Apple TV

The future of TV?

Apple released it’s Apple TV app to customers this week. Not to be confused with their streaming service, Apple TV Plus; which will be released in September; the app promises to bring together all your TV needs in one cohesive unit.

New Apple TV app icon
New Apple TV app icon

Apple, renowned for trying to take the guess work out of the user experience by keeping things simple, find themselves in a unique position to do this. Content from their movies and TV (US and others) apps which can be purchased automatically shift to this platform. Also streaming services like HBO, Amazon Prime and Showtime amongst others have made their content explorable from the new tv app. You could subscribe, purchase content, or get a free trial if applicable, all from within the app.

South African Apple TV content
South African Apple TV content

However, when I updated my Apple TV software the new TV App was quite sparse. There were tabs for Watch Now, Movies and Library, as well as a search button. This is because although South Africans can legally stream from Netflix and Amazon Prime, we do not have access to Apple’s TV shows. This is due to complicated television access rights. For the same reasons we currently have little to no options for streaming live sports. Thus no TV shows or Sports tabs, and probably because of the sparsity of content, no kids tab either.

US Apple TV content
US Apple TV content

So right now, I basically get the same functionality out of the Movies app. I’m pretty sure DStv and it’s Showmax will never have their content on the app. Like their competitor Netflix, they have enough content to remain independent for now. But amidst rumblings of Disney and others eventually bringing their own services, will that still be the case in the future.

DStv have long been South Africa’s go to for entertainment but I feel that they missed a huge opportunity when they failed to move a bit quicker into streaming services. Had they done so they may have been in a better position against Netflix and South Africans would’ve look to the US company for their streaming needs. However, DStv who are embarrassingly late to the party have now been scrambling by reducing costs and offering free services to customers yet still their numbers are dwindling.

Disney + pricing
Disney + pricing

Apple released their TV app to their customers with software updates on iOS, MacOS and TvOS this week. I have installed all of these and as mentioned earlier, the app is sparse here. Things are a bit more populated on the app when I used my US Apple ID. The app has been released to the latest Samsung TV’s as well but since I have an older Samsung Smart TV, I was able to get the app. I am hoping that when Apple release their Apple TV plus service that there will be much more content. If Apple produce the content themselves, they will be able to distribute it freely.

Disney has some of my favorite content
Disney has some of my favorite content

Another streaming service I am very excited about is Disney. They will release their streaming app in November this year and they are a huge threat to companies like Netflix. The reason is that Disney already own big names like Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars. The recently acquired Hulu, the streaming service known for titles like The Handmaid’s Tale. This and the fact they can seriously underprice their service is dangerous to competitors.

Apple may be safe from this since the Disney boss sits on their board and Pixar was co-owned by Steve Jobs. I am not sure how all this will play out but I hope that it will mean more TV choices for South Africans.

This post was conceived, written, edited and published on my iPhone. The Apple TV app logo was found here and the feature image was taken by Jens Kreuter on Unsplash All other pictures were taken by me or are screenshots of pictures found on the web. None of which I own.

An Apple a Day

My first memorable encounter with an Apple device was when I was trying to play a song from an iPod during my days as a sound technician at the School. The simplicity of the design baffled me then and I only remember it because I was so frustrated because I couldn’t get the thing to work without help. Not liking to be the fool, I researched what this gizmo was. It was 2010 and both the iPhone and the iPad were already released, but I knew very little about these then.

This iPod touch 4th generation look similar to the one I had
This iPod touch 4th generation look similar to the one I had

When I left the School the next year, I bought an iPod touch with the extra money I got with my final salary. My very first Apple device. At about R2000 it was expensive for an MP3 player. But of course it was so much more. I could load apps onto it and thus could do just about anything with the device except make phone calls. Not that people were making much calls then. It was the time of BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) and nearly everyone in Cape Town had a BlackBerry. Most importantly though, the iPod opened the door to a company whose vision for impeccably designed products aligned with mine.

This 2017 iPad Pro replaced my 2011 iPad 2.
This 2017 iPad Pro replaced my 2011 iPad 2.

That same year in 2011, I watched my very first Apple event where the second generation iPad was released. I later purchased a 16Gb Space Grey iPad with WiFi through FNB’s Smart Device program. There was no way I could afford to pay cash for this thing, but it became my dream device and I fell in love that year. But with love comes heartbreak. Steve Jobs died in October of the same year. Although I didn’t know much about him then, I would later read as much as I can about this extraordinary man. In fact my farewell speech at the School would be inspired by Steve’s famous 2005 Stanford Commencement speech. My speech received a standing ovation, as did his. Not bad for a boy who stuttered through all of my school days. Apple’s cofounder had changed my life already, and would continue to do so through his legacy which is still deeply ingrained into his company.

