Posts From July 2010

I mostly use 1Password on my Mac to generate and save passwords and logins for websites. But on my iPhone and iPad it makes for a fantastic way to keep notes and other top-secret info safe and secure. And now that it has free cloud syncing via Dropbox (which works perfectly), 1Password just became that much more useful and vital to me.

With the amount of shared information I keep between my iPad, iPhone, and Mac, apps which sync via the cloud are becoming a necessity while apps that don’t are quickly becoming so cumbersome to maintain they’re almost useless.

How I Order an Americano

When at coffee shops I almost always order a 12-ounce, double Americano with a little bit of half-and-half steamed in.

I used to just add cream to my Americano at the coffee fix-up bar, but now I ask the barista to steam a little bit of half and half in to the drink instead. (This is not the same as an Americano Misto. An Americano Misto is half water and half milk.)

There are several advantages to getting the half-and-half steamed in:

  • it keeps your Americano piping hot (by not pouring in cold creamer).
  • it adds flavor.

If you prefer lattes or cappuccinos, an Americano is about half the cost, but with the steamed-in creamer it tastes nearly the same.

On occasion the cashier wants to charge me $0.50 extra — calling it a “breve”. Sometimes I think that’s a crock, and I tell them they already offer free half-and-half at the coffee fix-up bar but that you would prefer the barista to steam it in for you so your drink stays nice and hot. And sometimes I realize I’m at a local coffee establishment and every little bit helps them keep the lights on and the coffee hot.

It’s a great drink, and you should try it sometime.

A brilliant Safari plugin for people who are in any way involved in the web design process.

Neal Pollack wrote a great piece for Wired Magazine which looks behind the scenes of the start and growth of both Gowalla and Foursquare. I use Gowalla and picked it mostly because I love the look and feel of it over Foursqaure. But I always assumed the two apps were basically the same. And though it’s true that they both have the same foundational usage — go places and get rewards for checking in — the two apps reward and encourage those check-ins quite differently.

A trip I put together on Gowalla featuring some of the premier parks, shops, restaurants, and other locations around my home town of Castle Rock, Colorado. You only have to visit 3 of the 11 spots to complete the trip, as it’s built for someone who wants to spend a few hours visiting the best spots in town and grab a good bite to eat.

Jason Santa Maria:

I think it’s safe to say the web is not the domain of just the geeks anymore — we all live here. And those of us who work here should have sophisticated, native tools to do our jobs.

It’s a fantastic article by Jason with an overview of the tools used for Web design, along with his pitch for what the “InDesign for HTML and CSS” program could look and act like. In short, Web designers are in need of a fluid and interactive canvas to design on, not a static one.

Paul Graham on thinking in the shower:

I think most people have one top idea in their mind at any given time. That’s the idea their thoughts will drift toward when they’re allowed to drift freely.

Paul’s fantastic essay is all about idea cultivation, which has to happen before there can be any sort of idea capturing.

Brett Kelly:

With Tumblr, I don’t need to think about things like scalability or reliability. I don’t need to make sure my caching plugin is up to date and working because they probably pay dudes to make sure their servers stay up. The fact that I get all of this for free was another big mark in Tumblr’s favor.

There are some trade-offs I’m not ready to give up yet, but my list of reasons to stay with WordPress does seem to get a little bit shorter every day.

A nice overview and some good tips from David Chartier. I use iCal every day but rarely use the Web-app version of MobileMe Calendar. I am glad, however, to see that there is finally some collaboration features being built in.

What I’d really like is improved handling of event reminders. Including a way to keep my laptop, iPad, and iPhone from all buzzing an event reminder at the same time if they’re in proximity to one another, as well as syncing the dismissal of on-display reminders.

A great review of Simplenote by Adam Pash on Lifehacker. I don’t do as much long-form writing in Simplenote as Adam does, but it is certainly one of my most-used and most-beloved apps on my iPad, iPhone, and Mac (Notational Velocity).

(Via Minimal Mac.)

Every little thing they do is magic.

Phil Coffman prefers AutoStitch over Pano for taking panoramic photos with his iPhone. AutoStitch has a few more options than Pano does, and it seems better at rendering the final panoramic photo.

