A new site has launched for Shift Happens, an upcoming book on the history of keyboards. The book looks amazing and the site is a great advert for the kickstarter. The 3D exploration of the book is wonderful.
It’s a new year but before leaving 2022 behind here’s some of my favourite’s from the last 12 months, one dominated by some cracking TV shows. So in no particular order…
The Rest is Politics A new for 2022 podcast from Rory Stewart and Alastair Campbell has fast become my favourite pod. Good rapport between the odd couple and a variety of topics from around the political world and some cracking guests. Admittedly helped by the UK having increasingly bat shit crazy politicians.
Industry Stepped up a level in season 2 – great soundtrack, loads of backstabbing and a move into politics alongside the financial industry.
Everything Everywhere All At Once My favourite movie from last year. Clever, funny and far more inventive than any of the multiverse offerings from the big studio’s. Hope it gets the recognition it deserves at the award shows.
Glass Onion Only just out, but I really enjoyed the follow-up to Knives Out. Could be watched stand alone too.
Knotwords Zack Gage can do no wrong. Fill in a crossword puzzle without clues, only letters. Simple and another daily habit game.
We Own This City Can still hardly believe this was based on a true story. Another classic from David Simon – Jon Bernthal also owned every scene he was in.
The Responder I’m not a massive fan of Martin Freeman, but he was immense in this show based in Liverpool. Small cast but really delivered over a few episodes.
Bad Sisters Binged this in a couple of days and loved it. Sharon Horgan really can do no wrong and this is a great black comedy. Shout out to Claes Bang who was an excellent prick throughout.
Peacemaker A gem of a show, a bit like The Boys in that it’s adult superhero show…and it’s funny. The titles alone are worth a watch but my favourite parts were the banter between the various characters.
Derry Girls Stuck the landing – a superb comedy that finished on a high.
For All Mankind Still loving this – season three was pretty ambitious and they pulled it off.
Prey Finally a good follow up to Predator.
Apple Watch Ultra Thanks to my fat wrists, this doesn’t look huge on me. Love the flat and slightly larger screen, bigger battery life and the overall look of the watch. Do I do any of the extreme sports that Apple market the Ultra around? No. But it’s the best version of the Apple Watch so far and that’s good enough for me – and I like the orange pop.
Karen Pirie One of the better ITV drama’s of recent years – great story based on a Val McDermid book, but it was the performance of Lauren Lyle that kept me interested. Deserves a second series.
Black Adam Lots of people said this was a dud but I’m here to tell you…they were right. What a waste of time and money this was. I would say it was a waste of talent too, but there was little of that on screen apart from Pierce Brosnan – the rest were all very forgettable.
The Boys Superhero satire at it’s best – a real refresher in amongst the Marvel shows.
Playdate It’s by no means perfect – the screen needs the ideal light to be playable, but what’s not to love about a small handheld device that’s yellow and has a crank. First season of games very hit and miss, but a couple have been nice to play through.
Severance I slept on this until last week – I’d dismissed it as some work place dystopian sci-fi but it’s so much more. Really asks “Who are you?” but the tension that builds throughout the series is so well done and the twists and characters threads that unfold are so good. Could have done with some more answers in the final episode but thats being picky.
This Is Going to Hurt Funny, raw, emotional – you’ll come for Ben Wishaw’s performance but it’s Ambika Mod as Shruti that will live long in the memory.
Plex Meta Manager I love Plex and have used it for years to manage my home media library. PMM takes it one step further, making your playlists far more dynamic. Great community behind it – it’s geeky and can be a bit tricky to setup but it makes my media library feel alive. Need to blog about this and my Plex setup someday.
Wordle Blew up in late 2021 but I’ve kept playing it through 2022 alongside some friends. It’s a nice start to the day, gets the brain engaged and what other games have so quickly spawned companion versions – Heardle, Framed, GuessTheGame. Ended the year with a 3.8 average.
The Bear Set in a sandwich shop in Chicago, this is stressful but funny and a must-see. Great cast, you root for the characters, flaws and all. Cousin!
The Capture Second series was a real step up on the first – a good take on where deep fakes could take us.
Andor I put off watching this as it was a prequel to a prequel – do we need this? What an idiot – it was fantastic and by far the best Star Wars TV series so far. Darker and deeper than other Star Wars titles. A nice follow-up is this episode of Soundtracking where Edith Bowman talks to Andor show creator Tony Gilroy.
Steam Deck Pre-ordered when it was announced and sold it to a friend within days of getting it. When would I use it? What would I game on it? A few months later I bought his Steam Deck pre-order and never looked back. Great for the smaller indie titles on Steam alongside playing AAA’s wherever I am, but I also use Emudeck on it and have a library of classic games that only take a few seconds to launch. I love this handheld and while a higher res screen would have been nice, the compromise in battery life wouldn’t have been.