My first iPhone ❤️
My first iPhone ❤️

It took me a while to purchase my first iPhone. The device was extremely expensive and up until then I had never had a phone contract. However in 2013 the iPhone 5S was released along with the iPhone 5C. I fell in love with the iPhone 5S because of the sleek design and the fingerprint reader called Touch ID. This was a new technology then and as I mentioned before, I love new tech. So I purchased my first gold iPhone 5S on a two year Vodacom contract through iStore. I remember the salesperson unboxing the iPhone to insert the sim and I just wanted to grab the phone from his hands. I was just so excited.

This is my 2014 11-inch MacBook Air
This is my 2014 11-inch MacBook Air

That iPhone felt more like a weapon than a phone. It was remarkably capable. It would quickly replace my aging iPod because the sound quality was really just so much better.

By now, I was nearly a proper Apple fan boy, but I needed one more device to solidify that status. A Macintosh. My first laptop and basically the very first computer I would own, the 2014 MacBook Air was a gem. I got to unbox that one all by myself. Getting used to the operating system, then called OS X took me about a week. It was extremely intuitive.

My current iPhone (It’s actually pink but I have a light blue case 😂)
My current iPhone (It’s actually pink but I have a light blue case 😂)

As was the case with most, if not all of the Apple devices I purchased. The learning curve was often gentle enough for me to start pursuing other things I was interested in. I started learning to code on that Mac. Although I attempted programming before that, the Mac just made everything else so seamless that I could just get to the business of being creative.

The old Apple logo
The old Apple logo

I love technology, but what I like most about my Apple products is that the technology never gets in the way. It is just there in the background when I need it. An unobtrusive assistant that is at my beck and call whenever I desire.

I would like to continue this post next week with 3 more Apple products that made me a more creative, productive and ultimately happier individual. The Apple Watch, TV and Pencil.

Until next week.

This post was conceived, written, edited and published on my iPhone. All my pictures were taken with this iPhone using the Moment app.

My Virtual CV

I’m celebrating my 300th week in the Chemistry Department at the University this week. I got lucky, I managed to land a job in Science despite having very little formal qualifications. I like to tell myself I got hired for my determination to get the work done at all costs and my willingness to learn new things. The truth is, I got lucky.

Which got me thinking; very soon I would have been doing this lab thing for 20 years. What happens next? Can I rely on career luck once more? Perhaps, I should have a plan this time. So I had to decide what is it I want to do next. This may be the last big career choice I took.

I started to pay more careful attention to what I really like. For the past few years, this has been technology. I truly love using new tech, reading about it, listening to podcasts about it, watching YouTube videos about it. I even like watching 2-3 hour long tech conferences to find out what new tech is coming.

I’m also currently studying Mathematics and Computer Science. I always loved Math. There is an intrinsic beauty in its truth. For me, programming is the most accessible application of this truth. It’s the thing I like doing in my free time. The perfect pursuit if you like solving problems.

Doing some coding during lunch.

The difficulty when wishing to change careers lies in gaining experience. Since I have a full-time job and I am studying part-time it seems like a mammoth task to also find time for work experience. Luckily, programming is uniquely suited for this since it can be done virtually anywhere. Also, I can use it to improve my workflow in the labs, as well as exploring my love for tech.

My workspace at home.

This is why I started a website last year. To document my progress, like my virtual CV. I want this to be a place where I can showcase projects that I have worked on. Some place where I can display my determination to get the job done and my willingness to learn.

My Virtual CV

I think it’s very cool that the place that I will use to show all this will itself be one of my projects. Initially I chose to use a website builder because I was still very new to web development. I’ve since learnt how to design and implement a basic website and how to deploy this to the web. This will replace my current website from today (this post’s publish date).

Messing around in the terminal.

I’m sure this new website will have many flaws and functionality will be limited but I hope that it will improve as I learn more about web development and design. Just getting to this point has proved challenging. It’s funny how hard I had to work to implement things that the average user may not even notice. It’s equally daunting to think that there may be a lot of problems, that I do not even notice right now. But as I mentioned in a previous blog post, I really like challenges.

Even updating node was a mission that required notes.

This will be a massive undertaking, but ultimately it is what I want to do. With my free time now, and if I’m lucky, as a career later.