But I wouldn’t agree that AutoStitch is all this as well as being easier to use than Pano. With Pano you just launch it, follow the in-app instructions as you snap each each photo, and then click done. With AutoStitch you’re use the native camera app for snapping the photos, you then launch AutoStitch to select and import your photos, and after the panoramic is rendered you have the option to crop it.

My first attempt at using AutoStitch turned up a horrendous panoramic. But after a few more tries I was able to get the hang of it. And ultimately, it does produce a better end product. So all that to say I think I prefer AutoStitch now, too. Thanks, Phil!

Pano is my current favorite iPhone camera app (second only to FatBooth). It’s a very minimal app that does one thing quite well: help you take multi-shot panoramic images. The UI is so clever anyone can use it. And it’s a lot of fun to take such high-resolution, well-made panoramic shots using your camera phone.

Here are some shots I’ve taken with Pano: pne of Kauffman Stadium from the nose bleeds, and one of my then-cluttered office. (And sorry, but no example shots of FatBooth pictures will be posted. My wife would kill me.)

What’s in my Back Pack

Contents of the back pack

The picture above gives you a bird’s-eye view into the top of my backpack — a Case Logix XN. I bought the pack over two years ago when I purchased my then-new MacBook Pro, and it is still the pack I take with me to and from the office almost every day despite the fact that I really don’t like it.

Starting with the top pouch you can see gridded Moleskin with Matthew’s Squaredeye logo embossed on the cover; an iKlear screen cleaning cloth; and a pack of Orbit Mist Watermelon Spring gum. Hidden from view is a wrapped, but slightly melted, piece of saltwater taffy.

In the zippered pocket is my Magic Mouse resting on top of my iPhone earbuds.

In the central compartment you can see my iPad in its Apple case leaning against my New King James Bible (which is sitting upside down apparently). The white book underneath my Bible is Tom Wright’s commentary on Romans. And next to it is the power brick for my 23″ Apple Cinema Display. The power brick for my ACD at work is currently out of commission, so I’ve been commuting the one from my home office back and forth each day.

Additionally in the main compartment are some printed-out mockups of current print projects we’re working on. They have notes and scribbles on them for edits to be made. I really like scribbling on mockups.

The back compartment of my backpack is the one dedicated for my laptop. Except it shares the space with a manilla folder which I use a a portable inbox/filing cabinet, and my Behance Action Book which I never use and need to just take out. The aging, though well cared for, MacBook Pro always gets put away with the screen side facing inwards.

Droptext gives you read/write access for any plain text files on your Dropbox account. You can edit, delete, and even create them from within Droptext. Unfortunately the app has been pretty buggy for me. I am unable to open any file that isn’t a test file, and the app crashes often. But it’s a great concept, and I really hope Droptext sees some refining and polishing in the near future. (Via Nathan.)

Also: it absolutely boggles my mind why Dropbox doesn’t have this functionality built into their iPhone and iPad apps.

Randy Murray, in his excellent post today, “When You Have A Burst Of Creativity, Go With The Flow”:

It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer or a baker. When the mood strikes you and you find you can suddenly make things happen, do everything to stay in that mood. Create, build, bake. You can always rework later. You can go back to your plans, if you need to. It probably won’t last long, but when you can just let the ideas come and let the work flow, you’ll likely find some things you didn’t know you could do.

This is why having the ability to capture ideas wherever and whenever they come to you is so important. Often it’s not just the idea that is sparked, but along with it come three or four other pieces which all get connected at once and you have that Ah-ha! moment.

Just like a lot of you guys, the vast majority of my ideas and “oh yeah!” moments for my day come when I’m getting ready in the morning. Especially when in the shower.

For years I’ve let those ideas go down the drain, or I run into my office after getting ready to try and jot down whatever I can remember.

It’s not so much that a truly great idea will actually go down the drain if I don’t have a notepad in my shower, but when an idea does come to me I want a place to capture it. Because doing so encourages the getting of more ideas. (Waste not want not, right?)

And so I finally ordered an AquaNotes waterproof notepad to use for any ideas or to-do items which come to me when showering.

The AquaNotes notepad is made with waterproof paper and is pretty cool. But it’s small (about 3″ x 5″) and non-renewable (you have to keep ordering notepads). But Cameron uses a diving slate. Which sounds much more manly, comes in significantly larger sizes, and will last much longer.

