Beats Flex

A couple of months ago, my Beats X died. Technically, it did not die, everything worked just fine. I just couldn’t switch it off. Ironically, it only much later dawned to me that this incident turned out to my first disappointing experience with an Apple headphone product that did not have a (working) on/off switch, some time before the AirPods Max were released.

The replacement product for the Beats X in Apple’s line-up is called the Beats Flex. These are nearly half the price of the Beats X. The price might have been a contribution to my decision to – although I wasn’t exactly a fan of the Beats X – order a pair of Beats Flex as a replacement on the spot.

The build quality is comparable to the build quality of the Beats X. The play button and the volume control have move to different places, which is not a big deal for me. It just took me a couple of days and then muscle memory finished reprogramming.

Like other Beats products, the Beats Flex integrate very well into the ecosystem. If you pair the Betas Flex with one of your devices, they are instantly available on all devices logged into the same iCloud account.

Pairing is instant and reliable. That’s more than you can expect from other significantly more expensive products. I also can’t complain about battery life, especially in comparison to the Beats X.

And yet, my experience with the Beats Flex is mixed.

I planned to use the Beats Flex for listening to podcast episodes while outside and for this purpose the headphones turned out to be quite good, at least after replacing the original ear pieces with third-party memory-foam tips. These provide a much better sealing and that makes a lot of difference.

I also (briefly) tried the Beats Flex for music, it is not recommended. The sound quality subjectively turned out significantly worse then the already borderline sound quality delivered by the Beats X, and that concluded the experiment.

The bottom line in four words: voice yeah, music meh., or how to totally destroy a useful App

A new version of my (for years in a row) preferred map app has been posted on the App Store today. After downloading and launching the new version, I could not believe my eyes. The app underwent a visual refresh (which admittedly looks nice), but unfortunately also underwent some significant functional changes1.

First of all, the incredible level of detail2 that used to be the signature feature of is entirely gone. The app used to show literally every trash bin, but from now on not even house numbers are available any longer.

The only improvement that I’m willing to admit is that can now show locations on the map without loading the respective map for offline usage first.

Next, it seems that the app (for inexplicable reasons) only works in portrait mode, which is a big bummer on the iPad. On top of that, all my already downloaded maps are gone after the update. I’m asked to download maps for offline usage again.

But if I look at the storage visualization in, several gigabytes of storage seem to be allocated by still. So, it seems that still retains access to the data, it just refuses to display them any longer.

I have no idea what happens to all the still allocated storage that is no longer accessible in the long term. Would I need to delete and reinstall the app to get the storage back? I deleted and reinstalled the app, and sure enough the storage utilization with the same amount of downloaded maps is much lower.

Until the release of this new version, it was possible to log in with your Open Streetmap account and report issues with the existing map data. These issues would usually be fixed in a short amount of time by Open Streetmap volunteers, way faster than other map providers (I’m looking at you, Apple) would even dream of.

The new version offers some kind of reporting functionality that redirects to a website that is not functional, according to my experiences. At least, I wasn’t able to report a broken location on that website.

Further examples concerning the functional degradation: opening hours of local businesses that used to be provided by the app are no longer accessible. It is also not even possible to get an information about the address of an arbitrary location on the map.

And finally, the app crashes like crazy. I was unable to work with the app for more than a minute without becoming unresponsive and would only work again if I killed it in the task switcher and launched it again from Springboard.

All this would not be a such a big deal for me if there was any other app that came even close to the usefulness that had for me until yesterday. Now, I’ll stop using and I’m left with only a so-so plan B for a halfway privacy-respecting map solution.

In other words, the second best app (in my opinion) in the domain of map apps that show data from Open Streetmap, CityMaps2Go, quite frankly gets at most lukewarm endorsements from me.

But I will have to live with it for the moment, maybe until the big relaunch in the sky of Apple Maps in Europe is somehow happening. Or, which would be my preferred solution, a new app that utilizes Open Streetmap data in a decent form for offline-usage hits the market. I don’t need guides or bonuses, just the map data. But it does not seem as if there is a market for that category of apps.

