On the new iPads:

I love my iPad mini with Retina Display, which has now apparently been retconned into the iPad mini 2. But what we saw Thursday was indisputable proof that the iPad mini is once again a second-class citizen in the iPad line. Last year, the two models were pretty much the same guts stuck inside bigger and smaller bodies. This year, the iPad Air got a faster processor, a thinner and lighter body, and Touch ID.

The iPad mini 3, on the other hand, got a Touch ID sensor, a gold color option, and a hearty handshake for a job well done.

To me, the most exciting hardware upgrade to the iPad line is the Air 2’s optically bonded screen. It’s the finishing touch which makes a Retina display really pop. It’s too bad the iPad mini didn’t get much of the new (not even an updated Wi-Fi card?). Touch ID is great for sure, but for me it’s certainly not worth upgrading my current iPad mini Retina, and I don’t even think it’s worth paying the extra money for when buying a new iPad mini.

And Jason again, this time on the new Retina iMac:

This iMac really has to make us all question what an iMac is. When the iMac was introduced, it was the new “computer for the rest of us,” a consumer-friendly all-in-one device. This 5K iMac has the power to edit 4K video in Final Cut Pro with room for a timeline and other interface elements. It’s a screen so good, people who have Mac Pros are going to want to replace them with an iMac.

Let’s step through that one again. People will forsake their Mac Pros for this iMac, until there comes a day when a screen like this is available as an external display option for the Mac Pro. For $2500 or less. People who would never have considered buying an iMac will buy this iMac.


Another excellent overview, this one from Federico Viticci, outlining a lot of the new features of Yosemite.

Stephen Hackett’s written a great review of the new visuals found in Yosemite.

A handsome set of (Retina ready) OS X icons for Adobe Creative Suite with (hopefully) more apps in the pipe. Nice work by long-time icon king, Sebastiaan de With.

Getting an all new operating system with a ton of massive new features and an all-new visual design? $0.

Having many of your favorite and most-used apps be simultaneously updated to match the new design and take advantage of the new features? Priceless.


Nice update to Things for the Mac, that sports a Yosemite-native design and takes advantage of the new Notification Center as well as Handoff and has an “Add to Things” extension. The folks at Cultured Code may have a reputation for being slow at shipping updates, but when they do ship, they ship quality work that is polished and deeply thought through.

If you buy things online and have them sent to your house, you probably want Deliveries. I’ve been using it for years, and it’s a mighty fine iOS app with an OS X Dashboard Widget. That is, until now.

The folks at Junecloud just shipped an official OS X Deliveries app and talk about an upgrade from that Dashboard widget.

Because Yosemite will be available today, so they say.

Speaking of Offscreen, I just came across this 10-minute documentary that the folks at Envato did to share the story of how Kai got the magazine off the ground and what he’s learned over the few years of self-publishing a printed publication.

p.s. Over on Tools & Toys, we’re giving away a copy of issue 7 of Offscreen.

Apple will be live streaming today’s event for the new iPads, Yosemite, and hopefully a little bit more. I’ll be watching (I hope) via the Apple TV Special Events channel, from the comfort of my couch, with a sandwich and a notebook.

For more event coverage, check out MacStories and Six Colors.

Tuesday, October 14

Josh Ginter wrote an absolutely fantastic review of the iPhone 6 Plus for Tools & Toys.

As an aside, I could not be more happy with the new Tools & Toys. For one, the site’s design is just incredible. I love how well it lends itself to photo-rich, in-depth reviews like Josh’s iPhone 6 Plus review, while also looking so great for our tried and true posts about new and cool paraphernalia. And the content itself has gone up a level in the past week as well.

They say write the internet you want to read. And that’s exactly what we’re doing with The Sweet Setup and with Tools & Toys. I’m doing everything I can to put my money where my mouth is. These sites prioritize quality and integrity over everything else, we sweat the details, and we’re having a lot of fun in the process.

Seth Godin:

[Y]ou’ll need to work hard to create something magical, and a big part of that hard work is relentlessly eliminating all magical thinking from your projections and your expectations of how the market will react.

Some Awesome Print Magazines

Over the weekend I made some time to catch up on some reading I’ve been looking forward to. I’m a few issues behind in my Offscreen magazine subscription, and I just recently received the first issue of Lagom magazine.

These magazines are just fantastic. Offscreen has always focused primarily on the people behind the pixels. It’s mostly comprised of interviews, profiles, a-day-in-the-life-ofs, original essays, and more. All featuring the folks who many of us know from online.

