I’m done!

I’ve tried to make it work so many times, but I have to concede that nothing works quite as well as having everything running under iCloud with Apple hardware and software.

Therefore I am no longer going to continue posting to this blog.

Stay hungry, stay foolish.

 

 

 

The photo backup saga

For a so called rambling technologist I have been rather quiet lately, but I’m back now and have a few projects going on that I felt were worthy of a post. 

The first and most important project is the one I alluded to in the title of this post. I was the first victim of this particular problem, but now it’s affecting my wife, sister-in-law, and most recently my mother-in-law. It’s the problem that Google likes to make fun of in their Google Photos commercials against iPhone users with the infamous “Storage full” error. 

When it just affected me nobody seemed to care and so I quietly went off into the abyss in search for a solution for myself. After reading up on multiple solutions I decided that Google Photos was the best bet because not only does Google Photos work well across both iOS and Android, but it works swimmingly well in the browser too. From a PAT standpoint it received the golden stamp of approval. 

What’s doubly awesome is that the mobile apps on both platforms provide really awesome tools for managing and editing your photos and videos. It even automatically creates albums and mini videos containing photos and snippets of multiple videos into a single “show” like a highlight reel of a given day/event. It does this all by itself and 99% of the time the end product doesn’t even need editing, as it all fits together nicely. If you wanted to modify one of these auto-generated highlight reels it’s super simple and a joy to use, which is simply super!

Now, the real magic is the option to actually be able to wipe your phone clean of ALL local copies of your photos and videos to free up space. Apple claims to store everything in the cloud, but when I looked at my wife’s iPhone the manage storage section said she was still utilizing 3.5GB of disk space for iPhoto despite having ~80GB’s remaining on her iCloud storage plan. At first I thought it would be a case of identifying the photos & videos manually and deleting, but that is not the case. First of all it’s not 100% clear what is local and what is in the cloud. Second of all once you have positively identified a local file you can’t delete it without a message saying “This video will removed from all devices”. Why!? Why would you remove it from all devices when we are paying for cloud storage!? Apple should provide an option to delete the local copy and keep the backup version in iCloud or do what Google does and provide the same “Free up space” option which checks to see which photos and/or videos are stored locally, backs them up to the cloud, the proceeds to delete the local copy once it has verified that everything is safely in the cloud!

My conspiracy theory is that Apple would rather my wife ditch her 64GB iPhone 6s and buy a 128GB iPhone 7. However, it is most likely a shortcoming in their ecosystem, but from what I’ve read online there appears to be no fix in sight. 

So finally I said enough is enough and I have taken everything I have learned from my transition experience from iCloud Photo Library to Google Photos and will be applying it to my wife’s setup. 

This isn’t​ the end of the iPhone for my wife. By doing this we are in fact prolonging the life time of her existing iPhone as we can now free up space properly. It does, however, solve the photo sharing hassle between my Google Pixel and her iPhone as we now use the same photo backup provider. 

So that’s it for today. I’ll write up about some other things that I am doing later on. 

Ciao!

Minimalist Plagtech

Gosh darn it I just can’t help myself! I think I have to live with some level of platform agnosticism to prevent myself from going completely crazy!

This time I want to take a different approach though. Yea, yea, you’ve heard it all before, but hear me out please…

Rather than taking the all or nothing approach I am going to figure out what is the bare minimum of platform agnosticism I can accomplish to satisfy all of my technological needs. 

The main reason for the switch is that I am primarily using Windows 7 Enterprise at work and I need all of my bookmarks available. In the past I tried using iCloud sync for Windows, but it wasn’t all that good and it doesn’t sync passwords stored in iCloud Keychain. 

Starting with the very basics I am going switch my browser to Firefox and revive my Firefox Sync account. I will use Firefox for both work and personal use, as it is now available on iOS and is a better alternative compared to Google Chrome on iOS. Firefox is PAT certified and will work better and more consistently than using different browsers on different platforms. 

The second is moving off Apple’s Notes application and back to OneNote. Again, OneNote is PAT certified, as there are native apps for each desktop and mobile platform whereas using the browser on Windows to access Notes via iCloud.com was very clunky. OneNote also has a very cool Apple Watch app too!

So, that’s all the changes for now. There’s no need to go overboard and switch everything up on day 1 because I don’t need absolutely everything to work across all platforms. I need just enough conformity to get by on the different platforms I use without compromising the user experience and my day-to-day workflow. 

The Google Test

I feel as though one of the reasons I always run back to Apple is because I never fully detach myself from them. I love my @me.com email address and whenever I use another cloud service provider I instantly setup iCloud to forward to said @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, or @outlook.com address and then in turn I configure said service send email as my @me.com addy. In addition to that I manually setup my calendars using CalDAV and my contacts I have to do a quick check between the two to make sure there are no discrepancies.

One thing I never blogged about after my Windows 10 testing was jumping to the Post-PC era. I successfully used an iPad as a replacement for my laptop for an entire week! I never thought that I could do it, but was very surprised when I did.

I believe the iPad test was very successful for two reasons:

  1. All of the apps I needed to carry out my job were available and worked really well.
  2. My iCloud account took care of all my personal items.

This meant, just like my MacBook Pro, that I had the best of both worlds on a single device.

My next Post-PC challenge will be to use my Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 as my primary device, but in order for me to make the most out of it I will need to get everything working on my personal Google account.

This will not be too difficult, but this time around I don’t want to go through the whole reconfiguration process. I want to use the device as it is fully intended to be, so that I can get the most accurate feel for how it all works together under the Google ecosystem.

Plagtech revamp

As I switch between different operating systems I have always tried to use applications that work across these different environments, for example I use Firefox as my browser because it works flawlessly across Windows, OS X, and any Linux distro.

However, using Firefox as an example again, it doesn’t work so well on iOS and Android, especially on iOS compared to Safari.

Similarly, in a bid to try and break out of the so called walled garden I switched to Outlook.com instead of me.com and started using the Outlook.com iOS app instead of the native Mail, Contacts, and Calendar iOS apps that Apple provides.

I then went one step further and completely stopped using my iCloud account altogether, restored my iPhone back to factory defaults, then setup my iPhone from scratch under a brand new Apple ID.

Again, this was all in a bid to cut off any ties from one vendor and try to keep everything neutral. However, what I have learned from doing this is two things:

  1. My iPhone is my primary computing device (welcome to the post-PC era!).
  2. Native apps provide the best experience.

Yes, it really is true. Even though I am typing this blog post from my Windows 10 PC (my iPhone is currently restoring from my iCloud backup), my iPhone really is my primary computing device. As I switch between different desktop OS’s the one constant in my digital life is my phone. As I use it so heavily I started to realize the importance of native apps.

Without using my primary iCloud account on my iPhone I noticed how much I depend on it, which was one of the points I raised in an earlier blog post. I think iCloud is the sole reason iOS is so freakin’ awesome!

The Outlook.com app is great in a sense that a single app allows you to work with your mail, contacts, and calendars in one place, but I noticed that this severely impacted my GTD work flow. The app is completely decoupled from Notes and Reminders, which I rely on heavily. Also, the built-in Messages app would not work properly because it is not capable of pulling the contacts from the Outlook.com app. This meant that iMessage and FaceTime could not work on my iPhone, which is another must have because I use it to communicate with friends and family overseas.

Switching back to my primary iCloud account has enabled me to revive all of the integrations that I took for granted with the native apps on iOS. So, that’s iOS sorted, but what about OS X, Windows, and Linux?

  • Linux: Let’s start with the easy one. I am very confident that I will not be using Linux as a primary desktop OS again for a long long time, so I do not need to worry about that. I have been using Ubuntu & Fedora as virtual machines within OS X and Windows, but I do not need to worry about syncing my data to the VM’s, as everything is on the host.
  • OS X: The second easiest one is OS X, because I will set this up just like iOS.
  • Windows: So here is where things get interesting and I know I have touched on this point before. I love using Microsoft Office and having signed up for Office365 with my Outlook.com account I can still use that to sync documents and continue using OneNote. However, I can use the iCloud Control Panel application in Windows to sync with Outlook for mail, contacts, calendars, and reminders as well as Internet Explorer (and now Firefox!) for my bookmarks.

