World’s Most Expensive Bookmarks

It’s been a week since I got back in the saddle of the road bike properly, having hung it up in the garage at the end of the 2015 following the Shropshire Peoples Triathlon. On the bright side, the Big Red Ride was a wonderful day out, and even the weather held out. The new start/finish venue was great (even if the tea had doubled in price), and I scored a fat collection of personal best Strava sections following the circuit with Jack. Winter training on the spin bikes has really worked for my bike legs, and I felt like I had plenty more to give had I needed to. On the flip side, moving from my best bib shorts on padded seats, to my warmest windproof bib tights (you know, the ones with the distinctly average pad) on the decidedly unpadded bike saddle has taught my sit bones a lesson. Just a case of need to get out more now and suck it up for the week it will take to become normal.

This weekend was all about visiting Ashmei following my shortlist for their ambassador program #ashmeiambassador. I had to knock up some fake “Polaroid” photos to take with me, one a portrait of me, and one simply anything to do with my sport.

Polaroid Homework

Polaroid Homework

I chose to take a fresh “portrait” thinking they needed a reference of what people look like, hence the boring one (although I am wearing my prized Slateman Savage tee). Upon arrival, they shot their own, so perhaps on reflection I should have picked a more interesting one! The other is a shot from training with TNT on a woodlands intervals session. It’s got 2 things in it I like, 1) my friends, and 2) something unexpected happening (yes, I was supposed to be stood with the rest of the group and cocked up the timer).

I had a fun hour talking the toot with various people (and putting on my new socks – thanks!), and watching the presentations and discussions that had been put on for us. Perhaps didn’t learn too much, but definitely cemented the feeling of how passionate these people are about their own stuff, and why they are doing it. Then we went out for a run. Well, I say run, more of a jog, only for me it was more of a torture session. Having been off running for most of Jan and Feb due to annoying glass back niggles that I haven’t found time to get fixed by my friendly osteopath, I knew I would probably find 6 miles tough. Add to that the several gallons of ectoplasmic residue that I have been ejecting from my (left nostril only…) nose for 3 days and I felt pretty shoddy from about half way in. But I did have fun, and overlooking the village of Marsworth where I spent much time approx 15 years ago was a bonus point for the unexpected (I knew it was near, I didn’t realise it was that near…).

With such a great (and large) bunch of people, all who have done and are doing some amazing things I can’t expect that there is much chance of me scoring a spot, but regardless of who is selected I’ve scored a few contacts local to me both in the Peak District and in Edinburgh, and that’s a win anyway. Everyone seemed to have a great little story to tell, and I enjoyed attempting to translate my years plans into a cohesive narrative when asked.

Bag of Goodies

Bag of Goodies

Of course, it would be great to “win”, but there’s little point entering into this sort of thing just to get lucky for the sake of winning the shineys, and there would be no point wanting to continue if I didn’t actually like what I would/will/might be asked to wear and test, so with 6 days of Mallorca training camp only 2 weeks away, I decided to simply treat myself to a set regardless. After a second (post bath) test for fit and label removal (hey, no labels, you hear that Decathlon!!! No 8 inches of sharp edged ribbon with care instructions in 14 languages sewn into the seam behind my knee!) I’ve bagged them to be left untouched until I arrive in Palma. I am left, (even with the wonderfully generous 50% off anything for attending) with a pair of the World’s Most Expensive Bookmarks 😉

World's Most Expensive Bookmarks

World’s Most Expensive Bookmarks

I’m looking forward to seeing who is selected, because I’ll be taking an interest in whoever it is.

On a side note, I totally forgot to take any photos while I was actually there (shame, as the Airstream Popup Shop is stunning!), but through the medium of failing to shut my boot properly, resulting in the alarm failing to set properly, resulting in me fiddling around working out where the loose sensor is (all of this on the way home I should add, sadly) I did come across the missing 2 action cameras that have been causing me mental anguish for being missing since before my snowboarding holiday! Too late to take on that, but they’ll be coming with me to Mallorca and I hope to be able to produce a proper little montage of my first ever cycling on multi day training camp :)

Big Red Ride

It’s the start of the outdoor season on the bike for me, and for the 3rd year running I’m attending the Big Red Ride, essentially a local fundraiser for Mansfield Road Club.

