• Working Tools – 1. Digital Hardware

    Working Tools

    I love the analogue. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love digital too. People ask me about both my digital and analogue setups. This then, is the first post in a series called #workingtools.

    Apple makes great kit.

    First, I bought the 3G iPhone, then the 4, the 5, the 6S and the X. I have had iPads, iPad mini and iPad Pro. I adored my MacBook Air, MacBook and several MacBook Pros. I’m on my second iMac. Naturally, I have a Homepod and an Apple Watch. No wonder Apple is the biggest company in the world.

    My Setup

    At my desk

    Here in Cyprus, I have a MacBook Pro from 2017, that works effectively as a desktop. I never found the Touch Bar useful, and now that my Apple Watch will unlock it, I don’t miss Touch ID either. The machine sits in a TwelveSouth stand, under my desk, and is connected to a LG 4K 21.5inch display. I use the Apple Extended keyboard and Magic Trackpad. The LG display gives me a few more ports, and my backup drives are taped to the back of it. I tie the cables together, and run them down the back of the monitor, giving me a nice clean look. Beneath the desk sits a printer and a document scanner. The podcast mic is a Blue Yeti, mounted on a Roder swivel mount.

    A tidy desk!

    Standing Desk

    On the terrace

    Increasingly, I find myself working on my iPad Pro. I have the 10.5 inch 2017 model. I use it several ways. In a shameless copy of Matt Gemmel’s setup, (buy his books by the way, they are great.) I sit it on a Lamicall stand, pair it with an Apple keyboard and use it as a mini-desktop. To store the Apple Pencil, I have a dock from Samdi. I keep the keyboard in the excellent Canopy, by Studio Neat.

    Ipad on a stand

    iPad Pro 10.5

    In the comfy seats

    Sometimes though, I want to work in an easy chair, and then, I slip the iPad Pro into the Smart Cover. I sit with my feet up, and the setup is steady enough for me to type away on my lap with no problems. I love that if I’m just consuming, I can fold the cover back (or take it off) and use the iPad with no keyboard too.

    Easy chair and footstool

    Where I read, work with my iPad, and…snooze

    On the road

    Usually, I travel with the Smart Keyboard. If I’m on a long trip, where I feel I have time for some extended work, then I might take the canopy and Apple keyboard too. While the Smart Keyboard is absolutely fine, I still prefer the ‘proper’ keyboard. I can’t imagine ever taking the laptop.

    Ever-present

    iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods. To have a powerful computer in the my pocket still thrills me. There are many aspects of my business that I can run entirely from this tiny device, as well as listen to music, podcasts, hell, even make phone calls.

    Next in #workingtools, software.

  • 21st Century Entrepreneur

    I’m collecting business cards. Not other peoples’, just my own. I’m a 21st Century Entrepreneur.

    There’s a buttoned-up corporate card for my work in anti money laundering. I have an awesome one for Nero’s Notes, featuring a cartoon of the little man himself. Finally, there is even a cool card that accompanies this site.

    Stuart Lennon, business card

    Inky!

    In reality, a case could be made for a few more cards: I co-host a podcast, 1857, with TJ Cosgrove of Wood & Graphite. Additionally, I record my day on Anchor, making another podcast. I’m experimenting with video, largely for Nero’s Notes, and looking at several other projects.

    21st Century Entrepreneur

    Apart from being great news for business card printers, this proliferation of roles is increasingly widespread. Everyone has a ‘passion project’, a ‘side-gig’. It’s entirely possible to work for the council by day and be an entrepreneur by night. It has always been possible. Increasingly though, it’s the norm.

    This is brilliant. I love the fact that people are finding outlets for their entrepreneurial creativity and making it available for others.

    Technology makes this possible and it’s a great way to find balance in life.

    Taking on Pocket Notebooks (now Nero’s Notes) has introduced me to a whole new range of activities which intrigue me. I’m learning about digital media, analogue tools, social networks and IT. Customers continue to surprise and delight me, and business partners both drive me mad and make me laugh.

    The Novel

    There remains, of course, the novel. Two manuscripts have be resting in a drawer for a year now, but they have increasingly been whispering to me as I pass by. I feel certain that I will pull them out for a read some time soon. Does an entrepreneur write, edit and publish a novel? I don’t see why not.

  • Therapy

    This post is my form of therapy.

    It’s been a while. I’m having a whale of a time building pocketnotebooks.

    The Front Row have scheduled phase 2 of the Camino de Santiago over at Sensible Shoes Camino.

    Backpack

    Full Back pack for Camino II

    I have called this post Therapy, because I’m aiming to get this off my chest, and thereby stop shouting at the TV and radio.

    Rant Therapy

    Brexit. Hard. Soft. Medium rare. With or without frites. I have just deleted a full page of ranting. Instead, I’ll be concise.

    It will be OK.

    Humble Pie

    Update: I wanted to admit to a certain Mr Thomas that he was absolutely right. I wrote a post on how I was forsaking Apple for Google. Ed predicted I would be back. I am.

