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.

Review

img_20161129_083442

Ducks on the Pill Brook at the end of my street.

This morning, I was watching a very brave journalist broadcasting from Aleppo in Syria.

I do not claim to have any real handle on the rights and wrongs of that terrible conflict. I watched in horror and shame. Will we ever stop being a cruel and murderous, species I wonder?

I am fairly certain that the involvement of this joker hasn’t helped.

It is difficult to maintain any sort of perspective in relation to the events that I mention above, but I thought I might provide a review on a variety of things.

IT. I posted here about moving away from Apple, and here about moving to Google. My Pixel XL phone is great. Reliable, efficient and fast-charging. I can say the same for the Chromebook. The biggest change though works regardless of hardware. Turn notifications off. All except phone. This one simple step puts you in charge of your apps, rather than they in charge of you.

Politics. A lot of nonsense continues to be talked about Brexit. A favourite is the clamour for the government to publish a plan. A plan for a negotiation. A chocolate teapot. Eventually, the PM realised that all she had to do was agree. She will soon publish a plan saying – “We want free trade, and control of our borders.” Remainers will cry foul and demand to know what is going to happen. The government will respond – “Don’t know. It’s a negotiation.” Still. It keeps them busy.

US Politics. From a field of two, one candidate won. He is certainly a departure from the usual. There is a lot of noise about the inherent unfairness of the electoral system, and at the moment, outrage that a foreign power is alleged to have attempted to influence the outcome of the election. Apparently such claims made with no trace of irony. How will ‘The Donald’ work out? I really don’t know. I suspect he will continue to delight in upsetting any apple-cart that he can find.

The CaminoThe word alone brings a smile to my face. Somehow we managed to ensure that the pilgrim with the photos is the one least able to share them, so I have not written or posted as much about that week as I had planned. Walking twenty miles or more each day certainly simplifies life and I can’t wait for the second instalment next year.

Journals, organisers and stationery. I have chopped and changed through a myriad of schemes to organise myself. Both digital and analogue. My preference is analogue, yet digital is far better for sharing. Thus, I use a hybrid. My calendar, shared with Mrs L, is kept on Google; accessible from multiple electronic devices. Many events, I also transfer to my Economist desk diary. Here, I get some perspective on how my week looks. I find this more attractive than an electronic output and better for my weekly review. On the move though, the diary has too much heft. I now carry a simple paper A6 notebook with a Fischer space pen. I would rather use a fountain pen, but I often dress casual – and ink and jeans can be uncomfortable companions. Here, I employ parts of the #BuJo system to run my daily tasks. Of late, I have even developed a double page system to prioritise. I also have a reflective journal – which I would like to keep daily, but often is neglected. Joyfully, the journal has no notifications function, and therefore does not berate me for missing a day.

Corporate. I have a couple of clients for whom I provide support in anti-money laundering systems. I have also been reviewing a multitude of potential acquisitions. Both of those things are, by their very nature, confidential, but hopefully the work done this year will lead to good outcomes.

Writing. The last few months I have done no work at all on Sean. I have been perpetually busy on everything above. Now, given that I am largely (when Mrs L lets me) master of my own time, I have to ask myself why it is that I can find time for anything, anything at all, except writing.

That’s probably another post all on its own.

 

 

Hello, Google

google-logo

Yesterday, I posted about my love affair with Apple coming to an end.

This was a little scary – as over the last few years, my brief encounters with Windows machines have not been happy ones. Never-ending updates, relentless malware attacks…

What was the alternative?

Since 2014, I have been using Google Apps – now suggestively renamed GSuite. It allows me to use Google’s e-mail, calendar and other apps under my own domains.

I had vaguely heard about something called a Chromebook.

These are typically pretty low specification machines that run a web browser, specifically, the Chrome browser. The processor is old, the memory is tiny. There’s nothing to them. They are cheap though. And fast.

The principle is that you keep everything in the cloud. All of your files. All of your e-mail. All of your programs.

Useless. How could that possibly work? I do far more than online stuff.

Actually…No. I don’t. Or, rather I do very little that cannot be done with a chromebook.

What do I actually do with my device?

All the top procrastination tools are online – Social media, online shopping, email.

Spreadsheets? GSuite has Google Sheets that can view and edit Excel. Likewise for Word and Powerpoint. There is even a work offline mode should the broadband go down or if I’m on the road. Microsoft programs are all available as web apps.

This post is being written on WordPress – a web app.

So – I bought a Chromebook. I’m writing on it now. Naturally, being me, I bought one that is premium. This is an HP, with a metal body, a gorgeous high definition screen, B&O speakers. Frankly, it looks a lot like a Macbook. Currently there are 8 tabs open. The machine is like lightning.

The laptop boots up in seconds. There are no programs taking an age to start up. Virus protection is done server-side by Google. As there are no programs, there are no updates. I like it.

Oh…and you can have two for the price of a Macbook. Three or four for the price of a high spec Macbook Pro.

I’m told that I will struggle to mix my next single or edit my 4k video release on this machine. Not things that I do.

rsz_img_20161108_093158

Are there limitations?

Maybe.

First. Everything is stored on GDrive, in the cloud. Navigating around that does not come naturally to me – but I I suspect a little research and I will discover a quicker way.

