Taking an Activity Notification Diet

No more Activity Notifications

I recently became aware of the Attention Diet by Mark Manson, it is a highly recommended read and it made me pause for reflection. In cutting back, I started to reduce my notifications and it made me rethink the Apple Watch Activity notifications.

Although motivational, they are also super annoying. Right now I am recovering from injury and I must not exercise as much, but the Apple Watch just doesn’t care.

So I’ve quit the notifications, just leaving on Special Challenges. Today was day 2 and it’s been great.

I’m not sure if I’ll turn it back on after I’ve recovered from my injury as I exercise enough and I’m happy to just complete my rings naturally.

Also Apple needs to add an “I’m injured/sick/resting” mode.

SwiftUI - Using SF Symbols

SF Symbols are a great little bonus when developing apps. It is a whole suite of iconography that can be used throughout a design. This guide explains how to use them in SwiftUI.


SwiftUI - Adding Images

In this guide, I will show you how to add images to a SwiftUI app. Look for a nice image before you start. 😊


SwiftUI - Adding Gradient Colour

SwifUI makes it super easy to add gradient colour effects to your app design. This guide will show you the basics to get started and provide some inspiration for your own designs.


SwiftUI - Adding Colour

In this guide, I will be explaining how to add colour to the SwiftUI app. It is very simple and I show a couple of tricks to make things easier.


SwiftUI - Alternative methods to add and modify Text and Stacks

In the follow up to my last post, this guide will show how to use the object library in Xcode to place Text and Stacks directly into the design preview of an app. Yes, this means knowing less code. It is a close to drag and drop coding you can get and it works rather well.

The guide also introduces the attributes inspector to modify objects in the design, say for instance what font style the Text has. Again less coding required. 😁


SwiftUI - Basic VStack|HStack|ZStack

If you are interested in trying some simple SwiftUI, this video will show you how to use VStacks, HStacks and ZStacks to align Text.


Designing Apps in Keynote

I have created 2 videos to show how to use Keynote for App design. The first video explains how to download and install the Keynote templates and the SF-Symbols app via Apple's Developer Portal. The second video details how to use the template and app with Keynote to design your own app. It is a little tricky but the end results can look just like a real app.

Part 1:


Part 2:


Unread 2 for RSS

Article List View | Article View | Article Options

I have been using Unread 2 for a couple of weeks as my RSS reader and it has become my favourite RSS reader.

Unread is beautifully designed. It looks great and it is a joy to use. One handed on my iPhone XS Max everything is reachable. I can swipe back and forward all day.

Unread's article list view cleverly adapts the summary text to provide one or two full sentences, depending on the length. It's a simple feature but makes a huge difference when deciding on reading the whole article or not.

Unread provides a variety of themes and app icons. I really like dark themes with a tint of colour like dark greys or a good blue. Think the blue "dim" dark mode on the iOS twitter app. I am using the Panic theme in Unread and it looks great.

As a bonus, I have figured how to use Unread as a "read it later" app too. By installing the Feedly app (which is the RSS service I use) I can save articles to the "Read Later" board via the iOS share sheet, this then syncs to the "Saved" area in Unread.

Unread is a great app and though it took me a while to commit to the subscription (AU$29 per year) I am very happy with my purchase. If you use RSS daily, I could not recommend it more. There is a 50 article free trial, which does give a good feel for the app except its great background syncing

Unexpected side effect of the Magic Keyboard

It has only been 2 days since I received a Magic Keyboard for my iPad Pro and it has already changed how I am using my device, one unexpectedly.

The obvious improvements are nicer typing with real keys and having a backlight. I am also enjoying more flexibility in getting the screen angle just right, unlike my Smart Cover keyboard which I only had 2 positions. I am also typing this on my lap and it feels great, albeit a little narrow, but this ain't no 16" laptop!

The unexpected improvement is that I now feel more like grabbing my iPad and using it with no case at all. By "limiting" the Magic Keyboard so that the cover does flip around to the back, I now just pull the iPad off the magnetic "stand" and it feels great. This morning I sat in bed and did my morning reading with my iPad rather than my phone and it felt really nice. I never did this before as the Smart Cover was just too bulky, the device did not tell me to use them separately. Isn't it funny how the design of the device talks to how it should be used.

The only negative I have so far is third party app support for the trackpad, the worst offender currently is Microsoft Word. The toolbar is not reliable in detecting the click, if I have a selection of text it works but otherwise I have to tap with my finger - super weird. As apps update, which I am sure they will, it will be great. Right now I find that I either forget I have a trackpad (unlearn what you have learned) or apps don't respond correctly - so I use my finger, which is a great way to use an iPad 😁

Petzl Swift RL Head Torch

Recently I picked up a new head torch to help with the dark early morning runs. Some paths that I use have no lighting and can be dangerous, like this week when I avoided a 30cm dugite. I had been using a Petzl head torch for about 6 years and had been very happy with it but it was not holding a charge and was pretty dirty, so I picked up the equivalent model as a bit of a treat.