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

Avengers Endgame Preview

Avengers Assemble
Avengers Assemble

My dad used to ask me what I see in comic book heroes and why I’m so invested in their stories. I have had this admiration for them from a very early age but only really started to contemplate the why when I was older. I love that when given power most of these heroes choose to do the right thing and use their powers to help others. Not all of them are exceptionally good, they are just like normal people.

The very fun group of Guardians
The very fun group of Guardians

Too often we find in real life that most people with power abuse it. So there’s something to be said about someone, even in a fictional world who can resist the trend. People need heroes, more now than ever. And it’s nice that some very smart and talented people have decided to portray this in movies.

Captain Marvel may be the key
Captain Marvel may be the key

Obviously we know the origin of these movies began in comic book pages. I remember hiding my comics inside my textbooks during class at school. I consider myself fortunate to live in a time when all these amazing comics have come to the big screen. For the last decade, Marvel Studios have been the pioneers in combining the stories of these comic book heroes.

So, it’s with mixed emotions that I write this on the eve of the release of the movie. I’m excited to see Avengers Endgame tomorrow but I know this may be the last we see of some cast members that have portrayed ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’. Yet it gives me great joy recalling some of my favorite moments.

Where it all started!
Where it all started!

It all started with Iron Man. That movie was groundbreaking because of the difficulty of bringing Tony Stark’s technology to ‘life’. Because of the success of this title which came through the hard work of all involved, the Marvel Universe got a nod from comic book fans and instantly gained a lot of new support. I was personally impressed with the way Jarvis was presented and I found myself wanting to have my own version of the artificial intelligence. This movie left a big impact on my life and greatly influenced my path of study and work subsequently. Iron Man has grown from strength to strength in the Avengers franchise, and it’s now totally plausible that a man with an iron suit (technically a nanotechnology suit now) can stand up to a Titan. I can’t wait to see what Tony will come up with next to try and stop Thanos.

We don’t trade lives Captain
We don’t trade lives Captain

I wasn’t a Captain America fan at the beginning. Although I rooted for him when he was the underdog, I quickly grew tired of his goody two shoes attitude in the first movie. That was until Winter Soldier which was the first non Spider-Man Marvel movie that I purchased. Captain went rogue on that one. This ‘rules be gone’ guy really grew on me but the fact that he would sacrifice everything to save his friend was the turning point for me. So much so that when Civil War came along I was on Team Captain America and Tony Stark started getting on my nerves. A good story is able to let you change your mind like this and his has been extraordinary. Captain made Thanos balk at his raw strength. He even had Thor worried when he tried lifting Mjölnir (Thor’s hammer). But the strongest part of Captain is his heart.

Thor the god of thunder
Thor the god of thunder

Thor and his hammer were inseparable after the first movie and you had to wonder about the luck of some guys. I mean look at the dude. He has everything. He is a god, he has super strength and wields an indestructible hammer that always comes back to him when he throws it. That all changed in Ragnarok. His older sister; Hela, broke his hammer, took his eye and destroyed his beautiful planet. But first she threw Thor out of the bifrost and he landed up on a planet where the Hulk was a gladiator champion. This movie really showed a different, funnier side of Odin’s son and had him regain lots of the fans he may have lost in the first two movies.

What did he see the endgame will be?
What did he see the endgame will be?

These three are definitely the biggest in the current Marvel Universe as they have 3 movies each. Yet there are many more interesting characters that we have been introduced to and I wish I could write about them all but then this would be an even longer post than it already is. We’ve come a long way with these characters and that emotional investment will be crucial in determining the success of the end of this saga. These stories and all the rest make the climatic Endgame truly special and I can’t wait to see it.

Building My ChemCount Web Application

ChemCount Design Adobe Comp_2Having just finished my web course, I started building my app this week. I wanted to deploy a minimum viable product this Friday but I ran into trouble with the basic structure of the website. So, I immediately learnt that applying what I had just studied was going to be difficult.

ChemCount Current Home Page
ChemCount Current Home Page

Following online tutorials gives you a false sense of achievement. You basically just copy someone else doing work and you think you cool because you got a website up with minimal effort. Implementing the thing yourself is a bit more challenging, since you quickly see how things fall apart. But this is why I need to try to get as many versions of the thing done and see what works.

ChemCount Results Page filled with dummy data for now
ChemCount Results Page filled with dummy data for now

My plan was to set up a workflow. Being me, I was overly ambitious, thinking that I could finish in a week. But I had good reason to. I’m meeting a friend to help him build his website. So I thought if I had put up something of my own it would prepare me well enough to give adequate advice.

