Experts consider significance of Apple’s deal with Ohio State

Experts consider significance of Apple's deal with Ohio State – As these so-called experts mull this over, there are a couple of ways we can look at it. For a start, I find the idea that so-called university leaders are usually skeptical of corporate partnerships to be a spurious claim. The corporatisation of the University is well documented. The business school at the University of Auckland is notorious for having used McDonalds branded course materials, on top of which they gave new meaning to content marketing by using the same company for examples in examinations. Some people might feel it is a stretch to make such comparisons, but these are sponsorship deals plain and simple. Or are they?

If Apple truly commits to innovation in higher education, it could “really move the needle,” said Kim, as other companies like Google and Microsoft could follow suit. “All of these companies would be smart to put educational innovation, and partnerships with higher education, at the center of their plans,” Kim said, but he noted that such progress would not mean that university leaders would stop being skeptical of the return on investment of large-scale technology-adoption projects and company partnerships.

It is also worth considering the de facto technology monopoly held by Microsoft — obviously not just in education. 1 The ubiquity of class rooms with Apple computers in the mid eighties was almost forgotten in the haze of the past twenty years, where compatibility with Microsoft’s server technology and Office software decoupled most other solutions from the conversation. Google has had a significant say on recent detours from this narrative, but it is apparent that Apple is pushing back. The 5th generation iPad released this year was the first hint that deals like this would be coming. Although, this deal has gone well beyond the utility of that device, which is more than appropriate for higher education use.

The opportunity for colleges to arrange similar partnerships with Apple is something many would be watching closely, Kim said. He noted that his and other colleges have already been in contact with Apple to discover where they might collaborate. “This Ohio State partnership is certainly bigger in scope and scale than other partnerships that I’ve heard about, but it is in line with how I’ve been watching Apple’s approach to higher education evolve over the past couple of years,” said Kim.

More on this when the experts get back to us.

  1. Yes, I know this is hyperbole.

iOS 11 gets patched again…already

Apple Releases iOS 11.0.2 Update With Fix for iPhone 8 Crackling Earpiece Issue – Mac Rumors – This hasn’t been an auspicious start to the latest iOS cycle. Two patches in the last week or so, and plenty of complaints to boot. Nonetheless, users experiencing the crackling noises referenced in the release notes, will no doubt be relieved this has been addressed. With any luck this will also address the freezing issues that so many users are reporting.

Managing the Mac Menu Bar with Bartender

If you're the kind of person who has gone all in with OS X utilities — now macOS — , then you may have met with the problem of menu bar overload. Menu bar apps are one of the many ingenious aspects of macOS, so much so that it’s far too easy to go overboard with them. If you get too crazy, the menu bar can become so overloaded that icons start disappearing behind the actual menus of other apps. It end up looking something like this:

macOS Menu Bar Apps

Enter Bartender, a long time favourite of the mac geek community. Bartender 2 was already a neat solution for app addicts, offering the option of shifting less used apps to a secondary bar that acted as a dropdown shelf bellow the main menu bar. On top of which, apps whose presence in the menu bar was merely cosmetic could be hidden altogether, and apps that only require visibility while active could be configure to be so. Do a simple search for must have mac utilities and you will find Bartender on practically every list — with good reason.

In recent times, Bartender developer Surtees Studio has been busy getting ready to release version 3. The update takes an already tidy solution and builds in a touch of subtlety. Instead of adding a secondary menu bar — the Bartender Bar — Bartender 3 simply acts as a toggle, allowing the user to switch between frequently and lesser used apps. This is an an elegant, and supremely effective change to the user interface, making the new version seem much more integrated with macOS. For current users at first, it can seem a little strange not having that familiar Bartender bar appear on command, but it doesn’t take long to see this is an improvement. In the developer’s own words,

Initially we missed the below menu Bartender Bar too, but once your muscle memory gets used to the new setup and you have organised your items to suit your workflow in Bartender Preferences, and by ⌘+dragging items to a good position. We think you, like us, will start to feel Bartender now feels even more part of macOS.

If you are already a user of Bartender 2, the update is free. If it hasn’t happened already, simply activate it within the app preferences. If you are yet to become a user, you can download a 4-week trial from the website.

Update 23-03-2018: Bartender has become part of Setapp, making it yet another reason to pick up a subscription. You read more about Setapp here.

