Heading Into 2017…

This poor site. My work and personal life in 2016 really sucked the oxygen out of this space, leaving it quite neglected. I at one time even considered letting the site go and simply keeping the domain name. After all, what’s the point in keeping/paying for a site if you can’t commit any time to it.

Then the year ended, and an old feeling came back. That feeling I used to get when I was writing and creating things. It was so nice to feel that again!

So this year will be different, or, at least I aim for it to be.

The site won’t be as tech-related as it has been in the recent past (though there will be a fair amount of that) and I aim to contribute more short, bite-sized portions of other things that inspire me. Links of interest, movies I am excited about, thoughts on writing, the usual app/hardware reviews, as well as any tips that I feel are worth sharing. More variety, more frequently.

In short, I’ll be breathing some life back into this space. If you’ve spent some time here in the last year or two – thank you. I know the content has been sparse. I aim to change that moving into 2017 and I hope you’ll join me in that endeavor.

Happy New Year! Let’s make it a good one!

~ Tad

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Software: iOS “Do Not Disturb” Mode

So, half of the holiday season has come and gone (I hope it all went well for everyone!) and, with the constant barrage of digital ways to stay in touch with everyone, it reminded me of an iOS feature that’s become my favorite in iOS6.

It’s called “Do Not Disturb” and it is wonderful. 🙂

Full disclosure: I absolutely adore the people in my life. I really do.

But, there are some times when we all need a break from those little popups that beep and blip, begging for our attention.

And sometimes it’s not even people! I also have a few weather apps that send along severe weather notifications that, while interesting, aren’t exactly worth being woken up at 3AM for.

So with all of these helpful notifications, how do we block them out when we don’t want them interupting our lives? Well, luckily with the advent of iOS6, we have the ability baked right into our devices.

Cool! So where do I find it?

DND Settings screenshot

Head into “Settings” and, fourth from the top, you will see “Do Not Disturb”. To turn it on, just toggle the switch from “Off” to “On”. A little crescent moon icon will show up to the left of the clock up at the top of your iOS device screen, signifying that it’s activated!

So, how does this work exactly?

When “Do Not Disturb” is switched on, absolutly no notifications will come through. This includes emails, texts, Twitter updates, Game Center updates, anything in notification center, even phone calls.

This sounds great and all, but what if someone needs to get in touch in an emergency and I forgot to turn it off?

DND Settings screenshot

Really great question! If you go into “Settings” and then “Notifications”, you’ll find another “Do Not Disturb” section (which is really un-Apple-like, but I digress). In here, dwells the secret sauce that makes “Do Not Disturb” (I am just going to refer to it as “DND” for the rest of this post) so great. In this settings menu, you can schedule when you want DND automatically turned on and off! For me, this is great because I hate getting disturbed by my phone while I sleep, so I set it for 10PM and 5AM every day. Once scheduled, the DND mode is enabled everyday during that span of time until you opt to turn it off.

DND Settings screenshot

The emergency phone call dilemma is handled with the “Allow Calls From” option. I personally set it for “Favorites” so the folks I have listed as favorites in my “Phone” app come straight through whenever they call. You can also set this to “Everyone”, “No One” (if you really mean business), or you can even set it for a specific group you have setup in your Contacts app. Again, this only pertains to phone calls, all other notifcations from apps still will not come in when DND is scheduled/enabled.

DND Settings screenshot

The last setting is for “Repeated Calls”. When this is turned on, a person will have the ability get through your DND setup if they call twice in the span of 3 minutes. Personally, I LOVE this setting, as I often tell people if there is ever a true emergency, please call us twice repeatedly if we don’t answer the first time. It’s a small thing, but the fact that Apple threw this option in, is just genius in my humble opinion! This way, if for whatever reason, someone important to you is calling from a phone that isn’t theirs, they’ll get through.

