Why I Dropped Edit for Notes on iOS

So, this is me…

I wrote recently about dropping Drafts for the Edit app on iOS. In this post I said, and I quote:

Edit is a universal app (do we still use that phrase?) and the only feature I would like is sharing of text between the iPhone and the iPad otherwise I am set.

Of course there is already an app that does just that and what’s more it also syncs to the Mac as well. So what is this app? It’s Apple’s own Notes app of course!

I’m not sure why I missed this but, in my defence, when I first started on iOS/OSX Notes wasn’t what it is today and so I had hidden it away. In fact on my iPad it wasn’t even installed.

However, it is now reinstalled and I am now effectively using it as a scratchpad for simple text notes, just as I did with Drafts (and Edit).

Oh, and did I mention that Notes is free?

Here’s a Question that Pains me… Is Evernote Dying?

It really pains me to say this but I am worried about the longevity of Evernote, a tool that I have been using for many, many years. So long in fact that I now have well over 30,000 notes stored in it.

Evernote co-founder Phil Libin always said that his aim was to create a “100-year startup” meaning that it’s “a company that’s around in 100 years, which means Evernote’s product needs to be durable.” Right now I cannot see them achieving that aim. Of course that aim could have been ditched when Libin left in 2016.

Why have I reached this conclusion? Well over the last year there have been increasing issues with Evernote’s products. For me this started when Skitch started playing up after the last OSX upgrade and after months of waiting for an update I got fed up of waiting and moved to Monosnap.

At around the same time the performance on my Evernote desktop client on my Mac got bad. Simple operations such as creating a new note took forever. Six months later I am still discussing with support what the underlying issue is. I’m told that they are working on a fix.

In the meantime I switched to the Evernote web client which has improved considerably since the last time I used it and it is almost , *almost*, comparable to the desktop app but not quite. Then a few days ago it stopped load. All I get is a white screen. If I open Chrome’s developer tools I can see an error being thrown which is the likely culprit so I have raised that too with support.

To add insult to injury the web clipper has stopped working too although I guess that could be related to the web app issue, maybe, maybe not.

So right now I am only able to access Evernote on my iPad which is ok but far from ideal.

The people on support have been great but that does not make the product work reliably, or hasn’t so far. I’d move to something else but I really don’t fancy trying to migrate 30,000 notes. And who’s to say I wouldn’t encounter the same issues? Who’s behind Bear and what’s their longevity likely to be? I could move to Microsoft’s OneNote but how likely is it that they get bored of it and drop support for it (although to be fair they have stuck with it for quite a long time!)

So I feel stuck and left with my fingers crossed that things pick up with Evernote and that they get back on track for the sake of my 37,775 notes if nothing else!

Why I Dropped Drafts for Edit on iOS

I have been a happy Drafts user on both my iPhone and iPad for many years. When version 5 of Drafts was launch it moved from being a one-off payment to a subscription model which made me stop and think about whether I wanted to signing up to yet another app subscription. I knew I didn’t.

For me there wasn’t a real reason to upgrade as Greg, the developer behind the app, had said that he would continue to support the old version, but it did make me stop and think whether I was getting the most out of Drafts. I decided I wasn’t. I was literally using it as a scratch pad to enter text notes which I would then use in WordPress to start a blog post or maybe send to Evernote. Hardly making the most of a powerful app.

So I had two choices: make better use of Drafts or find an alternative. As it happened as I was considering this I happened upon an article on a new app called Edit. This looks just like Drafts but without all the bells and whistles. All you can do is enter text and when you are done either copy it to the clipboard or share it – the only two actions I ever do in Drafts.

Turns out that simplicity is the key here for me and so I was happy to swap Drafts for Edit and to date I haven’t missed it at all. It might be that you make use of the additional features in Drafts, such as TextExpander support, Markdown and the like but I never did so it was an easy choice.

Edit is a universal app (do we still use that phrase?) and the only feature I would like is sharing of text between the iPhone and the iPad otherwise I am set.

Oh, and did I mention that Edit is free?





Custom HTML Widget Changes in WordPress

Last week I was asked by a client if I could help them put the Mailchimp newsletter signup form on their site. They had been trying for a while and they couldn’t get the form to appear at all. “No problem” I said, think that this would be a doddle. A couple of hours later I was pulling my hair out as I tried everything I could to get it to work.

Finally I did the inevitable Google search and discovered the at some point recently the custom HTML widget had been changed and that “some HTML tags like script, iframe, form, input, and style are not available.” This referred to WordPress.com installations but I am guessing that it applies to WordPress.org installs too as that was my situation.

Another search didn’t yield any quick solution for me and so I rolled up my sleeves and wrote a custom plugin to get round it. This was incredibly simple to do and the code is below – this needs to go into the wp-content/plugins folder. Remember to change the ‘Your raw HTML here’ bit!

