Whenever I include images or screenshots within the body of a blog post, I resize them so they aren’t unnecessarily large. iPad Pro screenshots, for instance, are 2732x2048px and often larger than 1MB. There’s no need to share these images full-size, so I reduce their dimensions to something like 1024x960px. This usually gets the file size down to around 200KB.
Back when I used a Mac to write blog posts, I would have also taken the step of optimizing the images using ImageOptim. This app uses clever compression techniques to reduce the file size while preserving quality. It was a simple drag-and-drop process that could drastically reduce the file size further. I haven’t yet found an equivalent iOS app that does something similar, so image optimization isn’t something I’ve been doing.
However, there are web services that perform image optimization. One such service, TinyPNG, has an API that can receive images and return a URL to an optimized version. Using Workflow’s recent API support, I’ve created this workflow that both resizes and optimizes JPG or PNG images using the TinyPNG API. When the action extension workflow is run, there’s an option to resize the image (using Workflow’s built-in image resize action), after which it’s uploaded to TinyPNG for optimization. An alert displays the difference in file size before the optimized image is downloaded. TinyPNG uses randomly-generated filenames, so you’re asked by the workflow to specify a new one.
The following PNG screenshot, resized to 1024x960px, was originally 202KB. After optimization, it’s just 57KB.
TinyPNG is free to use if you’re optimizing up to 500 images per month, which is plenty for most bloggers. As with most API services, you need an API key to use TinyPNG (the workflow has an import question that prompts for this).
Before you start optimizing images, keep in mind that TinyPNG is a web service and you’re uploading images to a third-party. It’s entirely up to you about what images you feel comfortable optimizing. I’m happy to use this for any public images and screenshots I’d share on my blog anyway, though I wouldn’t use it to optimize images that contain sensitive information (scans of passports, screenshots of bank account details, etc.).
One of my favorite and most frequently used iOS apps is currently 25% off for a limited time. If you want to make use of Git on your iPhone or iPad, you need this app (I manage this website using Working Copy and GitHub).
Until 2015, my blog was at sparsebundle.net. I eventually decided to change where my blog was located, so I moved it over to jordanmerrick.com, making sure to keep the URL structure the same.
I used to host jordanmerrick.com on a fairly standard web server at DigitalOcean. This server had an additional host configured for the sparsebundle.net domain which simply redirected any sparsebundle.net links to the equivalent jordanmerrick.com version. Nowadays, I use a git-based workflow and host the site with Netlify, so redirecting sparsebundle.net links is done differently.
I use DNSimple to manage the DNS records of my domains. The service offers a useful URL record that redirect entire domains from one to another while retaining the URL path. Anyone trying to find an old sparsebundle.net blog post are redirected to the post located here. It’s a really simple solution to something that is often more complex than it feels it needs to be.
The redirect functionality doesn’t work to, or from, HTTPS URLs, though sparsebundle.net never used SSL in the first place. Although jordanmerrick.com does use SSL, any non-HTTPS links are gracefully redirected to HTTPS by Netlify.
With today’s 1.7 update, the Workflow team isn’t introducing Instant Variables. Instead, they’ve rebuilt the engine behind variables on a new system called Magic Variables, which completely reimagines how you can create workflows and connect actions for even more powerful automations.
More than a mere tweak for power users, Magic Variables are the next step in Workflow’s goal to enable everyone to automate their iOS devices. By making workflows easier to create and read, Magic Variables are the app’s most important transformation to date, and the result far exceeds my expectations.
Federico isn’t exaggerating when he says this is a significant update to Workflow. Magic Variables fundamentally changes how workflows are created, making them both easier to build and much more powerful.
A useful tip I’ve published at tapCompendium for Apple Watch users who might be using 1Password for two-factor verification:
Many online services offer two-factor authentication (also known as two-step verification) as an additional layer of security that helps protects your account. 1Password can be used as an authenticator app that generates six-digit codes for services that make use of one-time passwords.
Instead of opening or switching to 1Password on your iPhone or iPad whenever you need a verification code, the 1Password app for Apple Watch keeps them within easy reach.
There are some hidden gems when it comes to Apple Watch apps, and the 1Password app is one I find invaluable. It’s great to have my verification codes to hand (or wrist) as there are a number of steps to doing this within the 1Password iOS app.
