iPad Life: Additonal Thoughts on the iPad Pro

I am going to largely ignore the hubbub and criticism that surrounded the iPad 10th Anniversary. For the most part my comments in the Almost Four Years retrospective still stand: I remain divided about the iPad and its place in my life. It is both one of my favorite Apple devices, and one of the most frustrating.

I will say I find iPadOS to be a frustrating release. I frequently have to jiggle my smart-connected keyboard to get it to work, often needing to force quit Messages for the keyboard to work again.

The battery life on my first gen 12.9 is horrible. Two visits to the Apple Store in the last 6 months yield a battery that is close to eligibility for the battery replacement. In September I was between 85-87% battery health; on February 10th it was at 82%. The battery drain is worse than 17% loss, and feels more like 50%. In a meeting it dropped from 72 to 52% in about 20 minutes. The trip to Apple prompted a review of background apps. Nothing really stood out, but there were a few interesting data points. Things 3 had 4.5 hours of background refresh over the last 10 days, and Home and Lock Screen was also at 4 hours background over the same period. When I got home I took the drastic step of wiping my iPad, setting it up as new, and turning off almost all background app refresh. The results are slightly better, but it’s too early to say. The battery life in iOS 13 continues to be a hot topic on the MacRumors forums.

However, over the last week or so I’ve started brining my iPad instead of my MacBook Pro when I leave the house. The draw of the iPad is a light I can’t veer away from. In the parlance of Patrick Rhone, it is often enough. While I enjoy using apps like Tableau, which isn’t available on the iPad, a decent amount of my Tableau time is just refreshing data and viewing the results. Publishing the workbooks on Tableau Public with an auto-refresh of Google Sheets data fills that need.

My yearly theme for 2020 is Creativity. I constantly ding myself for not drawing, and this year drawing is one of my creative goals. The iPad is the perfect tool for that. Even AutoCAD, which kinda sucks on the iPad, is enough for me to do some hard-line drawings on the iPad.

The mantra I frequently use is the iPad is the ideal mobile creation tool, and I want to get back into having that focus in my life.

Year of Evaluation in Review

To be honest, I had forgotten my yearly theme was to evaluate my current tech footprint. I was reviewing an old article and found a reference to it:

My theme for 2019 Evaluation. For the record, I’m not looking at making major life changes. I am, however, evaluating the devices, apps, and services I use. For now, it’s a lot of data collection. What do I use my Mac and iPad for? I say I want to use x app more, but over the year I use y app instead. I promised myself it was unlikely I was going to upgrade any of my devices. Some of this is price. The increased price of the new iPad Pro may not have completely turned me away, but also needing to buy a new Smart Keyboard and Pencil (also at a roughly 20% price premium) surely did. The same with my iPhone. I used my 6 for three years, and I expect to get 4-5 out of my 8 Plus. New iPhones are more expensive and my existing one works just fine. For me to upgrade I need to see real-world improvement; not just benchmarked improvement.

The Hardware Situation

After a trip into Boston where I felt I needed a Sherpa, I made a conscious effort to return to a belief I had strayed away from: iPhone +11. That means on most trips out of the house, I will bring my iPhone and one other device. Too often this year I felt I was bringing a MacBook (Pro or Air), iPad, and iPhone. It was too much, and I wasn’t using the devices to justify the load. It is not a hard and fast rule, but for me to bring both I really need to feel that the two devices are needed.

Once I readopted this philosophy, I also found myself leaving the iPad at home. Some of this is the Logitech Slim Combo case bulks the iPad up to where my 11” MacBook Air is lighter, and iPadOS still presenting a few barriers. All that said, most of the time when I leave the house it is to go to work, where I can’t use personal devices as my primary work computer. I do use my own stuff for supplemental tasks like taking notes. All my work notes end up in OneNote, but I am thinking of going back to just using my iPad and Pencil to take handwritten notes.

At the end of the yearly theme, the winners are: MacBook Pro first; iPad second; and MacBook Air is the third choice. The few times I feel I need both, the Air and iPad will be the first choice.

Writing Apps

The main evaluation I wanted to complete in 2019 was a decision on writing apps. All my other apps are situational, and the task at hand will drive the proper app. Writing, however, is pretty much just pushing the cursor to the right.

The winner at the end of the year is Ulysses and IA Writer. Ulysses iI use for about 95% of my writing, and the odd use case it can’t handle, I will use IA Writer. A blog post I am working on uses tables. Ulysses doesn’t support them, so I will use IA writer for that.

The main requirement I walked away from at the year was my writing tools needed to be flexible between macOS and iOS. This is why Scrivener loses out. The iOS version is not as feature-complete as the macOS version and uses a modal Dropbox sync. Scrivener may be the final step for a long-form publication, but I will not be using it as the main writing apps.

Cloud Storage

This was a challenging evaluation. I waffled between all the major players: OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, and iCloud. My goal was to get to one for the main file storage. I would count iCloud+1 if I only used iCloud for apps that wrote to their own folders, but the bulk of my files were in say, Dropbox. At the end of the year, I ended up just using iCloud. I decided that paying for Dropbox was basically leasing a hard drive, so I moved all of my files to iCloud and uninstalled all of the other cloud providers. I am hoping that later versions of iOS will enable the promised iCloud Drive improvements. This does make syncing files between my MacBooks something I need to make sure happens. I keep the Air closed and plugged in, so sync doesn’t happen in the background. Every now and then I make sure everything syncs up ok.

2020’s Yearly Theme

The Year of Evaluation was a bridge year to my planned 2020 theme: Creativity. My desire was by evaluating tools and processes in 2019, I’d just get it out of my system. So far, it is working well. Creativity is a vague theme that is basically fuck off less. Working on my trains, Tableau, photo editing, etc. all count as creativity. The year is just getting going, but I am feeling great about my progress so far.

  1. And, if I am honest, just the iPhone is enough most times.

.plan Files and Tracking & Thinking About Personal Goals

For working on some of my personal projects that have longer timelines than “install this tool on my Mac”, I’ve been struggling with how to track and report on progress. Things, which I love, isn’t good for these. These efforts aren’t really something that can be broken down to task levels. A good example is learning about security tools. I have a task in Things to remind me to install a tool on my Air. But tracking progress, notes, and high-level tasks I need something else. The same for working on coming up with a side-hustle and secondary revenue streams.

I was thinking of how John Carmack of id software used to maintain .plan files. It used the finger protocol as a type of blogging engine, but I liked the simple, text-based structure. As I was thinking about tracking some of my personal stuff, I debated between a separate Ulysses sheet, or using Apple Notes, or just Day One Journaling. I ruled against these because I don’t want it to be in my face. I didn’t want a constant reminder that I hadn’t gotten to those projects because work, school, and life got in the way. I also want to keep it private. I did want the ability to edit the file on Mac or iOS, so that sort of limited the app I would use.

So, I decided on keeping a sort of .plan file in Byword. It’s a simple text file. It’s out of the way since it’s not an app I use a lot. It’s just one file now named “plan” and I will be keeping some notes and goals over time there. Maybe it’s close to bullet journal, but I just wanted a separate way to track a lot of this.