Things I like this week, volume 18.

Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case

I haven’t been very active on the internet the past few months, but that doesn’t mean I stopped liking things. In fact, giving myself that time back enabled me to like even more stuff. Which is nice.

One of the things I’ve managed to do in my personal life (work is still a different story) is almost completely eliminate the need for a Mac on a day-to-day basis. I still have and use a MacBook Air for some specific things, and I have a Mac mini on the network to serve media around the house, but my iPad Air 2 is my main personal computing device now. I toyed with the idea of the Pro, but I’m still just not sure that it’s the right device for me. I see tremendous value in having that extra screen space for iOS to really shine, but it still feels a little unwieldy in many of the places I currently use my iPad.

I’ve long favored separate keyboards for the iPad, most recently the Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard. It’s a great keyboard in a compact case, and one of the best portable keyboards I’ve ever used. But I realized that while I like the idea of a separate keyboard, in reality, if it’s not always there, I might be less inclined to actually get it and use it, which means I’m less inclined to capture ideas and write–which is a lot of the reason I like the iPad so much in the first place.

With that in mind, I’ve stuck to the Air 2, and augmented it with the Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case. It’s a bit of a mouthful, but it’s easily the best iPad keyboard I’ve ever used.

The keys are nicely sized and spaced, and feel great to type on. (I’ve always been ok with the slightly smaller keyboard sizes of iPad keyboards though, so YMMV.) Soft, but not mushy, requiring just enough effort to trigger. I’d say they’re somewhere between the old MacBook Pro keys and the new MacBook keys. There are some iOS-specific function keys, which while nothing new, are welcome. You can also pair two Bluetooth devices and switch between them. Something else that I hadn’t considered is portrait mode; you can rotate the iPad into portrait orientation and write that way as well if you prefer. Not a thing I’d do often, but it’s pretty cool that you can do it, and I can see how it would definitely help in some areas.

The clincher for me is that you can fully detach the iPad and use it by itself very easily. I really can’t get down with folio-style cases that always have to be connected, because while the utility of having keys always there is nice, sometimes I absolutely don’t need them and want to be unencumbered. You have to put the iPad into a back piece, which basically makes the ordinarily svelte Air 2 into a bit of a clunker, but the upside is that it leaves the magnetic side open, so you can use a Smart Cover if you like, and despite the weight addition, the feel of the back case is quite nice.

So physically, it’s pretty great. There’s also a (sort of) weird software component. There’s an app to go along with the keyboard that (supposedly) allows you to update firmware and customize key automations. Sounds awesome, right? Well, it’s kind of a hot mess in that it hasn’t been updated in a while and basically is totally broken right now. But, if it gets an update, it could make this thing completely bananas.

Ultimately, I came to realize that I wanted the always-connected abilities of a keyboard similar to the iPad Pro, but without sacrificing the size and portability I find most comfortable (right now, at least). The Ultimate Pro, while adding a bit of bulk to an otherwise incomprehensibly lightweight device provides a trade-off I’m willing to make right now. I’m delighted with it, and using my iPad even more, which makes me very happy.

Belkin QODE Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case

Things I like this week, volume 17.

Imaginary Worlds
I came across this podcast purely by chance because I’m a listener of 99% Invisible and it was featured this week in a special episode. After that episode and one more, it has become my absolute favorite new thing, full stop.

Imaginary Worlds is a show “about sci-fi and other fantasy genres — how we create them and why we suspend our disbelief”. It’s filled with great contextual audio clips, a lot of humor, and a ton of heart. I’ve listened to exactly two full episodes–the one featured by 99% Invisible, “Fixing the Hobo Suit”, and 1977, which is part one of a five-part series on the effect Star Wars had on our collective cultural consciousness.

It. Is. Delightful. I can’t wait to listen to the rest of the archives. I’ve been exploring other kinds of podcasts, and this one is a really great surprise. If the rest of the episodes are half as good as the ones I’ve heard, it’s going to be wonderful.

Imaginary Worlds (iTunes)

Things I like this week, volume 16.

Hours Time Tracking
Things have been well, crazy lately, in the best way possible. I have a ton of new responsibilities that I’m trying to balance, and Hours has been absolutely instrumental in keeping things straight and accounting for my days lately.

It’s an iPhone app with Apple Watch integration that tracks your time in a really attractive and flexible way. It’s highly customizable and has a ton of options, and there’s even more on the way. Tapity is working on extending the app to the Mac and including team functionality, which is going to be huge.

The app is (as of today) free for a limited time as the company prepares to expand it. If you have any reason to want to track time, whether for work or personal reasons, it’s definitely worth checking out. And Tapity is throwing its full weight behind it going forward, so you can trust that it’s going to continue to be great for a while.

Hours Time Tracking

Things I like this week, volume 15.

I first purchased Byword years ago and was pleased with its clean and elegant UI. I’ve bounced between Markdown writing apps quite a bit since then, but recently downloaded it again on all my devices (iOS and OS X) just to play around. Not too much seems to have changed at first glance, but significant iOS 9 changes have made it a great option again, with additions like Spotlight integration and multitasking/split screen support.

It won’t do all the things an app like Editorial can do, but it’s great at what it does. It’s decidedly simple, but that’s not a bad thing at all. I’ve been using it for certain types of personal writing (still using Drafts with custom actions for blogging) and I’ve been delighted with the updates.

iOS / Mac

Things I like this week, volume 13.