Update (2021-01-04): a couple of days ago, a new version (12.0) of was released on the App Store. It fixes all the issues I have complained about in 11.0, and restores the old maps, with all the glorious details. It is basically the old app with the visual refreshes (which I like, as mentioned above).

I also got a response to a review that I left on the AppStore of version 11.0. The response also clarifies that the developers have listened to the responses from the users (I was obviously not the only one who came out unhappy after the update) and that the new version 12.0 shall be the basis for, going forward.

Thanks guys, this change of direction is much appreciated.

  1. Frankly, “regression” would be a far more accurate description for the changes. 
  2. Thanks to using map data from the Open Streetmap project. 

Maps hiccup

Here's a story from the early days of iOS/iPadOS 14. After updating my devices to said operating system version, I noticed at some point that my favorite locations (in my case: home and work) in Maps were gone.

This happened to my iPhone and iPad simultaneously. I tried various things to fix this issue, but to no avail. For example, I tried declaring my home address a favorite and the menu item for favorites did: nothing.

Shortly before deciding to give up, I remembered that I have another iOS device that–at that time–was still on iOS 13. I tried, and sure enough: the favorite locations showed up in Maps on iOS 13.

Not only that, they instantly also showed up on my iOS 14 devices. I can tell because I had Maps open on my iPad when I launched Maps on the iOS 13 device.

My best guess is that this issue was caused by some anomaly in iCLoud. I'm fully aware that I'm not the only person getting tricked by iCloud. In contrast to some other people who suffered more or less severe data loss, I've been fortunate enough to just lose some bookmarks (and got them back 100%).

RSS Primer

Matt Webb has created a new website named “About Feeds” as an explanation of RSS for newcomers:

My hope is that About Feeds can become the default “Help! What is this?” link next to every web feed icon on the web. It’s bare bones right now, and I have a ton of ideas of how to make this site more and more useful.

The content of the site is bare bones indeed. While there is useful content available, it is somehow unstructured. And the big picture of why you’d want to use RSS for your web consumption in the first place is entirely missing.

The difference between a news aggregator and a reader app is not properly explained, and apps like Reeder or Unread that deliver a whole new level of reading experience are not even mentioned.

But it’s a first step, and as a huge fan of RSS myself, I’d like to see the site grow into a real RSS primer that not only focuses on the technical aspects but also on why it may be a good idea to get into RSS feeds.

Phone Rebel Crystal iPhone Case

I don’t remember exactly where I saw a picture of the Phone Rebel Crystal case for the first time. It caught my attention because the case design is very distinct, I haven’t seen any iPhone case that looks like this before. The most prominent feature, at the first sight, is that the case leaves the left and right side (except for the corners) of the phone entirely exposed.

In stark contrast to the left and right side, the four corners and and rim around the lenses are (according to the Phone Rebel website) protected by “aggressive guards”. The obvious assumption behind the case design is that phones are mostly dropping on corners.

This is the first case (to my knowledge) that lets me directly use the phone’s buttons. I’m not a big fan of the mushy haptics of buttons integrated into one of the cases I have been put on my phone in the past and the ability to use the iPhones buttons directly is a nice improvement.

What really sold me on the case is that (as mentioned before) protection focuses on the corners of the phone while the raised edges on the corners are taken back in the space between the corners so that the case is more or less level with the display.

In combination with the exposed side this makes swiping from the edges in all directions so much easier. On a typical case that has raised edges around the entire display you have to start the swiping movement on the edges and continue on the display. This issue has been solved very well by Phone Rebel, even for the invocation of Control Center.

As of now, the Phone Rebel cases can’t be ordered from big retail. I’ve ordered mine from the website of a company in (I think) the USA, and the case shipped from China to Germany in eight days. The case is not cheap, but still less expensive then cases sold by Apple.

The case ships with an additional screen protector and vinyl stickers to keep the exposed edges of the phone free from scratches. I haven’t applied neither the screen protector nor the vinyl stickers so far.

