Bye Vesper

> Yesterday, we announced that development was ceasing, and we’ll soon be shutting down our sync server. I am terribly sad about this. I love Vesper. I use it every day. I mean that in the present tense. I still use it. When we pull the plug on the sync server, I’ll stop, but until then it’s my go-to notes app. In my career, the only things I’ve done that I’m prouder of are writing Daring Fireball and the creation of Markdown.

Vesper was one the nice looking note-taking app on the iPhone when it was launched. It took advantage of the latest technology that iOS has to offer. And it was built and design by three of the trusted and respected people in the Mac community—John Gruber, Dave Wiskus, and Brent Simmons. I admit I didn’t bought it when it was launched, not because it cost $5, because I was already using too many writing apps. There was none that Vesper was filling in terms of my needs. Plus, it doesn't have a Mac app that I needed the most. At the time I was using Evernote and for me it gets the job done. I was getting tired of seeing good note apps for iOS but not a lot on the Mac. I only got into the app when version 2 came out but I never really used it that much because it doesn't offer a Mac app.

> The plan would have looked like this:
1 Build Vesper for Mac. Sell it for around $20.
2 Build a sync system.
3 Build Vesper for iPhone.
4 Build Vesper for iPad.
5 Maybe build a web version.

There was no good rich note-taking Mac app a the time. I was using Evernote because it was the only one that is available but I find it slow and bloated. I was using NValt for notes but I find it lacking when I needed to add more information like images. But I love Nvalt’s simplicity and it also sync with Simplenote on the iPhone. If they did built a Vesper for Mac first, I would have definitely bought it the same day it launched. Because there isn’t a lot of good note-taking apps for the Mac that looks and works like Vesper.

*> I’m a firm believer that you always need some good luck to succeed. We would have been luckier, timing-wise, if we had done the Mac app first, because we would have been able to build the iOS version for iOS 7 right from the start.

We suffered an enormous chicken-and-the-egg problem with our decision to keep to a small team and self-fund our efforts through revenue from the app itself. A notes app is only of interest to many people if it’s available both on their desktop and mobile device. The number one reason, by a long shot, that people didn’t buy Vesper is because it wasn’t available for the Mac. I get that. It makes total sense. Hell, I even cheat, personally, and run Vesper on my Mac in the iOS Simulator. The bottom line is we needed revenue from the first version we built to fund development of the next version, and I think we would have made money from the Mac version.*

It’s sad to see an beautiful app like Vesper go but I’ll definitely look out for what’s coming from Q-branch if ever they decide to work on another app again.

If you want to check out what Vesper app looks like, it’s now available for free to download on the App Store.

A Case on Cases

My Siri Remote fell off the bed, two feet from the ground. The glass touchpad cracked. It was bad. We can still use it but I'm afraid the glass splinters will tear through our skin. It's the first time I actually regret not buying a case for a device I owned for the first time. I thought the lanyard I bought would be useful enough, it will help prevent it from getting thrown across the room. I thought my clumsy dog who always jump in our bed would undo it, but nope, it was me. A simple brush off from the bed is what did it. I thought the remote can take a drop from the bed. Well, that went stupidly well. Good job for not buying a case.

I called Apple Support knowing that accidental damage is not covered by warranty. But I'm not going to ask for a replacement, I just want them to repair it for a fee because buying a new remote would cost me $79. But hearing the word "you need to buy a new one" from an Apple support representative didn't go well with me. I couldn't afford an $79 remote. Heck, I can't afford replacing it constantly if I keep accidentally dropping my Siri Remote repeatedly. I wouldn't be surprised if I needed to buy another Siri Remote this year. So for the first time I threw a fit on a friendly Apple support. It wasn't his fault my Siri Remote fell off the bed. It wasn't his fault that Apple engineers didn't build it as sturdy enough to withstand a fall from the bed or couch. It wasn't his fault I didn't bought a case to begin with.

