The Stump

I first received one of these stands in my speaker bag at Macworld several years ago. It's a piece of heavy rubber with a metal disk in the base to give it weight that you can easily drop an iPad or iPhone in when you want to prop it up.  I liked it so much I bought a second one for the office. Since then Stumps have multiplied like Tribbles in my home. When my daughter came back from a day on the Macworld show floor, it didn't surprise me in the least that she bought her own pink one for her room. The stump is a great piece of low-tech to make using your-high tech easier. Macworld agrees.

Sponsor: Rocket Matter

This week MacSparky.com is sponsored by Rocket Matter, the premier cloud-based law practice management solution. The folks at Rocket Matter get how to run your business in the Internet age and Rocket Matter is the place to go when you've finally had it with the expense and pain of trying to do it yourself. This week Rocket Matter is giving away a free ebook, Cloud Planet: The Mobile Lawyer. This book is full of tips and advice to get productive on the go. There are tricks and tips helpful to anyone in a service based business. Go check it out.

MPU 187: Word Processors

This week Katie and I dive deep on the current state of word processors on the Mac and iOS. We also talk about whether or not word processors even relevant in 2014. Sadly, we decided that for too many people (myself included), they are.

Thinking About the Hypothetical 12-inch Retina MacBook Air

When it comes to rumors, this is probably the last site you should read. If I actually know something, I’ll never tell. If I don’t know something, I’d be wasting your time. I can, however, share my nerd-lust for particularly juicy rumors. It seems like there is a lot of momentum building lately behind the idea of a 12-inch Retina MacBook Air, including this recent bit from Arnold Kim at Mac Rumors.

I don’t know if this is true or not but it makes a lot of sense. In size, I bet it wouldn’t be much bigger than the current 11-inch MacBook Air (that actually has an 11.6 inch screen and a wide bezel with plenty of space it could give up to a bigger screen). Acknowledging that I know nothing about what Apple intends to actually ship, I think it would also make a lot of sense to sell a small retina Mac and dump the existing 11-inch MacBook Air while leaving the non-retina 13-inch model for an entry level machine. My one question is battery life. The 11-inch form already has the least amount of space for batteries and retina screens are power-hungry. Last year we got a MacBook Air refresh at WWDC. June isn’t that far away. If you are in the market for a MacBook Air, I think now would be a good time to wait and see.

TextExpander touch 2.5 screencast

I had the pleasure of producing a video for Smile Software about the new features in TextExpander touch version 2.5. I’d like the think the video does a good job of getting you up to speed with TextExpander touch regardless of your experience with the app and demonstrates some of the new 2.5 features. The snippet group management is much improved. You can now watch, download, and otherwise consume it at Vimeo.

Weekend Project: Heartbleed Recovery Kit

There has been plenty of news about the Heartbleed bug this week. TidBITS did a great job summing it up. It appears something we all took for granted as really secure (Open SSL) really wasn't. As users that means we've potentially been compromised at a lot of websites. I say "potentially" because there is really no way to log incursions due to the nature of this bug. That's a little terrifying. So what should you be doing this weekend?

First take a look at this handy list from Mashable. If any of your vendors and online accounts show up as compromised AND fixed (that second part is important), log in and reset your password. If the site is compromised but not fixed yet, don't log in. In that case, don't touch it until it is fixed.

You all know how I'll be updating my passwords, with 1Password, which was not compromised. As an aside, someone at Macworld/iWorld asked me why I always change my major passwords (banking, iTunes, Amazon, Dropbox, Paypal) twice a year. Things like this are why (although in fairness this bug is so bad that wouldn't have saved me either).

Home Screens - Deron Bos

This week’s home screen features Deron Bos (website) (Twitter). Deron is, among many things, a dad, a professional organizer, and a geek. I love how Deron is bringing his love of Apple technology to his business. So Deron, show us your home screen.

What are some of your favorite apps?

