Posts From October 2011

Ben Brooks:

What I have found is that those one-off reminders that belong to no project and therefore are simple “reminders” fit pretty well in the Reminders app. 2 So instead of looking at Reminders as a competitor to OmniFocus, instead I look at it as a completely different app that complements OmniFocus.

Ben’s workflow is almost identical to how I am using these two apps. I’ve been using the Reminders app via Siri primarily for any time-sensitive or location-sensitive reminders. What I don’t use the Reminders app for is task management; and I am almost certain that I wouldn’t be using the Reminders app at all if it weren’t for Siri.

When non-4S owners ask me about Siri and if it’s really that cool, my answer is always: Yes. What makes Siri so useful (and not just a gimmick) isn’t so much its scope. Rather it’s how Siri makes the few tasks it can do incredibly simple to do. There is no easier way to remind myself to swing by the bank when I leave the house than to use Siri.

Yikes! The only thing here I’d ever get caught owning would be the coffee mug (obviously). (Via The Loop.)

Speaking of defining the things you’re not going to do, Michael Hyatt wrote about the importance of having a not-to-do list. It’s the same premise as David Sparks’ aforelinked No Journal.

When I was the director of marketing for the International House of Prayer, I kept a mental No Journal / Not-To-Do List. And, over time, my assistant and a few of my direct reports whom I worked with the closest learned what my own priorities for the things I would not spend my time on were, as well as the things our office simply could not afford to take on.

However, since I began working for myself over six months ago, I’ve found that keeping a No Journal / Not-To-Do List populated is significantly more difficult. The reason, I think, is that now all of my incoming tasks and priorities are self-initiated. They are my own ideas and goals and dreams. Assessing and prioritizing those is much more difficult because I’m already biased to do all of them thanks to the very nature of their origin.

Who says you can’t define the things you’re not going to spend your time on?

Your nerd trivia for the day.

Naomi Zeichner interviewing Kevin Systrom, one of the founders of Instagram:

How did you develop the idea of the Instagram filter? It started off as a mobile check-in app that let you post pictures and videos. People ended up liking the photo posting more than the checking in, so we built in camera functionalities and made the focus photos, not check-ins.

One question Zeichner didn’t ask: how does Instagram plan to start making money?

It has read and write speeds that are, as expected, crazy fast for an external drive. But it’s also a good bit more expensive — especially considering you have to buy the $50 Thunderbolt cable on the side.

My pal, Josh Farmer, pitches a bold idea: what if Typekit were to buy Comic Sans for the sole purpose of taking it off the market?

Typekit has allowed typographical beauty on the web in a way unimagined before. They accomplish this by giving. They give their service, their code, an exhaustive set of tools, helpful descriptions, a repository of well designed sites, and tips to move you into font mojo territory.

But what if giving is only half of what Typekit could do to remake the web? What if they did something never attempted in the font world?

Ben and I talk about Cinema Displays, Apple TV, and my AT&T data usage since the iPhone 4S.

“Boredom isn’t a bad thing. But strangling it with Angry Birds probably is.”

PDFpen is a great application for editing your PDFs. You can add signatures to PDFs and email them back, instead of resorting to printing and faxing. You can even make corrections and edit images. There’s also OCR for scanned documents — essential for those going paperless.  

Download a fully-functional demo of PDFpen. At $59.95, it’s the affordable alternative to Acrobat.

About half-a-dozen Lumia walkthrough videos by Nokia showing browsing and searching the Web, driving and maps, music, contacts, etc. Other than the Windows Phone logo that appears at the end of each video, there’s no mention of the Lumia running Windows Phone. The only mention of Microsoft software at all is in the “Office and Mail” video, where they say: “This phone is the only phone with Microsoft Office mobile built in.”

If you didn’t know better, you’d think the Lumia was the only phone that had this operating system.

I like the concept and the story, but how come there’s no action shots of the phone? Also: not a single mention of Windows Phone 7.5?

This video, however, has much more action shots of the phone in use, and plays well off the commercial. Again though, other than the logos you see on the Lumia’s tiles, and some fine print at the end, there is nary a mention of Windows Phone.

Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint, really loves having the iPhone on Sprint. Elizabeth Woyke, writes for Forbes:

The iPhone is so data-efficient, [Hesse] said, it will help Sprint keep its mobile data plans unlimited.

Good news for Sprint customers. AT&T users are still healing from the gouge wound back when AT&T was all, we can’t handle all the iPhone data, and so they held back features (tethering) and started charging more for others (data plans).

Good to know. And it sure beats shaking to undo.

David Pogue:

Windows Phone 7.5 is gorgeous, classy, satisfying, fast and coherent. The design is intelligent, clean and uncluttered. Never in a million years would you guess that it came from the same company that cooked up the bloated spaghetti that is Windows and Office.

Thoughts on Siri and Devices the Size of an iPod nano

Siri has a metric ton of potential. In just a week and a half it has made a significant impact on the way I interact with my iPhone.

