Organization

I continually struggle with organization issues, task lists, project lists etc. For a long time I was using Things for my project organization but there were some usability issues that annoyed me so I switched to OmniFocus and have been using that on all my devices (computer, iPad, iPhone) for slightly over a year. I like a lot of the GTD philosophy behind the program but have never really gotten myself into the mindset/habit of using either program as consistently as I probably out to. Because I haven’t been using OmniFocus much lately, even while trying to organize my studying for comprehensive exams, I had a moment of thinking that I would download and try Things again, but then I paused for a moment and realized that with the new Reminders program I can simply make a list for each project that I’m currently working on. I already use it for general tasks and a shopping list, so why not simply use the iCloud connected and built in program . . . especially if I’m not using either Things or OmniFocus to their full abilities.

So with that thought, I’ve set up several different reminder lists and have opened them up in separate windows:

Screen Shot 2012 10 28 at 11 35 31 AM

I’m not sure I’ll do any better with this system, but I don’t think I’ll do any worse. Currently I don’t have any projects that are too complex for this basic system, but is has the advantage of using the simplest tools possible to accomplish what I need, and these are tools that are built into and automatically sync between all my devices. Perhaps I will someday need a more powerful task/project management system, but until then I think I’ll try to stay with as basic a set of programs as I can.

Terminal Hacks I Can’t Live Without

I use Safari. I have Firefox downloaded and available for those times when something doesn’t work in Safari, but that’s become less and less necessary over the past year. However, I can’t stand the way that Safari opens new window after new window instead of defaulting to simply opening a new tab. That’s what the damn tabs are there for!

For a while I was using SafariStand to switch Safari’s behavior, but it was a hack, and would often be broken with a new update to Safari and almost inevitably broken with an operating system upgrade. So, the first thing I did when I installed Snow Leopard, well nearly the first thing, was to open up the Terminal and enter this:

defaults write com.apple.Safari TargetedClicksCreateTabs -bool true

Then hit the return key, close Terminal, and open up Safari to it’s new and well mannered behavior. There are other ways to activate this through programs like Cocktail, but if you want Safari to behave itself and stop opening window after window after window, all you need is that one command. If you decide you like Safari the stupid way, you simply open up Terminal again, enter the same command but replace the word “true” with the word “false” and you’ll be back to normal.

~~~

With Snow Leopard’s redesign of the dock menus, I found I prefer seeing the dock in the 2d version, even when keeping it on the bottom of my screen. Mostly because then the dock and the dock menus actually match. I know, I know, me and my aesthetic sensibilities. There’s no simple switch modes in OS X (though there should be, silly Apple) and again, if you have a program like Cocktail you can enable the dock in 2d mode. Once again, however, there is a simple Terminal command that will help us out:

Enter the following:

defaults write com.apple.dock no-glass -boolean YES

hit the return key, then type “killall Dock” (all that is doing is shutting down the dock, which then automatically opens again with the change applied) and return. Once again, if you want to go back to the 3d Dock, simply replace the “YES” with “N0.”

This is basic stuff for some, but I know a lot of Mac users who have never opened up the Terminal. While you always want to be very careful when you do use the Terminal, especially if you aren’t an actual Unix program and don’t really know what you are doing, finding a few of these kinds of commands can make your working environment a bit more suited to how you want to work and not necessarily how Steve Jobs thinks you want to work.

A good source for finding tips like these and other tricks and customizations for the Mac is at MacOSXHints, which is where I got both of these Terminal commands.

Snow Leopard News – The oops, that’s not good edition

Update:

John Gruber once more provides the voice of reason. I actually didn’t think this was that big a deal, but wanted to get the info to any of you who are not as geeky about following this kind of news. I was also lazy and just reposted TUAW’s article in full . . . not something I often do and not something I plan on doing again since I defeats my general effort to use this space in a more thoughtful manner and with greater attention to developing ideas and thoughts instead of posting stuff to simply post stuff.

The gist of the article is simple, if you install Snow Leopard, you should update your Adobe Flash. That is all.

Continue reading

Snow Leopard Tips & Tricks from Around the Interwebs

Here are some useful links for those who are either thinking of upgrading or have already upgraded:

Macworld has a useful video about some of the new refinements
A new website devoted to Snow Leopard Tips
Macbreak Video’s demonstration of the new Services functionality
Mac Life lists some of the new features, including the fact that iChat uses less bandwidth to deliver the same or better video then Leopard.

UPDATE:
Mac Life now has a list of 100 tips posted. I hadn’t realized until last night that scanner support has been amped up in Snow Leopard.

Some Thoughts on Snow Leopard

Yes, I’m just the kind of person who went out yesterday and bought Apple’s new operating system Snow Leopard and have spent the majority of last night and today playing around with the new features and setting my computer back up (since I decided to do a totally clean install and reformatted my hard drive before installing—of course, that was after making a series of backups). You certainly don’t have to go through the effort that I did and if you are upgrading, you should be just fine upgrading on top of your current system and thereby keeping all your files and settings. I just felt that it was time I did some cleaning up of files and applications and starting from scratch is sometimes the best way to do that. Here is my current desktop:

Screen shot 2009-08-29 at 1.17.18 PM.jpg

There are a lot more qualified people that can talk about the real advantages of Snow Leopard, but I wanted to share a couple of things I’ve seen and discovered about the operating system.

Dock and Exposé

Not only do Stacks have a greater range of functionality, allowing you to drill down into folders from the grid view, but now the list view matches the display style of the grid view, as does the display you get when you right click a program on the dock for the options available:

Screen shot 2009-08-29 at 4.00.10 PM.jpg

As nice as those touches are, and they are very nice from an aesthetic point of view, the Exposé functionality for individual application windows when you click and hold an icon in the dock is way more cool. Here’s what I mean:

Also, when you active Exposé the old fashioned way, to show all your open windows, the windows are arranged in a much better fashion rather than the previously sloppy fashion:

Screen shot 2009-08-29 at 10.22.09 PM.jpg

Quicktime

Quicktime now allows you to do basic screencasts, as you just saw in the above example. It certainly won’t replace more advanced screencast applications because there is no editing functions other than a basic trim function. But for something quick and basic, if you wanted to show someone how to access a function or perform a task, Quicktime could easily become a useful tool, especially since you can export to YouTube, MobileMe, or iTunes right from the program. Quicktime isn’t just for screencasts, either, it will allow you to record both audio and video using your computer’s camera and microphone as well.