Top Gun Maverick Better than it deserved to be – watched it 3 or 4 times this year and enjoyed it all the more.
The Batman Gritty 70’s detective movie featuring Batman – what’s not to like?
The English Fresh take on a western, Emily Blunt and Chaske Spencer are fantastic.
Slow Horses Another show I slept on and binged it over 48 hours. Great cast, good plot and there’s a second series already broadcast and a third filmed.
Vampire Survivors I blasted this on the Steam Deck – saw a headline the other day that said the thing holding back the Steam Deck was the lack of exclusives. Clickbait headline, but everyone who has a Steam Deck should play Vampire Survivors. Simple (even basic) graphics , but its gameplay is so moreish that it’s hard to put down.
This website – my little home on the internet. What am I doing with it? Why don’t I post here first instead of Twitter? Why don’t I own my content? All thoughts that I’d have from time to time but nothing took hold enough for me to change behaviours. Mastodon has given me a kick though – I really should be blogging more again.
It would be great to see blogs grow again. I’m still a heavy RSS user but looking to refresh the feeds I follow which have become stale. There’s already some new follows for me in the Bring Back Blogging directory.
Just over 4 years ago Twitter as I knew and loved it felt under threat thanks to some planned changes to their API’s. Twitter was valuable for me thanks to the third party clients and the direction of travel from Twitter themselves around their apps didn’t work for me. Changing order of how I see tweets thanks to algorithms, adverts that were non relevant and a number of other concerns meant it was time to look elsewhere.
Mastodon seemed to be the place that had most chance to replicate/replace Twitter but it never worked for me. The majority of people that I followed on Twitter didn’t migrate. Mastodon had a barrier to entry that was fine for the tech savvy but alien to most others. The value of Twitter that I got from it, mostly thanks to use of lists and third party clients, just couldn’t be replicated on Mastodon.
Then Twitter got Musked.
Unbanning of questionable individuals, abhorrent treatment of Twitter staff and the public displays of his incompetence at running Twitter has lead me and many others to finally shift platforms. Mastodon has seen explosive growth in the last month but the main clincher for me has been the rise of third party apps.
Mastodon’s iOS app’s are OK….but Ivory and Mona blow the Mastodon official clients away and make for a far better experience on Mastodon. They aren’t for sale yet so you need to join a beta which have been really popular…or in Mona’s case use Spring on OS or Mac to get access to the beta. After a couple of weeks I’m getting more out of Mastodon than i do on Twitter. Part of that many interesting people have switched of their Twitter accounts and have moved to Mastodon. Others are using their Twitter accounts to focus on the mess that Musk is making…which makes for pretty repetitive reading.
Mastodon feels alive. Its like the early days of Twitter – no brands, no ad’s, no forcing content my way because thats what an advertiser wants. There’s still issues with the platform and it can feel like it’s missing functionality. The fediverse is also fragmented and your Mastodon experience may well come down to the world view of your server administrator – good luck with that.
I’m not going to shut my Twitter account down as it still has value. The sheer volume of people on the platform means local issues still get traction on Twitter compared to silence on Mastodon. There’s also a lack of politicians and journalists so many of the topics I enjoy following on Twitter don’t appear on Mastodon…that might be due to the server I’m on, the people I follow etc but I’m getting real value out of the tech/geek community that I now follow on Mastodon.
If you’re unsure of making the move here’s a couple of helpful posts and tools to help. A good overview of Mastodon and how to join the fediverse is Craig Grinnell’s guide on Stuff.tv. Firstly you need to choose a server and there’s lots to choose from. It’s fairly easy to migrate servers so it’s not a showstopper if you make a choice and then find it’s not for you. The Mastodon website is fine for the first wee while but you really want the app or third party client. Building a new network can feel daunting – I took it as an opportunity to find new voices – but tools like Movetodon make it easier to find your favourites from Twitter on Mastodon. Followgraph for Mastodon also helps surface interesting accounts that your followers also follow.
I’ve stuck to using the same account I created a few years ago – @email@example.com. Hopefully you’ll take the plunge and move to Mastodon if you have similar frustrations to me and don’t trust Musk to be a good custodian. See you on the other side.
Great bit of Wordle analytics from Robert Lesser – Wordle, 15 Million Tweets Later. Wordle has shown amazing growth thanks to it’s social sharing and it’s the tweets that Lesser has analysed.
With the average score being 4.1 I’m just under that for the year at 3.9 with a pretty similar distribution.
So far, no 1’s, little 2’s and luckily no strikeouts yet. Still enjoying the daily challenge and shared experience which hopefully won’t end up behind a paywall.
