2012: A Year to Remember

I've had a fantastic year. For starters, December 21st has come and gone, and most of us are still here. The world keeps spinning, like it or not.

My year was fairly uneventful until late August, when I started this site. If you're new to the site, you'll probably be surprised to learn that I began it as a personal success blog. Soon, my passion for technology got the better of me, and the focus of this site changed drastically. But in the process, I found a bit of success myself, so in a sense, I've accomplished exactly what I set out to do.

Less than a month into this site's history, my speculative post on the future of the Mac was linked to by Jim Dalrymple on The Loop. That was my first big break, and thousands of his readers came to my site. I was blown away. I've had dozens of sites over the years, but I've been lucky to be read by a dozen people, much less thousands. I even got a few mentions on Techmeme, which for me was a mark of legitimacy.

Bolstered by my newfound confidence, I tackled what I perceived to be false advertising by my hosting provider, Squarespace. Squarespace CEO and founder Anthony Casalena reached out to me, promising improvements, and I wrote a followup regarding our conversation. While some of those came to pass, others have not, and Squarespace 6 has gotten even buggier over time. Another followup is due soon.

Soon after my Squarespace posts, I received my iPhone 5, and quickly found that it used an excessive amount of data. Little did I know at the time, my initial post The iPhone 5 is a Data Pig would be huge. After narrowing down the cause to iCloud, I made a video demonstrating the problem. To this day, it's still the most popular post on the site.

During the course of my iPhone investigation, I crossed paths with veteran tech reporter (and Jeopardy champion) Glenn Fleishman. Glenn was also investigating iOS 6 data usage, and in the process mentioned me on TidBITS and on the Macworld podcast.

Three days after that podcast, I married the love of my life, Hannah. After spending most of my adult life swearing not to marry, I finally caved in. I guess it's true what they say: When you know, you know.

Things were fairly quiet from then until November, which was a huge month. Adam Engst of TidBITS invited me to write for him, I had an article published in The Magazine, and was put in charge of an ambitious project at my job.

The past month, minus this holiday break, has been the hardest I've worked in my life. I drive 50 miles to work, work anywhere from 8-10 hours, drive 50 miles home, then work until I go to bed. It's a stretch sometimes, but I'm not letting up anytime soon. I'm getting the chance to live my dream, and I'm swinging for the fences.

Of course, I didn't do any of this neat stuff on my own. I had a lot of help, so I have a lot of people to thank.

Thanks

Michael Ellsberg and Seth Godin

I read two books this year that had a dramatic effect on my life: The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg and Linchpin by Seth Godin. Education gave me a plan to pursue my dreams, while Linchpin gave me the confidence.

Jim Dalrymple

Like I mentioned above, Jim gave me my first big break in the tech scene. Who knows if I would have kept writing if not for that link on The Loop? Thanks for linking to me Jim, you gave me the confidence I needed to stay on course.

Glenn Fleishman

In addition to doing a fantastic job editing my piece for The Magazine, Glenn has become my greatest promoter and a trusted advisor. For a guy as busy as Glenn to take time to help a schlub like me really speaks to how great and generous of a guy he is. Thanks Glenn, you're the best.

Adam Engst

Adam gave me my first professional writing opportunity I have had in years when he invited me to write for TidBITS. TidBITS is one of the most respected Apple publications in existence, and having been around since 1990, one of the oldest. It's a lot of pressure writing for such an esteemed publication, but it's also been an incredible learning experience. Adam and his wife Tonya are two of the nicest people I've ever spoken with. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to write for your site, Adam.

Marco Arment

Marco started The Magazine in October, and it has quickly became one of the most venerated publications in the Apple world. Glenn and Marco often try to downplay The Magazine's importance, but any new publication that pays is pretty revolutionary for aspiring writers these days. Thanks Marco for showing that publishing can still be a profitable business.

Hannah Centers

My wife Hannah has been a constant inspiration for me. She is the smartest, hardest-working woman I know. She teaches in a poor, rural town, where she has become something of a local celebrity for all she's done for the kids. She's the inspiration behind all that I do here. I couldn't ask for a better wife or friend.

Shellie Michael

Shellie was my first journalism professor, and was a great mentor to me. She encouraged me early on, and even helped me land my first writing job (which I totally blew). Thanks Shellie, you're a wonderful teacher, and I doubt I'd be doing this now if not for you.

Leo Laporte and Dan Benjamin

I wouldn't know half the stuff I do if I hadn't spent years listening to TWiT and 5by5. Thanks to Leo and Dan for creating their respective podcast networks.

God

Last, but certainly not least, I want to thank God for all my good fortune over the past year and a half. I know that sounds strange and trite, but I was an ardent atheist until a series of events lead me to Hannah. Since then, prayer has led to me to great things. I try to avoid religion and politics on this site, but if you need help, prayer is free and can't hurt.

Apologies

In my brief time as a semi-professional tech writer, I've found out how harsh tech audiences can be, and that's made me come to terms with the fact that I've been a pretty lousy audience at times myself. While usually for well-intentioned reasons, I've often stepped out of line under the guise of holding people accountable. I've changed a lot since meeting Hannah, and I'd like to think I'm more level-headed and mature these days. I'd like to take the opportunity to make amends and start 2013 with a clean slate.

John Gruber and Paul Thurrott

I group these guys together because I've given them both a hard time for being "fanboys" over the years. Which is unfair, because they've never denied their affinity for their respective platforms. More to the point, they've made good livings from their passions, which is something to be admired.