What I like about the first proper ride out, and this event in particular is that it’s not a training ride, not a club ride, not a sportive or any sort of race, but rather it’s billed as a Reliability Trial, which they describe thusly:

[The idea] is for each entrant to ride over a pre-set course within the agreed time that has been set, the route that is planned is suitable for all around riding ability it’s nothing to do with being the fastest. If you’re a rider who isn’t good with directions and need every junction marshalled, or unsure how maps work, find reading simple instructions difficult, can’t time your own ride, this is not the type of event for you.

For me, it’s a chance to get the bike out, and take on a good length course that manages to avoid any start of season ego trips or macho hill torture. There’s no pressure to be fast, and every opportunity to re-aquaint yourself with your bike, with the outdoors, and even with your cycling friends. I expect there’ll be actual stops here and there for flap jack, no agitating when you hit traffic lights, leisurely puncture stops without people stressing about whether to wait or shoot into the distance etc. I’ll not be bothering to fit all the gizmos to the bike, shan’t bother with a HR rate monitor and probably won’t even record the ride, and I won’t care one bit about carrying the extra weight of a massive sack of tools during an event (shock, horror, and not even carbon fibre water bottle holders!). In short an enjoyable ride, what it’s all about really.

Reliability, of the time described by the event organisers is certainly one thing that’s important to club riders. As a triathlete who spends far more time on the road in group rides than training alone it’s good to know which of your group is capable of sticking to a route, not dropping massively late notice left turns etc when leading, and capable of maintaining a consistent pace, regardless of how fast or slow that might be. Additionally, it’s a chance to reaffirm the reliability of your kit, and y our preparations for heading outdoors. I certainly strive to know what condition my bike is in at all times, and it get’s a nice service before being put to bed over the worst of winter so I can be sure it’s ready to go without needing a lengthy session to sort it out the night before it’s needed, i.e. tonight. More easy to neglect is the soft stuff. It’s been a lot longer than the couple of months the bike’s been hung up since I wore full length gloves, are they still OK or did I mean to replace them at the end of last spring and then forget, and just quietly switch to short fingered ones and thrown them in a drawer thinking it stupid to replace them in May and then not wear them for 5 months? I’ll spend more time going through my winter clothing than thinking about the bike, and there’s always 1 or 2 pieces of kit that you’d forgotten just how worn you had left them at the end of the previous winter, which can lead to the 2nd most fun part of being a triathlete, which is disposing of your disposable income…

Of course, true road warriors will probably think this a load of rubbish, having been out pedalling without a break for 28 straight years, but I like my winter indoors, I love a spin class (I’d love to teach a few one day), and I love my turbo (although the latter hasn’t really been used, do to my currently ridiculous work situation that requires me to keep weekends free from serious training). It’s good to break it up, and good to feel a season starting, rather than just finding you’re in it at an arbitrary point when the first event happens to arrive on the horizon.

Anyway, I’m hoping to enjoy a slow and relaxing 106km tomorrow, after which I’ll give Florence (the bike) a good old clean, and then start to attach all the electronic training aids and begin the switch into serious mode. I’ve a 6 day training camp in Mallorca coming up courtesy of my Tri Club (The ever popular Racing TNT) in a couple of weeks, and before that the chance to represent, well, myself, at the headquarters of Ashmei where I am shortlisted to potentially become an ambassador (#ashmeiambassador, for those who like their social media properly tagged…) for their brand – something which would put a hugely welcome injection of seriousness into my 2016, as well as provide the bibtights that I deserve 😉

Park Life!

I’m trying to learn to love running, but it’s a hard process. I’ve long had the opinion (stolen from some comedian, no doubt, about 30 years ago) that it you are fit enough to jog, you don’t need to.

I think the majority of people I know through triathlon would admit that swimming is the bit you have to endure, the Coffee Revel to your Malteser or Toffee one for cycling and running. But I just can’t quite get a handle on the running. I don’t love it, I don’t feel good doing it, and I sure as hell am no bloody good at it.

But! I do want to get there… I reckon it must be like drinking beer as a kid, you don’t enjoy it, you pretend to like it, and then at some point, without you actually realising it you find that actually, you do like beer, and you like this particular kind of beer best. I obviously haven’t drank enough yet, and/or stumbled across my tipple of choice, to bulldoze an analogy.

