Minimizing My Blogs (a last post of sorts)

I’ve made the somewhat difficult decision to stop posting at this site.

I’ve had in the back of my head consolidating all of my various writing on my personal site (www.markcrump.com) for a while. I started The Casual Techie as a way to continue the sort of writing I used to do a GigaOM, but it never took off the way I expected. At GigaOM, I wrote about topics that non-power users would find helpful. Hense, the site name The Casual Techie. As I started down the iOS-primary path, the types of stuff I was writing about weren’t really so casual after all. I also found myself not writing about topics that weren’t technical in nature because maintaining two blogs wasn’t optimal.

A few organizations that reached out to me to review products didn’t want to send me review units because I had a personal, and not an “organization” site. I created The Casual Techie to give my own solely tech-oriented site a go. Ironically, the same people didn’t want to send me review units because I didn’t write for one of the established sites. At first I thought I’d try and go after the sponsored content model, but I never felt comfortable pursuing and selling myself that way. My overall readership is still low enough that I’m not affecting many people by making the move now.1

This is not the main reason I’ve stopped writing here, mind you. There are other things I want to write about, and I wanted to have a central site to write about tech, art, writing and whatever crosses my mind. At some point, I’m thinking of moving off the free WordPress host I’m on to a hosted platform where I have more customization options. At that point, I wanted to have only one site anyway. My model for websites has become less Daring Fireball and more Shawn Blanc, Jason Kottke and Ben Brooks. Personal content about matters of interest to me.

I exported the blog posts from this site over to the new home. If you had bookmarked this site, please change your bookmarks.

  1. I’m averaging about 150 vistors per month. Almost all of them from links to my writing I’ve posted in threads at MacRumors.
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enough (the hardware edition)

I was working on an article about my goals for 2017 and I had a bullet point: Reduce my technological footprint. There were a few lines about the number of devices I have and how I wanted to be more efficient and minimize the number of devices I use.

There’s a new Netflix show on Minimalism (in which Patrick Rhone of Minimal Mac is mentioned). Patrick also tweeted this link to another piece on Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. The show is great, focusing on getting the rid of a lot of the crap we as humans tend to collect. The documentary hit at a good time. I was on vacation and I was going to dump out a ton of stuff from my home office. At the same time, I took a hard look at some of the electronic devices I have floating around.

What is Digital Minimalism?

From Cal Newport’s article above, he defines Digital Minimalism as:

Digital minimalism is a philosophy that helps you question what digital communication tools (and behaviors surrounding these tools) add the most value to your life. It is motivated by the belief that intentionally and aggressively clearing away low-value digital noise, and optimizing your use of the tools that really matter, can significantly improve your life.

Tech Products I use at least 4 times a year:

So, I have a ton of devices. Here are the ones that get used heavily1:

  1. iPad Pro 12.9″
  2. iPhone 6+2
  3. Alienware Alpha
  4. MacBook Air 11″ (2014)
  5. MacBook Pro 15″ (2011)

Getting to One

At work, we are combining some groups and services. The marketing language for the initiative is “Getting to One.” It’s a great slogan and one I’m trying to mimic with my devices. It’s impossible, of course. Not one of those devices listed above can do all of the things the other devices can do. So, there are two mantras that may somewhat compete:

  • Getting to Less
  • The Right Tool for the Job

The right tool for the job is the presiding mantra. Saying I’m going to cut back to just using my iPhone doesn’t let me perform the tasks I need the other devices for. Similarly, abandoning all the devices but for the iPad Pro (my favorite of all of them), leaves out a central communication device (the iPhone) as well as most of my game playing needs.

Patrick Rhone, who I mentioned earlier, used to have a great podcast called Enough. It’s sadly gone, and the files are gone to the internet. There is a torrent file, but it’s dead also. He also has a book, Enough, which is not dead. In the podcast, they talked about what is enough. What do you need to get life done, but not more than that. One of the segments I loved was they would talk to someone about what it would take to life their digital life on an 11″ MacBook Air with 64 gig of storage. It’s the digital version of a Tiny House. The cuts people would have to make were interesting to listen to.

