My Pre-Graduation Present: a New MacBook Air

Today at class I’m using my new MacBook Air:

Whatever the task, fourth-generation Intel Core processors with Intel HD Graphics 5000 are up to it. From editing photos to browsing the web, everything happens ultrafast — while using less energy. And all that power isMacbook encased in an incredibly thin 0.68-inch unibody design that weighs only 2.38 pounds

via Apple – MacBook Air.

It’s exciting to have a new computer…the first laptop I’ve bought for personal use only in over 15 years.

I like it already, and am looking forward to using it going forward.  I named it Desmondo.

 

Liberty and Privilege with a Side of Economics

Some point to government regulation as protecting the masses from conniving corporations who want nothing more than to defraud helpless consumers.  Consider a contrary opinion from the folks at the Cato Institute:

In fact, Pew’s comparable smart-phone ownership figure for whites is 53%, but the difference is not statistically significant. With regard to income, Pew finds a 9 point difference in smartphone ownership between those making < $30,000 and those making between $30,000 and $49,999. Most of that difference seems to be accounted for by age, however. Among 18-24 year olds, 77% of those making < $30,000 own a smartphone vs. 81% for those making $30,000 to $74,999.So pretty much everyone who wants one now has a cell phone which is rather more functional than the old hand cranked variety, and the majority of young people, at all income levels, even have smartphones. That’s a relatively high level of equity, coupled with excellence. Brought to you, again, by a competitive industry. Could the federal government’s Lifeline a.k.a., “ObamaPhone” phone subsidy programs be helping out? Certainly, to some extent. Though it’s far from true that every low-income American’s cell phone is paid for by Uncle Sam.

via Equity vs. Excellence. Or…A Crank Phone in Every Home! | Cato @ Liberty.

Remember it’s not in the best interest of a corporation to rip people off.  Certainly it’s going to happen, and we don’t need regulation to punish people for fraud.  It’s illegal whether the industry is regulated or not.  But for a corporation to thrive in the long term they have to produce something the masses want.  Imagine if the iPhone suddenly rebooted (whether you’re in the middle of a call or not) every 47 1/2 hours without warning.  Could users adjust?  Certainly.  Would they be standing in line when the next iPhone comes out, though?  Would they continue, once the tech websites all gave it horrible reviews, to shell out $500 (or $300 with a 2 year contract) for it?  Nope.  Surely a few people might get duped, but Apple stock would crash faster than Superman trying to turn back time to save Lois Lane and the product would get pulled before they lost what was left of their reputation.  No regulation is necessary:  the market will fix it.

I’m old enough to remember when telecommunications was more heavily regulated.  Small towns still had party lines.  Most phones were wired to the wall and came in one color and were owned by Ma Bell.  Deregulation of telecom has brought us to the point where half of all young people don’t have a land line, not because it’s too expensive, but because cell phones (mobile technology) are cheap enough for anyone to afford.  It’s not that long ago that only rich folks had mobile phones.

Read the article and consider what regulation is actually in the best interest of the masses.

iOS7…a Brief Review

I’m at a conference this week (speaking tomorrow, in fact) and so I thought I’d write a puff piece on something new.  I don’t have the iPhone 5S yet…I am not willing to wait in line to have something first.  Here’s a decent review of it, though, that a friend of mine linked to.

But I do have iOS 7 on my iPhone 5 and my iPad already.  I was a little nervous about whether I’d like it because of some of the developer (advanced copies) comments I’d seen and the initial impression when I first started using it.  And my initial impression was a little bit awkward because it was new and a bigger shift than any of the previous iOS upgrades.

But I love it.  A lot.

Here’s just a few of the many great upgrades in the OS:

