Home Screens: Sam Montooth

This week’s home screen features Sam Montooth (website)(Twitter) In addition to being an extraordinarily talented bassist and photographer, Sam has, quite possibly, the coolest picture in the history of the home screen posts. I got to spend some time with Sam this year at NAMM and you should definitely check out Sam’s music and photography. So Sam, show us your home screen.

What are some of favorite apps?

I really like DowncastCamera+iReal ProGoogle MapsTweetbotInstagram.

Downcast I use on a daily, almost hourly basis. I’ve tried all of the other podcatchers out there and it holds up and works perfectly for me. 

I use Camera+ in conjunction with Instagram. If there’s something I’ve taken a shot of quickly with the Camera app that I need to fix and share, then I edit in Camera+ and share via Instagram. 

Tweetbot is the only way to use Twitter. Like Downcast, I’ve tried all of the Twitter clients for iOS and I’ve spent a lot of money looking for some new way to manage my Twitter life, but I always come back to Tweetbot, it’s just great!

Being a musician, iReal Pro is invaluable. It’s a chord sheet manager. Fully editable and you can use it as a practice tool as well. For those familiar with the term Music Minus One, it is exactly capable of that, except you can change keys, tempos, styles, etc. I mostly use it on my iPad, but the iPhone version is just as good (but small).

Google Maps is important for my work as well. Getting to gigs on time is what your reputation is built on and Google Maps makes that happen.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Touch of Modern. I’ve bought so much there it’s embarrassing.

What app makes you most productive?

I haven’t found an app that’s made me more productive yet, but I am trying out the revamped Coach.me an so far I like it.

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

Triage. It’s great! I just don’t use it enough as you can see by my Inbox count. (sorry inbox zero people, I don’t want to give you a panic attack.)

What is the app you are still missing?

The original Siri app was great and I was using it to it’s full potential. Still not the same since Apple bought it.

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

More than I can count. More than I should. But, in my defense, many of my friends are not local and are in other countries, so the only way to chat with them is via chat clients, twitter, etc.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I don’t use any of them. I barely check the notification screen as I’ve disabled almost all notifications because my phone has to be silent about 90% of the time. (including no vibration)

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

The Camera hands down. Being able to take a decent shot nearly instantaneously of my daughter is the killer feature for the iPhone. The fact that I can get a decent quality shot so quickly is still amazing to me on a phone.

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

I would first license (not buy and absorb) Dropbox and make it a part of iCloud so it would actually work correctly. Apple’s ecosystem is great, but it shouldn’t be an all or nothing proposition. They should allow their iCloud integration to natively live on other devices because sometimes people have to have Windows in certain situations and why be locked out of your stuff for that? I would also start production on a Mac Pro mini tower. 

Somewhere between the old Mac Pro and the current design that would allow for an internal RAID. Lastly, I would fund the Pro app development to continue to have actual Pro apps and allow them to be developed. My biggest disappointment was the news of Aperture being let go. The PR says it’s because Photos is enough, and it may well be, but they killed Aperture over a year ago and just didn’t let us know. The Pro user is still important to Apple and if I was in charge I would establish an entire department just for Pro development, consultation, and service.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

My current wallpaper is a Stop sign from Seal Beach, CA. I took the photo with my DSLR and imported it specifically for my iPhone and iPad. It’s significant to me as I was there at the beach making a big decision for my life and I saw this sign and it simplified everything I was trying to resolve within myself. So, every time I notice that image behind my icons, I’m reminded of all the things that led up to that decision. It’s an empowering image to me and it’s great to be reminded daily of my resolve.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I have the Star Trek Communicator app in my dock on my phone because I’m a huge Star Trek fan, and I love using it to call people. It would be great if Apple would allow skins to be installed over the Phone app natively so I could actually use that app the whole way through a phone call. It’s a fun app with great sound clips from the original series.

Also, I have to mention that on my iPad, I’m a huge user of the Unrealbook app. It’s a PDF aggregator for musicians and it allows me to carry 20 fake books in my bag and has allowed me to save my back. :)

Thanks Sam.

