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Publishing with Ulysses

OK.. the new version of Ulysses is out now and it includes the ability to publish straight from the app to WordPress. The great thing is.. not only is it WordPress.com hosted sites, but if you self-host, you can also publish.

I’ve recently started moving my writing to the iPad. The challenge is, and was going to be.. how to publish from the iPad. I know Fredrico Viticci and others have managed to put together some workflows.. but this is nice. It’s just built in.

Anyway, for now.. let’s see if we can get some more stuff published. I am just trying to figure out the sheets vs. grouping for publishing.. but here we go. Hopefully a better and easier workflow.

Apple Notes Slowness on Startup – FIXED!

I was trying to explore switching from Evernote to Apple Notes for a period of time.  At some point during this experiment, Apple Notes started acting like a punk.. basically every time I tried to open Notes, the sync to iCloud would freeze up the app for anywhere from 15-60 seconds.  It was unusable.   It was also driving me crazy.

I finally broke down and did something I NEVER do, I called Apple Support.   After a bit of back and forth on the phone, the tech suggested I delete my iCloud Account from the phone and then add it again.   While this seemed extreme, I was a bit desperate.   So I did.   Once I was able to restore my iCloud account, to my happy surprise, Notes was responsive again..  for about 15 minutes.    Then it all went south again.   UGH!  Oh, and did I mention that when you delete your iCloud account, you have to re-add all of your Apple Pay options?  (phone and watch).  What a pain!

After some poking and digging on the interwebz, I came across Adiel_G.  He had found a way to fix his issue.  He gave me clear instructions that I wanted to share here. Why am I sharing?  Well, it seems to fully work!  I no longer have this lag or slow-ness at launch.

Summary:  We want to remove the Notes database from iCloud completely, but leave iCloud intact.  

 

Before you start, you will want to backup your notes.  You can export 1 by 1 to something like Evernote through a Share Sheet, or use something like Note2Text to export the text out of the notes.  (it loses attachments, but might be worth it for you.  I was for me)

Step 1:  Go to your iCloud Account on your iPhone/iPad and choose Storage

IMG_2618

Step 2:  Click the Manage Storage option, this will bring you here:

IMG_2619

Step 3:  Click the Notes under Documents and Data.  (If it isn’t showing, click more)

IMG_2620

Step 4:  Click the Edit in the upper right, then click Delete All.  This will remove your Notes DB completely.

IMG_2621

Sure, I lost some formatting and attachments in the process, but I had also backed up key items to Evernote first.   The key point here is, it fixed me.  I am happy for this.  I wanted to post this in hopes that others find it when searching for the same issue.  What a pain.

 

IDEA: Auto-create tasks from Apple Notes

I am playing around with the Apple Notes app still to see if I could replace Evernote.  One of the items I love about Evernote is my ability to see recent notes with checkboxes created in them.  There is no way to do this with Apple Notes.  It got me thinking, why are Tasks in Reminders different from Tasks in Notes?

Imagine you are taking meeting notes, and during the meeting you create some tasks that have to be completed.

 

Notes

After the meeting, you currently go back and extract those tasks out manually.  What if the the reminders application had a special note(s) that pulled out tasks for you?   Then, you could use Reminders for your tasks, or automate IFTTT rules into a task editor of choice.

Reminders

A task is a task in my view. Why wouldn’t I want them in the same place?  It seems like any software creating a “task” could use a common platform and integrate these across the board.   Could someone get to that please?

Life Hack: Linking to a specific Apple Note

BIG UPDATE HERE:   I figured out a better way to link up notes in Apple Notes.  For this new version, I am using a text expander snippet to generate this for me.  Here is the workflow.

If I am writing a note that I want to reference later, I need to have an easy way to get back to this.  Sometimes I use it for writing a task and linking to a note for details, sometimes it is a note that wants to reference another note.  In Evernote, I would just use the note link option.   For Apple Notes now, here is what I do.