I hate, and I use the word sparingly in most contexts normally, but I hate running alone. I can’t do it. I need people around me, to push me, to inspire me and all that. But they have to be the right sort of people, people with enthusiasm, not people with a single track mind that usually results in ignoring anyone who is not directly useful for them as anything other than a marker to lap. Where best to just meet a load of enthusiastic runners who aren’t there to “win” and go home? Your local park run of course.

Small problem, I don’t have one. Any park run you can’t at least cycle to, is not local enough in my books, hence me only having ran 4 or 5. Sheffield has more park runs than pubs it seems, but Chesterfield has none. Anyway, I’m a devious bugger me, and I decided to attack this from an odd angle. So I dug around on the net, and saw that plenty of others wanted one, but no-one was actually doing anything about it. So I did something about it. I set up a group on Facebook, the delightfully named “Unofficial Chesterfield Parkrun Interest Group“!

Some cajoling here, some prodding there, and lots of blasting all my tri friends with enough spam to send them mad got us up to over a hundred members in a little over a week. Yay for social media! Turns out there is a lot of interest out there (I knew there had to be), they just need the right people to find each other and click. The short version is that I managed to start the ball rolling, and others have turned up to look at the ball, others have gave it an experimental kick, and yet more have got behind the thing and pushed like lunatics. And in April (roughly speaking, no firm dates) it looks like I can bin the group, and point everyone at ParkRuns latest official group.

So, it’s a bit of an extreme way to crack the nut, but pretty soon Chesterfield will have its very own ParkRun, with its very own run-hating race director! I’m really proud that this is happening, and that I have been a key participant. I can’t wait for our first event, and I’m also really pleased to have however inadvertantly brought together what looks like a fine events team in Lottie, Tim & Mark who have done all the real work leaving me to fart about on Facebook.

Kill or cure, I will learn to love running! Now, where’s my pint…

Shoulder Chimp

It’s 2016 (you may have noticed), and that can only mean one thing; it’s the Year of the Monkey. I’m well aware that it can mean lots of other things as well, but as they are probably happening to other people, they simply don’t count.

I’ve been playing around at Triathlon and it’s constituent sports for 3 years now, long enough for the initial rapid improvements to have started to taper down to something more predictable (i.e. not much, not very fast), and yet also long enough for me to know that I have actually found the sport I want to become good at.

I initially dove headlong on a whim, buying the cheapest road bike I could (I still highly rate the Decathlon B:Twins for beginners) and generally getting far too enthusiastic far too quickly. I’ve done this sort of thing before, and can count on the fingers of more hands than I currently possess the number of hobbies I have taken up, drained my wallet thereof, and subsequently abandoned when enthusiasm wanes, and prodigious talent fails to emerge after minimal effort and input from myself.

Now, previously I have only ever got to a level of performance and/or skill at one other activity, possibly the only other one that can give Triathlon a run for its one at disposing of your disposable income in rapid fashion, and that was Snowboarding. No pro, me, obviously, but I will always stand by the fact that I feel confident that you could pit me against any ‘recreational’ boarder on a real mountain and not find me wanting. It’s not a boast, but for a period in my early 30s I really felt like I had a connection to the sport, and a talent for it.

After returning from a week on the mountain during which I found the time to explore my past with some solo slope time, I came away reminded by the odd fleeting feeling of what it feels like to be a sportsperson, not merely someone who engages in a sport. This is something I have had only the most occasional flirt with in my current sport of choice. I once felt like I was a swimmer, not just someone swimming, and a couple of times I have come back from a ride and thought, “Hey, I’m a cyclist now!”, not just someone who had been out on a bike. I’m still waiting for the moment to come whilst running! I certainly have never finished a race and thought “I’m a pretty good triathlete you know!”, but the tantalising glimpses have been there or thereabouts enough times to get the feeling that, you know, they could be found, if I chose to reach for them.

