Apple Watch activity challenge – Earth Day

Just got a notification from Apple that they are offering an Activity achievement on Saturday, which is Earth Day. To get it, you need to get 30 minutes of outdoor exercise with your Apple Watch.  This unlocks a badge in Activity, as well as some special iMessage graphics. 

I think this marks the third such challenge they’ve offered, with the first two being Thanksgiving (5k of walking) and January/NewYear ( a full week meeting your move goal in January).

Macrumors, AppleInsider, and other Apple news sites have more details. 

I wish they would step up these rewards.  Gamification is really helpful, and Apple hasn’t taken advantage of it to the extent that Nike and other vendors have.


Bullet Journalling

Just got exposed to the idea of a “Bullet Journal”, which is a method for organizing your tasks in a running analog notebook.  has the details of what is a fairly basic but effective system.

There’s a certain appeal to it — a lot of the examples that people have posted on YouTube incorporate the sort of creativity one sees with mind-mapping, and some complain that the journal is more like a scrapbook for some.  It’s analog, so not subject to battery life, hacking, theft, hardware failure, etc.

My immediate thoughts:

  1. You definitely need to always have a pen with you as well as the journal
  2. You don’t need a specific notebook to do it, but people have their favorites, like Moleskine or Leuchtturm 1917.
  3. It seems like you should also have a flat ruler or template rubber banded to the notebook as well, because you need to draw lines.
  4. The core system is pretty simple, but people seem to be extending it a lot, doing things like drawing a calendar grid,  a habit tracking grid,  making special lists.
  5. If you aren’t very organized, I could see this getting out of your control pretty quickly.
  6. It doesn’t have a backup, and it is subject to “hardware failure” of sorts (coffee spill, loss, etc.)
  7. At the end of the month, you have to migrate unfinished tasks, and set up your month plan, etc.  That seems time-consuming, especially if you are drawing stuff.

Of course, I’m immediately thinking that this would be much better automated as an app.  Big surprise there, I guess, but there seems to be a lot of time spent doing it, and it seems best for people who only have a few things to track.

Going to look into this further, because it seems like it would be a nice programming exercise.


Round and Round…

I love American Science and Surplus,  the Chicago retailer of magnets, science gear, and just plain weird stuff.  If you ever get a chance to visit their showroom, do it — it’s a treat, and the brick and mortar location has all the charm of their print catalog, with its witty copy and hand-drawn product photos.

I bring this up because today’s new product announcement is a reissue of one of my favorite toys as a kid,  the Spirograph.  Originally marketed in the 60s and 70s by Kenner, Spirograph was a set of gears with holes in them that let you draw elaborate geometric patterns.

AmSci is offering a die-cast set, with metal gear pieces instead of the original plastic parts.   Now, if they also have good pens to use, that will be even better — the cheap pens that came with the original set dried out quickly, but you needed a pen with a certain length to the ballpoint nib to fit into the gear holes — a Bic wouldn’t work.   I had good luck with the 4-in-1 ballpoint pens, though.

I doubt this offer will last long, so don’t dally.


iOS development iPhone

New Apple App Store Rules

Daring Fireball has a piece today announcing changes to Apple’s App Store.    Apparently there is so much to be announced at WWDC that they didn’t have time to discuss this in the keynote.

Apple has been quietly changing the App Store under the hood for a while — approval times are now dramatically lower, and the tools for submission and management of apps have been actively changing for months.   I personally have noticed changes to the iTunes Connect user interface and features, sometimes in the middle of a day.

Their major change is long overdue, and will help make independent development more viable.  The main feature is the expansion of subscription pricing to a wider range of apps, and support for different tiers of subscriptions.  The system will make it possible to offer trail versions, for one thing, and the revenue split on subscription apps will be 85/15 for subscriptions over a year old.

In addition, there will be the ability to pay for ad placement in search results.  This, of course, will benefit large publishers a lot, but it also helps even the playing field for indie apps.

It’s always been challenging to make a living from an independent app on the App Store.  The ‘pay once’ model has made it tough for developers to set a price and build a sustainable business — raising the potential revenue per customer makes it possible to build a high quality app and keep improving it over time.



Music UX

What does Apple Music need to really take off?

Apple to Revamp Streaming Music Service After Mixed Reviews, Departures

I agree that Apple Music really needs improvement on ease-of-use.   John Gruber makes some great points about this: because Apple’s service is trying to combine your downloaded music with your streaming music, it’s really much more complicated than a streaming-only service.   Spotify doesn’t have this problem, at least not on mobile (the desktop Spotify can import your downloaded music, and it, too, makes it hard to know what is where).

Would a separate streaming music app help?  Not unless Apple clarifies the iTunes Match, iCloud Music Library, and Apple Music boundaries.  Navigation and filtering in Apple Music are problematic — you have so much content to make sense of, particularly when you look at the way the service merchandises and curates music.

My big complaint is that the experience isn’t nearly as seamless as I’d like between mobile, desktop, and Apple TV.  Things are supposed to ‘just work,’ but when they don’t, or they are doing it more slowly than you’d like, you can’t really tell what is going wrong or how to fix it.   This seems common to Apple’s cloud services in general.  Poor WiFi connectivity seems to exacerbate the problem.  Would love to see additions to the iCloud libraries that could help you see sync progress.

Anyway, hoping they come up with a solution to this — looking forward to their WWDC announcements.


Health monitoring

Withings to be bought by Nokia

Nokia is buying French health device maker Withings.

Withings makes a pretty complete line of health tracking devices: Blood pressure cuffs, Wi-Fi connected sales, sleep monitors, and a very nice-looking health tracker watch, among others.   They have been plagued with software and reliability issues in my experience, so the backing of Nokia can hardly hurt them.