Michael T. Rose (Twitter) is a longtime editor and contributor at The Unofficial Apple Weblog, AOL Tech’s site for all things Apple and app-related. He’s the co-host (with Kelly Guimont), of The Aftershow a new podcast that picks up where TUAW’s long-running weekly Talkcast left off. When he’s not blogging or podcasting, Mike’s day job is with Salesforce.com as a senior sales engineer. Mike lives in Brooklyn with his family and has a personal blog at geekparent.com. So Mike, show us your home screen.
What are some of your favorite apps?
As a New York City denizen, I depend on the city’s public transit system every day to get where I’m going. NextStop is a wonderful transit information app, delivering scheduled (and in the case of a few subway lines, real-time) train arrival information. Citymapper, HopStop, and Embark NYC provide savvy transit routing information that takes repairs, diversions and other schedule changes into account. (Embark was bought by Apple last year, so chances are that app’s capabilities will eventually show up in the iOS Maps app.) But the best app for emulating a New York subway rider is Exit Strategy; it helps you figure out where to stand on the subway platform so that you line up just right to exit at your eventual destination.
I live and die by 1Password, of course, and I use Things to manage my to-do list. MobileDay makes it easy to dial into conference calls with a single tap, and JotNot Pro is my go-to “Paperless enabler” app for capturing receipts and other paper documents. Tweetbot is my Twitter client of choice, and for all my day job connections with my Salesforce colleagues, there’s the powerful and simple Salesforce1 app.
Which app is your guilty pleasure?
I’ve got to go with Timehop, the personal time capsule for social media. My kids are young enough, and I’ve been on Twitter and Facebook long enough, that a look back at “this day in history” is often a reminder of what they were saying and doing when they were small. It’s adorkable.
What is the app you are still missing?
One of the biggest things I’m missing isn’t an app per se, but a feature that’s promised for iOS 8 and Yosemite: tethered mirroring of iOS devices. I do software demos as a major part of my job, including on iOS, and often as not via a remote meeting solution like GoToMeeting or WebEx. Current-gen mirroring tools like Reflector and AirServer do a pretty good job, but they’re only as good as the local WiFi network; mid-demo is not the time you want to have a wireless hiccup interfering with your presentation flow. When I can connect a Lightning cable and show my iPhone screen seamlessly and reliably on my Mac, that’ll be a happy day.
How many times a day do you use your iPhone/iPad?
The iPad, maybe 10–20 times – usually for note-taking or reading, or sometimes mobile mindmapping with MindNode. The iPhone? Pretty constantly, although since I got a [Pebble]https://getpebble.com) a few weeks ago I notice that I’m not doing as much “take the phone out of the pocket to see what that buzzing is about” since my notifications are visible right on my wrist.
What is your favorite feature of the iPhone/iPad?
If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?
I’d allow paid upgrades, trials and beta testing on the App Store. The changes in iOS 8 are going to be great, but they still don’t address one of the economic challenges of app development; there’s no good way to capture revenue from the effort of developing a powerful new version of an app, unless it’s positioned as an entirely new app. Which in turn puts original purchasers in a bad mood.
What’s your wallpaper and why?
This wallpaper is Apple’s very basic gradient with the parallax turned off, as it was giving me some dizziness. Since I took this screenshot, I’ve been experimenting with turning it back on and having a zoomable/slideable background. We’ll see how it goes. Meanwhile, my lock screen includes “if found please contact” information; I should add some “in case of emergency” detail as well.
Today Apple’s official invitations for the September 9 iPhone event hit the wire. This one is void of information except a white-on-white Apple logo and the words, “Wish we could say more”. There is a lot of excitement brewing about this event. There seems to be a lot of smoke surrounding the idea that this one will be special.
Leaks abound demonstrating the new iPhone will be 4.7 inches with an even larger one at 5.5. We haven’t seen as many manufacturing leaks about the 5.5 inch phone, making me think it may be a little delayed or pushed back to another time. I find myself very curious about a phablet sized iPhone. Very curious indeed.
The event is at the Flint Center for Performing Arts. This is an uncommon venue for Apple and hallowed ground. Steve Jobs first unveiled the Macintosh at the Flint Center. I don’t think they’d go back unless they had something special to share.
