Capturing Workflow. How I am most effective.

I have been organized for quite some time when it comes to collecting information and then digging it up at a later date. From complex file structure, to more simplified apps that manage files, I have gone from one end to the other. For the most part, over the last 5 or so years, I have relied predominantly on Evernote and OmniFocus to store everything in my life that I wanted to retrieve later. To be completely honest, it has always been a pretty good solution, but it was never 100% perfect. I don't really blame Evernote, because managing an app of that scale, which actually runs on damn near every platform under the sun, is no easy task. Slowly over the years, however, I began thinking about what other options there were for capturing and storing my life. Both Evernote and OmniFocus are great tools, but I was thinking they may not be the right tools for me. Starting in January of this year (not a 'new years resolution', just a convenient time to transition), I decided to start looking into some alternatives. I wanted to use the month of January to explore new options since the month is generally pretty slow and if things went horribly wrong, I would not be in the middle of major projects, etc. After trying some different setups during the first 1-2 weeks, I pretty quickly fell into a new flow that was working really well, and most importantly was really easy to maintain!

The great thing about Evernote was the ability to store everything and search for it. The problem I ran into more times than not, was actually being able to find the stuff at a later date. It seemed that the more stuff I put in, the harder it was to find something to get out. Speaking of getting things out, it is super easy to get things in to Evernote, but getting them out is quite a different story, and not a fun story. As for OmniFocus, it is a fine tool, but there were two reasons for me switching away. The first was that it was not the right tool for the job: it had way more bells and whistles than I needed. The second issue had to do with the apps. They do have an app on each of the platforms that I use (Mac, iPhone, and iPad), but the issue I have is that each of the applications looks completely different. Functionally they are pretty much the same, but when I am looking to capture tasks and get through them quickly, having to remember how each version works is not what I want to be focusing on.

The end solution for me became a more simplified approach. All my notes are captured as plain 'ol boring text. It seems kind of weird and ancient, but turns out to be very effective and much easier to work with. There are a bunch of way more famous internet people than me who tout the virtues of plain text, so I will leave it to them to teach you the ways! I have to say though, I was skeptical for a while, thinking that there is no way that plain text would be 'powerful enough' to capture everything, but in reality, it absolutely is. The flow of plain text makes for a much easier means of capturing, organizing, parsing, and archiving information. The biggest key to this process is having access to the same repository of text from a number of locations. The fact that plain text is readable and editable by pretty much everything, adds to its power. By keeping each note as a single file in a single repository, you can then act on those files from a number of different applications and locations, and always have the latest information available to you.

If you have a system that is working really well for you, don't switch; there is no reason to. If you have a system that is kind of working but you think, "there must be a better way", this may be worth looking into. Most importantly, if you are driving yourself crazy because you can never find what you need, when you need it, definitely look into this type of system --or any system-- before you completely lose your mind!

The tools I use to be the most effective.

27" iMac (home) / 11" MacBook Air (work)

  • nvALT - Capturing text (pulls from dropbox folder 'Notes')
  • Byword - Capturing text / longer form writing (pulls from dropbox folder 'Notes')
  • Dropbox - Storing all my text files and documents
  • Things - My master 'to do' list for short term and long term projects
  • Reminders - Various shared lists with my wife for shopping
  • Pocket - Saving links from various sources for later reading

iPhone 5s

  • Notesy - Capturing text (pulls from dropbox folder 'Notes')
  • Byword - Capturing text / longer form writing (pulls from dropbox folder 'Notes')
  • Things - My master 'to do' list for short term and long term projects
  • Drafts - A great launchpad to multiple locations for text
  • Dropbox - Storing all my text files and documents
  • Pocket - Saving links from various sources for later reading
  • Reminders - Various shared lists with my wife for shopping

iPad Air

  • Notesy - Capturing text (pulls from dropbox folder 'Notes')
  • Byword - Capturing text / longer form writing (pulls from dropbox folder 'Notes')
  • Drafts - A great launchpad to multiple locations for text
  • Things - My master 'to do' list for short term and long term projects
  • Dropbox - Storing all my text files and documents
  • Pocket - Saving links from various sources for later reading
  • Paper - Sketching and drawing
  • Paper Pencil - Hardware stylus used for drawing / sketching ideas
  • Reminders - Various shared lists with my wife for shopping

