November 20, 2023

Beyond Tactility

Living Switches animation

Image credit: Approach Studio

I recently read an article on Fast Company titled These charming tools are a radical vision for how you’ll use your computer.” The article discusses a concept created by Approach Studio that asks the question: What if we updated physical interfaces for the digital ages? How might they look different? I watched the video and gifs several times and reflected on why I appreciate certain physical products: tactility.

One can appreciate, grow attached to, or even love the way certain products feel when interacting with them. For example, pressing the start engine button in a car you enjoy driving, turning a knob on a coffee grinder, or even feeling haptic feedback after tapping a button in a beautiful mobile app. Think about the power button or switch on a product that is a part of your life. For example I vividly remember the switch on the back of my Mac LC and the button on my dad’s Performa 6115. Each had a particular feel and sound that contributed to a moment of anticipation before the old Mac OS startup chime. (Of course that sound sometimes meant dread if I was waiting to use Microsoft Word for writing an English class essay.)

Approach Studio goes further than presses and sounds by bringing concepts we have learned since the dawn of mobile computers out of the digital and into the physical. These demos are easy to quickly scroll through, but I want you to take a moment to reflect on how each can be an improvement to the home.

Living Switches switch

Image credit: Approach Studio

First, think of a typical switch that you flip every day. Perhaps a small and subtle light switch or an old thermostat’s mode switch for example. Now imagine a switch that provides colors to indicate its state, has a slight tension as you slide it, and ends with a reactive bounce to feel alive. This would be more enjoyable to use because of its playfulness, and it would add character to your home with its aesthetics. (Ideally one would be able to customize the color. I’m not sure my wife would approve that shade of green.) Something in your home that you observe and touch every day should both look appealing and feel good to control.

Living Switches knob

Image credit: Approach Studio

Next, think of some dials you turn. Fans, thermostats, stereos, etc. When the factory ships a product with dials they are a fixed size forever. What if instead a dial could adapt to specific tasks? This is reminiscent of Steve Jobs’ initial explanation of the iPhone’s large, multi-touch screen in 2007. Instead of fixed buttons which Blackberry, Motorola, Handspring, and Samsung phones had, the iPhone could adapt to different tasks. Approach Studio demonstrates this with a dial that grows and shrinks depending on how accurate the user needs to be in the moment. A small dial is ideal for a low number of options (adjusting a lamp’s brightness from 4 to 5), and a large dial is preferable when the user needs to be accurate (adjusting from 66 to 72 degrees on a thermostat). A dial that can grow and shrink depending on the user’s needs can allow one dial to control multiple products.

Living Switches keypad

Image credit: Approach Studio

Lastly, if you are currently on a laptop and desktop computer, try hovering over a few links or buttons. Go ahead. The hover state is a subtle way computers can alert the user that there are more options behind this element, this area can be clicked on, etc. (In my opinion software designers occasionally rely too much on hover states that require the user to move the mouse to an element before discovering additional options. Designers also occasionally place crucial functionality behind a hover state that is inaccessible on touchscreens. This is solved by assuming that the user is OK with being forced into the hover state after a tap which makes touchscreen users less efficient. Tap and hold? That doesn’t work either because Safari and Chrome have built-in functionality for tap and hold. Basically, avoid using hover states.) However, when used properly, hover states can add delight and surprise to an interface.

Now imagine if physical objects had hover states similar to software. Not only would they feel alive and fun, but they would also have more accessible buttons. Your finger would travel a shorter distance allowing you to press more buttons in less time. This could start with Microsoft Excel experts who need to enter data quickly, and it could lead to other innovations in the home. Arming and disarming a security panel for example. Of course the trend is to slap screens on everything, but products that are designed for specific purposes could be improved with this innovation.

I would love to see some of these ideas incorporated into a future elgato Stream Deck.

November 10, 2023

Steve Jobs Halloween Costume

Dave and Stevie

Last year I convinced the family to dress as Steve Jobs for Halloween which included my 1 year old daughter wearing a very cute pair of tiny New Balance shoes. While holding my daughter (who was chomping on an iPad nano from my Apple Collection) and posing for photos I remembered and reenacted a very specific moment from the iPhone keynote in 2007. Jobs’ presentation remote stopped working, and he had to kill time on stage while people backstage fixed the problem.

