Greg Morris

Follow @gr36 on Micro.blog.

Blog Posts

Why Start A Blog?

When I first stated writing online, I didn’t even know what a blog was. I set up some online hosting, and cobbled together an HTML website from a theme, and then when I posted something I would duplicate a page and link it up on the man index, all manually. No research done, no WordPress, I had no clue. All I knew was that I wanted to publish online and be a writer, and it wasn’t until 2013 that I really sorted myself out and began to publish properly.

Due to this desire, I wrote about my thoughts about technology on my blog and then posted the links to Facebook and Twitter. I am so glad that I went this way and have almost all of my posts as a record instead of pouring all of my time into social media. Although I have no idea what started this motivation, the last few weeks have proven that more and more people should be doing the same and putting some value into the things they put on the internet.

My first WordPress Blog From June 2013

In this time of turmoil and possible migration, don’t just fall into the same trap and do the same with Mastodon, or wherever you end up. There are some great services out there now that can provide you with a cost-effective way to turn your would be tweet storms into blog posts to make them yours, forever. I am a little bias towards micro.blog because, although not perfect, it offers you a great way to get started and start posting everything to one place.

My true hope with all this Twitter nonsense is that people start moving away from social media apart from for real communication, and that more thangs get published online. Blogging isn’t about putting 300+ words together in a nice little package and choosing the right images to go along with it. It can be anything you want it to be, your blog and your posts are your own and don’t need to conform to anyone else’s rules.

You will hear many blog supporters discuss ownership, the indieweb and even internet standards when getting preachy about having a blog. None of these really matter to most people, the real reason you need a blog is to showcase you. To have your little place online that isn’t affected by algorithms and billionaire babies. It’s just yours.

Just Shut Up And Listen

It’s rare that a trailer sparks any reaction in me. I often feel like I have watched the whole film, don’t you think they are too long nowadays and ruin it? Anyway, I saw one for the Netflix film Shutz by Jonah Hill yesterday, and it sparked plenty of feelings. Something that I have been trying to work on myself over the last few months, and that’s just STFU and listening to people.

Pretty near the start, he says something that has echoed around my brain all day. “They just listen [therapists], and all your friends, who are idiots, give you advice. And you want your friends just to listen”. I’ve written before about me struggling to make many real life friends. The ones I have, I never unload my feelings onto them because I do not want them having to listen to my issues, but I have always been a good sounding board for them. People talk to me frequently about their issues, and I try to give the best advice I can.

I struggle with talking too much. I’m like a toddler, when I hear something that I have thoughts about I want to share them straight away. I do have a filter between brain and mouth, but it might be a little on the short side. Should I in fact, just shut up and listen more instead of giving out my advice. Typically, I have no experience of the situation they are experiencing and as such I am, as Jonah says, an idiot.

Flipping this on its head, I think I would talk to more people around me if they just listened. I don’t share my feeling with others, apart from on my blog, because I don’t need the advice, I just need to say my feelings out load. Much like my process for writing, talking though things often lets me come to a resolution on my own. I’d love to be listened to more. I’ve started watching the full film this morning and already written down loads of notes to refer to, so I might get more advice than I bargained for out of this.

Apple Watch Ultra: This Isn’t Supposed To Be For Me

I distinctly remember watching this year’s Apple event and being interested in absolutely nothing new. The yearly even that temps me into spending massive sums of money didn’t come across as well as usual. Most of the improvements were software anyway. Despite my bank balance thanking me, I felt a bit flat that I wouldn’t be picking up my usually iPhone and Apple Watch combination ready for my birthday in a couple of weeks time.

How wrong could I have been. Just a couple of months later, I am sat typing this out with an iPhone 14 Pro in my pocket and the most surprising hit of the year, an Apple Watch Ultra on my wrist. Whilst I like the iPhone, I would give it up with very little thought if I had too, however no one is taking this watch away from me now, and that shouldn’t be the case.

All of the Apple marketing tells me this watch is not for people like me. Sure I am relatively fit, despite health issues stopping me from running much, and I do like the outdoors. This watch is supposed to be for those that are levels above me. Divers, rock climbers, ultra distance runners, it’s not supposed to be for full-time dads and office workers, but here we are. All the improvements are just as useful in everyday life as they are for those Apple aim it at, and I adore it.

That’s it, review over. There are enough people out there that will walk you through specs and all the things that it can do, unfortunately I lack the ability to express the boring bits well and answer those types of questions you may have. What I can do though is tell you why and how this helps me in my daily life and hopefully help you see where it could be useful to you. This is pretty easy because there are not many areas that make a difference, but they add up to something that most people should consider.

Battery Life

Presentations and marketing never give a true reflection of the type of usage you will get from Apple devices. They are pretty spot on, but no-one does the things they highlight. They don’t watch video playback on a MacBook Pro for 18 hours straight, and most people won’t be doing 60 hours worth of exercise (low-power mode required). It’s even hard to work out what battery life would actually be like when comparing to the ‘regular’ Apple Watches “all day” but the Ultra will easily see you through three days.