My goals was to get my Every Day Carry (EDC) down to two main devices. Two devices to do 80% of my day-to-day stuff. It also all needs to fit in my Tom Bihn Ristretto.

The first to go was the Alienware Alpha. I’ve moved gaming to the PlayStation 43. The only thing the Alienware really did was serve up my Plex Library. The library was on a portable drive anyway4. So, during the Big Purge the Alpha got placed on the shelf. The monitor is in a closet.

Deciding between the two MacBooks is easy. The Air is smaller and fits in my bag. It doesn’t have the processor power of the Pro, but it’s enough.

That got me to three. Not bad. An iPad, and iPhone and a MacBook Air. But what do I really need that MacBook Air for every day? I’m not talking about replacing it entirely, mind you. This is an 80% rule. I believe I can actually do 90% of what I need the MacBook for on the iPad. Working from home requires me to to log into our Virtual Desktop system via Citrix Receiver, and while it’s fine for a few things on iOS, it’s not a great interface. So, I’ll use the Mac for that.

So, the MacBook Air got placed in its sleeve and was laid (to rest) in one of the now empty drawers in the desk.

That’s two. An iPad and an iPhone for 80% of my non-gaming needs.

  1. I’m leaving out my Amazon Kindle and my Xbox. I consider those appliances, and, anyway they are hardly used.
  2. I also have an Apple Watch, but I consider it an extension of the iPhone.
  3. It’s semantics, but I classify the PS4 as a single-purpose appliance rather than a device.
  4. As a side effort, a lot of these files are .MKV files. I’m going to convert them to .M4V files. That way I can read them directly from the iPad if I want to.

Books Read in 2016 — 57 books in 52 weeks

I know I read a ton of books. It’s my primary leisure activity, surpassing even gaming and trains. This year, I thought I’d see just how many books I read in a year and kept a list. The following list is the books I’ve completed. The partial list is a book I got at least 30% into before calling it quits. Not counted are books I read a chapter or two and didn’t go any further. There are some short books in there — the Quarry series are short books. I make up for it with The Historian and The Winds of War and War and Rembrance. Hefty tomes, them.

  1. Furiously Happy – Jenny Lawson
  2. Everywhere Mary Went – Lisa Scottoline
  3. Seveneves – Neal Stephenson
  4. Neverwere – Neil Gaiman
  5. Mycroft Holmes – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’
  6. The promise – Robert Crais
  7. The Big Short – Michael Lewis
  8. The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova
  9. Creativity, Inc. – Ed Catmull
  10. Quarry’s Choice – Max Collins
  11. Quarry – Max Collins
  12. Quarry’s list – Max Collins
  13. Quarry’s deal – Max Collins
  14. Quarry’s cut – Max Collins
  15. Quarry’s vote – Max Collins
  16. Last Quarry – Max Collins
  17. Last night in the OR – Bud Shaw
  18. Quarry in the middle – Max Collins
  19. Darknet – Mathew Mather
  20. Dark Disciple – Christie Golden
  21. Friction – Sandra Brown
  22. The Hexed – Heather Graham
  23. Extreme Prey – John Sandford
  24. Rules of Prey- John Sandford
  25. Shadow Prey – John Sandford
  26. Eyes of Prey – John Sandford
  27. Silent Prey – John Sandford
  28. Winter Prey – John Sandford
  29. Night Prey – John Sandford
  30. Illidan – William King
  31. Warcraft: Durotan
  32. End of Watch, Stephen King
  33. Last Guardian, Jeff Grubb
  34. Mind Prey – John Sandford
  35. Fool me once, Harlan Coben
  36. Sudden Prey, John Sandford
  37. Secret Prey – John Sandford
  38. Certain prey – John Sandford
  39. Easy Prey – John Sandford
  40. Chosen prey – John Sandford
  41. Black Widow, – Daniel Silva
  42. Kingpin: How one hacker took over the billion-dollar Cybercrime underground.
  43. Winds of War, Herman Woulk
  44. War and remembrance, Herman Woulk
  45. Every 15 minutes – Lisa Scottoline
  46. Razor Girl – Carl Hiaasen
  47. Temporary Agent – Daniel Judson
  48. Shadow Factory – James Bamford
  49. Silent Sister – Diane Chamberlain
  50. Changer, Matt Gemmell
  51. The Girl in the Spiders Web
  52. The Bat: Jo Nesbo
  53. Escape Clause – John Sandford
  54. Sleep Tight – Rachel Abbot
  55. Night School – Lee Child
  56. Inferno – Dan Brown
  57. Catalyst – James Luceno