He told a quick story that I believe was also discussed in Steve Wozniak’s book, iWoz, where Wozniak built a device that disables nearby TV antennae (it’s hard to believe all TVs used to have them). They pranked students in UC Berkeley dorms by tricking them into thinking awkward poses while holding the antennae would fix the TV’s reception. Jobs demonstrated one such pose for just a second before learning that his presentation remote was fixed and continuing to talk about the iPhone.

You can watch Steve tell this story and catch the pose starting at 1:15:16.

Jobs funny pose

Steve Jobs Halloween
November 9, 2023

Humane Ai Pin

Humane Ai Pin

After years of hype, curiosity, and leaks, Humane launched their first product today: Ai Pin.

It’s beautiful. The team at Humane deserve tremendous credit for building something with such precision and a keen sense of aesthetics. The design of the Ai Pin and its peripherals like the charging case, attachment options, and battery booster is inspiring. When one reflects on the intersection of fashion and technology only a few companies and products come to mind: Sony with the Walkman, Apple with the iPod (of course), Beats Electronics with the Beats by Dr. Dre Studio headphones, and others. Perhaps Humane will join this list.

I am seriously considering purchasing an Ai Pin. However, I have some questions and concerns:

  1. Using the Ai Pin requires telling everyone a new phone number. This means I will now have two phone numbers: one for the iPhone and one for the Ai Pin. I am obviously not giving up my iPhone anytime soon. This is reminiscent of the 1990s when people had car phones. To reach someone one would call a house line and then a car line. To be honest this was not super common, but I recall a few friends and relatives who had car phones.
  2. How can I see and share photos? I have kids, nieces, and nephews now! Leaving my iPhone at home means no more sharing to iCloud Shared Albums or seeing updates in albums I’m a member of. I’m fine giving up Instagram or waiting until I’m at a computer, but shared albums are too important at the moment. Grandmas need to see photos of their grandkids! I suppose I could take photos with the Ai Pin and then instruct it to send them to the grandmas via text. What about cousins and aunts and uncles and friends?
  3. Organizing the family with my wife is a full-time job. We constantly text each other to ask for help, make suggestions, send reminders, etc. That will become much more difficult without a keyboard. Perhaps we can rely on the Apple Watch to accomplish this?
  4. The Ai Pin lasts only four hours before recharging, so it’s crucial to carry around an extra battery booster (or two?) that is charged. This means one must be vigilant with charging the battery boosters every day and also carry them around. This seems doable on a workday when I have a backpack, but what about the weekend? Currently at the end of the day I place my iPhone and Apple Watch on the MagSafe Duo Charger on my nightstand. I suppose I will need to make space for the Ai Pin charger which can charge both the Ai Pin and one battery booster. What about an extra battery booster? I’m genuinely concerned with this balancing act.

I could go on but the point is clear: the Ai Pin raises too many questions. It seems daunting to make such a drastic change to my daily life. One can argue how additive it is, but it’s certainly also subtractive. Do the AI features outweigh losing access to apps and a screen? How much will my productivity decrease? Is there a future I cannot see yet where AI supercharges productivity more so than innovation in today’s apps?

Take a step back to the late 1990s. We transitioned from encyclopedias and landlines to modems and pagers. Accessing information was limited and cumbersome. Then the cell phone arrived and it was purely additive.

For music we had cassette tapes, CDs, and eventually mp3s. When the iPod arrived we already had computers, a Firewire port, and a collection of mp3s. Most importantly we listened to digital music. Not only was the iPod additive, but it also enhanced an activity we already knew and loved. We were accustomed to carrying around devices that could play music too. The iPod merely replaced them.

Then the iPhone arrived (yes I’m ignoring the Handspring Treo, Motorola Q, Samsung Blackjack, Sony Ericsson P900, and Palm VII). We already had phones and texting. The iPhone was, again, additive. No changes were needed to our behavior.

The Ai Pin is a drastic change. I predict that the majority of buyers will continue to carry their mobile phones for the foreseeable future. Maybe by 2025 we will see the beginning of a transition to the Ai Pin as a sole device, but Apple and Google will continue to innovate and keep us hooked. Is hooked the right word? It seems too negative for how we perceive our phones.