Earlier this week Jason Snell published his 2021 Apple Report Card. His annual report is a great read for anyone in or around the Apple ecosystem.
The scores don’t highlight any surprises but the comments from those surveyed do highlight a few issues. iPad is hampered by it’s operating system, not the hardware which is industry leading and matches much of the new Mac’s. Apple TV is the biggest rise year on year and thats thanks to the new remote. Its still too expensive and limiting for what it is. As for HomeKit it feels like it’s been abandoned.
Apple’s hardware is in a great place…but it’s software is letting it down.
The iPhone 13 may have been out for a few months but this review from Sebastiaan de With goes deep on what’s good and not so good about the current camera’s, and software, in the iPhone. The images he captures shows how far todays phones have come and that photography is the reason for upgrading your device.
Like most things with the blog, I’m late to my 2021 wrap up post. Last year was deja-vu from 2020. Still mostly working from home, covid still dominating and much of the focus was on staying healthy and following the rules with the big difference being covid vaccines and hopefully a path to living with covid thats a bit more normal than what we’ve had for the last two years.
I’d no big plan for 2021 apart from keeping my daily walks going while working from home. Thanks to Chris doing a virtual Lands End to John o’ Groats walk through the year I thought I could up my walks to do a little bit more each day/week.
Around the end of August I realised that if I’d been a bit more ambitious I could hit 2000km for the year so I upped the distance and also the pace.
Boom – 2000km hit by mid December. I find the walking essential as it clears my head, gets me out of the house and also helps with the ever constant weight battle – more on that next. Would love to get back to running but thats not an option at the moment. As for 2021, more of the same. Want to make 2000km again and maintain the pace.
As well as following covid rules and getting vaccinated as soon as it was available one issue I had was my weight. Through 2020 and then the first half of 2021 my weight was slowly creeping up. A weird weight loss at the end of 2019 had masked the gradual weight increase but hitting 91kg in July from a maintained low of around 83-84kg was the kick up the arse I needed.
Over the last 6 months I cut out some of the extra’s (bread!) I was having and coupled with the walking + pace increase has seen the weight drop back down to 83-84kg. Really pleased to get back down into that range. 2021 aim – maintain!
Not so good was sleep towards the end of the year. Through November and December I ended up averaging 4-5 hours sleep per night which is nowhere near enough and miles away from my normal of 7 hours. Can’t really call out a strong reason why although suspect work pressures/stress were the major contributor. Frustratingly the year ended badly with a real flair up of the chest illness I had a few years ago. So I’m back at the doctors and awaiting blood test results. It’s not stopped the walks although I have had to drop the pace a little but one by product is I can sleep all the hours. I wonder if the lack of sleep has ended up causing a relapse? Time will tell.
Thanks in part to covid and also the massive amount of money being invested due to streaming, TV now dominates film for me. There’s just too much TV to watch although I had a good go through the year in watching it all.
Surprising was how much the BBC and Ch4 dominates my watch time although many of the other networks you could lump together as Sky in the UK. Some shows that I watched and enjoyed through the year were:
- Ted Lasso – season 2 was never going to live up to the season 1 hype but was still an enjoyable watch
- The Expanse – season 5 and most of season 6….only one more episode left before it comes to an end! One of the best shows out there.
- Line of Duty – another show that was never going to live up to the hype but still enjoyed it
- Cobra Kai – a really easy but enjoyable watch
- For All Mankind – best show on Apple TV+ – season 2 was excellent and a step up on the first
- Vigil – enjoyed it especially the location spotting in Glasgow and the West Coast
- Wandavision – outstanding – loved it
- Loki – like a good season of Doctor Who with a bigger budget although the end underwhelmed
- Great British Bake Off – classic season although still maintain Jürgen was robbed
- The White Lotus – great to watch although not sure it landed the ending
- This Way Up – cracking comedy/drama on Ch4
- Showtrial – Another beeb drama that kept the suspense going week to week
- It’s a Sin – stunning. If you watch only one thing from 2021 make it this. Joyous and sad at the same time.
- Succession – essential, even just to hear another Fuck Off
Also binged Halt and Catch Fire from a few years back and highly recommend it. Next on the list of classics for me to tackle – The Soprano’s or The American’s…but I’ve got a few things from last year to finish off first.
As for films, Zack Snyders Justice League was surprisingly good, No Time To Die was a great end to Daniel Craigs Bond run and Dune was stunning…roll on part 2.
