Full audio to the Q&A that Apple’s COO Tim Cook gave at The Goldman Sachs Technology & Internet Conference a couple of days ago. It is a really fascinating listen and the more I listen to Tim, the more I feel that Apple would be in good hands after Steve Jobs. This is especially true whenever he alludes to the culture and people at Apple being what drives the innovation and how much thought and purpose is put into hiring just the right people. There is some very telling stuff here.
When I published my post titled, “Dear Mr. Jobs” last week, I heard a couple of comments about my “cluttered” menubar. It got me thinking about the current move towards minimalism and simplicity in regards to our digital tools. It’s a movement that I’m greatly in favour of. It has been wonderful… to see a work like Patrick’s Minimal Mac receive so much attention and success.
But at times, I wonder if it isn’t just the next fad. It’s certainly partly a backlash to the personal productivity movement, with GTD at the centre. But maybe it’s also the new GTD. Instead of doing work, people are still tinkering. But now they do so under the guise of ‘reducing’ or ‘simplifying’. But in the end, it’s the same issue. The boring tasks that you need to do are still on your list. But we have a whole new generation of singly focused, minimalistic tools that tempt us to switch from whatever we’re using now. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I love what Patrick and others are doing: helping people focus on what is needed and avoiding what they don’t. But the whole genre is vulnerable to going down the same path that personal productivity did.
And so, back to the comments that were made about my menubar. Cluttered? Only if I didn’t use the items that reside therein. Which I do. I prefer, when possible, to keep an item in my menubar rather than in the Dock. I prefer a tool in my menubar over a Dashboard widget. Why? Because it suits my preferences and fits my workflow. I’m fairly sure I could lose 2 days of work looking for ways to configure those tools to be accessed in some other fashion. But why? Just so I can post screenshots that will cause others to say, “This guy is so zen. He’s must be in the zone all. the. time!” Minimalism in computing is not about how your computer looks. It’s about how you use it — ensuring it has everything you need and nothing you don’t.
It should come as a surprise to no one who has really been following along here for the past several months that I agree with Chris 100%. I have said as much here, here, here, and even more I will not bother linking to (seriously, search around, I say this stuff all the time).
See, I am in this weird position. I feel like I kind of helped to start something that has nothing to do with what I believe in (which is what I have said I believe in and what Chris believes in, as he so elegantly stated above). Yet, the only way for me to combat it is to show up every day and continue to express what I believe in. Which, inevitably, some people myopically think is something other than what I believe in.
Believe me when I tell you this stuff weighs on me heavily. Like, really heavily. It is the reason why you see no posts for a day or two at times. I just not sure I want to contribute to all of these people who think the key to “minimalism” and “simplicity” is killing off their menubar and dock. I can’t tell you how many times my finger has hovered over the delete account button… Sigh.
Just so we are clear…
I believe the most minimal computer is the one that is optimized for you. How you work. The menubar items you need. The dock items you need. The applications you need. The system you need. The peripherals you need. The tools you need to get the job done.
I believe most of us do not take the time often enough to evaluate what that need is. The entire mission of this site is to help you ask those questions and find the answer that is right. The only answer that is right. The one that is right for you and only you.
From the consumer’s perspective, I don’t see a compelling reason to keep the iPod around. If presented with the option of either an iPod Classic or Nano model or a touch OS device for the same price, I suspect 19 out of 20 people would select the Touch.
Gosh, I can’t help but feel Sean is right about this. It is something I have felt for a while but have been afraid to publicly vocalize. I do have to say that, though it goes against what I believe in, I’m very tempted to buy an iPod nano just to have one before I can’t anymore.
That said, I do think that a device in the nano and shuffle range fills a need for a certain segment of folks that the touch does not. That segment is workout enthusiasts and active folks who need something small and incredibly durable. That female snowboarder who was singing out of tune at the top of her lungs before her Olympic run was rocking a nano. I just can’t see a touch taking that kind of abuse (tonal or otherwise). On the other hand, as Sean points out, this is a niche segment that Apple has no financial reason to cater to.
There’s been lots of talk of it being a ‘third’ product, in-between iPhone and laptop. To me, this reminds me of ‘third places’. That’s a Ray Oldenburg term, of The Great Good Place, and generally refers to cafés, bars, libraries etc. Thus the iPad to me feels more like a product for third places rather than a third product. Its form factor and service model is defined for in-between spaces. Although it will float around the home and the office perfectly well, it comes into its own in these third spaces in a way that that phone and laptop cannot, being either too small or too large respectively.
