Posts From January 2011

You know that free over-the-air syncing server that Omni Group offers its users? It’s running on a Mac Mini and is doing just fine.

Ian Hines, the man with the original idea for OmniFocus Aid, talks briefly about the business model of the whole idea:

The obvious concern from OmniGroup’s perspective is that offering a “lite” version would hurt overall OmniFocus for Mac sales.

I think Ian’s conclusion is spot on. In that, having a low-cost utility like this would ultimately increase adoption of the OmniFocus suite more than it would decrease sales of the desktop app.

On another note, a lot of people are suggesting it be called OmniFocus Lite. But I think that’s a bad term and allows for too much scope creep of the project. Calling it OmniFocus Lite would imply that it more or less should offer you all the same access to your tasks and projects that OmniFocus does, but with less features.

The whole foundation of this simple utility is that it needs to be act as an assistant. It would be meant for those who use OmniFocus on their iPad as the main version, as well as those who work a lot from a non-Mac computer.

Regarding the usefulness of “OmniFocus Aid” for windows users, Michael Doan shares his workflow for how he gets by without OmniFocus at his work computer.

HiTask is a friendly and easy-to-use task management tool that anyone can start using right away. HiTask combines simplicity with powerful enterprise features such as task sharing, assignment, reporting, and time tracking. You can organize tasks by project, then share them with or assign them to co-workers, family and friends. Get reminders sent to your phone, and even synchronize your tasks and projects between your desktop browser and iPhone/iPad app. Shared tasks and projects seamlessly synchronize between team members.

Rising Early

Nicholas Alpi, a Ruby developer, shares his story of transitioning from night owl to early bird. He made the decision a year ago and has stuck with it. Now he’s so glad he did.

Also, Leo Babauta gets up at 4:30 each morning and has written about the benefits of rising early.

I love being up early, but I hate getting up early. I am not a morning person.

Some folks are natural morning people — their heads pop off the pillow with little help from an alarm. I am not one of those people. I am a night owl and have been for 30 years.

But just because I’m naturally prone to stay up late doesn’t mean nights are my most productive time of the day. It’s the opposite actually. Mornings are my most productive time. They are also my favorite time of the day.

In the morning my mind is more clear; there is not yet the accumulation of “mental clutter” from the activities and worries of the day; the whole day seems like a blank canvas. And because of the endless possibilities the morning brings with it, I feel liberated and comfortable to do some of my best work of the day. Also it’s the time of day when coffee tastes best.

There is something magical about the early morning. It’s a time when the world belongs to only those few who are awake. And we walk around like kings while others remain unseen in their beds.

Idea: OmniFocus Aid: A Capture Utility for the Mac

Ian Hines posted an idea to Twitter earlier this week:

Thought: it would be nice to be able to input content on the desktop, without having the full desktop client (OmniFocus). Just Inbox.

The premise of Ian’s idea is two fold. Assuming you already own the iPad and/or iPhone version:

  • Perhaps you can’t afford OmniFocus for the Mac.
  • Perhaps you don’t need OmniFocus for the Mac.

In either of these scenarios, it would be great to have a capture-only utility for the Mac that could sync action items to your iPad / iPhone versions.

OmniFocus Aid would be lightweight, easy to use, and built for the sole purpose of throwing tasks into your OmniFocus database when at your Mac. Or, put another way, it would be a utility that consisted of just the top-notch ways that OmniFocus for Mac currently lets you capture action items:

  • Quick Entry Pane (not unlike the one that already ships with OmniFocus)
  • It knows your projects and contexts
  • Supports clippings, Mail rules, and bookmarklets

It should install in the Menu Bar to be accessible for those who don’t swear by the keyboard, and it should sync in the background. It could sell for a few bucks to anyone who purchases the iPad or iPhone versions.

OmniFocus Aid would would make a fantastic counterpart to the iOS suite of OmniFocus apps. It’s a fantastic idea, and I would love to see it get some attention from the Omni Group.

Update: I’ve received some feedback on Twitter and in email that also having a Windows- or web-based version of OmniFocus Aid would be great for those who are not on their own Mac all day. I use my MacBook Pro for work and personal; in the office and at home. I forget that not everyone rolls that way.

This week’s RSS feed was brought to you by Due, a fantastic timer and reminder app for the iPhone. You can set reminders for yourself for things which need to be done at a certain time, and you can save common timers. For instance, I use Due just about every day as the timer for my French Press. Also, for power naps.

The latest version of Due added over-the-air sync via Dropbox. If you’ve got the app installed on multiple devices it will sync your timers and reminders.

For further praise of Due, check out Dave Caolo’s three reasons why you should use it.