Now, I’m a serial bottler. I freely admit that I have an imagination that leaps and bounds far beyond what my actual self can achieve and aspire to. I think of things I want to do, and I sabotage myself with doubts and fear. Better to quietly forget that dream, than fail to achieve it. Hence the Monkey. Or chimp, specifically, sat on my shoulder telling my I should probably temper my ambition, stick to being an enthusiastic participant, don’t bother with wanting to be any good and be happy to be staying fit, enjoying your new friends, and, well, disposing of your disposable income rapidly…

Admitting such things to yourself, well, to myself, has always been a difficult process. Making clear and measurable goals has never been my style, better to be on the train facing back and seeing what happened to transpire, than facing forward and seeing what’s on the horizon. So, consequently, admitting to anyone else that you have ambition to be not simply not better than I currently am, but actually good (within, say, the eyes of my peers) is a hard ask. You can’t take that back and pretend you never said it.

But, late last year, I started to say it, to a few friends here and there. And the response has never been less than positive. Of course, it helps that I deliberately chose people who have recently made the sorts of improvements that I want to emulate one day, so you would expect nothing less, but still, positive public affirmation that the biggest barrier to success starts with hurdling your self doubt and making a goal feels like a (small) weight lifted already.

So 2016, year of the Shoulder Chimp is well under way. Although I had the unwanted start of essentially a 7-8 week layoff of serious training due to my first ever sport related injury (any sport, any injury, barring broken arms as a child) I’ve kept the mental fires stoked, ticked my body over with what I could, and have come away from my first days off work in 6 months sufficiently happy to put this out there. I’m going to be training hard, participating openly competitively, and my goal is to move out of “participant in Triathlon” mode, into “I’m a Triathlete” mode.

I’ll be putting stuff up on here periodically, and here’s a thing – I would really, really, welcome your thoughts, even you, yes you pre-triathlon friends, and I’m asking you to not take the piss (too much), but see if you can’t be part of a thing and help me to achieve a goal or two.

Bike build back on – minus the build!

Still smarting over the frame that never was, I did a quick look to see if one had perhaps come up on eBay perhaps, and lo! Well, not a frame, but the whole bike, pretty much built to what I had in mind (chain rather than belt) just minus the fun of actually building the thing. But, having said that, it will make the perfect commuter bike now that I can and am cycling to work each day. So, there’s still room for the perfect self build, and who knows, maybe this frame will one day become a donor for that project, but until then it’s a start and at least I get the steel frame that I had set my heart on.

Custom Bike Build

UPDATE:

Seems everyone has these frames on sale until you try to buy one. 3 refunds later, and I have no frame. As it stands, just buying the actual fully built bike seems like the only sensible option to actually get a frame, and would actually be loads cheaper than a build, although obviously it would remove the actual fun of the build too. Meh!

/UPDATE

I will be taking my time over the year to build my own bike from scratch. A fully custom Frameset would be lovely, but also probably as much just for the frame as for the entire bike using off the shelf components.

The trouble is, getting a decent off the shelf Frameset is pretty tricky, as most places want to sell you the whole bike.

Anyway, my search finally led me to Genesis Bikes who have the bike I would want to build in the form of the Day One Di2. Luckily for me although they don’t sell this Frameset individually, the 2015 version of the bike uses the cheaper Reynolds 753 tubing, and as such there does seem to be a limited supply of Framesets available online for the (superior) 2014 853 tubing version.

Initially I ordered a 54 at the bargain price of £349, but it turned out they only had 52s, so I had to get a refund. There were a couple of places with a 54 in stock at £399, and while I had talked myself into justifying the first price, paying another fifty quid was almost galling enough for me to leave it and find another frame. Luckily, judicious use of Google netted a 10% discount code, taking it to £360 – close enough, ordered!

So here is the little steel beauty in all her glory, I’ll be documenting my build on these pages soon.