It is super bright, with its maximum 900 lumen led and auto adjust brightness based on ambient light. I find that I use the lowest setting mostly and sometimes the middle one. I could imagine if I was trail running the high setting would be very helpful.

It is very easy to use, there is one button that rotates through low, medium, high and off. You can switch between auto adjusted to fixed brightness by holding the same button down for a few seconds. I like auto adjust because it means that if a car is coming the other way, I know I'm not affecting the driver.

The battery is great, especially on the low setting.

It is really comfortable to wear, which is important when heading out for hour long runs.

The Swift RL is highly recommended.

Come Back Marathon on Hold

As with the many things in life at the moment, I received news that the Bunbury Marathon had been cancelled for 2020. At first I felt like I would finish my training, run the 42km on the same day and be happy with completing my recovery. After sleeping on it, I realised that I really wanted my come back to happen at an event, I wanted my family to cheer me on and hold up the medal to signify my recovery was complete.

So my plan now is to focus on some strength training over the coming weeks and follow Hal Higdon's Base Training programme. That will lead pretty perfectly into training for the Perth Marathon, which will be held on the 26th of September. I am hopeful that this is far enough away that the event will go ahead.

It's funny that I thought this would bother me more than it has, but there really is more important things in life. I have recovered amazingly well from my back surgery and I don't need a marathon to prove it, but it will be the icing on the cake.

Apple Mail markup is so good

iOS 13.3.1 solved all of the bugs I was experiencing with Apple Mail and I am most happy about this because I love using the markup features.

It’s easy to markup an inserted image. Just tap the image and tap the Markup option.

You then have access to all of the drawing tools.

There is also a feature to markup a PDF file or image received in an email and then send the the markup changes as a reply or add to a new email.

When opening a PDF file or image received in an email, use the markup icon to begin the process.

Make the changes and then choose the done button. Mail will then ask to attach the markup document in a reply or a new email.

This is great.

To access all of Mails tools choose the arrow above the keyboard.

The tool bar will open.

From here it’s easy to change the font, insert a photo, take a photo, insert a document from Files, scan and insert a document and finally write a note.

All these features are available on the Mac too so it’s great jumping between the two.

I run marathons and lose Apple Watch Competions


It shouldn’t bother me but I am training for a marathon which includes running 70km+ per week and 32km single runs but I still loose Apple Watch competitions to people who walk and do pilates. 🤔

Apple Watch Podcast Apps for Runners

One of my joys of running is churning through my podcast queue. It’s great for just zoning out and enjoying the run.

When I upgraded to the Apple Watch Series 4, I chose the cellular version so I could leave my iPhone at home but still be reachable and call for rescue if needed (which has happened). I had a hope that I could listen to podcasts by syncing or streaming directly to my watch. As far as a I know the only apps that work independently from the watch (and still have an iPhone app) are Apple Podcasts, Overcast and Castro.

Overcast is what I currently use, it’s not perfect and has bugs but they are not show stoppers. It offers local sync which is good once the sync is done. Without streaming though, I have to be super organised and make sure there is enough synced episodes. Bugs - the app ignores the tap gestures set for my AirPods so I still need to skip via the watch directly. It also doesn’t always sync played episodes back to the iPhone, so I have to do that later myself.

Apple Podcasts is a strange beast. The app itself just doesn’t fit my workflow. I also tried it on a run and it played episodes that had synced (I think) but could not stream other episodes. I’m not sure if it can stream, it doesn’t give any indication either way.

On paper Castro is my perfect podcast app offering both playback via sync or streaming directly on the Apple Watch. The killer bug is that once one episode completes and starts playing the next it seems to skip random amounts of time. This can actually be to the end of the next show. I find myself running along tapping the “back 30 seconds” until it hits the start - not fun.

I have contacted the developer(s) of both Overcast and Castro pointing out the bugs and Castro devs said they will investigate.

Hopefully in the future I can live the dream and to be honest Castro is close. I have to wonder if this is more of an Apple issue not providing developers the tools they need. I really wish developers of podcast apps would show us (me) runners some love.

Four week wait for AirPod Pros

So I finally took the splurge and ordered AirPod Pros. I have a 4 week wait, which makes me reflect I should have ordered them 2 weeks ago when my old AirPods battery ran out during my long run. Let's hope they stay in my ears while running or I'll be utilising the Apple 14 day return policy.