This gives me the best of both worlds, as I can now fully utilize the native apps across iOS, OS X, and Windows that are designed to work extremely well within their own environment all the while utilizing iCloud as the glue (or SaaS if you feel so inclined) that holds all of the information together between each environment.

I feel as though this is still very platform agnostic, because if I continue to use Windows I can! With the added benefit that I don’t have to switch cloud providers, which for some strange reason I always feel is necessary!

What about Android? Exactly! What about it?! I very rarely use it for personal use like browsing/shopping/checking emails etc, so I was actually thinking of using it primarily for work. Seeing as the company I work for is a Google Business Apps shop and Android is drenched in Googleism why not use it for meetings instead of obnoxiously  pounding away on a physical keyboard when taking notes? Anyway, that can be it’s very own post.

Going back to the context and title of this post the reason I am calling this a plagtech revamp is that this experience has changed the way I look at being a platform agnostic technologist. In order to be plagtech one does not have to abandon the native apps that work so well on each respective platform. I can still enjoy the power of native apps and the seamless integrations they provide, so long as the cloud service providing the behind-the-scenes mojo works well across multiple platforms. In this case, so far, iCloud seems to do a bloody good job across iOS, OS X, and Windows.

Operation Get Outta Ma’ Garden!

As one of my many experiments I have decided to break out of my regular iCloud account and use a temporary Apple ID that is fresh and clean. 

The reason for this experiment is to find out two things:

  1. How dependent I am on my original iCloud account. 
  2. How much of the iOS experience depends on the iCloud integration. 

The second point is the most interesting one for me. iOS in of itself is awesome software, but just how awesome is it if you do not use any of the iCloud features that integrate with the operating system?

To find that out I have done the following:

  • Switched to Outlook.com for email, contacts, and calendars via the Outlook app. 
  • Using OneDrive for 1TB of cloud storage. It is set to automatically upload my camera roll for backup. 
  • Productivity suite: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Office Lens, and OneNote all synced with OneDrive. 
  • Firefox browser that is configured for Firefox Sync across my Mac, PC, and Galaxy Tab. 
  • Waze maps. 
  • Amazon Music. 
  • iMessage will continue to work with all of my family & friends who use iOS. It’ll be based on my mobile number. 
  • Viber for IM to my other friends who use various other platforms. 
  • HipChat for work IM. 
  • WordPress… Of course 🙂

I was able to skip creating an Apple ID when setting up my iPhone, but I had to create a new one in order to download the apps above. I would have thought that downloading free apps wouldn’t require an Apple ID, but it wasn’t to be, so I created a temporary one using my Outlook.com address. 

I am out of my Vulcan mind!

I just got settled into a harmonious digital lifestyle of all things Apple when suddenly I decided once again that the world of technology is too vast to stick to just one kind! 

It’s me. I can’t help it. I just have to try different things! But the thing is… I love it! I love using all Apple technology, as everything really does just work, but the truth is I like switching it up every once in a while too!

Here is my current setup:

  • Primary laptop: 15″ Retina Display MacBook Pro running OS X El Capitan. 
  • Secondary laptop: 14″ Dell E6430 running Fedora 23. 
  • Workstation: Supermicro running Windows 7 Professional. 
  • Phone: iPhone 6 running iOS 9.1

Why all of these machines? Well, here is where you’ll think I am out of my Vulcan mind, but each one serves a purpose. 

The MacBook Pro is what I use mostly for personal computing and work stuff when I am not in the office. It is setup to use my personal iCloud account and I use Photos to ship all of the pics from my SLR and videos from my GoPro to my iPhoto Library in iCloud. 

The Fedora laptop is for all of my experimental stuff like learning Swift, Python, and the internals of Fedora/Red Hat Linux. Messing around with this machine comes at no risk because if I royally screw it up I’ll just reinstall Fedora. 

The Windows 7 Pro desktop is my primary work computer when I am in the office. It’s the ultimate GTD machine, as I have the latest version of Office installed and I love using Outlook to organize my tasks and emails. Nothing beats it as far as I am aware. 

Lastly, the iPhone is of course the best mobile phone you could possibly ever buy! I have previously tried other platforms and none of them offer an experience that comes anywhere near iOS. 

So there you have it! Plagtech is back and I’ll be writing more posts about the applications that I use across each of the aforementioned platforms.