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Design on Willem's Blog

The best keyboard for iPad

Smart Keyboard Folio vs Magic Keyboard

Aug. 11, 2020
While everybody is raving about the Magic Keyboard there is something to be said for the

The tablet is at the frontier of mobile computing and its hardware form factor is evolving. This year Apple introduced a new Magic Keyboard for iPad that includes a trackpad. Everybody is raving about it, yet I think there is something to be said for the "mouse-less" Smart Keyboard Folio. Read along for some key differences.

Upgrading a 27-inch iMac 5K to 14 terabytes

Replacing the Fusion Drive with both a SSD and an harddisk

July 30, 2020
This month I nearly destroyed my iMac during an attempt to upgrade it. Thanks to determination and some spare time I was able to resurrect it from the death!

This month I did an attempt to upgrade my 27-inch iMac 5K. I wanted to replace the fusion drive with a SSD and a large hardisk. In addition I decided this was a good time to upgrade the RAM memory as well, maxing it out at 64GB. I was on a mission to create the ultimate iMac, but things didn't go to plan!

Some thoughts on touch screen user interface design

Creating intuitive natural interfaces

June 24, 2020
I am working on a new app involving personal health that requires a natural intuitive interface that works well on touch screens. It's good to check out some best practices for touch UI design

Past weeks I have been working on a new app involving personal health. The main challenge is to come up with an intuitive, natural interface that works well on small touch screen devices. But what is it that makes an touch screen interface any good? Read along for some best practices.

Tudor Black Back 36 long-term review

Six months on the wrist

June 17, 2020
For the past six months I have been wearing the same watch, every day and night. Read along to learn what makes the Tudor Black Bay 36 the perfect every day watch.

For the past six months I have been wearing the same watch, pretty much every day and night. It's a Tudor Black Bay 36 watch in steel, with a black dial. I like minimal (yet functional) design that lasts, this watch certainly ticks the right boxes. Read along to find out how wearable a smaller watch is in daily practice.

Linking Lemmid Store with kitchens

Integrating with external systems that you don't control

June 12, 2020
Designing backend servers to connect with external services is challenging as you need to take into account unreliability and unpredictability.

As part of the food ordering app I am building, I needed to design a reliable way to link the app to external systems. These external systems are beyond my direct control and include different checkout registers, kitchen management systems and ticket printers. Read along for more on designing for the unknown and unreliable.

Different ways to visualise health

Looking at games and fitness apps

May 25, 2020
To better understand how to visualise health I looked at different health/fitness apps and games.

This month I did some research into how health is visualised in fitness apps and games. For a new app involving personal health I am looking for an intuitive way to visualise how healthy one person is. There are many colourful approaches out there!

Scalable application design without magic

Leveraging client computing power for high performance with many users

May 11, 2020
I needed to design a scalable backend infrastructure that could handle lots of concurrent users. I did this by leveraging the client's computing power having it handle most of the user interaction workload.

As part of the online food ordering app I'm building, I needed to design a scalable backend infrastructure that could handle lots of concurrent users. Scalability is considered a hard problem to tackle. Often it's presented like it's something magical, done by million dollar companies using secret tools. But, there is no such thing as magic, or is there?

Designing an interface for a food ordering page

Striking a balance between powerful options and mobile usability

May 1, 2020
Designing a food ordering page is surprisingly challenging because of the many variables that need to be accommodated on a very small screen.

Online ordering pages are more important than ever before. The COVID-19 virus, the resulting lockdowns and the social distancing rules have emphasised the need for a well-designed webshop user interface. This is surprisingly hard to get right!

Minimalistic road bike with Gates carbon drive

Meet your new therapist: the Schindelhauer Siegfried Road

Apr. 30, 2020
For the past few months I have been riding the Schindelhauer Siegfried Road bike with the Gates CDX Carbon Drive, read about this beautiful minimal bike in this post.

For the past few months I have been riding a special kind of bike, the minimalistic Siegfried Road from Schindelhauer. It is unlike most road bikes as it lacks a conventional chain and derailleur. It features the Gates CDX carbon drive. It's an exercise in minimal design. After riding it for nearly 1000KM, it's time to tell you all about it.

