“A discourse on the process of designing for real people.”

This relatively new weblog started by Joshua Brewer and Joshua Porter at the beginning of this year has some absolutely fantastic content, and, of course, a beautiful design. (I very much love the top navigation bar.)

You may want to start at week 1, where you’ll also find this gem of a quote: “You cannot not communicate. Every behaviour is a kind of communication. Because behaviour does not have a counterpart (there is no anti-behaviour), it is not possible not to communicate.” — Paul Watzlawick’s First Axiom of Communication

52 Weeks of UX

The Typewriter and the Shotgun

This past Christmas two family heirlooms were passed on to me. One is an antique typewriter and is in excellent condition. The other — a very old busted-up shotgun — is in horrible condition; it has duct tape all around the stock and is desperately trying to hold itself together.

The typewriter is a Royal Arrow, portable.

Royal Arrow portable typewriter, circa 1941

My great grandpa and grandma (“Benny” and Ethel) bought this typewriter for my grandfather in 1947. He used it for at least 20 years. He took it to Scout Camp with him that first summer, and his father gave him strict instructions not to let anyone else use it. That was hard, because my Grandpa loves to share; but he obeyed his father’s wishes. Later, when he was a traveling missionary he took it with him, and while waiting for the bus or train he would set his trumpet case on end to serve as a desk for the typewriter as he would write his correspondences.

My mother taught herself to type on it at about age nine, and used it extensively throughout high school and college.

After doing a bit of research I discovered that this Royal Arrow portable was most likely made in 1941. Ernest Hemingway was a fan of Royal typewriters, and he even used one of these exact same models. The typewriter is worth around $300.

The 12 gauge shotgun is from the other side of the family. It belonged to my dad’s dad and was his first gun. He mostly used it to shoot ducks and geese and what not, until he got a rifle for elk hunting. (My grandfather would travel to Canada for elk hunting every winter even into his 80s.)

A J. Stevens Arms & Tool Co. Shotgun, Circa 1900

Based on the name stamped into the barrel — “J. Stevens Arms & Tool Co.” — the shotgun was manufactured sometime between 1886 and 1916. A J. Stevens Co. has changed their name several times, which means you have a pretty good guess at how old your gun is based on what’s stamped into the side. This thing is probably worth $10… As if I would ever, ever sell it.

The Typewriter and the Shotgun

First Thoughts on Dropbox After 24 Hours of Use By a Guy Who Doesn’t Need to Share Files Between Multiple Computers

Dropbox: it’s not just for file sharing anymore. (Based on all the feedback I received through Twitter and email, this is probably not news to any of you. But maybe it is.)

Like I said yesterday regarding dropbox, I have always assumed it was mostly for use to share files between multiple computers via the Cloud. Though it is great for that, Dropbox also makes for a very, very clever real-time syncing solution.

And so two nights ago I moved two very important folders to Dropbox:

  • Currently Working On: This is the folder which holds all my current projects. Throughout my day, this is where the vast majority of new documents get put and where the most documents that I’m updating and building get saved.

If I were to have a hard drive failure on my way home from work 95% of the non-recoverable files would exist in this folder since it is where I keep most of my current work in.

  • The Wardrobe: This folder is my desktop replacement. It’s where I toss any and all files that are temporary, or I don’t know what to do with them yet.

Combined, these two folders take up less than 1GB of storage. And keeping them in my Dropbox folder means they are now constantly backed up. Not to mention I now have free version control — so in case I accidentally overwrite that Super Important Report I’ve been working on all week, I can save the day by pulling the 2nd-most-recent version right off the Cloud and get back to work.

First Thoughts on Dropbox After 24 Hours of Use By a Guy Who Doesn’t Need to Share Files Between Multiple Computers

Regarding Dropbox, Backups, SSDs, Remote Storage, and my MacBook Pro’s Clicking HDD

Yesterday on Twitter I asked a question:

“Dropbox fans: if I have 20GB worth of files on my Dropbox, do those files also take up 20GB on my laptop’s HDD, too?”