Apple Pay is Gaining Altitude

Chase Bank today announced over 1 million customers have provisioned their credit and debit cards using Apple pay (via AppleInsider). Even though Apple Pay is gaining altitude slowly, it is gaining altitude. I know from my own experiences with Apple Pay that it is my preferred method for purchasing anything and that is not just because I’m an Apple geek.

Of all the credit cards and electronic payment forms I’ve used over the years, Apple Pay is the fastest and, since it generates a new number for every transaction, the safest method I’ve ever used. In 2014, my credit card was replaced three times due to fraud.

I fully expect more banks to join in. (My local credit union even now supports Apple Pay.) Moreover, I expect even more retail establishments to install NFC machines making Apple Pay more useful as we go about our days. Now add to that the fact that all future Apple mobile devices will support Apple Pay and you can see where this is going.

This will all take some time but I suspect in a few years we are going to look back at the introduction of Apple Pay in 2014 as a much bigger deal than we realized it was at the time.

Upgradeable Apple Watch

Serenity Caldwell writes for iMore about what happens in year 2 of the 18K gold Apple Watch Edition that a lot of smart people think will sell for something north of $10,000. Specifically, if you had a tech gadget that is a year or two (or three) old but made of gold would you be happy or would you drop another great big pile of money to get the latest and greatest version in gold. 

Serenity's post contemplates a replaceable core, which could work but seems so unlike Apple in 2015 that I find it hard to believe. If I had to bet a nickel, I'd say that they'll have a trade in program. The gold in those watches is valuable and Apple could give you a significant discount when upgrading. Also, I'm sure there will be a thriving third party market for those gold edition watches even when they are a year or two old.

Either way, Apple really doesn't have to answer this question until 2016 when they will presumably release the generation 2 Apple Watch.

MPU 242: Troubleshooting with Joe Caiati

This week, former Apple Genius Joe Caiati joined us to talk about about troubleshooting your Mac and iOS devices. We discuss removing adware, explain Activity Monitor and Console, how to diagnose hardware and software problems and when you can attempt to fix something yourself and when its time to call a pro.


Sponsor: PopClip for Mac

This week I'm pleased to welcome a new sponsor to MacSparky.com, PopClip. Do you know how when you select text on your iPhone or iPad that handy little menu pops up to let you perform actions on that text? PopClip brings this to the Mac, only better.

Not only can you use the the built-in PopClip tools, there is an extension system and lots of smart people have built clever little extensions I use every day. For example, using PopClip I can select a phone number on screen and display it in large type or, better yet, dial it for my iPhone. I also use extensions to convert text to all caps and paste and match style in Pages. PopClip also gives me a word count for selected text, searches Google, Wikipedia (and more). Go check out this list of extensions and you'll realize how this app can help you out with your own workflows. One of my favorite extensions takes selected text and turns it into a TextExpander snippet.

There is a free trial so go check it out now. PopClip is one of my favorite utilities and, after trying it, I bet it will be one of your favorites too. 


The New Inquisitive

Myke Hurley has re-imagined the Inquisitive podcast. As a podcast producer myself, I really like that Myke is pushing the envelope. I listened to it this morning and it's great.

Amigos Podcast

I recently joined Adam Christianson and Victor Cajiao to talk about some Apple news including the Apple Watch, Apple and automobiles, and Tim Cook's greening of Apple. 


Home Screens: Mark Miller

Mark Miller (Twitter), is a MacSparky.com reader and Mac Power Users listener that recently suggested I add question to the usual assortment of home screen questions about under-used apps. I thought it was such a good idea that I added it to the list and then bent Mark’s arm to be the first person to answer it. So Mark, show us your homescreen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

Almost everything on my homescreen is a favorite, but here are some more interesting ones:

Sleep Cycle – Terrific alarm that wakes me up according to my sleep cycle. When I don’t use it, I can tell the difference in how I wake up.

