Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Looking for the perfect mobile email app

Anyone who has ever read any of my posts on technology knows I'm pretty app agnostic: I'll use whatever suits me best and if something better comes along, I'll try it out to see if it suits my style and workflow on my computer, iPhone or iPad.

And because the default Mail app on iOS is pretty mediocre, I'm always on the look for a better email client. The problem is that I've never found an email client that does EVERYTHING I want, so I'm always using something that is about 90% satisfactory but still leaves me wanting that little irritating gap fixed.

The latest app to hit my phone has been Spark, by Readdle. I was fortunate to get in on the beta testing of this, and it does a lot right - or, at least, it does a lot that's right for me. It has calendar integration. It allows attachments from a variety of cloud-based storage services. It as app integration. It automatically detects signatures. It allows pinning, snoozing, and has customizable long and short swipes. It's getting a lot of favourable reviews and deservedly so.

In short, it has everything I want in an email client except one thing: Gmail Alias support.

I run my own domain (uh, that would be where you're reading this) and have my own domain email. I operate my domain email through Gmail and have Gmail configured to "send as" my domain account as well as import my mail from that account (and several other accounts). In short, I run all my email through Gmail, and so being able to "send as" my domain account on my iPhone is critical for me.

Google Inbox automatically detects my Gmail Alias and uses it. But Google Inbox runs too slow on my iPhone 5S for my liking. And it's doesn't have nearly the customizability of its swiping options to archive or delete emails (In fact, it's one OR the other, which is ridiculous. Sometimes I want to delete. Sometimes I want to archive. But Inbox forces one or the other from the swipe.) And no calendar or cloud services integration. It's email bundles and automatic sorting stuff is cool, but it's not something that I used very often (and, yes, I did try it for a while).

Mailbox also lets me use my Gmail Alias and has better swiping options. But it doesn't support other aspects of Gmails folder system, nor does it have calendar integration and such.

Outlook for iOS (which is what I currently use on my iPhone) has calendar and cloud services integration and overall, it's a great app and I really enjoy it. But after Microsoft took it over from its previous incarnation as Acompli, its swiping options have become less sophisticated, not more, because Microsoft dropped the short/long options for the left and right swipes. And that's a shame. (And it has a weird bug that prevents it from rendering a regular email that I get from one company consistently that renders properly on every other email app I've tried. Outlook's help team has been trying to identify the problem for a week now.)

Now Spark does offer up a work-around on the Gmail Alias thing, and yes, it does work, although it then breaks the continuity of my email by shifting my outgoing messages from my Gmail account to another account. But hopefully that's a workaround just until they actually implement alias support properly.

And lest anyone think this is me kvetching over nothing, email alias support is a huge deal on Spark's Twitter feed, as noted by this handful of examples.

In the meantime, if anyone wants to design the perfect email app, make it work just like Spark but add Gmail Alias support, or make it work just like Outlook but add short/long swiping options to the basic left/right options.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A tiny Twitter rant

I'm a GIANT fan of Twitter's new "Quoted Tweet" feature that has made Twitter about a billion times more usable than it was before.

However ... for whatever reason, Twitter hasn't implemented the new Quoted Tweet feature on the iPad app. Which is weird since it's a universal app on iOS. But as you can see from two of the pictures below, on iPad, the quoted Tweet is still basically just a link you have to manually follow, which is annoying.

HOWEVER... Tweetbot has now implemented the Quoted Tweet feature, too, which means it's now more in sync with Twitter's own feature set than Twitter is!

Which is crazy. But I'm now back to using Tweetbot on my iPad instead of Twitter for iPad because Tweetbot actually supports a feature that gets used ALL THE TIME ON TWITTER.

And while we're at it, can Twitter please implement a "dark theme" on its apps? That's one of my favorite features on Tweetbot.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

I love Facebook's "On This Day" feature

Let's face it, Facebook has done a lot of annoying things over the years with their news feed, but once in a while they hit upon a feature that's really cool.

"On This Day" shows you what you posted "on this day" throughout the history of your Facebook feed. I absolutely love this feature, and in the few weeks it has been up and running, it's reminded me of a lot of terrific events, activities and other things I've done that I've buried deep in the recesses of my mind.

Even this morning, it pulled up a picture from a trip my wife and I took last year "on this day" that we really enjoyed and we got to reminisce about it.

As far as why I had an iPad and a laptop set up at the kitchen table early in the morning, I'm sure it was work-related, but I actually can't remember the details.

