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CAT 6E

Next week we’re moving apartments. The new place is a bit smaller than our current one, but has an extra room for #thelittleone and this time: a working hot water installation.

To my surprise the new apartment (we’re renting) has CAT 6E Ethernet installed in the living room and both bedrooms. I know it’s 2018 and wireless is basically the default for any home installation these days, but some decent wired endpoints across the house make placing WiFi access points that cover every spot of the house a breeze.

One problem: even though cables were installed in the apartment and every room has some nice patch ports next to the power plugs, in the utility room all Ethernet cables were unfinished and just hanging there.  (the owner didn’t even know what they were)

So today I spent part of the morning terminating all cables, connecting them to a switch and checking cable stability afterwards.

I used to do this at the office on a regular basis but it’s been a while now since I touched a cable so —with a bit of shame— I had to resort to a schematic on Google to remember the color code. And.. have a 50% chance I choose the same schema as the electrician.

Luckily all went well and I terminated all cables without any issues.

Up next: installing WiFi, adding my home server and start rebuilding HomeKit. And move all our stuff..

Peaking into Instagram

I hope this post provides some useful insight into how I approach looking for unreleased features in iOS sofware, if you like what I do and would like to see more content like this, you can support me on Patreon. Make sure to follow my posts on 9to5mac as well. - Guilherme Rambo

Pretty insightful breakdown on how to disassemble and peak into an iOS app.

macOS 11 concept

Nice concept. I especially like the idea of collaborative iCloud folders. It’s the one thing missing from iCloud.

Device syncing is a weird one though. With iCloud, who needs iSync?

Update: The guy also has a nice iOS 12 concept

Morning Report

Recently I started listening to the 9to5Daily Podcast while starting my day. It’s a fun short overview of Apple related news. Yesterday, Relay.fm launched Subnet, a show hosted by Stephen Hackett with a similar premise.

Two great shows to start your day which I’ve added to a Morning News playlist.

Today I discovered an easy handsfree way on Twitter to start a Morning Report via Siri on your iPhone or AirPods.

 Hey Siri, play my (name of podcast playlist) podcast station.

In my case, I named the playlist Morning News and when summoned via Siri, my iPhone starts telling me the current news. Pretty cool!

Similarly Alexa also has a Flash Briefing feature, which plays a queue of selected news sources.

Subnet is also available on Alexa thanks to the latest Anchor.fm integration, as are a list of other news related sources.

 Hey Alexa, play my Flash Briefing. 

This results in Alexa starting with Subnet, followed by local news and a few other short stations.

HomePod

Plenty of people have written about how Spotify – or rather the lack of Spotify – is the reason the HomePod is not for them.  

Last night, I almost convinced my wife we should trade two Sonos Play:1 for a HomePod in our new living room.

That is, until realized it only has Apple Music and as such will not support any radio streams either.  And since our Sonos play local radio basically 90% of the time via TuneIn Radio, it would mean losing most of the audio that comes through our Sonos.

No HomePod for me ::sadface

(Yes, technically I could stream radio from an iOS device via AirPlay but there’s no Siri support for that)

Solo. Recut.

Way better vibe than the original version.  

Favorites – 1Password

The folks at 1Password highlighted their Family feature today. if you haven’t tried it out yet, go have a look!

I’ve been a 1Password use for years now and it’s one of those apps that gets installed almost immediately on any new device, being it a personal one or one at the office. Kinda logical since it contains every password, license key or ssh key I’ve ever generated, so without those I can’t really work. But also because it’s just an awesome set of apps.

When creating accounts online there are a few best practices that everyone knows and no one follows:

  1. A password should be complex. The longer the better and preferable mixed case.
  2. A password should be unique. Having the same password on multiple sites means if someone discovers one, they can open all your online doors.
  3. A password should be stored somewhere save and never be written down where someone can find it.

(And yes, this list is not complete and way to basic)

Remembering all those passwords is next to impossible. Storing them on your desktop in password.txt or in the Notes app is a terrible idea. And using variations of the same password is like wearing a fake moustache and hope no-one recognizes you.

Password manager

1Password is a password manager: it takes away most of the issues mentioned in the previous paragraph.

  1. It allows you to store passwords for all your online services in one secure place.
  2. It can generate complex passwords for every website you visit.
  3. It can alert you when you’ve used the same password on a different site already.

Since it saves them in all in a vault, you can allow yourself to forget all those passwords once you’ve setup your web accounts. You just need to remember the one password that unlocks the application (pun intended). You open the app, unlock it with your password/fingerprint/face, and you can copy your login information into the login field of the website you want to open. And thanks to some nice integrations, more often than not 1Password does that for you automagically.

