Tag Archives: apple

The Calendar Conundrum

calendars

I’m a devoted Mac user, with interconnected (via Google Drive and Back to My Mac), backed up (via Time Capsule and via Arq backing up to Amazon Glacier), and secured (via multiple, redundant means) iMacs at home and on the farm.  These beautiful, powerful devices communicate and interact beautifully with my Macbook Air, iPad Air and iPhone.  It all works beautifully, and elegantly, except for one little problem.

I have a job.  Where I am forced to use a locked-down Windows computer.  A committed Apple-loving geek being forced to work on a walled-off Windows machine all day is a recipe for disconnected frustration.

lockeddownThere are shortcuts, hacks and workarounds for most of my workflow.  I use Google Drive, IFTTT and Hazel to move documents around, and to keep them in their desired locations.  After years of managing a single contacts list via Google Contacts, Google’s insistence on jamming my contacts into Google+ and Hangouts and my desire to have a small, manageable personal contacts list led me to separate work and personal contacts, with my work contacts located inside the Outlook prison on my work computer and my (very limited) list of personal contacts residing in iCloud, and my various Apple devices.  I used to think having two separate contacts lists would be burdensome, but the increasing integration between Apple contacts and various apps-and my desire to avoid inadvertently sending personal content to work contacts- made me a believer in separate contacts lists.  In other words, my inability to sync my Outlook contacts with my iCloud contacts (and thereby my various Apple devices) led me to embrace a better, separate solution.

As an aside, I think work contacts are going the way of newspapers and record labels.  I almost never resort to my work contacts list.  Rather I search my emails (instantly via X1) to find the email address or telephone number I need.  If that fails, I Google it.

I have always had separate work and personal email addresses and accounts, which has been and will always be preferable.  Again, my inability to access my Outlook email via iCloud or my Mac has never been a problem.  After all, both sets of email and both contacts lists are easily accessible via an iOS device, even if not be via a Mac.

Such is not the case for my calendar.  Unlike email and contacts, I very much desire a single, unified calendar.  Also unlike email and contacts, accessing multiple calendars via an iOS device alone is not a happy solution for me.  For years, I kept my calendar on Google, and pushed (not synced) my Outlook calendar entries (consisting mostly of accepted meeting invites) from Outlook to my Google calendar via the recently deprecated Google Calendar Sync.   Sadly, this no longer works and there is no acceptable substitute.

Which leaves me with the Hobson’s choice of having two separate calendars or having to manually enter every single Outlook calendar item in Cloud or the calendar application on my Apple device.  The latter is simply unworkable, given the large number of calendar entries I have.  The former is extremely unsatisfactory.  There is just no answer for a Mac-loving geek forced to work on a locked-down Windows computer.

Until I find a better solution, I am currently using a less than ideal workaround, via which I repurposed two of my old iPads as dedicated calendar devices, each hung on the wall in each of my offices, and each displaying my combined calendars, via Fantastical.  Because Fantastical can display multiple calendars, at least I have a unified calendar to look at, without having to pull out my iOS device each time.  This is horrible solution, but it’s the one I have.

I wish there was a better way to solve my calendar conundrum, but for the time being this is the best I have come up with.

What I really wish is that Macs had infiltrated corporate America long ago, so that I could use a Mac at work.  This is probably never going to happen- and will certainly not happen in my lifetime- so the best I can do is keep looking for some hacked up workaround that will allow me to live semi-efficiently within the frustrating digital walls I cannot climb.

I welcome any other ideas.

Don’t You Know that I Can See

You have to click play before you can proceed.

Generally, I am a strong proponent of knocking down walls and tossing the gatekeepers out on their selective ears.  Remember how much we used to care about who linked to whom?  And sometime before that, I actually cared about the NBA and thought soccer was boring.  That was all wrong.

Like much of what one reads in the so-called press these days.  Now that the newspapers have been killed (generally good) and most content has been drug to free, anyone with a MacBook and an internet account can be a journalist.  Or at least portray one of the internet.  Sort of like I’m doing now.

