Home Screens: Kourosh Dini

In addition to other super powers, Kourosh rocks a fedora.

In addition to other super powers, Kourosh rocks a fedora.

This week’s home screen features Kourosh Dini (website)(Twitter). Kourosh is the classic triple threat: psychiatrist, musician, geek. Most recently Kourosh released a second edition of his fantastic book, Creating Flow with OmniFocus. To me, a trip to Chicago is not complete until I’ve broken bread with my pal Kourosh. So Kourosh, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

OmniFocus remains my main application and has the easiest reach at the bottom right corner. 

The Phone and Drafts apps are also on the lower bar. Other communications apps are embedded in a folder on the lower bar. The default Mail app and Tweetbot are actually on the second page of that folder to minimize my propensity to check either reflexively.

Timers

Across the top are Settings and three timers.

Wind-up is useful for simple timing. I use it for meditation and making tea. I like the windup action.

Due is good for setting up a time to begin closing a session of work. I love how it can ding every minute. 

When an alert or reminder just rings once, it can be disruptive as I must either: 

  • Stop present work abruptly and move on to the next thing,
  • Turn off the ringer and hope I remember to move on soon, or
  • Leave the ringer on and irritate me while work.

Each of these options leaves something to be desired.

Due’s minute reminder is not so intrusive that I can’t work but is present just enough to tell me it’s time to wrap up my present work. If I would like to continue with present work, then I can purposely make that decision and deliberately reset the clock.

Alarm Clock is useful as a regular alarm and as a time display. Combined with a kickstand (using an Aduro case), I might set it near my computer while I work with some OS X application in full screen mode. (The kickstand is also nice for Face Time sessions or watching a show on the fly.)

Listening

For music, I use the default Music app as well as Spotify

Instacast is great for podcasts as I do not need to store the sound files on the phone and can, instead, stream them. 

I still have the Shazam and SoundHound apps, even though I know Siri can do this automatically. Siri, unfortunately, does not understand me. I believe she is too polite to tell me that I mumble.

Travel

Google Maps is great for getting around town on public transportation. Most of my travel is by foot, train, and bus.

Transit stop is useful for knowing when the next bus is arriving. 

Art Institute Membership - I love having membership cards in my phone. It’s one less thing to carry. 

Business:

Square register for credit card transactions. It used to be a magical thing to be able to process a credit card transaction, an action left to the major retailers. That we can do this as small business entities highlights a neat societal shift. 

Epocrates is useful for medication information. 

I also have a Date Wheel date calculator, which is useful for calculating something like when 90 days from now lands on the calendar.

PDFPen Scan + and JotNot Pro are useful as scanners. I haven’t settled with one or the other yet. Combining either with an online faxing service, I can scan a piece of paper and fax it quickly. (Yes, I still fax.)

Reading

Kindle and iBooks for books.

Newsify for RSS feeds.

Pocket for individual articles.

Dark Horse Comics for awesomeness.

Study

Mindnode is an elegant mind mapping application that strikes a nice compromise of mapping features and simplicity. I use this more on OS X than on iOS due to the screen real estate, but it’s nice to have on iOS, too.

inShort stays at the front page beckoning to me to learn it. It seems to have a complexity that requires a certain threshold of knowledge to work through before finding a stride. However, I have yet to make that effort. Maybe if I get the OS X version, I’ll get into it. 

Duolingo is a neat language learning experience. While it does not replace actual practiced conversation, it is always nice to have around for a quick lesson.

Remotes

Remote and Roku remotes are useful for my Apple TV and Roku devices, respectively.

I’ve also been experimenting with the new Alfred remote. I like being able to quickly jump around the system settings using the app. I’m not sure how else I’ll use it yet, but it looks like there are some interesting possibilities.

Guitar:

Clear tune for tuning the guitar and Tabs to taunt the kids with poorly practiced renditions of “Let it Go”. 

Multi-Measures is a nice measuring kit. Though for me it is more for silly fun. I like to use it to measure the ambient noise level when walking around town. Watching the ambient noise level shift and change as I move from one environment to another gives the whole walk a story-like feel. Visiting the L train , I’ve seen it range into the 90 dBs. Quieter places are in the low 30s. 

Apps like this also just go to show how much the smart phone has become a present day swiss army knife.

Writing:

Byword is connected to a single folder in Dropbox where I store the majority of my text files.

