• Working Tools – 3. OSX v IOS

    OSX v IOS

    OSX v IOS. Before we start, let’s establish my credentials. I have none. I don’t code and my only expertise in computing is gained from listening to lots of podcasts and struggling along day to day, trying to get stuff done.

    In the first of this series, I outlined that I have both a MacBook Pro (2017 15 inch) and an iPad Pro (10.5)

    IOS Only

    The truth is, I would dearly like to only have one device. I have made a conscious effort to do as much as possible on my iPad Pro with an eye to being ‘IOS only.’

    Why?

    A great strength, and paradoxically, a weakness of IOS is focus. One can multi-task on iOS. Split screens, app pairs and all sorts of good stuff. However, I find it more powerful for single tasking. One app open, doing one thing. I can turn off notifications and focus on doing one thing properly. This is especially true for writing with Ulysses, which I explained here, is one of my most-used apps.

    Judging by twitter and podcasts, this can be a somewhat contentious area. People get very aerated about it, making categoric statements transposing their preferences to proclamations of fact.

    Terrace Setup for IOS

    My mini-desktop

    I would like to be IOS only, but I struggle.

    That is not to say one can’t be IOS only, just that I struggle to be. I find backup in an IOS-only world difficult. I find managing data stores (filing systems) in IOS, awkward. Working through one port means all sorts of dongles and complications, that frankly, I can’t be bothered with.

    OSX

    For certain tasks, I seek out OSX. Podcasting for example. I have a microphone connected and I want to have multiple apps and windows open at the same time. That said, I have recorded on iPad, and it works fine. It’s just a preference.

    Desktop for OSX

    My desktop setup

    (The MacBook Pro is next to the printer, under the standing desk.)

    OSX v IOS is a myth. There is no need for me to work on one platform. I have the hardware and the software for both.

    If I had to work on one, could I? Absolutely. Yes I could. I would have to look at what I do and how I do it, but I have no doubt that both platforms can support my work.

    Convergence

    Will the two platforms merge? Oh, I don’t know. I would suspect, yes.

    Not because of high-powered thinking or philosophy. First and foremost, Apple is a money-making machine. Producing a single engine, which powers all interaction, is efficient. Efficient is profitable. So – is there a time when all of our devices are extensions of one engine? Probably.

    However, the last thing that Apple will do is merge hardware. They want people like me, buying multiple devices – all the time.

    In the meantime, I leave the last word to developer and Apple commentator Steve Troughton-Smith who tweeted;

    “Every time I hold the iPad in my hands it fills me with childlike wonder at how much technology we’ve distilled into a magic pane of glass, with instant access to the world’s shared knowledge. That feeling never goes away for me, and it’s why I feel sad for those who don’t get it”

  • Working Tools – 2. Software

    Working Tools – 2. Software

    I wrote last in this series about the digital hardware that I use. It makes sense to now cover what software I am in most often.

    I prefer, whenever possible, to use apps that work consistently on all my platforms.

    Shopify. Nero’s Notes runs on Shopify. It’s a strong platform that eases many of the difficulties and challenges of running an online shopping site.

    Xero. Accounts for the businesses are produced here. I cannot recommend these guys highly enough. I can reconcile sales to the bank account on the couch.

    Bank Apps. I’m migrating from ‘big banks’ to challenger banks, both for business and personal. Banking should be easy, so a good app is an absolute must for me now.

    Microsoft Office. Given the choice, I would not have any of these apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc) on any of my devices. They are huge, endlessly updating, monsters. Thing is, everyone else uses them, particularly corporate clients. iWork is compatible with Office, but it’s clunky.

    Mail. I use Apple’s stock app. It’s not brilliant, but it’s ok. Using the stock app means it syncs well, and links with other apps and share sheets.

    Fantastical. The best calendar app. Natural language input is such a winner. I have multiple calendars shared with different people.

    Creating

    Ulysses. My writing tool of choice. I love the simplicity of the interface, and the focus that it brings. I will publish this article directly to the website from Ulysses.

    Ulysses Logo

    A Flutter-bye!

    Audacity. I record my end of the podcast on Audacity, and then send it to TJ. He works the magic in the edit.

    iMovie. On the rare occasion I upload to YouTube, I try to tidy things up on iMovie first. A lot still to learn.

    Consuming

    Unread / Feedly. Unread is where I read blog posts. It’s a reader, and needs a feed. I use Feedly to subscribe to blogs, but I never read in it. I just prefer Unread.

    Overcast. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I would rather use Apple’s own podcast app, for the same reason that I use Mail, but Overcast is just that much better. It’s a great app.

    Netflix and Apple Music. I subscribe to both. So, particularly when travelling, this is where downtime happens.

