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View of a park in Berlin
A woman on a stand up paddle on the Spree river

A bunch of unfiltered thoughts on Windows, macOS, iOS and me

Ever since Microsoft introduced the Windows Subsystem for Linux, short WSL, Windows 10 got interesting again for (web) developers. It allows us to run a native Linux in Windows 10, no emulation. This means we have access to all the nice unix tools. At the same time Windows got a lot better in general and Microsoft as a company looks a whole lot better too.

So for at least two years I’m contemplating a switch over to Windows 10. I have a custom self built gaming PC, so I’ve long been exposed to using Windows and it really got a lot better. I have tried working/developing on it countless times, have wrangled with the WSL and Ubuntu more times than I like to admit. And drank a bunch of wine while doing it. Sometimes out of frustration. I have read countless articles and tweets from people switching over and explaining their new setup.

I even purchased a DELL XPS 15 at the end of last year only to return it a week later. But I’m still returning to that thought of switching. But why? Obviously it hasn’t worked out so well for me so far.

Good question. There are a couple of different reasons I keep coming back to the idea, I think.

  • I’d like to try something else, going away from the MacBook Hipster Monoculture we as developers have built
  • I’d like to support Microsoft with their big steps away from all the bad decisions they made in the past
  • I already have a powerful PC
  • I’d like to have laptop that can run games while I’m not at home (The Razer Blade 2018 looks amazing, but it seems hard to get a US keyboard layout in Germany, same problem with the Surface Book 2, but that’s a whole other story)
  • I don’t like how Apple is treating their pro line up; I really really need a new laptop but nobody will persuade me to buy one of those current MacBook Pros
  • I don’t like how Apple is communicating and (not) working with the web development community
  • I don’t like how Apple is not fully embracing the web and it’s capabilities
  • On the other hand I like how Microsoft is communicating with the web development community
  • I like how Microsoft is embracing the web and open source
  • I like the potential simplicity of just using Windows and ditching macOS

While developing on Windows is definitely doable now with a modern tech stack, it’s not without its limits or problems. A specific example would be that it’s really really hard to run valet on the WSL. I’ve followed dozen different setup guides of valet-linux or the forked valet-wsl but haven’t managed to get it to work properly, don’t even think about supporting SSL. But there are always other ways or workarounds. I did quite a bit of coding on Windows over the past months.

Another big concern over the past two years has always been Sketch, the macOS-only app. Almost every designer we work with uses Sketch and I was always a big fan of being able to open the source files directly and inspect styles instead of just having flat jpg files. But we recently moved over to Zeplin as our reference for the whole team, which makes Sketch designs available to view and inspect. I can’t edit them and it’s a bit more limited than working with Sketch directly, but it’s good enough for me. So that’s a big issue gone.

Developing on Windows 10 is absolutely doable, even though it still has its problems and sometimes needs workarounds while on macOS everything mostly just works when it comes to web development tools.
But I have VS CODE for editing files and using the command line. I have GitHub for Windows or Tower for my git needs. I have Zeplin to view designs. I need to set up MAMP or something similar for local servers though, for when I need them. Most of the time I’m just running frontend only pattern libraries like Fractal, that just works out of the WSL, which is nice.
I still have a few issues with the different line endings of Windows and Unix systems and ESLint configs, but that can be solved.

But there are also a lot of other great apps or services which only have macOS and iOS apps. Bear is one of those I use a lot. It’s the best note taking app for me and I’m currently writing this post in it, on the iPad with Smart Keyboard. Bear doesn’t have a Windows app and also has no web version. I found out that they are working at bringing bear to the web, but they can’t say when this will be done, so I guess it’ll still take some time.

Next problem. iMessage. Almost all of my private communication is done via Apples iMessages. And while it definitely has its quirks I like it a lot. Especially because I want to believe it’s a lot safer than other options out there and it’s decently well designed. But… you guessed it, there is no Windows app and not even a web client. Look, Apple is just not embracing the web and it just makes me sad.

Continuing with Apple apps and services and my frustration making them work on Windows. I use Apple Photos. My iPhone automatically saves all images taken there and last year I started to also add full resolution jpgs of my edited RAW files. That means I have always quick access to all of my edited photos. I like that a lot, it’s basically my one true photo archive. But… you know what comes next. There is no Windows app for Apple Photos. There is a web version on icloud.com, which… is not very good, but at least it exists and I can view images. That’s good. But if I were to fully switch to Windows I would edit photos in Lightroom, export them and then would want to add them to Apple Photos. I could do that by using the web uploader, but sadly this process strips out all meta data. So that is not an option.

Apple also provides an iCloud Windows app which creates a “Downloads” and “Uploads” folder on the Windows file system and you should be able to place image files in the “Uploads” folder and they should get uploaded. But I haven’t managed to get that to work consistently. One time one photo got uploaded. I don’t know why or how to get it to work again. So I’m left with Apple Photos not working for me as a potential Windows user. What are the alternatives you ask? Google Photos? Never… they will not get all of my data.