I created a TextExpander Snippet using Javascript with the following code:

 var chars = "0123456789ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXTZabcdefghiklmnopqrstuvwxyz";
 var string_length = 10;
 var randomstring = '#SearchKey: ';
 for (var i=0; i<string_length; i++) {
 var rnum = Math.floor(Math.random() * chars.length);
 randomstring += chars.substring(rnum,rnum+1);
 }

I assigned this to a shortcut, that when I type it, I get something like this:  #SearchKey: CwFPFCR7xm

NOTE: The great part, I get a new code each time I run the snippet.

This is now my new link back to this note.  Now, in any other note I want to reference this note (or in a task manager), I just put this search key in the place I need the reference.  Super easy to get back to my note. As an added bonus, I now also see all reference from other notes when I search.

Referenced Notes

 

This works great ! I am still playing around more with notes.  I really do want to like this enough to ditch Evernote.  This is just one more nail in the coffin for replacing Evernote for me.

Below is my original post.. but this new technique is much better.


 

I have recently spent time trying to use Apple Notes instead of Evernote.   One feature I was missing was the ability to link to a specific note like I did in Evernote.   I used this in my task lists all the time.    Since you are not able to get a specific note link from Apple Notes, here is my quick hack.

Step 1:  Create your note

Step 2: Use 1Password (or similar password manager) to create a unique complex password

Step 3:  put the password at the end of the note as a #tag.. so you see something like #jerd-Ax-ceuk (or whatever your password manager generated)

Step 4:  Put the same #tag in your task manager.

Step 5:  When you need to find that note, just search in Apple Notes for the unique tag.. Viola!

Hope that helps someone.  It was a quick fix for me.

Tried and Failed… Apple Notes vs. Evernote

I was trying to see if I could switch from Evernote to Notes.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Evernote, but with all the hubbub lately around Evernote, I thought it was safe to explore options outside of my walled garden of Evernote.

I figured by trying Apple Notes, I would see if a built in App would work for me.   Here is what I found.

Things I liked in Notes

  • Drawings – this was great.  Evernote does not have this option the way Notes does
  • Safari Integration – I like the share sheet.. to be clear, Evernote has a great web clipper, so no real win here
  • Speed of launching.  Notes was fast.   (I also had far less notes in it)
  • Title, Header and Paragraph formatting.  The ability to hit CTRL T for a title, CTRL H for a header.. so awesome.

Things I missed from Evernote

  • The ability to copy a link to a note and use it somewhere.  I do this all the time within Evernote, Omnifocus, etc FIXED:  See Here
  • Tables.  Yes, Evernote tables suck.. but its better than no tables
  • Sharing of notes.   Getting a public URL is just so nice
  • Search limited to a folder – no way to do this in notes NOTE: Learning more search modifiers is helping me.  
  • Searching for edited files within the past week that had checkboxes.  It’s a great tool to help me track un-done items from meeting notes.  Notes has no way to track check boxes
  • IFTTT integration.  I have a recipe that takes my meetings that are coming up and creates a new note for meeting notes.  Saves a little time, but it’s nice.

Anyway.. for now.. back to Evernote.   I will deal with the speed issues and lack of formatting types for now.

iPhone Live Photos

I’ve had my new iPhone for only 4 days now.. but I can tell you that I am quite impressed with the Live Photos feature.   Initially when I saw it, I was sure it was going to feel gimmicky.   Like many people, I can tell you that the emotional connection you get with a live photo is much more than a still.

In order to take a live photo with your iPhone, you use the little yellow icon at the top of the screen to toggle them on/off.  I am not going to go into the HOW these work.  There are plenty of sites doing that.  I just wanted to share my experience with them, albeit limited.

Live Photos Icon
Live Photos Icon

When you take a photo, yes, you can go back and hold the screen down with 3D touch and see the animation.  That is just a portion of the “magic” that you get with a Live Photo. Where I really start to see the value is in the integration with the rest of the ecosystem.  When you are scrolling through the images in your camera roll, each image has a slight bit of life to them.  This is subtle, but it helps me remember the moment just a touch more than before.   Then, the kicker for me is the integration with the watch.   When you create a photo face from a live photo, every time you pull up the watch to see the time, you get a live photo animation.

I really think Apple is on to something here.  Yes, they are not the first to do this, but they have the power to make it real.   I hope they open this up for everyone to create and play these photos.   Still photos are an artifact based on a medium.   Most of us don’t print out photos anymore, why not make them have more life.  I say bring it on.  I love them.

