Welp, it convinced me to finally drop in a dynamic timestamp in all my sites’ footers.

David Sparks:

Family Sharing is not ready for the Sparks family. I’ve spent way too much time trying to make this all work and this weekend I’m officially throwing in the towel on Family Sharing until it gets better.

There are just 3 iOS devices in the Blanc family: my iPhone, my wife’s iPhone, and my iPad. They’re signed in with the same Apple ID for the store, and with our own Apple ID for email and calendar. It works great… for now.

Over at The Sweet Setup, we laid out a few ideas for getting your setup up-to-date:

As Apple users, we generally take pride in our computing setup and technology. Technology is always moving forward, so you can’t go years without upgrading or maintaining your equipment. While resolutions generally deal with losing weight or finishing a project at home, our technology setups can also be part of our plan.

I think it’s wise to evaluate the tools we use. Sure, it can be easy to nerd-out a bit too much and be constantly over-evaluating our gear to the point where we never actually do any work. But that doesn’t mean we should never look things over. Are the services, software, and hardware tools we use day in and day out serving us well? Or have our workflow needs changed and would we be better served with a different set of tools? Or is there a newer / better / more-reliable way to do a job that would benefit us if we upgraded?

These are the sort of questions worth asking about once a year. Then, once we’ve solved them, put our heads down and get back to doing our best creative work every day.

Wednesday, December 31

Kyle Steed:

With all these great technological advances swarming around me and an endless amount of information at my disposal, even when I’m sitting still it feels like I’m moving at a million miles an hour without still knowing who I am.

What’s So Special About the AeroPress

In more ways than one, I grew up in a fussy coffee home. My parents didn’t want me drinking coffee until I was 16 because they were concerned the caffeine would stunt my growth. Who knows.

My home was also fussy about coffee because my dad only ever brewed with a french press. I grew up thinking that brewing and drinking coffee was a special thing. I still think that.

I’m now 33, and have more than made up for the cups of coffee I missed out on the first half of my life. In my kitchen we have a cupboard dedicated entirely to coffee contraptions: a Mokapot; a stovetop espresso maker; an Espro brand french press, a classic Bodum french press, and a single-serving french press; a vacuum siphon coffee maker; two different styles of V60; the Clever Dripper; a Kalita Wave; an Able Kone system; and, of course, the AeroPress.

They’re all great — each one is unique in its own way and brew method. The vacuum siphon pot is a lot of fun to use on special occasions; the Espro makes a large pot of coffee for guests; Able’s Kone Brewing System looks cool; etc.

But the AeroPress is by far and away my favorite. And I know I’m not alone here.

The AeroPress has become this sort of cult classic, popular geeky way to brew coffee. Everyone with a Twitter account recommends it. There’s even an AeroPress world championship competition. And yet, while you can go to your local hipster coffee shop and buy a french press or a pourover, you’d be hard pressed to find a shop that sells (much less even uses) the AeroPress.

So for something that isn’t found in mainstream coffee shops (or even most “hipster” coffee shops), why all the hype? What makes the AeroPress so cool?

I’ve brewed over 1,000 cups of coffee with my AeroPress. Here’s what I think is the good (and the bad) of the the AeroPress.

  • It’s cheap to buy. If you’re getting in to fussy coffee (or if you lose or demolish your AeroPress), a brand new one is just $25.

  • It’s cheap to use. For one, filters are super cheap — a year’s supply of paper filters cost just $4. And secondly, most AeroPress brew methods call for just 16-18g of coffee to brew a cup. There is very little waste.

  • Clean-up is easy. The AeroPress basically cleans itself as you use it. When you’re done brewing a cup, you twist off the cap and pop the puck into the trash. Then rinse and let dry. (Though I will say that I don’t think clean AeroPress cleanup up is quite as easy as with the V60. With the V60 you just toss the filter with grounds into the trash and then rinse the thing out.)

  • The AeroPress is easy to use when you’re away from your nerdy home coffee tools. The markings on the side of the AeroPress are helpful for measuring out coffee and water. Obviously you won’t need the markings if you’re using a scale to measure. But I take my AeroPress camping and on vacation, so I’ll pre-grind some coffee to take with me, and I know just how much water to add to make a great cup of coffee without having to guess or eyeball it.

These are things you probably already know about. What really makes the AeroPress such a great coffee maker is just how versatile it is. There are a lot of ways you can use it.

For my cupboardfull of aforementioned coffee brewing contraptions, each one has only one best way to brew coffee. The AeroPress has at least three different ways to brew coffee: espresso-like, pourover-esque, and french press-ish. Each way is completely legitimate and delicious.

Now, the AeroPress does have some cons of its own. As I mentioned above, it’s not quite as easy to clean as the V60. Also, the AeroPress can’t brew a big pot of coffee — for that, I use my Espro Press (the Chemex is also a fine choice).

In short, the AeroPress hype is real. If you like variety then the AeroPress lets you mix it up. If you mostly prefer this or that type of coffee, you can find a great way to brew it with the AeroPress. Regardless of the coffee beans or the style of coffee you prefer, there’s a good way to brew it with the AeroPress.