I have an aversion to using cases. Even when I got my first phone, I never thought of setting my beautiful phone in a case for protection. Personal devices should be substantial enough to take a normally occurring beating. I actually like slight scratches on my device looking like a well-used and well-loved object. My Walkman survived numerous fall, it lasted until I was able to play radio on my cellphone. It died of old age and neglect. For me, a case should provide another function besides protection. The iPhone screen, in my experience is well done that I never used a screen protector. Screen protectors are a nuisance for me, it negates experiencing the device itself. It’s like lying on a couch still wrapped in plastic. I use a leather sleeve for my iPad mostly for aesthetic reason. My iPhone reside in a TwelveSouth BookBook case because it also function as a wallet. Less item to keep track on, the better. My Apple Watch has small dent on it that I'm not even bothered by it. I'd rather have it than hidden inside an ugly case.

Cases, for now has it needs. Most of our personal devices are now made of glass. And I do hope that in the future, materials will improve and we wouldn’t worry about smashing our devices’ screen. For now, I opted for the $20 old aluminum Apple TV remote. It works with the Apple TV (4th gen.), it can do all the important remote function and for now it’s enough. Siri isn't even available in my region and gaming is a bit awkward with the glass trackpad. What’s nice about the aluminum Apple TV remote? I don't need to buy an expensive case and thats a win-win for me.

How I use my Watch

I eat, sleep, and swim with my Watch. It has become an indispensable companion for me. I no longer stare or pick up my phone often as the Watch can easily notify me or tell me stuff that I needed. It also help me get more active everyday.

Before I had my Watch, I find wearing one cumbersome. When I had my first phone in college, I decided to stop wearing watches. My phone can tell time so I don't find see myself wearing a watch anymore. The only time I started wearing a watch again was when I got an iPod nano a few years back that I bought second-hand from a peer. It wasn’t even a watch to begin with, people just hack it with a wrist band so we can wear it as a watch. I like the novelty of it especially when I’m using Mickey Mouse as my watch face. I can play music when I wanted to save battery on my phone and it can tell time.

The Watch is the most personal device I own. Its not something that I can’t lend to anyone unless I don't care about the heart rate that it records in interval or how many calories I’ve burned in a day. Unlike my iPhone which I can easily hand to someone if they want to check out something on the web or if they want to try it out.

My day watch face on the left while on the right is my night watch face.

I had two watch faces that I come to rely on everyday. The first one is my day watch face, and the second one on the right is my night watch face. Both uses the Modular configuration since its the only one that can hold 5 different complications.

My Modular day watch face consist of date, time, Fantastical, The Weather Channel, Activity and HeartWatch. I use Fantastical to remind me of my schedule everyday. I let it occupy the largest complication so I can see more information to make sure I won't miss any appointment for the day. I found the built-in weather app by Apple useless for someone who resides on a tropical country. So I switched to The Weather Channel that let’s you configure its complication to show the probability of rain instead of showing you the temperature. Being able to see my Activity on the Watch face helps me complete my goal. HeartWatch notifies me if my heart rate goes up or down and provides me a much more detailed report than what is available on the Health app on my iPhone. I can also tell HeartWatch how many caffeine I consumed, my blood pressure, how many sugar I consumed or changes in my weight. My family had a history of heart disease so its very important for me to track it everyday just in case I needed it in the future. I also have Cardiogram installed so I can share my data with researchers at the UCSF Health eHeart study to help them find new ways to fight heart diseases. I recommend installing Cardiogram to anyone who wears an Watch. There are other apps for for diabetes, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, etc. and I hope they open ResearchKit apps to more country.

My Modular night watch face consist of Heartwatch, time, Fantastical, Alarm, Sunrise/Sunset, and Sleep++. My night watch face function is to ensure that I’m able to track my sleeping condition and to prepare the next day. Its nice having an easy access to the Watch alarm. I find it nicer to wake up with a gentle tap on my wrist rather than the nagging sound of my iPhone to wake me up. Being able to see the time for sunrise helps me plan what time to wake up just in case I want to go out and watch the sun rise. Sleep++ helps me track my sleep each night and gives me a detailed information about my sleeping habit. I have my Heartwatch as complication on my Watch so I can easily tell the app when I’m going to bed.

On times that I’m not busy or on vacation, I often use other watch faces like Motion (jellyfish), Astronomy, Solar and still my favorite—the Mickey Mouse watch face.