Apple is building something at the Flint Center. Nobody knows what it is but it’s three stories high and should be pretty interesting. Maybe it is as something as innocent as a “hands-on” area for whatever they’ll announce. Maybe it is something amazing like a rocket ship … to Mars. Who knows? It’s Apple.
Suddenly there are a lot of rumors that we’ll see the long rumored Apple wearable on September 9. The fact that they are at Flint Center lends credence to this. The fact that we’ve seen zero leaked photos makes me think they aren’t in production yet but Apple often announced new product categories before they are in full swing. (They did this with the iPhone and iPad.) Maybe announcing it now, before it goes into full production, lets Apple control the message.
Whatever they are up to, I suspect we’ll have a lot to talk about on September 9.
Sayz Lim did an excellent tutorial showing off all of the steps, AppleScripts, and other incantations necessary to remotely control your Mac with a combination of Hazel, Keyboard Maestro, and Launch Center Pro. This tutorial takes you through step-by-step so if it sounds intimidating, click anyway.
Katie and I cover task management in 2014 including simple solutions, web-based solutions, and OmniFocus. In this show, I talk about my tricks for keeping my task list short with a willingness to delete items and active defer-date management. Since this show went live, I've received a mixture of emails telling me I'm brilliant or crazy with nothing in between. I'll probably be writing on this in the not so distant future.
Cailean Douglas taught himself Perl so he could automate filling in CSV forms with TextExpander. Cailean includes a downloadable link so you can skip the "learn Pearl" part. Not only did he come up with a really clever TextExpander workflow, he also linked to three great jazz songs in the post. Shameless.
Got some downtime this Sunday? Go buy the Stack Social Mac Lovin' Bundle and dig in on some great new applications. There are some great apps in there that I've covered here and on the MacPowerUsers (including Keyboard Maestro, Moom, Hype, and Dropzone) in the past. Overall, you get $861 worth of software for $40. It all ends in two days so go get it now.
The silly season is in full swing and there seems to be a lot of leaks implying we'll get both 4.7 and 5.5 inch iPhones in a few weeks. Today John Gruber explained his thoughts about screen resolution which, if true, will make the 5.5 inch iPhone worth a long look. I've often made fun of the phablet sized phones but lately have been giving it more thought as I increasingly need reading glasses. Moreover I really like the idea of a bigger canvas on my phone. As John explains in his post, it is all conjecture at this point but I suspect us Apple Geeks will have an interesting September.
I use TrialPad in every trial I conduct. I'm friends with the developer, Ian O'Flaherty (who recently shared his home screen) and if you are a trial lawyer, you need this app. Todd Hendrickson at Lawyerist gave the app a proper review in July. I paid $90 for it and this weekend it's on sale for $49.
As with most Apple products, I swore off the iPad as being silly and useless before I actually used one. Once I tried one, I had to have one.
My current iPad is my third. I started with the original (WiFi only), then got a 3rd generation (WiFi only). This time I got an iPad Mini with Retina Display, 32 GB, equipped with cellular and purchased with a Verizon SIM. Shortly after buying it, I got a second, T-Mobile SIM which gives me 200 MB of data free every month. Generally speaking, it’s that SIM that’s in the device. In my normal usage, 200 MB is more than enough for a month.
This month, however, I’m fresh off a trip to the beach, where T-Mobile had no coverage. I paid for one month of service on Verizon, hence the “Verizon” in the upper left of the screen.
Not too dissimilar from my iPhone, my favorite apps tend to be the ones I use the most. That means Tweetbot for browsing Twitter, Reeder for reading RSS, as well as Check the Weather, 1Password, and Day One. I also use Status Board to keep up with ATPdownload numbers and Twitter feedback.
I’ve been using Day One casually for a while, but now that my wife is pregnant with our first child, I’ve been using Day One to chronicle her pregnancy and our preparation for the arrival of “Sprout”.
Finally, what with the iPad’s larger screen, I use it for watching video quite a bit more than the iPhone. That usually means Plex, SlingPlayer, or during college football season (Go Hokies!), Watch ESPN is open.
What App Is Missing
I’m not sure that there’s an app I’m missing, but there are definitely updates I’m missing.
A Tweetbot update for iOS 7 and a 1Password update for iOS 8, once that’s out.