Tuesday, December 30

Over on The Sweet Setup, we just updated our review of Pinboard apps for iOS. After iOS 8 came out many Pinboard apps took advantage of the new extensions and share sheets. And with the 3.0 update to Pinner, it’s become our new favorite.

The good news is, it was such a close call between Pinner and Pushpin that if you’re still using the latter, I honestly don’t think it’s worth switching. Or, if your a nerd like me and you’ve got both installed, you may prefer to use the extension from Pinner and the app of Pushpin (or vice versa).

Monday, December 29

curbi gives parents peace of mind; providing the best solution so the entire family can enjoy the online world as much as the real world.

* * *

A huge thanks to curbi for sponsoring the site this week. curbi is pretty incredible, especially if you’ve got a family of devices you’d like to help safeguard.

And it’s more than just for kids. You can set it up on your own device as well, and use it as an internet content blocker that actually works — so you don’t accidentally get slimed with stuff you don’t want to see and so you’re not constantly entering in a PIN to visit regular sites that iOS doesn’t need to block.

If you run a small business — or are working to build your side-work into a full-time gig — this is an excellent map for how to evaluate this past year’s body of work and how to use those evaluations to better plan for the upcoming year.

This is milestone episode of Shawn Today / The Weekly Briefly. For one, this is my last podcast episode for the year. But, more than that, it’s episode 600 of Shawn Today. Wow.

On a personal note, can I just give a huge thanks to all of you who listen to this show each week? And especially to those of you who are subscribing members to the site and who’ve been a part of the 600 Shawn Today episodes over the past 4 years. You guys are awesome.

That said, today’s episode is a good one. It’s about planning for the upcoming year. And it’s not nearly as lame or tedious as it sounds. This is something my wife and I have done for the past 3 years and we look forward to it every year.

Brought to you by:

The Activité sounds pretty clever. It’s an old school analog watch with new school tech inside:

It’s one part standard wristwatch, one part fitness tracker. It tracks your sleep, steps, and activity. It costs $450. It’s beautiful: made of carefully machined sapphire, calf leather, and stainless steel. It looks like a watch in the most traditional sense.

Tuesday, December 23

If you’ll have some free time over the holiday and feel like relaxing with an awesome game on your iPad or iPhone, well, have we got a list for you.

Over on Tools & Toys, Josh Ginter wrote an excellent review of the Compass Stand for iPad. The Compass Stand is such an awesome iPad accessory, useful for all sorts of situations — I have a friend who keeps theirs in the kitchen for when they cook and for when they use the iPad to Airplay music in their upstairs living room.

Monday, December 22

Yosemite is a conference for Apple designers, developers, and enthusiasts. It will be held next Spring, in the heart of Yosemite National Park.

You’ll hear from some of the most-loved members of this awesome community—people such as Andy Ihnatko, Jim Dalrymple, Neven Mrgan, Serenity Caldwell, and Michael Lopp. You’ll also have opportunities to get out and enjoy the beauty and grandeur of the park. There will be guided hikes, a photo walk with TED photographer James Duncan Davidson, and a Breakpoint Jam with James Dempsey.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime event that will be talked about for years to come. Join us at Yosemite!

My thanks to Yosemite for sponsoring the site this week. This conference is going to be amazing; definitely worth attending.

Thursday, December 18

This is my last podcast episode before Christmas, and I wanted to give a challenge for everyone heading in to holiday time off: Rest well.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to come back from holiday vacation with energy and motivation to do your best creative work? Wouldn’t it be awesome to come back feeling fueled up and energized instead of tired and worn out? It’s easier said than done, to be sure.

Brought to you by:

Wednesday, December 17

Noah Lorang:

When you compress things down to a shareable size, you miss a lot. What you don’t see is the unglamorous parts: the sharpening of the chisels, the unclogging of your glue bottle, or the parts that don’t fit together. You don’t see the days where you are too tired or unmotivated to go down and work on anything at all, or those cases where life interferes and a ‘easy one weekend project’ ends up stretching to six or twelve months. […]

Any creative endeavor is highly non-linear, but the sharing of it almost always skips a lot of the actual work that goes into it. That’s ok; a clear progression makes for a good story that’s easy to tell. But don’t judge your reality against someone else’s compressed work.

Doing our best creative work is never easy. But when we live in a culture where instant gratification is celebrated and stories of “overnight success” are on every headline, it can lead to disillusionment regarding our own work and creative process. We see these compressed, linear stories like Noah is talking about, and we see those as the ideal for our own work. But, as Noah points out, there’s so much to the story we don’t see.

Tuesday, December 16

I sat down (via Skype, of course) with the folks at Tom Bihn for an interview about the (team)work that goes in to building and publishing Tools & Toys and The Sweet Setup.

Just after GTD apps, Mac email apps have been far and away one of The Sweet Setup’s most-requested reviews. So we asked the inimitable Jason Snell to tackle it.

Our pick? Mailbox.