Tweetbot

I heard the deafening nerd chorus of praise for this app for years, but it wasn’t until I started tweeting for my business and learning that Twitter is at its best when interacting that I fell in love with Twitter. Even still, my sometimes dominating Dutch cheapness, had me on the official Twitter app for sometime before I ponied up. Now I love it – the swipe to reveal conversations I use constantly and all its satisfying robot sounds are music to my young-on-Twitter heart. I liked it so much that I eventually even bought the $20 Mac version. Totally worth it, look forward to the iPad update…coming soon?

Habit List

I found out about this from David’s Macworld review and knew it would be a good replacement for Good Habits which lacked a sexy iOS 7 design or more importantly the versatilely to schedule certain habits for certain days. I’m mostly using to try to keep myself accountable for networking/social media work for my business, but I’m thinking about moving my morning routine from Reminders to here as well. The one thing I wish it had was the ability to have folders or different contexts, so that “Fill up Buffer with week’s worth of posts” wouldn’t be right on top of “Make boys’ lunches.”

Pushpin

I teach digital organization to my clients, but like any good organizer I’m still figuring it out myself. I’m experimenting with Pinboard after feeling like links and web research would get lost in Evernote. Right now my digital buckets look something like: notes in Simplenote (NVALT on the Mac), long, sprawling, story like articles in Instapaper, scanned PDFs and cold storage in Evernote, more visual organizing links in Pinterest, videos in Pocket, and occasional recipes in Pepperplate. It seems a bit spread out to me at times, but the everything bucket model just hasn’t worked for me in the past.

Downcasts

Yes, its ugly and yes, I’m waiting to see what Overcast is like, and yes, I still can’t fully figure out its playlist feature, but it does stream episodes which for binge-listening a podcast like Fizzle (by recent Home Screen subject Chase Reeves) is key. MPU is heavy in my rotation too along with The Disney Story Origins Podcast and How Did This Get Made?

Reminders

I use lists with different contexts (Phone calls, Computer, Home, Errands, etc) for a very simple GTD system. It works fairly well – almost all the apps I love now have Mac counterparts like this one.

Messages

I love the multi-platform functionality of iMessages. Moving the same conversation from my iPhone to my full Mac keyboard is completely satisfying. Especially when it’s reminding my NYC friend of his perjorative views of turning 40 when he was 25.

Google Voice

This app has always been a bit crappy and it’s probably never going to be updated, but I use GV as my business line so it’s on the home page. I had hopes for GV, but I think it’s going to be integrated into Hangouts which I used the other day for the first time in a very long time and found very pleasing in its design.

Day One

This app knocks it out of the park – in all its versions. I love that it’s plain text, makes a great photo journal, and tags make it easy to place different content (food journal, movie review journal, journal-journal) in one place. An everything-journaling bucket that does work for me.

Reeder

This is one of the first iOS apps I truly loved and it’s still killer for me: pleasurable reading experience with a ton of options to send to the other buckets.

Lyft

I drive part-time for Lyft and the experience itself (rather than the app) of routing rides through Los Angeles with these things still we still call “phones” seems like a huge tip of the iceberg of how integrated technology is radically changing life. It’s continually surprising to me. Plus cute icons.

Waze

I’ve used Waze since it was one of the few free GPS iOS apps and I have to say it’s improved hugely in three years – it often does a very effective job of getting me around LA traffic through some untraditional routes.

Fantastical

Best calendar app, EV-AH.

Chrome

I’m somewhat surprised that I look like Mr. Google here, because I’ve never had any interest in Android, but there are some Google web apps that I’ve used for years fondly like Gmail and Google Docs (now Drive.) I switched to Chrome on my Mac because Safari was crashing so much on me, and it’s been much more stable, but I’m not sure I have the same need for Chrome on iOS. Mobile Safari is very fluid and I might switch back soon.