Overall, what I like about the case is that it tries to take itself out of the way as much as possible in terms of operating the phone. This is the closest thing to carrying a case-less phone while still enjoying a non-negligible level of protection against dropping.


While seting up an 10.5″ iPad Pro in combination with the Logitech “Slim” Combo, I noticed something weird. Although the keyboard layout in was clearly set to “German” and “QWERTZ”, the keyboard behaved as it I had configured it as “QWERTY”.

I tried switching the layout in between “QWERTZ” and “QWERTY”, and back. No luck. I tried removing the keyboard in

After I set it up again, the layout was still set to “QWERTY”. Positively weird! This issue even survived several reboots. I had never experienced anything remotely like that.

In an act of desperation, I hooked up a spare (Mac) Magic Keyboard to the iPad via Bluetooth. And yay, “QWERTZ” was back in town. But still, why does the Logitech keyboard behave so weirdly?

Let's check again. And thus, I engaged the magnetic connection between the Slim Combo's keyboard and the iPad again.

Guess what? It worked. Just like that.

Frankly, I have no explanation for why I had to hook up the Magic Keyboard to make the already installed keyboard work in the intended way. But that's exactly what happened.

Keep It, Take 2

Today saw the release of DEVONthink 3.5, at a time where, admittedly, I was personally hoping the company would be in the process of significantly overhauling DEVONthink To Go for several months now. That does not seem to be the case, at least not full steam ahead.

Don't get me wrong, DEVONthink To Go is a really good product. However, there are some things that bug me for a while already, for example the seeming inability to customize the preview of markdown content. Yes, there are documentations of some quite hack-ish solutions that are
1. ugly
2. never worked for me

At the same time, markdown preview works very well in DEVONthink on the Mac.

A couple of weeks ago, as part of my habit of keeping up with products I've had an eye on before I had a closer look at Keep It. My first impression of the app, two years ago, was rather disappointing. At the time, Keep it had so many issues for me that I was eager to see what improvements have been implemented since my first contact.

In short, I'm impressed. Very impressed. The list of issues I documented in my last article about Keep It is entirely resolved.

Contrary to last time, importing my stuff (approximately 4000 Documents of various file types) went very well. Initial sync between devices took some time, but after that everything was fine.

Scrolling through even long lists is very smooth. It is possible to display the number of items in a folder, and (very much appreciated) it is possible refrain items in subfolders to also appear in the list of the parent folder.

The share sheet allows for storing items in arbitrary folders, as opposed to DEVONthink where imports go the “Inbox” folders of each data base, from which they have to be moved to their final location.

Preview of markdown content is fully (and very easily) customizable, but the developer did not stop at the customization of the preview. It is also possible to (again, very easily) customize the color scheme of the plain text editor within Keep it.

Search is fast and generally effective, saved searches allow for setting up a similar experience to the landing screen in DEVONthink To Go. There's plenty of meta-data (source, tags, comments) for items in Keep It.

My only complaint is that it is sometimes hard to find the settings dialogs for various aspects of the app. In the list view, for example, it is necessary to switch into “edit” mode before a settings cogwheel appears for customizing the experience.

I'd probably prefer a central settings dialog to Keep It's decentralized approach, but maybe that's just my personal preference.

Also, the app crashed on me several times, but at least for now, I never lost any data in response to a crash.

In summary, my impression is that DEVONthink on the Mac is still ahead of Keep It, but not by a large margin. On iOS, I actually prefer Keep It over the somewhat dated DEVONthink To Go experience.

On the other hand, I'm still on the fringe about whether or not I should flip the switch and use Keep It instead of DEVONthink. Document management is a big deal, and I cannot afford data loss1.

I'm still holding out my hopes for DEVON Technologies to release a redesigned version of DEVONthink To Go at some point in time, although maybe not in the near future2. And I expect this redesigned version to be good.

  1. DEVONthink for Mac supports an “Export” of data bases as a way to create backups. 
  2. Frankly, until today I was expecting the new version of DEVONthink Tp Go to be released shortly before WWDC, but I'm less confident now. 