It’s important to note simply saying that the Ai Pin will improve over time as its AI capabilities develop is not a strong argument. OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard, and others will also continue to innovate and become a deeper part of all the apps we use today. That could make our mobile phones even stickier. We have not even seen what Apple is working on regrading the latest and greatest with AI.

I have a decision to make. Meanwhile I’m so excited for the future.

Humane Hardware
November 7, 2023

Use Shortcuts to Make a Blot Post

I love using for this website. It’s the perfect combination of customization and simplicity. I’ve tried so many platforms (Wordpress, Squarespace, Tumblr, iWeb, Carbonmade, Jekyll, etc.) and I’m delighted by Blot. However, its best feature is a bit interruptive when I have an urge to write a post. Blot uses Dropbox to host files which means writing starts with making a new file, naming it, and then copying and pasting a few snippets of data (title, tags, and date). I tried using the macOS stationery pad feature, but it didn’t quite work as expected.

I was emailing with Blot’s founder and he recommended I use to automate this process and reduce the number of clicks required to post. My goal is to click on an item in the macOS dock and automatically create a text file, name it, save it in the Blot folder on Dropbox, populate it with the required snippets of data, reveal the file in Finder, open Blot’s images folder, and open the file in Sublime Text (or whatever editor I feel like using this month). One click and start writing. The last step will be manually dragging and dropping the file from the Drafts folder to the Posts folder to actually publish it. Perhaps I’ll think of a clever way to automate that step as well.

Let’s begin.

Prompt for a Title

First, open the Shortcuts app and make a new shortcut. Search for the Ask for Input” action, and drag it into your shortcut. Set the Ask for” area to Text” and the area after with” is what you will see in the prompt. I chose something simple: Post name?”

Ask for Input action

Make sure you deselect Allow Multiple Lines” because if enabled you are unable to use the return key to proceed. Instead you will see a new line appear in the text field.

Populate the Text File with Common Data

Every time I start a new post I manually type out the date, title, and the markdown needed to produce an image (I usually include an image in posts). This is tedious considering the computer knows the date, and I already entered a title.

Start with: Tags: and Date:.

To automatically insert the date:

  1. Right click next to Date:”
  2. Click Insert Variable”
  3. Click Current Date”
  4. Set Date Format” to Long”
  5. Set Time Format” to None”

The next line will automatically populate the title that you entered in the prompt above. Start with #” (an h1) followed by a variable you must set:

  1. Right click next to #”
  2. Hover on Insert Variable”
  3. Click Provided Input”

Then I have a few snippets of Markdown to help me get started including:

  1. ![Alt text](/img/_name.extension) for an image I want to share
  2. []() for a link (I always swap the brackets and parentheses accidentally)
  3. Text to remind me to include a thought

Built in text

Now you’ll be ready to start writing instead of first setting up a post.

Name the New Document

Let’s take the post name you entered in the first step and apply to the new text file. This step is a bit finnicky so be careful.

  1. Search for the Set Name” action
  2. Drag the action into your shortcut
  3. Right click on Name”
  4. Hover on Insert Variable”
  5. Click Provided Input”
  6. Immediately type .md”
  7. Click Show More:
  8. Deselect Don’t include File Extension”

Step 6 is important. A blinking cursor appears next to Provided input” and you need to add the Markdown extension (.md) before clicking elsewhere. Achieving a blinking cursor in this exact spot is difficult to achieve again.

Steps 7 and 8 are also important because the goal is to manually set the file extension as .md” vs. the default .txt” which works in Blot but ideally posts use Markdown.

Set name of file

Save the File in Dropbox

Note: I recently updated Dropbox which uses the new macOS File Provider API. I am not sure how this update impacts the Shortcuts and its Dropbox actions.

For Destination Path” enter the location of your Blot Drafts folder. Mine is /Apps/Blot/David Klein/Drafts. Make sure Ask Where to Save” and Replace Existing Files” are deselected.

Set name of file

Open Important Folders

As mentioned above, the last step will be dragging and dropping the draft file from the Drafts” folder into the Posts” folder when you’re ready to publish. If your post includes an image then you will also need quick access to Blot’s images folder. You can skip this step if you don’t need folders to automatically open.

  1. Search for the Run Shell Script” action
  2. Drag the action into your shortcut
  3. Enter open along with the paths for folders that are important to your writing workflow
  4. For Input” right click on Saved File” and click Clear.”