Talking tablets: what makes a great tablet?

Working with Microsoft Surface Pro X

Apr. 14, 2020
Over the past few weeks I worked with Microsoft Surface Pro X to see if it is any good, can it be your main computer?

Earlier this year Microsoft released their brand new Surface Pro X tablet computer, in many ways this is a forward thinking device. As I like working with tablets I wondered what exactly makes a great tablet? Is Surface Pro X any good? Read along to find out.

Designing and implementing a (micro) payment system

Monetising my blog with coffee, Apple Pay and Mollie

Mar. 25, 2020
Designing and implementing a micro payment system with an emphasis on simplicity. Read about how I did it in this post.

Online payments are now more important than ever as businesses are disrupted by the COVID-19 virus. It drives my customers to seek new ways to make money online. I designed and implemented a (micro)payment system. This post is about achieving simplicity by solving complex challenges.

Making my own tablet OS

Installing and modifying Debian GNU/Linux on Surface Go

Mar. 9, 2020
I wondered if I could escape Windows by installing Debian GNU/Linux on a Surface Go, read along to find out how to do this!

For some years now I use a tablet as main computer, I like its versatility. But, most tablets come with a locked down operating system, like iPadOS, Windows 10S or Android. As I like things my own (weird) way, I wondered if I could escape these "software jails" by installing a free operating system on a tablet. It's possible, read along to find out how I escaped!

Monolithic vs Microservices software architecture

Choosing the right design for your app development

Mar. 3, 2020
This week I flew to Gothenburg to talk about enterprise software architecture, read along to learn about choosing the right architecture for your app development

This week I flew to Gothenburg to meet people from a large international shipping company, talking about the development of enterprise level software. During the meeting there were various experts in the room, one of them asked me on choosing the right software architecture (for big, complex, enterprise level apps). A very good question, well worthy for a blog post.

Supernova E3 Pro 2 dynamo powered headlight

Replacing my bike's headlight

Nov. 26, 2019

Earlier this month my dynamo powered headlight on my commuter bike needed replacing. One of the electrical connectors broke of, likely caused by intense daily use. I searched for the best possible light, one that would be extremely durable and bright. I found the Supernova E3 PRO 2 and decided to install it on my bike.

Multi-Window support in your iPad app

Native development for iPadOS

Oct. 7, 2019
Take advantage of the improved support for multiple windows on iPadOS by implementing new UI concepts enabling different use cases for your app.

Last month Apple released iPadOS, the first dedicated operating system for iPad. It differs from iOS with its support for the larger iPad screen, including multi / split screen windows. I develop apps and it was time to take advantage of these new possibilities that iPadOS offers.

Creating a minimal road bike

Recombining and refinishing old parts into a new bike

Aug. 18, 2019
I wondered how hard it would be to make a bike from spare parts I had in my garage

Over the past months I have worked on different bikes, leading to an accumulation of spare parts in my garage. I wondered how hard it would be to make a new bike using these spare parts. I decided to take advantage of this moment to refinish some parts, removing excessive decals in order to create a minimal looking road bike.

Business in a bag

Using a waterproof backpack to fit my gear

Dec. 22, 2018
After much testing I have selected a bag and set of cases to fit my entire business, wherever I go.

Over the past few months I have been testing different bags and cases to fit everything I need to run my business. As I commute by bike, the bag needs to be waterproof. The problem with waterproof gear is that it is usually very bulky. I need my gear to be both portable and representative, a challenge worth a blog post!

Around town in an electric car

Driving the Smart Electric Drive (EQ fortwo)

Nov. 16, 2018
For one week I drove the electric Smart EQ fortwo in and around town. I found out what it's like to drive electrically: fun!

Earlier this month I drove around town for a week in an electric vehicle, a brand new Smart Electric Drive (EQ fortwo). I used it to commute, for my daily groceries and to visit family, friends and customers. What's it like to drive a fully electric car on a daily basis?

Is the Apple Watch the modern tool watch?

Testing the Apple Watch's usefulness in real life

Nov. 2, 2018
I tested the Apple Watch during my work in Frankfurt this week where I had to go inside an internet data centre.

