One of my favorite people in the Mac community is David Sparks, aka MacSparky (@macsparky). David has a great blog, co-hosts a fantastic podcast, and he produces field guides that help people become Mac ninjas.
Today he announced that he quit his day job at a legal firm and has gone solo.
This is going to result in more and better content here at the website, on the podcast, and in the books. I’ll have more time to produce things I’m proud of. Some of it will be free. Some of it will cost a few bucks. There will definitely be more Field Guides (both iBooks and video formats) on things interesting to me and—hopefully—helpful to you.
Congratulations, David, and good luck!
A few months ago I was listening to a particularly good episode (#14) of the excellent Analog(ue) podcast while driving. Myke Hurley (@imyke) was talking about his thoughts and emotions on his last day of employment in his “regular job” (he now works full time on the Relay.fm podcast network). As he was talking, I thought back to some vivid memories that I have of leaving places for the last time. I recalled the moment that I drove away from New York City after packing up everything that I owned and watching the George Washington Bridge get smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror. I thought about leaving the classroom at the last school I taught in before becoming a principal. I remembered leaving the rented house that my wife and I lived in and looking back at the nursery where our oldest daughter spent the first 13 months of her life before we owned our own home.
The Analog(ue) podcast is one that deals with “feels” (emotions) and as I was listening to Myke’s story I realized that I had the urge to journal about my own experiences. Once I had parked the car I opened up Day One (iOS, Mac), my journaling app of choice, and dictated a quick entry about what it felt like to leave. I now have those memories written down for posterity.
Since then, I’ve realized that nearly all episodes of the Analog(ue) podcast cause me to think about my own life experiences. Listening regularly prompts me to journal about things that I would not otherwise have thought to write down.
If you think journaling is not your cup of tea, I’d suggest listening to Analog(ue) and seeing where it takes you. For me, it regularly brings back a flood of memories or emotions that are worth taking the time to document.
This article from The Atlantic has some fascinating details about life in space. There was once such romance surrounding astronauts and space travel but it’s practically nonexistent today.
Spaceflight has faded from American consciousness even as our performance in space has reached a new level of accomplishment. In the past decade, America has become a truly, permanently spacefaring nation. All day, every day, half a dozen men and women, including two Americans, are living and working in orbit, and have been since November 2000. Mission Control in Houston literally never sleeps now, and in one corner of a huge video screen there, a counter ticks the days and hours the Space Station has been continuously staffed. The number is rounding past 5,200 days.
It’s a little strange when you think about it: Just about every American ninth-grader has never lived a moment without astronauts soaring overhead, living in space. But chances are, most ninth-graders don’t know the name of a single active astronaut—many don’t even know that Americans are up there. We’ve got a permanent space colony, inaugurated a year before the setting of the iconic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a stunning achievement, and it’s completely ignored.
While resolutions generally deal with losing weight or finishing a project at home, our technology setups can also be part of our plan. Here is a list of things you might consider doing in the coming year.
This is some great advice for starting the new year. Checking up on social network privacy settings is particularly important. I’d also recommend enabling two factor authentication for every service that supports it.
The following apps are on sale right now and worth purchasing:
Drafts is the starting point for all text on my iPhone and iPad. I jot down tasks, classroom walkthrough notes, reminders, text messages, agenda items, and more with this app. It’s so important to me that it sits in my dock. $4.99
Day One is the premier journaling app for iOS. The Mac version is also on sale. If you don’t have this yet, now is the time to grab it. $0.99
Scanner Pro is my scanning app of choice. It does a great job of making legible PDFs of documents, even when they are shot in poor lighting conditions, and it uploads them to iCloud or Dropbox automatically. $0.99
Launch Center Pro for iPad and iPhone provides one tap access to your most commonly used iPhone functions, contacts, and workflows. $0.99
Workflow is still available at its launch price and is an incredible app that automates tasks (like this). It’s highly customizable and there is a great community developing around this app. $2.99
Tweetbot for iPhone is the best Twitter app for iOS. $2.99
Clear is a basic lists app that has a delightful interface. $2.99
Some good advice from Justin Baeder (@eduleadership) that can be applied to many other fields besides education:
As a leader, you have multiple stakeholders, all of whom have expectations of you, whether stated or implicit. Those expectations don’t cause stress unless you internalize them.
