Weird Al and Weird Art

My weekend didn’t go exactly as planned, but it went well. I skipped the Star Trek thing, and instead went to MoMA and saw the new Kai Althoff exhibit. It was interesting, but easy to make fun of, if you’re the kind of guy that likes making fun of modern art. The NY Times review is a bit harsh, I think, but, yeah, it would have been fine to see the paintings without having to step around an old suitcase full of dirty dishes.

The Weird Al concert was as good as I expected, with a few fun surprises. I’ve seen Al twice before, so I was already familiar with a lot of the stuff he typically does as part of his stage show. There was a brief guest appearance by Lin-Manuel Miranda, which I wouldn’t even have known about if I didn’t see it on Facebook the next day. (At the time, I didn’t catch his name, and I wouldn’t have recognized him, even if I was seated close enough to see him clearly, which I wasn’t.)

I stayed overnight in an embarrassingly fancy hotel, and went home Sunday morning. Then, after I got home, I drove down to south Jersey to visit a friend. Normally, I would consider that to be a bit too much activity for the weekend, and… I would have been right about that, since my neck hurt quite a lot on Monday. I managed to get through it all without any migraines, at least, but I was definitely in some pain yesterday. And today, the neck pain is gone, but I feel like I might be coming down with a cold. So I’m limping my way through this week, and hopefully I’ll get myself back on the straight & narrow soon enough.

Weird Al and Star Trek and other stuff

Fairly soon, I will be heading into NYC for a day of (hopefully) fun. The main purpose of the trip is to see Weird Al at Radio City Music Hall tonight. A secondary purpose is to drop in at the Paley Center and maybe watch a couple of episodes of Star Trek. So, yes, I’m a nerd.

I’ve been working on my migraine problem over the last few weeks. I haven’t actually had a migraine with aura in more than a month, so that’s good. But I’ve been getting (relatively) minor headaches on a somewhat regular basis, and sometimes they’re bad enough and last long enough to be a real nuisance. I’m hoping that I can get through the day today without any problems. But I do have a hotel room booked, so if I get a headache this afternoon, I can always hole up in my hotel room, draw the curtains, and take a nap.

iOS email apps

As I’ve mentioned in a recent post or two, I’ve been messing around a bit with third-party email apps for iOS. I’m not really that picky about email client features. I just want something that can do a good job of letting me read my email, and navigate from message to message easily.

Most third-party clients add on a bunch of bells and whistles designed to make it easier to “manage” your email. I don’t really have the kind of problems that these features are designed to solve. I don’t need a “focused” inbox, or an ability to “snooze” messages, or any of that stuff.

I do want to be able to apply Gmail labels and stars though, which is what I use for organization. Aside from the official Gmail app (and Google’s fancier Inbox app), no third party app fully supports Gmail labels, as far as I can tell. All of the ones I’ve tried support starring an email by flagging it. And they all see Gmail labels as standard folders, so you can move messages, but you can’t apply multiple labels.

The standard Apple Mail app was tweaked a bit in iOS 10, and is mostly a good solid app, but I’m still a little annoyed that they got rid of the next & previous buttons on the iPad version. It just makes it harder to move through messages.

None of the other apps I tried have next/previous buttons either, which is a bit of a disappointment. They all do, however, allow you to move between messages with left & right swipes. This sometimes works well, but it can be a problem if you’re trying to zoom & pan an HTML email that isn’t well-formatted for a mobile screen. (Panning and swiping are a bit too similar.)

Microsoft Outlook is a very nice app, except for the glaring issue I mentioned in my previous post: on the iPad, you can’t hide the message list, so you can’t see an email in full-screen.

Today, I gave Spark a try. It’s a really nice app, and has a lot of features similar to Outlook. It does allow you to view messages in full-screen on both the iPhone and iPad, so that’s nice. About the only thing I was disappointed with was that some HTML emails weren’t rendered as nicely as in Apple’s mail app. This isn’t a big problem, and only seems to affect certain messages. I’m guessing that those are messages that aren’t optimized for mobile, and Apple maybe takes some liberties with them, or perhaps they’re slightly malformed messages and Apple does a better job of “failing gracefully.” I’m not really sure. (I’m also not really sure where iOS email apps stand, in terms of HTML rendering. Are they all using the same rendering engine? I would have thought they were, but then I can’t explain why there are some differences.)

So, anyway, I still haven’t made a decision on which app(s) to stick with, so for now, I’m keeping the Apple app, the Gmail app, Outlook, and Spark all installed, on both my iPhone and iPad. I should really whittle that down though; it can’t be a good idea to have four separate apps all checking my Gmail box all the time.

I think I can rule out Outlook for now, so I should probably get rid of that. And I’m keeping the Gmail client, since it comes in handy when I want to do something tricky with Gmail labels. (Though I could also just use the Gmail web site for that. It works fine in Safari.) I think I’m going to keep Spark around for a while longer and see if I find it easier to use than Apple’s client. I may switch over to Spark as my preferred app at some point, possibly just on the iPad.


Outlook for iOS on the iPad

I decided to mess around with Outlook for iOS today, to see if I could talk myself into switching over to that, from the default iOS mail client. Outlook is a pretty snazzy mail client, with lots of interesting features, most of which I don’t need and will probably never use.