I have largely avoided posting much about the iPad here lately. Largely because most of the conversation has been lots of takes on the same issues (multitasking, Flash, the future of the UI, etc.). This piece is very different and refreshing. It provides some new perspectives I certainly have not seen elsewhere. Worth the long read. (thx Marco. Seriously, thanks.)
Despite their humble, decades-old base technology (plain text), innovative uses of lo-fi technologies can be remarkably hi-fi, as in the case of AJAX (whose most famous application may be Google’s Gmail service).
This is a very nice piece with helpful links about why the combo of Notational Velocity, Simplenote and Dropbox is such a game changer for .txt nerds like me. Having seamless syncing and super fast searching of my text files on all of my Macs and my iPhone feels a whole lot like magic to me.
“Idea: Need a simple todo app on the iPhone? Use Notes.app as a Hipster PDA. One note per thought. View all for list. Delete as processed.”—This is something I tweeted over a year ago. Before, TaskPaper for iPhone. Still, just as good of an idea (and it’s free).
I don’t normally link to my own work other places. That said, I will do so when I feel it is appropriate. Ever wonder how I manage to sift through a ton of noise to find the stuff that I curate here? This is how.
The thing I like most about this particular entry in Shawn Blanc’s totally voyertastic Sweet Mac Setup series is that it proves the sweetest setup is the one that works for you. In this case, Sean has his Macbook Pro, Magic Mouse, and whatever flat surface he has at hand. No fancy desks. No multiple monitors. Just the minimal tools he needs to get the task at hand done. That, my friends, is what I believe in.
(Also, the Drobo, stuck sitting in the corner is the icing on the cake).
I spent some time reading different comments and articles about the pro’s and con’s of the idea behind the iPhone OS, most specifically the fact that it is hiding the filesystem from the user. Personally I think it’s a great idea.
I do too. Read the whole thing. Some excellent points made toward that argument.
Those who know me know I LOVE getting a peek at other peoples workflows. I think the reason for this is that it always helps to spark new ideas about how I might improve mine. This one fits the bill especially well because, while I use all of the tools here, the flow is completely different than mine. I find such things fascinating.
I am more than a bit excited to be able to be one of the first to bring you a preview of TaskPaper for the iPhone, a new task/list manager for the iPhone.
A little over a year ago, my good friend Michael Mistretta lamented the fact that there was no task/list app for the iPhone that was a simple as pen and paper or, even, the built in Notes.app on the iPhone. At the time he ended his post with this request:
Now, for my notebook-style lists app: I’ll take a paper-UI, swipe to strikethrough, double-tap to highlight iPhone app with a side order of fries and a large Sprite to go.
Well, very soon, Jesse Grosjean of Hog Bay Software will deliver just that (except without the Fries and Sprite feature – though that may be in a future version).
I have been a big fan of TaskPaper for Mac for quite some time. It was one of the first items I posted to Minimal Mac and there is good reason, as task/list applications go it is as basic as it gets without removing crucial functionality – thus leaving an elegant and well balanced solution (plus, the documents are simply marked up plain text files. Viva la .txt!). The iPhone version, out now, is no different – all the features you need, none you don’t…
Intuitive, with subtle guidance to help you only where you need it? Check!
Make lists quickly without tapping buttons or leaving the keyboard? Check!
Swipe to strikethrough completed items? Check!
Double tap to edit? Check!
Landscape support? Check!
Highlight and manipulate multiple items? Check!
Archiving of completed items? Check!
Ability to focus on single projects and tags? Check!
Oh, and did I mention…
Over the air syncing, emailing of documents, superfast seraching, TextExpander support, password protection? Check! Check! Check! Check! And Check!
What is also nice is that it does not lock you into any single usage type. You can use it for any list you can think of – Groceries, Wishlists, etc. The features that make it great at task management (Projects, Tagging) are also easy to ignore and not use on a per list basis.
I have been using the beta version as my full time task and list manager for about a month now and it has evolved nicely and is rock solid. This, in my opinion, is a must have item and I put it right on up there with Simplenote as my favorite and most used application on my iPhone.
iPhone Search vs. Swipe - A couple of more thoughts...
As I mentioned at the end of my iPhone experiment, I have been making a largely successful effort to get in the habit of using the built in search feature of iPhone OS 3.x to find and launch apps (not to mention data) versus swiping through screens to find and launch an app. In other words, If the app I want to launch is not on my homescreen, I press the home button once, the search box and keyboard pops up, I type in the first few letters of the app, and tap to launch it as soon as I see it in the list.