This week I went to Frankfurt for business. I had to perform maintenance to servers in a data centre. This seemed like a great opportunity to test the Apple Watch's usefulness in real life (other than health and fitness). I wondered, is the Apple Watch the modern tool watch?

Removing paint from a bike frame

Uncover the aluminium with chemicals and sanding paper

June 9, 2018
Using dichloromethane and sanding paper I removed the paint from my bike frame to create a minimal, raw aluminium look.

There is beauty in raw, unfinished material that is often hidden with superfluous layers of paint. I like things to be true to the nature of the material. My bike was painted black - not bad - but I wondered what it really looked like from a material point of view.

Creating a minimal iPhone stand

Routing oak wood for a custom fit

June 2, 2018
Today I created a minimal iPhone stand from oak wood. I used a single piece of wood to get it done.

Today I created a minimal iPhone stand from oak wood. While it's much faster to buy one online, I wanted one to fit my phone horizontally, with its case on. I like minimal design, so I opted to machine a single piece of wood to get it done.

Tablet as main computer

Comparing the Microsoft Surface Pro to iPad Pro

Mar. 7, 2018
I have been using a tablet as my main computer for quite some time now. In this blog post I share you my experience on using Surface Pro and iPad Pro to get my work done.

For the past few weeks I have been using the Microsoft Surface Pro as my main computer. It's a modern tablet computer that can be used as laptop with the type cover. With the Surface Pen, it's a versatile PC that works in a lot of different ways. Time to find out if it's any good and how it compares to my other tablet computer, iPad Pro.

Creating the ultimate commuter bike

Riding at 35KM/h with Nexus Alfine 8 and Gates Carbon Drive

Feb. 24, 2018
Creating the ultimate commuter bike by upgrading the Sensa Cintura belt drive bike.

This winter I use a Sensa Cintura bike with a Gates Carbon belt drive as my daily commuter. It's a bike designed to be nice to ride thanks to its sporty lightweight frame. It's also meant to be low on maintenance thanks to the belt drive and Nexus Afline 8 integrated gear hub. After 1800KM in just eight weeks, it was time for some upgrades.

Updating Snake '97

About the challenges of developing a wildly popular game

Feb. 21, 2018
This month I bit the bullet big time: I redesigned the game engine of the wildly popular Snake '97 game. Read about the design challenges in this blog post.

Few years ago my brother threw a beer on my iPhone in an Amsterdam bar. The poor thing didn't like the Dutch brew as much as I do: it died. While waiting for a new phone to arrive, I used an old one that couldn't do anything but texting, calling and... Snake! The idea for Snake '97 was born and this month it was time to update the wildly popular game.

Commuting by bike

One week (240KM) on the VanMoof Electrified S

Dec. 2, 2017
One week on the VanMoof Electrified S E-bike testing it for commuting and comparing it to a normal bike.

For a few years now, I commute to work using a bicycle. I have lost more than 15KG since I stopped using my scooter. This week I tested a VanMoof Electrified S, an electric bike with an industrial, minimal design. Is it any good? How does it compare to a normal bike? Will an electric bike make you lazy? Read along to find out!

Collecting health data with Biostrap

Wearing a clinical-grade photoplethysmography (PPG) sensor for a month

Nov. 15, 2017
Wearing a clinical-grade PPG sensor for a month to collect advanced biometrics from my wrist.

Most wearables (smartwatches, fitness trackers, etc.) use very basic sensors to capture heart rate. Their signal is binary: just counting beats. Biostrap is different, instead of just checking pulses, it captures a high-fidelity PPG waveform. These waveforms are the same kind that doctors use, making me wonder what I could learn from them!

From tree to table

Designing and creating a night stand

Oct. 23, 2017
Creating a night stand from a raw slab of chestnut wood.

Right next to the house were I was born there was this chestnut tree, sadly it died one and a half year ago. When it was taken down, my brother saved me a slab of wood. I intended to create something from it, a nice "do it yourself" adventure, worthy of a blog post!

