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Overcast 2.5.2 with Quicksync

Marco Arment on the latest update to Overcast:

In the last few Overcast releases, I’ve been optimizing the sync protocol and decreasing the burden of each sync to both sides (my servers and your iPhones). In 2.5.2, we’ll reap some of the benefits with the first version of what I’ve been informally calling “quicksync”.

In short, syncing Overcast between multiple devices — say, an iPhone and an iPad — is now much faster and more accurate, making multi-device usage much more practical and compelling.

"I've been testing this for a few weeks...", the saying goes, but it's true. In my tests during the beta, quicksync made switching between podcast episodes on two devices faster and less annoying than before.

Quicksync worked well in my typical use case: I'm washing dishes and Overcast is playing through the iPad Pro's speakers, which are louder; then, I have to go out and connect my iPhone to my car's audio, resuming Overcast to the same episode. With quicksync, I no longer have to skip ahead to catch up with the iPad's progress. Marco did good work here and I hope the servers hold up well.


My Tablet Has Stickers

Great piece by Steven Sinofsky, who has replaced his laptop with an iPad Pro. There are several quotable passages, but I particularly liked this one:

Most problems are solved by not doing it the old way. The most important thing to keep in mind is that when you switch to a new way of doing things, there will be a lot of flows that can be accomplished but are remarkably difficult or seem like you’re fighting the system the whole time. If that is the case, the best thing to do is step back and realize that maybe you don’t need to do that anymore or even better you don’t need a special way of doing that. When the web came along, a lot of programmers worked very hard to turn “screens” (client-server front-ends) into web pages. People wanted PF-function keys and client-side field validation added to forms. It was crazy and those web sites were horrible because the whole of the metaphor was different (and better). The best way to adapt to change is to avoid trying to turn the old thing into the new things.

This paragraph encapsulates what I went through for the past two years since I switched to the iPad as my primary computer. To this day, I still get comments from a few people who think "I'm fighting the system". And we don't have to look too far back in our past to find the opinions of those who thought the iPad Pro was a platform for people who "jump through more hoops than a circus elephant".

I've been enjoying the wave of iPad enthusiasm that the iPad Pro caused, and I still believe we're just getting started.


What Happened to Google Maps?

Fascinating study by Justin O'Beirne on how Google Maps changed from 2010 to 2016 – fewer cities, more roads, and not a lot of balance between them on a map at the same zoom level.

He writes:

Unfortunately, these "optimizations" only served to exacerbate the longstanding imbalances already in the maps. As is often the case with cartography: less isn't more. Less is just less. And that's certainly the case here.

As O'Beirne also notes, the changes were likely made to provide a more pleasant viewing experience on mobile devices.

I understand his point of view – the included examples really make a solid case – but I can also see why Google may consider the average user (looking up points of interest nearby, starting navigation on their phone) and think that most users don't want that kind of cartographic detail anymore.

It'd be interesting to see the same comparisons between Apple and Google, as well as between old Apple Maps and Apple Maps today.


Apple Releases ‘Moms’ TV Ad

Having a good camera won’t make you a better photographer, but having a good camera with you all the time means you have a chance to capture something special when the opportunity presents itself. That’s the power of Apple’s Shot on iPhone series.

Today, Apple released a special 30 second Shot on iPhone television advertisement called ‘Mother’s Day.’ The ad features photographs of mothers and their children, including three short video clips. Each photo also lists the first name and last initial of the photographer who took it.


The Convergence of Emoji

Good post by Sebastiaan de With on how different companies are quietly agreeing on emoji conventions:

Companies like Google and Microsoft are entirely free to attempt to reshape our popular culture by changing the way their emoji look. They could easily dig their heels in and refuse to change their emoji iconography despite jarring differences between sets.

Fortunately, this isn’t the case. What we’re seeing instead is that the new emoji sets from Google and Microsoft have converged to a look that is far more similar to Apple’s, often mimicking particular peculiarities in expression or design that Apple apparently chose on a whim.

The peach emoji example is a great one – it shows how Google prioritized common usage over Android's history.

See also: emoji fights at the Unicode Consortium.


Canvas, Episode 9: Presenting with iOS

This week Fraser flies the show solo to talk about his experience in creating, delivering and sharing presentations with iOS.

Fraser and I couldn't record Canvas together this week, so we thought we'd spice things up a little with a solo show where Fraser talks about presentations on iOS. Presenting is a topic of which I'm not an expert anyway, while Fraser is quite proficient in it, so it made sense to do it this way.

You can listen here.

Travelling with such light and simple devices is a dream come true for many road warriors, but can iOS truly deliver the power required to be an end-to-end presentation platform?


“Bots Won’t Replace Apps”

I've been struggling to put into words the inanity I've seen in the first "bot" implementations launched on Facebook.

Dan Grover has done an excellent job with his story about modern conversational UIs, WeChat (he's a product manager there), and the shortcomings of current mobile OSes.

I loved this bit:

This notion of a bot handling the above sorts of tasks is a curious kind of skeumorphism. In the same way that a contact book app (before the flat UI fashion began) may have presented contacts as little cards with drop shadows and ring holes to suggest a Rolodex, conversational UI, too, has applied an analog metaphor to a digital task and brought along details that, in this form, no longer serve any purpose. Things like the small pleasantries in the above exchange like “please” and “thank you”, to asking for various pizza-related choices sequentially and separately (rather than all at once). These vestiges of human conversation no longer provide utility (if anything, they impede the task). I am no more really holding a conversation than my contact book app really is a l’il Rolodex. At the end, a single call to some ordering interface will be made.

Great comparison.


OmniFocus for iOS Adds Deep Automation Features

Derek Reiff, writing on The Omni Blog:

Recently customers have been wanting to take advantage of automation apps like Workflow, Drafts, Pythonista, and others to quickly add new actions or projects or switch to different views inside OmniFocus.

With 2.14, OmniFocus now includes best-of-class support for callback URLs. At its simplest, this means that you can create a workflow that adds more than one item to OmniFocus. But we didn’t just add support for two-way communication between OmniFocus and other apps, we added support for automating a whole lot more of the powerful capabilities of OmniFocus.

Ken goes into the nitty gritty in a detailed Discourse post. But aside from doing the usual name and note additions, you can add estimates, attachments, dates, repetition rules, flags, and even set a project to Parallel.

While I won't be switching away from 2Do, I've tried the beta of OmniFocus 2.14 and the new automation features on iOS are impressive. I think a lot of people are going to reconsider OmniFocus and take advantage of callbacks for app integrations.

The examples posted by Ken Case on the forums should give you an idea of the improved capabilities. It's no surprise that The Omni Group continues to redefine what making pro apps on iOS means.

It's also great to see TaskPaper being used as a structured text communication format – I'd like to see more developers follow this route.