Non Digital

Looking for an insane comparison of pretty much every iOS text editor in existence!? Brett has you covered! iTextEditors

Notes Blog Graphic.png

Umbrellas

I am growing concerned about the new age of what I am calling Tech Umbrellas: very large and very rich companies buying up all the great smaller companies. This seems like a trend that will not be sustainable in the long run. There are more companies being created now than any time period in the past, and this will only speed up as technology enables brilliant minds to start their own thing. Some may be a little misguided, some may just not be built for the right time, but the important thing is that they are being created and those creations give us choice. We have choices when it comes to buying our products. Depending on what market you look at, this may not seem as apparent, but choices do exist. Something that is seeming to become more the rule rather than the exception, however, is creating for the sake of selling. (Before you get all up in a huff, I like money just as much as anyone else, so I am not trying to get up on some soapbox about money. This post is simply an observation.) There have been at least 10 companies within the last 12 months that had what I thought was a sustainable model for being successful, and I had fallen in love with them, only to see them purchased and shuttered by larger companies. This left major holes in those markets which often times were not filled, as “entrepreneurs” were chasing the next market that was rumored to be on the auction block for those larger than themselves.

As I said already, this post is merely an observation. I propose no answers nor solutions. This is meant more to start a dialogue. What does this mean for you, for me, for everyone? If every winning innovation gets swept up into the large Umbrella, what are we left with? If we don’t like what the Umbrella is offering, do we simply hang our head and make the choice of no choice?

The tech world cannot sustain its growth on ads alone.

Giving 1% Back

I can do more. You can do more. We can all do more. As a town, a city, a country, a planet, a universe, we can all collectively do more to help. To help people. To help animals. To help causes. To help our planet and beyond. I am calling out to all of you to give back one percent. One percent of your yearly income, one percent of your time, one percent of yourself. One percent sounds small, and it is. That is precisely the point. It is an amount we can all comfortably survive without in order to lift society up collectively. When we help others, we make the universe a better place for us all to thrive. Start today with simply one percent.

Thanks to my awesome wife for the javascript wizardry!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and think about the potential. I hope this encourages you to lend a helping one percent.
— Jason

MacBook Air to iPad Air

After upgrading from my older Mac Pro to a crazy powerful new 27" iMac, it was time to look at the rest of my computing workflow and see where I could streamline. After moving from the Mac Pro, I was still using a Desktop, Laptop, Tablet, and Phone. This was a lot of devices to manage and there were a lot of overlaps between them all. I decided to go the route of three devices total. One desktop computer, one tablet, and a phone. Having used and preferred laptops since I can remember there being good laptops, this was a pretty big step.

For the desktop, since it would be the work horse, I went with a maxed out 27" late 2013 iMac. At the time of this decision I was using a first generation iPad mini. I knew I would need to upgrade this since it would ultimately be replacing my maxed out 11" MacBook Air and would be my mobile computer going forward. For this job I enlisted the iPad Air with WiFi and 32GB of storage. The only reason I didn't go with the 4G version is because I already have a 4G hotspot that I like and can be shared with multiple devices so there was no need to duplicate functions. And finally, my phone remained the same 32GB iPhone 5S.