Drafts is very useful, too, to just get some thoughts down, especially if I don’t know what I’m doing with them yet. 

DayOne is good for journaling. 

Which apps is your guilty pleasure?

Alien Blue is an application that interfaces with Reddit. The community there is at once endearing and enraging. It also helps me keep up to date with what is interesting in the community at large.

Dark Horse comics is another guilty pleasure. I’ve been reading the Leaf Upon the Wind Firefly comics. 

What is the app you are still missing?

OmniOutliner for iPhone. I like to use OmniOutliner for templates of tasks - morning routines and the like. While I don’t always consult them, they are nice to have handy. I store these in an OmniPresence linked folder so I can get to them from iPad or OSX. However, I have the iPhone handy much more frequently. (Stay tuned on this one Kourosh. -D)

How many times a day do you use your iPhone/iPad?

Still too many, but I am better. I read of someone deliberately hobbling their phone, turning it into a “distraction free” phone. I’ve yet to take that plunge, but I am considering it.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I’ve got the weather up top. 

OmniFocus is listed next. I do hope that The Omni Group allows for customizing which perspective appears up top. Presently, it is only for Due tasks. I would love to be able to use one of my Dashboard settings (a combination of “Filter by Status: Due or Flagged” with “Filter by Availability: Available” and “Sort actions by: Due”). That way I could see all the tasks I’ve set for today.

Next up is the Calendar. As much of my work is based on sessions with individual clients, my calendar is extremely important. 

Then I’ve got the Kindle. I really like how I can open directly to any of the last three read books from this view. 

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

Its portability. For instance, I use OmniFocus on the iPhone much more than with the iPad despite the greater feature count of the iPad version. Its direct accessibility and ease of typing both contribute to its use.

If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?

I can’t wait for internal links to work when exporting from Pages again. With my last book, I had to manually create all the internal links using Adobe Acrobat for the PDF. 

What’s your wallpaper and why?

I like the default watery wallpaper. Setting the icons above the water line makes me happy for unknown reasons. 

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’m learning Android: Netrunner. Board and card games are awesome.

iOS 9 and Snow Leopard Moments

Mark Gurman, who is known for landing Apple scoops, is reporting at 9 to 5 Mac that iOS 9 is going to be light on new features and heavy on bug fixes.

For 2015, iOS 9, which is codenamed Monarch, is going to include a collection of under-the-hood improvements. Sources tell us that iOS 9 engineers are putting a “huge” focus on fixing bugs, maintaining stability, and boosting performance for the new operating system, rather than solely focusing on delivering major new feature additions.

There's been a lot written about iOS 8 and Yosemite and how they seem to be just above (or below, depending on who you ask) the acceptability line. I've written before that I consider the iOS 8 / Yosemite releases to be a special case. The community at large, myself included, wanted for so long for our Macs and iOS devices to talk better amongst themselves. Also, how many home screen posts have I put up here where the subject concluded that if they were in charge at Apple, they'd make it easier for iPhone and iPad apps to share information.

Apple delivered on these requests with iOS 8 but making changes this substantial necessarily came with a lot of bugs. I don't have any of Mark Gurman's sources but I'm willing to agree publicly right now that iOS 9 will at least feel like the upgrade Mark explains in the above quote. This is true if, for no other reason, because I can't think of any update to iOS that would be nearly as ambitious in scope as iOS 8 was. 

 

MPU Two-Pack

This week we released two episodes of the Mac Power Users.

MPU 239 includes a workflow interview with Adam Christianson from the Maccast podcast about his history with Apple, life as a programer, and experiences through the years podcasting and Mac User Groups.

MPU 240 is the February live feedback show. Topics include financial management apps, more on FileVault, antivirus, upgrading your Mac, and we are joined by professor Bonni Stachowiak, who uses screen casting software for student feedback. Katie and I also reveal easy ways to push our buttons.

WesterosCraft

I've heard the stories about MineCraft and I've witnessed nephews and nieces obsessing over videos of people playing MineCraft but I've never really got it. Part of this is the fact that I am a geek and grew up in an era when all we could think about was getting smaller pixels. 8-bit led to 16-bit led to 32-bit and so on. We were always pushing the envelope for the next leap. So when I first heard of MineCraft and its blocky graphics, I thought it was some weird throwback that would never last.

