Darke blog

A look into my personal interactions with technology, by Jon Lewis-Darke

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WWDC 2020 keynote

I am super interested in new features, UX and Design changes to the operating systems I use every day, and so it’s becoming somewhat of a tradition for me to share my WWDC impressions.

I think the majority of the Apple community weren’t expecting much due to the effects of Covid-19 this year, but we got a fair amount of exciting features, and I’d like to discuss my highlights here.

Widgets are the big storey here. The home screen has remained largely unchanged (except for folders) since the launch of the iPhone. With iOS 14 we can now add widgets of varying sizes into springboard, intermixed amongst our apps. The widget is in-effect a rich version of the app icon itself. They are kind of like watch complications - displays of data without any interactivity other than to launch the connected app, larger widgets can have multiple deep links. It appears as if they can be 4, 6, 8 or...

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Tracking what I drink

As I mentioned in my 2019 year in review I began tracking a few things that I drink. There were a few metrics I was interested in:

  • Water: I was concerned I was not drinking enough
  • Caffeine: I was curious how much I drank
  • Alcohol: I have always drunk more than average and was keen to reduce my intake

The big one was water. I wanted to ensure I was drinking enough water, as I felt I was not at the time. My first point of call in 2018 was Water Minder - a helpful little app to do just this, with healthKit integration and a watch app.

For caffeine I started with an app called RECaff, which was essentially Water Minder for caffeine.

What I found with both these apps is despite how easy they have tried to make it, the barrier of being an app made it difficult at times to remember to use them. They had watch complications that launched predictably slow apps, widgets and reminders. But I...

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My re-found level of gaming

I always loved games and as kids my friends and I would play a lot. In the 90’s it was mostly video games as the only board games I was exposed to regularly back then consisted of Monopoly, Go For Broke, and Game of Life.

In the past year or two I’ve rediscovered my love for both, and I’d like to share why. So this post has two halves;

  1. Board games
  2. Video gaming

Board games

My friend Dave can take all the credit for getting me into boardgames. He’d been getting into it himself with local groups, then started buying games of his own. Soon we were being invited over for sessions at his house, and now have a regular group who meet about once a fortnight in town after work one evening.

Board games have gone through a renaissance in recent years. The increased popularity has led to the market being flooded with interesting titles, largely spurred on by kickstarter which de-risks...

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Workouts and fitness in 2019

Last year I dedicated myself to improving my workout regime, having seen a marked improvement in my fitness in 2018. It was going to be a challenge to better my previous years efforts, but improve them I did.

My headline stats for 2019 were as follows…

All workouts
The number of recorded cycling workout numbers are a little skewed, as I changed how I was recording my daily cycle commute (footnote if you’re interested in that). The important numbers to focus on are time and calories.

TLDR; I increased the amount of recorded calories burned from 102,024 in 2018, to 180,970 in 2019 - an increase of 77%. More impressive to me is the fact I burned 2.5x the number of calories in 2019 compared to 2017!

2019 workouts total.png

I went the extra mile with the breakdown this year to show how the major workouts types I record breakdown by calories burned. I first got the Brompton in April 2018 which is why there...

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2019 year in review

I started what I hoped would become a tradition last year with a 2018 year in review. The topics I summarised allowed me to write a series of dedicated posts going into more depth on each, helping me fulfil a desire to write more in 2019.

Well, it succeeded. I wrote 8 posts off the back of this review, and about the same number again on topics covering a series of interests I felt compelled to write about. In light of the success of this exercise, I’m repeating it again this year.

So here are the highlights of 2019 I’d like to mention and possibly write about in a dedicated post.

Getting married
Obviously this is a massive life milestone. Clover and I have been together for over a decade now and in 2019 tied the knot. We had two amazing ceremony’s - a Buddhist ceremony in the UK, and the main ceremony in Jamaica. They were both truly amazing experiences that we’ll treasure forever.


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Apple Watch series 5

I’ve been a wearing the new Apple Watch series 5 for just over a month, and I have some thoughts about how it compares to the previous generation.

The biggest change is, of course, the always-on watch face. This has fundamentally changed the way I use the watch. Any Apple Watch wearer will tell you that you needed to perfect the gesture of rotating your wrist just enough to activate the watch until now in order to see the time. With the series 5 a cursory glance from any angle is all that is required. It’s surprising how long it takes to de-programme this action from your brain for simple time reads. Even harder, you now need to differentiate between a glance to simply tell the time and wanting to react to a notification. You have to think in advance what you want from your watch when you look at it and change your physical reaction to get the desired result. Not a big problem by any...

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A review of Lightwave RF smart light switches

I never thought it was a very good idea to put smart home smarts in a consumable item. Philips Hue bulbs are a nice low-bar entry into smart lighting, but it’s not scalable, and when that bulb eventually dies you’re throwing away circuits and radios that aren’t present in dumb bulbs. It’s wasteful.

When I first started experimenting with smart home tech I’d only recently replaced the majority of my home bulbs with LEDs. I also did the math to replace just the 30-something down-lighters which came in at thousands of pounds of investment in Philips Hue bulbs. I needed a different solution.

I thought it made more sense to put the smarts in the more permanent light switch.

My research into smart light switches led me first to an American company called Lutron. After purchasing a test switch I quickly realised the US in-wall housing is dramatically different and to install these would...

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My Mac history

I’ve been a Mac owner for 18 years now, and have been using them for 26 years. Although I did a lot of design work on Commodores, Amiga’s, then PC, no computer inspired me to work more than a Mac. The amount of attention poured into every little detail gave me confidence in the machine to do what I needed it to do. Macs encouraged me as a creator. Understanding that talented people who care about what they do created the tools I use to create, inspires me to do better and put as much attention to detail into my own work. This is why I love Macs.
My Mac history.jpg

I owe a lot of my Mac heritage to my friend James. His father was a graphic designer back where we grew up, and James, like me was arty and interested in design. James’s house was always full of Macs in the 90’s - his father upgraded frequently (as most computer owners in the 90’s had to) and the previous years models ended up at home. While I...

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WWDC 2019 keynote

Apple were firing on all cylinders this year. Clearly all that hiring they’ve been doing is starting to pay off. The keynote rolled out at breakneck pace and almost everything announced was impressive and highly anticipated. In many areas they went far beyond expectations, and despite there being a large number of leaks this year, the sheer number of announcements meant there were many surprises to enjoy.

I’ve not been this excited at a WWDC for many years.

There were a few standout announcements that for me made this special, below I’ve singled out my personal top-10 announcements. I’ve not tried any of these features myself yet, but I will in a few weeks when the first public betas are released. I rely on my iPad too much to risk installing the developer betas.

iPad OS

Finally the iPad gets treated like a first class citizen. This forking of the OS (albeit subtle for now) will...

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The best headphones I’ve ever owned, sound the worst

I’ve always been a bit of an audiophile. I used to be obsessed with the quality of what I listened to. I spent years building a collection of great gear, decades later I still have and use most of it. I even have a few items from my father’s youth.

But I love technology in equal measure, and when the wireless personal audio revolution began I was all on-board. It started with the gym where the wire-free benefits are obvious, and expanded to replace all wired headphones in my life.

I’ve owned a total of 9 Bluetooth head/earphones over the years ranging in price from under £20, to over £250. But there’s one pair that over the past 4 years I use 98% of the time; AfterShokz Trekz Titanium Bone Conduction headphones.


These headphones are unique as they do not go in or cover your ears. Instead they rest on your temples and vibrate your skull to translate sound directly into your inner...

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