Netflix had great success with House of Cards as an original series, at a time when many questioned the company’s future. With the revolving door licensing agreements it and many other streaming services are subjected to, movies will come and go, and users are left wondering. So it began making originals. And HoC turned out to be pretty terrific.

Narcos is a new title in this vein, centered on the rise of Pablo Escobar and the Colombian cocaine trade in the late 70s/early 80s. We’re about four episodes in, but we love it. The writing is great, the actors are great, and the production value is incredible. Told as a narrative interspersed with real footage and photography from the time, it shows an entirely different side of Escobar from the people who were closest to him, and while it’s extremely violent and unflinching in its storytelling, it’s definitely not thin and presents an interesting view of those defining events in law enforcement.

Granted, it could turn to total crap in a few episodes, but that’s why these posts aren’t called “The Greatest Things Ever on Earth”. It’s what’s good this week. If you’re a Netflix subscriber, check it out.

Things I like this week, volume 12.

Apple Lightning Digital AV Adapter
After a summer of traveling and varied successes with Apple TV and the Fire TV Stick for kid videos on the go, I finally slapped myself and picked up Apple’s own hardware adapter.

It’s a small, white, plastic dongle. (Of course it is.) It connects to an HDMI cable. There’s a Lightning cable passthrough so you can charge the device while you watch. It’s almost $50 (insert Metal Gear Solid guard alert sound), but you can get it a little cheaper right now on Amazon.

It pained me to actually admit defeat and buy it, but after talking to a few friends who have one, and now, sitting here, playing a video off my kid’s iPad to the TV at the beach effortlessly, I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner.

Things I like this week, volume 11.

LifeProof Nüüd for iPhone 6 Plus
I’ve spent most of the summer wondering if I should get another LifeProof case for my 6 Plus. I’ve previously used the Frē for the iPhone 5 when we went on vacation, and it was terrific. The only available case the company makes for the behemoth 6 Plus is the Nüüd, which leaves the screen exposed, and achieves a waterproof seal via a tight gasket on the screen itself. The very thought of this makes my skin crawl, but it actually works.

I finally gave in at the beach last weekend and picked up a white Nüüd when I was out grocery shopping. It makes the 6 Plus–already a big customer–even bigger. But it protects the thing like a tank. And it adds (in spite of its size) a decent grip factor to the device. It’s probably more akin to a small paperback book now than a phone, based on its dimensions, but I find it to be quite comfortable. And I think having the original screen surface exposed makes a huge difference in reading and typing. While I like the protection the Frē offers, I never cared for the way the screen felt with the heavy plastic layer.

Touch ID works perfectly well, and it’s always nice to not worry about your device when you’re away and near the pool or beach. I’m leaving it on every day for now while we’re still traveling a bit; we’ll see if that remains the case into the fall. Nice upside though: since Apple usually refreshes phones in the “S” cycle with the same body type, this case should be good next year too.

LifeProof Nüüd for iPhone 6 Plus

Things I like this week, volume 10.

El Rey Network
Something I stumbled onto completely by chance, Robert Rodriguez launched a TV network specializing in grindhouse, cult horror, kung fu, and action content. The aesthetic of the network, the bumpers, the commercials, everything shares a cool kind of gritty, neo-70s look and feel. Had it not been for our recent life changes (moving out of our house), I might not have even found this channel.

I subscribed to Sling TV because we don’t have our FiOS hookup where we are right now, and my wife and I are lightly addicted to zoning out over HGTV shows after a long day. I guess we’re masochists in that way–we’re living out of our house while it’s under heavy construction, and we relax by watching other people tear houses apart. We’re odd folk, what can I say?

Anyway, I subscribed to Sling because HGTV is among the channels offered, and El Rey is in the package too. I was flipping around earlier this week and caught The Running Man from the start. Naturally, I had to watch it, because duh. But I was delighted during commercial breaks to see all kinds of other stuff (Italian zombie movies!) I’d be into. It’s all pulled off in a way that calls back to the style that Rodriguez loves and is known for, and he hosts a show interviewing directors that looks pretty great (I’ve yet to catch it). The home page for the network is actually really well done too, capturing that exact feel of the movies it’s showcasing (mouse over the tiles under “El Rey is…” and watch the header too).

Most interestingly, the network is actively seeking makers of cool content as well as increasing visibility for underserved Latino/Hispanic audiences. I’ve been a fan of Rodriguez since I saw Desperado by chance in my freshman year of college during a showing in the student center. I’m delighted to see him still doing so much cool stuff and pushing things forward with his vision.

El Rey Network

Things I like this week, volume 9.

We’re living with my parents while our house is renovated, in about 1/4 the space we’re used to, with an almost 3-year-old and a 4-month-old baby. The construction loan process has been going on for months and still isn’t finalized and I am awash in seas of paperwork, as is the way with these things. In the meantime, we’re funneling money out of our savings account to pay for the work, since we don’t want to be displaced forever, and construction is always easier in the warmer months. Last night, our TV’s HDMI ports–all of them–inexplicably stopped working, so none of our connected devices will work either, and my kid is going to be super pissed when she finds out she can’t watch her stuff for a bit.

My pick for this week is bourbon. Delicious, sadness-removing, life-giving bourbon. It is wonderful, and without it, I would probably have thrown myself into the mouth of a bear or something earlier this week. Bourbon comes in many excellent varieties and is available to people of legal drinking age in most liquor stores.