Something that has been in the back of my mind since I first began using Siri is this thought about all the other types of products and devices that Siri could affect. But the device that has most been on my mind is the iPod nano.

Currently the iPod nano plays audio, helps with fitness tracking, and can tell time. When people got the idea of wearing the nano as a watch, then the next leap in functionality seemed obvious: use the nano as a remote to control the Apple TV. And now, with Siri, I think we’re seeing another glimpse into what could be down the road.

Aside about Bluetooth 4.0 and BLE

Apple is using Bluetooth 4.0 technology in the iPhone 4S. A subset of Bluetooth 4.0 is Bluetooth low energy (BLE). What’s great about the BLE is that the chips need very little power. What’s bad about BLE (at least in this context) is that it does not have an audio profile.

The iPod nano would, naturally, want to use the low energy Bluetooth chips. But as they currently stand, BLE would not allow an iPod nano to send or receive audio (i.e. phone calls or Siri commands).

This article’s entire premise of an iPod nano that uses a power-friendly Bluetooth chip to send Siri voice commands isn’t yet possible. It assumes there are some technical hurdles which currently have not been overcome, at least that I know of.

If an iPod nano were to be built using today’s market technology then it would either: (a) not work with Siri and the phone; or, (b) it would need to use a more power-hungry technology of Bluetooth that would allow for audio profiles, but that would require much more frequent charging.

And so, for now, let’s just speculate about what could be.

An iPod nano With Siri

Imagine an iPod nano that could connect to your iPhone. Give that nano a microphone and a speaker, and you’ve got a bluetooth wrist watch that can be used for phone calls, voice commands, and much more.

And so, with an iPod nano that’s connected to our iPhones — and thus has Siri — you could do quite a bit:

  • Send text messages and emails
  • Check the weather and stocks
  • Create, move, view, and edit appointments
  • Dictate notes
  • Create reminders and to-do items
  • Make phone calls

None of those things would be easily done on the nano’s 1.5-inch screen — it is far too small for any sort of substantial text input. About the most you could do is probably tap in the phone number you’d want to dial. Siri, however, could easily enable a nano-sized device to for all those tasks.

I think the idea of a product like this — a touchscreen watch that plays music and also has phone-like capabilities and an ability to connect to and control our other devices — is a no-brainer.

In fact, another company has already announced something along these lines. Recently the i’m Watch website went live. You can now pre-order one of these nano-sized, touch-screen, Android-based, “smart watches”.

The website seems pretty vague when it comes to specifics about what the i’m Watch can do. Also, I have been unable to find any live demoes of the device except for a 2-second clip where the company’s president, Manuel Zanella, is shown swiping left-to-right through a couple photos and then pulling down the notification panel. It’s right around the 03:28 mark of the promo video.

But, from what I can gather, the i’m Watch is meant for two things:

  1. By connecting via Bluetooth, it becomes an extension of your smartphone. Thus you can use the i’m Watch as a way to make and answer phone calls, and read text messages and emails.

    The website doesn’t say anything about sending texts or emails, and so, I assume that you cannot. I mean, how in the world could you be expected to type a message on a 1.54-inch screen, without simply scrolling through the alphabet where all the letters and numbers are in a horizontal row? It’d be worse than rotary dialing.

    Moreover, the i’m Watch supposedly has only 30 hours of standby time when Bluetooth is on (48 hours with it off). That is not very long at all. It means if you use your watch with your phone, you’ll have to charge it every single night. This is exactly why low energy Bluetooth technology would be so helpful.

  2. The i’m Watch will also be able to run some apps. It will play music, show photos, check the weather, connect to Facebook and Twitter, and other things.

But if you’re going to have a “shortcut” device like this — something that lives on your wrist and makes it easier to quickly answer your phone or view a text message — it needs to truly work like it should. It has to be more than a novelty item. And, I think it should be able to connect to more than just your phone.

Interface design, input, and ease of use are important enough for a device with a 3.5-inch screen. These things become even more important, and more difficult to maintain, as the screen-size shrinks to that of a wrist watch. Put another way: as the size of a smart device shrinks, its interface and input challenges grow.

Siri (or, if you want to be generic about it, voice input) is the way to overcome those input and interface challenges. Siri can (and likely, will) enable the creation of vast usability and functionality on an extremely small device such as the iPod nano.

If the iPod nano does eventually become capable of being an all-connected remote window device that works with our iPhones, Apple TVs, and computers, well, that would be pretty slick.

The new Bluetooth chip that’s in the 4S is very light on power consumption:

The phone, which went on sale Oct. 14, is the first to have a new type of Bluetooth chip that can connect using very little power. The chip uses so little power that it can go into devices that are powered only by a standard “button cell” battery common in watches. The battery can last for years.

Could be a great way to give the iPod nano Bluetooth connectivity without sacrificing battery life or form factor. And I can sure think of a few good reasons to put Bluetooth in the nano.