Hardware Additions to the iPad Air

Key Pieces of Software

  • Evernote. I keep everything in evernote and having it sync across all three devices is fantastic.
  • Dropbox. This is basically my "filesystem" since there isn't a conventional one on iOS.
  • Penultimate. An advantage of using an iPad over a MacBook is the ability to input handwriting.
  • Writeroom. A great text editor. This is where I capture most of my text, including this blog post.
  • iWork suite (Pages, Numbers, Keynote). Great for interfacing with documents from my desktop.
  • Games. More than I can list. A lot more than you might have on OS X. This could be bad or good. :)
  • Video Chat (FaceTime, Skype). Great for video chatting with any other client.
  • Remotix. Really awesome Remote Desktop client. For those times when you absolutely need to do something on a Desktop, or you simply need to access something on your Desktop.
  • Screens. Another really good Remote Desktop client. This has the ability to traverse firewalls and lets you access from anywhere you have a network connection.
  • Prompt. Really really good ssh command line tool.
  • Codeanywhere. Could be a really good solution for coding on the go for quick fixes.

There are a ton of other great iOS apps that I use both on the iPhone and the iPad, but I tried to just focus on some of the ones that make the experience of using an iPad in place of a MacBook just as good, if not better.

This new setup I have has been going strong for about 6 weeks. Not once have I thought I made a mistake. The iPad Air has been the iPad I have always wanted. Great size and weight, and tons of power. I think anyone that may be in a similar position as me, wondering if this can work for them, should give it a shot! It will take some getting used to, and maybe a little research to figure out how you access certain thing. If I tried to do this even a year ago, I think this post would be ending differently, but I think you will find iOS has matured quite a lot over the last couple years and it is quite capable. Best of all, it will only continue to get better and more advanced!

Dragnet. Do the right thing.

Me next to to one of Jack Webb's stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Me next to to one of Jack Webb's stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The first time I heard the Dragnet radio show was when I was about 10 or 12 years old, and traveling across the country with my dad on a road trip to see many of our wonderful national parks and other beautiful sites in our country. He had episodes of the radio show on cassette tape along with some other old time radio shows and dramas that he would play as we were driving through the night to get to our next destination. For whatever reason, I don't seem to have a lot of vivid memories from my childhood, but there are times like this that have stuck with me throughout the years. I remember very well laying down in the back seat, listening to the shows and visualizing the scenes as they were impeccably described by Jack Webb (who I was unaware of at the time). The only person I knew was Joe Friday, the lead character in these wonderful crime dramas.

Everything about the stories intrigued me from the very beginning. From the overall architecture of the story, to the character development, all the way down to the smallest of details like sound effects of shoes clapping on the ground as they were walking through the halls of the police station. Every part of the story felt perfectly laid out and you could tell the creators were meticulous in the way they put the shows together. I have no way of proving or disproving this, but I do think that parts of my life, and who I have grown to be, were shaped by the series Dragnet. 

It wasn't until a good number of years later in my adult life that I would begin to research Dragnet and Jack Webb to learn the great story and time line of my favorite old time radio show. Beginning in my early teens, I always had an appreciation for "old" TV shows. I always preferred channels like TV Land, that played shows from the 50's, 60's, and 70's. When I found out that Dragnet also had a television series I was beside myself with happiness. Getting to see these great stories acted out by great actors was amazing to see. Seeing some of the same episodes that had previously been radio shows really was a testiment to the level of detail and thought that was put into the shows.

The character Jack Webb portrayed, Joe Friday, was a "stand up and do the right thing" kind of guy. He followed the rules and made sure everyone else followed the letter of the law. He was never interested in what was the easy way or the quick way, he wanted to do things the right way. Between Jack Webb's attention to detail in the creation of each episode of Dragnet, and Joe Friday's sense of doing what was right, overall it was a massively positive influene in my life.

I can't even fathom the number of times I have watched and rewatched every episode of the televsion show and listened to each of the radio broadcasts. This is a testiment to the quality of the product. When something is done right, it is timeless. When I look at things in my own life that I touch, I strive to create things that are done right, just like those who created these wonderful shows that I love. I don't like the "just get it done" or "good enough" mentality. I know there are always going to be wars regarding how best to complete a project or task, but I don't think anyone can ever be faulted for doing what is right.

