I’m pretty sure the day in which all this dances together well enough to make it dependable is a bit further off. Regardless, I’m looking forward to a day in which the capabilities of smartphones grow upwards and the network accessibility of home desktop hardware grows downwards to such an extent that they meet somewhere in the middle. Laptops are horribly expensive and horribly compromised just to reach that goal of “everything with you, all the time”.
Very interesting bit of almost-here futurism. The fact is, several built in Apple technologies (Back to my Mac, Sleep Proxies, etc.) are just steps away from the sci-fi dream of data ubiquity.
In a few days, the Season of Stuff will officially begin. During this season, we are actively encouraged to get more stuff, buy more stuff, give stuff to those we “love”, and be thankful for the stuff we have.
This Friday, for instance, sellers of stuff will drop prices to all time lows in order to make it easier for you to give and receive this stuff. Of course, this is in the hopes that the money saved on this stuff will encourage you to buy other non-discounted stuff. You know this, of course, right? You cherry pick the cheap stuff and leave the other stuff for the suckers, right? Of course you do…
All of this stuff will generate a bunch of stuff to be thrown away or recycled. Wrapping, packaging, spent gift cards – they all have to end up somewhere. Not to mention all of the stuff we had to build and machines we run in order to make the stuff we give and receive.Then once the season is over, in fact the very next day, comes the inevitable stuff we have to return (for cash to buy stuff if you have the receipt, exchange for different stuff if not).
Just try to remember that there are plenty of ways to deal with this stuff. You can pledge to get rid of an amount of stuff equal to the amount you receive. You can let those who love you know that you do not want more stuff but want something less tangible instead (breakfast in bed, money for a favorite charity, etc.). Ask for specific stuff you really truly need that will add years of value to your life on a daily basis… and stuff. The point is, control the stuff. Don’t let the stuff control you.
The Mac OS X Dashboard application has been one of those love it or hate it features since the moment it was introduced. As someone who was using Yahoo’s similar Yahoo Widgets application at the time, I was confused by Apple’s choice to have no way to leave the Dashboard Widgets displayed on the desktop like Yahoo’s. That alone put me solidly in the “hate it” camp, where I remained for a long time.
Then, Apple made some OS changes that “broke” Yahoo Widgets and it was unsure if they would even be able to come out with a fix any time soon or even at all. Therefore, I went without it and decided to give the Dashboard another chance. It was only then that I began to appreciate the things that made me hate it before. Namely…
It remains hidden and out of your way until you need it. Thus reducing visual clutter.
When needed, it can be accessed with the keyboard.
It does not switch away from what you are working on but instead overlays it. I find this especially useful with the default calculator widget as the numbers I want to work with are usually in the window I have open at the time, so I can still see them.
The bottom line is that I have come to really like it and find it useful. If, like me, you had written it off, I suggest you give it another chance. Especially if you are running Snow Leopard as I find it to be MUCH faster.
Chris recently moved to a new home in a rural area without access to broadband internet service:
Anyone who has to access the Internet via Satellite or through a mobile network (3G, HSPA etc.) knows that in these cases, the more you use, the more you pay. I went from a broadband user who paid $40 per month and used 8 GB of data per month on average. After the move and switching to a HSPA network, the same data usage would cost me approximately $175 per month. Obviously, this is a disadvantage to my more simplistic, rural living. But as someone who runs a business via the Internet, being online is a necessity. I immediately started to look at ways I could reduce my bandwidth usage each month.
He goes on to provide some very good tips here. I can imagine a lot of areas where this info could come in handy – MiFi, phone tethering, or other restricted data plans for instance. Good info to tuck away for those reasons alone.
Anyone who owns an iPhone knows that, if you use it as intended, you will need to charge the battery far more often than any other device you have grown accustomed to. This is especially true as it gets older. Mine is a bit over a year old now and on a good day I drain it before bedtime.