Pulizer Prize winning novelist Michael Chabon reflects about blogging after week of doing it for the Atlantic:

Blogging, I think, is largely about seizing opportunities, about pouncing, about grabbing hold of hours, events, days and nights as they are happening, sizing them up and putting them into play with language, like a juggler catching and working into his flow whatever the audience has in its pockets.

So blogging means you have to be thoughtful, quick, articulate, correct, and relevant, all in real time.

Since I don’t write shawnblanc.net full time I simply don’t have the time to pull all of those elements together simultaneously. I’ve chosen to focus on being thoughtful, articulate, and correct — hoping that what I what is thoughtful enough to make itself relevant. I usually let other sites worry about the real-time pouncing.

(Via DF.)

So at first this sounds like, well duh more people are watching Netflix on their Apple TV than on their iPad. I mean, it’s obvious that people will prefer to watch a movie on their big screen than on their iPad.

Just a few weeks ago I bought my first TV. Before that, whenever Anna and I would stream a Netflix movie it would be in the living room watching on the 15-inch MacBook Pro, or in the office on the 23-inch Cinema Display. Never did we stream a Netflix movie using the iPad. Now, streaming to via our Apple TV is superb.

But what’s so intriguing about these iPad and Apple TV comparison numbers is that the iPad is almost a year old and has sold 15 million units. While the new Apple TV is 4 months old and has sold just over 1 million units. There are one-fifteenth the amount of Apple TVs, they’ve been available for one-third the time, and they’ve already surpassed the iPad.

Jason Snell says it’s (at least in part) because Netflix on the iPad is less than great.

I’m curious how many Apple TVs have led to new Netflix subscriptions. The Netflix Shareholder Report (PDF) states 3.08 million new subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2010. If every single Apple TV purchase also led to a new Netflix subscription there would still be an additional 2 million Netflix subscriptions coming from other channels. You can gather from the report that Netflix attributes a lot of their growth to the new streaming-only plan — one-third of all new accounts are the streaming only.

Screenshots of people’s app preferences setup (hence the name “CMD Comma”) with an accompanying description of why the prefs are set like that. I’ve submitted a few of preference screenshots of my own and have already learned something new.

Introducing Read & Trust: a small band of top-notch writers who endorse one another’s work. Plus one scruffy looking nerf herder.

My Sister is Getting Married

It’s not too often that I share personal tidbits here, but this one is worthy.

My one and only sister, my younger sister, is getting married this coming Sunday. My future brother-in-law, Mark, is a stand up guy; I couldn’t be happier.

The wedding is here in Kansas City, and family has already begun to arrive. Which means posting on shawnblanc.net will be slim this week because family always, always comes first.

So if and when you check this site and you don’t see anything new, say a quick prayer for Elise and Mark and their new life together.

And speaking of the State of the Union speech, President Obama will giving his Address tomorrow night at 9:00 pm EST. If you don’t have a TV, you can watch the live stream on the White House website or iPhone app.

The delivery of the State of the Union Address has come a long way. Did you know it used to be called the Annual Message and was simply delivered as a written letter on paper? It wasn’t until 1913 that the Address was first given as a speech. And then, a decade later, technology entered the scene. The first radio broadcast of the Address was in 1923; the first televised Address was in 1947; Internet webstream in 2002; HD TV in 2004; iPhone and iPod touch in 2010; and (since the White House app runs on iPad, albeit in double-pixel mode…) iPad in 2011.

If you think design by committee is hard, imagine writing by committee. And then imagine that the committee is the government.

More Ideas Than Time, but More Time Than Focus

Often I find myself wrestling with the tension that I have more ideas than time. There are many great things I want to do and build and ship and start, but I just don’t have the time to do them. However, I’m finding that the real problem is not my lack of time — it’s my lack of focus.

Ideas > Time > Focus

More ideas than time, but more time than focus.

This is not exactly a revelation. But the above equation has helped to put it in perspective for me. What I want it to be is this:

(Ideas > Time) + (Focus > Time)

More ideas than time, and more focus than time.

If we have more time than focus it means we’re wasting time. Time is the only thing in that equation that we have no control over. And so it should be seized for all it is worth. I do not want a wasted surplus of time due to a lack of focus.

Jot down a task and set up a reminder alert really, really fast? A companion to your GTD manager where all your mundane but important reminders can go? Now you have it.

Many thanks to Useful Fruit software for sponsoring the RSS feed this week to promote Pear Note. Pear Note is a note-taking utility app with a bucket full of useful and well-thought-out features. It’ll recored audio and/or video while you type in your notes. It tracks the timing of what you type with the position of the audio/video track which is great for going back to hear what was said and when, based on the notes that you typed. Pear Note could be especially useful for those who take minutes at meetings. If you take notes or have an assistant who does you may want to get a license.

