Category Archives: Personal Technology

The MacBook Pro w Touch Bar is Great for this Knowledge Professional

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Macs are still Relevant to the Knowledge Professional

There are lots of reasons why a knowledge professional would like this Mac. First, it is a Mac which is historically the favorite for creatives. I’m going to assume that knowledge professionals must be creative to do their jobs regardless of the field. If you are operating with knowledge at a professional level and might be a knowledge enthusiast too, this is your brand.

But this gorgeous MacBook Pro is Pricy!

Let’s get this out of the way early. Yes. Apple raised their prices on these better quality Macs. You get your money’s worth, but yeah, it will cost you. As my father used to say, money doesn’t grow on trees. And the last 30-years haven’t been kind to the middle class. But your tools have never been like this.  You are better educated and more knowledge-capable than ever. If you are serious about your career, this big tax deduction is a great investment. It is your primary tool so consider cutting back elsewhere in your budget.

iPad is Not (Yet) Enough. Now that you are preferring Mac and are creating with knowledge whether writing, advising, creating presentations or diagramming, you’ll probably want a Mac not just an iPad to get your work done. I say you need both if you can do it because reading, the primary activity of a knowledge professional, is best on an iPad by a large margin. It feels better. It’s less awkward.

Mac wins when you are writing. If you are reading and typing, you’ll probably be better on a Mac than an iPad just due to the advantage extra MacBook functionality. With a Mac you can still read but you get some extras. The screen is adjustable to any angle and is always with you (you don’t need a stand or foldable cover to prop it up). The keyboard is really good and is built in. It works well on a table or your lap or anything in between. While Apple doesn’t give you a touch screen, it gives you the world’s best trackpad which you can operate and still keep your hands in perfect typing position.

Mac wins when you are gathering and organizing as you begin or review a project. The Finder with its multiple windows and ease of connecting and working with external data, beats the iPad handily in these critical knowledge functions. There are many Mac apps to choose from. I like Scapple for the visual note-taking. I like Ulysses because it keeps my serious writing and important notes in a database so all that stuff is there so I can grab what I need quickly. I think Scrivener is great for long writing projects. But also we have lovely OmniOutliner and Omnigraffle.

Why Would the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar be your choice for your next portable Mac?

Look and Feel

Jony Ive outdid himself with this Mac. I’ve got the space gray model which is stunning. I believe and its been documented that beauty can inspire and energize. What knowledge professional doesn’t need all the inspiration and energy they can get when faced with tough creative challenges? It is smooth as silk opening, closing  and adjusting the screen angle.  The screen is wide color and brilliantly lit. The touch bar is perfectly blended with the keyboard. The 4 Thunderbolt ports are small leaving the sides uncrowded.

Form Factor

I’ve been using the MacBook 12 and I have to say that the small size and 2 lb. weight are wonderful on your lap or in your bag. It’s better for me to have the extra screen size, though. I like big screens because I get a larger canvas just like I like bigger notebooks and note pads when I need to figure out what I am doing on a new problem or project. For me, the 13″ size is as big as I’m willing to carry or hold. I would not have gone 13″ if the MBPTB was bigger or heavier than its compact 3 lb.. I like that it is smaller than the MacBook Air 13 by a large margin and, of course, way cooler. It’s more comfortable on my lap.

The Amazing Touch Bar

I’m typing on it now. I have an iPad Pro 12.7 next to me but it is sitting idle for the reasons I’ve just covered. The Touch ID on the right edge of the touch bar is the biggest favorite out of the box. It’s not to be typing to login anymore. I haven’t learned much about the new touchbar yet, but I like that Apple has given me a small strip of iOS in this new MacBook Pro. That strip is great for discovering the commands available at any given moment. Simply engaging touch in the middle of a writing project may help your brain get a little more creative. I’m thinking it engages with the right brain, subconscious, primitive capacities of the mind where breakthroughs and insights are facilitated.

 Largest Trackpad

With the exception of the new MBP15 trackpad, this is the biggest trackpad around. Apple already makes by far the best trackpads. Turns out as you get into gestures including drag, pinch and zoom, the bigger the better. If palm rejection wasn’t excellent, the size of the trackpad would be an issue. Not a problem that I’ve experienced.

Fastest Solid State Drive

Apple says this solid state drive is twice as fast as previous SSD generations. This affects how fast things start – you are doing one thing and you do another thing. It’s extremely responsive. There’s no resistance to your effort. Faster is better when you work on hard stuff.

The USB-C Thunderbolt Ports

I’m not the best one to judge the downsides of not having the ports that came on previous MacBook Pros. I already have been using a single USB-C port with my MacBook 12 for over a year and a half and 4 ports seem like a complete luxury even though USB-C. They aren’t as compatible so I’ve used Apple 3 port adapters when I wanted power and a backup. With four ports, I don’t need a hub or multiple function adapters. I plug in power in one port and a hard drive and a USB stick all at the same time. I’ve got a 64 gig USB-stick that has a regular USB3 side and a USB-C side so that’s already available and I recommend one of these if you are new to USB-C.