Week Links for 2nd October, 2017

Talk about rough timing. Just as I got the migration finished, my domain registrar Hover.com fell over. If you want a taste of just how fraught it can be to be at the behest of however many thousand website administrators, have a look at goosie at the Hover Status twitter feed for last Friday. My thanks if you were hit with any frustrations but have returned anyway.

Having dealt with that particular stomach ache, I'm now working on getting back to the whole content thing. With that in mind, I'm going to try concentrating some of this share posting with my own version of the weekly link post.

Write Once, Never Write Again  – You may remember Nikita Voloboev from the Learn Anything mind map I posted a while back. This is a nice demonstration of text expansion, using Typinator. My tool of choice remains TextExpander, but Typinator is a solid alternative, with some unique and powerful features of its own.

How to Make iPhone Camera Shoot JPEG Pictures in iOS 11 | OSXDaily – This will no doubt be relevant information for education user. Whether it be for presentations or projects, the more ubiquitous file format is going to be necessary for some time yet.

Troubleshooting iOS 11 Problems – And while I’m at it, if you haven’t yet managed to break clear of the grates on iOS 11, something here may help.

iOS thoroughly reviewed – Mac nerds may remember the epic reviews of OS X that John Siracusa used to write for Ars Technica. The site provides a similarly in depth review of Apple's mobile platform, it might be a little more austere than the Macstories ‘review' — and it certainly doesn't get the same fanfare. If you have the time to read either of them in their entirety, maybe your book collection requires some attention.

Face ID: Why you shouldn't be worried about iPhone X unlock | iMore – For anyone interested in the finer points of Face ID. To be honest, I'm pretty wary of iMore most of the time, it can be more of an uber consumer site more often than not. Credit is still due to Rene Richie who has a knack for addressing general misgivings through the finer technical details. Still, the highlight for me is a touch of social commentary:

That a significant segment of humanity is more concerned about illegal search and seizure by law enforcement agencies than the criminals they're meant to protect us from should embarrass and appall governments around the world, but that's a different editorial for a different day.

A Touch of Irony – This is interesting. Despite the use of so-called differential privacy, this is clearly a catch-22. Apple's development of privacy focused features in Safari to guard against data collection and tracking relies on, you guessed it, data collection and tracking.

Benchmarking the new Chips –  The power in these things is bordering on ridiculous now. There is a kind of stockpiling going on to future proof the push into AR and whatever demands might be paced upon more ambient computing by devices that connect to the phone — I'm thinking AirPods and whatever else is next. 1

nvALT Still Hanging In – I'm sure Bitwriter will materialise eventually. In the meantime, we still have nVALT, and it is still getting the necessary maintenance updates to ensure it ticks over in the latest versions of macOS.

Musk’s Mars moment: Audacity, madness, brilliance—or maybe all three –  If you are so inclined. My better angels tell me this is all madness, but the little kid in me can't look away. If this actually happens in my lifetime, that would be something. There's plenty more around on this.

 

 


  1. If you actually willing to walk around with those miniature gumboots in your ears 

Migration All But Complete

Don't ever let anyone tell you it's easy. Trust me it isn't. Not for all the fiddly things you might forget, and little things that break. Nonetheless, here we are. WordPress. The migration is all but complete. In saying that, there could be — in fact there definitely are — errors on the site. There remains a cleanup job, for images in particular. So, a few things might look a little weird for a brief moment, but I am working hard to sort such things quickly. If you do happen across anything that is busted, annoying, or just plain stupid — please drop me a line. I am the world's worst twitter user, but I will get pinged if you contact me there. Email is good.

Thank you for your patience. The support for this site has been amazing already, despite its infancy. I look forward to being able to deliver something more comprehensive and useful now that I have broken the prefabricated shackles of a proprietary platform. Onward.

Jai.

Deciding to Move from Squarespace to WordPress

This site is still in its infancy. While it was created in March, I only started posting in earnest in May, and have steadily increased the frequency of content over the past couple of months. I’m managing a couple a week, along with relevant link posts. It is still early days, but the traffic is increasing, and interest is growing.

The site is currently built and hosted with Squarespace, which is a fine platform for any number of use cases. The advantages of using Squarespace are obvious, it is quick and easy to build a site, the templates are visually appealing, and you don’t need to concern yourself with scaling hosting for spikes in traffic. I have been reasonably happy with Squarespace, for starting out. Something that comes with the territory, however, is learning certain things about your preferred workflow. As you start to develop your blogging style, you are more likely to pick up on shortcomings in the tools at your disposal. As I get further into this, there are some examples for the way that I work – or rather the way that I wish to work – that are starting to get in the way.

