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1/13/2015

How I Work 2015 - Gear and Productivity Tips


NOTE: This is an updated version from my original post in 2014. 

Location: All over the US
Current Gig: Cloud Solutions Architect (Consultant)
One word that describes how you work: Insanely.
Current mobile device: iPhone 6+ and iPad Air
Current computer: 13” Macbook Air (Haswell)

What apps/software can’t you live without? Why?
As an early adopter of the Cloud, I moved to a web-based workflow several years ago. I rarely use locally installed apps. I came over to the Google dark side from the beginning, so I use Google Apps for most things: Gmail, Docs, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Drawings, etc. I use Evernote religiously for note taking, project planning, document storage, business card and contact storage, receipt archiving and just about anything else I can think of. As a matter of fact, I am writing this in Evernote right now! I also love Pocket. Anytime I come across something interesting on the web that I can’t read in two minutes or less, it gets saved to Pocket for later reading. On the apps front, as a frequent traveler, I constantly use the United Airlines, Uber and Marriott apps. I also frequently use HootSuite, Twitter, Facebook, official Gmail iOS app (I hate iOS mail), Pocket, Evernote - geez there are so many I better stop here. Suffice it to say that I am a mobile junkie. I am all about mobile apps!

What’s your workspace setup like?
This is an interesting one for me. Since I am often traveling, my workspace is any hotel room business suite office/desk. Some are well designed for the task and some aren’t. Either way, I make them work for me. At home, I actually have three different workspaces that I use. I’ll try to take a pic of one of those and insert it here later on. Otherwise, just picture a token Ikea desk, in front of a token window, with a token Macbook air on it. One thing that helps me greatly is using my iPad as a second screen (or entirely separate PC) when traveling. Having dual monitors is key when doing a lot of data manipulation, research and document creation.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
My best life hack is to do everything in a web-based multi-platform app. This allows you to move from a laptop to a tablet to a smart phone and back with little effort. This also prevents a situation where you are dead in the water if one device breaks or is lost. You can even grab a public computer (I know…ewww) and keep on working.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
I have two distinct to-do list managers: Gmail and Evernote. Anything I need to get done that same day is a starred item in my Gmail. As I complete them, I archive them. Longer term projects go into a ‘to-do’ notebook in Evernote. I open that notebook and note by default every single day and decide what to do next. I sometimes use physical sticky notes for certain things, but not often. I am not a fan of ‘hard copy’ so I try to keep everything digital.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?
My iPad Air and 4G mobile hotspot. I do a ton of reading on my iPad and actually get a lot of work done it as well. I have become quite proficient at typing on the on-screen keyboard when laid down on a flat surface. You would be surprised how easy it becomes with practice. The 4G mobile hotspot is pretty self explanatory if you travel. Internet everywhere!

What every day thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?
The one skill that I have purposely developed, and continue to hone, is taking very complex technical concepts and explaining them in terms that non-technical people can understand. I cannot over-stress the importance of being able to simplify things in the business world. Simplicity, while not easy, truly is the ultimate sophistication.

What do you listen to while you work?
I listen to all kinds of music, but it really depends on what I am doing. When I am scripting or working in a terminal, I am usually listening to hard rock. Ozzy/Black Sabbath, Disturbed, AC/DC, Guns N Roses, and more recently Five Finger Death Punch are my favorites. When I am writing or need to focus on something ‘wordy’, I listen to classical or jazz. Other times, I like to listen to the likes of Led Zeppelin and The Grateful Dead. I am an old soul.

What are you currently reading?
I don’t have much time for reading longer things like books (outside of tech books), but I read a TON of blogs and articles. I am also an avid fan of Inc., Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, The Economist and a few other thought provoking magazines. I love to learn and am constantly learning new things.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?
I am 100% an introvert. I am an INTJ, so most of my world exists between my two ears, but I do like to interact with people as well. I love public speaking and lively debate. To recharge my batteries, so to speak, I need to be alone for a while. That, I believe, is the definition of the introvert.

What’s your sleep routine like?
My sleep has no routine. As I move from one timezone to another, my sleep pattern gets shifted around constantly. By nature, I am a night owl. I do my best work between 10pm and 2am.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _______ answer these same questions.
Nobuo Uematsu, Jony Ive, Larry Page, Adrian Cockroft, Dieter Rams.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
To those whom much is given, much is expected. We, as Americans, often forget how lucky we are to live in the greatest country on earth. Most have never traveled abroad and seen the struggle and strife many people live in. We should always be mindful of how much we have been given, in terms of wealth, intelligence or power, and strive to help as many people as we can before we exit this earth. For this reason, I am continually inspired by people like Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet. I think the legacy of my generation will be the shift away from caring about money toward caring about humanity. I can only hope to be a small part of that monumental shift.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers?
Like many of my peers, I chose to enter the tech industry in order to change the world for the better. As a native Texan, I am very forward and blunt on my mission to get this done. Over the years, I have met many amazing people and done many amazing things. I have worked with many people to achieve this common goal and I have no qualms about seam-rolling those who would get in my way. My advice to everyone is not to let other people dictate your life or cause you undue stress. Like a Texan, take life by the horns and always move forward. As you look back along the way, you will find that you always made the right decision, even though you may have been unsure at the time. Don’t dwell on the negative, always focus on the positive. As often as you will learn ‘what to do’ in your career from others, you will also learn ‘what not to do.’ Sometimes, the latter are the more important lessons.

1/09/2015

Frivolous Class Action Lawsuits and Not Being Evil - Apple's 16GB Nightmare

You may have recently heard about the class action lawsuit that was filed against Apple, alleging that Apple failed to disclose to consumers that as much as 23.1 percent of the advertised storage capacity of an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch would be consumed by iOS 8, once the update was installed. There is some additional garbage in the suit regarding how many photos would be displaced by the upgrade and that iCloud storage is somehow being pushed onto users due to the limited space on the device. As if there were not 64 and 128 GB versions. Keep in mind this lawsuit is for the 16 GB versions.

Let me just state this plainly: This is a frivolous lawsuit. As with most class action lawsuits, even if there is fault found with the defendant, the damages awarded to plaintiffs is miniscule. These types of lawsuits are a racket that only makes the blood-sucking lawyers more wealthy. We really need some type of reform in this area where the lawyers can get no more in fees than any one plaintiff gets in awarded damages. That ought to remove this cancer in the legal system with a speed not anywhere other than the F1 circuit.

As with any other electronic gadget, the raw storage advertised is just that, raw storage. As soon as your format the storage device, you lose storage immediately. Furthermore, put any operating system (iOS, Android, Windows or otherwise) on the device and you lose more storage. This is irrespective of the actual size of the storage in the device. What's more, over time, upgrades to the OS (since they are progressively bigger) will take a larger overall percentage of the storage in the device until you upgrade. The percentage it takes is irrelevant as no device manufacturer advertises that you will retain X% of total storage no matter how many upgrades you make at any given size. They only advertise what the raw storage of the device is. Furthermore, trying to allege that small device storage sizes is 'forcing' users to consume cloud storage is dubious at best. This lawsuit is just another in a long string of abuse of the legal system by crappy lawyers.

All that being said, I am extremely disappointed in Apple for even selling a 16GB version of these devices in this day and age of large photos, videos and apps. It says something that there is no 32GB version. They immediately jump from 16GB to 64GB and then 128GB. Apple knows better, and this is such a ripoff to consumers with no real reason. Even the cost argument to justify offering a low-end device and a low price for consumers who cannot afford the more expensive units falls on its face. How much more does it cost to produce a 32GB version vs a 16GB unit? I'm sure its a few dollars. Apple should have done the right thing here and offered 32/64/128GB instead of the 16GB version. I don't think Steve Jobs would have allowed this, and I can't believe Tim Cook allowed it. I say this as a huge Apple fan and aficionado. I love their products and technology philosophy, but I am so disappointed in this storage size offering. It isn't something that should be sued over, but I think Apple needs to do the right thing here. They should offer buyers of the 16GB units a free 16GB of iCloud storage (to make up for the difference) and stop selling the 16GB units. Change the lineup to offer 32GB as the smallest option, then make sure that this never happens again in the future. Come on Apple (and Tim Cook), you're better than this. Be good corporate citizens and do the right thing here. Everyone makes mistakes. It's how you recover from the mistakes that will define you as a company and individual.

1/08/2015

Force RGB Mode in Mac OS X to Sharpen External Non-Apple Monitors

For those other Apple aficionados out there that love Apple's MacBooks, but don't necessarily use their Cinema displays, you may be familiar with an issue that arises with some non-Apple monitors when plugged into the mini-displayport/thunderbolt port on Apple laptops. The issue manifests itself in different ways, but the most common descriptions I see are "washed out" or "not sharp" with respect to text. While this is normal for Windows users, Mac users are accustomed to laser sharp text and vivid colors. This problem is the result of OS X not using RGB mode when connected to these monitors. This is because OS X recognizes the monitor as a TV rather than a monitor, and uses the YCbCr color space instead of the RGB one.

Luckily, this is a pretty issue to fix. It does require a little bit of knowledge in terms go how to use the terminal in OS X, but nothing uber complex. I found an excellent write up on how to fix the issue over at ireckon.net that is both descriptive yet concise. I followed the directions as a test, on a spare MacBook Air, and it worked fine. The difference in contrast and clarity is amazing. Of course, the easiest way to solve this is to just use Apple's Cinema (Thunderbolt) Displays. Whenever this monitor finally bites the dust, I'll be sure to upgrade to the newest Apple Cinema Display.