Human – Fitness app that has helped me be healthier more than anything else. Integration with Health.app is fantastic.

PrayerMateESV Study+ReadingPlan – Great apps I use to pray, study the Bible, and track my Bible reading (respectively).

DayOne – My wife and I are expecting our first child and this app has made it so easy to chronicle the pregnancy.

Which app is your guilty pleasure?

Probably Instagram because of how easy it is to waste time.

What app makes you most productive?

It’s hard to choose just one. Here are the ones that make me most productive with iPhone tasks:

I use IFTTT to load RSS feeds & email subscriptions into Pocket, to create tasks in Things from Gmail, to save articles from Pocket into Evernote, to help import Instagram posts into DayOne, and much more.

I use Drafts to capture tasks, info, or anything else. Integration with Things, Evernote & other apps makes it the best place to capture and process text.

Instead of reading articles, I put them in Pocket. That allows me to prioritize which (few) articles I have time to read each evening.

I couldn’t live without Things to track/organize my tasks for me. Not often that you love your task manager, but I do.

I use Launch Center Pro to pre-populate DayOne entries and trigger them at specific times; I also add geo-location triggers to my Workflows. Both are incredibly useful.

DeskConnect is my go-to app for transferring text/URLs/etc between my devices. Incredibly fast, helpful, and free. (Made by the same folks that made Workflow).

What app do you know you’re underutilizing?

I’m certainly underutilizing Launch Center Pro and Workflow, particularly in the way they can work together and integrate with IFTTT. There’s huge power there, but I haven’t had the time yet to create those connections.

What is the app you are still missing?

I’m still looking for the single photo editor that meets all my needs. Many are too simple or too complex, too poorly designed, or too spammy. Right now I have 6–8 apps I use for a single purpose/feature, but not all have Action Extensions, so that’s a pain point for me. 

I’m also looking for an iPad/iPhone/Mac email client that can add items directly to Pocket and Things. Dispatch is almost exactly what I want, except it’s iPhone-only at present.

I also would like a Dropbox-equivalent app for iCloud Drive.

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

Almost constantly. I frequently have to charge midday even though I have an iPhone 6.

What Today View widgets are you using and why?

I ruthlessly organize my homescreen so nothing is more than 3 taps away. That means that it’s almost always faster to open an app than to launch the app/action from the Today. Thus, my widgets almost exclusively show info.

I currently have Things (see/check off tasks), Reminders (time/location tasks), Human (daily activity), Clips (combine copy & paste), Parcels (track delivery), Day One (random pictures), Data Usage (track data usage), Stepz(pedometer), and Tally (currently beta-testing).

What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?

I love the seamlessness of the entire ecosystem; from integrated TouchID/ApplePay to vibrant app store to Continuity & Handoff. Nothing else comes close. 

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

I’d step up efforts on making cloud services more reliable. 95% of the time, iCloud just works for me, but that 5% is very frustrating. For example, I have over 300 keyboard shortcuts that I use, but they have never reliably synced so that my Mac, iPhone, and iPad each have different shortcuts. I only discover which ones didn’t sync after I try to use it and they fail.

I’d also create an iCloud Drive app like Dropbox’s. Or maybe I’d just buy Dropbox as they do excellent syncing in the consumer space.

What’s your wallpaper and why?

I’m using a standard Apple background of a galaxy. I’ve always loved space, so that was the initial attraction, but I found the black background makes the parallax effect shine. If you haven’t liked parallax before, try it with a black background; it’s gorgeous. 

Anything else you’d like to share?

I use emoticons to name my folders; I’ve found I can identify an emoticon faster than I can read text, making it faster to find the folder (especially on my second home screen, mostly of folders)

If you’re interested in following me on Twitter, I try to tweet at the intersection of Apple, China, and humanities. I spent 5 years as an expat in China, so I’m particularly interested in how Chinese culture and politics affect Apple’s strategy. @MarkDMill

Thanks Mark.

Risky Business

Last week I quit my day job. Maybe I should explain.