Magazine seems an unfair category. For one, the quality of paper and printing is superb — it feels more like an extended, special edition comic book than something you’d find on the shelf at Barns & Noble. The advertising is classy and simple — never breaking up an article. And the content itself is meant to endure just as the quality of the paper speaks to the non-disposable nature of Offscreen.

I’ve been reading Offscreen since issue 1 (I was a contributor to issue 2), and the quality has so clearly increased.

This past weekend I made time to read through most of issues 7 and 8 of Offscreen and thoroughly enjoyed them. Issue 7 especially, it had an underlying focus on business and time management — two topics which are at the top of my mind lately.

What’s cool about Offscreen is that it’s filled with the sorts of articles and interviews that you’d almost certainly be filling your Instapaper queue with, except it’s expertly laid out on a printed page with full-color photographs. For a nerd like me who enjoys this type of content anyway, I love the different and experience of reading it in print. Moreover, when I’m done, I can pass off the magazine to a friend and let them borrow it for a while.


And speaking of magazines, the inaugural issue of Lagom is now out and wow. I’ve long been a fan of Elliot Jay Stocks’ work. I bought every issue of 8 Faces, I have a copy of Insites: The Book, I bought the first (and last) edition of Digest, and now I’m a subscriber to Lagom.

Note: you can get the digital versions of Insites and Digest for free on the Viewport Industries home page.

Over the years, Elliot has clearly become a master at editing together a printed work and doing the design and layout. If you like Offscreen, you’ll also like Lagom. It, too, has a focus on the people of our creative industry, but with its own unique voice and style.

Elliot’s past work — especially Digest — served as a great point of inspiration for our recent re-launch of the Tools & Toys website.

As a physical object, Lagom is commanding. The book is large and thick, printed on hearty stock with a foil-embossed logo on the cover. Lagom is equal parts entertainment, information, and inspiration. I honestly don’t know what’s better — the content, the design and typography, or the photography.

In today’s installment of “the more you know”, Sarah Laskow writes for Slate about the history of snowboarding and how it got its name.

Sherman Poppen — the man who invented the first type of snowboard — called it the Snurfer. But when Jake Burton Carpenter invented his own brand of board, he called it a Burton Snurfboard. But Poppen had “Snurf” trademarked, and so Burton changed the name to snowboard and the rest is history. Fascinating.

Monday, October 13

TextExpander touch from Smile saves you time and effort by expanding short abbreviations into frequently-used text.

Whether it’s a simple email signature or several paragraphs of a standard response, you’ll love how easy it is to use TextExpander to avoid typing the same thing over and over.

With the new TextExpander touch 3 on iOS 8, there’s a TextExpander custom keyboard so that you can expand abbreviations in all your apps on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

Over 60 apps offer enhanced TextExpander support, including Byword, Day One, Drafts, Fantastical, Launch Center Pro, OmniFocus, OmniOutliner, and more.

See the TextExpander touch custom keyboard in this great video from David Sparks.

TextExpander touch is available on the App Store.

* * *

My thanks to Smile Software for again sponsoring the RSS feed this week, and for being one of the launch partner sponsors at the new Tools & Toys.

Friday, October 10

On this week’s episode of The Weekly Briefly, I share about how and why to prioritize quality above all else in the work we do. Sometimes you need a medium that is super simple and hyper focused, and sometimes you need something that is media rich and very versatile. Whatever your foundation and whatever your frequency, always prioritize quality.

Sponsored by:

But no, seriously. This is solid advice from Mike Monteiro. (Via Zeldman.)

We just published our most-recent app review over on the Sweet Setup and it’s for document scanning apps on the iPhone:

It’s the 21st century, and yet there’s still so much paper flooding into our lives: receipts, office forms, bills, letters home from our children’s school, and on and on. Owning a dedicated document scanner can help, but it’s not always nearby when we need it. Luckily, ever since the iPhone’s camera gained sufficient resolution to capture crisp text, there have been a number of document scanning apps that have put the possibility of going paperless much more in reach. After testing a number of these apps, our pick for the best document scanning app on iOS is Scanbot.

There are quit a few excellent apps in this space — PDFpen Scan+ and Scanner Pro, for example — but what I personally like about Scanbot is the whimsy and personality it has. It’s easy and fun to use.

Wednesday, October 8

If one podcast wasn’t enough, good news. I was a guest today on Myke Hurley’s world-famous interview podcast, Inquisitive. Among other things, we talked about the whole history of Tools & Toys, including the how and the why behind yesterday’s re-launch.

I had the privilege of being a guest on Cesar Contreras’ interview podcast, Pencil vs Pixel. Cesar interviewed me about the story of my own journey as an independent online creator. And, as the title suggests, we talked about defining success, finding balance, and more.