I loose around 25% per 24 hours, including sleep tracking and at least one workout. Although occasionally, it seems to plummet at twice that rate until I reboot, which is bound to be something software related. Is this the best battery life on the market, no. Is this anything compared to a Garmin watch for example, no again. It is the best Battery life in an Apple Watch to date, and this means less to worry about.

The only ‘downside’ is that charging takes quite a while. Using a supported fast charger, it can get you from 25% ish up to 50+ in 30 mins, but it takes a while to top it up to full. I have mediated this by charging it most days for 30 minutes or so while I have a shower and get sorted for the day. This sees the battery life hover around 80-50% constantly and suits me much better than having to charge it for 90-minutes or so every few days.

I am over the moon with the improvements to battery life of the Apple Watch Ultra. I wear it constantly, use if for phone free days out, and in my testing when I was trying to see how far it would get me I only lost 12% after 5 hours of hard use. If you’re like me and want to be contactable, still be able to make payments and other modern things, but don’t want a phone around all the time, the Apple Watch Ultra is the perfect device.

Size & Design

When I first thought about getting the Apple Watch Ultra was when people I knew began to receive them and use them. Sure, I’d seen the glossy images in press reviews and seen a few in video reviews, but once they were all over social media my opinions changed. The design that I thought was chunky and horrible, actually looked much better ‘in-person’. When compared to larger Casio watches the Apple Watch Ultra looks much nicer, to me at least.

Of course, this is all subjective. You may look at the raised lip to the flat screen, coupled with the crown guard, and think yuck. Some of my desire was just motivation to have something else, anything else, than the Apple Watch I had been wearing for years, but the Ultra version looks really impressive and feels great on my wrist. Even my tiny wrists. Seriously, I have to buy Size 6 braided loops and a S/M in the Orange Alpine Strap as seen in almost all press shots (it is nice though).

The great thing about the new design is that it doesn’t scream smartwatch. It’s obvious that it is one if you’re paying attention, but from everyday life, to the boardroom, the design looks more like a watch than the original design. The chunky design is not for everyone, and in fact more stylish watch brands are going the offsite way and slimming down, but it looks much better than the press photos would have you believe.

Comfortable

The weird thing about this watch is, despite the increase in size, and it is a big watch, it’s far more comfortable than other versions. The heart rate sensor doesn’t seem to push itself into my wrist as much, and the increased width makes the straps pull around my wrist rather than down. With the increased battery life, I tried sleeping in it, which I rarely did with the old one, and was surprised how comfortable it is.

Watch straps are a bit looser when compared with the regular ones, which makes perfect sense given that the watch itself is slightly bigger. This is only obvious with fixed length bands like my favourite braided loops.

Rough & Ready

I have lost count the number of times I have accidentally scraped my watch on a wall, or knocked it on a door frame. Accidents happen in real life and although my sport versions always stood up OK, they always end their time with me with more than a few scrapes and chips. This new titanium version with the robust design gives me the confidence that I don’t have to worry about it. This is one of the great appeals of this watch, yes it can stand up to mountain climbing or whatever, but it will also resist being hit by a ‘ toy or fumbling it off its charger in the dark. It’s outdoor proof and also life proof.

Useable

Many of the design changes are due to fitting in a much larger screen. I suppose 49 mm is not that much of a difference from 45, but that’s almost a 10% bump up. The new watchOS 9 exaggerates this further because the OS feels much larger than before, making interaction with the screen much easier. From swiping on the keyboard replying to a message to opening and using a app, it really is surprising what a difference a few mm make on a watch screen.

The screen is also much brighter when in use. This isn’t something that I noticed when using older versions, only when testing both side by side you do notice the stark difference. Making the screen much easier to see and use, especially when working out, when a quick glance is all you need to see all information on the nice big screen.

The screen is not the only thing that’s been improved, sure you’ll also get more accurate GPS and a depth sensor, but a massive improvement is the onboard speaker. Making it even more useful in daily life if, like me, you get phone calls at the worst possible time. I’m not saying people on the other end can’t tell they are on speaker, but you can hear them load and clear now whatever you are doing. When phone free, I’ve been making and receiving quite a few calls and the speaker makes a nice change to having to carry around my AirPods just in case.

I Love It

All of these things make the Apple Watch Ultra one of the best buys of the last few years. The battery life and small improvements all around have made me think less about it being a smartwatch, and more of a life assistant. I have the confidence it will do whatever I need it to do, whenever I need it. I can go phone free for hours on end as well as stand up to all the stresses and strains of my hectic lifestyle. It comes with me everywhere and I absolute love it.

That’s not to say that everyone should rush out and buy it. This is a £850 watch, after all. It won’t retain the value like spending the same money on a regular watch would do, and it won’t last nearly as long. However, it can aid your life in some very specific ways that I think plenty of people would enjoy. If you have the opportunity, try one out and see what it can do for you.