I could switch over to Lightroom CC, but then I have also all of my RAW files there, not only the edited JPGs, which in turn could also be a positive. But I would also have to add iPhone photos manually. So… in the end, definitely not a nice solution. It’s also more expensive than iCloud storage. But it’s cross platform, what I’m a big fan of in general.

There are more small macOS apps, like my favourite time tracking app Tyme, which are not on Windows. But… I think apps or services like that one I could somehow replace.

So where does this leave me? I don’t know.
I’m stuck between an old MacBook Pro, powerful custom built Windows PC and an iPad Pro.
I’m stuck between Apple (which I still like for a dozen reasons) and Microsoft (which is doing so many things right at the moment).

And honestly, I’m not really happy with any solution I come up with right now. I’m flip-flopping between working and generally doing stuff on all three devices and thinking a lot about what could work and how it could work and how long it would work and it’s mentally exhausting.

There is still a lot more going on with little details, apps, hardware and stuff I forgot while jotting this down but I think that’s already enough rambling for now.

I just felt like putting down a bunch of unfiltered thoughts, even if they only scratch the surface of my self-inflicted misery. Maybe someone can relate or at least finds it interesting. If you feel like reaching out, I’m @_martinwolf on Twitter.

macOS Mojaves dark mode affects websites

The upcoming new version of macOS (Mojave) will have a dark mode option. While this is an option on the operating system level and will affect apps, it will also affect websites viewed in Safari turning the default background color of <html> to a dark gray. Here is a tweet by Kuldar Kalvik showing a screenshot of it.

Although this behaviour might change until the official release of macOS Mojave I still think this is a good reminder to always set a background color for <html> in your CSS. Almost all browsers default to white, but it’s not an industry wide defined standard as far as I know.

My issue with spotlight search on the iPad

Okay, here is a very little detail that I find extremely annoying when using the iPad. I have the Smart Keyboard attached to the iPad almost always and I like to use it to open apps via spotlight, much like I do with Alfred.app on macOS.

So I hit CMD + Space and the spotlight search appears. Now, if I haven’t searched for anything, the search bar is empty and I can just start typing. If I hit enter I open the app. If I want to switch to another app, I can hit CMD + Space again and spotlight search opens up and the old search term is already selected so I can start typing and replace my old search. That’s awesome:

Spotlight search on iPad when opening from an app

But here is the problem: If I have already searched for something and then open spotlight search from the home screen (and not while in an app), the already entered search text is not pre selected:

Spotlight search on iPad when opening from homescreen

So when I quickly hit CMD + Space and start typing I add to the latest search instead of replacing it.

I can do the CMD + A shortcut to select all text and then start typing to replace it, but it is really annoying and inconsistent and I constantly forget it.

This has to be a bug, right? Or am I overlooking how this might be a feature?

Very early thoughts on sniping in Battlefield V

Battlefield V screenshot
Screenshot from gameplay by Stodeh

E3 and EA Play are currently happening and the first gameplay videos of Battlefield start to surface on YouTube.

From what I can tell so far it looks a bit more like Battlefield Bad Company 2. I never played it, but from what I’ve heard, everybody loved that game. So that’s a good thing I guess.

As with every new Battlefield game I’m mostly interested in sniping gameplay and how the game changes for the Recon/Scout class.

Obviously I haven’t played the game yet and it is generally still very early in the development phase (Pre-Alpha). But I have seen about 20 minutes of sniping gameplay by Stodeh. Based on this video and all the information I’ve gathered so far, I have a few thoughts which I’ll now share with you.

