Darke blog

A look into my personal interactions with technology, by Jon Darke; Design Director @mybuilder, ex-founder @EveryInteract, ex-podcaster @_PerspectiveFM

Read this first

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...

Continue reading →


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...

Continue reading →


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...

Continue reading →


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.

DF541935-A79A-4019-AFC4-E3C71940D466.jpeg

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...

Continue reading →


Hoarding old Apple keyboards

Keyboards. It’s hard to use a computer without one. Apple have been controversial of late with their keyboards, particularly in laptops. Marco Arment put it best on Twitter:

Marco Arment, 17:11 8/4/19

I hope Apple has learned their lesson that we don’t really need them to revolutionise keyboards.

They unnecessarily revolutionised themselves into a world of pain, making massive regressions in the most important functional areas, all to solve problems we didn’t really have.

I personally find keyboards with lack of travel much harder to type on. I’m not a touch typist, or even a good typist. My error rate has always been relatively high, but my rate of error seems to increase with a decrease in key travel. I know some people prefer the slimmer keyboards, and even prefer the butterfly switch keyboard in the new laptops, despite their issues, but not I.

So I thought I’d buy myself a...

Continue reading →


Using my Mac on my iPad with Luna Display

I recently wrote about what my iPad is missing to allow me to use it as a near-full time computer for my work. Luna display is something that is helping me bridge the gap.

Luna display is a tiny dongle (in USB-C or mini display port flavours) that plugs into your Mac and convinces the OS it’s a monitor. Software then beams the screen from the Mac to the iPad over your local network. By launching the Luna Display app on the iPad you essentially have a MacOS app running in iOS. The pencil works as a cursor, touch input works as does the keyboard. The system iOS keyboard shortcuts override as you’re still in iOS, but you can work around that. You can also use Luna Display the other way around as a wireless external display for your Mac, but this is not a use case I currently need.

I learned most if the tricks to getting this working well from Federico Viticci’s fantastic article on Mac...

Continue reading →


Why I can’t switch to the iPad Pro full time, yet

The new iPad pro is incredible, I want to spend a greater percentage of my working time using it. The thin bezels, face ID, the power, the screen, keyboard and pencil - all amazing.

I’ve always been an iPad lover. I had (and still have, working!) an iPad 2, then an iPad Mini, and a Mini 2. These were my commuter computers for many years. Then I started buying the Plus-sized phones, which were close enough to the Mini for me to take over the role of commuter computer. I skipped the entire Air generation, and then was totally sold on the iPad Pro 12.9". I’m now on my 2nd iPad Pro with this new generation.

My phone (an iPhone X at this point) had continued to be my commuter computer, and the iPad has evolved into my new home computer. It more or less lives in the living room and it’s responsible for the vast majority of my home computing.

With the new 2018 iPads Pro I was convinced...

Continue reading →


Exporting Apple activity data from healthKit

I recently generated analytics of the past several years of my activity in my year review of workouts and fitness post.

Apple does a fantastic job of allowing you to collect this data, especially with the Apple Watch, but getting it off your phone is harder than you think.

The health and activity apps between them allow to view different slices of workout and health data. But the ways in which you can view and compare this data is very limited. For my year review I wanted a month-by-month breakdown of specific workout types compared over several years. Impossible on device today.

activity-and-health-data-screenshots.gif

My first thought was to make an Apple GDPR request for my data. It’s backed up to iCloud so I assumed it that this should be accessible. Apple has a dedicated site to make these requests. I spoke with support staff after failing to find what I wanted in these downloads, then through speaking with...

Continue reading →


Top 10 things I rely on my Apple Watch for…

In the rumours leading up to the release of the Apple watch I was a sceptic. I couldn’t understand the use case (based on all prior smart watches released) and was adamant they wouldn’t release one. When Apple presented the story during WWDC 2015 for what they had envisioned I was immediately sold. I bought a 1st gen (series 0) 38mm watch. I’ve worn one everyday since. I bought a 2nd gen, skipped the 3rd, and last year upgraded to a Series 4. I’ve built a nice little collection of straps (mix of 1st & 3rd party) that give me style flexibility for almost any occasion. I love my watch.

So what do I use it for? What makes me want to wear this tiny wrist computer every day? The answer has changed slightly over the years as the device has become more capable, and I’m sure it will again, so this snap shot in early 2019 will enable me to look back in a couple of years to see what’s changed.

...

Continue reading →


Wirelessly charge all the things!

I’ve had the iPhone X for 2.5 years now. During this time, excluding driving where a cable is required to connect to my car stereo, I think I’ve used the lightning port on my phone less than 10 times thanks to wireless charging. I wasn’t expecting this to be such a transformational feature, but immediately after buying the phone I bought my first wireless charging accessory that changed my charging habits forever.

I’ve always been a night time charger, so my first port of call was a flat bedside charging pad to replace the nightly plugging in ritual. My requirements were;

  • No lights that remain on while charging
  • Grippy texture
  • No fans (fans in some wireless chargers are a thing believe it or not!)
  • Discrete design

I settled on this flat and thin charger from Anker. It made me a wireless charging convert overnight (literally). No more fiddling with cables, just plonk the phone down...

Continue reading →