 Steel is Real 

iOS Irritations

iOS 6 has been out a while now, and the changes it brought with it have been by and large known about since back as far as February when the initial previews and developer Betas were made available. It’s not really had much discussion, perhaps because we’ve known so long that there were not going to be any major changes, much as some people would love to replace the simple Homescreen that has remained largely untouched for 5 years with something a bit more flashy, and dare I say it, more ‘Androidy’ – is that a word? It is now…

I actually like the fact that nothing major has changed, the ridiculously simple nature of the Homescreen isn’t a problem for me, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things that need attention. I maintained a (very small) list of niggles that I intended to write about before I installed iOS 6 in the hope that some of them might get some love. In the end, it’s no great loss that I didn’t get around to it, because with 1 exception they all remain. So without further ado, here is my hit list of tiny things to change to make the Homescreen that bit more polished:

  • Modal notifications, such as the “20% of battery remaining” message, must be dismissed though a tap on the screen. Nearly every time I get this, I try to tap the Home button to clear it, but no beans. In fact, when such a display is shown, the Home button ceases to function entirely, and as such I think it’s reasonable to co-opt it to be a hardware “OK” button when you are presented with such a notification

  • If you are viewing a Homescreen folder, and don’t want to start an app from within, your only choice is a tap outside of the folder to exit it. Since almost every time I am in this scenario it’s because I went into the wrong folder, then I think that a tap outside that happens to be on another folder, should simply switch folders, instead of requiring a 2-tap process. As a side note, my list complained about the fact that a Home button tap did not collapse an open folder, but that is the thing that did get fixed in iOS 6.

  • Another folder improvement would be to automatically collapse the folder after the execution of an app from within it. As things stand if you open a folder, start an app, then quit the app, you return to the open folder, more often than not requiring a further tap (or at least Home button tap now) to get back to the standard Homescreen

  • Gesture based navigation on the iPad, including the 4 finger swipe to switch between recent apps only works if you are currently viewing an open app. Switch back to the Homescreen and swipe, and you get nothing. I makes sense to me to continue to allow a swipe to move you back to the previous app just like it works if you are already in one, because the alternative is a lengthy (well, by comparison) double tap on the Home button, followed by a screen tap to pick the first app in the list.

So, not really much to complain about from my point of view, and almost all concerned with Folders and the Home button. Will these things ever get fixed? Do they need fixing? Have you got some more? Get in touch.

The iPad Mini is dead. Long Live the iPod Maxi!

There’s been a whole load of rumour and speculation about a forthcoming “iPad Mini” to fight against the might of the Nexus 7 (That thing that’s, you know, only available in 1 country, and isn’t available in any stores anywhere, even in that one country). I tried to wrap my head around it, and failed.

The problem to me is with the word iPad. Now, there may be a mid-level device that sits somewhere between an iPhone and an iPad, but I’m willing to bet that it is not another iPad. You’ve got it all wrong. It’s the new iPod. Here’s why:

The original iPhone and iPod touch rolled out with a 3.5″ 3:2 ratio display pushing out 480×320. Future upgrades brought the first Retina displays, that doubled this to 960×640, maintaining the screen dimensions and aspect ratio nicely. This screen looks as great today over 2 years later as it did at launch.

Next up, we have the original iPad. We have a change in that the screen is much larger, and has a different shape, so we welcome that old vanguard of trusty resolutions SVGA, pumping a solid 1024×768 in a 4:3 ratio 10″ (I’m rounding for clarity of thought) rectangle. After that we duly get a Retina version in time, and once more the resolution is doubled to a mighty 2048×1536, maintaining all other details.

So, at this point we have a clear range of products when it comes to screen size. We have small; 3.5″ 3:2 displays for iPhones and iPods. And and we have large; 10″ 4:3 displays for iPads. Both sizes come in low (or shall we euphemistically call it “original”?), and high resolutions.

The key is that all along Apple have tried their best to ensure clarity of options for potential developers. Fragmentation is a real issue for Android developers, there’s no point pretending otherwise, and any future or further changes to the iOS hardware ecosystem can only make things more difficult for developers who up to now have had a relatively smooth ride with only having to develop for 2 sizes and remembering to include those good old 2x images for instant Retina compatibility…

Now, an iPad is an iPad, that’s why it’s called an iPad, and an iPad mini has to be an iPad too, seems straightforward enough, so therefore it stands to reason that it will have iPad properties, and those will extend to the 2 key properties of screen resolution and ratio. It’s just so obvious, right? We’ll go back to using our trusty SVGA screens at 4:3, and merely stamp them out in a 7.85″ rectangle!

That’s the theory anyway, but I have 2 problems with it. I’ll tackle the first one first, naturally.

