked are AirPods worth their cost, I was only comparing them to cheaper “true wireless” alternatives. But there still exists an even more affordable option: wired earphones. Yes, physically connecting your ears to a device with dangling cords. And apparently, it’s a trend amidst Gen Z.

Are wires really that bad? Fair question.

Is being tethered to your phone or laptop a problem that needs to be solved? Okay, sure, unraveling a tangled mess of cords or accidentally yanking earbuds out by their tails is inconvenient and can be frustrating. But is that bad enough to warrant the high cost of wireless headphones?

Wired ear pieces are practical and affordable and simple. In fact, though AirPods can seamlessly switch between Apple devices, wired headphones can basically do the same thing. Just unplug from one gadget and plug into the other device — it’s not hard.

Well, except iPhones lack a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. Of course, Apple makes a dongle for that. Also, you can’t connect wired buds to the Apple Watch, so Bluetooth buds are required. You could just use the Lightning EarPods for iPhone then switch them to the Mac…wait, Macs don’t have Lightning ports, just old-school round headphone jacks. Oops. Maybe there’s another dongle for that too. So much for the simple Apple ecosystem, eh?

Overall though, wired earbuds are simple:

  • Just plug’em in
  • No pairing required
  • No charging needed
  • No special case needed
  • You can’t lose one bud
  • They just work

Like this quote says, wired headphones reflect simplicity:

“Wired earphones make a different kind of statement. A person wearing wired headphones is disassociating themselves from modern trends altogether. They want to be plugged into simpler times.” — Elena Cavender

Besides simplicity, reliability, and affordability, wired headphones also have another distinct advantage over their rich wireless relatives: quality, as in Lossless Audio. Well, this was the case until recently, but it’s still mostly true today. Bluetooth couldn’t stream uncompressed audio; now it can but with caveats. And Apple’s own just-released expensive AirPods Pro 2 still can’t stream Lossless Audio.

Apple does include a good 3.5mm headphone jack. Though the iPhone ditched it and the new 10th-gen iPad dropped it, my M1 MacBook Air has one. I had to use it recently with my JBL speaker for audio playback; I couldn’t get the speaker to connect via Bluetooth after fussing with settings — grrrr, ugh. So I plugged in my speaker with a standard 3.5mm cord and it just worked. Wired audio for the win!

Have you gone wireless, or do you still enjoy classic wired earphones?