There are a few battery pack cases you can get but they add additional bulk. The other alternative is a battery backup pack, designed to plug into the bottom and recharge your iPhone. There are a bunch of options here too, but I went with the Monoprice iPhone Battery Pack.
The price and performance really can’t be beat. For only $14.50, you get a pack that can fully charge your iPhone almost two times without needing to be recharged itself. A real steal. This has been quite a handy little item to have around and especially good on trips if you watch a lot of video, use the GPS, or any other battery draining task. And, as a bonus, it can also charge an iPod as well.
Just a note that the slow posting will continue for the first part of this week. I’m still on vacation in Washington D.C. visiting my Dad, friends, and the occasional really cool person I admire deeply who are working on things that rock.
That said, I’m getting some occational reading in and here are the things that are possibly out of context for this space but have captured my attention and are worth sharing:
Three things about Marco Arment – When Merlin Mann rants, you should listen. When Merlin Mann wraps that rant in gushing fanboy praise, you should listen harder.
Why Retweet works the way it does – I love it when software developers tell the story behind a feature. I initially had reservations about it. After reading this I fully support and now look forward to it.
FlexCal is a simple way to get your tasks or events into your calendar quickly. Simply hit a hotkey (that you define) and a quick entry window pops up — from within any application. The first window is a task entry window. Hit the hotkey again and an event entry window appears. Type in your task or event, hit return and instantly the item is added to your iCal calendar. It’s that simple.
The new version of Notify brings about a number of major changes. For instance, it has been completely rebuilt, and instead acts like an IMAP client for your Gmail, Google Apps, Rackspace, MobieMe or any other type of email account. This makes accessing and getting email updates even easier.
This looks like it is going to be a great update and good solution for those looking for a small and minimal interface for email.
With our recent move to the farm, I once again had a chance to put together an office setup that pleased me in every way. My past offices at home have been decent, but always ended with something I dislike — a messy pile of cables.
As I’m slightly leery of going wireless everything, I realized I can never get away from cables completely. So I wanted to make a better effort and managing the chaos and did so with some purchases from Bluelounge.
And secondly, I wanted to incorporate a standing desk. I’ve working from the standing position for a good part of the day the past two months. But I did so my sticking some cardboard boxes under the my laptop and display. Not ideal of course, so with this move I wanted to add a proper standing desk to the office collection.
I had planned to build one, but realized that I already owned a desk that fit the bill. The only issue was that the raised platform was designed to be on the backside of the desk. So I drilled some new holes in the desk and moved it closer to the edge I work from. Add in a wall shelf at the right height for the external display and I’ve got a great standing desk.
The only issue remaining then was to get the laptop at a decent ergonomic height. Easily solved with a rain design mStand.
Now I can stand or sit as needed. On a normal work day, I stand about 60% of the time. This has done wonder for overall health, especially the back.
This is the best home office setup I’ve had. Which is good, cause I’m out of cash …
I have reblogged this in it’s entirety. There are so many great things at play here – Cable management, options for both sitting and standing, the monitor on a shelf, all of it is just so right.
I know Chris and I don’t think I tell him enough how much I admire him. He is the sort of guy who pays great attention to the details that matter and uses that skill daily to make others lives just a little bit better. No one deserves such a beautiful and functional workspace more than him.
Please forgive the slowdown in posting that will occur over the next 2 weeks. I’m leaving for vacation this upcoming Friday and returning the following Wednesday. This, of course, means that I have crammed all of the client work I normally would have had next week into this one. Not to mention the rigors of preparing to take a 21 month old on any extended trip. Thanks in advance for your patience and understanding.
Somewhat related, I may be seeking guest curators for times such as these. I will announce if that happens.
