Things app

things-mac-black-friday-saleI’m a sucker for productivity apps, but one app that has been highly recommended by many folks that I haven’t tried is Things, mainly due to the price.

The good news is that the iPhone and iPad versions of Things is free for Black Friday, and the Mac App version has a 30% discount until the 28th of November.

Prior to using Things, I was hacking together a similar solution using Wunderlist (which is free). Things feels like a productivity app designed with GTD in mind, but has a nice balance between the simplicity of Wunderlist and the power of Omnifocus (which is also incredibly expensive, so I have yet to try that).

One minor quirk I’ve found is that I can’t set a reminder for a task, which seems like a strange oversight for me, but I just work around that.

If you haven’t tried Things yet, I’d recommend you download the app while it’s still free and give it a whirl. I tried it for a day or so and ended up buying the Mac app. No regrets so far!

Tablet buying tips

When someone asks me which tablet they should buy, there are few questions that I usually ask in order to help determine what they should buy. I’m going to run through them here with the hope that it helps you decide what to buy.

A few things to note:

  • This is my personal view of things, so don’t blame me if you still end up with the wrong tablet.
  • This guide is written in Q4 2014, so things might have changed by the time you read this.
  • I wrote a tablet buying guide back in Q4 2012. Some things have changed then, but the core concepts have not changed, so there will be some overlap.
  • I’m going to try and keep things as simple as possible, so if it sounds short, it’s by designe.
  • I wouldn’t say the tips below are definitive, but I intend for them to get you thinking about certain key points before you make your purchase.

So here are the few things you should look at:

  • Price
  • Usage pattern and purpose
  • Operating system
  • Your mobile phone and computer
  • Your apps
  • Support

Price

To put it simply, the cheap tablets are horrible. I’d skip them. If your budget supports it, check out Apple’s iPads and the higher end Android tablets.

Usage pattern and purpose

How do you plan to use your tablet? If you’re always on the go, it might be a good idea to consider a smaller tablet and one that also supports a data SIM card. If you’re using it as a desktop replacement, you might want a larger screen size.

Operating system

Do you have any specific preference for Android or Apple’s iOS? If you prefer one platform over the other, then it’s best you stick to it and not deviate due to price or promotion.

Your mobile phone and computer

Devices are increasingly connected with each other, with the caveat that they’re on the same ecosystem (Apple’s, Google’s, or Microsoft’s). So if your mobile phone and computer are already on the a unified platform, you might have some additional benefits to one ecosystem. Perks I’m talking about include better photo syncing, file transfer, etc.

Your apps

Do you have any essential apps that are key to your workflow? It may not be available or works terribly on other platforms. Make sure you check through the respective platform’s application store first.

Support

Who do you usually go to for support? The Apple Store? Your neighbour? Me? It’s good to make sure that whatever you buy, you have someone to help you when you need support.

In conclusion:

Buying a tablet isn’t that hard. I would recommend you decide on a platform first (i.e. iOS or Android), and then see which tablet hardware to buy.

Good luck! Leave me a comment below if you found this helpful or need further clarification.

Empty your life

I’m doing my best to focus on minimalism, but with stuff like the iPhone 6 Plus tempting me, it’s not easy. Every now and then, it’s good to have a nice reminder, though.

What would you do if your life was a blank slate?

If it were an empty container, with limited space, what would you put in it?

Sometimes we focus too much on accumulating trinkets and baggage in our lives, we forget that it’s important to let go of stuff too. Keep things simple.

On the iPhone 6 Plus

Oh boy. While I’m doing my best to focus on minimalism, there is a huge temptation that just landed, and I mean literally huge. Yes, I’m talking about the iPhone 6 Plus.

I hate being the hypocrite, but phones have always been my main weakness. Since selling my iPhone 5S, I’m rocking a beat up old iPhone 4, which along with a carrier subsidy, should give me enough reason to drop the cash for the iPhone 6 Plus (64GB, silver, if you must ask).

Being totally honest with myself, ignoring the odd bendgate article that pops up, I guess I’ll eventually cave and buy it, but until that happens, I must say I’m surprised that I’m enjoying my iPhone 4. It’s a beat up old thing by this point, especially since my mom dropped it and cracked the display, but I’m having a kick out of using it minimalist style, similar to how one might enjoy your favourite cassette mixtape on an old Sony Walkman that you dug up.
Continue reading “On the iPhone 6 Plus”

Switching to FastMail

I’ve been a Gmail user and advocate from day I managed to get my hands on one, which was a big deal when it was launched. Since then the email interface has gone through changes, some good, some bad. Of late, there seems to be an increasing dissatisfaction towards Google, the way it treats user data, and privacy concerns of government access to data since the Edward Snowden incident. None of these has been enough to push me over to switching to FastMail.

Recently, many of our clients on RubyCoded require an email system where they can manage the users themselves. There are free solutions to this issue, such as allowing client access to the CPanel; forwarding the emails to Gmail; or some other hackish solutions. None of those seemed to be the right way to do it. There were alternatives such as Google Apps and Office365, but they’re more expensive than FastMail, and can sometimes seem like overkill. So I’ve since switched our RubyCoded emails to FastMail. Hopefully our clients will appreciate using FastMail too.

So far, aside from an irritating situation where my Mail client on OS X and iOS randomly asks me for my password when I try to send an email, everything else has been just fine. In fact, the FastMail web interface itself feels extremely fast, clean, and snappy. It’s also refreshing to not have to see advertisements. I guess advertisements are something that you don’t notice until they’re gone, and it’s nice that they’re gone.

For my personal emails, I’m still alternating between my Gmail and iCloud accounts while deciding what to do. One of the main reasons I’m still giving my Gmail address out is that everybody knows what “at gmail dot com” sounds like, so I can mumble that to phone support and they’ll usually get it right, as opposed to me spelling out my custom domain. It’s a lazy man’s excuse, but hey, I’m being honest here. Eventually I assume I’ll move my email to my custom domain and put it on FastMail.

Some things I want from my email provider include:

  • Fast web interface. This is key to me as I like being able to check my email on a public computer if needed.

  • Works well on mobile. FastMail doesn’t have a mobile app like Gmail, but recently I’ve grown to like the iOS Mail app, and FastMail works just fine on it with IMAP.

  • Reliable. So far so good.

On privacy
FastMail has issued a statement explaining their stance on government surveillance requests. I don’t entirely agree with their views on not having to hand data over to the US government if they’re asked to, but then again, I don’t expect 100% privacy for an online service anymore. It’s 2014 after all.

It’s probably worth a read to check out the views of some tech guys who have switched over to FastMail too:

On referrals
I don’t earn a cent from this blog so far, but I every now and then I put in affiliate link (like the FastMail link above) just to see if some day I’ll actually earn more than $0 from an affiliate link. Consider it a personal experiment, and if you’re adverse to those affiliate links, you can go to the FastMail website directly.