Oh yeah! One thing to remember…

When scheduled/enabled, DND mode blocks ALL ALERTS, including third party alarm clock apps! So if you are using one (unsurprisingly, Apple’s “Clock” app doesn’t get blocked) make sure you schedule DND mode to turn off before your alarm goes off. Otherwise you may be late for work and we can’t have that can we? 😉

So that’s it! Go enjoy some quiet time!

We all love being connected (maybe we love it too much), but sometimes the act of unplugging can be a nuisance. With the new DND option, it’s a lot easier. So, turn on DND and take that mid-day nap you’ve been promising yourself! You totally deserve it!

Film: Upstream Color

I am a HUGE fan of Shane Curruth’s “PRIMER” and his next, “Upstream Color“, looks to be just as intriguing. Two teaser trailers were released in the last two weeks and both strike completely different tones. I have know idea what the film is about. All I know is that its imagery is stuck in my head and, for me anyways, that’s a good thing.

“Upstream Color” Teaser 1

 

“Upstream Color” Teaser 2

And, for old time’s sake, the Trailer for “PRIMER”:

Tip: Getting Rid of Multiple Entries in OSX’s “Open With” Menu…

Hey all, just quick tip before the holidays! The other day I found myself looking once again for a tip to remedy this situation:

random screenshot

The issue, in a nutshell, is that whenever you install a new app update from the Mac App Store, it inserts a copy of the icon in the “Open With” menu when you right click anything. It kind of drives me crazy!

At any rate, I think I’ve looked for a fix at least four times now so, in an effort to prevent that from happening to you (and myself) again, I wanted to post it up here so I could find it easily.

Now this tip pertains 10.8 (Mountain Lion), but I’m assuming it’d work in previous versions as well. So, to clean this mess up, open up a terminal window (found in Finder > Applications > Utilities > Terminal.app), paste the following command line entry and hit enter (make sure you get all of it):

/System/Library/Frameworks/CoreServices.framework/Versions/A/Frameworks/LaunchServices.framework/Versions/A/Support/lsregister -kill -r -domain local -domain system -domain user

It may take a few seconds to execute but when the command line prompt comes back up, close Terminal and check your “Open With” menu again. It should now be cleaned up, with only single entries listed. On one occasion, this “fix” didn’t take effect until I restarted my mac, but all of the other times I tried it, it was instantaneous.

Is it “bad” to have multiple listings? Absolutely not. It’s just a slightly OCD need to keep things tidy that I have. I have to imagine it drives other people nuts as well. 😉

That’s it! I’d like to wish everyone in the states a happy Thanksgiving! If you’re traveling, be safe and if you are staying home, make sure the turkey fryer is no where near anything combustible.

Have an awesome holiday everyone!

Software: All About Digital Memory

I’m constantly amazed by how much my brain is bombarded by information (let alone raw stimuli) every second of everyday. If I’m honest, most of it is completely useless fluff; entertainment at best, advertisement at worst. But a good amount of it is still worth looking at and remembering. In it’s current state, my life doesn’t always allow the time to look at everything when it presents itself. I mean, how could it? Because of this fact, I’ve come up with a few app systems that allow me to curate most, if not all of it. I figured I can’t be the only one with this kind of life, so I thought I’d do a post about the different apps I use to remember things and how I specifically use them. Most of the apps I am about to talk about are free and are available on many different platforms. So this isn’t yet another Mac-based software post. I know I tend to focus on those.

Also, please note that these aren’t reviews of these apps. Some of them I use to their fullest extent, but most them, I use for that one function that they do extremely well. The good news is that most of these apps have been around for a good amount of time and have been reviewed extensively. So feel free to Google them afterwards if you want to know more about them. As always, I’ll also have links at the bottom of this post to their downloads and dev sites.