I’m confident the Tapbots folks are working hard on the Tweetbot update, and I’m trying very hard to be very patient.
We’ve seen videos of 1Password using iOS 8 extensions for both third party apps and Safari. Further, since I have an iPhone 5S, I’m excited for TouchID integration. Genuinely, the thing I’m most excited about for iOS 8 is what it enables 1Password to do.
How Many Times
I use my iPad predominantly at night, at home. If my nose isn’t in a book, then my face is probably being illuminated by my iPad.
I also hate bringing my MacBook Pro to meetings at work, so I usually bring my iPad. I don’t usually need it, but it helps to have a larger interface than my phone for quickly looking things up, sceheduling meetings, etc.
Since I’m still grandfathered on the AT&T unlimited data plan, I can’t tether to my phone. As mentioned above, this iPad is my first with LTE, and I’m so glad I made that choice. While I don’t use the cellular features of my iPad that terribly often, it’s wonderful to have the ability to. I love not having to worry about whether or not I’ll be at a WiFi hotspot when I take my iPad somewhere.
Plus, the Mini is portable enough that I don’t mind taking it out with me, when the need arises. The combination of the small size and cellular connectivity makes me able to, for example, look up product reviews while we’re at the store registering for our baby shower.
It also makes being a passenger on car rides much more enjoyable.
What would I change?
Definitely a stronger magnet for the Smart Cover — on both sides. I feel like it slides just enough when closed for me to hear the unlock noise often, when I shouldn’t. Additionally, the magnet that keeps the smart cover held to the back is way too weak.
Additionally, I’d love to have TouchID on the iPad. I’m sure it’s coming this fall, but I do miss it every time I pick up my iPad.
The last few months I've been interested in apps that set new categories. With the ability to share data and have a touch interface, some productivity developers are creating entirely new widgets and that always excites me. inShort (website) (Mac App Store) (iOS App Store) is just such one of these apps.
I am a self-admitted process nerd. I think reducing projects to a process is one of the best ways to make sure the project gets its intended results. It is process-oriented thinking that makes bridges that last for 100 years and assures you will never lock your keys in your car again. (You systematically check your pocket ... right?)
inShort is an iPhone/iPad/Mac application that I've come to look upon as my own process building toolkit. It is part diagramming tool, part project planner, part resource tracker, and part hierarchical diagramming tool. It may be that last part about hierarchical diagramming that is most interesting. You can take any task and embed inside it a separate diagram. This principal of diagrams within diagrams lets you see things simultaneously at the macro and micro level. It really is a new paradigm for project and process planning. In my day job, I am using it to plan some rather complex projects and clients love the PDFs I'm sending them showing how much I've dialed everything down. (The app also exports to OPML)
The program can then take that planning and process information and seamlessly turn it into an attractive Gantt chart. You can track individual components of you project and the application integrates with your calendar.
This developer embraces the Theory of Constraints philosophy and built specific tools into the application for this purpose including the ability to automatically trace the critical path through a diagram or project, placement of time buffers, and related techniques. The developer has a PDF explaining where he's coming from.
I'm now experimenting with inShort for planning complex litigation plans and I'm not sure where this is all heading but I wanted to share it now as I dig in. I love it when developers push boundaries. inShort does just that.
In a recent episode of the Mac Power Users, I explained how I was interested in solar chargers but needed someone to explain to me what the best solutions are and why. Listener Francine points out that OutdoorGearLab already did this. If you are thinking about a solar charger (and living in the land of earthquakes I definitely am), you should start with this excellent review roundup.
I recently discovered a $4 Mac utility, Let.ter, that gives you a clean little interface to write and send emails in Markdown. There is no email interface, no inboxes to clear, and none of the other trappings of email. Just write a message and send it. In its current iteration it only works from one email account but I really like the idea of sending out email without having to deal with (or even see) all of the other correspondence the world is sending my way.
This week MacSparky.com is sponsored by LIFX Smart Lightbulbs. LIFX is a smart lightbulb that gives you previously unheard of control of your lighting. Each bulb is Wi-Fi enabled, controllable from your smartphone and can produce millions of colors, they are also 4 times more energy efficient that traditional bulbs.