As the Field Guide publishing business, the podcast, and other MacSparky endeavors have grown, I’ve always felt my life was on a bit of a collision course. For years now I’ve been doing three things simultaneously. 

  1. I’ve been growing all things MacSparky.
  2. I’ve taken care of my legal clients.
  3. I’ve been keeping up with the constant press of additional legal work arising from working in a law firm.

Each one of these priorities has its own pluses and minuses. Keeping up with them all, however, sometimes feels like running so fast that I’m about to fall on my face. 

The things I do as MacSparky have brought meaning to my life. I love the podcast. I love the books. I love all the friends and interactions that come with them. MacSparky saved me. I can’t imagine my life at this point without this website, the podcast, and the books.

With respect to my legal clients, I’ve always taken a country doctor approach to their problems. A lot of my clients are small and medium-size businesses that need someone to tell them when they’re onto something and when they’re running off a cliff. I like being a trusted advisor and I like shepherding my clients from small successful businesses to larger ones. Again, I couldn’t imagine myself not doing this. It is part of me. 

Finally, as a member of a law firm, I was afforded an opportunity to litigate many cases and be involved with many transactions over the years. It was a 21-year run of one crazy case after another and I enjoyed every minute of it. Also, being a part of a successful law practice means you get a really nice salary. For 21 years now the firm has been the foundation of my family’s solvency.

So for the past few years, I’ve been serving these three masters all at once as I watched MacSparky grow, attempted to work more with my own legal clients, and keep up with the ever-increasing workload at the firm. 

I knew I was heading to a point where I’d have to make some hard decisions. I was also doing everything in my power to ignore this looming decision. I told many friends that all I had to do was “just keep pedaling”. If you’ve ever had a similar experience in your life with ignoring inevitabilities, you know how well that works out. 

Last October, I got involved with a big case at the firm that took a great deal of my time and attention for months. Things went well on the case. My “firm” commitments were satisfied. Everything else in my life went to hell. When the dust settled I took stock of my big three things and realized that while I was taking care of that case, my next Field Guide, which I had planned to ship in November was still unfinished and my own legal clients were giving me cryptic phone messages about how hard it was to get my attention. 

It occurred to me that, unknowingly, that fateful day where I’d have to make some tough decisions had arrived and I had been too busy to notice. Put simply, the big case needed me and I pushed aside MacSparky and my own clients without thinking of it. The realization that I’d made a decision without actually considering it upset me. How did I let myself fall into this trap that I’d merely deferred on what is one of the most important decisions of my life?

I stepped back and took stock of my life. I realized I had two options in front of me.

The Safe Road

The benefit of working in a law firm is that there is usually a lot of work to do. When you put a group of lawyers together, they generally are able to combine resources, help each other out, and keep everyone busy. The downside of working in a law firm is that there’s a lot of work to do. You’re always busy. Because you are always busy, there is a regular paycheck. Regular paychecks are a pretty nice thing.

I’ve always known that the “safe” route of sticking with the firm, letting more books slip and cashing the regular paycheck deserves serious consideration. That is the best way to get the bills paid without risk. That also was the option with the most inertia behind it. I’d been at the same firm for 21 years. How do you turn that upside down? Also, I work with some really top notch lawyers and that environment is a pretty rare in the legal racket. 

I grew up with Depression-Era parents. They were awesome. They taught me so much and gave me a fantastic work ethic. They also drilled into me the importance of avoiding risk. Probably the biggest motivation for me to stay at the firm was that conservative risk-adverse mentality I’ve carried my entire life.

Risky Business

My other option was to leave my regular paycheck and health benefits behind and jump into the chaos that ensues from running a smaller, solo attorney law practice and (in my case) a book & video publishing business. I could serve just my clients with my own, smaller law practice and do things a bit more on my terms. This would give me the added benefit of much more control and allow for more time to publish more Field Guides and produce more MacSparky and Mac Power Users content. While all this sounds dandy, it also comes with a big pay cut and the possibility that things could get much worse if I don't have enough legal clients, or people stop buying Field Guides, or both.