Airmail is also one of our top choices, especially for folks who prefer more keyboard shortcuts and power-user features. I’ve spent time with Airmail, and it’s pretty rad, but it never totally stuck for me — I kept going back to the default Mail.app. And I had written Mailbox off altogether because it has a much more simple approach. But after Jason suggested it as the best alternative for most folks, I started using it on my Mac and I’m actually very impressed. The UI is very basic and understated, and the lack of most bells and whistles actually is calming — there’s less to think about when it comes to mowing through your email, and so you actually end up doing something about it.

So, thanks to Jason, I’ve moved all my personal email over to Mailbox on Mac and iPhone.

Monday, December 15

What a fun (and so very Apple-like) story. Espen Haagensen didn’t even know Apple had bought a license for his photo until he saw it in use in the promotional material for the iPhones 6.

Scan and OCR directly from your iPhone or iPad camera using PDFpen Scan+ from Smile.

Swiftly scan batches of pages and do post-process image editing.

Crop quickly and precisely.

Easily copy post-OCR text content for use in other apps.

Automatically upload scans to Dropbox and iCloud.

Share your scanned PDF, complete with OCR text, by email or via your favorite cloud service.

PDFpen Scan+ 1.5 improves the camera layout and adds support for image stabilization and iCloud Drive.

PDFpen Scan+ is available on the App Store.

* * *

My thanks to Smile for once again sponsoring the site this week. Scanning and saving documents from my iPhone is something I do often. I use my iPhone to capture and save almost all of my business receipts. PDFpen Scan+ is one of the best scanning and OCR-ing apps out there. It’s super fast, easy to use, powerful, etc. Once you’ve “scanned” a document (by taking a photo of it) then what’s great about having the scanning and OCR all happen in-app is you can upload to Dropbox (or Evernote, or iCloud Drive, or Google Drive, or your own WebDAV or FTP server). It’s then easy to sort, search-for, and find those documents later if and when you need to.

Friday, December 12

On this week’s episode of The Weekly Briefly I’m joined by my former podcasting partner in crime, Ben Brooks. We talk about (a) what sort of camera you should buy if you want to upgrade from your iPhone, and (b) how to increase your chances of snapping a few awesome photos of friends and family during the holidays (and pretty much any other time).

Sponsored by:

Wednesday, December 10

Holiday Wallpapers for iPhone, iPad, Mac

I took some of my original photography and put together a set of holiday-themed wallpapers. There are a whole slew of files, with sizes to fit your iPhone, your iPad, and your Mac/PC.

The set includes 15 wallpapers for iPhone, 10 unique wallpapers for your Mac, and 12 wallpapers for iPad. They’re sized for iPhones 5 through 6 Plus, and work with the parallax effect in iOS 8.

I’m selling the pack for just $2 on Gumroad.

When you buy a camera, the included accessories are usually pretty lame.

The included SD card (if there even is one) is likely to be slow and unreliable. The shoulder strap is likely to be too small (unless you want to wear it around the back of your neck with the camera hanging down in front of your belly button). And the camera bag (or pouch) may not suit your taste. Etc.

In my few years as a professional photography enthusiast, I’ve found it to be a delightful and rewarding activity. And, at least for me, a lot of that has to do with the ancillary gear I use. Though accessories are not nearly as critical as the camera you buy nor the time you make to get out there and take photos, I do think having better gear can make a difference.

Justin Terveen captured some incredible photographs of yesterdays ultra-foggy Dallas. Check out his Flickr home page. Just gorgeous. (h/t to the Perrys.)

Tuesday, December 9


This photograph was taken this morning by American Airlines mechanic, Mike Alvstad, on a flight into DFW. (Via Derek Nelson)

Speaking of Tad Carpenter and interviews, Tad was featured on TGD a couple years ago:

The fact that I grew up in the hallways of Hallmark Cards really shaped my voice as a designer. A lot of us think of Hallmark Cards as a place where fluffy bunnies and sentimental flower cards are created—there’s some truth to that. But outside of Pixar maybe, there’s nowhere that has this much creativity in one location.

Made in the Middle is a fantastic new website built by Tad and Jessica Carpenter. It just launched yesterday, and it’s all about the creative community here in Kansas City. The site features interviews with local creative professionals — designers, photographers, chefs, architects — every Monday.

You don’t have to be a KC local to appreciate the site — the interviews are well designed, and conducted with some extremely talented and thoughtful folks.

When I quit my job as a marketing and creative director to begin writing for a living, the creative community here in Kansas City was smaller and far less vibrant than it is now. In the last 3-4 years, it has exploded. (No doubt it has something to do with the fact we’ve got some the best coffee shops in the world and along with some of the fastest internet.)

Fantastic, as usual, essay by Paul Graham:

And yet while there are clearly a lot of mean people out there, there are next to none among the most successful people I know. What’s going on here? Are meanness and success inversely correlated?

Steven Levy on the iPhone 6 Plus:

The smartphone as we know it (i.e. the iPhone and its followers) is only seven years old — and already it has seen dramatic changes in form. There’s nothing that indicates that we’ve frozen the form factor. Companies like Apple, Google, Samsung and others yet to be founded are going to try all sorts of sizes and shapes. The functions of our phones and tablets will probably be portioned out in wearables, in spectacles, and maybe even tie tacks.

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