Siri has proven it self more useful with the Watch than on my phone. I can use it to send message, run timer when I’m cooking, ask for the weather on other part of the world, ask for direction, play music and open apps with Hey Siri. I also love taking calls/receiving calls on my Watch especially when I’m just at home and I’m busy cleaning the house or washing the dishes.

There are also 3rd party apps that I love to use on my Watch but I wish it could be faster to open them. Uber tells me how long it will take to drive to my location and it notifies me when it arrives to pick me up and when it arrived to my destination. Hours helps me track the number of hours I've worked on a project. 2Do notifies me on stuff I need to work on for the day. Due nags me to do one thing until I hit snooze or mark it done. FlightTrack make sure I don't miss my flight or my gate at the airport. MacID locks/unlocks my Mac when I’m in proximity. You can personalise your Watch in any way you want. I just wish the Watch can open the app faster. So far with the latest update, there’s no significant improvement in performance with 3rd party apps.

So far, I am happy with my Watch. I got it with little expectation (from reading early reviews and hands-on) and so far I loved it. I love what it can do for me and what I can do with it. If I have one request, I hope they can improve the performance in opening apps in the next generation of Watch.

Update: I just installed Activity++ by David Smith, the maker of Pedometer++ and Sleep++. I love how it presented my activities epecially my streak goal on the iPhone than the built-in app by Apple. But I'm keeping the circular icon on my watch complication because I like it better and looks good with my modular watch face.

Bye, TextExpander!

I love TextExpander. It’s one of the first app that I install whenever I got a new Mac. I even bought a family license even though I’m using it as a single user to support Smile for making such an awesome product. I was never a TextExpander power-user and probably used the fill-in feature once but it saved me a lot of time and a ton of headache when I did. 

Not all Netflix are equal

Update: sorry folks, accessing US Netflix or any other Netflix from other region is no longer supported by my chosen service, PlaymoTV and other DNS/VPN services. Since Netflix started getting serious about blocking access since they launch globally it is nearly impossible for DNS/VPN services to offer Netflix. Thankfully there are other streaming services besides Netflix, I now enjoy streaming Hulu, HBO, and Filmstruck on my AppleTV with PlaymoTV in addition to Netflix Philippines. Hit them up, they offer 30-day free trial. Signing up for the services still works just by changing your local credit card Zip code to any US zip code (google some other zip code besides 902010 :p)

Netflix announced today at CES that they are now available globally with the exception of China, North Korea, Crimea and Syria. Their subscription plans are roughly the same as the plans in the US, $9.99 gets you to watch on two HD screens simultaneously and $11.99 for 4 screens and Ultra HD.

But not all Netflix are created equal. Each country’s version has different film and TV series listings. Like for Netflix Philippines, we have relatively new movies like Pacific Rim, Gravity, Argo. Netflix US don't have these yet.

Netflix Philippines, however, don't have access yet to Disney Animation, Pixar and one of Netflix very own show, House of Cards (the distribution rights is probably owned by a local cable channel). We don't have one of the biggest shows on earth like X-Files, Lost, Breaking Bad (we have Better Call Saul), Attack on Titan, MadMen, The Walking Dead, Twilight Zone, Battlestar Galactica, etc. Your only hope of accessing this shows is by having access to all the different Netflix region. We only have one movie from Wes Anderson (shocking!).

If you still want to be able to access Netflix from the US (more Bristish shows, UK (more US shows), Canada (newer movies), France (they have Downtown Abbey) or Japan (Japanese shows) better to keep your VPN or DNS account like Playmo. Playmo lets you have access to different region of Netflix for just $4.99 a month. They offer 7-day trial.

I’m still going to keep my Playmo account so I can have access to different regions of Netflix. I still have two more season of X-Files to finish. Binge on!



Having been born in the 80s, before computers were a mainstay in every home, I grew up with the typewriter. My dad bought us one for school: a heavy, 4-kilo typewriter with a carrying case that weighed nearly as much as the device it held. It definitely wasn’t compact, nor was it built to be lugged around. It was heavy. But the feeling of tactile feedback, of fingers getting stuck in between keys, and the clacking sounds the typewriter makes each time a letter is typed out—those, I believed, were the sound and feel of writing.