So much of my own neurosis screamed out at me to keep the steady job and continue “pedaling” as best as possible. I laid awake at night. I rambled on about it incessantly with my family and closest friends. They all had excellent, well-meaning advice, much of which was contradictory with one another.

At the end of this process I found myself repeatedly coming back to my hypothetical death bed. If I was laying somewhere right now facing down the reaper, what would I regret more? It then became crystal clear to me. 

If I let MacSparky and the Field Guides linger and wither, I would never forgive myself. 

With that realization, a long tortuous decision process found clarity and purpose. I realized that if I ever had my ladder leaning against the wall of being a hot-shot partner in a big law firm, it had long since moved. I love being a small, crafty country doctor lawyer. The small business David that uses his Mac to sling rocks at big firm Goliaths.

I also love writing Field Guides and being MacSparky. My legal and publishing aspirations could co-exist if I’d just get over my insecurities and leap.

So I leapt.

The people at my firm were baffled when I gave notice but after I explained myself, became understanding and supportive. I’ve spent the last several weeks planning a transition that came to fruition late last week. 

Now I’m a self-employed lawyer looking for a few great clients. Here’s my website.

I’m also a geek writer with a bucket full of ideas that I finally have more time to execute upon.

Finally, I’m a husband and a father that is really excited about a new adventure and more than a little terrified that I’ll blow it.

As I write these words, I’m only a few days into this grand adventure but I decided to write about it here because the MacSparky audience has been such a vital part of this journey. If it weren’t for MacSparky, I wouldn’t have had the option (or the guts) to take this leap.

So What Does this Mean for MacSparky?

This is going to result in more and better content here at the website, on the podcast, and in the books. I’ll have more time to produce things I’m proud of. Some of it will be free. Some of it will cost a few bucks. There will definitely be more Field Guides (both iBooks and video formats) on things interesting to me and—hopefully—helpful to you.

So Are You Still a Lawyer Or Not?

This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop being a lawyer. I like being a lawyer. I’m one of those weirdos that thinks I actually help people as a lawyer. I’ve opened my own solo practice and have a group of fantastic, loyal clients that came with me from my prior firm. I could definitely use a few more but I suspect they will come.

The two passions of my life (outside my family) are MacSparky and my legal practice. In one I’m able to help thousands of people in little ways. In the other I help far fewer people in much bigger ways. I need the happy chemicals that come with both of those endeavors.

How Exactly Are You Pulling This Off?

I’m doing it the way any self-respecting geek would. I’m pulling pieces of technology together to make me look like superman in both the MacSparky and legal world. I’m having a lot of fun developing new workflows and, yes, I’ll be writing and screencasting about that here.

While I have an office, I’m also going to be spending a lot more time working from home, which lets me do things like take walks with my wife, goof off with my growing kids, and write legal briefs while wearing jeans and a T-Shirt. (My company has a very liberal dress code.) Like I said, I’m only a few days into this but I can already see some pretty interesting content developing out of the experience.

Are You Going To Prattle on About This Forever?

Hopefully not but I’m also sure you’ll hear about it on occasion. I still catch myself with small bits of anxiety. What if the books stop selling or the clients dry up? If that happens I’ll have to figure something else out but I’d rather have to figure out that Plan B than lay in a bed some day upset at myself for not taking a risk.

Despite that occasional anxiety, I find myself with this overwhelming exhilaration that everything in my life thus far has led to this point. Deep down, I truly believe this risky business will not only enable me to take care of my family, it will also lead to some of the best work of my life, both as MacSparky and a lawyer. I feel it in my bones. 

Stay tuned gang.

Sponsor: Elgato Thunderbolt 2 Dock

This week MacSparky is sponsored by the Elgato Thunderbolt 2 Dock. This new dock from Elgato enables you to connect everything to your MacBook or Ultrabook at once. With two Thunderbolt 2 ports, connect your computer with only one cable and simultaneously enjoy the extended versatility of Thunderbolt.