Second. I write (not enough) on Scrivener. Scrivener is great on a Mac, OK on a Windows machine, doesn’t work on a Chromebook. I will need to write elsewhere. Thus far, Google Docs looks favourite. It has only a tiny fraction of the functionality of Scrivener – but it has the bit that I need. 99% of Scrivener is wasted on me.

My Iphone has been retired too. I have a phone made by Google, called a Pixel. I tried an android phone before – and regretted it. This one however is great, and just works. A bit like Apple used to.

My hardware is built for Google apps. I’m using Google apps. Unsurprisingly, it’s seamless.

I suspect the real cost of this is that Google has everything. I have no doubt that it hoovers up all this data. Privacy? What’s that?

But, truth be told, I suspect that the privacy ship sailed a long time ago.

 

Bye, Apple

rsz_img_20161108_093158

I wrote here about my penchant for gadgets and my frustration with the big IT names.

In an effort to simplify my tech life, I had worked myself down from four devices (Imac, MacBook, Ipad and Iphone) to two. (MacBook and Iphone.) I even have a ‘dumb’ phone – for when being unconnected is a blessing.

What was becoming apparent was that my beloved Apple was losing its way. I do appreciate that it remains an absolutely massive company with huge sales and profits. However – I am going to stick to my guns here – over the next few years it is on a relentlessly downward trajectory.

Apple made amazing beautiful innovative stuff that just worked. Was pricing premium? Yes – but the kit was gorgeous and desirable. Ipod, Iphone, Macbook Air – wonderful, cutting edge tech.

Then Apple started doing strange things.

The watch. “You can get a text on your wrist!” Hmm…the whole world is talking about how to make tech more useful but less obtrusive, about the power of not allowing tech to dictate your life. So Apple make a device that can vibrate on your wrist every time a friend posts a picture of their breakfast on social media.

Iphone. “Like the last Iphone. But better.” Oh. Great.

“Look! This new Iphone won’t work with your headphones. You need to buy wireless ones.” Gee. Thanks.

Ipad. “Look! Like the last one. And look, a little one! Wait! A huge one. With a stylus.” Didn’t someone say something about a stylus being the sign that the wheels were coming off?

I was pinning my hopes on the new Macbook and latterly the Macbook Pro. The Macbook is really light, has a great screen and is an attractive piece of equipment. It only has one port. To make it really thin, the key board is different. Look. Its OK. It’s a nice piece of kit. But it’s not special.

Finally, after years of waiting, the new MacBook Pro was released. The good news is that your old headphones will work with this.

Yep. Apple’s flagship mobile phone announces the death of the wired headphones. Launched a month later, Apple’s flagship laptop announce the renaissance of the wired headphones.

What else is on the new MacBook Pro? Well – a spectacular price tag for a start.

There is a funky thing called an OLED bar. Which is essentially a strip of touch screen at the top of the keyboard.

The rest of the computing world has launched machines where the whole screen is touch – and laptops can now be hybrids – part computer, part tablet – but Apple has a strip. Right.

Dell, HP, Lenovo are all making laptops that are as pretty, as well-built and HIGHER spec than the Apples – for much less money. I mean a lot less money.

IT experts have been saying this for years – but to a layman like me, Apple stuff just worked and visibly better quality than the competition. That’s simply not true anymore.

So – I have jumped ship. I am using no Apple hardware at all.

What am I using? The photos is a pretty strong hint – but that’s a whole new post on its own.

 

 

 

 

 

Ink, Ink and more Ink

 

rsz_img_20161107_142929

I recently rediscovered the pleasure of real pens, using real ink on real paper.

This was as a result of considering techniques for writing, and I was led into a new world of stationery by writing-buddy Amanda Fleet, who blogs about writing here and about stationery here.

It was Amanda who introduced me to Bureau Direct.

Now – be warned. The link above takes you to Aladdin’s stationery cupboard.

I recently had a look for ‘lined envelopes’. One hundred and forty choices. (All of which I could find a use for.)

Need a notebook? Four hundred and ninety eight options. (Not counting colour choices.)

Amanda and I correspond by letter. Yes. Really. Hand-written, on paper, in an envelope, with a stamp. (Any younger readers – ask your parents.) She has lovely hand-writing, and always has several fountain pens inked up and ready to go. Her letters are always an explosion of bright ink.

I have horrible handwriting, but am quickly catching up on the pen front. So it was time for me to start experimenting with some more coloured inks.

 

I had ordered the J Herbin Ten Inks Set. (£26.95 after my special discount.) OK, anyone can get the discount – sign up for their newsletter; but I still prefer to believe it’s just for me.

Inside the beautifully presented ‘coffret’ (just sounds better than box) are ten bottles of ink, each of 10ml. In order to test them out, I used a J Herbin glass pen that I had bought from Bureau Direct a few weeks ago. The paper is an Age Bag notebook, by Clairefontaine, available at, you guessed it, Bureau Direct.

rsz_img_20161107_150555

Check out Amanda’s excellent review of the paper here. I can only imagine that when naming the range, the Clairfontaine marketing team had risked the second bottle at lunch.

The ink is lovely to write with, even as this left-hander wrestled with the glass pen. In truth, the glass pen is not hard to master – as soon as you discover that rotating it will alter the breadth of ‘the nib’.

Colours – entirely subjective. I like them all, but I am particularly taken by the Gris Nuage. I suspect that tomorrow, I may have a different favourite.

The team at Bureau Direct are knowledgeable and charming. Delivery is fast and efficient.

Just be careful. I’m now mainlining stationery…