Is it secure? You betcha. Although most of their blog articles go way over my head, they manage to explain the basic gist of their security in layman’s terms. And as the saying goes: if you can explain something complex with basic words, it proofs you really understand the matter. Anyone can throw around technical terms. But explaining what they mean, that’s something different.

The service is available on iOS, macOS and on the web via their Family or Teams subscriptions and syncs your data across all your devices.  (Or Android and Windows if you use those)

My Setup

I currently have two subscriptions running: a Family account and a Teams account.

The Family account contains four vaults: One for my wife, containing her personal passwords (and no I can’t access it) and one for myself. A third one is shared between the two of us. Perfect for sharing logins for Netflix, Amazon, banking stuff, utilities, …

The fourth one I use to store passwords for clients I work for: their Wordpress accounts, Squarespace login, Twitter password + 2FA keys etc. They know I have those passwords, and saving them encrypted is the correct way to handle these. Beats a spreadsheet in Google Drive any day of the week.

The Teams account is for Switch.be, the company whose IT I currently manage. Most backoffice users have an account that stores a vault shared with their department, and a personal vault for their own workrelated accounts.

Most internal services at Switch run on OneLogin which allows people to use Single Sign On, alleviating the need for multiple accounts and passwords. But every department needs to work with external partners, portals and tools that are not integrated with our SSO solution, so using complex passwords and saving/sharing them with 1Password allows us to safely manage that part of our online activities. And thanks to some nice on-and offboarding tools, people get and lose access to their vaults with a few clicks. As an IT Manager I love it.

What’s stored in my account

I currently have around 1200 passwords spread across both accounts, with most also containing the 2 factor codes and recovery keys for those apps.

Yes, 1Password also generates multi-factor authentication codes: you can replace those irritating SMS codes and Google Authenticator logins with codes stored in the same app that saves your passwords.

Aside from passwords it also contains all my software license keys, scans of my passports and licenses, banking account numbers, a copy of the birth certificate of my son,… all safe and secure in the app.

 1Password on the iPad.  1Password on the iPad.

Backing it up

1Password syncs across devices so if I lose my iPhone I can still find all my passwords on my iPad. If all devices are gone, they have a web interface. And if I lose all devices there’s a solution too!

When setting up 1Password the app creates a PDF for you that contains all the data you need to connect to your account. I have saved a copy of that PDF in my wife’s Personal 1Password vault (and vice versa). So in a worse case scenario where I lose all devices, I can get access to my data again by using the PDF stored on my wife’s devices + my personal one password.

Optionally, 1Password on the Mac also allows you to create backups of your data on a regular interval. Once every few months or so I copy that backup file to iCloud Drive. iCloud is protected with 2FA, so I know it’s not easily accessible to external parties. The backup itself is encrypted. It’s a secure and safe way to make sure that the vaults are backed up. Is it necessary? No. But it only takes a few minutes.

What’s missing?

(If you don’t currently use 1Password this part can be skipped)

Every app has its shortcomings. In the case of 1assword that list is short.

Conclusion

1Password is one of those tools that you didn’t know you’d need until you start using it. And when your used to having it available, you can’t live without it.

Give it a try.

Infinite Loop. Alexa, Google and Siri.

You know that game where you sit in a circle and the first person says a phrase to the next person and so on until it reaches the original person again in a butchered form?

I have to say, the way they implemented this is nicely done. I’ve been thinking of another way to trigger this loop but I’ve come up short. Maybe reading messages aloud?

iPhone Homescreen

It’s been a while since I posted a Homescreen overview. So today, I’m starting with my iPhone.

As you’ll see 50% of the apps on my iPhone’s homescreen are the native iOS apps for certain services. I used to look the best third party app for any service, but I find myself going back to the default solution more often than not. The reason? Convenience. Apple’s first party apps sync natively with iCloud, which makes setting up an iPhone a breeze + it’s free, which lowers monthly recurring fees.

I tend to organize my homescreen by type.

Notably I do not have the Phone app on my homescreen. I see my iPhone as a computer and don’t like phone calls. I consider it an iPod Touch with cellular more than a phone with apps.

Productivity

The first two rows are what I call my productivity rows. They contains task related apps.

Calendar: I use the default app because it shows today’s date on the homescreen. I tend to add locations to most of my events, so I use the Up Next widget to see where I need to go and get timely “time to leave” alerts.