And we need to be careful about internalizing all of everyone else’s expectations for us, because there’s no natural limit. No matter how hard you try to be a superprincipal, you’ll eventually burn yourself out if other people get to decide how heavy a burden you bear.
Hear me on this: work flows to the competent. If you’re great at what you do, people will give you more to do. They’ll ask more of you. They’ll expect better, because that’s what their experience with you has conditioned them to do.
Robert McGinley Myers, who has quite a bit of radio and podcasting experience himself, writes about why Serial (the well-known podcast that ended its first season yesterday) has become so popular:
What makes Serial special, for me at least, is not that it’s just a good yarn, though that certainly helps. It’s that much of the yarn is made of tape, and so many different kinds of tape: journalist interviews, police interviews, court testimony, scenes in cars and parking lots, and of course those phone calls from the Maryland Correctional Facility. The story was compelling because if felt so immediate, so real. Tape was what made it real.
There’s nothing new about this kind of reporting, and there’s nothing new about using great tape to keep listeners on the edge of their seats. What’s new is that the medium of podcasting let Serial go deeper, for longer, to gather and sift and edit together so much tape so compellingly that millions of people kept coming back week after week to the same story.
iOS power users are raving about Workflow, a new app released on Thursday that brings automation to iOS devices. The app is powerful, and one of the first things I wanted to do was to create a workflow that would create affiliate links for Apple and Amazon. For the non-bloggers reading this, affiliate links give me a small kickback when you (the reader), click on a link on my site and then make a purchase at Amazon, iTunes, the Mac App Store, or the iOS App Store.
There is a Mac app called Affiliate that does this but it only works when I’m posting from my laptop. I wanted a workflow that would perform the same function on my iPhone or iPad. I had invested some time in trying to figure out how to do this with Drafts but was unsuccessful. When Workflow was released on Thursday, I decided to see if I could build a workflow that would serve this need.
After a bit of fiddling around and learning the app as I went, I ended up with the following (split into two screenshots since it wouldn’t fit into one):
This workflow requires that Clean Links
be installed, which is a free app that turns shortened and redirected links into the true location of the item. It also requires the user to copy the iTunes or Amazon link to the clipboard before running the action. When the workflow is run, it passes the link through Clean Links, determines if it is an iTunes or Amazon link, applies the appropriate affiliate code, and copies the resulting affiliate link to the clipboard. I can then paste it into whatever I’m working on.
One caveat… I could not get this to work as an extension. I’m not sure why. It may be a problem with Workflow (which is only on version 1.0) or there could be some other problem. To get around this I simply added the workflow to my home screen so that I can run it with one tap.
Feel free to download this workflow and modify it to serve your own purposes.
Sven Fechner at SimplicityBliss shows how to make OmniFocus for Mac more compact. This will be very helpful to anyone using a laptop.
OmniFocus 2 on the Mac comes with a gorgeous design with lots of whitespace. For some, however, this is simply a waste of screen estate.
Luckily, and unknown to many, OmniFocus 2 has a hidden setting that allows you to change to a more dense layout.
I have already had a lot of fun playing with Workflow, an app released yesterday which can automate tasks on iOS 8. I can see how it will be a fantastic complement to Drafts (which is limited to text inputs and outputs).
Workflow – first teased by Ari Weinstein and team in January 2014 – takes another approach: instead of relying heavily on a specific functionality (such as text editing) or third-party apps and services (like IFTTT and Dropbox), Workflow is primarily aimed at automating native iOS apps and features.
Workflow can automate Calendar events and Reminders, it can parse and extract data from webpages in Safari, and it has full support for Photos and sharing services. It even works with iCloud Drive and extensions. Workflow’s first version lacks some obvious features like backup and sync, but what it does today is an extremely powerful proposition – from both practical and conceptual standpoints.