Plugin Name: Output Raw HTML
Plugin URI: https://www.spokenlikeageek.com
Description: Spits out raw HTML 
Version: 1.0
Author: Neil Thompson
Author URI: http://nei.lt

add_shortcode( 'slagrh', 'slag_raw_html' );

function slag_raw_html( $atts ) {

  $output = 'Your raw HTML here';
  return $output;


To use use put [slagrh] wherever you want the raw HTML to appear and WordPress will oblige.

Quite why this should be necessary I do not know but there you go. Hopefully it will save someone else a load of time or, if you have a more elegant solution, please let me know in the comments.

iOS (finally) supports QR codes!

QR codes are a more modern equivalent of the ubiquitous bar code but hold both more data and more intelligent information – if you can read them. Until this week, if you had an iPhone and wanted to “read” a QR code you needed a third party app but with the introduction of iOS11 the camera now, finally, supports them natively.

The animated gif below shows this in action and how easy it is to use:

Of course you might wonder why this is important given that you don’t see QR codes that often. Well I would counter that you don’t see QR codes very often precisely because the iPhone doesn’t support them and this support may very well open the flood gates.

Create your own QR codes

So what happens if you want to create a QR code of your own? Well it is incredibly easy if you use Google Charts. All you need do is copy the link below and replace the Spoken Like a Geek address with whatever address you want and bingo! Google will create you a QR code you can save and use.


Got iOS11 already? Give it a go using the QR code at the header!

Let’s Play Spot the Difference

Can you tell the difference between these two seemingly identical bills I received by email from Virgin Media?


I have to admit that initially I couldn’t. It was only when I saw the bill total of £498.52 and did a double take that I took a closer look. When you do that it becomes clear that:

  • my account details are missing
  • the email address, while valid, isn’t correct
  • when hovering over the View Bill button it wouldn’t have taken me to the Virgin Media website.

I consider myself to be pretty internet savvy but I was shocked at how well this was put together and how I very nearly clicked that button annoyed that Virgin were going to charge me 400 quid for my broadband!

The EvoDX Action Camera (Cheap GoPro Clone)

For quite a while I have had a hankering for a GoPro without really having a reason for spending that sort of money. We are on a road trip soon and I like the idea of being able to take some video from the dashboard as we drive around and so a GoPro would be ideal. Even so I still don’t think I would get my money’s worth with a GoPro so when an offer came up for a EvoDX at only £20 I had to give it a go.

You get a lot of value for twenty quid. It’s not just the camera that you are getting but also a load of accessories too (see below) which includes various mounts and even a waterproof case.

All of this seemed too good to be true and looking at some online comments there was a suggestion that the output from the camera left a little to be desired. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say, and so I did a test.

The short video below was taken with the camera mounted on the dashboard of my car. It is on the second setting of 720p at 30fps (frames per second). This is not the highest quality that it can achieve which is 1080p at 15fps but I think this is a good compromise.

I think you’ll agree that this is pretty good and certainly good enough for what I want it for. One thing that is clear though – the camera does have a slight fish eye effect to it, particularly at the edges where you can see the lampposts have a bit of curvature. An issue I’m willing to forgive given the price.

The EvoDX will also do still photographs but frankly why would you bother? The quality is pretty poor when compared to a dedicate camera or even a phone so I’ll stick with video. Of course, I could do all this with my phone but it’s hard to be recording video while also using it as a satnav so I need something dedicated.

As I alluded to at the outset I’m not willing to spend 20x the amount I paid for the EvoDX just to get a GoPro. Particularly as I’m not looking to do any action sports, where I suspect the GoPro would shine. However, if you are looking for a cheap introduction to action cameras then I don’t think you can go far wrong with the EvoDX.

Going Secure via Cloudflare (and a Warning)

Forced to be Secure by Google

The more observant amongst you may have noticed that the site is now “secure”. Quite why a blog needs to be so I am not sure but Google is starting to insist on such things so I am in the process of converting all my sites to load via https.

To be honest it has been a bit of a trial, partly because this site runs on a WordPress multi-site installation and that has thrown up a few peculiarities. Anyway, the change from Google has forced me to look at all my sites and try and get them “secure”.

SSL with Cloudflare

I’ve chosen to do this via the Cloudflare service because this is reasonably frictionless although, as you will see, it does require you to do a database update… Setting Cloudflare is simple enough – go to the right domain, select Crypto from the menu, make sure you have a SSL cert setup and then select “Always use HTTPS”. Click on the image below to see all the settings for this domain:

Cloudflare SSL settings

However, that, for me, wasn’t sufficient as I started to get a “mixed content” message and Google still was showing the site as insecure. Mixed content means that some resources, usually images, are still being loaded over a non-secure link (i.e. http). Now there is a setting in Cloudflare called “Automatic HTTPS Rewrites” which should resolve these issues but in my experience this hasn’t worked and has caused multiple redirect issues. Of course, your mileage may vary, so give it a go and see but don’t be surprised …

Updating the Database

If you find that the automatic rewrites aren’t working for you then you are going to have to roll your sleeves up and update the database. I cannot stress this enough but make sure you BACK UP THE DATABASE before starting this. I made a couple of mistakes and was glad that I had the database to roll back to.