Distance Running Programmes

I have been running for around 6 years now and whenever I plan on running a marathon I follow one of Hal Higdon's programmes. I find them easy to follow and with nothing too complicated.

Currently I am following Marathon Advanced 2 but I have previously used his other programmes. There are options to pay for extra guidance but there is no requirement. He provides programmes for all distances and I recommend checking them out

If you are up for running more km's per week than what the plan suggests, Hal has said that you can run double up days to add more. For example 5km in the morning and 5km in the afternoon. As long as you follow the base programme he is happy. I was hitting 100km per using this technique and it really felt ok - until my back needed fusing (unrelated). Hopefully I should be back doing this next year.

Mobile Phones in Schools for the next decade

I was listening to episode 97 of the Pragmatic podcast recently and John asked Myke Hurley what would be the one device he could not go without from all the devices he uses. Listen to the anguish in his decision...

Clip from Pragmatic Episode 97

Myke chose his iPhone and qualified it by saying.

Realistically, who can survive in the modern world without a phone these days. It’s becoming more and more difficult no matter where you live in the world to get by without a smart phone.

Mike Hurley, Episode 97 Pragmatic

I also was intrigued to see a post by Jason Mendeloff entitled “iPhone Only” where he shared similar thoughts

I wanted to share my unique point of view when talking about tech and apps. I manage my life on my iPhone only, no iPad or no computer.

This really got me thinking, well first of all, how could anyone disagree with Myke and then as we move into the next decade, should our aim for education to make sure the device we use in education be the most accessible and the one most people have in the modern world?

I find it very short sighted that “leaders” and decision makers are quick to jump on the negatives of mobile phones and quite merrily ban them from schools when they are ignoring the power they have. They could at least qualify the ban by adding that they are actively working with the likes of Apple, Microsoft and Google to try and solve the problems they see.

I do believe that "bans" are political and are to give impression of strong decision making, thus appeasing public backlash rather than actual dealing with the problem. Like the recent ban in the Western Australian public education system which, when you look closely, is not really a ban but rather a more clear set of boundaries for when a mobile phone can be used at school.

So in recognising that mobile phones are the primary device of the modern world and in particular teenagers (as of 2018 it’s around 95%), what should we aim for over the next 10 years in education in the use of the technology?

What should schools be doing?

For schools with 1:1 programmes, I think it’s pretty clear the benefits of laptops or iPads, but it is still important to also utilise mobile phones and incorporate them into teaching programs when it is advantageous.

For schools without a 1:1 programme, many of which could be due to the additional financial pressure to their families, allowing mobile phones at school becomes more necessary. These schools should have a vision and plan that sets in place how they will incorporate these devices into the future, maybe by the end of the decade 😉.

All schools need to identify and work together on the biggest issues they see as the “ban-able” problem.

Does this include investigating using technologies like Apples screen time and educating parents and how to set it up?

Does it include making recommendations on what phone parents should buy?

Does it include education departments and governments actively working on a solution?

It seems to me these are steps that should be being talked about in public and be seen as problems to solve.

Outside of schools I would like to see software and hardware developers to become more focused on mobile phone first applications. I see far too often developers taking the “easy” route of making theirs apps for desktop/laptop devices or having mobile apps they are not functionally complete.

When I first started teaching we spoke about the digital divide - those who could afford a computer and those who could not. The question now should be more about those who cannot afford more than one device.

I would also like to see Apple, Microsoft and Google actively and publicly working to solve the problems faced with mobile phones at school. These are difficult issues and they have a big part to play. How about having the Apple Classroom app working on iPhones too?

Finally, this year in my classes that involve app development I am actively making students aware of why we are making apps. In particular our i3 (I Cubed) class we are solving problems based the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the students need to make an app. Many of these goals are targeted at countries where mobile phones are more common than laptops or iPads. They also rely on mobile technology for their Internet connection. This has become a discussion for the class and giving reason for our focus on iPhone development.

I really do hope we get past the negatives of mobile phones at school and society begins the process to acknowledge all the positives.

Year of Positivity

This year I have decided to have a theme. This came about as I left 2019 thinking it should have been an amazing year, yet I was feeling flat to almost negative (really, how?). I used my Christmas break to spend some time reflecting and deciding on change. During this time I also listened to Cortex Episode 95: Yearly Themes where it was discussed their previous themes, what they were planning and why “resolutions” fail. It was perfect timing for me and almost instantly I chose 2020 to be the year of Positivity.

The theme means that I make choices to end with a positive. It’s not just about looking at life being “half full”. It is me actively trying to make change to be positive. An example is adjusting the way I use twitter, so I see more of what I find positive. Or even blogging more - I do not care if anyone reads what I’m writing but it brings me joy.