The scripts that I use are:

  1. open "/Users/tehdik/Dropbox/Apps/Blot/David Klein/Drafts"
  2. open "/Users/tehdik/Dropbox/Apps/Blot/David Klein/img"

Set name of file

Pause for a Moment

Let’s revisit our original goal here: writing! The text file that was created, populated with helpful text, and saved to Dropbox should automatically open so you can quickly begin writing. It took a lot of experimentation, but I finally discovered that you can’t open this file yet. For some reason the file system doesn’t see it! As a result you need to pause the script for 1 second. Yes, 1 whole second.

  1. Search for the Wait” action
  2. Drag the action into your shortcut
  3. Set the value to 1”

Set name of file

Note: The screenshot shows 3 seconds, but I continued to experiment after taking the screenshot and discovered that 1 second also works!

Open Your File

Now it’s time to automatically open your new file.

  1. Search for the Run Shell Script” action
  2. Drag the action into your shortcut
  3. Enter open along with the path for your Drafts folder
  4. Add a /
  5. Right click after the slash
  6. Hover on Insert Variable”
  7. Click Provided Input”
  8. Add .md
  9. For Input” right click on Saved File” and click Clear.”

Set name of file

And there you go! Your new file will automatically open. If it opens in an unexpected text editor you can quickly fix that by setting the default application for Markdown files.

  1. Right click on a Markdown file in the Finder
  2. Click Get Info”
  3. Find the Open with:” dropdown
  4. Select the desired text editor
  5. Click Change All…”
  6. Click Continue” in the popup

Now all of your Markdown files will open the application you selected.


Shortcuts is unpredictable. If you use Keynote or Things you know what it means for clicks and keystrokes to perform actions that you expect to occur. Shortcuts is different and, as a result, frustrating to use. Several times I had to start over because I got into a state that I did not understand and could not escape. I also spent time trying to use actions to open folders automatically and failed. It seems funny to use shell scripts for a few steps, but that was the most straightforward way to open folders.

The research needed to figure out Shortcuts was mostly done using ChatGPT. It was helpful even when I was unclear about what to click on. I asked clarifying questions nad ChatGPT answered (and apologized)! All of a sudden searching on Google, scrolling results, clicking on a result, interpreting the unique page design, and scanning text for an answer feels antiquated.

Good luck making a shortcut. Let me know how it goes on Twitter 𝕏 Mastodon Threads!

Blot Website
November 3, 2023

RayMac on Kickstarter

RayCast on a desk

Nothing combines fun, functionality and just the right amount of nostalgia like the RayCue 128K. It looks like a miniature version of the iconic Apple Macintosh yet delivers modern features. A most versatile addition to your workspace, the RayCue 128K Pro boasts 14 docking ports, bluetooth speaker, and a cool display ready to show your favorite photos, time, date or any image you desire! Utilizing DisplayLink® technology, it also allows your computer to support 3 external displays. Plus, the RayCue 128K comes with a 7-port portable hub that looks just like a keyboard. It makes the perfect gift, office conversation piece or productivity splurge for anyone who remembers Apple’s early good old days!

Backed on Kickstarter! Can’t wait for this to arrive.

November 3, 2023

JPS Gallery

Office goals. Spotted on Minimalissimo. Designed by Deza Setién.

JPS Gallery

June 6, 2023

Apple Collection List

In 2011 I started collecting a few Apple products when a coworker who once worked at Apple gave me his QuickTake 150 and 200. I proudly displayed these on my desk and slowly added to the collection with an eMate, Newton, PowerCD Player, and a Cube.

My desk at iControl Networks. Shot on an iPhone 4 in 2011.

Over the past thirteen years the collection has grown through eBay purchases, Craigslist purchases, and friends/family who discover old products in a basement. Apple has made many products since 1976, and I certainly do not intend to own all of them. (Remember the Performa line? Yikes.) When considering adding something to the collection I run through the following questions:

  • Did I use one at home, school, or a friend’s house?
  • Is this product aesthetically pleasing?
  • Is this product important in Apple’s history?

I promise this makes sense in my head.

Recently I realized that I had never documented what I owned and what I hope to acquire in the future. Well, my Apple Collection is ready to share. Let me know if I’m missing anything. Soon I will clean everything throughly and take a few photos of the museum in the garage (the only place I’m allowed to display everything naturally).

