Blog logoMatthew Lang


A 102 post collection

The content creation device

 •  Filed under Posts, Tools, iPad

Jack Baty has been using his new iPad in anger this week. The results are good!

I’ve been using the iPad exclusively while at home for more than a week and I have been continually surprised by how much I enjoy it. I’ve been emailing, managing projects, editing photos, drawing, tweeting, and generally carrying on like it’s actually normal doing stuff on an iPad other than reading social media sites and playing games. Who knew?

Surprise! The iPad is a Content Creation Device

I picked up an iPad Pro at the weekend that I'm currently using side by side with my MacBook Pro. The iPad Pro isn't intended to be my main development machine but it will be my portable development tool of choice. First impressions are good and Jack's blog has been a great read with his recent move to using an iPad.

Ulysses Subscriptions

 •  Filed under Posts, Tools

So following the footsteps of TextExpander and Day One, the writing app Ulysses is now moving towards a subscription service.

I've wrote in the past about subscription services. I get why people and companies are doing it. Subscriptions provide a more stable revenue stream and allow consistent development of the product.

If I was a keen writer and I used Ulysses on a daily basis then I imagine that I would take out the Ulysses subscription. For just under $5 a month I'm getting a great writing tool that I can use on all my devices.

$5 isn't a lot of money, but when you're working on the Internet on a daily basis, it won't be the only subscription service you'll have. You'll have other subscriptions for other products and services that you use and these all add up. With all these subscriptions, they can quickly mount up.

I used TextExpander for a few years until they announced that they would be moving to a subscription plan for their users. Many seen as it as a good move for TextExpander to support the business and I agree with that. What I don't agree with though is the pricing. Paid monthly, TextExpander is only 83 cents cheaper than Ulysses. Two vastly different products, but very similar in pricing. Are they priced right? Who knows. All I know is that I refuse to pay a monthly subscription service for a product that I only use on a single device.

I'll be interested to hear what Curtis has to say on this. I know he's been a long time user of Ulysses but we emailed each other recently and he did say he was cutting back on subscriptions. Will he cut back on this? I'd like to say he'll stump out for the subscription, but I'm not entirely convinced.

Lastly I also just remembered that Ulysses is available on SetApp. It will be interesting to see if Ulysses remains on Setapp as it only costs $9.99 per month and for that you get access to an increasing number of apps for OS X as well as Ulysses.

Update 2017-08-10: It looks like SetApp user's don't need to worry as Ulysses will be unlocked on your other iOS devices if you have already picked Ulysses using SetApp. Good to know!

In addition to those “big” arguments from above, there are bunch of smaller advantages, too. One example: if you use Ulysses via the Setapp subscription, we will now automatically unlock the iOS app as well. And the way we modeled and priced our subscription plans, now much closer resembles the value each plan provides, than a “pay once” model ever could.

Why we’re switching Ulysses to Subscription by Max Seelemann

Exploring alternatives to GitHub

 •  Filed under Posts, Github, Tools, Web Development

I've been a user of GitHub for a long time now. Ever since I started my career in Ruby on Rails I've had a GitHub account.

I'm looking again at alternatives to GitHub mainly out of curiosity. There's been some improvements to GitHub over the last few years and new features are gradually coming out but there are other options out there.

I did move some private repos to BitBucket a few years ago, but due to the lack of any extra features I moved these repos back. BitBucket just didn't have anything of added value that would keep me using it.

I tried GitLab a few months ago but I didn't really give it a fair go. I spent a couple of weeks using but I didn't really dig into it too much. I created my account there again to give it a try. I've been using it now for a week and I've moved a number of private repos over from GitHub. The nice thing is that as well as my repo GitLab has moved over my issue list for each repo. Another thing I don't have to worry about moving it across.

It's still early days to make a final decision on this but I've been impressed with not only what GitLab does at the moment, but the pace in which they are releasing new features.

The best thing and worst thing about GitHub is its community size. A lot of developers use only GitHub for source code hosting and although some people might see this as a good thing, it's like saying that Facebook is the only social network platform out there. Yes, there are a lot of people using GitHub but there are alternatives to it and I'm always willing to explore the alternatives to any development tool that I use.

Once I've spent another few months using GitLab I'll probably have a final decision on where I'll be hosting the bulk of source code. I won't be closing down my GitHub account if I do decide to use GitLab for hosting my source code. I still need a GitHub account for client work, but that's all it will be used for.

Slack: Necessary evil?

 •  Filed under Posts, Tools

I've been using Slack for a few years now. I use it more for work than anything else. I am part of a number of different client teams and it's through these that we do most of the day to day communication. I have to be honest it has become something of a necessary evil to have, but it is an easy way to stay in contact with clients. For clients that have only a handful of employees then I recommend that we just stay in touch with phone calls, emails and of course whatever project management tool that works best for the client.

Benjamin Pollack's post about his issues with Slack are good points and with more people turning to apps like Slack, it's worth remembering that Slack isn't a great tool and should only be used if there is a genuine need for it other than, "Hey I need this right now!".

Perhaps the greatest argument against using Slack isn't the filtering of communications or the notifications.

It's the version of Markdown that Slack uses for it's messages. It's just not Markdown.

5. Its version of Markdown is just broken

I’m going to use up an entire heading purely to say that making *foo* be bold and _foo_ be italic is covered in Leviticus 64:128 and explicitly punishable by stoning until death.

Why I Hate Slack and You Should Too by Benjamin Pollack

What grieves me more is that there isn't a week goes by where I don't end up sending a message formatted incorrectly because Slack has it's own version of Markdown.

Slack isn't a necessary evil but teams should consider Benjamin's points before deciding if Slack is worth using.

Give me email and a phone any day of the week.

Cracking open Vim again

 •  Filed under Posts, Tools, Programming

It's been a while since I took another stab at learning Vim. If you don't know what Vim is then all you need to know is that it's a major geek out text editor. Savvy?

Each time I've tried to learn Vim though I've started with an existing Vim configuration file. Getting up and running from a blank file just never appealed to me. The problem starting with another person's configuration though is that while everything is there that you need, there's a huge number of commands and shortcuts configured that in the beginning seems a rather daunting task to remember.

This time I've started with a blank slate so that every time I need to customise something in Vim I make the change in my configuration file to fix the problem and move on. Needless to say it's taken me a while to get the configuration file to a point where I would be happy doing client work with Vim as opposed to Sublime Text.

The surprising result though is that while I might be working a little slower than if I had been using Sublime Text, I'm actually learning more about Vim than I ever did before.

I'll report back in 3 months with an update to see if using Vim has stuck this time. I'm optimistic that it will this time, although I have been caved in the past.