  • The Pre-Alpha build of Battlefield V which runs at EA Play has no suppression. I can’t tell you how much I love this change and I pray to DICE and EA that they’ll keep it like that. Where you aim is where you shoot. Learn to control recoil, focus on your target and you will be able to stand your ground even in difficult situations. Overall that’s a nice buff for Snipers.
  • A huge change to the previous Battlefield titles is that there is almost no 3D spotting in the game. That means you can’t and don’t need to spam Q to spot enemies. I think that’s primarily a nerf to Snipers, because now you have to actually spot enemies with your own eyes and can’t just let the game take care of that for you. But it can also be seen as a slight buff because you as a sniper are harder to see as well. There is still scope glint in the game, but no 3d spotting might actually help you to pull off some long range sniping.
  • The minimap also got a huge change and doesn’t show as many enemies. So that hurts my gameplay, because I’ve learned to use the minimap heavily to my advantage. But I welcome that change together with the 3d spotting change. It will make the game harder to play. I like that.
  • The above changes in turn make dedicated spotting devices even more useful than they have already been. They were nice and helpful before, but spamming Q was already doing a good job for you. But now these device get you a real advantage.
  • I’m not sure which gadgets will be in the game, but I’ve seen at least the flare gun already. From what I’ve heard it will not 3d spot enemies, but show them on the minimap. There is also something going on with having to actually shoot them in the air instead of just putting them on the ground, but I’m not exactly sure how the flare gun will change compared to Battlefield 1.
  • A huge change in general is the introduction of the so called “Attrition”. Among other things that means you carry less ammo and won’t regenerate to full health after taking damage, which in turn means more people will run around with less than 100 health. As a sniper you will mostly try to shoot for the head because it’s a one shot kill, but this change will definitely result in more one hit body shot kills. It can be especially helpful when playing aggressively as a sniper and getting into close quarters encounters where you have to rely on quick shots and drag shots and don’t have the time to perfectly aim for the head.
  • I think I have seen C4 in the inventory of the recon class, but I’m not sure yet. I really hope it’s true, I loved to have C4 as a sniper in previous Battlefield titles.
  • Same goes for the Spawn Beacon. I think I’ve seen it and I really hope it makes a return in Battlefield V. It’s really helpful to get yourself and your squad into advantageous positions.

Battlefield V is still a long time away, but I’m already hyped and really looking forward to getting my hands on it as soon as possible.

2 hours, 27 photos taken, 10 photos edited

Photos from a 30° celsius sunday walk through East Berlin. I’m unusually happy with the results.

A weekend in Hamburg

Last weekend I was in Hamburg to attend the Nerdlichter spring festival and to just spent time with some friends. Regrettably I didn’t take a lot of photos, but here are at least some impressions.

Melly (http://zimtstern.in) was obviously thinking about the upcoming rain 😠

Web browsing on Apple Watch

With watchOS 5 the Apple Watch will gain access to web content. As far as I know, there won’t be a dedicated browser app, but you will be able to open links from Mail and Messages. Which will make testing your sites a bit cumbersome, now that I think about it.

Erik Runyon nicely summarized everything we know so far about making your website and thus your content accessible and looking nicely on the Apple Watch.

The most interesting point to me is that Apple is automatically scaling everything down to fit the small viewport. The watch is reporting a width of 320px, even though it’s actually smaller.

Make sure to read Eriks post: Designing Web Content for watchOS

In the end it is like it has always been: If you write semantic accessible markup with progressive enhancement in mind, you’ll be fine.

I’m really interested to see how many people will use the Apple Watch to access web content.

My love for esport

The term “gamer” still has some negative connotations, I think. But whether that’s true or not, I probably have to call myself a gamer. But if you ask my friends they will confirm that I’m not the typical one who likes games in general and just plays everything and is always on the lookout for the next fun game to play.

I never play games on my iPhone or iPad, I have a Nintendo Switch, but very very rarely use it. What I do use is my custom built Gaming PC, probably every day. But I seldomly play single player, story driven games. I like them in theory and try one every couple months or so, but I never really get into it.

What I do love are competitive multiplayer games. DotA 2, Overwatch and the like. I like the sport aspect of gaming. Practicing, getting better, competing, taking it seriously. I have fun if it’s not just about the fun, I guess?
I like giving it my all and being exhausted after playing. It sounds weird writing that down, but that’s the truth. I like the emotions of winning or losing.
I often like to think I got that from playing soccer for relatively serious teams for about 13 years or so.

Recently I heard a DotA 2 Pro say “You don’t play DotA to have fun” and on a certain level that is definitely true and I somehow love the game for that.

Despite me loving the esport aspect of gaming so much, I never really played in a serious team. I was only once part of a clan (when I was a teenager, teams were still called clans), but we were just a bunch of friends trying to win a couple of War Craft III matches. We weren’t really good, but we had one or two practice evenings per week.

Anyway, esport is growing massively and it gets more and more recognition in the mainstream media. Tournaments get bigger and players get salaries. That is great and I love being a part of it, even if it’s currently just as a fan and a mostly bad, but highly motivated player in my evenings.

I watch a lot of DotA tournaments, have favourite teams and in general follow the scene. I also watch some Overwatch matches from the Overwatch League and sometimes even watch a few rounds of CS:GO tournaments if I see streams popping up on Twitch.

For a while now my friends love playing Fortnite. I didn’t really get into it, but now the Fortnite community is making up competitive modes and starting online tournaments. Marcel told me about it the other day and I was immediately hooked. I don’t know what it is but it turned Fortnite from a casual game into something serious in my mind and I realized then and there that I really have a love for the whole esport scene, not just one particular game.

At some point I’d love to get involved in the esports industry somehow.
As a web developer, photographer, team owner or I don’t know what. If I were younger I’d love to pick one game and give it all I have to go pro, but I’m not kidding myself, that chance is long gone. 😁

So, esports, mh? Love it.