My wife and I went to Los Angeles last year, and during the visit we took some time to go to the Los Angeles Police Musuem where they have a section of the museum dedicated to Jack Webb and Dragnet, and I was extatic! It was by far one of my favorite museum visits of all time. Being in LA, we also went down the Star Walk and looked around for one of Jack Webb's stars, and as you can see in the photo, we found it! I never did get to meet Jack Webb, as he passed away a mere 5 days after I was born (which I still think is very interesting), but that trip to LA did somehow close that loop for me personally.

Surface Music Kit for Microsoft Surface: Transforming Tablets into Turntables

Photo courtesy of Windows

Photo courtesy of Windows

Aside from the Surface 2 and the Surface Pro 2, another stunning device that Microsoft gloriously unleashed was the Surface Music Kit. It is an audio workstation composed of a tablet case and an app for the Microsoft Surface table. Below, we will give you a quick review of how these gizmos work and how it can be beneficial for the mobile DJ enthusiasts.

Lightweight control
One of the common problems of tablet DJing is the lack of physical controls. If you’ve tried creating beats and tracks using mobile devices, you will realize at times that changing the beat and tempo causes an unresponsive and lagging

It also doesn’t help that mobile devices like the iPad or the iPad Mini, which according to Verizon has only 7.9-inch screen,  have very small displays. The downside is that it is very hard to tap the correct buttons, especially when working with tools like the Traktor DJ whose interface is filled with various elements like audio waveforms and track lists.

No buttons
The Musical Cover is a tablet case that sports a thin, lightweight built with a gray finish. Instead of the physical controls, it has a set of touch-sensitive icons that are outlined on its shell. It has 16 numbered buttons to turn on and off tracks from a playlist, and eight keys for controlling the loop, instruments, and vocals. Lastly, the gadget is also equipped with three sliders for changing volume and effects settings. The effects controls are pressure-sensitive which means that the sound intensity that you will produce depends on how hard you tap them.

Remix Project
Accompanying this gadget is an app called Remix Project, which is still under its developmental stage. In a report from Endgadget, the digital audio workstation is composed of elements such as stems (the song’s bass line), clips (intro), and the one-shots which are composed of various effects. The smaller left portion of the interface is dedicated to synthesizers and loops while the bigger right side is for the waveforms. A few simple swiping gestures will help reveal various settings for choosing tracks and converting your creations into MP3 format.

Surface 2
But in order to make the cover and the Remix Project work, users need a powerful device that can handle them. Enter the Surface 2, Microsoft’s latest tablet creation. Their latest product boasts an NVIDIA Tegra 4 clocked at 1.9 GHz for handling multiple digital tools with ease. It has a storage of 32 to 64 GB and its battery time lasts up to 10 hours. It runs on the latest Windows RT 8.1 operating system.

Final Thoughts
To sum it up, the Surface Music Kit is a great idea because it simplifies the art of creating sick beats. These devices are the perfect introductory tool for aspiring composers who want to make it big in this industry. However, the company needs to add more powerful sound tools to their arsenal if they want to entice the professionals to use their gizmo. Stay tuned to this website to get the latest updates about its price and release date.


Author: Jenni Birch

Author: Jenni Birch

Jenni Birch is a tech aficionado and a fan of anything social media, gigs and music and mobile tricks. This Techie Doodlers correspondent has always loves playing mobile games and can always be found on Twitter and Google+

Early 2009 Mac Pro. The Final Shutdown.

Well I did it. I upgraded my "Early 2009 Mac Pro"! But wait, the new Mac Pro isn't out yet..

As of about 2 weeks ago I was fully ready to buy the new Mac Pro to upgrade my aging Mac Pro. Launch date was set, we had pricing and I was just in waiting mode. As I was in waiting mode, I happened to be on the Apple Store and was playing around with building an iMac. To my surprise, you can build a wicked awesome iMac for not a ton of $$. After building the iMac and comparing it spec wise to both the new Mac Pro and my current Mac Pro, it was looking like, to my surprise, it made more sense to go with the iMac for my needs. The new Mac Pro was looking to be at the ~$5,000 price point, and I would still need to purchase a $1,000 monitor. With the iMac, it was coming out to about $2,750, and of course has a 27" screen built in; so with that $1,000 value, the computer itself comes out to only $1,750.