There’s one glaring issue with the iPad version of Outlook, and I’m really surprised it hasn’t attracted more attention. Similar to Apple’s mail app, the main view is a list of messages on the left, taking up about a third of the screen, then the contents of the active message on the right. In Apple’s mail app (and in others I’ve tried), you can hide the list of messages, so you can read an email using the full screen width. In Outlook, there doesn’t seem to be any way to hide the message list, so you can only ever use two-thirds of the screen to read your email. I’ve found that there is a way to open a threaded conversation in a pop-up view that uses most of the screen, but there’s no way to do that with a single message that’s not part of a conversation.

I’m not the only one to have noticed this issue, but it hasn’t gotten much attention, from what I can tell. There’s an issue open for it on UserVoice that’s gotten over 4000 votes, but it’s been there for more than a year, so I don’t think  it’s something that Microsoft is likely to fix soon.

I may have to go back and listen to the MPU episode on iOS email again. Really, I just want an email client that lets me read my email using the full screen, and has buttons allowing me to move to the previous and next message. That’s not asking for too much, is it?

iOS 10 – iPhone

Since updating my iPad to iOS 10 worked out ok, I decided to update my iPhone tonight. That too worked out fine. I’m not seeing much in iOS 10 that’s really interesting or useful so far. The changes to the lock screen and notification center are interesting, but I don’t know yet if there’s anything useful there, or if it’s just visually different. I need to read up on that and play around a bit.

I’m not enamored of the changes to the Mail app in iOS 10. The iPhone and iPad apps are a bit different; the iPhone app still has previous/next buttons, though they look different and work a bit different than they used to. And I’m not sure if I like the way they now handle message threading. I’m sure I can live with the new Mail app, but I might as well look at some alternatives.

A while back, I gave Outlook a try, but didn’t stick with it. Maybe it’s time to try it again. They recently made some changes to it, adding some fancy calendaring stuff. I’m not sure if I need any of that, but it might be fun to play with.


iOS 10 – iPad

I upgraded my iPad to iOS 10 last night. It took quite a while to complete, and there were a couple of points where the iPad seemed to be locked up, making me think that something bad might have happened, but it finished eventually.

So far, I haven’t found anything in particular that I’m really liking or excited about. On the other hand, there are a few things that are definite annoyances. Having to press the home button to unlock the iPad is the first. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but it might take a while. Swiping on the lock screen brings you to the camera or the widget list, depending on which direction you swipe. So I guess that’s a reasonable change, though I don’t really feel a need to access that stuff while the iPad is locked.

The biggest change I’ve seen so far, and I haven’t seen much discussion of it, is that they seem to have removed the “next” and “previous” buttons from the mail app. There’s probably some sort of swipe action that will take you to the next or previous message, but I haven’t discovered what that is yet, so for now the only way I can navigate from one message to the next is to go back to the message list and select the next message. I know that I can’t be the only person who was using those buttons frequently. I did find one other guy mentioning it in the comments for this article on iMore. (Apparently, this change only affects the iPad version of Mail and not the iPhone version. I haven’t upgraded my iPhone yet, so I can’t verify that.) Maybe it’s finally time to switch to a third-party mail client.

I need to read up on iOS 10 some more. MacStories has a gigantic review. As does Ars Technica. Take Control has an ebook. And I’m hoping for a dedicated episode of MPU soon.

I’ll probably upgrade my iPhone over the weekend, then also upgrade my watch to watchOS 3. I’m hoping that watchOS 3 is as good as some people are saying it is. I’ve heard lots of good things about it.

For a Long Life, Retire to Manhattan

This little piece from the NY Times is fun, if a bit unrealistic. I don’t think I could ever afford to retire to Manhattan, but I like the idea. I could spend my days wandering around in museums and going to movies. I’d never need a car.

Who knows, maybe by the time I’m ready to retire, things will have changed somehow and “regular people” will be able to afford to live in Manhattan again, not just the ultra-rich.

Retiring to Manhattan is an act of bravery. It also prepares you for the end. The anonymity of metropolitan life gets you ready for the anonymity of the grave.

Source: For a Long Life, Retire to Manhattan – The New York Times

Mac OS 9

There’s an interesting (and lengthy) article up on Ars Technica today about people who are still using Mac OS 9. I’ll admit that I miss some of the stuff from the classic Mac OS (prior to OS X). And even some stuff that was in earlier versions of OS X, but got changed or removed somewhere along the way.

In particular, I’m still annoyed about what they did to the scroll bars in OS X Lion. I really don’t like the thin scroll bars, with no arrow buttons. (I may have blogged about this recently. Or I may have just thought about blogging about it. I’m not sure…) I wish Apple would allow tools like Kaleidoscope to work in OS X, so people like me could do a bit of UI customization, to suit our peculiar preferences.

I’ve been thinking about stuff like this recently, since they announced the iPhone 7, with no headphone jack. That got me thinking about all the useful stuff that’s been removed from phones and computers recently, mostly by Apple: user-replaceable batteries, user-replaceable hard drives, CD/DVD drives, and so on. (And also thinking about the mostly useless stuff that’s been added, mostly by Microsoft. Basically, all the reasons so many people want to stick with Windows 7 and skip 8 & 10. But that’s a post for another day.)