Tuesday, October 7

Need is a refined retailer and lifestyle publication for the modern gentleman.

Each month, Need sources and curates a limited selection of items — clothing, literature, furniture, and otherwise — for men.

These products are coupled with beautiful independent photography and independent journalism befitting the time of year.

All products are current season, high-quality, and frequently exclusive to Need, thereby providing a dignified experience that all gentlemen will appreciate.

Need sends only one email per month, sells only limited-quantities, and, generally speaking, works to ensure it stands well-apart from the traditional e-commerce crowd.

My thanks to Need for sponsoring the site this week, and for being one of the sponsoring partners for the Tools & Toys relaunch. Need is run by my friend, Matt Alexander, and he has built it into something amazing. If you like clothes that fit and are fashionable and are made well, look no further than Need.

As you may or may not know, about 8 months ago I upgraded my trusty Olympus E-PL5 and got the new E-M10. I wanted to spend a good amount of time with the new camera before writing about it to make sure that the new bells and whistles were truly something I used over the long term.

And so I began writing this camera review a while back, but then held out on it for the past month or so because I wanted to publish in on the brand-new Tools & Toys site instead of publishing it here. It’s your typical Shawn Blanc-style review — personal, nerdy, and winded. It clocks in at 4,500 words.

At long last, the new Tools & Toys is live:

As fun as it is to geek out over the latest and greatest stuff, at the end of the day, there is much, much more to life. Our self-worth is not tied to how fancy our gear is nor how often we upgrade it.

Cool new stuff is cool and new, but let us also be mindful and intentional of our consumption habits and our lifestyles. Let’s consider what’s most important to the improvement of our lives and workflows, let’s celebrate craftsmanship and well-made products that are built to last, and let’s be content with not upgrading everything we own all the time (even though we want to). Let’s find inspiration in the march of technology, art, and creativity that is always around us. And let us not be primarily confident in the gear we use, but rather in the values we hold which inspire us to make better and do better.

The new site is more than just a fresh design. It’s also a fresh direction for our content. And I couldn’t be happier with both.

Monday, October 6

Kevin Kelly is such a papa to the creative community and he has much wisdom and insight. His talk was the first of the XOXO festival and it was by far and away the one that left me with the most to think about.

He shared about the innovator’s dilemma and how success is often what leads to failure. And the difficulty of knowing when to spend your time optimizing a successful product or business and when to spend your time discovering something new and taking new risks (the same thing that led you to success in the first place).

He also shared about how technology and the Web have empowered so many new ways to succeed. And so thus we must define what success looks like for us. And the more possibilities that are out there for people to succeed in their endeavors, the more likely our own success story will be unique.

Friday, October 3

On this week’s episode of The Weekly Briefly I talk about making and shipping stuff.

There are four dynamics to a product launch: (1) the original product idea and vision; (2) all the work that goes in to making it; (3) marketing and spreading the word; (4) the positive and negative emotions that surround the work and the launch itself.

In this show I focus mostly on the latter two: marketing and emotions.

Many people shy away from marketing, or market their stuff poorly, because they are either embarrassed or they don’t know how to market. Or both. However, good marketing is vital to the success of our products. We want them to do well so we can sustain the work we’ve done and continue to do great work.

Additionally, putting our work out there for the world to see is intimidating and frightening. It’s also exciting. I know many people, myself included, who will feel depressed on a product launch day. And so how do we find emotional health in the midst of shipping our work? How can we be emotionally strong in order to stay on track and develop a life-long history of making and shipping our best work year after year?

Proudly sponsored by:

Thursday, October 2

Kyle Baxter:

But that idea of what smartwatches are for, making it more convenient to deal with the flood of notifications and information our phones provide us, is unimaginative. I think what the smartwatch can do is make the phone unnecessary for many purposes, create new purposes altogether, and allow us to benefit from a wrist-sized screen’s limitations.

“…allow us to benefit from a wrist-sized screen’s limitations.”


How long can you work on making a routine task more efficient before you’re spending more time than you save? (across five years)

It took me a few minutes to understand this chart. If you can find a way to shave off 5 minutes from a task that you do ever day, it’s worth spending 6 days to figure out how.

(Via Álvaro Serrano.)

Great update to the best iPhone Twitter app. The design now optimized for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus (hooray!). And Tweetbot also includes some very nice iOS 8 stuff such as interactive notifications, and, my favorite, in-app iOS 8 extensions. Which means that when your on a website inside Tweetbot’s in-app browser, you can act on that URL in all sorts of ways, not the least of which include the ability to send it to Instapaper, Pinboard, OmniFocus, etc. I’ve been dying for simultaneous support of Instapaper and Pinboard for quite a while.

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