My 2013 MacBook Pro 13 had an SD card slot, 2 USB3 ports and a Thunderbolt 2 port.  Now I get 2 full speed Thunderbolt 3 ports and 2 full speed second generation USB-C ports. I just bought 2 new $89 1-terabyte 7200 rpm G-drive portable drives in space gray from the Apple Store. I can’t find that $89 price anywhere else so I think Apple is helping out on that price a bit to make buying new USB-C drives palatable.

I am a technology enthusiast, so all these really powerful and fast, state of the art ports seem good. The lack of legacy compatibility and requirements to sometimes use an adapter for old drives seems like a very reasonable price to pay considering how small and light the MBPTB is and what I get. You can get a USB-C to USB3 adapter for about $10. Apple has their USB-C to USB3 adapter for sale for $9. Apple is trying to make these adapters affordable to smooth your way into the future.

You can keep all of your dongles at home except maybe take that USB stick with USB-C and USB-3. You already had a USB stick with you anyway didn’t you?

 

Apple Watch – Day 9 check-in

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Which Apple Watch?

Acquired Apple Watch on April 24. I went with the Sport Watch for the price and the lightness over the Sapphire lens. So far no scratches. Part of my thinking was that Apple does an awesome job with aluminum. The iPhone looks stellar, why would I want to spend more to get stainless steel? It’s the same wrist-computer, after all. And, like I said, I wanted light.

Got the Space Gray with Black Sports Band. Working like a charm. Comfortable. Doesn’t bother me to keep it on all the time. Good to go! Yes. This is my dog, Spinner. Kind of fun to have her on my wrist.

Got the 42mm. This was a close call as I have small wrists. So the 42mm watch is pretty big on my wrist but I have worn bigger in the old days from time to time. And I survived. I went for the screen real estate and the extra battery life. No regrets.

Does Apple Watch Meet my Expectations?

It’s working great for my first goal of Standing regularly. This alone may justify the purchase. Actual Goal 1 was to learn about this new wearable computer something I’ve heard about for 20 years back when all this stuff was in the future. Now we have something real and backed by Apple’s economic power to change the world.

My minimum requirements are good. I haven’t mastered notifications so they are hit or miss and sometimes I get haptic notifications and sometimes not. I’m sure more will be revealed but I’m busy right now with work so don’t have oodles of time to sort all this out. At least now the Apple Watch is on my wrist so I’m getting to experience this ground breaking new release from day one.

Experiencing the Apple Watch

The experience is pretty transparent, actually, if you don’t count getting dinged to stand up every hour. I usually beat it to the punch partly because I’m afraid I’ll miss one of my hours and I like to get as many Stands as I can per day at this point in the game.

I don’t notice that the watch is on my wrist. That’s the transparent part. It’s just there. After a good 15 years not wearing a watch, it’s kind of handy to have one on my person. And in addition to my iPhone which might not be in an app that shows the time or is somewhere in the house but not on me. It’s pretty rare to not have the iPhone near, but the watch is really near. Even if it takes a half second to turn on.

I have no doubt I will be wearing this watch for the foreseeable future. At least until next year’s version that is. I would love to be able to control some of the variables myself. One great candidate would be how long the watch stays on before going to sleep. I would push it to at least 20 seconds over the current 15 unless battery life got to be an issue.

Looking forward to learning more and seeing cooler and cooler apps over time. Developers have had little to no time to learn how to take advantage of this device. As they learn and iterate, all sorts of improvements will be made.

eReading: Kindle Paperwhite 2 vs. iPad mini retina

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I bought the iPad mini with retina in late November 2013. I’m a long-time Kindle owner since the Kindle 2 and had the Kindle touch, Kindle 4 and the Kindle Keyboard. But swore I would just use the iPad mini and not get the Paperwhite. I broke down and got the Paperwhite for $139 — the price without ads.

Paperwhite Has the iPad mini Beat for Extended Reading

Size and Weight. And the size is perfect for ereading — I’m convinced. You don’t need the 8″ iPad mini screen unless you want to read oversized things like textbooks. Most of my reading is for fiction or other non-fiction that has very few illustrations so you don’t need a big screen.

E-Ink Screen. In exchange for not getting color, you get a screen that is probably best for your eyes compared to the typical computer or iPad screen. Lots of people who have iPads and iPhones still carry a Kindle to get this benefit.

Great Value.  I’m very impressed with what you get in the Paperwhite. The special side lighting works great to give you the perfect lighting in any situation. Touch responsiveness is much improved over the Kindle touch (I still wish they had page flip buttons like they used to on Kindle Keyboard and prior, but hey?).

But I Still Prefer the iPad mini with retina

Touch Responsiveness. I stopped using the Kindle touch because it was too slow and unresponsive. Responsiveness is now adequate on the Paperwhite 2 but I still find the touch experience far behind that effortless, immediate iPad touch responsiveness.

Color Highlights. I love and prefer the size of the Paperwhite for extended reading, but, for me,  the other advantages of the iPad mini with retina override that size preference. I like highlighting even in fiction and if I’m highlighting several things on a page I appreciate the ability to put those highlights in different colors. I’m sure I’m in the minority on this highlight thing though.