Ok. So, here we go. Without a doubt the following instances come up several times a day for me:

  1. I come across an article, review, link to an event, video, etc. that I either want read later or share with another person. There’s one caveat though: I have no intention of keeping it. I’ll read/view it later and then I’ll delete it.
  2. I come across web content that is more of a resource. Something that I will need and continue to reference in the near and very distant future. It’s that tidbit or object that you know you’d absolutely regret losing or forgetting.
  3. Lists. We all have them! Grocery lists, to-do lists, gift lists, travel prep check lists… they’re those lists of important things that you check off immediately after you do them. When the list is done? You happily delete it feeling that warm sense of accomplishment.
  4. Tiny notes. Particularly ones that you need to share across devices. Like a Post-it note but more permanent. I won’t need it all of the time, but if I am flaking out and just can’t remember, it’s in it’s separate app waiting.
  5. Password and Account info. Between my wife and I alone we have, sickeningly, close to a hundred different logins to a host of websites that vary from yoga studios, to credit card accounts. We could use the same user ID and password for all of them, but shouldn’t and we don’t (nor should you). For this, I need an app that wrangles all of these accounts and passwords, so that they are easily found and encrypted to the hilt.

Those are the scenarios! Now I’ll go through each app that I use to combat them.

Situation One: Disposable, yet still worthy of consumption…

Instapaper Logo

For these situations I rely on “Instapaper“. Marco Arment’s Instapaper is worthy of an entire post alone on this site, but when it comes to shelving a movie review that I really want to read but don’t have the time to? Instapaper is perfect and is my go-to app. Through it’s applets and API I can send anything on just about any app on any platform (computer, phone, tablet) to my Instapaper account to read later in it’s now extremely popular stripped down format. No distractions, stripped of ads, viewable offline, lots of choices to suit my reading aesthetic, all wrapped up in a solid, dependable platform.

I use Instapaper to save so much of what I find in my daily travels on the internet crazy that the service is free. And when I’m done with the content, I delete it! I don’t have to, there are plenty of options to archive things in Instapaper, but it’s not how I happen to use it. Browser-based, it’s available anywhere there’s an internet connection. There are also native apps on iOS and Android platforms as well, and though I don’t own an Android device, the iOS apps work flawlessly.

Situation Two: Non-disposable Resources. In other words, that stuff you want to keep.

Evernote Logo

In these cases, I rely almost exclusively on “Evernote“. Evernote is one of those software solutions that is completely adaptable. There are just so many ways to use it! Their approach is simple: offer any and every way that you could think of to upload anything digital, permanently to the cloud. Oh, and make it super easy too!

Me? 95% of the time that I use it, I utilize their very handy web-clipper browser add-on to send snapshots of web sites onto Evernote’s cloud storage. I do tend to tag my additions and add them to folders, but that isn’t really necessary. Once clipped into Evernote, your entry is saved, completely searchable and, at the very least, auto-organized by date. Just a couple weeks ago I saved a dozen different web sites on shower heads. Tagged “shower”, it was simple to bring up everything I’d found weeks later when I was ready to pull the trigger and buy one. Easy!

But you can also use it in other handy ways. A perfect use case of this is when I used it the other day when we bought and enjoyed a bottle of wine while out for dinner. After we drank the wine I took a picture of the label on the bottle, tagged the variety (“red” “malbec”) and, because I took it with my phone, Evernote used the GPS coordinates to log where the photo was taken, so we could remember where we drank it. Months later, we wanted to have the same wine out for some friends who were coming over for dinner. When I was at the wine shop, I opened up Evernote on my iPhone and knew precisely what I was looking for. It also helps A TON when someone asks to help you.

This exact same approach is also incredibly handy when you park you car in an airport parking lot before leaving on three week trip to India. Take pic of the lot and space number. Save it. Get on with life and focus on other things. Simple.

In the end, Evernote’s service is definitely one of those “what you make of it” situations. But don’t let that deter or overwhelm you. Trust me, I don’t even use it tonearly the degree that others do. My workflow is simple by design and, because of that, it’s been pretty damn invaluable over the years.