The answer is yes. Files in your Dropbox account which are synced to the files on your computer exist in both places.

Until today my perception was that people use Dropbox to get access to their files from multiple computers. And since all the computer I have is just my trusty laptop, why would I have use for a syncing service? My thought was to use Dropbox as some sort of remote, external storage bucket for files I want to have access to but which I don’t want to take up space on my laptop’s hard drive.

But Dropbox doesn’t roll that way.

However, as I found out tonight, there is another (and seemingly just as popular) use for Dropbox. And that is as a real-time backup. Not a bad idea. Get 2GB of your most important text files, application support folders, or whatever, all synced and backed up (with version control!) for free. More than 2GB starts costing money, unless you have a referral link and can convince your internet friends and strangers to set up an account.

I never considered using Dropbox as a backup solution because I figured I already have a good backup routine: (a) nightly clones to an external drive, via SuperDuper; (b) regular Time Machine backups to the Time Capsule; (c) weekly clones to an off-site drive at my work office. But a real-time, off-site backup of my most frequently changing files is a grande idea.

And so yes, I am now using Dropbox. But not for what I originally had planned.

What did originally prompt my question is that I’ve been considering swapping out my laptop’s HDD for a Solid State Drive. Every now and then I can hear my hard drive clicking, and I have no doubt it’s getting ready to croak.

After reading Marco’s thoughts, and then watching this show and tell by OWC, I’m thinking when the time comes to replace my hard drive it would be fantastic to go SSD. If I pinch my pennies I could pick up one of the new 128GB RealSSDs from Crucial.

I would prefer to get the OWC Mercury Extreme, but as Gruber pointed out earlier today, over 25% of the Mercury Extreme SSD drives are allocated to “enterprise-class real-time data redundancy & error correction”. Even though the OWC drive is $100 cheaper than the Crucial drive, I’m fairly sure I’d rather have access to that 28GB.

However, as Marco stated in his aforelinked article, Intel’s new 25nm are likely to be one half the cost of these current leading SSD drives from Cruicial and Other World Computing.

A 128GB hard drive would cut my laptop’s storage in half. This is something I could definitely survive with — but only if I had relatively easy access to the other 100GB worth of files regardless of my location.

Nine days out of ten I could easily get by with a 100GB drive and still have storage to spare. I spend most of my day communicating through emails, working with text-ish files, and listening to music. For all this, I need access to less than 60GB of what’s on my hard 250GB drive (which is only 200GB full right now).

  • The folder with all my work-related files is just barely over 2GB;
  • My bloated iTunes music collection of 2,645 songs is 25GB;
  • My Applications folder with 125 apps is 15GB;
  • And my ~/Home/Library folder is 13GB.

But on day ten of ten, when I have an unanticipated need for That One File, it really needs to be accessible — regardless of where I am.

There are a few other options for remote storage to help ensure I can get to That One File when the need arises every other week or so.

  1. ExpanDrive, which costs $40 for a license and lets you mount external servers (such as your own hosting server, or an Amazon S3 bucket) to your Mac as if they were USB drives. (Also, Transmit works with Amazon S3.)

  2. Back to my Mac, which is part of the $100-per-year MobileMe account. And if you also buy a Time Capsule you can access the files stored on that Time Capsule from anywhere you’ve got internet.

  3. A small, light, portable USB drive like the WD Passport.

None of these three remote storage solutions appeal to me. Maybe I should just pray my HDD lasts a little longer, and start saving for a larger SSD drive hoping prices drop in the meantime. That, or massively slim down my music and photo collections.

Regarding Dropbox, Backups, SSDs, Remote Storage, and my MacBook Pro’s Clicking HDD

Chris Bowler:

But at times, I wonder if [minimal computing] 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.

Chris continues on to make the point that minimalism in computing is not how your computer looks. And he is dead on. Minimalism and simplicity do not necessarily equal clean and tidy; they mean having what you need without excess. If that happens translate into less-than-the-guy-next-to-you, well, then cool. But ultimately it should translate to focus, a release of needless stress, and even into better relationships with the things and people around you.

“Computing Simplicity?”