The first, and probably the biggest annoyance, is I write in Markdown. While it is possible to use Markdown with Squarespace, the service only supports a very basic implementation, which means adding nice touches like fancy looking footnotes [1] requires both implementing awkward hacks, and converting your posts to HTML before adding them to the site. Both of which undermine one of the platforms major selling point – i.e., ease of use. Further awkwardness is encountered when working with images in your posts.

Squarespace has its own content delivery network (CDN), which for the most part is great, but in some cases it is another double edged sword. The CDN takes care of compression, and makes the media assets of your site load easily, regardless of where your audience is. However, working with Markdown or HTML on Squarespace you lose some of the benefits of those formats when working with images. Essentially, you have to leave the images out of your composition and load them separately, and the file management is by far the poorest feature of the platform. If you want to use the Squarespace editor and work with images in the manner that the platform is designed form, then it is great. Unfortunately, that doesn’t suit my workflow at all. What I am left with is a fiddly process of uploading images after the text, and dragging them into place. This might not sound too bad, but the reality is a degree of trial and error that can be frustrating. Dropping the images into the post splits up the text [2] in seperate blocks, which don’t always line up the way you want them to. Often I have to adjust the wording of the post to make the image sit right. Or I can use another workaround by inserting what Squarespace calls a spacer, but that results in excessive white space through the post. There is more, the Squarespace interface shifts your whole site top the right to accomodate its sidebar as you edit design elements. This may well be a by-product of the template that I use, but something to be aware of, you can get things looking the way you want them, only to have them move out of place again when you leave the style editor.

Delivering mixed content blog posts is one thing, and to date I have been willing to persevere with it, but the most vexing side-effect of that is the way it pushes me to do so much of my work for this site on my Mac. Don’t get me wron, I love working on the Mac, but these days I am doing more and more serious work on the iPad Pro, and I want to be able to manage the site on the go. Sure enough, Squarespace has an app for creating and managing your posts on an iPad, but it has some bothersome problems. First, the images problem is made worse by the fact that the app considers those mixed content posts to have complex layouts. If you edit posts that have images placed alongside or wrapped by text, it will collapse their layout so the images are at best inserted between paragraphs – the images are then increased in size to fit the margins. The app will warn you before doing this, but if it happens you have little choice but to return to the Mac. You can of course access the web editor on the iPad, but it is designed for precision use with a mouse, so you are asking for trouble trying to use it with a touch interface.

Unlike WordPress, there is no longer a posting API for Squarespace, meaning the only way you can use a third-party editor for composing your blog posts is cut and paste. This applies to working on macOS just as much as it does to iOS, but it provides nothing like the same degree of difficulty. Crafting a Workflow, or a similar process in Editorial or 1Writer on the iPad will allow you to manage the Markdown to HTML problem, but the app’s integration with the iOS share sheet is poor, so you are still left with cut and paste at the end of it – and that is before you get to the images. It is true that you can just simplify things, and working with simple layouts in the app does work well enough.

There are design elements on Squarespace that are dependant on the site template, but even when available might not work very well. The nature of The Appademic, as a site for bringing together tech and education, lends itself to link posts. I have separated them out from the main blog, as I’m not a big fan of sites dominated by link rolls [3]. Unfortunately, the template that I use doesn’t render block in a sensible way – there is no indentation, for example. This leaves me with another awkward workaround, among the bad options for this I have landed on adding a rich text block, but this adds yet more layout complexity – and to posts that should be the simplest of all.

I want to be clear, this is not a post bagging Squarespace. There is so much to like about the platform – both for functionality, and the company’s support of content creators more generally. For a lot of people, it is an obvious choice given how easy it is to use if you are happy to work as the platform wants you to. The visual design aspect is pleasing, one thing I have been very happy with is the way the site looks. It took no time at all to get everything setup. For photography sites, the CDN, and template the gallery designs make for one of the best experiences going around. This site, however, is not a photography blog. Neither is it a store front, another area that Squarespace excels in. Squarespace also gets a hard time about search engine optimisation, which I would urge you to take with a grain of salt due to the army of affiliate marketers working on WordPress selling would be bloggers on themes, plugins, and all manner of other snake oil to ‘make it rain’. The free source and extensible architecture of WordPress is its biggest strength, but it also opens it up to the current zeitgeist of internet sharks.