Services

The coolness of the new Services is probably a bit on the geeky side, but even if you aren’t a computer wiz, there are lots of ways they could be useful. For a really great introduction, you should go over and watch this video produced by PixelCorps which will give you a nice sense of what you can do with the new Services architecture.

One of the neat things you can set up are specific websites as services that you can then invoke with a keystroke. For example, here’s a screenshot of a Facebook HUD (heads up display) that allows basic interaction with Facebook without having to open up a full web browser.

Screen shot 2009-08-29 at 1.20.06 PM.jpg

You can do the same thing with Twitter and with web-based email services. Sure, full blown applications will offer more versatility than what are basically mobile versions of these websites (although you can use Safari as a setting when creating these Web Pop-up automations/services), but as quick and easy ways to interact with specific websites with a simple keystroke combination, the new interaction between Services and Automator is really exciting if you have any kind of regular task that you’d like to automate and reduce to one or two keystrokes.

Other Miscellaneous Thoughts

The Keyboard Preferences Pane sets out the keyboard shortcuts in a much more organized and easy to view manner. Did you know that ^F3 will shift focus to the Dock and you can use the arrow keys to move between Dock items?

It’s about time you could easily add the date to your menu bar next to the time. Sometimes, as much as an Apple fan as I’ve become since switching, I can’t help but wonder why it took so long for them to fix some of these little things. Now, if only they would change the look of Spotlight so that it matched the rest of the look and feel of OS X.

There are lots of features I haven’t played around with yet and we won’t see some of the benefits to the new technologies under the hood like OpenCL and Grand Central Dispatch until programs begin to take advantage of them. Casual users might want to wait for a few months in order for an update or two to deal with the inevitable few issues that arise with any new operating system, but given the price, the aesthetics, the new usefulness of Services, and the upcoming programs that will take advantage of some very cool aspects of the operating system, I certainly think most people should upgrade by the end of the year if not sooner.

Just remember, even if you are doing an install on top of your current installation, always make a backup, preferably a full clone, of your system before installing a new operating system.

UPDATE
I’m noticing some issues cropping up around my Airport Extreme, with occasional disconnects, particularly with respect to the hard drive I have attached to the router that acts as a networked drive for my music and media.

I’ve also noticed some odd behavior in the Finder while working with files on those networked drives. Several times when deleting files, the finder has switched views from column or list into icon view when I’ve moved a file to the trash.

Neither of these are proving major issues (so far) and I’m hopeful that they will be addressed in the next update.

UPDATE
Just another reminder, before you upgrade any operating system make a backup of your computer.

Digging Through My RSS Feeds – iPhone Edition

Here’s the first in a series of posts sharing cool links that I’ve culled from my 400+ clippings in NetNewsWire.

Turn your iPhone into a document scanner
Send iPhone photos at full resolution
iPhone as multi-track recorder
Want to take better close-up pictures with your iPhone? There’s a case for that
A new form of storytelling/gameplay (I haven’t downloaded this yet, but will probably get it soon. I think there’s a huge space for new forms of storytelling in the coming years.)
Never got around to checking this out either. Have you thought about your iPhone and wifi security?
Getting your steampunk read on.
Not so much an iPhone product, but a cool way to keep your iPhone (or wallet or other electronic devices) safe from casual thieves at the beach

My Remaining iPhone Wishes

With the release of the new iPhone operating system and the new iPhone 3GS, the intertubes are chock full of iPhone news and commentary. So, I thought to myself this afternoon, why not add to the general din. So here are a few things I wish for (and would even wish for if I could get the new 3GS):

Easier way to switch between 3G and Edge

Right now, it takes 3 selections to get to the proper screen to switch between networks. I may switch more than some, but because of the trade-off between performance and battery life, it would be great to have an easier way to manage these network settings (as well as turning wifi on and off).

Actually, in thinking about the wifi situation, how cool would it be to have the iPhone switch Wifi on or off based on your location? Consider: I set the phone to always turn on wifi when I’m in my apartment, at work, or at my favorite coffee shop and then, when I’m driving or seeing a movie with a friend, or anywhere that I’m not normally using wifi, the phone just turns it off, thereby saving battery life.

An external keyboard

I expected someone to be poised and ready with one of these when the 3.0 operating system launched, considering that one of the key parts of iPhone 3.0 is that Apple offers 3rd party developers the opportunity to use the dock connector for hardware. I know I’m not alone in wanting a small external keyboard to go with my phone because, truth be told, as good as the software keyboard may be for short emails and text messages, if I want to do some serious blogging or writing done but want to leave my laptop behind, I need a keyboard. As much as I love my Macbook Pro, there are plenty of times that I’d like to leave it home and just bring my iPhone and small keyboard with me for a short trip.