Download a free trial online, or pick it up in the Mac App Store.

The whole PR pitch scene is a disaster. You either don’t know what the PR is even talking about, or you can tell they don’t really care if you’re interested or not; they’re just spamming you because you have a blog.

I don’t get 50 PR pitches a day like Pogue does — I get about 5 or 10 a week. Usually the email is just text that has obviously been copied-and-pasted from a generic write up, or else it’s just a giant image or PDF attached to an email. And so I just delete 90% of them.

Do they even know they’re sending it to me or are they just using a giant list of “tech blogs” or something? Do they even care if I am interested? I doubt it. They’re just throwing their news out there and hoping for the best… Deleted.

Maybe they’re putting such little effort into their PR pitches because they don’t think it’s worth their time to address me directly. It’s not like shawnblanc.net is a mega site. But by sending annoying PR pitches all they’re actually doing is wasting my time and theirs.

I do, however, get an occasional pitch that I can tell was actually written with intent. And I almost always reply back to say thanks for the heads up. Alas, from there it’s not uncommon to get a generic reply or even no reply. And then, a week or two later, I get a follow-up pitch: “Hey, we just wanted to know if you had a chance to review and post about our app?” Seriously? Deleted.

People should take note of David’s favorite PR Pitches. It’s amazing how far a little bit of thought and some personal connection will go.

It is a rare day when I actually get in contact with someone who cares about the product or service they are pitching. And I wish I could promote and review all of those people’s products and services. But since this weblog is still a part-time gig for me, I simply don’t have the time. Maybe one day that won’t be the case.

This is the way beta testing for iOS devices should be. At any given time I am helping beta test a handful of apps. A few of the developers have been using TestFlight while it was still in private beta. And keeping up to date with their latest builds became so much easier I became a more useful tester.

If you’re an iOS developer, you should be using TestFlight. If your a beta tester, tell your developer friends to sign up.

Enough is the brand new Minimal Mac podcast, with Patrick Rhone and his co-host Myke Hurley. Congratulations to both of them for kicking this off. I’m subscribed; I have no doubt that it will be fantastic.

Considering all the bookmarking going on yesterday, it seems like a ripe time to point out this AppleScript I wrote in 2009 based on some others by Jim DeVona and John Gruber.

Here’s what it does:

When invoked, the script takes the frontmost tab in Safari and creates a new bookmark item in Yojimbo. You’ll be given the opportunity to enter any tags before the bookmark is created, and if you’ve selected any text from the Web page you’re bookmarking it will get pasted into the Comments box of your new Yojimbo bookmark. Finally, once the script has successfully run, a Growl notification will let you know.

Follow the link to read all about it, or just download it now.

That Was Fun

From where I’m sitting, Blast from the Past Link Day turned out to be a wild success.

Many people posted links to their website and/or Twitter throughout the day. Some of you wrote a single article with a list of favorite reads. Some people highlighted favorites written by others, and some highlighted favorites that they had written.

Thank you everyone for joining the fun and for sharing some great articles.

We should do this again sometime. But not for a while… I have a lot of reading to do.

Anthony Morelli wrote a python scrip that is grabbing all the links from the #pastblast Twitter hashtags and tossing them into a shared folder on Instapaper. This way you can easily pull in all these articles to your own Instapaper account. And since Instapaper de-dupes automatically you shouldn’t have to worry about seeing the same article over and over again.

Pure genius! Here’s how to get it:

  • Log into Instapaper
  • On the right-hand side bar click “Add Folder”
  • Choose to add “Another user’s Starred items”
  • In the text box for Username to subscribe to, type: pastblasting@gmail.com
  • Click “Create starred-item subscription folder”
  • Enjoy

Thanks, Anthony!

Paul Graham:

I realized recently that what one thinks about in the shower in the morning is more important than I’d thought. I knew it was a good time to have ideas. Now I’d go further: now I’d say it’s hard to do a really good job on anything you don’t think about in the shower.

(This link is for “Blast from the Past Day”.)

Another one from Jeffery Zeldman, this time on writing or really just doing any sort of work:

In writing four books and an unknown quantity of articles and blog posts, I’ve discovered the simple secret to maintaining quality. I share it with you here in mnemonic nursery rhyme fashion:

Write when inspired; rest when tired.

(This link is for “Blast from the Past Day”.)

John Gruber’s review of the 15-inch PowerBook, and perhaps my favorite DF article of all time.

(This link is for “Blast from the Past Day”.)