My morning tech setup.
Posted by Mike Jenkinson on Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Great Las Vegas Food Blog - 2015 Edition

As a non-smoking, non-drinking, non-gambling person, I go to Las Vegas to try new restaurants and shop. Having just spent 5 days there, I tried as much as possible to eat at places I'd never been to before.  Here's my mini-reviews of my meals.
A photo posted by Mike Jenkinson (@mikejenkinson) on
Fresh off the plane, I had already planned out that I wanted to go to Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay. The American Classic (a bacon cheeseburger) came with a side of fries. It was really good but would probably be at best the third best burger I've had in Vegas. Still, if you've never been there, this won't disappoint.

A photo posted by Mike Jenkinson (@mikejenkinson) on
Also high on my list of places to try, I had to give Guy Fieri's restaurant a whirl. I'm a fan of big, decadent breakfasts when I'm in Vegas, and the maple bacon French Toast fit the bill perfectly. While it was quite good, the standout on this place was the bruleed bananas, which were outstanding with that caramel crunch of burned sugar on the outside and the soft, warm banana underneath.

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As I was eating pretty big meals, I decided I could get away with just two per day. My mid-afternoon dinner one day was at the Double Barrel Roadhouse at Monte Carlo, where I really wanted to try the fried chicken with a side of mac and cheese. This wasn't nearly as good as I hoped it would be. The fried chicken was absolutely nothing special. The mac and cheese was very good, but it wasn't enough to save this from being an overall disappointment.

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Hexx, the former Sugar Factory Bar and Grill, at Paris, is one of my favorite places to eat in Vegas. They have a killer chocolate french toast that is sometimes on the menu, but they also have these absolutely amazing chocolate pancakes with caramel sauce. Only for chocolate lovers, of course.

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Oh. My. Goodness. My brother was in Vegas a couple of weeks before me and told me I had to - HAD TO - try the chicken and waffles and watermelon at the Yardbird at Venetian. Except he told me that it's a family style patter for 2-4 people and I should bring a friend. Unfortunately, no friends were to be found that day, so I, er, I ate the whole thing myself. It was the best single meal I ate in Vegas on this trip and one of the best meals I've ever eaten in Vegas. The watermelon is marinated in lemon juice and mint leaves and a little chili pepper. It was absolutely the best water melon of my life. The friend chicken was tasty and crispy and the cheddar waffle with bourbon maple syrup was terrific. A great meal. Highly recommended. But bring a friend.

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I actually had Tom's Urban at NYNY penciled in for a dinner visit, but I happened upon meeting a friend and former co-worker in Vegas during my time there for a couple of meals and that changed my schedule around so I wound up there for breakfast. They had a "make your own omelette" section on the  menu, so I chose bacon, cheese and red pepper, with sour-dough toast, and really good cheese-laden hash browns. But here's the thing: I went mid-week and ordered this and it was very good. I went back on my last day and ordered the exact same thing, and it was not good at all. The second time around, the omelette had too much cheese and was greasy and so many red peppers it overwhelmed the eggs and the omelette basically fell apart. The lack of consistency was disappointing. Still, the first visit was a really delicious meal.

A photo posted by Mike Jenkinson (@mikejenkinson) on
If you had to make me pick one single favorite restaurant in Vegas, it would be Gordon Ramsay's BurGR at Planet Hollywood. These are, hands down, the best fancy hamburger's I've ever eaten in my life. This was my third visit here, and I've gotten a different burger each time and never been disappointed. I was with my friend and former co-worker for this meal, so we ordered the truffle Parmesan fries and the sweet potato fries. Both were great. My Uber cheese burger was amazing. I love this place.

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Caesar's Palace renovated their food court recently and one of the places that caught my eye was La Gloria, which does authentic Mexican. I bought the Tacos al pastor, to the great jealously of my children who have been to Mexico and had real Tacos al pastor. While I've never had them in Mexico and can't compare, these were delicious - crispy pork and little bits of pineapple on fresh tortillas. My only complaint was that the three of them barely made an appetizer, never mind a meal. But they were very good and I'd eat them again with no hesitation. I'd just order several more.

A photo posted by Mike Jenkinson (@mikejenkinson) on
Shake Shack is one of those "hot" places right now, and considering there was one close by at NYNY, I decided to give it a whirl for my last big meal in Vegas. It was... a burger. There was nothing wrong with it, but as far as casual/fast food burgers go, I'm a "5 Guys" guy, and that's my standard. This didn't measure up to 5 Guys, but it was a perfectly fine bacon cheeseburger. It just didn't rock my world.

There were several other places I had on my list that I didn't get to, but, hey, there's always next time.