Archive for the ‘lifehacks’ category

Back to Twitter

2011/06/19

After being away for over 4 months, I am back on Twitter. No, I did not miss the stream of 160 character mixture of news, trivia, white noise and occasional nuggets. Three main reasons:

1) Twitter seems to to become  unavoidable – more and more services assume that one has twitter account. Many cyberevents rules start with “retweet this” or “tweet that” which of course one cannot do without Twitter account

2) Direct messaging via Twitter is one very convenient method how to add information to many service: new todo in Toodledo, Evernote and so on. It is MUCH faster than starting any client on an iPhone.

3) Twitter is after all the best medium for sharing links. Facebook does not cut it  if you want to keep friend count reasonable so there is a gap between Facebook and LinkedIn

Alas, I am back, with my old handle ‘miroadamy’.

Hello – Nael and the gang …

Dear Cultured Code, you are history …

2011/06/18

I have been Cultured Code customer for over 2 years and used multiple their products: Things on OS-X, Things for iPad and iPhone on daily basis.

Not any more.

I am definitely giving up on Things and Cultured Code products.

The reason why is sheer frustration from long wait on usable synchronization between Things on Mac, iPad and iPhone. Something that have been discussed, promised, chewed over 2 years and that still does not work.

In theory, you *can* synchronize as long as Mac and iPad / iPhone are in the same wireless network and can see each other. Things on Mac must be running and when Things on iPad/iPhone starts, they find each other and exchange data. It works most of the time, until it stops. With a bit of luck and some tweaking, one may be lucky and get it back to working order. Or not.

It happened to me several times that for no particular reason, iPad started the synchronization but never completed. Sometimes restarting iPad or Mac helped. Sometimes not. Sometimes I managed to fix the problem by unregistering the iPad and adding it back. When this remedy failed, in frustration, I tried to contact CC technical support. Here is the answer

Hi,

Thank you for your inquiry.

We are working on our own cloud sync solution that will allow 
for multi-device-sync (Mac / iPhone / iPad) using whatever network is available (Wifi / Edge / 3G). 
See: http://culturedcode.com/status
That's the most requested feature currently. 
At present I can't give you a time frame, 
though, when this is going to be ready.

Regards,

Roman.
Things Support
Cultured Code

They have been working on synchronization for well over 2 years now, if I remember correctly, which is about 18 months too long. What kind of project management is that they still do not have a time frame for completion ? This is not perfectionism, this smells like Cultured Code is another product company that was great once but lost its mojo and capability to deliver. Things may be the most beautifully designed GTD application out there – but how long will pleasure from using shiny toy compensate for lack of basic functionality ?

After reviewing the landscape of GTD apps in 2011 I am now settling on combination of Toodledo and Evernote. Toodledo is basically a Web application with several iPad / iPhone clients. There is probably no OS-X desktop client that would come close to elegance of Things. Yet. And the web UI is kinda busy – but boy, it is *very* *very* functional. The synchronization with iPad works like charm, asynchronously.

And I doubt it took the Toodledo team 24 months to solve …

Facebook or LinkedIn – that’s the question

2011/04/07

Few weeks ago, I canceled my Twitter account and stopped using Twitter altogether. I do not miss it at all.

The next vector of distraction to be brought under control is Facebook. This is a tougher nut to crack – because of wide variety of people in my circle of friends, Facebook plays many different roles.

  • It is a connection to old friends and colleagues from the old continent and old country.
  • It is a family connection.
  • It is a connection to people that are not on FB through their friends or relatives that are.
  • It is a link to people I worked with and wanted to keep in touch.
  • It is a link to people I share common interest with

This variety creates a problem of itself (which is multiplied by English/non English division).  Tool that does too many things, does not do them very well.

Honestly, I do not understand how some people can maintain hundreds of “friends”. The group of this size generates so much noise, so many updates that the news stream becomes close to useless. One can always hide updates from most significant  “link spammers” but that opens up a question: is there any point in providing a view into your life to somebody whose updates you do not read anyway ?

First attempt to solve this is to separate the “private world” and work. In my case, there is no clear boundary as I am fortunate to work with so many of my close personal friends (many of which are on FB) and in my current employment I am lucky to consider many of the people I work with to be much more than just work buddies. Nevertheless, my goal is to get down to two digit number of Facebook friends.