Gmail

I made the switch to Gmail focused apps after suffering through the Mail-Mavericks debacle and reading Macsparky’s convincing argument for embracing the Gmail apps that fully feature its uniqueness. Among them I like the divided inbox the most on mobile and the ease that it can handle my four (four?!) different Gmail accounts easily in one app. There are some things I miss in iOS Mail, not least of all the way it handles text.

What app is your guilty pleasure?

I don’t feel guilty about it, but an app I love for casual reading is Zite. I was bummed to find out that Flipboard bought it, because I always found much more superior and surprisingly personalized content on Zite.

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

As the dad of two young boys, I still seeing having multiple user accounts on the iPad as low hanging fruit for the next version of iOS.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Thanks so much for asking – I think the home screens feature might have been how I found this blog originally so I feel honored to be featured.

Thanks Deron

MPU 186: MPU Live

We recorded our second live show last Saturday and we're getting better at it. This show includes feedback and listener ideas relating to email, AppleScript, OmniFocus, Hazel and more. I really like the ability to tackle listener feedback and ideas once a month. If you missed it live you can download it now. Also, check out the show notes at the above link. Hay Oborn is not messing around.

iPhone JD Reviews Microsoft Word for iPad

Not surprisingly, Jeff has done the best review of Word for iPad I've seen yet. I've been using Word for iPad in the day job since it released and, by and large, it delivers the tools I need to leave the MacBook in the bag. I had the unique experience of tracking changes on a contract I'm working on with another attorney a few days ago in my favorite comfy chair in the local Peet's. My Kudos to the Microsoft team that delivered this as a really functional product. I hope they bring some of the innovation back to the Mac from the iPad version. Based on this interview, it appears they will. I still think Word is overkill for most people but if you need Word, things just got a lot easier on the iPad.

Pebble Resurrection

I remember when the Pebble was the Kickstarter darling and everybody was talking about it. I got sucked into the hype and put down my money. I was happy to wait a few  months before my Pebble arrived so I could see the next innovative smart watch. 

Then I waited, and waited, and waited.

I really can't begrudge the Pebble team. They started with a small project that unexpectedly turned into a massive project. I'm sure with the huge success came a million small problems they never anticipated they would have. 

Nevertheless, it took them way too long to deliver the product. When they finally did deliver, they got lackluster reviews and my own watch didn't get shipped to me until months after the original products went out. (The problem was I chose to get an orange one and it turns out it took them a lot longer to sort the color out.) There were black ones in stores already, the Pebble was old news, and my "early adopter" reward came months late. I was sick of the Pebble before it even arrived. 

When it arrived, I played with it for about 30 minutes but was unimpressed with the build quality, the software, and the screen. I put it in a drawer. I didn't even write it up here because by the then, the story was already months old.

So this year at Macworld I noticed a lot of friends wearing Pebble watches. These weren't the fancy new metal ones but the first-generation plastic watches, like the one sitting in my drawer at home. I got curious and finally asked a few people to show me their watch and it turns out Pebble has improved the software quite a bit since the last time I looked at it. I decided to give it another chance. Upon returning home I pulled it out, charged it, updated the software, and I've now been been wearing it for a few weeks. With the new software, the watch is actually a lot better than it was the first time I played with it. 

As a timepiece the display is still pretty ugly and low contrast. It does, however, stay on and I dont' have to push a button to see the time. Some of the faces incorporate extra data, like the weather. These require that your phone be close to your watch in effort to stay updated. Also, it appears that if the iPhone drops the Pebble app in the background, the data stream ends. There are some fun watch faces ranging from traditional to experimental. There are also novelty faces like a traditional Mickey Mouse watch and another one that looks like the Star Trek LCARS interface. My favorite is a simple display of time with digits and the current weather.

The Apps are interesting. They can provide a lot more information and some have accompanying iPhone applications. I've got a few apps running on it (including a tea timer) and I've downloaded several others. Overall, the more complicated apps are not ready for prime time. They take too much fiddling with the watch buttons to get data and with that eInk screen, really don't offer much of a payoff. I think that if you want anything remotely complicated, pull your phone out of your pocket.