Omnifocus – The GTD Tickler Files

I have been meaning to post this for a while, but it’s the reason I keep coming back to Omnifocus.

I am perpetually torn with Omnifocus being over complex, yet feeling like home to me for tracking my tasks.  When things go into Omnifocus, I have always felt like they get done.  I have also never felt like I am flooded with the entire list of tasks.

They key to Omnifocus and this balanced feeling is two-fold:  Perspectives and Defer Until.

Perspectives

The key thing here is you are on a “need to know” basis.   You can set up perspectives to let you see what you want, when you want based on needs.  The great thing is, if you have tasks that need to be done serially, you can let Omnifocus only show you the NEXT ACTION you can take to make progress on your project.  This saves you from having to look at all of the remaining items when you can’t actually do anything with them.   This is such a time saver.

You can customize your perspectives and name them what you want with the pro version  Trust me, your time is worth getting the pro version.   Here is a sample of the details of my TODAY perspective.  You can see how you can edit and tweak this to your hearts content.

Today Perspective
Today Perspective

Defer Until

This is the real magic here for me.  When I am adding tasks into my task list, often they are things I need to do soon.  Sometimes they are tasks that I don’t need to worry about for a long time.  For instance, if I know I need to follow up on a task to talk to someone in 4 months about a potential project, why do I want that task staring at me every day?  I don’t!  That is just wasted thinking every time I see it.

By creating a task with a Defer Date, you can essentially hide that task away from view until you are ready to see it.  (when combined with the above perspectives).   This is amazing.  I have a lot of tasks I want recurring as well that I defer.  Changing the oil in my car, clean the gutters, etc.  I defer all of these tasks so they go away until I am ready to do them.

Defer Until

I really think this is what draws me back in to Omnifocus when I contemplate trying other software.  Start Date, Defer Until, or whatever you want to call it.. just get it out of my face until I need it.

Giving up on Photos and iCloud for my photo needs

It’s been a rough time trying to figure out if iCloud and the Photos app was going to be the solution for me.  TL;DR – No, it is not for me.

I started out on the beta of the photos app.  The idea of using iCloud for storage and Photos on my phone was a great concept.  The ability to look up any photo at any time was exciting.  In practicality, it just didn’t work.  I will say the Photos application on my Mac did a remarkable job when processing that many photos. The challenge came when  trying to use it on my phone. My phone just became incredibly slow and trying to scroll through that many photos. The worst part was that I would take a photo, it would take 15 to 30 seconds for a photo to show up in my library. This was just not usable.

What I realized is that I use my camera less than ever before. I finally deleted the photos out of the application in an effort to see if it was a corrupted file or something causing the slowness. Then when I reuploaded photos I ended up with multiple duplications.I am now on my third iteration trying to get the photos application to work. This weekend I just decided to declare Photos bankruptcy and give up. I’m going to delete all of the photos that were in iCloud.
I have turned off photo storage on my devices until I can get the 30 days RECENTLY DELETED gone.  I am not sure why there is no easy way to purge the trash. At this point, there are 90k photos in there.  Once I can get all of the photos removed, and all of the photos out of the backed up deleted files, I will re-enable this feature and just keep the photos syncing across devices. I will then just continue to use my old process of filing photos by year and by event; editing and sifting through them by hand as normal.
I really had high hopes for iCloud photo storage to work. It turns out the main issue was really the ability for the phone to write quickly to the database when I had over 50,000 photos.  It made my phone crippling slow. I hope they can get this figured out in the future but in the meantime I’m going to be using my old process to manage photos.
UPDATE:  Monday, September 28, 2015.   I have read a bunch recently about the improvements since launch.  I have gone back and re-uploaded my photos to see how things worked.   Seems like things are much improved and I am going to stick with it for a while.  Hopefully this keeps on working. 

My thoughts on the Apple Watch 1.0.1 Update

OK.  I’ve had a short amount of time with the update, and I have to say I am happy.  I was not unhappy with the watch before, but I was also a forgiving sole when it comes to 1.0 products.  The wife’s watch delivers tomorrow and I am convinced she would not have been as forgiving.