To achieve that, I would like to ask some of my current Facebook friends to reconnect on LinkedIn. I absolutely want to stay in touch,  just using different channel.

My public profile is http://www.linkedin.com/in/miroadamy.

See you there

Bye bye Twitter

2011/01/30

I have came to a conclusion that I do have too much stuff in my life.

Too much and too little and the same time.

Too much information. Too many interruptions and distractions. Too little time to think.

Too much consumption of information and not enough time to process it and do anything meaningful with it – learn from it or create something new.

The only way how to get out of the self-digged hole is to start cutting.

One of the big sources of distraction and cause of many pointless hours spent on Web is Twitter.

I was using Twitter mostly as filter: by following people with similar interest, trying to curate the content “out there”.

It worked to a certain degree – and I indeed discovered some interesting pieces of information I would miss otherwise.

The real questions I have to ask are: did these discoveries justify the time spent reading through pointless tweets (big portion of twittersphere) ? The answer is no. What would I miss by not finding them ? The answer is – not much, really. What difference did not missing them make in the
long run ? And the final answer is None.

It is very hard to say something that matters in 160 characters. Some people can do it, I am not one of  them.

So after few years of being on Twitter I am deleting my Twitter account today.

Bye bye Twitter. I will try not to miss you. And I am sure you will not miss me.

Thanks for all the adds

2010/01/26

As regular listener to multiple TWIT Network podcasts (This Week In tech, Macbreak Weekly, This Week in Google, Free Libre Opensource Software, Security Now, Windows Weekly) I am very much aware of all the advertisers that keep Leo and the gang in business and make the podcast’s stream going. I have even acted upon several of the ads: we are customer of SquareSpace.com (the corporate blog runs on that platform), GoToMeeting is regular part of day-to-day business – we have several accounts and use it regularly for meetings. I would use GoToMyPC if I had any need to go to a PC :-). I bought Spinrite, although I used it only once over last 3 years.

Strangely enough, the only advertiser I do not see of trying out is Audible – not because I would not like their product offering, quite the opposite. I simply have have absolutely no time for more content in my life: TWIT plus few additional podcasts, Apple TV and ZIP.ca give me way more that I have time to consume. I have no intention of buying Mustang with Sync – my selection of gadgets purchased as part midlife crisis is strictly limited to shiny objects featuring either Apple logo or an IP address, ideally both. But back to point: I feel I have done my share in keeping TWIT in business and do not really want and have to listen to same adds 3-6 times every week.

Fortunately, the adds are not too annoying to justify drastic measures and additional inconvenience – such editing them out from MP3. I have to give Leo credit for being sensitive in his ad selection – except Mustang, which I find to be least in line with TWIT audience – most products were pretty good.

I found very simple solution that surprised me with completely unexpected side benefit. Whenever Leo goes to an ad (and J.C. Dvorak disappears to baste meat), I turn down the volume to 0 for 2-3 minutes. Just turn the volume off and focus on driving, walking or whatever I am doing. I do not plan, evaluate, program or think about anything, only focus on the current moment and feel whatever is happening right now. I found this being an excellent stress relieve and instead of being annoyed by the ads, I actually started to look forward to them. I do not necessarily subscribe to *all* that New Age hype about being in the present moment, but finding an opportunity few times a day just stop and focus on whatever is happening right now, however simple or mundane that activity is, has its benefits. And there is always something going on: at minimum, you are always breathing.

Therefore, Leo and all Twits – thanks for all the adds. Ignoring them in a creative way is actually very healthy.

Forget me not, Web2.0 edition

2009/05/23

I stumbled upon this pretty nice little application or service – depends how you see it. It is called reQall (obviously would have been recall, but recall.com as every good domain is taken.

What it does is that allows you to set a reminder in the future to do something – at given time and date: buy X, call Y, do Z. Nothing to earth-shattering about that.

What is neat is the way how you do it. Actually, many ways:

1) old fashioned: use web site, enter reminder. Just type text and reQall will extract both activity (buy / call etc) as well as date and place it in appropriate category. And when time comes you will be notified: either via email, or via SMS or even by some of the IM services. Currently supported are Yahoo, Google Talk, Jabber and AIM.

2) modern: use iPhone app to type in reminder. Same goodies as wit web, only – unlike Web – you have the phone with you available quickly at the moment when you actually need to remember something.

