• 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.

  • W is for writingchat

    twitter

    Every Wednesday evening, at eight o’clock, a bunch of people get together on twitter. Each week there is a different writing related theme determined by a shadowy collective that I think of as the ‘White Witches of Words’. (Boy, am I going to get stick for writing that!)

    For any not familiar with twitter – to participate, we add #writingchat to each comment and then follow all comments with that #.

    The chat is light-hearted, and fun. Participants are generous with their time, knowledge and experience. The forum that the chat provides allows newbies like me the opportunity to glimpse other writers and learn that many challenges are shared by all.

    I have met some great people at writingchat, not least, my writing buddy Amanda Fleet. As you are reading this, the self-effacing Amanda is too – and muttering to herself something along the lines of ‘stop talking about me.’ That night’s writingchat was ‘Writing Buddies’ and neither I nor Amanda had one. We skirted the subject shyly. An experienced writer tweeted “Just swap 1,000 words and see how you get on.” So we did.

    Despite her best efforts, she can’t shake me now.

    Very soon, Amanda is releasing her first novel, ‘The Wrong Kind of Clouds’ as a paperback and e-book. Skip along to her blog here for details – and even a discount if you are quick enough.

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  • 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?

     

     

  • In it to win it.

    business-competion

    This week I honoured a promise made on #writingchat

    #writingchat is weekly meet up on twitter, Wednesday 2000 hours UK time for writerly types. There are some great people there – come along. Just use the hashtag.

    I submitted a short story into a competition for the first time. I am not telling you which one. I will report back once the results are published.

    Actually, I promised to enter and win a writing competition in 2016.

    Although, I am convinced that the story is, in fact, a masterpiece, I am prepared to accept that it is unlikely to win. I can’t win the first competition that I enter, surely?

    Therefore, I am working on several ideas at the moment. Naturally, I am scouring the literary world for competitions with extremely few entrants.

    I have even written a poem.

    No. Really. I have. I am going to enter that into a competition too.

    One thing that has come from the entering of competitions is that I have started to use ‘Red Pen’, an editing system and ProWritingAid, an app. I will post a review here soon.

    Before I go…

    Further to my post about medical studies, I came across another on twitter this morning, courtesy of @lifehacker and @beccacaddy all about people over 65 and sarcasm. The study found that the over 65s don’t get it. Really?

    Most of the over 65s I know can cut me to shreds with sarcasm.

  • V is for Vanity

    From the Oxford Dictionary

    Excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements: e.g. ‘it flattered his vanity to think I was in love with him’

    1529

     

    He certainly had a way with words didn’t he?

    Are we living in the Age of Vanity?

    An age where people ‘share their status’ – through a variety of media.

    People seem much keener to tell the world that they are shopping in Harrods than they are to let us know that they have gone to the corner shop to buy milk.

    Judging by Facebook, the world is a place where everyone is fabulously wealthy, taking exotic holidays and drinking only the finest Champagne. And their children? Oh don’t get me started on that…

    “Vanity asks the question: Is it popular?”

    I am a writer. I want people to read my words. Ultimately, I want people to pay to read my words. Vanity is an essential driver.

    In the new world of publishing, I am expected to ‘build my following’, to attract followers on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram. I am not even sure that I understand Instagram! (Nevertheless – I can be found on all of those channels and more, feel free to follow me.) I am expected to persuade you good people to subscribe to my blog.

    In the age of vanity, the more popular that I can demonstrate I am, the better support I would get from a publisher.

    This is just business sense I guess; but it does seem a little backwards.

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  • P is for Purple Patsy Collins

    Patsy Collins.

    She wears purple too.

    Patsy Collins is an author, curator of #writingchat on Twitter and all round good egg.

    Find her on Facebook here and her blog here.

    If you like a good read, then get along to her Amazon author page here. There is even a FREE book for you to check out before you buy the rest. It’s good too.

    Go try it. Let me tell you again. It’s free. What do you have to lose?

    Patsy led a twitter chat (#writingchat) this evening.

    The topic was ‘Promotion’. Can authors over promote their work? Can they turn people off their work through over-enthusiastic promotion?

    #writingchat happens on Twitter every Wednesday evening at 2000 UK time for one hour. Come along.

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  • Oh No! The Sun’s out.

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    Don’t get me wrong, I am usually partial to a bit of Spring and sunny weather. Right now, I am thinking that I need to be outside enjoying it rather than sitting at my desk writing about it.

    I bought and read a book yesterday. (This is a habit I encourage you, dear reader to develop. Keep an eye out for anything by Stuart Lennon).

    I found this particular book while wandering around in the slightly mad worlds of Twitter and Blogs. The book can be found on amazon (Click on the word book earlier in this sentence!)

    It is by a guy called Ben Adams. I enjoyed it. It is an easy read, and good fun. Ben is a little cagey about which bits are his experience and which are his imagination – but that is at it should be. We are British males. We don’t want too much of this metrosexual nonsense. We are uptight and proud of it, what?

    Currently, I am stalking Ben. He published ‘Six Months to Get a Life‘, his first book, in January and his blog records his experiences. Damn it.

    I will definitely use different pictures here if nothing else. He posted about #MondayBlog.

    You can read it here but essentially it is a hashtag which one can add to tweets. Fellow authors then pick up on this and retweet and favourite it.

    I only have a rudimentary understanding as to what the last sentence means, but I am hopeful that it is a good thing.

    This page is on a new theme. Again.

    Mrs L pointed out to me that having a ‘sign up’ box right at the bottom of the page was not necessarily very clever. So now it sits proudly top left.

    So…no excuse not to sign up now.

    Oh yes!

    The book. Sean is getting along OK. With my long and varied experience of Central European hangovers, I found writing about Sean’s remarkably easy.

    Until of course, the Sun came out.