➚ Think Retro: The craziest-looking keyboard Apple ever made

Fun piece to write for Macworld, on the Apple Adjustable Keyboard, ergonomics and touch typing:

Apple Adjustable keyboard

So few of us type “properly” these days that you might never have done this before, and you’ll notice that while your arms stretch towards the keyboard at about 45 degrees, your hands have to splay outwards uncomfortably. This can lead to some terrible carpal tunnel syndrome, severely damaging your hands. Ergonomic keyboards, then, attempt to solve this by allowing you to rest your fingers on the home keys while keeping your wrists straight.

Taking that photo was a challenge for a works-on-his-own freelancer! Pile of books, iPhone resting on top held in place with Blu-Tack, timer.

➚ What will it take for the Chromebook to go mainstream? Google to want it to

My latest column for TechRadar, on why the Chromebook still isn’t a hit with consumers.

Few people will have heard of Chromebooks, fewer still will be aware what a Chromebook is, even fewer than that will have the reason and motivation to find out why they might want one, and fewest of all will have the knowledge and gumption then to buy one after a pubescent youth in a branded polo shirt tells them they should probably just stick to Windows.

Pleasingly high standard of comments too. Do read the bottom half of the internet on this occasion.

➚ Think Retro: a box that sells itself

My new Think Retro column for Macworld is live, all about the box – yes, the box – one of my Newton MessagePad came in.


For a child of the ’80s like me, that style of photography—moody, low-lit, with shafts of light picking out form and texture—is still desperately exciting. And even as a kid, I was excited about the idea of working, of business, of being productive, so the kind of language and lifestyle you see in the pictures was terribly beguiling. (I’d like to blame the ’80s for this too, with its emphasis on self-improvement and free market economies, but maybe I was just a weird kid.)

Maybe everyone knows about the historical context in which packaging took on a marketing role, but I didn’t when I researched it for an essay when I was at university, and it still fascinates me today.

➚ Think Retro: Find and open your old ClarisWorks documents

For my second Think Retro column, a guide to opening ClarisWorks documents (after I’ve fanboy’d about it for a while) – and why you might want to.

No matter how much nostalgia we have for ClarisWorks, mind you, often what we value are the things we produced using it rather than the software itself. Happily, all your work and fun stuff isn’t lost, so long as you can mount whatever discs or disks you have it stored on. When I did this I found, amongst countless other things I didn’t even know I’d forgotten, my wedding vows, the start of a long-abandoned novel, and this, a letter from when I was at college, written to Macworld.

Such a fanboy.

➚ Let’s see if the comments vindicate this column’s topic…

My TechRadar column this week is on the inherent uselessness of a public-voted star ratings.

The fault isn’t really with the system, though, but with people. How else can you explain the 4.9/5 rating the first picture the Philae lander sent back from the surface of comet 67P currently has? What kind of towering arsehole looks at that picture – a picture taken 316 million miles away by a probe we launched 10 years ago and which landed on an object travelling at more than 30,000mph – and rates it anything other than five stars?

➚ Think Retro: A love letter to the Apple logo

I’ve long-admired Macworld in the US, so I’m honoured now to have a byline there for a new regular column, Think Retro. For my first, an indulgent pean to the rainbow Apple logo.

There’s something intensely pleasing, isn’t there, about how it’s glossy and smooth, nestled in that sea of roughly textured black plastic—a wave-polished pebble on a sandy beach.

➚ How to do the jobs you hate and feel good about it

My wife and I have formulated a little life hack over the past five years or so that helps us get shit done, makes our home and work environments more pleasant, and makes us feel good, so of course I offered to write it up for Lifehacker UK:

Most importantly, though, is the fourth benefit this approach brings: it makes you feel good about yourself. If, every day, you do one thing that needs doing but that you don’t want to do, no matter how major or minor, the sense of achievement and empowerment you get is huge. It really does have a dramatic effect on your self-esteem, never mind on your home, your job, or the rest of your life.

➚ Office is now free on iOS – free as in dignity

This was fun to write, though it has to be said my editors chose to remove some of the bits I thought were funniest so it has slightly more of an earnest tone than when I wrote it.

You’re allowed five grabs on iTunes, Microsoft; use four of them to show people doing inspiring things with your software, and you can use one to reassure people that it can still do all the dull stuff too. Even if that one page is just a blank Word document with ‘Oh, yeah, and it can do, I dunno, like, PivotTables and all that other crap you actually need for your job’ set in 36-point Calibri.