So the command that you need to run is the following. You will need to remember to change the “x” in “wp_x_posts” to the correct site instance and the from and to website address:

UPDATE wp_x_posts SET `post_content` = REPLACE (`post_content`, 'http://www.yourblog.com/', 'https://www.yourblog.com/');

And that should be sufficient to get you up and running on SSL.

And a Warning

The issue with Cloudflare is that, of course, it could go bust or their business model may change and what is currently generously provided for free may not in the future. So you are placing your faith in them being around for the duration but if anything changes I’ll be in the same boat!

Apple AirPods

While I might be a committed apple fan boy these days I have never actually queued up for a new product on launch day. That is until the AirPods were released. I’m not sure what attracted me to them most but I was certainly fed up of of tangled and snagging wires enough to make an early morning trip into town. I wasn’t the only one either but I was the first! Turns out it was just as well I did get there early as the Apple Store in Reading only had three for launch day.

Of course they were beautifully packaged as ever and the case that the AirPods live in is just beautifully tactile with the lid making a wonderful “snap” when you flick close the lid. It really is terribly satisfying and probably pretty annoying for those around – a bit like cracking of your knuckles in public!

Pairing with an Apple device is a breeze, although it took me a while to work out how to switch between the speakers and the AirPods on my Mac (click on the volume control on the menu bar item). It’s also relatively simple to pair them with other devices too. I’m not sure how many devices you can pair with at once but I am up to four and going strong.

The AirPods are visually the same earphones that are provided with the iPhone, only with the cords cut off and this does cause people to stare. I’m not sure why that would be but it does seem to cause people to do a double take even now. So if you find the existing iPhone earphones uncomfortable then it is going to be the same with these too. Audibly the sound quality sounds pretty similar too to me but then my ears aren’t what they used to be given years of abuse.

So you might be excused for thinking that I am luke warm on the AirPods. Absolutely not. They are tremendous. They are incredibly convenient, so small that there really is no issue with slipping them into your pocket and having them with you all the time. The case, which also acts as a charger, means that they stay charged (as long as you remember to charge the case). And the sound quality is good enough for listening on the go.

Downsides? Well I worry that I might lose one but my paranoia has so far ensured that isn’t the case. And quite frankly nothing else – they are superb, go buy.

Pebble Time vs Apple Watch

As regular readers of this blog will know I am a huge fan of the Pebble smart watch. So it was a great disappointment when the the company collapsed and the assets were bought by Fitbit. Pebble did at least return the money that had been pledged on Kickstarter for the next generation and, due to currency fluctuations, I actually received marginally more back than I put in. However, that’s not much consolation for not getting what was looking like a great watch.

For a few months I persisted with the Pebble Time but as time went on it developed, well, lets call them hiccoughs. These were particularly apparent with anything that required a link to the internet, like getting location on Swarm. I found myself resetting the Pebble app on my iPhone just once too often for my liking.

And then my wife bought an Apple Watch…

Never before had I been in a position where a member of my own family had a gadget before me! My position had always been that I was happy with my Pebble and who’d want a watch where you have to charge it every day even when the screen is blank most of the time? With Helen getting a watch my resistance was weakened and I started to take a closer look.

I quickly established that the decent watch straps are hideously expensive if bought through Apple and similar designs can be bought for less than a tenth of the price elsewhere. The next step was to decide between a series 1 and a series 2 watch and this too proved pretty easy – I have no use for a waterproof watch nor onboard GPS so a series 1 would be all I would need. So I ended up buying a series 1 in space grey which comes with a horrible black rubber strap which I replaced with a gunmetal link strap from Amazon.

The transition was, I have to admit, painful. All the buttons are in different places and a click on the Pebble is a tap on the Apple and so on – getting back to the watch face I found particularly unintuitive coming from the Pebble. I was also surprised at the number and limited nature of the apps and while the Swarm app works correctly now there isn’t an app for Remember the Milk which I used regularly before. The biggest pain is that the battery doesn’t last anywhere near as long as the Pebbles – I get just under 48 hours of battery time if I put it on airplane mode over night.

However, there is much to like. It does, of course, work well with the iPhone and the AirPods, which should come as no surprise. The touchscreen is a nice, well, touch and useful for swapping tracks etc but you feel that there is still much more could be done by developers to make use of it here.

So now I’m all Apple as the two last pieces of tech I regularly carried with me, the Pebble and my Fitbit, are now both gone, both replaced by the Apple Watch. I’m genuinely sorry to see them both go but particularly the Pebble as I’d been with them from day one. Time will tell whether I grow to love my Apple Watch as much as I did my Pebble Time.