Games had a better year. Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite came out in the last couple of months and have been excellent. Most surprised by Halo after the delay in 2020 and the worries around the graphics and the studio. Returnal on the PS5 is a pretty stunning game to look at although I do struggle with the gameplay. I’ve got Metroid Dread to play plus a couple of PC and Xbox games but I’d say 2021 has been one of the best years for games in a long time…and 2022 is looking just as strong if not more so.
And finally a shout out to a simple game thats taken the internet, and Twitter, by storm – Wordle. A daily word puzzle that has no ad’s, no multiplayer, no in app purchase. I love it especially the sharing on twitter by fellow players and trying to work out their opening words/moves.
My effort from today:
Wordle 204 3/6
A strange year of virtually no tech purchases. Thanks to a power cut at home I needed to buy a new printer, and I hate everything to do with home printers so that was a real grudge purchase. Mid December and my iMac failed which turned out to be a failed logic board (maybe power cut related???) so that was an expensive fix too. The only notable new tech this year was the Oculus Quest 2 which I picked up late December. Not used it much but surprised by how good the visuals are and how easy it is to use untethered from a PC.
One area I did invest in was upgrading my NAS, not by buying a new one, but upgrading the RAM and replacing all the drives as I had virtually no capacity left. My Synology is almost 7 years old but still supports the latest software releases and with the extra RAM and faster drives, Plex and also a couple of docker images are running better than ever.
2021 saw no new Apple purchases – so still using the iMac from 2017, iPad from 2018, Apple Watch from 2018 and the iPhone from 2020. 2022 will be different though. Really want to move to a new Mac with an Apple processor and leave the Intel to PC’s. Will wait for iMac and Mac Mini updates in 2022 before making a decision but leaning towards the Mac Mini and another monitor rather than heading down the iMac route again. Also expect to pick up a new Apple Watch in September/October but still undecided on the iPad as it’s still doing everything I need it to do so might squeeze out one more year.
As for other tech, if I could lay my hands on a new PC graphics card I could be tempted into an upgrade. A new camera to replace my Fuji XT-2 is also on the radar as I’m a couple of generations behind…but thats an expensive 2022!
As before I don’t do resolutions but look for overall area’s to improve or focus on. One that stands out is simplifying both in and out of work. Juggling a lot and need to focus on the things that matter and drop the rest. Second area is on health and focussing a bit more on understanding me, my body and also my diet. That’s a challenge but the biggest improvement would be to have a more positive and normal year. Fingers crossed.
Tomorrow see’s the start of the Apple year – WWDC. I always look forward to the event as it sets out the direction for all of Apple’s platforms and hints at future hardware. We are 9 months into the transition to Apple silicon so lots of hardware rumours, iOS is mature so what will be new this year and will we see anything hardware related with AR/VR?
What I expect to see:
- New MacBook Pro’s with faster Apple chips.
- iPadOS will surely see some improvements. The new IPad’s have so much power and the platform is let down by the software. Question is what? Hopefully a widget system that matches iOS as last year it was strangely hampered compared to the new powerful widgets you could use on the iPhone. Productivity improvements? Windowing? Better external display support? Some more borrowing/sharing features between MacOS? Not sure but if there’s not a focus on iPadOS that will be a major disappointment.
- iOS – improved customisation after last years widget hit. So widgets improved, more flexibility across the whole of iOS as well. Expect to see improvements to Messages and FaceTime as well as they’ve been used so heavily through the pandemic.
- watchOS – improved customisation perhaps? More around complications rather than full custom watch faces. That feels like a dream that will never land. Also expect to see more on health although that may need new hardware later in the year.
- macOS – the first WWDC with Apple Silicon in the wild so what improvements will we see here? I’m hoping Control Centre will see further work including letting third parties use it. Maybe Shortcuts will make an appearance to further blur iOS and macOS?
- Music – still think there’s more to come around audio. Apple made their lossless announcement but listen back options are limited. So surely there’s a part 2?
What I want to see:
- New Mac Mini and the larger iMac. I’m plotting to upgrade to Apple Silicon this year from Intel so I’d like to see my options rather than plump for a device and then have regrets. However with iMac’s only recently being released I can’t see the bigger one launching.
- Apple Monitor – one that isn’t > £5k
- Let me customise Apple One and pick the services in the low to middle tier
- iCloud – backup my Mac and also increase the storage limits without increasing cost – feels very tight when Apple is the richest company in the world
- Apple Card in the UK
- Apple address developer discontent and drop App Store charges…and throws them a bone around payment services
- homeOS – lots of rumours around this and it’s something Apple could really do with improving. But what’s it for? HomePod’s? Apple TV? New devices?
- A glimpse at the AR/VR hardware
24 hours from now we’ll have all the answers. Can’t wait.
The New York Times has a great article on how Pfizer makes it’s vaccine. So many steps…and not a tracker in site.