LIFX bulbs only consume 18 watts of power, yet produces the same level of brightness as your standard 75W bulb. Control the brightness, colour, and a range of cool effects is easy on your smartphone. Each LIFX bulb is rated for 27 years at 4 hours per day which is equivalent to 40,000 hours. You'll probably move house before you need to change the light bulb again.
The LIFX bulbs support both standard Edison screw and Bayonet connectors and will work at all standard voltages around the world. The LIFX bulbs have a developer-friendly development kit which means that if you can think of a great way to control them, you can go out and build it on whatever platform you like, right now!
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I first met Larry Port (Twitter)(Website) at the American Bar Association TechShow. Larry is deep into technology and good design. So much so that he has been taking on (successfully) the most slow-to-change industry on the planet, the legal profession, with his revolutionary Rocket Matter service. So Larry, show us your home screen.
What are some of your favorite apps?
I know it sounds weird to chose Camera. I love taking pictures and video with my iPhone. I was a photojournalist before I got into software, and I can’t get over the quality of the photographs the native iPhone camera affords. Also, I recently edited our first home movies using exclusively iPhone video content. The representation of my family life as depicted through these videos is so much richer and accurate than the videos created with a dedicated camcorder, since the iPhones are constantly in hand. The camera is my favorite app period.
Typically I view my iPhone and my iPad as consumption devices, not tools for the creation of data or information. However, my usage of Evernote’s mobile tool is more creation the consumption oriented. I record audio notes, take pictures, and constantly capture information. When I get to my computer, this information is already there, ready to go and synched. Occasionally I look something up I’ve saved on mobile Evernote, but more often I look things up on my MacBook Air, where Evernote is open all day long.
I love both Pandora and Spotify. Very little of my music consumption takes place via my iTunes music collection anymore. Who has time for synching? I prefer Pandora to Spotify because I am too lazy and musically uninspired to build playlists and discover new artists. I love how Pandora plays stuff I just like, whether I know the song or artist or not.
A small cup of Starbucks coffee contains 250mg of caffeine. For a frame of reference, espresso tops out at about 75mg. Let’s face it: Starbucks sells a drug I am addicted to. And their app allows me to pay for my addiction easily and rewards me with a free vial - I mean cup - of coffee every so often. I also get free apps on the iTunes app store.
I try to listen to a dozen business books a year. I listen to them instead of reading because I don’t find reading business books any fun at all, but find listening to them very stimulating. I queue up Audible for my car ride to and from the office, knocking off about 30 minutes of “reading" a day. Right now I’m "rereading” Good to Great, Jim Collins’ classic. Audible is vastly improved in recent years if you haven’t tried it lately.
Rocket Matter is a distributed company with workers in different locations. We synch up regularly to stay in alignment with daily stand ups, weekly management meetings, and monthly reviews. We’re always using GoToMeeting to communicate. It’s important to see faces as well as hear voices when you’re remote. Even though I’m in our HQ most of the time, I travel frequently and meet with clients so I don’t want to miss an important meeting when I’m out.
We manage our business through the software we created. Rocket Matter, while in reality a legal practice management solution, is actually a very good project management program as well. I use the app to keep track of my current projects (which are really matters), view my calendar, and track my expenses. In the software business, using your own product is often referred to as “eating one’s own dog food.” I prefer the more elegant “drinking one’s own wine."
Google Maps, TripIt, Yelp, and Uber form my traveling swiss army knife. Google Maps stays on my home screen because, in addition to travel usage, I use it locally as well. It’s how I look up local telephone numbers. I don’t LOVE this app, but then again, I don’t love the phone book either. It’s just a utility that works amazingly well that I use frequently.
Netflix, believe it or not, is critical to me staying in shape. I am able to survive the boredom of 30-minute elliptical workouts by binge watching TV shows. Right now I’m going through season one of Star Trek - the original series. I haven’t used Netflix on my iPhone in any other context. I don’t have a bus or train commute and can’t think of another instance where I would want to stare at a small screen for video.
I am very selective about what news I consume, especially when it's push, not pull oriented. Marketplace, which is broadcast on my local NPR station, makes the cut. The show is somehow able to make business and economic news highly entertaining. No one is rude, no one interrupts one another, and no one is brash or stupid. Instead, you get thoughtful, nuanced, and clever reporting. Since I'm rarely in my car at the right time to listen, their podcast app keeps me tuned in and informed.