    To run Pocket Notebooks, I need hardware that can run bonafide programs and apps. So, I work now on a Mac, supported by an iPad Pro and and an iPhone. In a week or two, I’ll almost be certainly handing over a wedge of cash for a new IPhone. I am well and truly back in the world of fruit-based electronics.

    I don’t expect to be writing much this year. Business is full pelt. However, as it grows, it will become easier for me to carve out time – and I can feel Sean calling me from his archive file in Scrivener.

    Recently, one of fruit-based devices flipped during a power cut. This was a timely reminder of the importance of backing up. Fortunately, I have developed a middle-aged man approach and have more backups than most major insurance companies.

    In case you are looking for a setup, read on.

    Backup

    1. Put your file system on Dropbox. Just doing this means that you will have a copy of everything in the cloud. It’s free for the first chunk and then, if you need to, you can by more storage.

    2. Use the ‘standard’ backup. In the fruit world, this means use Time Machine. I have a a drive attached to my Mac where a ‘constant’ back up is made. These backups are not necessarily the best, but they are easy to set up and don’t cost anything beyond the price of the disk.

    3. Use a proper, bespoke Backup service. I recommend Backblaze. Easy to setup, not expensive and very high quality. Again, this maintains a constant backup in the cloud.

    4. Super-Duper. This is a program that makes a clone of my disk. I have two disks. One attached to the computer, one in my bag. Every morning, I switch disks. If the office burned down over night, I could be up and running again as quickly as I could get hold of another computer. The super duper clone would instantly reboot the new machine and then one of my online backups would update anything from the previous day.

    Get on top of your backup. Just imagine you lost all your photos?

  • In a time warp

     

    What Ho!

    It has been almost a full month since I last wrote.

    An exciting and exhausting month in the new business @ pocketnotebooks 

    Even Nero is feeling the pace.

    Mags has had carpal tunnel surgery on her right hand. In true Margaret style, she has twice had to return to A&E, but we think all is well now. It will still be several weeks until she has use of the hand.

    Anyone who has been involved in a new business (new to me at least) will have experienced time-warp. All of my focus has been on getting the webshop stocked and reassuring the very loyal customer-base that it’s business as usual. Days have been long, and to-do lists longer. I have found myself chasing people up:

    “Have you completed that task yet? I asked you ages ago.”

    “Umm…you sent me an email at 2120 last night. I’m just reading it with my first coffee.”

    “Ah. Right. Sorry.”

    As the month draws to an end, I have become marginally less unreasonable, although the to-do list shows no signs of getting any shorter and I still never have enough time.

    Talking of which…

    Keep smiling!

  • Pocket Notebooks

     

    Sorry I’m late.

    I promised to update you yesterday.

    I am now the proud owner of Pocket Notebooks

    I completed the transaction yesterday and spent the day doing all of the things that you have to do on day one of a new business. I believe that I managed to get through the entire day without breaking anything.

    The website was setup by two cracking guys from the North East. They have another business, and as it took off, by their own admission, Pocket Notebooks suffered a little.

    The site sells Notebooks. No, not powerful, miniaturised computers, but paper notebooks. I never go anywhere without a notebook, and I don’t always have a briefcase with me. So, I’m a big user of pocket-sized ones.

    There is a renaissance of pen and paper. It is not a rejection of technology, but rather a recognition that for some things, technology is brilliant, but that for others, the analogue way still works best.

    So, my new company, Loggedoff Ltd, will be offering a place to come and buy some old fashioned technology; Pocket Notebooks. You can even subscribe for a regular delivery of a curated collection of notebooks.

    It will take me a few weeks to get everything stocked up and firing, but as I write I have two new lines in transit and some old favourites on their way down from the North East.

    P.S. Forget the App, there’s a Pocket Notebook for that…

  • Progress Report

     

    Glass of Sherry

    Much underestimated; sherry.

    I have been quiet recently. Progress has been slow. Unusually for me, I have been working.

    I wrote before about setting simple goals this year. As January draws to a close, this is a progress report.

    Progress

    I haven’t lost two stone, or published a novel. I have bought a company though. Look at that. January not yet finished, and I have one of the year’s three goals in the bag. How’s that for progress?

    I have signed the contract for the deal, but I can’t reveal what it is for a couple of days yet, not until I have paid for it. They can be funny like that; vendors.

    My last venture was in partnership with a great friend, and this one is no different. However, this time, I am the senior partner. Allow me to introduce my Chief Operations Officer, Tamodan Midnight Sun, or Nero as he is more commonly known.

    Nero, COO of pocketnotebooks

    Nero Assessing Progress

    CV

    This is his first real management position, but he is off to a flying start. We have had several management meetings, and he is never short of an apposite bark or dismissive sniff.

    We have secured ourselves a very desirable office on the Castledown Business Park, and tomorrow we collect the keys.

    Exciting times.

  • A word from King Barry

    Stuart is away this week.

    I, King Barry, Snow White’s father, will provide you with an update.

    Stuart is, thus far, doing OK on all goals for 2017:

    1. Talks continue with a few potential business acquisitions.
    2. The fitbit indicates that he is keeping his nose ahead of his friends group. (Just. That Ger woman is pushing hard.)
    3. A whole kilogram has been lost, no seriously, a whole kilo.
    4. Every day has been a writing day.