A built-in HDMI port can drive up to a 4K resolution, and three additional USB 3.0 ports assure that all of your devices are connected when you need them, at full speed and with up to 1.5A of power. Tap into the full performance of wired network connections with the built-in Gigabit Ethernet port, and enjoy crystal-clear conference calls through the separate microphone input and amplified audio output. An added benefit is stand-alone USB charging even when your computer is not connected. Learn more right here

If you’ve got a desk full of equipment, this dock greatly simplifies (and improves) the experience.

This post is sponsored by Syndicate Ads.


Find Friends on the Mac, Sort Of

Following up on my post about the need of Find Friends on the Mac, I received lots of feedback. Turns out, you can find friends on your Mac from the messages app by tapping on the "Details" text button in the upper right corner, provided they are already sharing their location with you. It's a little obscure but it works.



Where is Find Friends on the Mac?

The Sparks family uses Find Friends all the time. With my kids off at events, jobs, and school, we often check up on each other. I like to think of it as a nerdy version of the Weasley family clock. We're not creepy. Really.

The one piece of this I don't understand though is why Apple hasn't found a way to put Find Friends on the Mac. (It's also not a part of iCloud.com.) I would guess this is an issue of engineering resources but now that we have Maps on the Mac, I hope Find Friends is not far behind.

BusyContacts Ships and Interview

Yesterday BusyMac released BusyContacts. This is one I’ve been waiting for. In the same way that BusyCal improves upon the built-in Apple calendar, BusyContacts improves upon the Contacts application. There is so much to like about this application.

  • Multiple view - You can display your data in multiple or single column list views.
  • Tags - Group and filter contacts easily.
  • BusyCal integration — BusyContacts integrates with BusyCal by linking contacts to events in your calendar.
  • Email Integration - Click on a contact and see recent emails right in Busy Contacts. The same goes for messages and social media network posts.
  • Syncing - It all syncs with the built-in Contacts app so you are not silo-ing your data

Learn more here.

I’m a fan of the team of Busy Mac and took this opportunity to talk with John Chaffee, one of the company founders.

Q. BusyMac is now known for BusyCal and BusyContacts, but you guys have been working on Mac calendar software for even longer than that. When did you first get started?

A. In the early 1990s Dave Riggle and I teamed up at the original Now Software to create Now Up-to-Date, which became the best selling calendar app on the Mac. That was over 20 years ago – when System 7 was shiny and new, and long before OS X or iCal existed.

In 2007, Dave and I returned to our roots and formed BusyMac to once again build the best calendar app for the Mac, BusyCal. :)

Q. Why BusyContacts now?

Nearly everyone is frustrated with the shortcomings of OS X Contacts. From our first demo of BusyCal, people have been begging us to build a contact manager app. Not only is BusyContacts a powerful replacement for OS X Contacts, it’s a great CRM solution when paired with BusyCal.

Q. What was the greatest challenge you faced in bringing BusyContacts to life?

A. Time was our biggest challenge. We are a small company and are careful not to spread ourselves too thin. It took us five years of building and refining BusyCal before we reached a point where we felt we could afford to invest in a second product. We have now spent 1.5 years building BusyContacts and are fortunate in that we were able to leverage much of the syncing technology in BusyCal.

That treasure trove of technology and experience saved us years of development time and has resulted in a very robust product. BusyContacts 1.0 actually exceeded our expectations.

Q. What feature are you personally most excited about with BusyContacts?

A. There’s a lot to like in BusyContacts – List View, Tags, Smart Filters, Social Network Integration, BusyCal Integration, Sharing – but I think the feature that users find most exciting is the Activity List. It provides a history of interactions with each of your contacts through rich integration with BusyCal, Mail, Messages, and social networks.

Thanks John.

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.


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.)


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.


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. 


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.)


Kindle and iBooks for books.

Newsify for RSS feeds.

Pocket for individual articles.

Dark Horse Comics for awesomeness.


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.


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.


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.


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.