Last week, I quietly launched tapCompendium: a dedicated resource of tips and tricks for iOS, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. Posts are concise, accessible for users of all skill levels, and cover both Apple’s system software and third-party apps.
There are many Apple-centric websites that produce this type of content, but it’s often intermixed with news, rumors, or other unrelated topics. tapCompendium only publishes useful tips and tricks that help you get the most from your iOS, watchOS, and tvOS devices.
Along with the site, I’ve also launched the tapCompendium Membership. If you’d like to support the site, you can subscribe and become a member for just $2/month. Members receive a monthly ePub-formatted eBook of all published content. I’ll be adding more membership perks as the site grows, so members can expect even more in the future.
John Gruber posted a video on YouTube with a suggestion on a way to easily remove the AirPods from their case.
While it’s a good tip, I find this method too fiddly—especially with gloves on. The AirPods are easily removed from the case, but you’re still having to twist them around and maneuver them with your fingers before you can place them in your ear.
Instead, I prefer the following method, which I’ve also posted on YouTube, of gently applying pressure on the earpiece part of the AirPods, causing them to pivot and rise up out of the case slightly. When picking up the AirPods, they’re already at the right positioning for you to place them straight into your ear.
Like many others in the Apple community, I vividly remember where I was when Steve Jobs launched the iPhone, 10 years ago today. Back then, I was an a Mac Genius in one of the UK Apple Stores (Trafford Centre). A group of us were sat in a crowded break room, huddled around the screen of a 17” iMac as we watched the event, and history, unfold.
As Steve introduces the three revolutionary products, this small room of ten or so people felt like a 40,000 seat stadium at maximum occupancy.
The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls.
The second is a revolutionary mobile phone.
And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device.
Bewildered clapping and an audible confusion
Like many people in the audience, we weren’t entirely sure what we were applauding with an “Internet communications device”, and remembering the confused reaction from the room still makes me laugh. But despite how vague it sounded, this aspect of the iPhone was to be the most fundamentally important one for the vast majority of us. The iPhone was the first mobile device that was truly built with the Internet in mind. By comparison, mobile phones at the time were primarily a phone, with web browsing and email treated almost as an afterthought.
Watching the tech demos of the iPhone in action felt like looking into the future, as though someone had traveled back in time to show us what people in the future would be using. The demo of Safari, in particular, blew me away and the thought that I could browse the real web with a mobile phone was mind-blowing. It was actually difficult to believe that this was not only a real device, but it was one people would be able to buy relatively soon.
The launch of the iPhone is one of the defining moments in technology. Happy 10th birthday, iPhone, and I look forward to many happy returns.
This arrived earlier today and it’s adorable.
It’s made from silicone, is very solid, and the charging cable fits perfectly. The Apple Watch is nice and stable when on the stand. The screen not only adds to the aesthetic but has been designed to keep the Watch firmly in place—it won’t fall or be accidentally knocked off. Between this and the TwelveSouth HiRise stand it replaces, I much prefer this.
Before receiving my AirPods last week, I had previously been using a combination of three different sets of headphones, depending upon the activity:
- Bose QuietComfort 15 noise-canceling headphones for when I’m working at my desk
- JLab Epic2 Bluetooth headphones for workouts
- EarPods for listening to podcasts and music on the go
I think the AirPods are fantastic. They’re one of the best sets of headphones I’ve ever owned and are worth every penny. They’ve already replaced both my EarPods and JLab Bluetooth headphones entirely, and I’m even using them at my desk from time to time. The AirPods aren’t perfect, but they’re pretty damn close. Here are a few thoughts and observations from my experience with them.
The word “magical” genuinely applies
The “W” in W1 must be short for “Wizard” because pairing the AirPods is witchcraft. It’s as close as you can get to doing away with pairing entirely. After pairing, they were immediately available for use on all my other devices and switching between devices was seamless.
When used indoors, they work over distances far greater than the limits of Bluetooth. I don’t have any problems wandering around the apartment while using the AirPods, something that other Bluetooth headphones have struggled with.
The charging case is a stroke of genius
I love this case. It’s light, well made, and small enough that if you need to carry it, it’ll fit into the smallest of pockets. Having a useful carry case that also doubles as a charger is inspired, and it fits quite nicely onto Apple’s iPhone dock for easy charging.