Key things I noticed:

  • Not sure, but the raise to view the watch seems a little snappier.  I was not unhappy before with it, so I am a bad judge there
  • 3rd party apps load WAY faster.   I am seeing apps load in 2-4 seconds now vs. over 10 before.   This is noticeable.
  • Siri does seem a little more responsive.
  • Overall, things just run smoother.  Less glitchy
  • Apple Pay loads faster.  It was not slow before, but seems instant now

What am I still missing?

  • 3rd party watch apps.
    • Yes, I know you want to keep it pristine Apple, but come on, let developers go crazy and sell apps with in app purchase watch faces.  It’ll be a hit
  • The ability for the screen to stay on a touch longer.  Sometimes it seems a bit too aggressive.
  •  A way to do pages of apps.  Your “fancy” app layout engine sucks and puts way too much cognitive load for me to find things.  (let alone understand where you put stuff when I load an app).
    • I think this HAS to be fixed  Go to app pages like the iPhone . PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE

 

A Pebble Watch Kickstarter Backer – My first week with Apple Watch

Thursday marks my 7th day with my Apple Watch.   There are enough great and detailed reviews, people poking fun, and downright haters out there that I don’t need to write a full review.  What I want to share is the difference with my Apple Watch vs. my Pebble.
Admittedly I am a gadget geek.  I like to buy things, understand what they have to offer and typically have more forgiveness for cutting edge things than the average person.  This is partially why I don’t “review” things.  I would just gush over them.  When others find the worst, I am trying to find the best while forgiving the worst as an early adopter.  I tend to like to see what things offer today and dream about the “What If” for tomorrow.  This is just who I am.  (and many of you are)

The Pebble

I was a proud owner of the original Pebble Watch (Kickstarter Edition).  When I first saw the videos coming out about the Pebble, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.  I love the Pebble watch.  It has been on my wrist mostly without fail since the day I got it.

Pebble Learnings

The first thing I noticed about getting notifications on your wrist wasn’t how much better it was, but how it made me feel as if I was signaling people I had to leave, or they were boring me.  If I pulled out my phone while we are talking, at least they knew I was being pro-actively rude.  By looking at my wrist, I felt I was being passively rude.  I didn’t like it.  Plus, I couldn’t do anything, just look.
One of the key things I liked about the Pebble was the customization aspect.  I was forever tinkering and trying out new watch faces. I really enjoyed the simplicity of the Pebble Watchface Generator.  I could easily upload my own images, those I found online, etc and make myself a new watch face.  I made watch faces for special occasions, teams, etc.  I made Seahawks watch faces,  Napster Watch face when I was working there, and fun seasonal watch faces.
The battery life was amazing.  I could go on a short business trip and not have to worry about charging.  I could easily get 5-6 days on one charge.  This was really helpful.

The New Pebble – Pebble Time

Once the new Pebble Time was announced, I started drooling.  I knew about the Apple Watch, but was not 100% dug in to figure out all I could do there yet.  I knew I loved my Pebble, maybe a Pebble Time was the right choice.  I knew Apple wasn’t going to let us all do our own Watch Faces, and that was one thing I loved doing.  I knew the battery was going to be better for an e-Ink display.
The microphone was also a big draw.  Not being able to respond to messages was tough.  It made the first Pebble more of a notifications remote viewer instead of something I could do much with.  The idea of being able to respond to messages with a microphone, or dictate reminders; these things got me excited.  So, I pulled the trigger and pre-ordered one.

Then… The Apple Watch

Once I pre-ordered, I really spent some time thinking about the two watches.  What would I get with the Apple Watch if I chose to go that way instead?  I already know I am an iOS Fanboy.  Trust me, working in mobile for more than 15 years as both a developer and product manager, I’ve had my share of Phones.  I have always tried to have at least the latest iPhone and Best Android phone on the market every year. Many times I have had 2-3 Android phones as part of my job.  I still currently have a Moto-X and iPhone 6 Plus.