Better Screen. At $399 vs $139, the iPad mini better have a better screen than the Paperwhite. I love the crisp text on that screen. Even if it isn’t e-ink. My eye doctor may disagree.

Bottom Line

Advantages of the iPad mini retina for ereading:

  • Touch Responsiveness
  • Colored Highlights
  • Better Screen

Advantages of the Paperwhite 2 for ereading:

  • Size and weight is great for extended reading (over 30 minutes)
  • Special e-ink light is better for your eyes
  • Incredible value

Knowledge Enthusiasts and Knowledger

I’ve been writing about knowledge apps for over two years here and now I’m going to begin the reveal on my latest knowledge pursuit.

I am building an iOS and Mac Knowledge app using FileMaker 12. FileMaker Go on iOS is free. My distribution options are wide open. This is the creative part of my app journey, though, so distribution is not on my mind yet. It is great fun building the app I want for my iPhone, iPad and Mac.

Knowledger

I call my new app-in-the-making Knowledger. It’s the shortest app name I could think of that plays on the word Knowledge – the focus of the app. For now it is a code name. Things are in flux.

Knowledger is a customizable, personal knowledge dashboard. It can pull information from Wikipedia, Google Search and Google Maps on subjects of interest. It is your own database and internet tool. Ambitious Knowledge Professionals may want to use FileMaker Pro to integrate Knowledger into their own Filemaker framework. Lack of integration is one of the frustrations in the knowledge arena and the door is open to go there as needed and desired.

Knowledge Enthusiasts

If you are a knowledge professional, you must keep up in your area of specialized knowledge and also knowledge in general – including current events. You don’t operate in a vacuum. Forces outside your specialty affect your work. Your perishable knowledge exists in world that changes every day.

Computers have been the tool du jour for knowledge professionals for good reason. You need to master the tool to function as a knowledge professional or pay a price. Now we have new species of computers: iPhones, iPads and their brethren providing access to information 24/7.

Are you a Knowledge Enthusiast? I’ve come to believe that my real market is what I call Knowledge Enthusiasts. I’m one. I love to learn. I have learning goals that exceed my professional interests. I am curious about my passions and become curious easily. Managing my attention so that it goes where my priorities are is part of the reason for Knowledger.

Maybe 5 – 10% of the population share this passion for knowledge whether working or not. That’s where Knowledger comes into play more broadly.

The Holy Grail of Knowledge

I’m treading on dangerous ground working on an app called Knowledger. Having access and storage of all your notes, ideas and clippings, books, whatever is what the knowledge enthusiast craves. Ideas, insights and information slip away as other pieces of information and other ideas come to mind. Knowledge at your fingertips. Google says they want to put the world’s knowledge at your beck and call. I’m entering holy grail turf with caution in my own way and trying to keep focus in the midst of a hurricane. Here’s what I’m up to.

Knowledger Features in Development

In its current incarnation, Knowledger tracks your people, groups, places, things, ideas and works. Whenever you encounter any of these and want to save them and follow them as needed, you just type in the name. Data entry is next to nill. Quick. No hassle. Frictionless.

One of the problems you encounter on iOS is that you have to operate in app silos – App A doesn’t know what App B is doing. That problem is starting to be addressed here and there by URL schemes that allow apps to talk to each other. Knowledger uses URL schemes to talk to other apps. Knowledger can access the web with FileMaker’s built in browser, but stopping there limits you. Key Apps used in concert can crucially improve the experience and aid your knowledge quest.

Knowledger can talk directly to excellent Wikipedia apps like Articles and Wikipanion. It can talk to Chrome if you have it installed. It can talk to Drafts and Day One. This inter-application communication is a key feature of an app that is designed to be your dashboard to the world of information beyond your doorstep.

Creativity

Creating requires invention which requires concentration over time. It is facilitated by obsession. To be creative you need to be mulling over the roadblocks to your vision, dwelling in the subject matter at play and using your subconscious to do the rest while you are driving, dreaming or in the shower. You need to have your note pad ready at all times to capture the stray insight that comes your way. But, the dwelling on and obsession piece is where Knowledger comes in.

Travel

There are huge possibilities for knowledger. We are a world of knowledge workers in a knowledge economy. Flooded with information, most of which we don’t want. Collect the places that catch your interest and learn about them in your spare time. I’ve got Iowa where my grand father was born to go with Duluth where my Norwegian grand parents migrated. I’ve got the classic cities like Paris, London, Rome and Berlin. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland. And Akihabara, the amazing gadget shopping mecca in Japan. Every time I capture a new place or person I get a sense of satisfaction that I’ve claimed them for my collection.

Better Use of your Time

If you are a knowledge enthusiast, you may be among the minority who resist the call of various iOS games, staying on track with your quest for relevant knowledge. Or not. I would like you to have Knowledger with you as a constructive option and alternative to seductive time-fillers.

With Knowledger, you spontaneously add people, places and things as they occur to you. You favorite the ones you want to dwell on and unfavorite them when they’ve become less interesting or you’ve moved on.

That’s it. Your knowledge system dashboard and personal interests database.