MiniMail is a personal fave. I have written about MiniMail in the past. It is a plugin for Mail.app that allows you to minimize the main window into a small controller style window like iTunes. Well, it recently has been updated to bring 10.6 compatibility and a wealth of other nifty features. This includes a new Multiple Window Mode in which the zoom button will miniaturize each Message Viewer window, showing just the selected Mailboxes and letting you maintain different mini windows for focused views on different Mailboxes. It’s very cool.
MiniMail is $12.95 and upgrade pricing for existing 1.x users is $4.95.
AT poses the question for commenter response,”If you were to boil down your tech possessions to three essential items, which would they be?”
What I find interesting here is how many of the commenters have a hard time getting it down to three. I also find it interesting how many do not get it down below three (none).
As for me, I seriously think, if it were not for my line of work, I could do well with just my iPhone. In fact, I know I could because I spent years only having and Apple Newton during it’s availability and it was perfect for me. The iPhone can achieve just about any task that I regularly do with my Macbook. In fact, I only take the laptop with me when I absolutely have to. There are many times I leave it behind for days and feel no loss.
You may be familiar with Macheist. The deal is, they find a dozen or so great Mac apps to sell at an obscenely low price. It has received some flack, a bit of head scratching if you will, as to whether or not it ends up being a good deal for the developer.
Well, this is not the official Macheist but rather a freebie preview. That’s right, they are giving away, for free, 6 quality Mac apps. Now, I normally would not post about such a thing here because I argue that one should have a few apps that they know deeply rather than a ton of apps they really don’t need. That said, there are a couple of my personal favorites here and it may be your only chance to get them for free – Writeroom and Mariner Write.
Full disclosure: The good folks at Mariner Software are all friends of mine, as well as home to my best friend in the world, so I am immensely proud of anything with their name on it. As for Writeroom, well, it’s just plain awesome.
I remember when Steve was my neighbor in Woodside, Calif., and he had no furniture. It struck me that there wasn’t furniture good enough for Steve in the world. He’d rather have nothing if he couldn’t have perfection. And I jokingly said, “The difference between me and Steve is that I’m willing to live with the best the world can provide. With Steve that’s not always good enough.” And if you look at how he tackles building a phone, or building a laptop, he really is in pursuit of this technical and aesthetic perfection. And he just won’t compromise.
Don’t compromise. Don’t settle. Don’t own anything unless it is something that adds real value to your world. Question everything. And when the answer is “yes”, wait a while and ask the question again.
While we are on the subject of Jason and 37 Signals, he recently posted this video that there are a lot of good takeaways from. Jay Shafer designs and builds houses, incredibly tiny houses. This is a video of the one he has lived in for a few years. It’s only 96 square feet.
This video is real proof that you really can reduce your needs to the bare minimum and function perfectly well. Also, it is important to note that he did not go from 4000 square feet to this overnight. He did so gradually, moving into smaller and smaller spaces until he arrived at this.
Simplicity, minimalism, “enough”, is a journey. It should not happen overnight. It should be a gradual process to of taking away and addition to find out what you need to make your life as optimized as possible without making it difficult for simplicity’s sake.
Furthermore, these tiny houses actually cost more to build per square foot, not less. Quality often means paying more up front in order to get greater return over the long haul. I know I should assume this is obvious to you because, well, you own a Mac after all. There are a ton of machines you could have gotten for less money. That said, you paid more because you value quality and know that the savings comes over time and in many tangible and intangible ways.
In all, there is a lot to learn here. While watching, you can replace the word “house” with “car” or “computer”. Many of the same lessons apply.
One of the things I have always liked about successful people and companies, is that they are often successful by doing everything the others say is wrong.
Let’s take a look at an example. Hmm… Let’s see… How about Apple, for instance. Shall we?