Far superior to traditional Bluetooth headphones, but not without imperfections
My JLab Epic2 headphones, like most Bluetooth headphones, are completely hit-or-miss. The audio cuts out frequently and the connection is unreliable at best. I’m actually surprised these are a top pick by The Wirecutter, which makes makes me wonder how bad the others must’ve been. I’m even on my third set due to warranty replacements for connection issues.
I don’t dispute that there are many people who have had a good experience of Bluetooth audio–I have an AmazonBasics Bluetooth audio receiver that works perfectly with the Amazon Echo Dot we have at home–but my experience of Bluetooth headphones has been terrible.
With AirPods, however, I finally have a set of wireless headphones that aren’t garbage. I sometimes forget that AirPods are wireless, and I’ve even tried to find the remote buttons on a nonexistent cable out of habit.
But every now and again, there’s a little hiccup.
I live in a dense area of the city and, on certain streets, turning my head to the right (seriously) causes the audio to completely cut out. This happens even if my iPhone is in the breast pocket of my coat and the distance between AirPods and iPhone is literally inches away from one another. It’s completely reproducible, but can go unnoticed.
This is possibly due to the many wireless signals bouncing around the buildings, causing all manner of interference, though it is interesting that turning my head in one particular direction causes the connection issues. None of this is specifically a fault of the AirPods and it’s far less of a problem when compared to other Bluetooth headphones, which would just crap out entirely. But if you’re expecting them to have none of the trouble that Bluetooth experiences, you’ll need to be a little forgiving.
Where the AirPods far exceed my expectations, however, is how well they work directly with my Apple Watch-it’s practically faultless. Trying to use Bluetooth headphones with the Apple Watch required many hours of therapy afterwards, so it was never worth the hassle. This meant taking my iPhone (or iPod shuffle) along if I wanted to listen to music. When you have a computer strapped to your wrist that supposedly works with Bluetooth headphones, it’s somewhat ridiculous that another device is needed.
But with the AirPods, I can finally leave those devices at home. Music plays perfectly from the Apple Watch and the connection process is simply a swipe and a tap.
They’re as comfortable as EarPods
This might be a benefit or a drawback, depending on your own experience with EarPods. I regularly use them and like how they fit. While there are certainly more comfortable headphones on the market, I don’t find EarPods uncomfortable, nor do they fall out. The fact the AirPods are basically the same is something I consider a benefit.
Having worn the AirPods at the gym, I have no concerns that they’ll fall out mid-workout. Although they’re very light, the fit feels firm and secure. They’ve stayed in place during some pretty vigorous exercise and perspiration doesn’t seem to degrade the fit. However, I do wonder how well they’ll handle perspiration over time.
Audio quality is better than EarPods, but not by much
If you’re shopping for a premium set of headphones, go wired. You’re not going to find a great-sounding set of wireless headphones for $159, let alone from Apple.
AirPods have a bit more bass than EarPods (which is a benefit) but the quality isn’t measurably better. They do seem be louder than EarPods, making them a lot more useful on crowded subway trains.
The double-tap for Siri functionality works as expected, but you might feel embarrassed to use it
It’s pretty cold here in New Jersey right now. The AirPods respond to double-taps but do need a little more force when wearing a winter hat. I’ve had a few strange looks when I’m repeatedly tapping the side of my head with some vigor and saying “next track”.
That said, I do find the double-tap to be similar to Siri, in that I don’t feel comfortable using it in public. This isn’t a criticism of the AirPods, this is just my own social awkwardness. If you’re not a fan of talking to Siri in public either, you may find the double-tap is a feature you don’t often use.
Using Siri to control playback is frustrating
Speaking of the AirPod’s controls, it’s frustrating that the only way to control playback through the AirPods is with Siri, especially as it frequently doesn’t understand my commands. This method also needs an internet connection, so if you’re on a plane or deep underground, there’s no way to control playback without looking at your iPhone (or Apple Watch). I’ve changed the double-tap behavior so it just play/pauses music–removing Siri entirely.
I do have an Apple Watch so I try and use that to control music playback with AirPods. But with gloves and a thick winter jacket, I end up needing to dig out the iPhone. This is a minor annoyance, and one that’ll dissipate as the weather improves and I have easier access to my Apple Watch.
All things considered, I’m somewhat surprised that Apple didn’t incorporate an option to use taps that align with button presses on EarPods so a single tap play or pauses, double-tap skips, and a triple-tap rewinds. At the very least, that’d make it much easier to control playback.
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