Partial Credit (Started but did not finish)

  1. Fireman, Joe Hill
  2. Fatal System Error

The Medicinal Value of Fucking Off

Last week, I wrote about fucking off less. My hope was that by shutting down my Macs and moving the keyboard behind my gaming PC, I’d be more productive with my free time. A friend of mine even jokingly texted me, “Stop fucking off when you get home!”

There’s a saying by Helmuth von Moltke that’s applicable: No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. My week of productivity was sidelined by a bad cold. I got the cold Tuesday and sucked it up all week and went in to work. Saturday my body shut down on me and I was too ill to even play a video game. I did manage to write about my favorite iPad Pro apps, but even that quick post took a lot out of me.

Sunday I felt a lot better. I gave some thought to writing and drawing. I did work on my trains for an hour. I have a set of cars (86′ hi cube) that have proven to be a real challenge to get around the club layout. So, I spent an hour working on adjusting the couplers to try again this weekend.

The rest of the day? I played the new Star Wars: The Old Republic expansion. It was the antithesis of what I preached last week. Fuck off less; create more. It was also exactly what I needed.

Some times, you’ve given, well, adulting, as much of an effort as you can. The week I was sick was rough. I had meetings the made it impossible to call in sick, where even a day off would have meant getting ahead of it enough to stave it off. Alas, I couldn’t even sneak out a little early on Friday since I had a 4:00 meeting.

I needed a day to transition from being sick to being well. While I was capable of cognitive thought, I needed to let my mind and body heal. Some people binge watch a TV series. I chose to bing play a new expansion.

While it’s important to Be All We Be, and Always Give 100%, sometimes it’s also important to Have Zero Fucks to Give.

Just don’t do it every day. Only when used for medicinal purposes.

iPad Pro Apps I Use and Love

As I work on making the iPad Pro my primary computer, I thought I’d share some of the apps I use on a daily basis. There are many more apps installed on my iPad, but these are the ones I use often.

The iPad Pro

I have the 12.9″ 128 gig model with a Smart Keyboard. It’s a great setup, and I’m writing this article on it. I also have a 16g iPad Air that’s more of a reading/test environment.

Writing:

Ulysses: This is my go-to app. About 98% of my personal writing goes through this app. All of my blog posts originate in here. I also have drafts of my long-form fiction in here.

Scrivener: I’m testing this out for my long-form work. I’m not sure I like Ulysses’s all in one bucket structure for my longer bodies of work. I’m also not thrilled with Scrivener’s export functions on iOS. Ulysses can export as an ePub cleanly which Scrivener can’t do. If I do adopt Scrivener for this work, compiling my output might be something I still have to do on the Mac.

Word and Pages: I’m likely starting my Master’s degree in April. School work will probably not be something I use Ulysses for. I’m not totally thrilled with how Word on iOS handles exports, but for submitting papers and assignments it might be the best option.