How To Filter Posts By Category On Micro.blog

I’ve been using the awesome service micro.blog on and off for what feels like forever. The service is niche, and a bit quirky, but that’s my thing, and it is the perfect replacement for noisy social media. Don’t get me wrong, it’s far from perfect, but allows me to not have to worry about where I post things and cross posts to wherever I want. Enough of the gushing now, what really annoyed me for a while was working out Hugo theming and the little nuanced micro.blog differences, and I have finally worked out how to split posts by category properly.

Micro vs Full Posts

I have a constant argument with myself if this matters or not, and ultimately, it doesn’t, but I have always felt that my Home Screen is too busy with everything mixed into one place. I’ve been able to remove all micro posts for a while, but decided to come up with a way to display micro ones separately. The key to my new set-up is creating different lists in the Hugo back end.

Most themes will feature something similar to {{ $paginator := .Paginate (where .Site.Pages.ByDate.Reverse "Type" "post") }} in the layouts/index.html. What this means is that Hugo will paginate all the posts on the blog. Your theme will then go through all of these pages when you use {{ range $paginator.Pages }}.

My old solution was to put different data into the paginator, such as .Site.Taxonomies.categories.[yourcategory] and this works fine. However, we can make this more robust by creating different pools of data to use at different points. By using {{ $microposts := .Site.Taxonomies.categories.micro }} I am telling Hugo to pull all posts in the category micro into a list called microposts alongside the usual $paginator. This can be anything you want by using the same method {{ $[list name] := [the data to find] }}. all categories in micro.blog are found using Site.Taxonomies.categories not the usual Hugo of Params.categories.

I can then call this data later on and cycle through the posts at a different point using {{ range $[list name] }}. In my new theme, I now have a main area that displays full posts (those with a title) and micro posts (those without a title) in a sidebar. I’ve also added in my OMG.LOL status widget too, if you want to customise that, take a look at my guide.

I am by no means an expert, and I am certain this knowledge is well known, but I thought I would share it so that others can benefit from it.

Some Small Thoughts #2

Turns out that I have more smaller thoughts than I thought (try saying that three times fast). Coupled with some nice feedback, has inspired me to publish some more bit sized posts for you to consume.

The Happiness Privilege

I’ve just finished Happy, Sexy, Millionaire by Steven Bartlet. It’s a pretty short book that doesn’t fall into the same trap most books with a similar message do and become a series of cherry-picked anecdotal stories. Near the start he discusses his pursuit of happiness, in that he started out with the wrong outlook and gives one of the most important outlooks that I’ve read for a while.

The premise is to not look for things to make you happy, but look for happiness instead. As he points out, just the sheer contemplation of wanting to change your life to be happy comes from an amazingly privileged place already.

The fact that you can even dare to think about changing things in your life to be more happy should make you stop and think. There is a massive section of the world that this simply isn’t an option, there is no other process than simply doing whatever they need to survive. We are all in an amazingly privileged place just to be reading this text and thinking about happiness, never forget that. You are already enough.

Quiet Apathy

There’s a general belief that there are only two sides of every argument now. Commentators point to issues like Brexit and vaccinations that the world at large is moving further apart. There’s some truth in this, at least in my anecdotal observations, the world does seem further apart. However, that is because you only hear from both of these extreme sides, and the rest of us don’t care enough.

Take something like the online discourse around the COVID-19 vaccine. Peruse the online world, and you might think you’re either in the camp that got it as soon as possible, or you’re an anti-vaxer. The truth is, the vast majority of people were somewhere in the middle. Positive about the advancements, but prefer a bit of a wait and see mentality. We don’t need to be split into camps, but the reality of the online world is that the other side of the argument is always wrong. Quiet apathy is the way to live life happily, have your opinions but don’t give a damn about other people’s versions of them. Bliss.

Quote Of The Week

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible - T.E. Lawrence

Mastodon For Companies

I love the fact that Twitter is burning down. Not for the staff there, I hate that these talented people are without jobs or forced to have one they don’t like. But for the selfish fact it has got me to the stage where my need to visit has diminished, and I feel mush happier about the world.

The only thing I miss is being able to get in touch with brands. Many seem to prioritise support through Twitter and Facebook (neither of which I use) and sending them a tweet for help is easy to do. With this in mind I wondered what would happen if Twitter imploded, or the brand just didn’t want to be there any more, and I ran through a thought experiment where they all had Mastodon instances.

It would be straightforward to toot (I still hate that word) at a brand’s customer service if they all become universal. For instance, all customer service could be @cs@webaddress, and you wouldn’t need to root around for anything. Amazon order not shown up, just message @cs@amazon.co.uk or had a bad experience in Tesco, reach out to @cs@tesco.co.uk. This opens up the ability to have those individuals who are representative of the brand, or otherwise want to be open to contact to have the ability, or you just have an internal social network too.

Yes, this relies on everyone understanding Mastodon and there are many that still don’t, but I think it’s a pretty nice idea. Thoughts?