Situation Three: Lists

Grocery IQ Screenshot

There are three types of lists that I typically keep.

  • Lists before an event, like a vacation, making sure we have everything we need.
  • Grocery Store lists.
  • Any trip to a hardware store inevitably should have a list.

In this case, simple is always better for me. I don’t want any crazy or feature-rich todo app. I just want something with text, check boxes and something that syncs across devices. The syncing option is only optimal to me for when my wife and I head out to the dreaded grocery store. With a list that syncs between our phones, we can divide and conquer. She knows I grabbed the eggs because she sees that I checked it off when I went down the milk aisle. If this situation sounds bad ass, that’s because it is. 😉

My apps of choice are “Grocery IQ” for grocery stores and Apple’s own “Reminders” app on the Mac and on iOS for everything else. Both sync across multiple devices. Grocery IQ gets a leg up over Apple’s own “Reminders” app because it offers up coupons as well as the ability organize your list by aisle if you already have your favorite grocery store layout memorized. It’s super simple to use and always handy when someone is home and remembers something while you are on the way to the store.

Apple's Reminders App Screenshot

The “Reminders” app is baked into iOS (so it’s free), syncs with iCloud and is backed by Apple, so you can’t go wrong with it. It’s quite simplistic (just multiple lists of check boxes and text) but it does what it does very well.

Situation Four: Tiny Notes

Apple'ss Notes App Screenshot

What’s a “tiny note”? Tiny notes are those incomplete sentences of info that you need handy at any given moment in time. An example of this is an address to a party or a security code into someone’s place that you occasionally visit. It’s not worth permanently archiving, but it’s also not really disposable either.

A perfect use case for this is my sister recently moved into a new flat that has a security code at the front door. She told it to me and I instantly jotted it down on my phone. I don’t want to memorize it right away and I certainly don’t want to keep badgering her for it whenever I visit. For all of these scraps of important andconvenient info, I use the “Notes” app in iOS. It’s super basic, baked into iOS (again, it’s hard to beat free) and because I don’t use it for anything else, it’s not terribly crowded with other bits of info. As of today, I still only have one note in the app with a small list of things that I need occasionally and because it’s synced through iCloud, I don’t need to read it out loud or send it in an email or text to my wife. I simply tell her it’s in “Notes” and she knows exactly what I am talking about.

Situation Five: Accounts and Passwords

Alt text

If there is only one thing you take away from this post, I hope it’s this: take the protection of your ID and password info seriously.

There are a lot of password generators out there and just as many apps that work well at encrypting and storing your personal info remotely and securely. I personally love, and use Agile Bits app “1Password“. They work on the simple premise that the safest password you could ever have, is one that you do not know. Basically it works like this. You have one password to memorize, and that is the password to the 1password app itself (see what they did there?). Inside this app is a highly encrypted database of all of your user ID’s and passwords (which can be created in-app with their password generator), support for full credit card info, personal documents, personal info, you name it. It’ll accept just about anything you want protected, yet accessible.

For all it is under the hood, it’s quite incredible how easy it is to incorporate it into your life! One way it really saves time, is in it’s ability to auto populate web fields with the click of a button when using their feature-rich (yet easy to use) browser plugin. Go to a site, click the 1Password button in your browser’s toolbar, type in the one password for the app, click the link that corresponds to the site, and you are on. It takes it from there, auto-populating the fields and even logging you in with an incredibly hard-to-crack password that you have no chance in hell of remembering. In addition to logins, the auto-population is borderline magic when you face situations where you have to fill out forms for anything online. Not having type in your mailing address or credit card info instantly becomes addictive.

It’s not all roses, there’s a good bit of manual setup involved, but once you get your info into 1Password, you are set and life becomes way more convenient (not to mention way more safe).

1Password also isn’t free, but in my opinion it’s worth every penny you spend and then some. I think you’ll find that you’ll use it mostly on your home PC, but it’s also available on iOS and Android devices as well.