Having said that, I do have a genuine problem on Squarespace in that my use of Markdown and HTML seems to create errors in the data that Google and other search engines index [4]. If you are going to use the platform in the way it was designed – composing and posting with rich text, using a simple structure, and so on – you will not encounter the same problems. If you are an edge case for the way you work, like it appears I am with this site, it is worth considering how this might affect your discoverability [5]. The other side of that equation is that you are more likely to have readers stick around if they land on a slick looking site than if they find a dog’s breakfast on the end of those search results. Squarespace is not going to let you down in that regard. But more than that, Squarespace is in some sense a set and forget situation, you don’t have to concern yourself with more moving parts — there is hosting to manage, so you don’t have to deal a server. You don’t even have to go outside the platform for your domain management, everything is self contained within Squarespace. These are compelling selling points for the service. Again, be wary of affiliate marketers when choosing between WordPress and Squarespace, while WordPress is not difficult to use or to learn, it still takes time to master, and to my mind not only will Squarespace will get you up and running a lot quicker, but nobody is getting a cut to tell you that [6].

Why post any of this? Well, the workaround I mention above have created enough friction for me that I have made the decision to migrate to a self-hosted WordPress installation before the site gets too big to contemplate that. The main reason is the workflow, I need the flexibility that WordPress can offer for working with Markdown, and on iOS. If you have made it this far through this post, you can probably tell it hasn’t been an easy decision – even now I have my doubts. This site is paid in full for another six months on Squarespace, which is another reason to not take this decision lightly. As I have gone back and forth, reading innumerable frustrating and vapid articles, sifting through the noise of resellers, affiliates, hosting companies and self-appointed gurus, I have continually come back to the one thing that matters to me most in this, my ability to work in the way that I want to. Ultimately, The Appademic is a site about doing your best work – whether as an academic, a student, or any kind of creative nerd – and I feel it is bordering on disingenuous to be writing about that via a means that contradicts the message. I looked seriously at static engines, particularly Jekyll, which is not only a brilliant solution, but is perfectly adaptable for mobile use. Inevitably I settled on WordPress for the flexibility and better ability to eventually open out the site to other writers.

The Appademic will still operate as usual for the moment, as I clone it and test it elsewhere. However, any content going up in the next few days will be basic by necessity. There are bound to be mistakes, although I am working hard to mitigate them. If you happen to find any, please contact me to let me know. I will post an update on the other side to report on how it all went, but it should be obvious when the site design changes that the switch has been made.


  1. Such as this  ↩

  2. The Markdown blocks as the platform calls them  ↩

  3. There are notable exceptions, and they are not without their place  ↩

  4. You can address some of this by switching on Developer Mode to gain full access to the code, or using code injection hacks, but neither is an ideal solution  ↩

  5. Note, this is a contentious point too, there are plenty of people likely to say it won’t make a difference  ↩

  6. To be clear, this site uses affiliate links, in fact the only source of revenue – a very loosely applied term, as trust me this site runs at a loss by a long shot – is by way of links. However, not only is that is far from its reason to exist, but nothing is linked without personal experience and more often than not, considerable personal expense. I would hope the difference is pretty obvious. You can learn more on the disclaimer page  ↩

iTunes Removes the App Store and More to Focus on Music, Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, and Audiobooks

If you have just updated iTunes and opened it up you will have seen a message delivering the news that the App Store has been removed from iTunes. In a typically Apple way, the message is conveyed without actually saying that the App Store has been removed, rather it outlines the ‘new focus' of the iTunes app. For the longer version of this, see the support article which states,

The new iTunes focuses on music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, and audiobooks. Apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch are now exclusively available in the new App Store for iOS. And the new App Store makes it easy to get, update, and redownload apps—all without a Mac or PC

If you had any unique trickery for side-loading apps from iTunes to avoid using data [^ Believe or not, data usage is till a going concern in certain parts of the world], you are not completely out of luck. The roll back articles haven't started appearing yet, but you can still use something like iMazing to similar effect. Note, iMazing is also available on Setapp

Jordan Merrick’s Excellent Workflow Directory

Until Workflow created its own, Jordan Merrick was host to one of the best curated collections of Workflows one could hope to find. The directory was understandably taken down with the advent of an official version, which briefly included a mechanism for sharing workflows among the community of users. Apple’s acquisition of the Workflow team scuppered that initiative, insofar as they have kept open the official gallery within the app, but closed down the community aspect. Thankfully, generous users like Merrick have once again filled the breach. From JordanMerrick.com

In December 2016, I announced that I’d no longer be updating Workflow Directory. The Workflow team had made some great improvements to the gallery, the biggest of which was user submissions. At the time, it didn’t make sense to continue working on the site when the built-in feature was so much better.

