iOS-Primary

A few weeks ago, I made some changes to my home office to support an iOS-primary lifestyle. Now that it’s been a little over a month I wanted to report on how it’s going.

THE OFFICE REDO
The office redo went smoothly. There is now one 27″ (down from three) screen off to the right. My MacBook Air sits near it for the few things I require OS X for (more on that later). My general game-playing is down. I still surf more than I’d like, but I think 50% of my fuck-off surfing is tech- or art-related. I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do when my beloved Red Sox start, but I’m inclined right now to not move a TV back into the office for that. I might use the TV in the family room for that.

THE IOS-PRIMARY MENTALITY
Ben Brooks wrote about going iPad Pro-only here, and I echo a lot of his comments. For me, though, going iPad-Primary is about reducing the path to creative laziness. Creative people are forever coming up with ways to not create: the muse left me, Mercury is in retrograde, I don’t have my favorite pencil, my sketchbook is at home, waaaaaaaaaah. Since my iPad and iPhone are always near me, my excuses dwindle. Now, when I feel a waaaaaaah coming on, I can tell myself to suck it up buttercup and create something.

It’s been working. I set up some creative goals for 2016 and I’m making progress on most of them. I’ve been drawing with the Apple Pencil (nothing worth showing off, yet). I’ve been writing. I’m not big on taking lunches at work, but I’ve been using the transition time between eating my lunch and getting back to work to get some creative work done. Not much, but even 5 minutes lets me get a quick sketch done. Once the weather gets nice we have a decent sitting area outside I can draw at.

The only creative goal I haven’t rally made any progress on is fiction. That’s why this year is the real test. If I don’t get close to 40k words of fiction done this year, I can take “write fiction off” the to do list and focus on other areas.

Mid-February I was at TotalCon. A few years ago, I would bring both my Mac and iPad. At one point in time, having my Mac bailed me out of a huge jam. I forgot I needed a character for my D&D game and I was able to export him from Wizards online tool and create a PDF to use on my iPad. Other than that, my MacBook just served to act as a battery for my iPad. This year, the pro came in handy. I used the Arkham Toolkit to help run my Arkham game and I had stored all of my rule books into iBooks. This made search in rules a breeze since finding a specific rule on the spot can be hard.

WHERE I RUN INTO PROBLEMS
I am having a very hard time adjusting to the on-screen keyboard on the Pro. I’m not sure if it’s just relearning the keys on the larger screen, but every sentence I type has at least two typos the autocorrect can’t handle. I don’t want to start using a Bluetooth keyboard, because the virtual screen is plenty good enough and I need to get used to it so important not chained to another devise I need to drag along.

I still need to use OS X or Windows for a few things:
* Gaming: I play an online game with some friends once a week. There is no iOS version of the game. When we go back to using roll20 to play D&D, I could use iOS, but the virtual tabletop is still an area where the larger screen rules.
* Converting ebooks: I buy all of my ebooks on the Kindle, but I read them on iBooks. To do this, I need to break the DRM via Calibre. I read them in iBooks because the Kindle app on iOS is still a shit-show. It doesn’t support split screen, which is a pain in the ass if I’m working through an example in a drawing book. I’ve also had a problem since iOS 9 launched where the iPad app keeps loosing covers to my side-loaded .mobi books. So, it’s just easier to convert them all into iBooks and call it a day. My chief complaint with iBooks is I can’t have books in more than one collection. On the Kindle app I can and it’s handy.
* My taxes: TurboTax is on iOS, but it was just easier to go through it on my Mac.

THE FUTURE
I really hope iOS 10 optimizes the home screen for the Pro. The amount of space between the icons is almost comical, and I’m a little surprised iOS 9.3 doesn’t at least allow for more apps. I really want to be able to clear all of my notifications in one gesture. Downloading from Safari is still awkward. I’d like to see better downloading and the ability to extract downloaded zip files into iCloud Drive. The split screen picker needs work too. Right now, scrolling through the list of apps that are split screen capable is tedious. I’m not exactly sure what the optimum solution is, but right now it feels more like a tech demo than a feature.

One of the nice – although frustrating – things about iOS is it’s still a relatively new platform. It’s fun to see it evolve from year-to-year.

This article is part of a series on going iPad-only. For more in the series click here.

TotalCon 2016

This year was the 4th year in a row I attended TotalCon. TotalCon is a wonderfully-run board and RPG convention in the Holiday Inn in Mansfield, MA. It’s interesting to see how my tastes have changed since I started coming. Four years ago I solely played D&D. Two years ago I did a mix of RPG and board games. The last two years I have done board game solely. The main reason for this shift is I don’t really like playing role-playing games with people that aren’t my regular gaming group. We tend to approach the source material with a certain irreverence that is hard to match in a convention setting. Board games work great for me at the con. That said, my approach to TotalCon is I make my own fun. Looking through the event listings the last two years, if I didn’t run the board games I did, I wouldn’t have gone to the con. I enjoy teaching people board games so it’s a win. Plus I get to play games that don’t hit my table often.