    Naturally, the highlight of the winter for Stuart has been the opportunity to play me, King Barry, in the Abbotts Ann village pantomime. The production was a roaring success, playing four sold-out performances in early-December. The show was put on by the Abbotts Ann players, a group with sufficient talent to produce a good show, even when hampered by novices like the big boy.

    A friend attended the opening night, and did not go to the pub until AFTER the show had ended. His comment was telling;

    “I think that it’s great you live in a village that still does things like this. It’s brilliant.”

    It’s unusual for any acquaintance of Stuart to utter anything halfway sensible, but I suppose the exception proves the rule.  People are quick to rue the loss of their local pub, or corner shop, and they moan about how the street, estate, neighbourhood, ‘never does anything’ any more. Yet, it is this very same people that drove past their village shop to get to the supermarket. The same people who don’t attend the fireworks night, because they are busy. The same people who don’t use the pub, don’t attend community meetings etc…

    I, King Barry of the Kingdom of Elate (on the nice side of the A38), leave you with this, my regal thought. YOU are your community. YOU can make it thrive. Stuart tells me that it’s also, really good fun.

    And remember…

    “You are my first, my last, my everything…”  Barry White, the Walrus of Love. 1974.

  • Dry January Goal

    “Goal: Dry January,” you say?

    Let me stop you there.

    No.

    That is that nonsense out of the way.

    January the first is my Mum’s birthday. Happy Birthday Mum!

    Soon she will join us here for lunch. As I type, my fantastic wife is cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Beef Wellington, accompanied by this sumptuous, velvety Rioja from Muga. This is a beautiful wine. Buy some and enjoy it. In February, if you must.

    Last year I wrote about my goals and how I was filling notebooks with them. I had goals, objectives, sub-goals, milestones, action plans, all sorts of things intended to keep me focused and ‘on mission’.

    How did I do?

    Well, regrettably, I am not 4 stone lighter. For a while, I was a stone lighter at one point but now I’m probably a pound lighter. Not a dazzling success. Must do better.

    Single-figure handicap golfer? Nope. Not yet. Playing off 12, which is an improvement. Good progress.

    Publishing third novel? Nope. Not published the debut yet. Unacceptable.

    I could go on for pages. Overall, I did reach several of my goals, but I did so at the expense of the core ones, the ones that I really wanted to achieve.

    There is danger in over-complicating things, or being too ambitious. The older I get, the more I learn that multi-tasking is a word that means “doing lots of things poorly”.

    This year – I’m not filling notebooks with goals, milestones, measures etc. This year I’m keeping it simple and I’m going public.

    1. Publish a novel.
    2. Lose 2 stone.
    3. Buy a company.

    What are your goals for 2017?

  • English Humour. Drier than gin.

    Many will be delighted to see the back of 2016.

    We might be better to look forward to what exciting things are coming in 2017.

    Watching “The Dambusters” on television today, I was reminded how dry the English sense of humour can be.

    It’s a brilliant movie; if you haven’t seen it, look it out.

    Throughout the film, humour is used by the airmen as a coping strategy for the very real peril that they faced. (Of the 133 that took off, 53 were killed that night.)

    Early in the piece there is a wonderful example of dry english wit at its withering best, as designer Barnes Wallis attempts to get resources to develop his bouncing bomb.

    Official, Ministry of Aircraft Production: You say you need a Wellington Bomber for test drops. They’re worth their weight in gold. Do you really think the authorities will lend you one? What possible argument could I put forward to get you a Wellington?

    Doctor B. N. Wallis, C.B.E., F.R.S.: Well, if you told them I designed it, do you think that might help?”

    (From “The Dambusters”, a movie based on Chastise, a real operation carried out by the RAF in 1943.)

    I don’t know whether the line was genuine, or a bit of artistic licence. Either way it’s genius.

     

     

     

  • Christmas Time

    Merry Christmas!

    I’m looking forward to some tasty food, some classy grape based beverages and the company of friends and family – including the little fellow above, Nero the dog.

    The world’s media and thousands of talented bloggers will produce long, detailed and weighty reviews of 2016. I daresay there will be much talk of war, terrorism, politics and death. It really has been quite some year.

    Nero’s year has been altogether simpler.

    Food has been plentiful. Walks too. He has been particularly pleased with the variety of armchairs, couches and beds provided for his comfort. Most satisfactory.

    Every time Margaret and I return, Nero jumps up and down at the back door, waiting to hear the key in the lock. When he does, he speeds across the room to his toys, selecting one as a welcome home present. Whether we have been gone five minutes or a few hours, his enthusiasm is entire and unlimited.

    He loves curling up on a couch in front of the fire, even more if he can share the couch with us.

    Each morning, I awake to Nero tip-tapping across the wooden floor in the bedroom. In between long yoga-like stretches, he has taken to ‘huffing’, ensuring that I’m awake.

    Together we head out in the early light for a walk around the village. We take the same route each morning, yet every day is a brand new adventure, full of exciting scents, animals to chase and people to deafen with barks.

    We make the world very complicated.

    Be more Nero.

    Merry Christmas everyone!