GTD Simplicity

I never thought of using it before, but now I am in love! Google Tasks within Gmail makes organizing my tasks super easy by simply just listing them! <BOOM> Mind blown!!!

I used to think I needed really sophisticated and featureful software to manage my todo’s and projects, but the reality is that putting all the work into managing the tasks takes away from the energy and the effort to actually get the task done!

One thing I am taking advantage of is the Google Tasks extension, which is pretty much an iFrame of the same Google Tasks list in the Gmail window. That keeps things simple, but much more accessible too.

The goal now is just to do tasks in the order that they come in without worrying too much about which task to do and delaying everything that is on my list! Unless of course something absolutely critical comes up, then I’ll have to re-prioritize, but on a typical day my new GTD strategy will just be “Start from the top”.

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TRW: Preparation

TRW = The Remote Worker

This is a series that I am going to start and I’ll be adding the prefix “TRW:” to every post related to this remote worker experiment.

This week I will be clearing my desk of the two 21″ 1080p monitors that I have and will work solely from my 15″ MacBook Pro screen. It’s a luxury having two monitors and having that extra screen real estate definitely helps with the work that I do.

The problem is that I will not be carrying two monitors around with me, so I need to get used to working this way before I take off, as I do not want to waste time adjusting when I am already on the road.

The Remote Worker

Starting on May 2nd I am going to be embarking on a 6 week trip for a combination of working remotely and taking some time off. I have worked remotely before as well as spending time doing so in another time zone, but never for this duration of time.

I have already purchased a local SIM card the country that I’ll be staying in, as my Google Pixel is unlocked, so I will not be paying Verizon $25 for every 100MB of international data I use!!!

The nano SIM that I purchased cost $3 and I’ll probably put $20 on it for safe measure and that should be all I’ll need for the duration of the trip for my phone at least.

My Mac will obviously hook up to WiFi and I doubt that I’ll ever have the need to use my phone as a hotspot because during the times that I will be working I’m either going to be at somebody’s house or the office when I reach that part of the country.

I’m looking forward to the trip and it will be interesting to see if the video conferencing platform that we use works as advertised by making me feel like I never left HQ 🙂

Using my time wisely

To follow on from yesterday’s post here is a snippet from an article I read this morning: 

“While many others were playing guitar and watching movies and drinking (yes, it was a lot like a college dorm), Chris was reading everything he could about starting a company.” 

Here is the full article: https://www.redhat.com/en/open-source-stories/ai-revolutionaries/right-side-robots?sc_cid=7016000000127eZAAQ

It’s a really inspiring story and so now I’m going to find the thing that makes me tick, create a small & simple plan, and be disciplined about sticking to it. 

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.

A week with Fedora 23

After my week with Fedora I am once again drawing to the same conclusion that I have before. It’s a solid OS, especially for all of my geeky tasks like running Vagrant boxes, writing Chef recipes, using Git, and various other tools, then Fedora is a dream come true.

However, for day-to-day GTD I really like the native Microsoft Office apps on Windows and OS X. I don’t mind using their web-based counterparts (in Firefox) when using Linux for say, a quick glance at OneNote, but the Linux platform doesn’t have the neat integration’s with apps like Box as they do with OS X & Windows. This, you will say, is because Box doesn’t develop the same apps for Linux, but that’s not my fault unfortunately.

Also, when it comes to tasks like managing my photos or music there’s just something that feels unfinished about Fedora. It’s as if the software is in constant beta mode. People may snarl at me for saying so, and yes, I know it is all open source software and community driven work (which I do admire!), but when it comes to trusting software with my sacred photo collection of almost 10 years I can’t help but feel safer using software that is more well polished. From my experience the application Shotwell is an iPhoto clone and I can’t stand iPhoto (now Photos), especially with the way it sorts my pics. I’ve fully converted back to the old school method of creating my own folders and dragging and dropping the pics from my camera’s SD card. So retro, but it works the way I like it!

So, do I still like Linux? No, I love Linux! However, it will still not be my full time OS for personal computing at this time.

What’s coming next? I am currently on my RDMBP typing this post as I wipe Fedora off the E6430 and install Windows 10.

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.