Arq 6

As a long-time user1 of the backup software Arq, I did not hesitate to upgrade to the new version 6 on the day it was released. So far, I’ve had nothing but the best experience with the software.

That changed with Arq 6. As an early adopter, I still got the chance to migrate my existing Arq 5 to the new version. This process went relatively smooth. Not for everyone, apparently. The migration has been removed from the app in the meantime.

Next thing, I wanted to trigger a backup. But it is no longer supported to manually trigger a backup. It is only possible to define a schedule and stick to it. Hm.

One of the most often used features in the previous versions was the ability to check whether the app regularly updated a computer (especially on the ancient 13″ 2011 MacBook Pro that is still in use as the kid’s computer) by attempting a restore and get the list of existing backups to choose from. Guess what, no longer possible.

But the shortcomings do not only extend to features. Yesterday, the fans of my iMac spun up heavily for a longer period of time. Curious, I went to iStat Menus and checked the CPU utilization, only to find out that Arq was at 500 and change percent of my CPU. I don’t remember any similar incident with Arq 5.

A couple of days earlier, I tried to upgrade the trial version of Arq 5 for Windows on the only Windows Machine in the household. This was already at a time when the migration was disabled. So I tried to set up a new schedule and made sure to provide Arq with a password for encryption.

After the creation of the schedule was completed, Arq 6 presented me with the result that was, according to Arq, creating unencrypted backups, with no apparent way top fix this. Finally, I managed to downgrade back to version 5 and let that one take care of doing backups for the remaining days of the trial period2.

But although I’m pretty sure that not all is bad about Arq 6, I’m no longer sure if Arq has a future in our household. It used to be the perfect solution for backing up to an off-site destination. I never saw the need to even casually check possible alternatives3. This has changed now. I still hope that Arq 6 can be fixed, but the fix better be fast.

  1. I started to use Arq at version 3. 
  2. I would actually consider going back to Arq 5, but I fear that this would not be a sustainable solution. I don’t expect a lot of maintenance for Arq 5 going forward. 
  3. That are very likely still inferior to Arq 5. 

Ars Technica reviews the Galaxy Fold

Ron Amadeo from Ars Technica has written a scorching review of the Samsung Galaxy Fold. I don’t remember ever reading a review of any product that comes even close to this.

And that brings us to today—the Ars review. This one is going to be a little different, since I don’t think the Galaxy Fold has any viability as a serious device anyone should consider purchasing. Should you buy a Galaxy Fold? NO! God no.

Amadeo leaves not doubt that the Galaxy Fold is an outright embarrassment in literally every single discipline. Not even the tiniest ray of light is visible at the end of the tunnel. And the only credit handed out to Samsung at the end of the text is for trying.

The Galaxy Fold fails at everything it sets out to do. It’s a bad smartphone and a bad tablet. The front screen is too small for phone duties like typing and reading. The interior screen is too small for tablet apps and split-screen apps, and it’s the wrong aspect ratio for media.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had any opportunity to get a first-hand impression of the device and therefore can personally neither confirm nor deny any of the observations. However, the rationale provided by Amadeo for rating the device a failure makes sense to me.

The launch of the Galaxy Fold was a disaster, and while Samsung fought through and got to market, that doesn’t mean the disaster is over. I’m still enthusiastic about the idea of a phone that converts into a tablet, but the Galaxy Fold puts on a master class of how not to do it.

Nevertheless, I feel sorry for the people who worked on this project. They must have been aware of the situation and the inevitable outcome. But apparently management put the priority on being first to the market rather than delivering a solid and mature product.

JetBrains Mono

Today, news broke to me that there‘s a new monospace and ligature-capable font specifically for developers out there: JetBrains Mono.

I have given it a try, and instantly liked it very much. My first impression is that it‘s very smooth and balanced, no extravagances.

The font comes in four weights plus italics for each weight. It supports code-specific ligatures1.

And it‘s free.

  1. I‘m a big fan of ligatures in my development fonts.