For this post I’m going to mention the games I ran, how I thought they went, and what I likely do next year.

Arkham Horror – Thursday 1pm and 8 am Friday:
Arkham is one of my favorite games and a game my regular gaming group does not enjoy playing. Four hours as a teaching game means we won’t the defeat the bad guy, but people get to at least play and learn the game. Next year the only difference is if I run it twice I will do it back to back to cut down on the setup and tear down. The system I have for Arkham lets it hit the table fairly fast, but I’d rather do it only once.

Eldritch Horror – Thursday 7pm: This was well-attended. People seemed to have a good time and it was nice playing with a father and his two sons. Even though the game was sold out, it didn’t have that big draggy feeling lots of Eldritch games with a lot of people tend to have. We had 6 people which is really the upper limit of the number of players it supports. That said, even though it was sold out and I love the game, this will be the last year I run it. My gaming group loves Eldritch and I don’t need the convention to get my fix.

Firefly – Friday and Saturday 1pm
Both Firefly games were over attended and I had turn people away both times. We also ended up with 8 people which is way too many. The unfortunate part of this game for me is I own most of the expansions making the board fricking huge. I can’t undo it since a some of the cards from the original game have been replaced by expansion cards. It’s a pain to set up and tear down and it takes up the entire table. I’ve made a few changes already: I ordered this storage solution and I’m going to get some 4x4s cut down to 6″ sections. The game boards will set on these. Next year I will run Firefly back to back. Next year, though I am going to hard stop the number of players at 4 or 5. Eight is just way to much. By a long stretch, this was my most popular game.

Fury of Dracula – Saturday 8am: Oddly, this game was the first of mine to sell out. The table was fantastic. They quickly got the rules and had a blast scheming up ways to try and find Dracula (me) we didn’t end up finishing, but I think I would have run the clock out. This game my Friday night group doesn’t like to play, so I will definitely run it again next year. Maybe even twice.

Spartacus – Friday and Saturday 7pm: The Friday night game has taken on a life of its own. The same group of people have played with me both years. We had a blast last year and almost everyone showed up again. Spartacus is a game of backstabbing and treachery. With the proper group, the game is a complete blast. This year we picked up right where we left off. The game was so exciting I had a hard time sleeping afterwards. That said, the Saturday option wasn’t well-attended and lacked the energy of Friday night. I will be running it one night only next year.

Sons of Anarchy – Thursday 10am
This went ok. The 10am slot on Thursday is tough sell. We had enough people to get a game in, and it was a good time. Next year I don’t think I will run it. The last two years I’ve run it have been sparsely attended and it’s one my gaming group will let hit the table.

For next year, in replacement for Eldtritch horror and Sons of Anarchy I’m thinking running a Small World, Pandemic, or Ghostbusters. Ghostbusters has a hard cap of four players, and four players are required to play the game (although you can run more than one Ghostbuster). My plan for the cons is to either run games my Friday night group won’t play (Arkham, Fury), games that I don’t play enough (Firefly), or are just plain fun at the con (SPARTACUS!).

My chief complaint is the restaurant at the hotel every year feels like they are shocked at how many people show up. The smaller menu isn’t that good, the service is slow, and the food isn’t prepared well. Plus, my GF is a vegetarian and the best they offer is a chicken Caesar salad without the chicken. No protein for vegetarians!

There are rumors that the convention is moving next year. I’m bittersweet if that happens. The new location is convenient to me, and by now I know my way around. I know where to park so I’m close to the board game area. But the convention has outgrown the hotel. The board game area was packed and it felt like a 20-degree difference between the hallway and 10 feet into the room.

Creative Goals for 2016

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. Generally speaking, deciding to change a behavior just because it is New Year’s is setting yourself up for failure; you should enact change anytime you need to. That said, since at work we just finished setting our goals for the year, this made me think of creative goals I want to hit for 2016. As with any goal, these should be measurable. Saying “I want to write more” isn’t a measurable goal. Setting a specific writing goal is.

So, here goes:
Write 22 blog posts (Not counting the ones I’ve written this year). This means 2 blog posts a month for the rest of the year. I thought of just saying *write 2 a month*, but some months with Apple news there may be a lot to write about; other months not so much.
Finish one piece of art beyond the sketch phase. I went to architecture school in the late 80s. I miss drawing and design and want to get back into it. I’ve been sketching, but none of them I’ve been happy with enough to even keep the file on my iPad.
Write 40,000 words of fiction. I’m still torn on whether short- or long-form fiction is where my heart lies. That’s why I’m not phrasing this as *work on my novel*.

At the end of year I’ll write a blog post about how I did with these goals. And, yes, that blog post will count as one of the 22.