When everyone else in the tech industry was cutting research because the economy was on a downward slope, Apple increased it and released things:
A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of [customers], they would continue to open their wallets. – Steve Jobs in Business Week, 2003
When other companies are laying off their employees to cut costs, Apple does everything it can to hold onto theirs:
We’ve had one of these before, when the dot-com bubble burst. What I told our company was that we were just going to invest our way through the downturn, that we weren’t going to lay off people, that we’d taken a tremendous amount of effort to get them into Apple in the first place — the last thing we were going to do is lay them off. - Steve Jobs in Fortune, 2008
My point being is that sometimes, if you want quality, you have to ignore everything the others tell you you need – or need to do. In fact, it usually means you should do the opposite. Be a skeptic. Be suspect of every application or gadget or idea – especially when the exchange of money or time is involved (and if you don’t think the two are intimately inseparable then you do not value either enough). Even be suspect of this one I’m presenting here. I don’t claim to know all of the answers. Simplicity is a journey, not a destination. I’m on a journey here just like you.
What I do know is that when I look at the people, ideas and companies that impress me, they’re doing it wrong. And if that’s the case, I don’t wanna be right.
My friend travels quite a bit for his job. By quite a bit I mean that 3-4 days a week is not unusual for him. Recently, we were talking about how productive he was on the road versus home. Being a productivity nut, I naturally asked him why that was. When he was on the road, he got to his hotel room and had a nice, clean empty desk awaiting him. His laptop bag is his “office”. Therefore, he could take out his laptop, notes, etc. setup on the nice empty space and focus on the task at hand. My response:
"Why not set up a hotel desk at home?"
The problem was, his desk at home had become a giant inbox. Being home infrequently meant that he tended to use his desk as a dumping station for all of the things that needed to have decisions made about them:
When he got home, he did not have the same empty desk space where he could set up his office and do the same thing as the hotel, unpack his bag and get to work. That needed to change. More importantly, that desk space had to stay sacred to those ideals. If you need a very large inbox to dump stuff, the desk would no longer be that place, Get a big box, rent a dumpster, find another.
Step one was to clear everything away. All of it. Even stuff that “needed” to be there. If it needs to be there then it will come back but, for now, everything must go:
Once everything was cleared away, the next step was to look at the goal – Pretend this is the hotel, you get here and you need to set up your “command center”. What needs to be here to make that a reality. Everything else is either “nice to have” or “not needed”.
The reality was that not a whole lot of what was there before, outside of basic desk supplies (pen, paper, etc.) was needed. I mean, even that is sometimes a “nice to have” at the hotel but was not always supplied.
OK, so then, what would be nice to have? Well, a monitor, keyboard and mouse would fit that bill. As would a calculator (which doubles as a 10 key pad via bluetooth) and scanner for the job he does. Why not have a stand for the laptop to get it off of the desk and out of the way. Also, some pictures of the family to personalize the space. Here is what we ended up with:
Everything else was not needed. Sometimes, all you have to ask is “Where does this belong?” if the answer is “Not here” then put it where it does belong. If the answer is “I don’t know” then the next question should be “Do I need it?”. Here is the deal, everything you need should have a place. That place is called “Where I need it”. If something does not have a place in your home, office, life, etc. then perhaps it has a home outside of those things. Perhaps it has a home away from you.
Another tip, and I got this from Erin Doland’s excellent Unclutter Your Life In One Week, if you are dealing with sentimental stuff, do not touch it. Have a friend by to pick it up for you. The reason being is that when we touch things we form a relationship with them – an emotional bond – and that makes it harder to let go. Besides, it really does help to have a friend simply to ask you questions you think you already know the answer to like “Where does this belong?”.
Pro parenting tip, and this is one that was all my friend’s idea but I thought it was brilliant – Meet Mr. Shut-up:
If you ever work out of the home, and you have kids, then you know that sometimes you may need to take a call and not have it sound as if you are working out of your home with kids. That is where Mr. Shut-up comes in. Let your critters know that, when Mr. Shut-up is on, it is time to be quiet or face the wrath of Mr. or Ms. Puts-a-roof-over-your-head.