A Dynamic Experiment Page in ChemCount
A Dynamic Experiment Page in ChemCount

Up to now I have not actually designed my personal website because I’m using a website builder. All I need to do is change themes, colours and fonts to give my website a fresh look. It’s convenient but to get true control and create authenticity, it’s best to design with code yourself. However this could lead to a lot of frustration when things ultimately go wrong. Luckily, I am a sucker for punishment and derive great pleasure out of shifting images across pixels.

More importantly, I really like taking something out of my head and making it real. It’s very satisfying for me.

ChemCount Workflow inside Notion
ChemCount Workflow inside Notion

So I’m watching Mariana’s Study Corner to get more organised in my studies, work and life in general and she’s using an app called Notion. This is probably the most organised person I know and people think that I am organised. I used Notion to setup my ChemCount workflow on Monday. Then, I tried designing the application interface on Adobe Comp. I didn’t get very far even though the app was extremely intuitive. I want to use it for Saturday but I’m scared I’m going to make a fool of myself, so maybe I’ll just sketch in Notability for now. I could always transfer this to Comp later.

Part of the design for my app is figuring out the database schema. I’m using MongoDB which is NOSQL (Not Only Structured Query Language). This gives a bit more flexibility because I don’t need a rigid database schema at the onset. The transition to MongoDB Atlas (a cloud database) is then seamless at deployment. I have a general idea here of what I want my schema to look like but I really should think about it a bit more.

Developing ChemCount inside Visual Studio Code
Developing ChemCount inside Visual Studio Code

Next I need to build the app. This is where I’m having the most problems. My initial plan was to get the structure right before I touched the styling. But I got stuck on trying to transfer the data from my form to my table. When I rewatched some of my Udemy tutorials I got distracted by the fact that my website was not styled, so naturally I spent way too much time trying to style my website.

ChemCount Database viewed with GUI
ChemCount Database viewed with GUI

The good news is that my ChemCount Web Application is being built and coming together slowly but surely. Even though it is challenging at times, I am glad that I am doing this. What I have learnt this far is that although coding can be very demanding, I absolutely love it. Sometimes, I even dream about the problems I’m having. But they not nightmares, they make me feel more alive.

The next step is to get that first working prototype finished and start using it at work. I am looking forward to the challenges and breakthroughs with equal enthusiasm.

Game of Thrones Final Season Preview

If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention

The ultimate custody battle.
The ultimate custody battle.

My friend Gerard gave me my first few episodes of Game of Thrones. I actually wanted the first season of House of Lies and after he put that on the flash drive there was still some space. Gerard thought I should check out this new fantasy series. I wanted to get the Game of Thrones out of the way so I binged those three episodes first so that I could watch the “main attraction” without distraction.

Showmax story in the App Store
Showmax story in the App Store

I never finished that first season of House of Lies. Game of Thrones was delightfully engaging. I wanted more so I bought the first two seasons on DVD at Musica. I was late to the party but I devoured those 20 episodes. My insatiable appetite was appeased when I got the books from the University’s library and flew through them.

Some of the books I want to read / reread
Some of the books I want to read / reread

Game of Thrones has really changed the way I view certain things in life. The balance of power and how it lies in places that aren’t always obvious is one. I was also intrigued how some of the most vulnerable characters in this very violent show seem to hang on. The show doesn’t shy away from violence or sex but doesn’t seem to overtly celebrate these either. Instead it shines in highlighting the complexities of being human. The inner struggle each of us has between what we are and who we aspire to be.

Many people that don’t watch the show haven’t really given it a chance. They see one episode or hear people talk about it and just think it’s about sword fighting. Although Game of Thrones has a bit of that, I think it’s better described as a political drama. We experience a lot of the story from the perspective of powerful people and influential leaders and how their ambition and power lust shapes the lives of “ordinary people”.

If I had to pick, these are my favorite characters
If I had to pick, these are my favorite characters

George R.R. Martin (the author) has publicly admitted that he studied rulers in history for his research for the book and this is evident in the structure of nobility in the books in this series. There is an attention to detail that is first introduced in the books and later illustrated in both the TV series and later illustrated versions of his books. He has created a very intricate world which; albeit based on history and references the J.R.R. Tolkien (author of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings) books; easily draws the viewer and reader into it.

His plot twists are strikingly shocking and cleverly crafted and can’t be trusted to keep your favorite characters alive. I believe his stories are perfect for the modern viewer as this audience is more adept with the fact that the line between good and bad is blurry and can be crossed many times in one lifetime. There is a delicate balance of morality in all of us, which Martin exploits in creating authentic characters that easily gains viewer empathy. This questioning ourselves through his characters, is; in my opinion; the epitome of great creative writing.