A well-written, nerdy look at Michael’s setup.

Being Awesome or Being Professional

Nearly six years ago I began writing on the internet. It’s been a near-daily event ever since. I love writing on the internet.

Recently I’ve been reading through old archives from stuff I wrote in 2005, 2006, and 2007. It is amazing how different my writing is now compared to then. But sadly, it’s not all different in a good way.

In some ways it is better: My writing voice has matured significantly, and I feel comfortable in it. In fact almost everything I write — emails to my team, proposals for new projects, updates to my family — are written in the very same voice you read here. Secondly, my grammar and spelling have improved about 1,000% compared to my early stuff. (I am a pretty bad speller even now, but I used to be really bad. I mean, seriously. Really bad.)

But in other ways I see where my writing has declined over the years. My words are not as “free” and “light” as they used to be. Chances are most people would never notice (a few of the long time and savvy readers perhaps), but to me it’s like night and day.

And sadly I know exactly where that tone of freedom in my writing went. It slowly disappeared as my readership grew. I remember how I used to write as if 5,000 were reading even though there were only 75. But since I knew those 75 and considered them friends I was comfortable being in my own skin in front of them.

Well now that I actually do have 5,000 readers the freedom that was once in my writing seems to have been replaced with something more professional and scrutiny-proof. What an unfair trade and a bum deal for all of us.

Being excellent is one of the most important things in life. But excellence and professionalism are NOT synonyms. I miss that bounce of freedom — that extra bit of genuineness which I feel is now missing. And perhaps you do too. And perhaps I’m not the only one?

One of my favorite co-workers, Gedy Rivera, made a pretty and simple set of icons for all your favorite networks. It’s the same set that Dan used on his redesign of SimpleBits, and they’re only $5. If you’ve got a Twitter, Flickr, Dribbble, or Facebook and you like simple, clean, design then these may be worth that latte.

Life at Home Without Wi-Fi

On Saturday my 2-year-old Time Capsule had a melt down. If you own a Time Capsule you know how hot they can get. And for some models (like mine) the power components eventually begin to melt inside. Then one day the thing just shuts itself off and if you try to reset it and plug it back in you’re greeted with a high pitch squeal followed by the device turning itself off again.

I never buy AppleCare. But fortunately Apple is freely replacing mine and other certain Time Capsules which are experiencing this squealing melt-down effect. (Which, ironically, only affirms my resolve to not spend money on Apple Care.)

And so the past few days I have been without wi-fi at my house. I’ve actually been enjoying the simplicity of having just one computer connected to the Internet and not having the distraction of being able to get online at any time, in any room, with any device.

By plugging the ethernet cable directly into my MacBookPro it has been nice to have an instant network connection when waking my laptop from sleep. Some people plug in because it’s “so much faster” than Wi-Fi. Which is true. But unless I’m downloading big fat files I really don’t notice the difference in connection speed. I prefer to have less cables.

Syncing my Things apps across devices is even more arduous now because I have to create a network with my laptop and then join my iPad and iPhone to it. (I realize that I could use my MacBook Pro as a wireless router and constantly be sharing its internet connection, but that would defeat the experience of being without wireless for a few days.)

Now that I’m on the $15/month 200MB data plan with AT&T I am annoyingly conscious of my iPhone data usage. Without wi-fi, a casual check of Twitter or email on my iPhone means I’m paying for those bits of data.

But it’s not just my iPhone I’m using less. I’m using my iPad a lot less, too. I have always assumed that the 3G version would not be much better for me because I always have wireless internet wherever I am. Which is true. But knowing that I won’t be connected to the internet has made me less eager to grab the iPad. Even for non-Internet tasks, like reading an ebook.

A great overview of Instapaper by Milind Alvares. Especially this line:

If there’s one thing about Instapaper, is that it’s a habit. You’ve got to get yourself addicted to it for it to make any sense.

The more I use Instapaper, the more I love it and the more I find better ways to use and enjoy it.

July 2nd

A few things you may not have known about today, July 2.

  • Today is the 183rd day of the year. It’s the middle day. There were 182 days before today, and 182 to go until 2011. (At noon today is the exact middle of the year.)
  • Today is the same day of the week as New Years Day was.

July 2nd in history:

People born on July 2nd: