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

Wunderlist Vs. Omnifocus – How I struggle with the choice

I may be a bit of a productivity junky.  I am that person who spends more time learning about being productive than being productive sometimes.  I have definitely forced myself to stick to my guns when it comes to making progress on tasks for work however I am perpetually tweaking my tools.

My previous solution of using Evernote had so many advantages I loved but at the end of the day, finding a simple view of what I needed to be focused on for the day provide challenging.  (without a lot of adding/removing tags, moving notes, etc)

I went all in on Omnifocus for quite some time.  The thing I realize I liked most out of Omnifocus was the flexibility to create perspectives.  The planning and defer options were key.   I could really start to focus on what mattered and not feel overwhelmed by ALL of my tasks.   The hard part was, I never felt I was a master of Perspectives.  I even bought David Sparks great Omnifocus Video Field Guide.  I watched it on my plane trip to London.  It really helped me learn some new techniques.

I was forever feeling like I was missing tasks in the view I cared about.  That worried me.  I also felt that quickly adding tasks became a challenge.  To really be good I had to assign to a project AND context for every task.  Context became a bit of a struggle because sometimes I wanted to use it more like a tag.  I want to mark something as @read and @commute so when I am in the mood to read, or on my commute, I could get things done.  This was not possible.

I switched over to Wunderlist AGAIN!  I really like the look and simplicity of Wunderlist.  A couple of my favorite features are Attachments and Comments.   A bonus now is the fact they have folders and #tags.  The attachments piece makes it easy for me to attach a document to my tag and get to it quickly.  Arguably, this is a bad habit.  I really should not bloat my task list with attachments, but I do it.

The Comments make it super easy to track progress if I am TRYING to get a task done but it’s not completed.  Maybe the task is “Verify requirements for NEW FEATURE with Alex”.  If I reach out to Alex on email, I add a comment.  I then set a follow up reminder on this for a day or two and hope Alex responds.   If he does not, I go find Alex.. or call him, or some other method.. smoke signal maybe.  I annotate my task and keep track.  This helps me understand why my task is not done.  In Omnifocus, I used the notes field for this and had a keyboard shortcut of .dd to insert DATE/TIME stamp for each entry I made.  Wunderlist just does this better.

I REALLY struggle with OmniFocus vs. Wunderlist.  Here is where I see some key gaps that would make Wunderlist the perfect app for me.

Smart Folders or Saved Searches

I really want to look at things I have flagged AND due today.  Currently this is two different lists.   If I could create a smart list and set some criteria (similar to a saved search), then I could fix this issue.  It also would make it infinitely more powerful by searching for things like #read and #commute to fill gaps in time when I need to pick off a task.

Defer Dates

There are a lot of tasks that recur, or are not needed until a certain time.  Think of them as START DATES.   If I know I need to test run my generator in June, and It’s April right now, I don’t want to see that task until June.  It just clutters up my list.  I could REALLY use Start or Defer dates to help.  Follow up items are an other great use for this.   Follow up with Bob on Friday.. and that task disappears until Friday.

Folder View

Wunderlist gave us the ability to organize by folders finally.  The one thing they missed.. they don’t let you view a folder all at once.   I have a bunch of projects going on at work.  When I am planning my day I want to skim all of my projects for tasks I need to complete.  Currently, in Wunderlist, I have to go project by project and look at each list to see if I want to accomplish something today.  Just let me click the WORK folder and see all tasks grouped by project.  This would be so much easier.

SUMMARY

For now I am stuck.  I keep bouncing back and forth between Omnifocus and Wunderlist.  Omnifocus is a bit too powerful and cumbersome at times, but has the power I need when I want to be a GTD Ninja.  Oh.. but it looks like crap IMHO.  Wunderlist looks amazing, and is super quick and simple to use.. but lacks the ability for me to be a power user.

UGH.. what to do.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Just please don’t tell me to use ToDoist.  The Mac app is a wrapper on the webpage and NOT a good experience.  It is just not for me.  I want a good thick-client experience.

iCloud Drive – Apple needs to fix this product

I am not sure why Apple feels the need to restrict the way I use iCloud Drive.  They believe they are helping users by trying to take the file system away from the user so they don’t have to think about it.  I can’t speak for everyone, but this is my largest frustration.

iCloud Drive

When I look at iCloud Drive, I see a bunch of folders by application.  I don’t organize my files this way.  I organize them by project I am working on.  If I am working on “Project X”, I put all files related to that project in a folder, then it is all in one tidy location.  iCloud Drive, by default, tries to force you to put everything in a sub-folder by application.  That is just strange.

Apple should look at something like Dropbox.  I can see every folder I want and organize HOW I want.  It does not have the concept of “by application” filing systems.

IMG_6815

The really strange part for me is when I contemplate opening a file on a project.  Let’s say on my iPhone, I open Pages.  I can’t get to anything other than what is in my Pages folder.  Apple won’t even expose the entire folder structure to you.  This drives me bonkers.

I get they are not trying to compete with Dropbox directly, but if you want me to dump a bunch of files in your system and become dependent on you, it better work with my workflow.. or it won’t fly.  I would love if Apple got to the point of sharing simplicity like Dropbox.  I know they are trying with some stuff integrated into Mail.app, but it is not enough yet.

My preference is to let the user control how they organize.  File systems are intuitive. Don’t try to “save me from myself”.. let me do it my way.

 

Annual Photo Backup Reminder Program

OK.. it’s the end of the year.  When was the last time you backed up your photos?

I know many of you have a process for backing up of your files.  I also know that many of you (despite knowing better) have yet to put the time and effort into doing this important task.   Yes, you should back up your documents and other files as well, but lets stay focused on pictures here.  This is where I get the most panicked phone calls; missing and lost photos.

Double Backup – two locations

The general rule I have is to always maintain at least 2 backups.  One on-site and one off site.  Why?  What happens when your house burns down?  If you didn’t have a copy somewhere else, you have lost all your precious memories.  I know what you are thinking, my house won’t burn down.  Well, it happened to my sister.  She DID have backups at home, but they were lost in the fire.  Seriously, Even if you just backup to a USB drive and take it to work or a friends house, do it. If you do this task once a year, the worst case is you lost a years worth of pics.  Not everything.

I personally use a combination of locations.  I may go overboard, but I am very protective of our pictures and memories.  Here is my setup:

  • My main location for files is in my pictures folder on my Mac.
  • I have a backup stored on a network drive (Drobo) that I manually copy
  • I have a time machine backup running to my Drobo as well
  • My remote copy is stored on Dropbox.
  • EDIT: I have since moved my Offsite Backup to Crashplan
    • Many people have so wisely pointed out that Dropbox is not a good backup solution, it is a sync solution.

Notice, I have 2 local backups, and one remote (off site) backup

I happen to store my photos in a nested folder structure that is by year/event.   This enables me to easily find and share photos as needed.

  • 2013
    • Michelles Birthday
    • Easter
    • Camping
  • 2014
    • Vacation to mars
    • Work event

Some online resources you can also use include:

Crashplan – automatic backup

Backblaze – another automatic backup solution

Flickr – you get 1 TB of storage now.. for free

Google Drive – yes, you can upload them to your drive account

 

Smartphone Backup

If you are anything like the rest of the world you are taking more photos on your smartphone and less on a regular camera.    Don’t forget to back these up.   I suggest at the end of the year  to take a snapshot of your phone pics and copy them to your YEAR/PhoneBackup folder.  I have one of these for each of the past 5 years.  I know I lost some photos prior to that, but I am pretty diligent now.

The method of retrieval depends on Mac/PC and the type of phone you have.   (iPhone/Android/other).  A little research and you can easily find ways to copy all the files at once to your computer.

Another thing I do is run backups from my phone to online services.  I use iCloud Drive for photos backup on my iPhone.  I also run Carousel (from Dropbox) to maintain a backup of photos from my device to the cloud.  I am an Amazon Prime member, so I am considering trying out their free photo backup solution as well. (it is free for prime members)  I don’t really need it, but that nagging in my head about backing up is telling me to add another online service to protect these photos.  (maybe I have an issue with OCD here)

 Anyway…

Just take the time to do it.  Back things up.  Get them off your computer drive and on to some external source.  Get a copy out of your house.  By making sure  you are redundant with these you can protect against corruption of files, fires, theft, etc.  Trust me, you will be happy you skipped that episode of Nashville to take care of this.

Old Webserver written in PERL

I came across some old code I had written a long time ago.  I remember seeing a post about accepting webserver traffic by running a PERL Daemon on a machine on port 80.   I decided to try it out.  It was fun.. and useless.  I wish I remember where I got the initial idea from.  That was the basis for my initial code writing.   None the less, it’s funny to go back and read this now.

PERL Web Server

Fantastic Podcast Concept – Serial

If you are in to Podcasts, I urge you to check out Serial. This is a weekly podcast put out by NPR.  It covers details of a convicted murderer, who by all counts, it doesn’t seem should be behind bars.  I am still going through the podcast, almost fully caught up now.  I can’t wait for the next one!

The Serial Podcast Website has maps, evidence, etc from the case.  It is a great bit of supplement to what you normally get in a podcast.  This also feels more like a “show” than a podcast.  I liken it to what it must have been like listening to radio shows “back in the day”.

timelines_january_13_1999_-_serial

 

Each episode is roughly 30-60 minutes long.  These are great for my commute.  I am hooked.  It is a different experience for sure.  Go check them out.  Also, it appears they are going to do a Season 2 of Serial.  Content TBD.  I am looking forward to that.

Subscription Services Carry Over to Magazines

I am very fond of subscription services.  Largely because I think managing physical things in a digital world is a waste of time, and far less convenient.  Why should I keep a DVD, or CD around to watch or listen when I can get access on all of my devices online?  (or offline)  Magazines is a next logical step for me.

I do find I still enjoy the editorial skills found in a good magazine periodical.  Not all blogs are created equal.  Some are good, but some leave a bit to be desired for content.  This is why I am trying out Next Issue.

Next_Issue___Unlimited_Access_to_140__Magazine_Subscriptions_Free_Trial 2

 

Next issue give me access to a bunch of magazines I would tend to buy on the shelf periodically.   Not only do I get every issue now, I get a lot of magazines for one low price.  I am paying for the higher tier service at $15 a month to get everything.  They do have a cheaper tier if you want.

I find if valuable to pop in and read a few magazines for the month.  Quite often I would pay $5 for one of these in a store.   Why not get all of them for one price.  I look at this the same way I do music.  I have been a long time Rhapsody subscriber (8 years).  I have not, nor will I, buy media the same way again .

Check out more at Next Issue

Urgent vs. Important work

We have been having this recurring discussion at work lately about the difference between Urgent work vs. Important work.  Understand how this fits in your decision making process is key in my view to being productive, yet understanding the proper interruption cycle when things are not going as planned.  I thought I’d share the matrix that is going around just because I find it valuable.

When you are getting ready to think about a piece of work, or more importantly engage with others.. where does the work fall in this matrix?  And is it the same for them as it is you?

 

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