Pay your debts like a Lannister
Pay your debts like a Lannister

Thus, I do think that the final season will have it’s share of shocking plot twists. I think Martin will play on the fact that most of us have been so enticed with the story that we may have missed crucial hints given earlier. When I rewatched the first season, I was reminded that we are introduced to white walkers right away. A fact that is quickly forgotten during the squabbles of the larger houses vying for the iron throne.

Ned Stark did always promise that winter would come
Ned Stark did always promise that winter would come

All will be revealed in the final season though. Ending a great season is difficult and I have been disappointed too many times from other shows but I’m expecting excellence from Game of Thrones. It’s been such a heart wrenching journey that I expect to be shocked a long time after the final credits roll. I also expect to be walking around like one of those white walker zombies looking for the next show to fill the void that Game of Thrones will undoubtedly leave.

The Web Application

So proud of myself
So proud of myself

So I just finished The Complete 2019 Web Development Bootcamp which I started at the beginning of the year. The thinking behind doing this course was that instead of doing an iOS application, I would try to make a much easier web app.

I really enjoy Web Development. There is this instant gratification about it because you can easily see how something that you created would look on the internet. I learnt about structure, styling and functionality all in one course.

My Udemy Courses
My Udemy Courses

The course was offered on Udemy by the London App Brewery and is presented by Angela Yu. Angela is a great teacher and presenter. She leads students effortlessly through complex topics with the grace of someone that was born to teach. She is quite funny and jokes about her voracious appetite. “Buy Food”, “Cook Food”, and “Eat Food” are in some of the examples. She has an amazing accent which is really easy to understand in my opinion.

Angela in Cape Town
Angela in Cape Town

Most importantly though, Angela doesn’t just teach a topic. She also shows you how to solve problems on your own. Programming can be extremely frustrating and a very useful tool is knowing how to find solutions through reading documentation and other programmers advice. Of course it’s important to understand the code that you get from outside sources, or at the very least understand what it is supposed to do.

So what can I do now that I finished this very short online course? Many things actually. I conceptually understand how to build a website from scratch and have it deployed to and running on a remote server. I learnt how to style and structure my website with CSS and HTML and to add functionality with JavaScript using Express and EJS. I also learnt how to run the website locally or remotely using Node.js and how to persist data using MongoDB. But I would like a little more practice before I finish my application.

It took me a while to change today to yesterday and actually have it reflect on the remote server
It took me a while to change today to yesterday and actually have it reflect on the remote server

Firstly, I want to repurpose a todolist that we did in the course. At the moment the todolist is very basic but at least it is running on a remote server from Heroku with a database connected via MongoDB Atlas. You can add custom lists by typing the name of your list into website address bar after the domain name preceded by a /.

Eg. http://www.mywebsitename.com/MyCustomList

Not very user friendly I know, but this creates a new todo list on a separate page with custom items in the list reminding you how to use the todolist. I want to make the adding a list functionality a little more user friendly. Then I would also like to persist data that has been deleted (items on your list that have been completed) so that I can view the items I have completed if I want to.

Custom list with default list items
Custom list with default list items

The very first todo list we did in the course was one that we tested on our local machine using the address http://localhost:3000. This implementation allowed the todo list to display the current date instead of the hard coded “Today” title in the remotely connected todo list above. I would like to see if I can add this current date functionality and then perhaps store this as a custom list name. I need to decide if I want to store this automatically or only if the user actually puts an item in the list. This will save me from storing a lot of generic data.

For example I mentioned above that the home page of the remote todo list gives custom items explaining how to use the list. These data would be the same for each automatically created date and thus we would be storing a lot of the same items over and over again eventually filling up our database unnecessarily. Another option might be to only use this custom list on the home page and redirect the user if they want to create a custom list with the current date.

Once I have customized this todo list and I am able to use it in place of my current todo list application then I will move on to getting the ChemCount application onto the web. However, I would also like to develop the code for my website as the GoDaddy website builder will be expiring at the end of April. I want to keep the site as simple as possible and if I cannot incorporate the preview of my blog I will just leave a link somewhere on the home page. Perhaps I can figure out later how this particular feature is implemented.

Regardless, I am really enjoying web development. There is a genuine excitement when something you conceived of and worked hard to get functional is on the internet for people to see. It’s also great that this thing becomes like a living organism when other people interact with it and it evolves without your input eventually. It is, for me the perfect amalgamation of creativity and technology. Everyone interacts with the web these days and being able to tag a tiny part of that universe with my art is indeed a privilege.

Please follow my journey on Jola’s Junction. Thank you so much for reading!