Apple iPhone iPad iPod Mac
May 31, 2023

Lovers Magazine Interview

Last month I received a DM on Twitter asking if I would like to be interviewed for Lovers Magazine. Naturally I was thrilled and delighted. After many revisions, a few photo shoots of my desk, and some taste input from Remy, I was finally ready to publish. Enjoy!

May 19, 2023

iTunes Music Store 20th Anniversary

My relationship with music has evolved throughout my life as a result of new formats, devices, and services. My taste, however, has largely remained the same thanks to a few select rappers and groups. There’s a reason no one asks me to select the music during a dinner party.

I started with cassette tapes. I recall receiving an MC Hammer tape as a gift and not really understanding the point of listening to music. It was fun for a few minutes, but then I would get bored and go back to Legos. Eventually I discovered that one could record songs onto blank cassette tapes from the radio to create custom mixes although that introduced ads and babbling from DJs.

Then came CDs. I received a Green Day album as a gift and encountered the same problem: fun for just a few minutes. The first change that impacted by my listening habits came in the form of a device: the Discman. Now I could listen to music without being tied to my little stereo. Music became a little more fun but I’d still get bored with an artist after a few songs. I would constantly swap CDs to satisfy a mood.

Crucial for getting pumped up for cross country races

One day it all changed thanks to the MP3 format and Napster application. Now I could download any song I wanted at approximately 2-5 kilobits per second. Sometimes I would leave a few downloads running all night and hope that by the time I woke up for school a few had completed. The problem was storage. My Performa 6300’s 1.2 gigabyte hard drive was close to being full, so I stored my MP3 collection on a 100 megabyte Zip disk. This forced me to constantly delete and reprioritize my collection.

Napster running on Mac OS 9 in 2001

MP3s were awesome, but I was tied to my computer to enjoy my music. A device was needed. Around this time I got my first job as an intern at a startup in Palo Alto, CA named Their goal was to build an internet locker” for storing and streaming a music collection. Great idea, but way too early. Since it was a music company every employee was given a Rio 500 which had a whopping 64 megabytes of storage (approximately 14 songs). The fun was back, but one had to constantly manage the device and swap songs slowly using iTunes over a USB 1.0 connection.

The beginning of the future

My neighbor purchased a CD burner which represented another step change. 650 megabytes per CD! Now I could travel with a packet of CDs each ready to play approximately 14 songs. Most importantly: these were my mixes. I made mixes for genres, moods, and occasions. Fun and variety were achieved, but now I had the inconvenience of carrying around a packet of CDs. At some point I got my own CD burner and CD burning software finally allowed one to burn CDs without frist converting to WAV files. Yes, for some time you needed 650 megabytes of hard drive space just to burn the data to a CD.

Burn an entire CD in 18 minutes!

Time for an unfortunate, nerdy misstep. I purchased a MiniDisc player (specifically the Sony MZ-R55). It was so cool looking, and popping those little discs in and out of the player felt futuristic. Each disc held 74 minutes of music, but it took literally 74 minutes fo transfer the data. One of the benefits to MiniDiscs was the ID3 tag data could appear on the little remote you held (or clipped to your clothes) while playing music. The remote had a tiny screen that would display the artist and song name. This sounds insignificant but at the time it was helpful to browse songs by name before hitting play.

When I showed up to college with the MiniDisc player, listening to MP3s on the go was arguably still niche and difficult to navigate. People were amassing large collections on their computers and listening using applications like iTunes and Winamp. Something was missing.

So small, so cool, and so silly

The iPod. At $399 it was a tough sell so I continued recording and swapping Minidiscs for a year while I saved money. I recall initial reactions focused on existing products that had more storage for less money. But, as I’ve repeated to anyone who will listen since first using a Mac, they were ugly, unintuitive, and slow. Instead of up, down, left, right, the iPod allowed you to scroll quickly using a simple, circular motion. Scrolling had acceleration which somehow felt both magical and natural. One could navigate playlists and long lists of songs, and transfer them quickly from a computer. Slow downloads and slow CD burning all of a sudden felt archaic when one watched the speed of file transfers onto an iPod using a FireWire connection. Songs transferred in seconds! My first iPod was the 10 gigabyte second generation model purchased in 2002. The moving scroll wheel was replaced with a capacitive wheel that didn’t physically move. This was tricky in cold Ithaca winters when one constantly wore gloves outside.