So, firstly, let’s round up the imaginary product options from this point onwards, and see where the iPad Mini Fits:

  • iPhone 3GS 480×320 3:2 @ 3.5″ = 165 PPI (I’m rounding the PPI figures here by the way, and using an online calculator so apologies if they do not exactly match the Apple spec sheets)
  • iPhone 4/4S 960×640 3:2 @ 3.5″ = 330 PPI
  • iPad Mini 1024×768 4:3 @ 7.85″ = 163 PPI (Note 7.85″ seems to be the rumour mills – choice, even though I’d call this 8 not 7, but that’s another point…)
  • iPad 2 1024×768 4:3 @ 9.7″ = 132 PPI (or 10″, from here on in)
  • New iPad 2048×1536 4:3 @ 9.7″ = 263 PPI

Now to me, the obvious problem seems clear. Discounting the fact that you can still get an older non-Retina iPhone and iPad, the fact is that these are not considered current hardware, it’s simply a nice way to push the old tech down the line at a cheaper price point to more budget conscious buyers and in emerging markets, this new iPad Mini will be current generation, and will have to look the part. As such, take a look at those PPI figures. Yes, your new iPad Mini has a resolution clarity that is worse than the original iPhone, and barely better than the original iPad. Which, when you consider there is only 1.85″ difference in size, seems logical.

Let’s take away the numbers and the maths and the comparisons. This screen will be laughably woeful. There is no way that Apple would sell anything with such a screen today as a new product.

So, how would you go about fixing this? Well, the answer seems to be sitting there waiting to slap you in the face. Make it Retina. Pixel double that bad boy, and you’re set:

  • iPad Mini 2048×1536 4:3 @ 7.85″ = 326 PPI

That’s more like it! But, hang on while I just put my sanity hat back on, this iPad Mini is the budget iPad, right? And you’re telling me that it’s going to have a screen that matches the resolution and ratio of the full priced New iPad, and further bump the PPI by a whopping 24%? This is the budget iPad, not the class leading one! Not going to happen. Will cost too much, and there is no way that they will usurp the top of the range real iPad models, let’s face it the only difference is going to be this screen, not the other internals.

So, busted, there is no way that the screen on an iPad Mini is going to be either worse than an iPhone 3GS, or better than a New iPad. It has to sit somewhere in the middle.

This brings me to my next point, and that is…the New iPhone (iPhone 5, iPhone 6, whatever…). Now, I didn’t want to talk about it much, but I am sure that most people are aware that the dominant rumour seems to be that the screen technology will not fundamentally change for the next iPhone, merely the dimensions will, meaning keeping the same PPI roughly, and same fabbing, and simply punching out the screen to be longer on the X axis to achieve a phone with something approximating the following specs:

  • New iPhone 1136×640 16:9 @ 4″ = 325PPI

So, this is where Apple really start to mess around, because this is introducing not only a new resolution, but also a new aspect ratio to the previous clear narrative of having a pair of sizes. I won’t repeat (or link to) the various reason why this options seems both likely and actually sensible, but let’s take it as read that it is accurate, after all we’re are specifically talking rumours here! Now we have a new option to run the iPad Mini at:

  • iPad Mini 1136×640 16:9 @ 7.85″ = 166 PPI

Hooray, we’ve finally bested the PPI of the 3GS! By one! But the problems remain, worse than the iPhone, worse than the iPad, not Retina, not going to happen. Also, and this is the real no-no for this particular resolution, you can’t call it an iPad, if you can’t run iPad apps on it, native. Make it Retina? No way, that would make it both higher resolution and better PPI than the New iPad, so same reason, no chance.

Anyway, that’s enough torture, here’s where I’ve been headed. It’s not the new iPad. It’s the new iPod. Here’s your new line-up of Apple Products:

  • New iPhone 1136×640 16:9 @ 4″ = 325 PPI Retina Class Display
  • New iPod 1920×1280 3:2 @ 7″ = 329 PPI Retina Class Display
  • New iPad 2048×1536 4:3 @ 9.7″ = 263 PPI Retina Class Display

But, wait, where did I get 7″ from? I thought it was 7.85″? Well, it is if you want it to be an iPad, and if you want to keep iPad ratios and resolutions. I don’t, so it seems clear to me that the only way to get a Retina display at something in the region of 7 inches without introducing a 4th resolution or aspect ratio for developers to contend with is to simple get the existing iPhone 4/4s Retina screen, and double it again, retaining the same ratio, and doubling the dimensions exactly in order to be able to use the existing fabbing process to create them.