When I track what I eat, I maintain my correct weight. It’s that simple. Lose It! is an incredible tracking app, which ties into my primitive human urge to set and track my progress toward goals. The UI is terrific, as is the web interface. I keep it on my home screen to remind me to enter my consumption and physical activity and shame me when I haven’t been tracking. Plus, I’m a sucker for cool icons, and they have more cute little icons for different foods and forms of exercise than I could wish for in my wildest fantasies.
We have an Apple TV which we use constantly. We lose the tiny little remote it came with once a day. The Remote app mitigates this problem by allowing us to control the Apple TV from anyone’s iPhone, iPad, or iTouch. It’s also much more helpful for searches, since you can type with a keyboard instead of selecting letters one at a time. I never thought I would appreciate the iPhone’s keyboard, but compared to spelling things out character by character with the native Apple TV remote, the app is a breeze.
We are total data heads at Rocket Matter. We’re always analyzing numbers critical for our business. One of the most important drivers is the health of our web traffic, so I use Analytiks, which has a beautiful interface for Google Analytics. Analytiks allows me to quickly see how the traffic is doing for our Rocket Matter and Legal Productivity sites.
Which app is your guilty pleasure?
The cool thing about StubHub is not just that you can get decently priced last-minute tickets to events, but when you travel you can get your pulse on everything that’s going on in the city. In Nashville for work? Wanna see if you can catch a Titans game or see one of the zillion of concerts going on in the city? StubHub.
What is the app you are still missing?
I wish I had an app that automatically doubles your battery life. How awesome would it be to have an app that has a button that says “boost battery” and automatically gives you a full charge? Also, if my Starbucks app actually refilled my coffee cup, THAT would be impressive.
How many times a day do you use your iPhone?
The phone is with me constantly when I’m out of the house, whether I’m at the office or the gym. I’m always using it, except when I’m driving. Even then I’m really using it as I’m listening to an audiobook or podcast but I don’t have it in hand. When I return from work and I’m at home, I keep it away in my pocket and try not to use it so my children do not remember me staring at a screen for the duration of their formative years. At home I try to limit use to answering texts and using the camera.
What is your favorite feature of the iPhone?
My life is qualitatively better when I’m on the go because of my iPhone. I love how I can launch the Kindle app and pick up my book where I left off the night before. I can FaceTime my family. I have access to any document I might need because of the cloud apps I use. I keep my travel documents neatly organized. I can navigate a new city on foot, order an Uber car, find an awesome restaurant, and get tickets to a ballgame. The iPhone makes traveling for work so much more enjoyable.
If you were in charge at Apple, what would you add or change?
They really need to resolve the issue with the short battery life. My iPhone cannot survive a day without my Mophie case, which extends battery life by 100%. If I use the iPhone the way I use it, for audiobooks, phone calls, web surfing and maps, the internal battery will be exhausted before 2pm.
I would like a button that says “no notifications, ever, in any shape or form” instead of having to wade through so many configurations for them, which never seem to work.
I would also like to add home screen buttons that call contacts without having to jailbreak the phone, run a third party app, or do some sort of convoluted solution.
I would like the back of the phone to blow out little streams of air so that it could glide across a table like an air hockey puck.
What's your wallpaper and why?
Currently my lock screen is a picture of Marty Feldman. This is an unusual situation, because my son and I have been on a big Young Frankenstein kick and he reset the lock screen when I wasn’t looking. I thought it was hilarious so I’m leaving it that way for a while. Normally I try to use photographs that I’ve taken from nature with the phone’s amazing camera. Every one in a while I download a stunning image from the Subreddit “Earth Porn”, which has really beautiful and mind-blowing stuff.
Anything else you'd like to share?
I use a Mophie case to extend battery life. Also, as much as I love my iPhone, I need to disconnect from it. I love being connected, but I hate being over-connected. I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my iPhone because I found that I was compulsively checking them and it was more annoying than fun.
One of the best ways to get better at driving a Mac is to learn to get work done without lifting your hands from the keyboard. There is a certain rhythm to getting work done with just the keyboard that feels great when you are in the moment. Topher Kessler did a nice write-up for Macworld explaining how to get started on the keyboard path.
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