Now the specs.

  • Processor: 3.5GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost to 3.9GHz
  • Graphics: GTX 780M 4GB GDDR5
  • Memory: 16GB 1600MHz DDR3
  • SSD: 256GB
  • Screen: 27" Beautifulness

For $2,750!? AWESOME!

I am definitely not trying to say the iMac is anywhere near as powerful as the new Mac Pro, but it will definitely be perfect for what I use it for: Photo editing, light video editing, gaming, podcasting, etc. I don't need to edit 4K video, or work on audio with 4,000 tracks. The iMac will be my main machine going forward, and I will use an iPad Air instead of a laptop for mobile.

Side bonus, the 27" iMac can be used as a thunderbolt display for any thunderbolt laptop as well.

iPhone TouchID

 I did indeed upgrade from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone 5s. I think there is definitely enough awesomeness in the new hardware to make it a worthwhile upgrade. This is not an iPhone 5s review however so I will leave it at that. Not to mention, it will still be a little while before software catches up with the hardware leap. We won't see the full potential of the iPhone 5s for at least 3-6 months.

What I do want to chat about quickly is a new hardware / software feature that I am really liking for several reasons, TouchID. TouchID being the fingerprint scanner hardware built into the iPhone's home button that allows you to use your fingerprint to unlock your phone rather than using a passcode. There are tons of reviews and comments regarding this feature and I am going to go through 3 topics.

1) "TouchID was Hacked": Within the first week of release there were claims of TouchID having been hacked. This is the natural progression of technology. Something new comes out, the first steps are to find ways around it. I am fully on board with this, and I encourage this! The problem I have with this particular instance is calling it a hack. In a broad sense, yes it is a hack. But the headlines all read like the technology is broken and somehow has a hole in it. All of the techniques to bypass TouchID so far are spoofs more than hacks. They make an really good copy of the fingerprint and use that to access the phone. The process is not trivial and for the majority of users this is not a problem as I see it. With the amount of work it takes to make the copy, it would be easier to follow the person around and watch them enter their cheesy 4 digit passcode and then just use that.

2) "Passcodes are inconvenient": Whether most people want to admit it or not, our phones have our lives on them. One way or another there are vectors into deep parts of your life through your phone, whether you realize it or not. The scary realization I have come to over the last 3+ years is a lot of people use lame passcodes (0000) or even worse don't use one at all! How secure is that!? If something like TouchID can get these people to actually set a passcode but not be "bothered" with entering it, that is a huge win. If it takes all the hassle of recreating a fingerprint to get into someone's phone over simple opening it because there is no passcode, that raises their security bar immensely!

3) "More secure?": It is way too early to call TouchID either "more secure" or "less secure". The fact is, if you need more secure, you will use nothing less than a 42 character alphanumeric passcode with the phone is set to autolock immediately. In reality, most people don't need this and will never do that. That being said, TouchID does allow for somewhat of a middle ground perhaps. You can set a long alphanumeric passcode and then use your fingerprint as a type of shortcut. There are still some precautions that have been taken to help with attacks on TouchID. If the wrong fingerprint is tried 5 times, the phone will only be unlockable using that strong alphanumeric passcode. This is also true if the phone is restarted or not opened with a finger within a 2 day period.

Until TouchID is legitimately bypassed and proved to be faulty, I am definitely going to be on the side of proponents. It is a cool and useful feature that makes using the device a little more enjoyable. After all, shouldn't the point of these devices be to better our lives by working with us rather than against us?

 

#nanowrimo2013

 Challenge: Write a novel...in a month! 

This is the challenge set every year by an organization called "National Novel Writing Month", or "nanowrimo" for short. The idea is to start and finish a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. I am not at all what someone would consider to be a "writer". I have written some short stories in the past, a few pieces of poetry, and I enjoy creating blog posts nowadays, but that is the extent of my professional writing career. Not to mention, without my awesome editor, none of the items you read on this site would make complete sense!

