Tag: mac

it’s official …

… MacOS is now more stable than iOS/iPadOS. Which I wouldn’t have believed even a couple of months ago. Marco Arment has gone on an appropriate rant about this, concluding, “Your software quality is broken, Apple. Deeply, systemically broken. Get your shit together.” 

I’ve had plenty of problems since iOS 13 arrived, but here’s my most recent story: I was using Instapaper and Fantastical in split screen view on my iPad, and then one of them (I think it was Instapaper) crashed, which brought down the other. Tapped on one, both showed up for an instant, then both crashed. Tapped on the other, same result. Used swipe-up-to-quit both apps, tried again, same result. Re-booted the iPad, same result — the two apps are apparently joined in a suicide pact. So if I want to use my iPad I have to do so without using either of those two apps, both of which are longtime daily fixtures to me. I guess I have to wait for an update to one of the apps or for the next point release of iPadOS. 

So I’m on my MacBook, whose keyboard I’m not crazy about — though at least it actually registers the keys I type, and does so only once per keystroke, which sets it apart from the Macs of many users. 

These persistent Apple problems have been enough to drive longtime Mac user and developer David Heinemeier Hansson to Windows. But that didn’t go so well


Of all the many task-management apps available for the Apple platforms, the one that fits my needs best, by far, is Things by Cultured Code. And if I’m using the iOS version it’s a sheer delight. I can organize everything from small daily tasks, to lists of movies I want to watch, to complex multi-stage projects. It’s beautifully designed and has lots of power when I need it.

But often I work on a Mac, and when I do, Things makes me miserable. I blink and strain my eyes until they hurt, I crane my neck towards and away from the screen. After anything more than five minutes I’m frustrated and in pain. The reason: the makers of Things have since day 1 of the Mac version of their app — twelve years ago — refused to allow users to adjust the size of any text in the app. They like text small and so they keep it small. But my aging eyes can no longer adjust, even with my fairly sophisticated lenses. So sometimes when I’m using the Mac I will pull out an iOS device rather than struggle with the text on the Mac version of Things.

It’s not rare for software companies to do less than they might, and probably less than they should, to make their apps accessible to people whose senses don’t function peecisely as a healthy 25-year-old’s do. But it is really rare, these days, to find a company as actively hostile to non-ideal users as Cultured Code. It’s hard to imagine a usability feature more basic than the ability to adjust text size. But they won’t do it. It’s like someone producing a music app that doesn’t allow you to adjust the volume. (“We’ve chosen a volume level that we think will be best for most of our users.”)

I have a lot of money and time invested in the Things apps, but it looks like I’m going to have to turn to an alternative that may be less well-suited to my workflow. But that’s okay; I can adapt my workflow. I just can’t adapt my eyes.

(And dear reader, please do not respond to this post by giving me advice. Whatever you think I ought to do in this matter, I have tried it, and I do mean whatever. And while I have you on the line, please don’t ever give anyone advice, about anything, unless they explicitly ask for it.)


I very much enjoyed this tribute to HyperCard. I kept all the research notes for most of my early essays and my first book in HyperCard. And I wrote in Word 5.1. It was a really great system — I’m not sure I have ever had a better one since.

getting a new Mac up and running

Things I do when I get a new Mac, more or less in order:

  • install Homebrew
  • use Homebrew to install pandoc
  • install BBedit
  • install MacTex
  • type this into the terminal: defaults write com.barebones.bbedit FullScreenWindowsHogScreen -bool NO
  • type this into the terminal: defaults write com.apple.dock single-app -bool true (followed by killall Dock)
  • enable Night Shift
  • install TextExpander
  • install Alfred
  • install Hazeover
  • install Hazel

Everything else can wait; once I have the above in place — plus of course syncing all my existing TextExpander snippets — I can do almost everything I really need to do on a computer, with maximum focus and speed. 

back to the Mac

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past year trying to leave the Mac behind and move full-time to iOS. I’ve done this in large part because the many and various problems I’ve had with the last several versions of Mac OS have convinced me that it’s not getting Apple’s best attention, that iOS is likely to be the more reliable platform in the future, and that I’d do well to start adapting my patterns and habits accordingly.

Of course, iOS isn’t the only option, and in fact, a couple of years ago I tried to move to Linux. But not only am I pretty heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, my family members are also, and on Linux I really missed the convenience of sharing apps, answering phone calls on my computer, Messages, FaceTime, etc. So I was gradually sucked back into Cupertino’s orbit.

So, I tried Linux, and then I tried iOS. Now I’m back to the Mac. Why? There are many reasons, but here are the biggies:

  • As many, many people have pointed out, text selection has never worked consistently in iOS and has not improved even a little bit over the past few years. And text selection is something I do a lot of.
  • I have often sung the praises of pandoc — it is essential to my work — and there is simply no equivalent of pandoc on iOS. You can do most of the things pandoc does there, but with more steps, more effort, and less consistent results.
  • Mojave has fixed all the problems I had with the previous two or three versions (I’m especially pleased that wifi and Bluetooth both work flawlessly now).
  • On iOS, TextExpander works in some apps; on the Mac, it works everywhere. This is huge for me. I have developed a very large library of TextExpander snippets over the years, and when I’m writing in an app and they don’t work I get weird glitches in my neural software.

And I don’t enjoy getting weird glitches in my neural software. So I’m back on a Mac.