Forget about forgetting…

So that’s it! With the above apps, I’ve streamlined a ton of useless crap out of my day to day. I no longer sweat nearly as much about remembering non-critical moments or things. In all cases I have access to everything on every device I own with a screen and an internet connection. Errands are cut short, time is gained, your important info is protected…. Even if you were to try just one of these above situations out, I promise you, you’ll see the benefits.

Give it a shot! Let me know what you think on Twitter.

App Links:

The fine Developers of these apps:

  • Marco Arment – Instapaper
  • Evernote.com – Evernote
  • coupons.com – Grocery IQ
  • Agile Bits – 1password
  • Apple – Notes and Reminders iOS Apps

    All pictures in this post are linked to either the app store or the developer’s own sites/presskits with the exception of the 1Password app logo which I’d be happy to swap out if they have an official presskit that I link to. Thanks! 🙂

Hardware: Thoughts on the iPad Mini….

iPad Mini

As I’m sure many of you noticed today, Apple released the much anticipated and, as it turns out, thoroughly leaked, iPad Mini. And there was much rejoicing right? Right?!

Well, for me, the answer is “yes and no”.

Now it was only just announced, so obviously I haven’t touched or used the device, but the first question I had when the initial rumors started dropping (months ago) waswhat would I have to give up to fit this into my current tech eco-system? If I did get it, what would I change? I’d definitely relinquish my old iPad to Gazelle, as there truly would be no need for two tablets. I figured it would be at least as powerful as my iPhone5 or the 3rd gen iPad and it’d also presumably be thinner and lighter, also two huge bonuses!

In fact, about the only thing that would stop me from buying one honestly was the screen. And by this don’t mean the issue of compromised screen real estate, which has never been an issue for me (I’ve actually written happily on my iPhone on numerous occasions). But the resolution? Screen resolution would definitely be a deal-breaker for me. Put simply, Apple’s “Retina” display technology that was released with the iPhone4 has completely and utterly spoiled me. So much so, that it’s a genuine distraction to use other devices of lesser quality.

So naturally, when the rumor mill started churning out tidbits of how the new iPad Mini was was going to have the same screen as the trusty old iPad2, I had my concerns. This rumor of course turned out to be true, as well as the hardware being less robust than the third gen iPad 3. Take away the finish and the new iPad Mini is basically a smaller iPad 2.

Which, to this unabashed Apple enthusiast, was a completely missed opportunity.

While it’s always amazing to me how Apple continues shrink it devices into smaller and thinner form factors making them more and more beautiful, aesthetics can only go so far. Eventually people notice when they can spend a little more to get a little more.

So when they dropped the price during the presentation (50 bucks less than the iPad 2), the deal was sealed for me. I’d crossed that line between “interested” to, “I just don’t want it”. Which is a shame really, because I could definitely see the use of a smaller, lighter, retina display equipped, same-internals-as-the-iPhone5, based iPad in my life. For travel it’d be a dream. The screen would still be an excellent size for everything I do on my iPad now and I absolutely wouldn’t have seen it as compromise on any level.

But I’m clearly not the demographic they are trying to sell this to and that is absolutely, positively fair. I’ll continue to wait it out until they have what I’m hoping for. I’m sure it’s in the works. I can be patient. In fact, I predict that at this time next year? The iPad2 will be gone, the iPad mini will take it’s place and it will stand proud next to the full-sized iPad, retina display and all! You heard it here first people (trust me, I am not the first to make that prediction)! 🙂

In closing, I guess what I find the most interesting about today’s announcement is that, for me anyways, Apple actually shot for the lowest common denominator, which isn’t typical for them. No one can drum up prelim excitement like Apple can and this incoming announcement had the community at a fever pitch. Which leaves me wondering how everyone will feel after the dust settles and the “new product announcement” high wears off.

My guess is that, while they’ll think it’s a beautiful product (and it is), they’ll be waiting to pull the trigger just like me.