    Communicating

    Slack. I belong to several Slack groups and administer one or two. I barely understand it, and I’m sure I don’t use a tenth of its capability, but in a world of tense, tetchy open forums, it is nice to inhabit some safe spaces.

    ‘The Socials.’ Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. Not places that I love. However, I run an online business. I need to utilise these channels. I’ll promote this post through them. Whenever I can, I use Buffer to schedule posts. This is more efficient, and means that I don’t get sucked into endless scrolling.

    Messaging. iMessage. What’s App, Messenger, SMS. Different contacts seem to use different formats.

    The Message Bubbles

    iMessage by Apple

    Talking.

    Cellular, Skype, FaceTime, What’s App, Messenger – again there is no consistency across my range of contacts, so I have lots.

    My favoured apps are constantly evolving. In creakingly, I look for ones that I find simple and not distracting. Huge monster apps with masses of functionality that I don’t need distract me. They become an end of themselves.

    Next, in #workingtools –  OSX v IOS.

  • 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.

     

     

  • 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.

     

     

     

     

     

  • Bye Bye Desktop

    Optimized-IMG_0171

    I have posted about how I am becoming a little more analogue in my approach to life.

    I felt that technology was beginning to dominate and dictate my days. Through a combination of electronic tools, I was always connected and always looking at one or more screens. I decided to reassess how I used all these wonderful gadgets. First, I swapped my iPhone for a ‘dumb’ mobile phone – one that works just as a telephone.

    My next target was my desktop at home, where I sit to write. The picture above shows how dominating the computer is – both in terms of real estate and visual impact. The iMac is a beautiful piece of kit – and its screen demands attention. Attention that I very often gave it.

    Below, is how my desk looks now.

    Optimized-IMG_0173

    Quite Zen isn’t it?

    I still have access to my electronic life – I am writing this post on my MacBook.

    The laptop sits either on the slide out shelf under the main desktop – or in a book stand to the side. I open the laptop out when I specifically want to use it: At other times – I use the desk to write letters or notes with a pen, on paper.

    How novel.

  • P is for Procrastination

    ahh-procrastination

    Of late, writing for me has been 1% production and 99% procrastination.

    In fairness, I believe that a large % of most endeavours is spent on activities that have little, or at best, only a tangential bearing on the aim of the endeavour.

    Take E-mail for example. Those of us who have worked as office employees at some point in the last twenty years have spent inordinate amounts of time on e-mail.

    I have spent a lot of time thinking about this. (Procrastinating perhaps?)

    With hindsight, I believe that all e-mail is procrastination. Not some of it, not even most of it, all of it.

    You may not believe me, and I am sure that you are right. I am often wrong about these things.

    As you are believer in e-mail – please sign up to this site – and I’ll send you the odd e-mail to keep you in the loop.

    Forgive me, I have digressed. I am a champion procrastinator. I have multiple methods.

    Self-Improvement is one. (Books, Apps, Courses.) Applications. Ways of automating processes that I don’t even do, is another. To-do lists. Facebook. Buying stationery, changing wallets, oh I could go on for ever.

    As I write this post, I am in a new daily routine. Essentially, I remain digital-free until after lunch. So far, it has been a huge success. But then it is only day 2.

    How do you procrastinate?

    Blogging from A to Z Challenge

  • I is for Index Cards

    indexcard_opt

    Index Cards – This template is courtesy of my writing buddy Amanda Fleet. (Her blog is here.)

    Her soon to be released novel, ‘The Wrong Kind of Clouds’ was written using index cards like this. You should get along to her site and pre-order the book – there’s even a discount on it.

    I have always been an early adopter of technology. I started writing my novel on a great app called Storyist. I then switched to Scrivener, another great app. I use Evernote as an excellent scrapbook. I can write on a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, even my phone. Yet faced with a sprawling first draft, I had no idea how to whip it into shape.

    Amanda led me through her Index Card system. Key scenes are sketched onto the red cards like the one in the picture, and other scenes – ones that join the key ones together are on green cards. Once the cards are written, I can place all of the scenes together onto the dining room table and move them around. The whole novel laid out in front of me in a very visual and malleable way.

    I daresay that it is possible to have a screen the size of my dining table and an app that is as intuitive as my own eyes and hands, but I fear that I have crossed that invisible line: where technological advances were once interesting and exciting, now I find them irritating and confusing.

    I even complete the index cards with a fountain pen.

  • Digital Overload

    overload

    It’s all got too much.

    I have scaled the peaks of the digital life and reached the zenith. From here on, it’s downhill.

    I have a Mac, a MacBook and an iPhone. I recently sold my iPad. This combination of very cool bits of kit mean that I am never more than seconds away from my Twitter feeds, (I have three) my Facebook profile, my Linkedin, my Pinterest, my Instagram. I am almost perpetually at Inbox zero. An email arrives and like a digital ninja, I am on it. Either it is responded to, archived, or deleted. I have resolved to read more – so I keep my kindle close to hand, and just in case, I have kindle apps on all of my other devices.