Here are some other thoughts which help this to make more sense to my mind than having an iPad that is only 1.85″ smaller than what we have now.

Firstly, look at the product range in terms of size. Doing some slight rounding for clarity, we are talking 4″, 7″ and 10″. That’s 3″ between each and every model, not gaps of 4″ and then 2″ which skews the iPad Mini to be far too close to a real iPad, and nowhere near the iPhones. A clear distinction for each line, and each model has slightly different characteristics too, starting with the aspect ratios:

  • iPhone – 16:9 mainly used in portrait mode for single handed operation and ease of vertical scrolling.
  • iPod – 3:2 mainly used in landscape mode, for media consumption, and 2 handed gaming
  • iPad – 4:3 being a great compromise between the 2 above, and sensible for use in either orientation

Also, simply renaming is as the New iPod allows them to breathe some new life into the iPod name, and completes the distinction between it and the iPhone.

Secondly, take a look at some of the mockups of the iPad Mini at the suggested size and dimensions. It’s still got the big bevel. And at nearly 8″ without having a dominant orientation, it’s still going to need it. So instead, let’s think about how it would appear if it has a bevel that was, say, iPhone sized. It doesn’t look like an iPad, it doesn’t spec match an iPad, it’s a better ratio for media consumption (on the understanding that it possibly does not need to have a decent portrait mode like an iPad does, because if you need that, well, buy an iPad…).

It’s just a big iPod!

Well, that’s my idea anyway. What do you think?

Minimal Mountain Lion

The recent announcements regarding the forthcoming addition to the menagerie of clawed operating systems from Cupertino was very interesting to me for a number of reasons.

Chief amongst them is “Wooo! New toys!”, closely followed by “Yay, more consistency!” and finally the slow dawning of realisation that an idea which has been floating around in my head for some time can now be put into action: Project Minimal Macbook! But first, some background…

When I first got my Macbook Air I was delighted with it, but had to rigidly enforce some new ideas about how I used it compared to my previous Macbook which had considerably larger storage capacity. I couldn’t even get close to restoring my data onto it, I had too much stuff, and so I had to work from a fresh install and keep in mind that I needed to be at least mindful, if not downright picky, about what software (and importantly “data”) I could afford to allow into it’s hallowed SSD halls.

Straight away out went iPhoto and iTunes. I could fill my puny 128Gb of space with my music and photos alone. Co-incidentally around about the same time that I got the Air I picked up my first non portable Mac, and my iPhone 4. That’s another story, but still, off you go dear data, there’s a nice fat spinning platter just waiting over there inside the iMac… But I couldn’t banish it forever, I may as well not have it if I can’t access it. So thank goodness for iTunes Home Sharing, and iPhoto Sharing. They might not be ideal solutions, but they allow me enough functionality to be get by with only the occasional massive tantrum.

At which point, I suddenly suffer the timeless fate of those who are lucky(?) enough to have multiple machines, made more tedious by the addition of multiple platforms. What about the stuff that hasn’t got a Homeshare equivalent? What about my PDFs, my family tree data, diary entries, password files and so on ad infinitum? What about not just having access to stuff just from my Macs, but from my iPhone also? What about having anything I can use on my iPhone, also available on my iPad? And so the hunt for the ultimate synchronisation mechamism begins.

Suffice to say, I found ways to handle most of my data, either through carefully choosing to use software that had the ability to use Dropbox or iCloud or other mechanisms to sync for me, or through the use of a third party synchronsation tool that monitored half of my home folder, or by just admitting that I won’t do X on machine Y.

At the point in which these steps were largely dealt with and stable (it will never actually be complete) I had amassed quite a collection of methods and software that did the job, but the inconsistencies and sheer number of solutions and amount of times the workflow was only 90% there put a bug in my ear that’s never quite been removed.