Send to AirTunes

I’m sure it would kill the iPhone’s battery life, but how cool would it be to take your iPhone and an Airport Express with you and be able to stream to a stereo? Considering Apple’s own Remote app can detect Airtunes and allows you to select speakers attached to an Airport Express, you’d think it could send music that was coming from the iPhone itself to those same speakers.

Easier Mail Management

If you have multiple emails set up on the iPhone, switching between them is a pain and a half. There must be a better way!

Customizable Background

Without going overboard with personal customization, I think having the ability to choose a background image is reasonable. The plain black background is a bit staid and uninspiring.

What about you? Are there any annoyances or irritations or pie-in-the-sky wishes that remain even after the 3.0 and hardware updates?

(Update: I forgot to mention that I would really appreciate a Weekly view in the iPhone’s calendar app. I don’t think I’m alone in that one either. While I tend to use Montly views on my computers, I’ve always preferred a Weekly view on small screen like my old Toshiba pda and on the iPhone.)

Why Apple Products are Good for Me

I am a product of my culture and a bit of a computer geek and, as such, have an affinity for getting the newest, most up-to-date x (where x = “pretty much damn near anything tech/computer related). Of course, I have never had the income to really pursue that affinity to the lengths that I might want. However, even if I can’t afford to get the newest, coolest x, not having it produces a vague sense of dissatisfaction1 . Ironically, I find that by switching to a Mac as my computer and buying an iPhone I am able to excise some of that dissatisfaction and be content with my current set of tools.

Investing in Quality

My Macbook Pro is the most expensive computer I’ve ever purchased and it’s almost 20 months old–which is like 5 of our people years. Since then, the line has had a minor refresh and a major overhaul with the new (pretty!) unibody construction. Until I switched to a Mac, I was always buying low- to mid-end computers that meant I wanted to upgrade every 6 to 12 months. I wasn’t actually making a serious investment in my computer equipment, so I was seeing each computer as temporary, merely a brief stop on my way to the next, better computer. Not so much these days. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I think the new Macbook Pros are gorgeous, and if someone were to give me one, I’d surely take it, but I honestly don’t feel like I just have to have the newest and latest model because my computer remains an excellent tool that is more than sufficient to my needs. This is partly because of the quality of Apple products and partly because I consciously invested in getting a computer that would last 4 or 5 people years.

Updates? We don’t need no stinkin’ updates.

I have a jailbroken iPhone. Primarily for two reasons and secondarily for one reason. Mainly I keep my iPhone jailbroken for 1) Video capability–even though I haven’t had a use for this, I like knowing that I could capture video if necessary and 2) tethering, which can come in handy if there’s no other source of internet access. Additionally, I like being able to individualize the look of my iPhone and have a theme that I think is actually nicer than Apple’s (though many of the themes are not). One of the ramifications of keeping my phone jailbroken is that I need to be careful when updating the phone and this is forcing me to reconsider my knee-jerk reaction to hearing about updates to any of my technology which has generally been, OMG I need to update NOW!

Patience, they say, is a virtue, and my (jailbroken) iPhone is helping me learn a bit more patience than I have previously maintained . . . at least in this one area of my life (but maybe it’ll bleed over into other areas).

Using a well made tool will make any task more enjoyable than using an ill made tool, and Apple products, beyond their sleek design and sexy looks, are well made tools that are helping me focus a bit more on how and why I use technology instead of just wanting to play with the newest, coolest, most cutting edge x out there.

Powered by ScribeFire.

  1. capitalism at work!! []

Maybe Steve Jobs Was Right

For over a year, I’ve bemoaned the fact that Apple’s iWork suite doesn’t perform auto-saves considering that nearly every other office suite or stand-alone word processing program offers this feature. Maybe I was wrong and Steve Jobs was right. I’ve been working with Office 2007 at my temp job to put together reports that combine text and a significant number of images. And every so often, as I’m working, the program stops responding while it creates an automatic back-up and I wait for the back-up to finish. The wait isn’t long, mind you, but enough to stop my work flow and annoy the heck out of me. So I’m reconsidering my stance on the whole auto-save situation. In the end, I think I still wish iWork offered the option and, instead of timed back-ups, performed them whenever there was no activity happening in the document (I think that’s how Scrivener and some other programs handle the process). However, I can sort of see the logic of not including this feature in iWork. I still think its a flawed logic, but I will probably complain less about the lack of auto-save than before.