    Should you need to get in touch, you can comment on this blog, drop me an email on one of several addresses, send me a text, message me on one of several apps and each of my machines will ding, vibrate or beep. You may rest assured that I will be aware of your communication in seconds.

    I may of course, not respond instantly. I may be tied up. I may be updating my blog, scheduling my social media to tell you that I have updated my blog or even reading your blog. I may be checking that my feeds on feedly, medium, bloglovin and others that I have undoubtedly forgotten, are up to date. It is possible that I am resolving sync problems between my fitbit and my iPhone. How on earth can I lose weight if my phone is not correctly reporting daily steps? It may be that I am searching Myfitnesspal for the correct calorific value of 40g of porridge oats. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it, right?

    If I am setting off for a meeting, preparations begin the night before. Laptop, iPhone, Fitbit all fully charged, chargers in bag too. (Just in case). Location of meeting entered onto device to ensure map available. Ensure that all recent communications with person that I am meeting are instantly available on all devices. I can revise on the train. Check out linked in profiles, Google +, Facebook. What music do I want? Playlists up to date? Which headphones? Noise-cancelling? Right – best check the battery levels.

    Then I need to update the calendar app – which in turn will update my wife’s calendar, so that she can be sure what train I’m on, where I’m going and what for. Obviously, her life won’t be complete unless she knows this. Once I get to London, I’ll take a quick snap and post some status updates. My friends in Ireland will undoubtedly be fascinated to know what the weather is like in London.

    It’s a wonder that I have any time at all for work or relationships or indeed life at all.

    At some point, the machines took over. The thousands of ways that technology was helping me, became the thousands of ways that it was oppressing me.

    I’m fighting back.

    I have ordered a diary. A big book made of paper and card. In it, I will plan my time. What an innovator I am. In this new-fangled thing, I will block off bits of time to check my e-mail, my social media and feeds. I’ll do these things at MY convenience.

    I have ordered a ‘dumb’ phone. It can make and receive phone calls. It can send and receive text messages, although only by using the numbers as a keyboard, so you should not expect too much. With only a dumb phone, I shall have to keep myself ‘connected’ only at scheduled times and at my keyboard. I fear that the world may stop turning – but I probably won’t notice without ‘notifications’.

    punkt_angled

    Calorie control, both input and burn. Well, I am going to eat less food. I am going to eat more ‘simple’ food and less ‘complex’ food – i.e. avoid the manufactured crap pushed at us from all sides. When I walk the dog, I’m going to count the flowers or the birds and not the steps. Maybe I’ll try to walk a little further. I’ll know its working if my clothes start getting a bit looser.

    I daresay that the iPhone with all of its apps and the fitbit will be waiting for me in the desk drawer, but I’m quite looking forward to unplugging. Although…what am I going to do in restaurants while everyone else checks their phones?

     

     

  • Battling BT

    Abbotts Ann Wood

    Isn’t it beautiful? Spring is most definitely on the way to Abbotts Ann.

    The photo has nothing to do with the post, I took it walking the dog this morning.

    Happy Mothers Day to all you Mums – and especially to mine – Pat.

    I always have a thought today for those not lucky enough to still have their Mum’s around. I am sure that they must all miss them a little more today.

    After my recent much up with Sky (see here) I thought I had the measure of the communications giants. Then, my phone line stopped working.

    I work from home, so we have two landlines. One for corporate-cobra use and the other for personal calls. It was my corporate one that was not working. There was no dial tone at all. Strangely, the broadband on that line was working fine. A distinct advantage of having two lines is that I was able to take the handset from the line that was working, and swap it with the one on the line that wasn’t. This eliminated the handset as the cause of the problem.

    At this point, I channelled my highly technical training in IT Problem Resolution. Yes, I turned everything off, unplugged everything, had a cup of tea, reconnected everything and turned them on. No change. As everyone knows, an IT issue that survives the ‘turnitoffandturnitonagain’ treatment is truly serious.

    Undaunted, I turned to the internet and British Telecom’s (BT) troubleshooting pages. Just as an aside – I think that BT may in fact be 35% of the internet. Their website is GIGANTIC. It is impressive that such a massive thing could be so singularly crap.

    Where was I?

    Ah yes. I went through the online troubleshooter. Essentially I told it the number I was concerned about and clicked ‘fire’, then the page crashed. After four or five repetitions, both the computer and I got bored. I turned everything off and on again. I tried the line test again.

    “Not a clue mate. Get in touch.” I am not sure that was exactly the wording used, but it was the gist of it.

    I clicked on ‘chat to us online’ and relayed my problem to the dialogue box. A response came through.

    “Please wait. I’ll test the line.”