Update: I discovered that the low energy subset of Bluetooth 4.0 (BLE) does not have an audio profile. Sigh.

(Via Ben Brooks.)

If I were in the market for a different phone, this very well would be the one I’d pick up. It’s nice to see Nokia making fun and drool-worthy devices again.

Backblaze got a pretty significant performance update today. I currently do my off-site backups to Amazon via Arq, but only for about 20GB worth of data. If you want to back up everything to an off-site location, and don’t want to pay exorbitant monthly fees to S3, I highly recommend Backblaze.

On a related note, I wrote about off-site backups and Backblaze, Crashplan, and Arq a while back.

If you’ve felt a bit out of step and missing QS on your Mac ever since Snow Leopard killed it in 2009, now is a good time to go back. Me? I’m too hooked on LaunchBar to switch back.

Steven Levy profiled Nest Labs and their new thermostat on Wired. This article answered the question I’ve been asking today: other than its gorgeous design and remote connectivity, how is the Nest Learning Thermostat that much better than my current Honeywell programmable thermostat?

(Via DF.)

Each week one of the members of the Read & Trust network writes an article for the newsletter. And tomorrow is my turn. I had a lot of fun writing this week’s piece; it’s on the history of my gadgets and it includes some hand-drawn sketches. (Fair warning: I am a lousy, lousy sketch artist. But that didn’t deter me. No. No it didn’t.)

The newsletter is $5/month. I am a subscriber (though, to be honest, I get a complimentary subscription) and each week it is always an enjoyable read.

1Password for iOS is on sale. And if you snag a copy vis this link I get a nickel from iTunes in about two months from now.

My thanks to the fine folks at Smile Software (makers of TextExpander), for sponsoring the RSS feed this week to promote PDFpen.

PDFpen is a professional-grade PDF editing tool that is easy and affordable for even the non-professional. With it you can edit text, insert images, annotate documents, and much, much more.

You can highlight text, strike it through, post your own comments, and more. This type of functionality is extremely helpful for marking up a PDF proof of a design mockup.

PDFpen lets you edit text that is embedded within the PDF file itself. Allowing you to make corrections or edits when only small parts of a PDF file need changing.

And, taking text editing to an even higher level, PDFpen has a search and replace feature. Just like you would use in a word processing program, but you can search for and replace words within the PDF. Additionally, you can search and redact. Very clever if there is a certain name, number, location, or whatever littered throughout a document in which you want all instances of it to be blocked out.

Moreover, PDFpen has fantastic OCR capabilities. If you’re wanting to create a paperless office, then PDFpen is one of the best of the bunch. When you open a photo or scanned image that has text, then a dropdown menu appears, asking if you want to OCR the whole document or just a certain page. (PDFpen recognizes 12 different languages for its OCR.)

Marco Arment, when on the hunt for a good OCR app, tried several and concluded that PDFpen was the best of the lot. Stating that with PDFpen, the image quality was maintained perfectly (many OCR apps will degrade the image quality of the documents they scan), it had very few OCR errors, and that it can even be automated with AppleScript.

In short, PDFpen is a smart and well-designed app. It’s built by the folks at Smile who have a fantastic reputation — they’re some of the good guys.

You can download a free trial of PDFpen from the Smile website, or buy it for $59.95. It’s also available on the Mac App Store.

60 Minutes sat down with Walter Isaacson to talk about Steve Jobs, based on the Steve Jobs biography, written by Isaacson, that just came out today.

If you want to watch the 45-minute show straight through, here’s the video link.

Regarding the Condition of a 17-Month Old, Well-Used, iPhone 4

Yesterday on Twitter, Thomas Wong asked me about the state of the glass on my iPhone 4. After using the phone for so long, how did it hold up?

I thought this was a great question and worth mentioning briefly.

After using my iPhone 4 every single day for nearly a year and a half, the glass on the front and the back was still in near-mint condition. The only physical blemishes to the glass were some minor nicks that were only noticeable when all fingerprints had been wiped off and you were holding the phone at just the proper angle.

For some, accidents do happen, and I was lucky enough to have never accidentally dropped my iPhone off the roof of a tall building and onto a concrete sidewalk. In fact, I have never catastrophically dropped any of my iPhones.

Moreover, I refuse to put any sort of case or even a clear screen protector on my iPhone.

I’ve owned a cell phone of some sort for 13 years. My iPhone 4 probably got used more than any cell phone I’ve owned previously. And, what’s remarkable, is that after the 18 months of daily usage, none of my phones were in as good of a condition as the iPhone 4 was:

  • The exterior glass was still in near-mint condition.
  • The battery still held a good, full charge and would last me two days of normal usage.
  • In fact, even the usefulness of the iPhone 4 actually increased thanks to software updates and the App Store.

Would it be stretching it to say that the iPhone 4 (and now, 4S) is like fine wine?