The notifications, however, are another thing entirely. I really like getting text messages and other iOS notifications on my wrist. Often my phone vibrates in my pocket but I'm too busy to pull it out and check. Then, of course, I later forget to look at why the notification came in. Now I can just look at my wrist. I definitely see the benefit of this. I also like the ability to control my music from my wrist, especially when my phone is on the other side of the room in its cradle and streaming to SONOS or my office Bluetooth speaker.

Overall, I'm still not entirely thrilled with this watch. It feels pretty cheap and the design feels like Soviet-era public housing. There's probably a lot of good reasons for these massive buttons on the side and the otherwise blocky design of the overall watch but I wish they made it a little more subdued and refined. I do, however, appreciate this watch for finally getting through to me why a notification watch would make sense.

I'm very curious to see what Apple does in this space (or even if they make a watch at all). I'm also curious to see how often I'm wearing my Pebble in six months. For now at least I'm going to start wearing it a lot more often. 

The Birth of the Lightsaber

There's some really great stuff in here for Star Wars nerds. As an aside, am I the only one that cringes every time George Lucas calls a lightsaber a "laser sword"?

Game Pick: Monument Valley

I stumbled into Monument Valley over the weekend and I'm hooked. This game follows a princess as she works her way through a series of intricate mazes and castles with levers, pulleys, and physics-defining ingenuity. You know those contraptions in the opening credits of Game of Thrones? It's like that but not nearly as ominous. In fact, one of the things I like about the game is that there is no dying. Just some puzzles, a princess, and the occasional squawking bird. I've been taking my time with each level and really enjoying it. You can get Monument Valley in the iOS App Store.

Sponsor: Rocket Matter

This week MacSparky.com is sponsored by Rocket Matter. Rocket Matter is a fantastic cloud-based solution for running a law practice. You set up an account and log in and get back to work. You don't need to buy your own server. You don't need to install local updates. You just work and let Rocket Matter do all that back-end stuff for you. Rocket Matter continues to grow with some great features like billing, document storage, calendaring, and more. They even have an iPhone app that lets you accesses and manipulate all of your data.

But there is more! This week there's a free white paper about billing. If you pay for your shoes by the billable hour (even if you're not a lawyer), this is worth checking out. Go download the white paper, Houston, We Have a Problem.

Rocket Matter did some great work on this and it includes the below info graphic that I thought worth sharing. Thanks to Rocket Matter for sponsoring MacSparky.

John Coltrane, "Ballads"

Ballads is one of my favorite jazz albums. I've had a lifelong relationship with this album. While John Coltrane is best known for his more frantic stuff, this album proves just how sweetly he could play ballads. No matter how much I twist myself up, the opening riff of Say It (track 1) always unwinds me, immediately. When my daughters were babies, this is the music I used to put them to sleep.

Remarkably, all but one of the songs were recorded in one take. Crazy. I've bought it in vinyl, CD, and digital. Best of all, it's now only six bucks on iTunes. So worth it.

My Favorite iOS Dictation App - Dictate + Connect

I often get asked about what app I use for dictation on my iPhone. There are lots but my favorite is, without question, Dictate+Connect. This app has a great iOS7-y look and feel and has more features than I've had in a handheld recorder. I can easily adjust the recording quality, mic sensitivity and playback speed. It also has a voice activation mode that automatically stops the recording when I pause to think, which in my case is often. The app displays a waveform of your dictation while recording. It exports to WAV, AAC, WAV IMA4, and AIFF and there is a native version for both iPhone and iPad.

On the sharing side, Dictate+Connect lets me share my recordings via email, export, or in a separate iOS app. For example, I use the Quickshare feature to send dictations (in WAV) format to the transcription ninja at my office. I also send WAV files to Transporter (or Dropbox) to transcribe with Dragon Dictate on my Mac. I still use a physical pocket recorder but am using Dictate + Connect more and more. Because it is an app, it's always in my pocket.