Now we had fun, elegance, beauty, convenience, and speed. The last piece for Apple to fix was the source of MP3 files. We were stuck using LimeWire on the Mac which meant the occasional corrupt file, inconsistent ID3 tags, no album artwork, and breaking the law.

1000 songs in your pocket. But also a Firewire connection.

One more detour is necessary. In 2002 I joined Apple as a summer intern in the Hardware Engineering department. I worked in the Build to Order lab ensuring that new third party hardware worked as expected with current and soon to be shipping Apple software and hardware. This was a dream come true.

Interns were fortunate to meet with and hear directly from executives including Jon Rubinstein, Tony Fadell, and… Steve Jobs. I remember receiving an email saying that the next executive’s name would not be shared. This was it. We gathered in building 4 and in he walked. He talked about many subjects including his personal life when someone asked what his biggest mistake was.

Music came up. He discussed the experience of downloading and ripping music and how it wasn’t good enough. Less than a year later the iTunes Music Store launched. During the announcement I recalled sitting in that room as an intern listening to him talk about owning music in the digital age. He was telling us Apple’s plans almost a year in advance. Incredible.

Buy, transfer, unplug, listen

The iTunes Music Store launched on April 28, 2003. Somehow 20 years have passed. I remember updating to the new version of iTunes, searching for a song, and clicking Buy.” The song downloaded in seconds. Finally. No more LimeWire. It was now easy to get MP3 files that had high quality album artwork, correct labels, and no random blip or scratch sounds.

I didn’t have a lot of money in college so my collection grew slowly at first. A few months after the launch, Apple announced that 100 million songs were going to be given away as codes in Pepsi bottles. I was more of a Diet Coke with Lime kind of guy at the time, but I knew it was time to make the switch. As a part of my college meal plan I could purchase bottles of Pepsi with lunch, dinner, and maybe a snack or two throughout the day. Not every bottle included a code though which meant a wasted opportunity.

I love when digital meets tangible

People quickly discovered that if you tilted the bottle at a precise angle, you could see if the cap had a sufficient number of characters to represent a code. Boom. My collection exploded. I started buying multiple bottles at a time. I also looked insane standing by refrigerators for several seconds at a time while tilting bottles and carefully looking at them.

For some reason I thought it was fun to save the bottles and organize them into a grid even as the collection grew to over 100 bottles. Eventually it was time to grow up… and just save the caps. I found them in a little box in 2017 when I moved in with my girlfriend (now wife and mother of the cutest kid in the world). She (rightfully) made me throw them away. Fortunately there is photographic evidence.

Taken in my senior year apartment in Ithaca, NY

Now… I no longer feel connected to music. The playlists I so carefully organized disappeared during Apple’s journey from iTunes to Apple Music. My purchased songs are gone too. Perhaps I need to pay $20 per year for iTunes Match? I no longer feel compelled to organize music in Apple Music or Spotify (the Kleins have a family account which is primarily used to play Raffi nowadays). Because music is infinite it feels cheap. Easily discarded. Boring. I assume my feelings towards music are also a result of never being in an environment where music is playing. I also don’t feel I have time to truly listen to music. If I want background noise or if I’m driving/commuting I prefer listening to podcasts. I find them both more entertaining and educational. There are also podcasts to match moods similar to how I used music in college.

Thank you for joining me on this tale of my life through music. Hearing that it was the iTunes Music Store’s 20th anniversary got me thinking about all of these devices, formats, and naturally my bottle collection.

Apple Music iPod iTunes MP3
August 25, 2022

Issey Miyake

All of my work stems from the simplest of ideas that go back to the earliest civilisations: making clothing from one piece of cloth. It is my touchstone. I believe that all forms of creativity are related.

Issey Miyake passed away this month. My preferred watch between 2013–2015 was a Miyake piece called the TO Watch, and I recently learned it was designed by Tokujin Yoshioka while perusing one of my favorite websites, Minimalissimo.

Although strikingly simple, it was difficult to ascertain the time because the hour and minute hands are reversed. Friends would chuckle when it would take me a few seconds to become confident I knew the correct time after looking down.

Perhaps it’s time to purchase a new model. It’s gorgeous.