buglix.org Random rants

Ode to plain text

Since I first started using Getting Things Done back in 2006 I have constantly been on the lookout for the next cool method, system, setup or app. Everything from a fully analog system with notebooks and 43 physical folders to every standalone app or subscription model there is.

The problem I have and share with so many others is that I fiddle more with the setup and tools than I actually do using it to get productive. I really like the idea of fully fledged tools like Omnifocus, but after I get all my stuff in there I start to loose the overview perspective and after a few weeks I almost don't want to open the app anymore.

I have found a pattern in the tools that I use - the more low-tech they are, the longer I stay with them. It's something special about the freedom of just jotting something down in a notebook or being able to move text around freely on the screen. Paper based notebooks have the disadvantage that it's hard to search and index them and that's why I've eventually left them behind. I still take most of my notes with pen and paper, but I like my task management digital.

Enter TaskPaper

taskpaper

Recently I have started to use TaskPaper, by Hogbay Software. Or actually, re-started as I have tried it in the passed and dismissed it as it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of something like OmniFocus.

It is not only an app, but also a way to structure tasks, projects, tags and notes in plain text so it can be used with other plain text editors as well (more on that in a coming post). Hogbay's website is not selling the concept very well, but there are two comprehensive articles by Gabe Weatherhead - Part 1 and Part 2.

The more I use it the more I like it. There is some form of app for every platform I use. I can sync my TaskPaper document with Dropbox and use a variety of scripts and tools to manipulate them. It doesn't provide me with a ton of settings I can fiddle with (which is good), but it let's me create my own theme. As I really like the SMYCK color scheme, I used it as a base for my theme as you can see below.

smycktheme

My favorite iPhone apps of 2009

The number of applications in Apple's App Store has exploded during 2009 and it is getting harder and harder to find new stuff. Therefore I thought it was a good idea to share my favorite applications of 2009 (mostly based on the apps I have used the most).

Reeder
As a Google Reader addict I have tried several iPhone apps for accessing my feeds while on the road. First I used the mobile version of Google Reader, simply browsing to the site in Safari. It didn't map to the way I use reader though and later I stumbled upon Byline (native app) which was a step in the right direction. After that I started using NetNewsWire which also improved the reading experience. It wasn't until I found Reeder that I can say I'm happy with the reading experience on the iPhone. There are only a few features that I miss (such as reading items shared by others, or recommended items). One of the apps I use most days except Mail and Phone.

Instapaper
Instapaper is a good complement to Google Reader and other news services allowing me to read some of the longer articles when I have the time. Besides my Sony Reader Touch (via Calibre), the iPhone app is the place were I read most of the content from Instapaper.com.

Tweetie
My Twitter usage goes up and down, but when I'm in the mood, I use Tweetie on the iPhone.

Boxcar
A good complement to Tweetie, allowing me to get notifications about direct messages or mentions.

Hipstamatic
Of all the camera apps I have tried, this is the only one I have kept. The various lenses and films you can buy in the application makes you want to experiment and try new things. For some examples, check "Paper Stuff" at my Posterous blog.

Ninjawords [iTunes direct link]
The controversy (via: Daring Fireball) around Ninjawords was actually the thing that got me to try it. As the web service (ninjawords.com) it is a really fast way of looking up Wiktionary words.

Snatch
In the summer of 09 I bought a Mac Mini and installed Plex. I didn't want a complete keyboad and mouse setup, so instead I researched remote control solutions allowing me to remote control the Mini via my iPhone and WiFi (or BlueTooth). Even though it is a bit unstable from time to time, it is still my favorite way of controlling the Mini from the phone.

The TripIt App
Since I travel quite a lot, the TripIt app have saved me many times during sprints at airport trying to find out when the connecting flight departs.

Soundcurtain
While traveling it can be hard to find solitude and privacy to get some work done. Soundcurtain is a great cure, analyzing the environment sound volume via the mic and generates a sound to tune it out. I mostly use the rain mode.

Nike + iPod
Even though this is a built-in application I thought it was worth mentioning. If you have the Nike+ equipment it is a very nice way of keeping track of your exercise.

Top shelf
Previously named "Drinks", Top shelf is my first stop for finding drink recipes and inspiration.

20 minute meals - Jamie Oliver
Another great stop for recipes. Nice inspiring photos and very clear instructions. I particularly like the shopping list feature.

Rat on a scooter XL [iTunes direct link]
Most addictive game of 2009. I have a high score of 140 and it starts to get hard beating it.

DoodleJump [iTunes direct link]
Second most addictive game of 2009. It does not have the same feeling of speed as Rat on a scooter, but it is still a good game. My highscore is 20.000-something.

Sydsvenskan [iTunes direct link]
My local newspaper. The app feels solid and always brings me the latest news. One of the better news outlets in Sweden.

MobilBlogg [iTunes direct link]
A friend and a colleague at Purple Scout, Tobias/tru have created a very nice client for the Swedish micro blog mobilblogg.nu (requires account). Even though I don't use mobilblogg.nu that much, I thought it was worth mentioning since it is a very nice and solid application. It is released as open source.

StarDefence Before this game I wasn't that much into tower defense games, but it has all changed now.