Now if you are not up for a long podcast and want to know more, it just so happens that one of the hosts of Cortex (CGP Grey) just dropped a great movie on his YouTube channel and I highly recommend giving it watch.


Remember a year can start anywhere and it doesn’t need to be for a whole year - it could be a season or a term of school. If you’d like to share your theme I’d love to hear.

Upgrading to a MacBook Air

This year I decided to swap my 2017 MacBook Pro for a 2019 MacBook Air and over the last couple of days I have been setting it up.

So far I am loving the change, it really is a great size device. Those 15" and now 16" MacBook Pro's are "large" and "heavy" in comparison. It's great to just pick up the Air and notice the difference. Performance wise I have not seen any issues, but I haven’t really done anything to stress the CPU (other than sync my photos).

On the migration, I decided to follow the same process that I have done in the past, basically I just login to iCloud and let everything sync from the cloud. I then open the App Store and install my previous purchases. The only really change this time was to transfer my Backblaze account so I still can see all the files from my old Pro. It’s a great opportunity for a clean up. I’m not sure if I needed anything from Xcode, but I have my backup for that.

It’s phenomenal how much data is stored in the cloud now and it makes this process super easy. I just need to wait for everything to sync.

My only annoyance so far is having both USB-C ports on the left side means plugging into projectors or even power not as flexible. One port on each side would be awesome.

Back to work 2020 edition

So I’m back to work tomorrow after a great Christmas break. This year I’m looking for to teaching some of the same classes and some new ones.

This is what’s on:

  • i3 - Our innovative year 10 programme asking the question “Can girls solve real world problems” 😉. We have the same 4 class teachers this year and I’m really excited by the changes we have planned
  • Mechatronics - my hands class with robots, raspberry pi’s, 3D printing etc. Really fun class.
  • Creating Apps Year 9 - this year I will introduce SwiftUI for app development and I am really excited to see how we go. I’m looking forward to sharing what we get up to.
  • Teach Drawing Year 9 - this one is new to me and I’m finally going to learn SketchUp. We are going to use the online education version which is free to Office365 schools now. I loved this subject when I went to high school so it should also be fun

Out of the classroom, I have plans to keep going with 15min PD’s and will look to start an Apple Teacher and Microsoft Innovative Educator programme for staff. I am also keen to see how we can get some everyone can can create stuff happening.

I’m also planning an esports club and I’m hoping the girls will get really involved.

Some other thing I’m looking forward to is Year 9 camp and Cross Country. Probably lots more too.

Good luck to all the other teachers returning in the next couple of weeks, hopefully you are as excited as I am.

Dark Textures

This one is inspired by Matt Birchler and his take. Mine come from some stunning trees in The Valley of the Giants in Walpole, Western Australia.

Current Watch Faces

At the moment I switch between 3 faces depending on what I’m doing. My Watch Faces The first face is using Infograph Modular and has pretty much every complication that I need or want through the day. When I use this face I rarely need to access other apps or open the dock. The second face is Numerals Duo and gives me a distraction free clock that I can see from about a mile away, it’s great while doing most things and I just need the time. The last face is using Modular and I use it when I sleep. Having the red text helps my retinas not explode during a quick check of the time while in bed. These faces work great for me, especially as I find digital clocks much quicker to read and more accurate.

Dark Mode and Text Size

Recently, while listening to episode 273 (I think) of The Talk Show podcast, John spoke about having eye problems and that he had switched to full time dark mode and moved the text size slider one notch up on his iPhone. As I am always happy to try new things, I thought I'd give it a go and I have to say that I love it.

If you are not sure of the process I have some screen shots below of the process, first switching to full time dark mode (iOS 13 required).

Switching to Dark Mode

The next is increasing the text size, which could be increased more if you like.

Changing Text Size

I also added the text size quick adjust to the Control Centre screen just incase I want to switch back.

Adding Text Size to Control Centre

Lastly, as an added bonus, another trick I employed last year was turning off Night Shift, which reduces the blue light at certain times of the day. I am now just using the True Tone feature that newer Apple devices have. This allows the screen to adjust colour temperature to match the surrounding environments. This means that at night when I'm using on my "yellow" bedside light the screen also adjust. I highly recommend this change too.

Switching off Night Shift

Live AR Pictures App Part 5

Now the final part of my guides showing how to create you own Live AR Pictures app. This movie explains how to add fade transitions to the animations just to give the final product a nice clean look. This is much more complicated than the other guides and pushes the boundaries of my understanding so bare with my descriptions of what is happening. I will add further guides based around this app but it will focus on additional AR elements or how might you include this inside your main app. youtu.be/VTMxkQgdr…