I have looked at the nanowrimo website each year over the past several years, but this is the year I am actually thinking I really want to do it! I signed up for an account on http://nanowrimo.org and setup my profile!

As exciting as this is, I have to be realistic. 50,000 words is a ton of words! One thousand six hundred sixty six words a day, to be precise. My life's schedule is not going to lend itself well to this, so I am making a bit of a tweak to the rules for my first go at this fun adventure. Instead of writing 50,000 words in November, I am shooting to clear 25,000. If I make it, then I will be stoked, and if I surpass it, I will feel completely awesome!

I am doing some preliminary planning of my story to set myself up for success. The idea of my story came to be while I was sitting in traffic on my way home a couple weeks ago. If I can execute successfully on this story, I think it is going to be very engaging and people will be into it!

If any of you are planning on engaging in this writing adventure, let me know in the comments. I can't wait to see what happens!

Good luck to everyone,
Jason

From Gmail to Google Apps. #push

I signed up for a gmail account quite some time ago, 2004 to be exact. I don't really need to go into the background of Gmail, you all know the history. I have not used Gmail exclusively since that time, but I have used it exclusively for about the last 2-3 years. Everything was pretty peachy until the great "Push Apocalypse"! I am referring to the the announcement Google made regarding removing Push (Exchange) support for Gmail users.

I feel there are 2 main reasons why this happened.
 - Use push as a "bonus" feature of using Android over other platforms.
 - Google must have been paying a fortune in licensing fees to Microsoft for Exchange Activesync.

So. Push. No big deal right? Completely Wrong! Push email is just the way it has to be, at least it is for me. Push is a little service that just happens without anyone bothering to thank it, or wonder how it even works. That is, until it stops and you wonder why you only get your emails in batches every 15, 30, or 60 minutes.

Now; try going out and looking for services, paid or free, that offer push and are a solid email service. Best of luck finding them! Valerie and I looked high and low. The general consensus was, if you want Push Email, getting a hosted Exchange account with some company was the way to go. I am by no means a "fan" of Exchange, or Microsoft's offerings in general, but their Activesync offering works, and it works really well.

I really didn't have any other reason to want to look elsewhere from Gmail, but I had to get Push back. After the previously mentioned searching, the idea of Google's Apps for Business came up. When Google made the announcement concerning the cutoff for Push to Gmail, they did specifically mention that Google Apps for Business, Government, and Education would continue to enjoy this feature. Looking back now, this makes a little more sense to offer services that are costing you money to paying customers. I get that. In fact, I would have been more than happy to pay Google a little extra to upgrade my Gmail account to Activesync, but that unfortunately (at least at this time) is not an option. You also cannot migrate your "@gmail" account to a Google Apps Account. So began the process.

Since we were starting over effectively, we did get the option to have a unique domain name to use with Google Apps. After picking the domain, the setup of Google Apps is amazingly simple. Using the domain registrar that I used, I didn't even have to setup MX records, Google Apps did it all for me! That is really all there is to say about the process, it was super fast and easy to setup and all our devices have push again!

I migrated all my email, calendars, and contacts from "@gmail" to the new email and everything was ready to go. I haven't 100% made the full switch over, as it takes some time to get everything set and swapped over. I forward all email from "@gmail" to new email and handle all email in the new inbox and will slowly be getting everything tied to the old address to the new one.

Now comes the part that most people on the internet will scoff at, you have to pay for Google Apps for Business! "OMG what!? Everything in the world is free, how can this be. I am entitled to get everything I want for free. Period"  -Many Internet Users. Well, things in life are not free, and Google Apps for Business is no different, but it is super reasonably priced and I am fine with paying for services I really want. 

I still don't think moving email addresses is anywhere near as easy as it should be, but we will get there. 

Feel free to ask me any questions about the process or leave comments about it.