Todoist : Task Managers are my weak point. I tend to move from Omnifocus to Things to Reminders to … multiple times a year. I prefer Reminders for its native Siri integration, which makes dumping thoughts into an Inbox by voice quick and convenient. But Reminders has a terrible interface.

Thanks to Alexa (more on that later) I can now use Todoist as a task manager. I use Alexa to quickly input thoughts, get a daily update every morning and manage my shopping list. Which reminds me: “Alexa, add ‘Ask my wifi to start using Todoist for our groceries’ to my todo list”.

All tasks end up in Todoist. It is a rather utilitarian interface but it does it’s job nicely. I’m a big fan of the comment feature to add extra notes or adding attachments and its Share Extension is awesome.

1Password : Safety first. And when it comes to password management there’s only one choice. 1Password offers 2FA support, syncs across devices and allows me to share a vault with my wife via the Family Accounts feature.

Workflow : I’m going to let @Viticci answer why it’s there.

Files, Photos and Notes: I prefer the first party solutions for these three because they just work. Although I do use Google Photos as an extra backup for my photos and backup my files via Backblaze just in case. All three are rather basic in their functionality, especially when it comes to sharing, but when it comes to integrating with other apps they still win when compared to Dropbox, Google or other Cloud Storage Services.

Screens: I work on iOS mainly, but when I do need a Mac, I often resort to Screens to quickly connect to my Mac mini at home. Thanks to its Connect service you can connect from anywhere. Lovely app, although I hope they soon at MFA security to the Screens Connect account.

Social

The second big block is the social block. These are the apps that connect to the world.

Mail: Similar to task managers, mail is an app where there and back again is often applied. I used Spark, Inbox, Mailbox, … but always see myself go back to the default Mail app. I’m not a big fan of the defer to later mailbox approach (I use a task manager for this) so most third party apps are to complex for my needs.

Messages: I detest Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger is a necessary evil. So when I can, I go to iMessage to message friends and family.

Alexa: I’ve only started using Amazon Echo devices since last fall so I regularly use the Alexa app to add or change some skills. The announced Alexa voice integration within the app allows it to stay on the homescreen.

Safari: doesn’t need an explanation.

Tweetbot: Timelines should be chronological. That’s why they’re called timelines.

Instagram: Guilty pleasure.

Unread: I still use RSS feeds to follow blogs, no matter what Kottke says. Feedwrangler is my current backend service although I like what Feedbin is doing with their new Twitter integration. Frontend I use Unread for its beautiful reading experience.

Pocket: Feedreaders and read it later apps are two sides of the same coin. I’ve used Pocket since forever and love the way it allows you to save both text and media in a convenient way. I inject some sites like Daring Fireball and MacStories automatically via IFTTT, and use its sharing extension a lot.

Media

The last rows are dedicated to Media apps. Music, Video, Reading.

Squarespace Blog: I’m trying to blog more again and since Squarespace is the platform I’ve chosen I’m stuck with their iOS apps. I say stuck because the apps are basic. They allow you to enter text and media, but that’s about it. No sharing extensions, no Files integration, no API’s. For longer form text I use Ulysses and copy-paste though. (Yes I know, the app is in the wrong row and is technically a productivy app, but those rows where filled aready ;-) )

iBooks: I buy my media on Apple’s platforms. It’s a lock in and I can never read these books in Kindle but since I’m all in on Apple hardware it doesn’t really bother me. Why iBooks? One word: layout. The way iBooks displays text is way nicer than the Kindle app. I also use its PDF syncing feature a lot, and I hope they soon expose those files via a Files integration too.

Swarm: another guilty pleasure. I love to track where I’ve been and often use the app (and the full Foursquare counterpart) to check places I’ve been or refer restaurants to friends who go on holiday.

Music : “Hey Siri, Play Metallica” while walking around with AirPods is magic. Although I do have a Spotify account for Alexa.

Podcasts: “Hey Siri, Play Connected” while walking around with AirPods is magic.

Youtube: doesn’t need an explanation

Camera: I never use this shortcut and always launch the app from the lockscreen. That is, until I’m on the homescreen and look for the Camera app. I’ve removed the app so many times from my homescreen and found myself looking for it, it’s now a permanent ficture on the homescreen.

Dock 

The dock is filled with four folders. I love the way they replace the homescreen when you open them. It’s a nice mode-shift when going from homescreen to Wallet or Connected.

Hidden Apps

Siri unlocks HomeKit. Activity and Health are tracked via the Watch. Alarms are managed via Siri, so is the timer (Seriously Apple, add support for multiple timers!). They do not need a place on my homecreen but I use them daily.

An heroic act

Done properly parenting is a heroic act. Done properly.