FlightControl
Addicive fun, especially to play against another player via BlueTooth.

Lomo Lomo Lomo

  1. Take your camera everywhere you go
  2. Use it any time - day and night
  3. Lomography is not an inteference in your life, but part of it
  4. Try the shot from the hip
  5. Approach the objects of your lomographic desire as close as possible
  6. Don’t think
  7. Be fast
  8. You don’t have to know beforehand what you captured on film
  9. Afterwards either
  10. Don’t worry about any rules

Lomographic Society International

10 years of digital cameras

Diana+, the ultimate camera?

I recently sold my Nikon D90 since I realized that I only use an SLR-camera when I'm on vacation. In everyday situations it is just to heavy to throw in the backpack. While thinking about which camera to go with instead (an ongoing thought process of mine) it struck me that I have been a digital camera user for 10 years this year, and during this time frame bought and sold no less than 16 cameras (almost two per year). I have owned everything from the most simple VGA-resolution cameras like the Agfa ePhoto CL18 to professional models like the Canon EOS 40D with all kinds of accessories and tools.

The realization of changing camera almost twice a year got me thinking if I'm only in digital cameras for the chase of the next new model or why I take photos at all. My interest in photography started way back in the beginning of the nineties when I got to borrow my fathers analog Ashia Pentax Spotmatic SPII, which I still think is a very good camera. Before that I used a compact camera only for vacation and pet (our late cat Findus) snaps. When I got my hands on the Pentax and the fine lenses that came with it, I realized that photography wasn't only a way of freezing a moment, it was a creative outlet as well. I started shooting more artistic and especially nature/landscape shots. It was always a thrill to get the film back from the camera shop and looking through the master pieces. The years went by and my interest in photography faded until almost 10 years later when my upper secondary school got a digital camera (the revolution!).

The camera was a Kodak DC200, a brick that produced grainy 640 by 480 pixel shots in bright light. Anything else than perfect shooting conditions and all you got was a pixel blur. That did not stop me for a second though. Even if the camera was school property, we were allowed to borrow it during evenings and weekends - a benefit I often took advantage of. Compared to shooting with the Pentax, this was like going back to my first compact, more of a memory freeze than an artistic outlet, but it was amazing to skip the whole development process and not having to pay for each shot. A year later I bought my first digital camera, a Agfa ePhoto CL18, more ore less the same kind of camera as the DC200, but I didn't have to ask someone every time I wanted to use it.

The pattern I have observed while going through my list of previously owned cameras is that I'm torn between artistic expression and my love for advanced technology. All my friends know that I'm a technology loving, early adopting gearhead who is always on the hunt for the next cool gadget. During the last 10 years there have been a small revolution in digital cameras which have fuled my fire for technology by releasing new and more advanced models each year. I love to read reviews of new cameras, dig in user forums (like dpreview.com), look at 200% enlargements of ISO comparisons between different camera models and so on. Of course that has been very good for the gadgetist in me, but not always a great match for the artistic photographer. I say "not always" because some of the cameras have unleashed the same kind of creative freedom I first experienced with the Spotmatic.

In a couple of weeks I'm going on a trip to Japan and of course I want to take a lot of vacation snaps and also artistic images. With the realization that I'm often torn between creativity and technology (heart and brain?) I'm now hunting for a camera that I know will satisfy my artistic and creative side foremost. Right now I have a few contenders, but haven't been able to decide yet. The Olympus E-620 seems to be a good compromise. It is an SLR, but it is very small and lightweight, especially if equipped with the Zuiko 25mm pancake lens. My main arguments for the E-620 is that it has a swiveling screen and built-in "Art Filters" (I know, it is just digital filters that is also easy to apply in post processing, but that's thinking with the brain, not with the heart). Olympus will release another interesting camera in mid June as well. It is a micro four thirds camera in retro range finder style, something that sounds appealing to me. Another very interesting thing is something I saw on my last trip to Tokyo. It was a digital version of the Lomo camera Diana+ (see pic above). I have always been drawn to Lomo cameras, but I don't want to hassle with analog film anymore. A digital version would be very nice. Will check it again on my next visit in June (think I saw it at the department store Tokyo Hands).

Olympus E-620

Either way I will soon be buying a new camera. The difference this time is that I will buy with my heart instead of my brain and hopefully snap a bunch of creative images on my next trip.

If you want to take a look at my photos, either go to my flickr page or my page at Fotosidan.se (a Swedish photography site). Of course I can give advice on the cameras I have previously owned if you are thinking of buying one, just send an e-mail (check the About page for info).

My camera history

Moleskine delight!

On a business trip to Stockholm today I had some time to kill and went to the pen and paper section of the department store Åhlens to search for a new notebook (I admit, I have a notebook addiction). Naturally I first checked the Moleskine shelf as they produce the most convenient and good looking notebooks on the planet. To my surprise they had a new model with soft cover without the classic elastic rubber band. It was available in five different colors which is new to me .. have never seen anything but black Moleskines. 

Of course I bought one and when I got home the converter and Black/Blue ink for my Lamy Al-Star had arrived with the mail... time for some serious writing action ;-)

Notebooks