  • Perhaps in my top 3 annoyances with the iPhone was a clunky thing in iMessage that irked me every single time I composed a new message to somebody that wasn’t on my top few most recent messages list.  I’d start typing the name “j, a, m, e,…” and the name I’d be looking for, the person who I’d messaged pretty recently but not in the last 2 days, would be way down the list behind people that I wasn’t even sure were in my contacts sometimes because I could barely remember who they were.  It felt stupid.  I love iMessage but that little thing annoyed me.  It’s gone.  People you messaged recently are at the top of the search results, and if you SMS’d them the name is green and if it was iMessage the name is blue.  FANTASTIC FIX.
  • The video app, to watch something not on the phone/iPad that you’d purchased before required going to the iTunes store, finding the purchased item, downloading it, and then watching it.  In iOS 7, when I open the video app, all of my purchased movies come up on the screen available to stream without ever looking at the store.  HUGE UPGRADE in usability for me.  Plus a space saver on the device.  I rarely buy DVDs of late, and love having my movies in the iCloud for easy storage, and so this was a great improvement for me.
  • The pop up from bottom drag.  There may be a name for it, or a better way to describe, but if you grab the bottom of the home screen and drag up, you get a new pop-up screen.  It includes button access to airplane mode, wi-fi on/of, bluetooth on/off, do not disturb on/off, sound on/off, volume, music controls, A BUILT IN FLASHLIGHT app, access to the clock app, access to the calculator app, and a button for camera.  On the old OS the easy way to get to the camera was to TURN THE PHONE OFF first and use the easy access through the lock screen.  No more for that workaround.  And I use the flashlight and calculator so often that those buttons are a big bonus for me.  This part is a borrowed idea from Android OS, of course, but I think the look is clean and very Apple-like in its adoption, and gives us something new to iOS that is a great improvement.
  • The “double tap” application switcher is much cooler now.  You see screen shots of the apps you’re scrolling through, and closing apps doesn’t require the press and hold anymore, just flip the app up towards the top of the screen and it’s gone.  Much more user-friendly now, and much nicer looking in the process.  Bravo, Apple.

I know the culture at Apple is very much “start early” so I have no idea if iOS7 was conceptualized pre-Jobs’ death or since Jobs’ death.  If it is all post-Jobs, then it signals that Apple has not in any way lost its creative edge or its game changing idea culture, and even though I am not at all an Android hater (we have mostly Android devices in my family, I’m the lone iOS user in the house) I think Apple and Samsung competing for users brings out the best in both platforms and the consumers are big winners in that process.

iOS7 is beautiful and easy to use, and is a great upgrade for any device that will run it.  Go download it now.  We watched several videos and talked about several events related to Steve Jobs in the Developing Strategy class last weekend, and it was great to have all of that discussion about that business leader surrounded by my beginning to enjoy the new OS for my Apple devices.  It was a nice providential coinciding of events.

I have a bunch of friends who are much bigger Apple fans than I am and I hope they’ll have even more to add about the great joys of iOS7 here in the comments!

Keeping Organized

Not as organized as I’d like, of course, but organized. Something has to keep track of ideas, the someday list, and what I’m working on so I don’t lose ideas and thoughts, right?

Enter Trello

I have several Trello boards that I use to organize various facets of my life. It’s not perfect, and I’m not completely utilizing it, but it’s helped a ton.

Think of Trello like a file of stacks of index cards. You make a board, which has several tabs of cards, and you can move cards from one tab to another or rearrange them on the tab in whatever order you like. Color categories help to give some visual clues and you can set due dates and organize however works for your mind.

In my work board I keep tabs of “To Do” (not on the schedule yet), “Next Week” (things I want to get done next week), “Current Week”, one for future EMBA stuff, one for things that are on the calendar (schedule) but not done yet, and one for cards that are done.

Each card you can put comments on, upload files to, and keep one or more checklists on the card. I find all of those features helpful at various times, of course, and it keeps all my stuff in one place.

I have a board for work, one for family organization, one for date nights and one I’m not using much (so far) for home repair projects. I share out the work board to my assistant, and the ones for home with TC.

“Did you say date night?”

Why yes I did! This was our solution to the “we’re in the car now where should we go to eat?” problem where we just drove around and took a while to decide. We made a tab with a regular rotation of places we go, and then we just rotate the top card to the bottom after we eat there unless somebody had a particular craving. It was very helpful.

Oh, and in case you didn’t just assume this, there’s apps. For Android, iPhone and iPad. So even though it’s web based I can get to my boards from all the devices and keep up.

Won’t work for everyone, but if there’s anything you do that you have to share project work with someone else, Trello is a great, free tool that I’ve had some great help from.

What do you do to help keep organized?

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Up by Jawbone: My Birthday Present

UP™ is a system that takes a holistic approach to a healthy lifestyle. The wristband tracks your movement and sleep in the background. The app displays your data, lets you add things like meals and mood, and delivers insights that keep you moving forward.

via UP by Jawbone | Know yourself. Live better..

For my birthday, my wife got me a gadget I’d been looking at.  I discovered it through the channel listing on IFTTT (because I’m steadily looking for more cool things IFTTT can automate in my life).  It’s a wrist band that acts as a pedometer and lifestyle tracker.  It interacts with several other apps on my iPhone, including MyFitnessPal, which I was already using.