Boy was I wrong on that front. MineCraft is as much, if not more, of an obsession as anything my childhood could throw down. This past weekend I stumbled upon this video where a group of players decided to build a replica of Westeros from Game of Thrones. The word got out on the Internet, lots of MineCrafters showed up, and they did something truly remarkable. Now I get it.


Sponsor: The Omni Group

This week MacSparky.com is sponsored by The Omni Group, one of the premiere productivity software companies for the Mac, iPhone, and iPad. If you are looking for serious solutions for serious problems, look no further. The Omni Group's applications include:

OmniFocus

My beloved task manager that lets me practice law and publish books and videos without completely losing my mind.

OmniOutliner

This is simply the best outlining application for the Mac and iOS. When I need to organize ideas, I break out OmniOutliner. 

OmniGraffle

This diagramming and graphics tool lets me build stunning graphics in a few minutes.

OmniPlan

If project management is your game, look no further.

The Omni Group has its own sync solution, OmniPresence, to keep all of these tools working between your Mac and iPad and, most recently, they've announced they are putting all of these productivity apps on the iPhone as well.

Check out the Omni Group and let them know you heard about them from MacSparky.com.

 

Photo Management and the Mac

For so long, photo management between our Macs and iOS devices has felt like the mythical white whale. We are all taking more pictures than ever and at the same time using multiple devices, making photo management a nightmare. It didn't help that iPhoto and Aperture lingered, feeling like relics of a bygone era and every independent company that tries to come up with an innovate web-based solution seems to fold up before it gets any momentum.

However, at WWDC in 2014, Apple promised they are taking photos to the cloud and they really get it this time. They even explained they were working on a new photos app for the Mac, called, appropriately, Photos that would let us seamlessly work between devices. 

Then there was silence.

In fact, there was so much silence that I began to wonder if there was a problem. Today, the most recent developer build of Yosemite showed up with the Photos app for Mac, ready for testing. I'm so eager to see this work (and so tired of iPhoto) that I loaded it up and, after making appropriate backups, pressed the button to move my iPhoto library into Photos. I'm not going to go into great detail about it. Others have. I will say however, that the app feels pretty good for a beta and already runs much faster on my Mac than iPhoto ever did with the exact same library.

Am I feeling a glimmer of hope?

There is going to a public beta at some point and nobody outside of Cupertino has tested it enough yet to really render judgment but right now it feels like Apple has a contender for solving the photo problem.

Sponsor: InShort

This week MacSparky is sponsored by inShort (website) (Mac App Store) (iOS App Store). inShort is is an iPhone/iPad/Mac application that lets you plan projects and processes graphically across all of your Apple devices. This brings a new paradigm to process and project planning and is absolutely worth checking out. 

One of the more clever features is the way it allows you to embed processes and drill down to the level of detail you need at the moment. I like to think of this as "nested" flowcharts and I think it's really smart. It's a great way to sort out a process in your own mind and then explain it to others when you're done. 

Most recently, the Mac version of inShort gained several new features including increased mouse and gesture support, the ability to keep a catalog of locations and mark in which of them the process will be executed or the resource is located, and the app has been updated overall to look great in OS X Yosemite. Want to learn more? Read the developer's PDF


 

Condense, OCR on the Fly

Have you ever had an image of some text on your screen that you wanted to quickly turn into actual text? I seem to bump into that issue often and have a complicated workflow involving screenshots, conversion to PDF, and other steps. At least that used to be my workflow. Now I just use Condense. This Mac app makes easy work of yanking text out of a picture of words. You push one button in the app that puts a crosshair on your screen. You drag that over the offending word-picture and Condense pulls out the text. 

There are settings to strip out carriage returns, correct for angled text, and set the contrast. You can also have it automatically save the captured text to the clipboard. It will paste anywhere else on your Mac as plain text and in the few days I’ve been using it, I’ve found it remarkably accurate. 

I think what I like about Condense most is that this is a problem I encounter often and, for some reason, it never occurred to me that an application to fix this was both possible and so useful. I like that developers can still surprise me. I discovered Condense this week (thanks to @mkhudon) and I’m impressed.

Productivity App Sale

There are quite a few good iOS and Mac productivity apps on sale right now. Here are the ones I’d buy:

Fantastical 2

For iPad, $9.99 reduced to $4.99 

For iPhone, $4.99 reduced to $1.99 

For Mac, $19.99 reduced to $9.99

Fantastical is in my dock. This is a great alternative calendar app with its legendary text parsing tools and a really functional user interface. I particularly like the event list view. I’ve tried to replace the built-in iOS calendar multiple times and Fantastical is the only replacement that has stuck. I’ve covered this app before.