Now that new iMac and retina 13in Macbook Pro? Those are pretty damn enticing…

Pics linked from apple.com

Software: Drafts

If you haven’t guessed by now, you’re probably new to this site, and if so, welcome! If not, you’ll undoubtedly know that I am an iOS text editor enthusiast to the umpteenth degree! I really love what developers out there have done to create such robust and fun ways to create words and text on such tiny screens and devices!

Alt text

One that I’ve been playing around with for a good amount of time is Drafts. Drafts, on it’s own, is a very elegant and clean text editor that’s UI is completely spartan by design. It main function is for you to launch it, jot a note or idea down and close it. The app saves your work in a plain text format and the next time you open the app? It starts a new note. This wash, rinse, repeat philosophy is what got me to first buy and try the app. But, it’s only when you open up Drafts and use it for a bit, that you realize that this text editor quite unique and powerful.

Alt text

Aside from the impressive collection of fonts that the kind folks at Agile Tortoisebaked in, you also get the requisite font size selector and two other themes to mix things up a bit (white text on black and a “Sepia” toned dark brown text on tan based theme). There is also a new view in the latest version of the app that is quite handy called “Link” mode which makes all the links that you type in to a note, tap-able! URLs would be easy but this view also includes phone numbers and even addresses! Think about it, you get a phone number from someone, put it in Drafts, and instead of holding down on the text, making sure it’s selected, opening the phone app, copying it into the dial field and tapping dial, now all you have to do is tap the “Link” mode in the note, tap the number, then dial. It’s that easy!

Alt text

It also has sync but the folks at Agile Tortoise didn’t want to jump through the myriad of hoops that Apple makes you go through to hook your app up to iCloud so they went with the well-thought-of sync project “Symperium“. In my using of both Drafts apps for iPhone and iPad, I’ve found the sync to be almost instantaneous and, most importantly, reliable. Which has been a little bit of a sticking point for me with the somewhat recent implementation of iCloud sync in apps. The only catch though with going with Symperium is that it doesn’t allow you to sync with your Mac (or PC, yet…). Presumably, going with the more “open” Symperium service, would afford the opportunity sync cross platform/device, but that hasn’t happened yet, so the only way you’d be able to get your notes out of your respective iOS device is through the sharing options provided to you.

The good news? This is definitely where Drafts shines! When you use Drafts you could almost overlook the sharing button in the toolbar of your notes, but after you tap it… man… there are a ton of options!

Alt text

Here’s a rundown of the current list of services that Drafts hooks into, most of which I use (some of which I’ve reviewed on this very site):

  • Post to Facebook or Twitter
  • Email your notes anywhere
  • SMS
  • Save and append to Dropbox
  • Send to iCal (Calendar)
  • Create a Reminder in iOS “Reminders” app
  • copy it to the clipboard in iOS
  • Print
  • Save to Evernote (can also save as Markdown)
  • Send to Tweetbot (twitter client)
  • Send to Day One (journaling client that I love)
  • And last but not least you can choose “Open in…” which allows you to open the note in any other text editor that you have on your device.

That’s quite a list! And they keep adding more with each version that drops!

With these sharing options, Drafts has become a my springboard for whenever I even have a whimsy about sharing a piece of text in more than one place. They’ve made it too damn easy to not see it as your default app for that. If I wasn’t such an iOS text editor junky, I’d probably have this as my sole go-to editor.

Add in it’s full support of Markdown and it’s really a no brainer.

To date I’ve used it for quick notes (movie names, phone numbers, etc…), calendar events, to do lists, entire chapters of the novel I am writing, Tweets, Facebook posts (when I actually am on FB), blog posts (though not this one), and the list could go on and on but you get the point, this app is a tiny juggernaut.

So go get it! Highly recommended!

Where to get it:

  1. iPhone – $1.99
  2. iPad – $2.99

What about the guys that made it?

All images in this post were linked from Agile Tortoise’s own website.