It’s really cool in the way it tracks sleep cycles, and can utilize a “smart alarm” to wake you up close to alarm time…when you’re in the right part of your cycle.  I’m enjoying playing with the gadget, and hopefully it’ll be a tool to help me on the path to lower weight and better health.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

IMG_3581

If? If this? IFTTT?

So recently a friend turned me on to an on line service called IFTTT.  From their website:

IFTTT is a service that lets you create powerful connections with one simple statement:

And then, just a little bit later an iPhone app came out for it.  From Lifehacker:

iPhone: If This Then That is one of our favorite automation services, and now they’ve released an iPhone app so you can manage and create recipes on the go. What’s better is that you get a set of iOS specific recipes as well.

So here’s how it works:  You wished you could automate a process with a web service or two.  Let’s say you, like me, use Instapaper to keep up with your on line reading by saving articles to read later on your moblie device.  But let’s say there’s one blog that you always read on Instapaper.  You can use IFTTT to have any new posts on that blog (via RSS feed) automatically add to your Instapaper and you don’t need to open the page and click “read later.”  Convenient, right?  So here’s a few of my custom IFTTT “recipes”:

  • If someone tags me in a Facebook photo, it automatically gets added to a folder in my Dropbox
  • Every Wednesday, IFTTT sends me a text/SMS to remind me that the garbage needs to be taken out
  • When a new post hits this blog (like this one) IFTTT automatically saves it in both Instapaper and in Evernote (two separate recipes)
  • Every morning IFTTT sends me a text with today’s weather forecast, and texts me in the evening if it’s supposed to rain tomorrow
  • If I mark “watch later” on a YouTube video, it gets saved to Instapaper
  • (a personal favorite) on April 1st, at 7am I’ll get a text that says “Don’t believe anything you see on the internet today.  It’s April Fool’s Day.”

So check out the IFTTT “channels” and see what online apps or iOS apps you use that you could benefit from using IFTTT to streamline your work.  Try it out!

Mailbox: the iApp

A few months ago, after a month long waiting list (it may be shorter now), I downloaded the Mailbox app for my iPhone 4S.  I was hooked instantly.

Fly through your email.

We redesigned the inbox to make email light, fast, and mobile-friendly. Quickly swipe messages to your archive or trash. Scan an entire conversation at once with chat-like organization. Snooze emails until later with the tap of a button.

It’s a whole new inbox.

Modern tech for an
ancient medium.

Designed 30 years ago, traditional email transmission is clunky and slow. To make delivery as fast as possible, Mailbox checks your email from the cloud, then delivers it to your phone securely. You can even get push notifications for new messages.

Here’s the pros:

  • Snooze, delete, or archive easily with the swipe of your thumb on the email.  This allows you to maintain #inboxzero at all times while preserving those emails you left in your inbox for a reason, but not for today.
  • When you acheive #inboxzero there’s a unique, daily picture that is displayed giving you an additional creative sense of satisfaction.
  • Easy to use and syncs seamlessly with Gmail.  Essentially creates a part time personal assistant for me with my personal email.
  • Currently the app is FREE.

Cons:

  • Only with Gmail.  I would love to be able to utilize the workflow I’ve acheived with my personal gmail address in my other email addresses.  I have some other ways I’m working towards #inboxzero but they’re much clunkier.  Really would love it to work with my Exchange emails accounts, but I’m going to guess that’s going to be a tough nut to crack, even if it becomes a paid, licensed software so security issues can be resolved.
  • Only with iOS.  I have been consdering going back to an Android device lately for a number of reasons (probably a future post), but right now you can only use it on iPhone and iPad.  Probably keeps me anchored to the iPhone for a while longer so I’ll be trying out the 5S instead when re-up comes this fall.  I’d love to have a web based app and/or Android option (especially for my Android anchored wife who would find the app really helpful).  I’m sure I have friends (and Apple) who think this isn’t at all a “con” but alas, I’m not as hooked on iOS as some of them are (probably more in that “other post in the future” I mentioned above).

It’s a great app.  If you’re using an iOS device and have a Gmail account, I’d recommend it highly.  If you’re using an iOS device and not using Gmail, it’s a good enough reason to move your personal email over, in my opinion, just for this app.

As always, comments are welcome, but only about the post and app…if you’re jonesing for the iOS vs. Android flame war, you’ll have to wait for [insert name of future post here] and then I’ll let the readers go at it with vigor.

Get the app HERE.