That means more people competing for the same number of eyeballs, which results in more and more extreme stories, marketing and editing.  This is math, inevitable.  Which means you have some people who couldn’t write their way out of a wet paper bag hammering out half-baked and overly dramatic headlines.  Link bait is the new journalism.  Long live BuzzFeed.

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Add to the mix some extreme polarization between ideologies, and you have a constant stream of bullshit that either pisses you off or reinforces what your preferred plutocrat has told you you already believe.  It’s a hot mess.

I was off the grid for WWDC this year.  When I read some of the recaps, it seemed like a very underwhelming event.  Macworld has a great recap of the rush to fail.  I was disappointed.

Until I watched the video of the keynote.  And realized that, while no new hardware was announced (it is, after all, a developer‘s conference), Apple announced some things that are not only awesome but destined to materially improve mobile computing.  In other words, it was very impressive.  Something I would never have known based on the news reports.

See for yourself.

My 10 Most Important iOS Apps

bestiosappsLike a lot of people, I have come to rely more and more on mobile applications, and less on desktop programs.  I still love my iMac, but the list of things I use it exclusively for (video editing, songwriting, maybe one or two other things) continues to shrink.

One of the by-products of this has been a simplification of my iPhone and iPad app use and flow.  Rather than a hundred apps on my devices, stashed away in folders, I have moved towards having many fewer apps easily accessible from the screen.

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Here are the 10 apps I use the most.  For purposes of this exercise, I’m not going to count the pre-installed apps, like Camera (95% of my photos and videos are now taken with my iPhone), Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Messages and Phone.

Swell

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I’ve already covered this great app in detail, so I’ll just restate that I use it all the time, and more than any other app, including the pre-installed apps.

Life360

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Largely because Find My Friends, an Apple app for crying out loud, is so completely unreliable, this has become our family’s default and oft-used “where the hell are you” app.  It’s not perfect, but it works.

Dark Sky

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I’ve tried many weather apps, and this one comes the closest to the balance between minimalist information and useful data.  I never use the map, which is what got it on the app map initially, but I like everything else about it.  It’s been my weather app of choice for a good while.

Facebook

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While not pre-installed, this is the functional equivalent of a pre-installed app.  I’m not a heavy Facebook user, but it has all the people and they aren’t coming to me.  It’s the virtual water cooler where one must go if one wants to interact with others.  I hate, with a passion, the way Facebook keeps jacking around with my news feed (for example, by changing it back to top stories rather than most recent), but there’s not much to do about it (except immediately change it back).

Fitbit

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I am a big fan of the Fitbit One.  I’ve worn it for over a year, and I check my stats multiple times a day.  Seeing that you’ve got your miles in before the last workout of the day (would otherwise occur) is like waking up at 4:00 in the morning and getting to roll over and go back to sleep.

Evernote

I’m not big on entering notes from my iPhone or even my iPad.  For all its awesomeness, the Evernote apps- and even the desktop program- are hot messes of too much information on the screen and chaotic navigation.  But it has long been my primary file cabinet, and I access stuff all the time.

Spotify

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iTunes is a horrible train-wreck of an experience and probably always will be.  Spotify is the one and only music application you need.  I listen to 90% of my music via Spotify, and the rest via Google Music, which will not increase its share unless it removes the frustrating 20,000 song limit.

Here’s a short little playlist, via Spotify.

 

Yahoo News Digest

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At first, I loved the simplicity of this app.  Eight stories in the morning and eight at night.  I still use it, though I find that, more and more, I am reading things I already know.  But if you want a simple but elegant news app, this is the one.

Feedly

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Feedly is the best Google Reader replacement, and in many ways an improvement over my long-lost love.  I don’t use it much on my iPhone (the screen is just too small for optimum content consumption), but I use it all the time on my iPad.  Reading my feeds is one thing that has moved very decidedly from an iMac thing to an iPad thing.

Dropcam

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I have had more than one frustrating experience with Dropcam hardware, but it’s getting better, and I use the app daily all the time to view my various security cameras.  I pay for the cloud storage of the video feeds and I like the ability to get alerts when the camera senses motion.  As soon as they come out with the long-rumored weatherproof camera, this app will be the only security service you need.