    “Sorry for the delay – the test is taking a while.”

    “Sorry to keep you”

    “Hmm. The test doesn’t seem to be working”

    I am 99% certain that the helpful fellow had been hitting the exact same ‘fire’ button as I had. Still, he was not to be deterred.

    “Could you switch everything off and then on again?”

    “I have tried that. Doesn’t help.”

    “Oh. Perhaps I could telephone you and we could check some things together? Do you have a mobile?”

    “Its OK, you can call me on my landline. The number is…”

    “No sir. Your landline isn’t working. I need to call you on..”

    “I have two landlines.”

    “Two?”

    “Yes. Two.”

    “Two? In the same place?”

    “Yes. One of work and one for personal use. I suspect that I am not unique.”

    There was a pause.

    “Ok.”

    Now, my cheery friend and I were able to chat on the phone across thousands of miles.

    “We need to see if the problem is with your hardware..”

    “Let me stop you there. I swapped the phones over – and the phone which I am currently talking to you on, does not work when connected to the other line. So, it’s not the hardware.”

    A lengthy pause.

    “You have a spare phone?”

    “Not spare exactly. It is the home phone, the one attached to the line that we have for personal use.”

    “You have two lines?”

    “Yes. I have two lines.”

    “In the same house?”

    The conversation was reminding me of a Monty Python sketch.

    “Shall we just agree that it is not the hardware? What next?”

    I’ll spare you a line by line account, but the process rambled on – with my correspondent struggling anytime I gave an answer not covered in the script in front of him. Overall, he should be commended though. He reached, and possibly even surpassed, the standard of utter uselessness required by BT – and, in his second language too. Good man.

    At one point, I was unscrewing the faceplate from sockets under his instruction. When I asked what hourly rate I should invoice BT for my work, there was the familiar quizzical silence.

    The call ended thus. I paraphrase.

    “I have made an appointment for an engineer to visit you. I must remind you that if the fault turns out to be caused by storm damage, building work, we are and tear, psychotic mice or anything else within the boundaries of your property, BT will add a charge of £129 to your phone bill for this visit. Is that OK?”

    “Certainly. In the spirit of fairness, I apply the reverse of those terms to BT. That is to say, if the fault is outside of my property, I will deduct a £129 from my phone bill.”

    “Ummm…I’m not sure that…”

    “Never mind. Send the engineer.”

     

  • Inbox Zero

    I suggested in another post that you go away to a desert island for a week and come back to face the barbarian horde that is your weekly email delivery.

    Gettting-To-Zero

    Add this horde to the mass of missives that you already have kept, and soon your inbox is so big that it is actually slowing your computer down.

    The instinctive answer to this is to delete all the mail on the basis that any important ones will probably get sent again.

    I do believe that this approach has its merits, but some of the downsides can be severe – all of my bosses would have taken a dim view of it for a start.

    The accepted measure to demonstrate one’s brilliance and mastery of email is “inbox zero”.

    Inbox zero is what it sounds like, it is the state of having an empty inbox.

    When you assess the inbox is up to you, but the aim is to have a time each day where you reach the point that your inbox is completely empty.

    A point where every piece of correspondence that has been sent to you has been ‘actioned’.

    _40916095_allen_cigarette203bbcThis approach is often credited to David Allen.

    I admit to being amazed the Irish TV wit who sat on a stool, cigarette in hand making people laugh in the 70s and 80s had time to write books on productivity.

    Turns out to be a different Dave Allen.

    This one designed the Get Things Done (GTD) approach to productivity.

    The theory is that I look at my Inbox and act on every mail.

    I reply, delegate, delete or schedule. Each choice moves the message out of the inbox.

    GTD is alarmingly trendy.

    But that notwithstanding, there is something to it. If you feel that you are working for email rather than the other way around, have a look at “Get Things Done”.

    I am now pretty much perpetually at Inbox zero.

    How?

    1. I use Gmail. In my experience, Google have been the most competent provider at keeping spam out of my inbox.

    2. I use Gmail. When in doubt, don’t delete – archive. That way, you can always find the mail with a google search of your ‘All Mail’ folder.

    It works. It makes the decision making process faster. Knowing that if I ditch a mail too hastily, I can recover it simply and easily.

    3. Once at my desk, I take a few minutes to unsubscribe from email lists.

    4. I manage mail from all my devices. I can therefore triage my inbox from anywhere.

    Waiting for a meeting/bus/coffee? Whip the phone out, and go through the inbox…delete, archive, delete, snooze, reply, add to list and so on. I use a client called Mailbox that gives me these options.

    I might not get through the whole inbox in one go – but through the day, I will have dealt with most unimportant email during spare minutes.

    5. Turn notifications off. I look at email when I want to. I am not at its command. We all have enough to do without responding to beeps and whistles.

    Are you the boss of your Inbox?