I was especially harsh to Gruber when he suddenly left 5by5 earlier this year, as were many of his other fans. I guess I was hoping that if pressured enough, he'd "see the light," and recant. But the truth is, the new The Talk Show is much better than the old one. I don't know what was going on between John and Dan, and it's not really my business, but Gruber often came off as moody and reluctant on the old show. On the new show, he's lively and engaged, and the show gets better with each episode. I hope John and Dan can patch things up one day.

Much to his credit, Thurrott has never shied away from an argument, no matter how trollish I'm being. And he always does it with sort of a smile and a wink, which I find admirable. Truth be told, I think Microsoft would be in far better hands if they put him in charge.

Ed Bott

In May of 2011, I accused Bott of being in Microsoft's pocket after a series of articles on Mac malware that made heavy use of anonymous sources. While I'm not a fan of proclaiming anonymous sources as the gospel, that ad hominem attack was uncalled for.

I'll never shy away from pointing out inaccurate facts, inconsistencies, and poor journalism, but I will be more careful in what I say about people. One of the things I'm getting used to as a semi-professional writer is that my voice carries weight. When I was just a random commenter, I could shoot off about anything and it wasn't a big deal, but now reputations and livelihoods are potentially at stake. That's a responsibility I want to handle with the utmost care.

What's Next in 2013

I plan to keep writing and keep learning, simple as that. I don't know if I'll ever get to do this full-time, but it's definitely something to work for. I'd like to eventually get deeper into podcasting, either as a host or a guest, but I have a lot to learn about audio, and I'm in need of a serious equipment upgrade.

Regardless of what unfolds, I think 2013 will be a big year.

I hope he's right!

I hope he's right!

Why Gesture-Based Apps Suck

Max Rudberg:

The problem is mainly the lack of visual cues; there is no way to tell that sliding the main screen to the left will toggle the alarm on in Rise, or pinching a list in Clear will minimize it and take you up a level in the hierarchy. It’s not obvious, and what’s often called mystery meat.

I have never liked apps like Clear. While nice to look at, I can never remember which way to flick or swipe. And if I haven't used it in a while, I am completely lost.

Via Daring Fireball.

The Apple Maps Debacle is Overblown

Marco Tabini, iOS developer and contributor to TidBITS:

Google data isn’t much better than Apple data, at least as far as this test is concerned

The more time I spend with Apple's maps, the more I think this thing has been blown way out of proportion, at least in the United States.

I spent my entire work day on Friday tracking down various locations in Google Earth. What should have only taken a few hours took all day beacuse Google's data is so bad. Search results are often in the wrong location. Sometimes they're just a few yards off and sometimes they're miles off.

I'm thankful for Bing Maps. While it's not my go-to mapping solution, as it's lacking in features, it's sometimes more accurate than Google. If not for Bing, I often wouldn't be able to find what I need.

Meanwhile, I used Apple's maps all day yesterday to get around my small town, navigate to Nashville, navigate around Nashville, then get home. Other than a Bluetooth bug that caused the spoken directions to stutter, the navigation was flawless. If you've ever been to Nashville, you know it's full of twisty, poorly designed roads that often confound visitors.

Apple's maps are much better than they've been given credit for, while Google's are overrated. I'm sure the Chinese would agree.

If people want to find things to complain about with Apple, I could offer some better suggestions:

Via Daring Fireball

Something is Rotten at Apple

Lots of folks are pissed at Apple this week.

Brian X. Chen of The New York Times:

My MacBook Air's Calendar app completely wiped out all my entries, including those saved in iCloud.

Glenn Fleishman of Macworld:

The Podcasts app is broken.

David Pogue, The New York Times:

In short, Maps is an appalling first release. It may be the most embarrassing, least usable piece of software Apple has ever unleashed.

Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper and co-host of Build and Analyze:

The other day, my grandfather asked me if he could get rid of the who-knows-what PC for good, but he wanted to make sure that he could transfer his stuff to a new iPad in the future if this one ever broke…I told him to bring it to the nearby Apple Store and have them set up “ICLOUD BACKUP” for him…But instead of doing what I assumed would be a non-destructive update, the Genius did a restore…And while Apple Stores have a reputation for great service, there are enough counterexamples happening every day that I’m not sure how much longer that reputation will last.

John Gruber, Daring Fireball:

Now that iCloud is up and running and seemingly holding up under demand, Apple needs to start offering more than 5 GB of storage at the free level. That’s not even enough to back up two iOS devices...

And of course, yours truly:

After a lengthy back and forth with Byword support, they suggested terminal commands to reset iCloud on my Mac. I tried it this weekend, and not only did that not fix the problem, it wiped all of my iCloud documents, including those on my iPad…There is something clearly wrong with how Apple is communicating iCloud to developers.

There's a common thread to all of these quotes: Apple's online services suck.

These are Apple's friends, the "fanboys." If they're pissed, Apple has much bigger problems in store.

Apparently Apple is taking unusual steps to recruit iCloud engineers, but I don't find that reassuring. Shouldn't they have done that over a year ago?

The Argument for More Free iCloud Storage

John Gruber, Daring Fireball:

Now that iCloud is up and running and seemingly holding up under demand, Apple needs to start offering more than 5 GB of storage at the free level. That’s not even enough to back up two iOS devices — and Apple certainly doesn’t want to discourage people from buying additional devices or from backing them up to iCloud.

Amen. Apple should offer an amount of free storage per registered device, ideally 5 GB as Lex Friedman suggests.

I do somehow manage to fit an iPhone and iPad backup into the 5 GB, but it's tight.