Honorable Mention: Skype (the best way I can effectively video-chat with my teenagers from afar; I prefer FaceTime, but young people seem to prefer Skype), Hue (the hardware is way too expensive, but, you know, colored lights can hypnotize), HBO Go (I use it all the time on my Apple TV- Sopranos FTW), Instagram (last year, it would have been at the top of the list, but it’s fading fast), Kindle (if this were an iPad only list, it would be near the top).

Where I Come From They Call ‘Em Painters

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I was going to tell you all about the forthcoming OS X Mountain Lion release, but this is way better.

I wonder how many more mammals we’ll get before Apple goes to birds?  What with the cloud and all.

I’m already using the Messages beta.  It’s clearly a work in progress, but it is very nice to have iMessages on my Mac.

Brats Behaving Hilariously

One of my favorite things about the internet is the way it allows creative people to compile examples of people behaving badly and simultaneously embarrass them into (hopefully) being a little more self-aware and create clever social commentary.

Like this hilarious indictment of both the ungrateful and the banality of social networking in general, and Twitter in particular.

Awesome.

Confessions of an Ex-Windows User

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It’s been almost two months since I dumped my last Windows computer, and returned to full-time Apple fan boy status.  It’s been great.  Almost perfect, in fact.

Here are my observations, two months in.

1. Macs are beautiful.  Period.  That may seem a little silly to those who are still beating away on their dusty, loud and aesthetically challenged Windows computers.  But think about it.  Many of us spend large parts of our day tethered to a computer for one purpose or another.   There’s something really Zen-like about sitting down in front of my cordless, contained iMac, compared to the mess of gear and cables that used to percolate on and under my desk.

All I have to do is sit down there, queue up All Things Must Pass (buy @ Amazon), and I am good with the world.

2. With only one exception, I don’t miss any of the software that isn’t available on Macs.  For one, the cloud has made much installed software irrelevant.  I only use 5-6 local programs regularly, and all but one of them have Mac versions.  As Macs continue to gain market share, we’ll see less and less Windows-only applications.

3. Much of the core Mac software is wonderful.  I absolutely love iPhoto.  Love, love, love it.  iMovie is not as powerful as Video Studio Pro, but it is incredibly easy to use.  And not owned by Corel.  I expect Final Cut Pro is plenty powerful, but I haven’t tried to tackle it yet.

I can’t really talk about video without mentioning… the Guy on a Buffalo.  I’ve watched those videos teens of times, and they are still hilarious.

4. The Magic Trackpad  lives up to its name.  I was such a fan of Microsoft’s Trackball Explorer that I bought a bunch of extras when they stopped making them.  But after a week or so with the Magic Trackpad, I can’t imagine using anything else, by choice.  I still have to use a 5 year old, dusty, crash-prone Dell box at work.  My morning buzz-kill-of-a routine consists of booting up that dinosaur, and waiting for it to crash when I try to email a big attachment.  If I had my way (sadly, I don’t with the IT folks at my company), I’d bring my own iMac up there, install Parallels, let them put all the corporate bloatware in there, and otherwise maintain my computing efficiency and karma.

5. The day to day experience is, well, just better.  I added iOS 5 to three iPhones and two iPads this week, which also required updating iTunes and other computer programs.  The process was really easy on Macs.  But on the one remaining Windows computer in our house- my daughter’s laptop- it was kludgy and hard.  The Windows navigation system seems cluttered, and the laptop touchpad is almost painful to use.  I really hate having to add software to that computer.

But it’s not all perfect in Apple land.

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Anyone who believes that Macs never lock-up or crash, hasn’t used one very much.  They do.  Not as often as Windows machines, but it happens.  I have had a few moments where I wanted to find every beach ball in the world, and rip them to shreds.

But, all things considered, I can’t imagine ever going back to Windows.  That just doesn’t seem, you know, fun.

Sadness

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Steve Jobs, 1955-2011