3) modern AND cool: use the same iPhone app, and speak up to 30 second message. It will be converted to text and then analyzed same way as typed text. I am not sure whether it is automated translation or some poor fellas in third world country and listening and typing it in. The understanding is VERY good. It even handles non-native speakers of English with strong accents (like myself) with surprising success rate. I had occasionally some question marks indicating that Person’s name or local place was not understood. For this occasion, you can always listen to your own audio 😉

You can also subscribe to daily jots that sums up your upcoming events.

Best of all: it is a free service. There is a pro version for $2.99 a month which adds some nice features. I am seriously considering to go for Pro just to make sure they can survive – as long as I find that I use  it more than 1-2 times a week, I am in.

Give it a try, it may be worth one small chai latte a month.

Almost perfect backup backup solution

2009/03/24

The double backup word in the title is not an oversight. If I would be talking about “almost perfect backup solution”, it would be Time Machine – which has proven, despite it’s minor annoyances (see this) to be very unobtrusive and functional. As long as you have Mac and Leopard, of course.

What I am talking about here is second level – an offsite backup, that you may need in case you house burns down, gets flooded or your computer with time machine disk gets stolen. I do not live in tornado valley, earthquake zone and crime rate around Westboro is fairly low even compared to low Canadian levels, but anyway.

The product in question is Backblaze and I am happy user since December last year. It is cloud based service, running on (I assume) Amazon S3 and unlike Time Machine it works for all you stuck in Windows world as well. Not available yet for all you brave explorers of multiple universes of Linux, but I guess you would not give up rsync anyway :-).
All you need to do is setup a very low profile client that runs in the background and uploads all that was changed. The initial backup can take few weeks, depending on the size of the hard disk.

picture-5

It backups almost everything, except system areas and few excluded file types – like DMG and VMDK (virtual machine volumes). You can define your own exclusions but you cannot  un-exclude the default exclusions.

picture-6

Backblaze has quite attractive pricing scheme: you pay $5 a month per computer and can backup as much as the pipes between your house and cloud allow you to push up. The price of one venti chai latte is in my books very much worth the good feeling.

When the disaster strikes and you need your files, you do not have to go the slow route and download multi-gigabytes of data. For reasonable fee, Backblaze will send you your data on DVD’s or even on USB disk. I hope I will never need that :-). For small recovery you can always access files using Web interface.

Because I am curious creature and like to understand how thing work, I was watching its progress for few weeks. Thanks to my curiosity I had several communications with backblaze technical support. I am happy to report that:
a) it exists ! (this is always the case with cloud companies )
b) it is very fast – I got back response in few hours, one day max
c) it is very competent and friendly. The person I communicated with knew the product at the deepest technical detail level.

picture-8

Last but not least: privacy and security. Many people are concerned about having their data anywhere except on the server in locked office. I trust strong encryption. In addition to using SSL for transfer, Backblaze gives you an option for aditional encryption on client side – before the data leaves your computer it is encrypted with the key only you know. This way you cannot download the data through Web unless you enter the key and not even Backblaze can read your data.

So why almost perfect ? There are few minor issues. I would certainly like to have more control (and better UI) for both monitoring and management of the files to be backed up. Either GUI client, or simple way to put a file inside directory that would work as .gitignore. Actualy, for a developer, it would make sense not to backup anything specified in .gitignore or .svnignore or .cvsignore files, because if something is not worth putting to source control, it is not worth backup up either.

Other are duplicate files: I have on my notebook subset of pictures, podcasts and music from home iMac. Those files are backup up and tranferred twice. With volume, this becomes an annoyance. Backblaze could based on SHA1 recognize the duplicate files within same account and offer option skip those already uploaded – same way how Git stores each blob only once.

Last issue (which is completely out of Backblaze’s control) is your bandwidth. Since I started, I am maxing out my 95 GB transfer limit with Rogers in third consecutive month. Here in Canada, 95GB is max you can get unless you  pay for business connection[1] (which is several times the price of “Extreme plus”). You have some control over the backup upload speed – you can “throttle” the speed and you can also manage schedule (to a limited extend). This may or may not impact you – depending on your bandwidth allocation and size of the data to back up.

All summed – definitely recommended.

Disclaimer: I am not anyhow affiliated to Backblaze product or company. Only reason for this blog is my personal, very positive experience with their product and user support, which I believe deserves to be shared.