Saving a MacBook Air with exploded battery

Don’t try this at home - but I did

Sep. 14, 2017
Saving a MacBook Air with a swollen battery pack.

Last night I had a nasty surprise: my original MacBook Air was swollen due to an exploded battery. I immediately had to take action, for reasons of safety and to preserve this piece of modern computer history. Don’t try this at home, but if you do... read along for some practical tips.

The day I killed my LAN

Turned off my local network and went 4G only

July 31, 2017
I killed my office LAN and went 4G only. Saves a lot of clutter, energy and money.

Today I called my provider to quit my office's ADSL internet subscription, I don't need it anymore. I have turned off my local area network and switched my workflow onto mobile internet only. The simplicity and savings actually surprised me so much, that I made blog post for it.

iPad Pro next to my primary machine

Using it with Apple Pencil as a creative powerhouse

Jan. 30, 2017
Using iPad Pro with Apple Pencil next to my computer to form a create powerhouse

I wanted see if I can find something better than my old fashioned pencil and paper that I use for designing software as professional developer. I knew iPad Pro from my test last summer, figuring out if it could replace my primary development machine. While it may not be able to completely replace my thrustworthy ThinkPad, it turned out to be a totally different story when it comes to paper.

Harvesting boredom to let creativity flourish

using the Punkt MP01 dumb phone

Oct. 1, 2016
What does it mean for my state of mind and creativity if I am no longer be constantly connected to the Internet using a smartphone.

Smartphones are everywhere in the modern society we live in today. Through our 4G and WiFi connections the internet is just one tap away. In fact, it is so close that it feels like a natural extension. But is this wealth of information all good or does it have a downside too? It seems like an interesting experiment to go app-less for a while and solely use a dumb phone.

Batavus Champion bike from 1978

restoring retro glory with some help from the Internet

Sep. 3, 2016
Restore the retro glory of an old bike from the 70s using the internet.

Almost a year ago I bought an old steel racing bike from 1978. I wanted to figure out if using a bike to commute worked for me. It did! I used it to ride more than 1000KM before I decided to get a modern road bike. Now, almost a year later, I decided to put the powers of the internet into good use: to bring the bike back to its retro glory!

All blog posts
The Debian GNU/Linux installer was in fact recognised by the iMac
The Debian GNU/Linux installer was in fact recognised by the iMac
Visiting a large international shipping company to talk about enterprise software
Visiting a large international shipping company to talk about enterprise software
Kleo Carbon pedals (by Look) on the front crank on the BSA bottom bracket
Kleo Carbon pedals (by Look) on the front crank on the BSA bottom bracket
Functional roles in the lifecycle of an iPadOS app (WWDC 2019, Steve Holt, Apple)
Functional roles in the lifecycle of an iPadOS app (WWDC 2019, Steve Holt, Apple)
Sketching a two step interaction: differentiating between list and detail modes
Sketching a two step interaction: differentiating between list and detail modes
Removing screws from the iMac
Removing screws from the iMac
Working with Surface Pen and Apple Pencil
Working with Surface Pen and Apple Pencil
iPhone 4 - ahhh sweet developer memories when one (small) size did fit all...
iPhone 4 - ahhh sweet developer memories when one (small) size did fit all...
Compiling my customised Linux kernel
Compiling my customised Linux kernel
Mario 64 and a the Super Mario Galaxy life bar
Mario 64 and a the Super Mario Galaxy life bar
Check for updates manually using Windows Update
Check for updates manually using Windows Update
"Advanced Startup Options" from Windows Settings allows you to use a USB drive as boot medium
Opening the MacBook Air is possible by removing the bottom lid.
Opening the MacBook Air is possible by removing the bottom lid.
Prototype of Snake '97 running on various devices
Prototype of Snake '97 running on various devices
The wallet allows quick (and naked) access to the phone
The wallet allows quick (and naked) access to the phone
Annotate anything using Surface Pen
Annotate anything using Surface Pen
Charging and listening to music simultaniously using an Apple Lightning dock
Charging and listening to music simultaniously using an Apple Lightning dock
The inside of the iMac is beautifully arranged
The inside of the iMac is beautifully arranged

More Design on Willem's Blog

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