I think I may have finally done it!

Without blabbering on too much I think I may have finally found the winning plagtech combo. Before I explain, here are the two key pieces of tech that I have now standardized on:

  1. Browser = Firefox
  2. Productivity = Microsoft Office 365

Using Firefox & Firefox Sync to keep all of my browsing history, tabs, usernames, and passwords together I can literally use any desktop or mobile operating system and have everything in one place.

Similarly, for Office 365 I now have a seamless experience for Outlook across any desktop or mobile operating system as well as full access to industry standard applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc. (as not all online application systems/companies accept Pages or GDocs) on any platform at any time!

I will continue using iOS and my iCloud account, as my Apple ID is tied to a lot of iTunes/App Store purchases, iCloud Photo Library, and iMessage. As for which computer I use it literally doesn’t matter anymore! LITERALLY… DOESN’T… MATTER!!

I love Microsoft’s productivity tools and they really do make a difference with regards to how I get things done and with Firefox as my browser there is no bias to a particular system e.g. it’s no surprise that Safari is only available on macOS and iOS or that Google Chrome works extremely well with GSuite.

It’s 10:14pm PST on April 27th 2018 and my time starts… now!


C# fundamentals for absolute beginners

This is by far my favorite programming tutorial!

After doing some more research on Xamarin I realized that C# could pave the way to building apps on multiple platforms using a single language. 

Another cool thing is that Microsoft released Visual Studio for Mac, so not only is there a plagtech programming language that I can learn I can also use the same tools across Windows 10 and macOS!


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. 

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.

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. 


I Have My Knickers in a Twist

I just can’t decide! Less than two weeks after switching to Gmail services, as a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 purchase was imminent, I am now lusting over Outlook.com again!

The reason being, and this probably comes from my Apple ways, is that I just like nicely done and well finished products. Google has all the features I need on a daily basis: Email, Contacts, Calendars, Online Storage to name a few, but to use them they’re just so “meh!”.

Outlook.com on the other hand is very tidy with it’s simplistic design, even better than iCloud.com in my opinion. I think iCloud.com has gone too far (I’m sure Jony Ive would disagree) and there is just too much white space for my liking. I see parts of iOS 7 are the same too, it just feels so empty.

I’m not going to make a brash switch to Outlook.com just yet, as I want to do some more research and planning to see how switching to Outlook.com affects me for the other things I use e.g. mobile devices and Linux.

In other news I have decided to start using Firefox again in conjunction with Xmarks for bookmark syncing. The reason for this decision is based on being able to use Xmarks across any browser without having to worry about syncing my bookmarks specifically with Gmail or iCloud based on whether I use Chrome or Safari, and in this case where it works really well, a completely different browser that has no ties to Google or Apple.

Lastly, I have been running Windows 8.1 Preview natively on my HP Pavilion dm4 this week and so far I really like it, especially the ability to snap two “metro” apps side-by-side, which comes in handy. They have also brought back the Start button, which doesn’t act like the Start button from Windows 7 and older versions. It works the same way as hitting the Windows key on your keyboard, but apparently a lot of people were very upset with Microsoft over it’s removal as it wasn’t so obvious on how you could get back to “metro” mode, which is no longer called metro due to some lawsuit, so forgive me…

Platform Agnosticism Prevails!

I can’t help being a plagtech, plain and simple! I decided to delete my previous post “So long and thanks for all the fish!”, as I want the flow of this blog to continue as if I had never stopped posting. However, to give you a little summary, I basically decided that I was going to stick to an all Apple solution for mobile & laptop, as well as the corresponding cloud services for mail, contacts, calendars, reminders, and entertainment. 

Then something called iOS 7 happened… I have to remind myself that I am running the latest version of iOS on two year old hardware, but despite some lag it’s the overall OS that I just do not like. It’s vastly different to look at, but at the same time it’s so “meh”. To quote somebody at work it is like a “Fisher Price toy phone” or a “girly version of Android”. It also reminded me that Apple is not necessarily the best at everything. If you ask me what I think of my MacBook Air I would tell you that I love it and that its 12 hour battery life is simply amazing! If you ask me what I think of my iPhone 4S I would tell you that I love the design and it has a quality feel to it while holding.

However, there are so many other quality phones out there. The HTC One, Motorola MotoX, Nokia Lumia 928, LG Nexus 4, and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 are all beautiful phones. Now, the SGN3 is ginormous with its 5.7″ screen, but Samsung has really upped the quality with the latest version of this phone whereas the SG3 & SG4 still feel like cheap and easily breakable plastic phones.

As you can see, my focus is around mobile phones. For me, in the desktop/laptop category the battle was already won with the arrival OS X. Sure, I’ve dabbled with Windows 8 (and still think it is good by the way) and sure enough I have downloaded the Windows 8.1 Preview to install on my older laptops BootCamp partition. Then of course there is Linux with Ubuntu being my favourite distro hands down. But, the real question is, if I had to pick a desktop OS to use full time what would it be? It would most definitely be OS X. 

It’s easy being a plagtech on a desktop/laptop computer as well, but on the mobile devices there are certain things that work better on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone if you use Apple’s, Google’s, or Microsoft’s services. Each one provides more seamless integration to their own ecosystem if you use their corresponding cloud services. With iOS & iCloud for instance you have the “Find My iPhone” feature as well as seamless integration with iTunes Match in addition to your standard mail, contacts, and calendars. The same goes for the Google/Android and Microsoft/Windows Phone offering too. 

The BIG difference is this… Up until recently, if you stick to iOS you only have one phone to choose from when it came to upgrade. This changed just recently with the introduction to the iPhone 5C, which are more suited for high school kids in my opinion, and then the iPhone 5S being the upscale version (which looks exactly the same as the iPhone 5). 

With Android and Windows Phone you have a lot of devices to choose from, but here is where it gets tricky. The Windows Phone options are mostly Nokia based with a handful of Samsung’s and HTC’s to choose from too, but in terms of the software you get a consistent user experience regardless of manufacturer. When choosing an Android device not only do you have to consider which hardware you are purchasing, but also which “skin” or “flavour” of Android you are going to be using too. I’ve always said that if I was going to buy an Android device it would be in the Nexus range, so that I could get stock Android and any updates would come directly from Google. This seems rather limiting though, as even though the Nexus range changes a lot each year, there are still so many other devices out there to choose from, so I would most likely pick any device, wipe it, and install the stock version of Android. 

Lastly, Verizon just emailed me about a new plan they offer called Verizon Edge. While on my current plan I technically still have one more year to go before I can upgrade at the subsidized cost, but should I upgrade earlier then I would have to pay the full blown retail price, which can be anything up to $700 on some of these new phones. Well, with Verizon Edge I can upgrade now, but rather than paying $700 upfront, for say the SGN3, I can still get that device, but it would add $24 per month to my normal $69 monthly bill. After six months I can then upgrade to whatever new device comes out and still only pay the additional $24 per month. Something to think about…