Assuming I have both hands free, I have found this so far to be a far faster method of launching apps on the iPhone but it also comes with another unforeseen advantage: When you quit the application, you are returned to your main home screen. This is different behavior than “swipe to launch”, which returns you to the screen that you launched the app from. The reason I see it as an advantage is that, due to my experiment, I have only my most frequently used apps on my homescreen. The likelihood that the next app I wish to launch will be one on my home screen is high. Therefore, another speed advantage is often gained as I will not have to swipe to where I want to go next, I’ll already be there.
Don’t be fooled by the intentionally boring post title folks, this is a really good explanation on the differences between Solid State and traditional Hard Drives, why faster storage makes such a huge performance difference, and why – despite more cost per GB – you should consider nothing else in your next Mac.
But hey, you asked for my dream setup. That’s it: one computer for 20 years.
Gosh, I love The Setup. Though, once again, Mark is not a Mac guy, I love the conviction he holds in the things he believes in. I really, really admire it.
20 Years, huh? I don’t think this is an unreasonable expectation. I am currently typing this post using Word 5.1 on a Powerbook 1400c. Though I am not sure when this particular model was made (and yes, I am too lazy to look it up by the serial number) the model line was introduced in 1997. That means it is currently 13 years old. It does not show any signs of stopping either. Here is proof:
I mainly keep it in the basement on a shelf. I pull it out for those rare times someone will come to me with an old floppy disk that contains the sole copy of their college thesis and they wonder if I can rescue it. That said, I still enjoy it a great deal when I do. It has one of my favorite keyboards of all time. It makes a pleasant clickity-clak that reminds a writer of his industry and craft. I still think Word 5.1 was the best word processor ever made and it is these times I prove myself correct. Oh, how I miss using this machine daily. What is there to say I could not?
To be fair, I have given the machine a few upgrades, without which I am not sure I really could use it in my modern world without some deep compromises. For the purposes I use it for, I have installed a NewerTech G3/233 processor as well as maxed out the RAM at 48MB but with RAM Doubler (I am sure I am bringing back some memories for the old timers here) I am pushing it to 96MB. I also have a Lucent WaveLAN Silver WiFi PC card to connect to the wireless. Works like a charm.
That said, I have the machines and the software I use today because I really do need them. I need them for my job to support my clients. That said, if my life were different – if writing were my main gig for instance – I could easily do so with this setup. I mean, seriously, set me up with a Laserwriter 300 to be able to print off a manuscript and I would be in business. Cormack McCarthy uses a typewriter. Neal Stephenson writes 1800 page trilogies in long hand. They are no less industrious or prolific in their craft because of these “outdated” tools. My PB1400 setup is worlds away from (and some may argue ahead of) both.
This is really just a reason to remind myself of the purpose behind this little project I have here. It is to explore the idea of what really is “enough” for me, for you, for most. I am sure that, with proper care and feeding, I will be able to take out my current Mac, an almost 3 year old Macbook, from the basement 10 years from now and reminisce in the same way. I am sure it’s utility may be no less – despite the fact the world may have changed around it. It will likely be enough for me for a long time to come.
Constant vigilance is the price you pay for an elegant application.
This means you have to learn to say «no». Your current customers will ask you for a feature they want. Potential customers will tell you that if you add just one specific feature, they’ll buy the app. You can’t be everything for everyone. You have to let some people be customers of your competitors.
This is a really wonderful explanation of the problem with feature bloat, some good reasons why and how it happens, and what can be done to manage it. No imaginary straw men here. This is the way all posts of this type should be written (and, mea culpa, I am taking this lesson to heart).
The average iPhone or iPod Touch owner uses 5 to 10 apps regularly, according to Flurry, a research firm that studies mobile trends. This despite the surfeit of available apps: some 140,000 and counting.
This self realization is what led to my iPhone experiment a few weeks back. I knew that, despite the four pages of apps, there were only a handful I used often enough to warrant placement on my home screen. Seems most people fall into this category. Perhaps you do as well. (thx Matt Thomas)
Excellent post by Milind Alvares on multitasking (or the percieved lack there of) on the iPad. Love this little killer riff:
But the iPad’s multi-tasking is more than just speed. It’s a brand new user interface bringing in a new workflow. Something that’s simple, logical, focussed, and human. It’s multi-tasking dictated by end goals.