Do I really need all this software? Do I really need an App for keeping track of my books and DVDs, or can I just do it in a Spreadsheet? Do I need a recipes App, or just a bunch of tagged Textedit files? Twitter client, or visit the website? Will I only ever play podcasts on my iPhone, or do I want to have more choice?

You can see where this is going. And now I have the chance to put the thought to the test: Can I manage without nothing but the pre-installed default apps on my Macbook Air running Mountain Lion.

Whenever I have previously thought about this, 2 simple words would stop me in my tracks: “Notes” and “Todos”. Ever used these features in Mail and iCal? Then you will feel my pain. Ever tried to sync them from OSX to iOS? Then you will share the nightmares. Many, many, hours and a not inconsiderable amount of pounds sterling have gone into messing around with replacement software that a) doesn’t suck so hard and b) syncs nicely, not just with my other Macs, but with my iOS devices too. Even when I thought I had nailed it, something would come up to bite me on the butt. A new App would appear on the radar promsing to do stuff better. An iOS app that I liked but discounted because it previously didn’t have a Mac client, suddenly would. An iOS app that was previously only for iPhone would get a Universal binary update to allow use on the iPad…

Each of these things would see me striving to compare the new possibilities against my existing setup. Do I need feature Z? Is switching to App X going to be worth the hassle of migrating and converting my data? Do I actually want to be able sync my podcast playback position back to iTunes…

The freedom to have so many options available to me, so many choices to make on how to do just everyday simple things has started to become time consuming and hard work. I don’t want to have to put so much effort into syncing my tasks. I want to tick those suckers off and get some work done! Right now I have 5 task manager apps on my iPhone that I am in the process of either using, evaluating or trying to export the data out of them so I can bin them…

It’s too much, I want another freedom, freedom from choice. And Mountain Lion gives me that. It covers the basics for almost any generalised computing activity, and makes it available across every device I own. There are no obvious holes in the integration. “Notes” and “Todos” (or should I now say “Reminders”) are finally something to look forward to just using rather than researching. Throw in to the mix that any temptation to download additional software has to run the gauntlet of compatibility with an as-yet unreleased operating system, and it’s a pretty powerful reason to try to keep things as stock as possible. Running on a Beta OS probably isn’t to be recommended, but given my data should be safe (and I have a fully operational other computer with all the 3rd party software anyone could wish for) it’s worth an experiment.

So with that in mind, I have the Developer Preview sat on my Macbook Air as we speak. And I am going to try my level best to not install a single piece of 3rd party software on it from now until it hits retail. Straight away I know this is an impossible task (1Password anyone?) so I may make exceptions with strict critera (namely it must be fully available on iOS and OSX via the App Store, as universal binaries, using iCloud or Bonjour sync only).

I’ll let you know how it goes. Wish me luck!

RIP Steve

Good old Steve, we should perhaps not be surprised at what seems like his swift demise, in retrospect it’s perhaps simple to understand that Apple was not just his lifes work, but put simply his life too. When he told us those few weeks ago that he could no longer fulfil his role at the top and stepped down the more perceptive amongst us should probably have seen it for what it was.

I didn’t. Maybe the more perceptive that did wisely kept their mouth shut, for which I am grateful. It was a huge shock.

But oddly it doesn’t upset me, it just fills me with a strange sense of purpose. I have no personal anecdotes to relate in order to confirm a link to Steve directly, or even to Apple products in general. I’ve only used a Mac since after the Intel switch. You could say I am one of the “nouveau riche” in the world of experiencing computing in a different way, I never really appreciated what abundance of simple pleasures awaited me over the fence, and how poor my previous existence was until very recently. I have never used anything older than Mac OS X 10.4.

During the last 4 years or so I have almost totally changed my attitudes to using computers, and I certainly wish I had jumped aboard the train a lot earlier than I did. I can’t say I was ever wary of the “cult” criticisms, although I was certainly aware of them, and while there is probably a grain of truth in there it’s more accurate to say that it’s more of a movement than anything else. And all movements have their figureheads. We just lost ours, but there’s no reason to dwell on the sadness and every reason to keep the momentum going. Steve’s greatest creation wasn’t a device, or an OS, it was a culture, not a cult, and one that remains the same today as it did yesterday.

Today starts a new chapter, but the plot is firmly fixed, and the story continues.

RIP Steve.