The Screen

Seriously, have you seen the Apple Watch screen?  It is amazing.  Once I really started comparing The Pebble Time and Apple Watch, I knew I was feeling a bit jealous of the bright screen.  Even at the expense of the battery, I was jealous.  I figured, hey.. I charge my phone every night, why not just charge my watch too.  (I can justify about anything in my mind when it comes to gadgets)
The next thing I started reading about was the challenges for Pebble when it came to the Microphone, iOS integration and what apps would work with the Mic.  It started to feel like on iOS, Pebble Time was going to have more challenges ahead of them.  For all the things I love about Apple, the closed ecosystem comes at a price.   If they were going to build a watch, it would have the best iOS integration of any watch.  I was sure of it.  Did I want to bite off a sub-par experience for daily interaction for custom watch faces and battery?  Was this my tradeoff?

What I have learned I like so far

Turns out that the integration with iOS is amazing for Apple Watch.  The new Siri is far better than before.  I have always liked Google’s Voice speech to text much better than Apple’s.  I think with this new version, they are appearing to be closer to On Par with each other.  I have also loved having the interactive notifications.  Quick replies need some work, but have come in handy.  (far too often I sound like a terse jerk responding, I need to tweak these)  I also think Siri responses are a bit awkward at first, but I will use them often I think.
Glances have been a big surprise.  I am liking the way a lot of these work.  My goal is to keep these small in numbers and useful.  I don’t want to over-do it.  This would likely take the usefulness away if I had too many.
I have also liked having apps that do things.  My most-used app on my Pebble was my fake Starbucks app.  On my Apple Watch, my favorites apps so far include:
  • Maps – walking turn by turn is actually fantastic
  • Omnifocus – makes it easier to tick things off quickly once reminded
  • Overcast – quick easy access to pick up where I left off
  • Calendar – a much better micro-view into my day
  • Drafts – still the fastest way to capture some quick idea

What I don’t like so far

One of the biggest annoyances so far is the fact my watch has to be laid down on a table to be charged on some goofy puck.  I am already in line for a Night Stand by ElevationLab.  I love this. Why couldn’t Apple have taken some of the money the spent on that useless, plastic box this came in and given me a nice stand?   That would go along much better with the $600 price I paid.

The Layout engine for apps is annoying.  David Sparks intentionally does not call it the “Home Screen”, and I agree.  The Watchface is home.  The Apps are on a different screen that looks quite pretty, but functionally sucks.   How do you organize this?  Well simple, you drag your icons around to be near each other by category.  In practical life, the auto layout component perpetually screws up what you are trying to do and it takes FAR too much fiddling to get what you want.
How to fix the App Screen?  Turn off that damn auto-layout engine and let me place icons where I want.   Let me cluster icons together into my own world-map of categorization.  Let me separate icon clusters into their own continents.  Let me pinch and zoom in and out to the items I need by cluster.   If you want to get clever Apple, if I touch a cluster while zoomed out, snap to that cluster and zoom in… but don’t make me fiddle so much.
My Current Layout
 IMG_7315
Another thing I don’t care for is only having 12 friends.  Seriously, is there no other way to send someone a digital touch unless they are in that group?  No, I don’t have 12 friends with Apple Watches, but the ones who do are not necessarily the ones I want to communicate with all the time.  Can we just make that work from the normal contacts on your watch?  It’s as if 2 different groups built those out and didn’t talk to each other.

Summary

Yes, I am still a fan-boy.  Yes, I love my watch.  Yes, there are issues.. but overall, I am happy with my purchase.  I like seeing where this is going.  I know this is only V1 and it will change over time, but I like to be one of the people who try this out and collectively we help shape what will be an amazing market.  No we don’t have direct influence at Apple, but we do have a voice, and hopefully people do listen.
I am happy with my choice and have since cancelled my pre-order for Pebble Time.  I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.  For all the challenges a restricted ecosystem imposes on others, and the compromises that get made to accommodate Apple in these cases, Apple has a distinct advantage..  With their ability to go around those restrictions, and build to order, they end up with the most functional Smartwatch I’ve seen or used.  It’s one of my favorite gadgets I’ve ever had.  And yes, I will get V2.

Some good reading


The Definitive Review – The Verge
Custom Watch Faces – Daring Fireball
Apple Watch Review – Cult Of Mac