The upshot to all of this was to show you that, even if you think the task is too big, even if you think you could never do this whole minimal/unclutter/power of less stuff, the truth is that you can. We all can.
This is a fantastic look into why minimalism is, at it’s heart, about self reliance. That said, here is the money quote for me:
Focus on acquiring abilities, not tools. Instead of buying a bunch of gadgets to help me get a job done, let’s spend more time learning the skills behind the job. Tools are just things, but skills become part of us.
Tru dat! The right tool, learned deeply, executed when appropriate, no matter how basic, can beat the pants off of “features" any day. Because it ain’t about the tool, or the feature, it is about your ability to use it to achieve the goal at hand.
Also, this is one of the reasons you may see me post about keyboard shortcuts. If you use a tool more than once a day you can save so much time and effort by learning the shortcuts for every feature you use. Also, the more deeply you learn a program the less you will “need” another to achieve your goals.
Longtime readers of this site should have picked up by now the fact that I had a fairly specific “posting rhythm”. I would always start of the day with a desktop screenshot and end it with a quote. The reason being is that I found it inspirational and what better way to start and end your day then with something to be inspired by.
That said, I am experimenting for a bit with changing up this rhythm. Not only to break out of routine but also in an attempt to invigorate my creativity and deliver quality content that delivers real actual help. Not make believe help. I want to make sure I’m really walking the walk here.
Therefore, if you have come here looking for pretty pictures of how you wish your Mac life was going and cool quotes to reblog and pretend you are getting it, there will be some of that in the archives. From here on, there will also be a lot more info to encourage you to stop wishing and start doing. Pointers to books, blog posts, resources, and other helpful strategies – not all Mac specific but definitely Mac applicable.
I’ve mentioned Readability before, while not Mac specific, it is the best way to remove advertisements, flash, etc. from any webpage and get the main content in a clean and easy to read page. That said, there is always room for improvement.
Readability 2, built upon the original, aims to do just that. Stripping even more away yet building in some improvements. It started as a project to make a better clipper for Evernote then the one they provide. In my findings, it does a better job on some pages for sure. Worth a look.
Disclaimer: I am posting this for discussion sake only. I am not advocating anyone do this and hold no responsibility for anything that may occur from doing so.
That said, I have mentioned before that I am tempted to do so myself if only to achieve the level of interface bliss that I see here or here. This seems like a good step by step should I ever get the guts to do so.
Today I was looking for a simple folder icon to use for an “Active Projects” folder, searching for something clean and simple. I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I did come across several minimalist icon sets that I thought would appeal to the Minimal Mac crowd. They tend to be white, overall. Two sets have been around a while, so you may have seen them before, but I thought they were worth sharing.
It was not until recently that I realized something about my workflow. Please forgive me if this is all “Big Duh!” to you. I have a document escalation path. – a definitive point of creation for the most basic needs and a progression of steps for when the item outgrows those needs. My flow generally goes something like this (links to other posts here where appropriate):
TextEdit – All writing on my Mac begins here. I have it set to default to plain text, 90 characters x 50 lines, Menlo for my font (after a long flirtation with Droid Sans). If longtime readers here have not caught on yet, I am a big fan and think this is one of the most underrated programs on the Mac. This can do the job I need to get the words down on a blank space. If I need to do more than that then the escalation path continues to…
TextMate – If I need to do some markup to the content, for instance, to publish to the web, then this is the next stop. I usually format in Markdown and then use the convert to html tool from there.
Bean – If I need to format into Rich Text for print or PDF, here is where I turn. I’ve discussed Bean here before and it had a few added and very useful features for RTF creating that do not exist in TextEdit. These include full screen mode and word and character count.
Pages – If I really need to do some advanced word processing, including style management, headers and footers, inserting images, etc. I use Pages. That said, I rarely have to do so because the options above are enough for me. That said, as word processors go, and despite it’s shortcomings, I really think it is the most elegant word processor available today. I have created some stunningly beautiful work with it.