Fast forward to March 2017 and the news broke that Apple had acquired Workflow. While the app continues to be updated, the gallery is not accepting user submissions. Since then, I had often wondered if it’d make sense to reopen Workflow Directory.

So I’ve decided to do just that, but in the process I’ve made a fundamental change. After testing the waters last week with a similar endeavor, Workflow Directory into a GitHub repository. Existing workflows have been migrated (with the exception of a few that are non-functional) and I’ve added a few new ones too. Each workflow has an accompanying README containing a description.

Workflow Automation iOS
How's this for meta, this is a framed shot of the very workflow that framed it…

Workflow remains a glaring gap on this site. To be fair, I’ve not been at this too long, but the real reason is the art to doing the app justice. There are some ingenious users around creating incredibly inventive workflows. By way of qualification for the link to Jordan Merrick.com consider that every image posted on this site that is framed with an iPad or iPhone mockup has been created with either this Workflow, or its predecessor. Not only is it one of the best uses of the app I have come across, but it has saved me epic amounts of time.

There has been a lot of conjecture around the future of the Workflow app, but not only has the app continued to receive updates, the signs are good for some form of future integration into iOS [^ Perhaps even beyond, one can only hope]. The design language of visual automation hits the sweet spot between the über nerd and curious tinkerer, lowering the bar for entry by a remarkable degree. If you are worried that you might pour a lot of energy into something that is fated to disappear, I truly doubt that will happen in such a way that will render your learnings obsolete. The visual programming paradigm that has its roots in Automator has been so well refined for touch interaction by Workflow, that it is here to stay in one form or another. On the flip side, with initiatives like the Workflow Directory, if you swish to do so, you can get a fair amount of mileage out of the app without building any workflows of your own, or at least by adapting some to your own purposes. Of course, if you already have the chops, there is plenty of karma to be gained by pitching in to the directory with a contribution.

Mind Mapping on the iPad for a Bargain

I have been impressed by Lighten. One would expect the folks at Xmind know what they are doing, but honestly that doesn't always result in a decent mobile experience. Lighten is, as the name hints, a lightweight mind mapping app. It has simple feature set, but is a nice looking app with an intuitive workflow. For anyone looking to get into mind mapping on the iPad without fronting the expense for one of the more feature rich apps like MindNode or iThoughts, Lighten is a really good option. At the moment, with a back to school special still running, Lighten will set you back US$0.99. That is a serious bargain.

The one notable omission at this point is the inability to export to OPML, but there are still a range of export formats that should make that a moot point or all but the most steadfast workflows, and I would suggest that anyone with such a rigid mind mapping regime will probably be well past a gateway drug like Lighten One woudl expect the folks at Xmind. You can export to a Text file, Markdown, image, PDF, and of course both Xmind and Lighten file formats. Most mind mapping apps will parse the map successfully from one of those formats, and converting a mind map to an outline can be done with either Text or Markdown. I tested the transfer between Lighten and MindNode in a silly variety of ways and every time the mind map came out looking just like the cruft that made it from my mind to the so-called map.

If you are looking for a simple, aesthetically pleasing, and competent app to start mind mapping with, I suggest you take a look at Lighten. Xmind have not only done a good job with the app to date, but judging by the release notes the app is a going concern that will continue to receive love and attention. There might come a time that the 99 cents you put down here pays you back tenfold.

Whink Notes App Offering 60% Back to School Discount

Whink Notes is a relatively new app —at least compared with similar, more well known apps — that I haven't had the chance to dive into properly yet. For a cursory introduction I would call it direct competition for Notability, as it has almost the exact same feature set, right down to the the inclusion of audio recording — albeit for some subte differences. Like Notability, the most glaring ommision to my mind is OCR for searchable handwriting. From the brief play around I have had with the app so far I can say it is a very tidy app with everything you would expect from a modern, mobile notes app, making it a viable alternative to the more well known apps in the handwritten notes category, such as Notability, GoodNotes and Notes Plus. The current discount is available until the 13th of September