Duet Display

For iOS$15.99 reduced to $7.99

I bought this one today. I’ve tried several of these apps that turn your iPad into a remote display for your Mac over the years. This one is the fastest I’ve used yet.

Workflow

For iOS$4.99 reduced to $1.99

I have so much to say about Workflow but haven’t had time to give it proper treatment, yet. (Well … here is a little bit.) Stay tuned for more from me on Workflow but for now, just buy it for two bucks.

Byword

For Mac, $9.99 reduced to $5.99

Sweet, sweet Byword. I use it every day.

Dropzone 3

For Mac$4.99 reduced to $1.99

There are a lot of menubar apps made to hold apps and perform magic on files. I started using Dropzone about six months ago and it’s a keeper. This is another app I use multiple times a day and now it’s just two bucks.

MindNode Pro

For Mac, $19.99 reduced to $9.99

Ready to get serious about mind mapping on your Mac? Look no further.

 

Apple Watch in April

Today Apple had its financial call where Tim Cook and the gang explained they'd sold 74 million iPhones and earned $18B in profit during the last quarter, which by any generally accepted accounting principle just seems crazy. More interesting to me was this little nugget Tim dropped about the Apple Watch,  “Apple Watch will ship in April, right on schedule". Okay, I'll accepted that April is early 2015, but just barely. Either way, I think it is interesting that Tim would so casually share this information on an earnings call. I can't remember Apple ever disclosing something like this on an earnings call before. It all sounded so casual but I find it hard to believe anything said on a financial call wasn't planned and vetted first. If it truly was off the cuff, you go Tim.

Speaking of the Apple Watch, I'm getting pretty eager to learn more and get one. If you haven't looked at the Apple site lately, you should go back and check our their Timekeeping page. They added that page a month or two ago and I really like the look of the watch faces (particularly the Utility face) and the little on screen widgets, called complications. While I originally crinkled my nose at that name, complications, upon further research, it appears that is indeed the name given to objects on a watch face. I'll have much more to say about the watch as further details are disclosed but for now, I'm just looking forward learning more.


Home Screens: John Siracusa

This week’s home screen post features John Siracusa. (Podcast)(Website)(Twitter) John, who writes those amazing OS X reviews for Ars Technica, famously stuck with his flip phone until a few months ago when he got a shiny new iPhone 6. (John is also our workflow guest on the Mac Power Users episode dropping this weekend.) So John, show us your home screen.

Q: What are some of your favorite apps?

The apps I use most are my favorites: Twitterrific, Overcast, and Instapaper. Those three cover most of my iPhone usage. I listen to podcasts while commuting (using my car’s Bluetooth iPhone integration). I read Twitter when I have a spare moment. While reading Twitter, I file interesting links away in Instapaper and read them when I have a longer stretch of free time.

Q: Which app is your guilty pleasure?

I feel the most guilty when I’m sinking time into Desert Golfing. It’s just one hole after another, with very little reward for making progress. It’s the aloof cat of iOS gaming.

Q: How many times a day do you use your iPhone/iPad?

Maybe ten times per day on weekdays, more on weekends.

Q: What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I never look at the Today View. I’m not sure why, but it’s never found a place in my iPhone or iPad usage.

Q: If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?

I’d get serious about network services, applying all the same philosophies Apple already applies to its other products. Apple should own and control the primary technologies that make its network services possible. Look at how much Google and Amazon have invested in creating their own server-side infrastructure over the years: MapReduceBigTableSpannerS3EC2DynamoDB, and so much more, and that’s even before considering the (more secretive) data center management and server hardware. Apple is behind here, and it shows in the performance and reliability of its network services—and in Apple’s ability to create new network services.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

My wallpaper is black because I don’t want anything to distract from the app icons. (I also have the parallax animation disabled for the same reason.)

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’m not happy with my home screen as shown in this screenshot. The iPhone 6’s larger screen has made the icons at the top a lot harder to reach, and this has forced me to reevaluate the layout I’ve had since the 5th generation iPod touch was released in 2012. Also, I’d really like it if Instagram would change its icon to fit in better with the others on my home screen. 

Thanks John.