Email

Gmail: I’m not in love with the Gmail app. It apparently can’t send attachments from anything but the Photos library and Gdrive. I use Google as my primary email and I don’t need to send attachments that often. It’s faster than the iOS Mail app. So, I just use the iOS Mail app when I need to send an attachment.

Outlook: Work stuff only. I keep a clean separation of church and state when it comes to work and personal email. I don’t even keep Outlook on a main screen. If you suck both your work and personal emails into one app, I strongly discourage this. It’s way easier to disconnect from work if you can toss an app into a folder. It’s on a folder on my main screen, but it’s very easy for me to ignore it when I’d rather not check my work email.

Calendar

Calendar: For most of my personal needs, I use the built-in Calendar linked to my Google Calendar. I don’t really need a powerful calendar app so the default one works fine for me.

Outlook: Again, work calendars only. I hate how Outlook handles calendars, actually. I can’t change if an appointment shows as free, busy, or out of office, and I also can’t view free/busy information for invitees. I only use the app to see where I need to be at a given time.

Drawing

Procreate: Hands down, my favorite drawing app for the iPad. I love the custom brushes and it’s pretty much a dream come true for digital artists. They also seem to have some big things planned for version 3.2 that should be out soon.

Graphic: Autodesk Graphic is as close to an Adobe Illustrator clone as I’ve found for the iPad. It’s great for when I need to do precision vector artwork.

Reading

Instapaper: It’s still my favorite Read Later service. I’ve floated between it and Pocket for a bit, but over the last year I’ve just settled on Instapaper and never looked back.

Kindle: I buy all my ebooks through Amazon. Periodically I’ll download them and deDRM them so I can have an archive or read them in iBooks. At one point, I felt that iBooks had superior typography to the Kindle app, but once Amazon introduced the Bookerly font I much preferred that. I also get books out from my library to read on the Kindle.

iBooks: I pretty much just read PDFs in iBooks. I think I’d use it more if I could have a book in more than collection. I also don’t like that it doesn’t shove the book I’m reading to the top of its list like the Kindle app does.

Reeder: I don’t often hit RSS, but whenI do it’s through Reeder. I have it set to sync my Feedly account via Google. I probably follow about 100 sites on it from photography to tech to art. I probably open it once a week

Social Media

Facebook: I am not a fan of the Facebook app. It’s not optimized for the 12.9″ iPad. To be frank, I’m also not a fan of the entire Facebook service, but it’s where I stay in contact with my friends.

Tweetbot: I prefer Twitter to Facebook, although on Twitter I tend to initiate the communication more than on Facebook. I interact with some other writers and tech folks who don’t follow me on Twitter. I don’t have a problem with this. Twitter is also my primary way of finding out tech news.

This article is part of a series on going iPad-only. For more in the series click here.

Shutting Down and Eating My Own Dog Food

Part of this is epically failing in my 2016 Creative Goals. Part of this is encouraging people to go iOS-primary while still often reaching for the security blanket of a laptop at night. Part of it is admitting I’m far too likely to spend the night fucking off on a virtual world.

Matt Gemmell wrote about social dark. It’s a great piece about limiting distractions while working from home. Matt recently switched to an iOS only lifestyle and I asked him how he handled distractions without the scripts he used to run. He replied:

@crumpy I don’t have notifications on the iPad. With every app being full-screen, that’s enough.

Tonight when I got home I did the following things (outside of dinner and after-work greetings with T.):

  • Admitted to my creative failures in 2016
  • Finished the inking on a sketch
  • Got on the treadmill for 15 min at a brisk walk. Watched half an XOXO Fest talk while I was at it.
  • Caught up on some threads I’m following on MacRumors.1
  • Fucked off online for the rest of the night. Some of it in a video game, some of it on Twitter. Some if it’s just gone.

I came downstairs and thought about another blog post I’m working on. It’s a long post about the Mac, what I still use it for, and if I’ll get another Mac eventually. There’s a line in it that I’m not sure will stay, but I wanted to post it here anyway:

This year when I got the 12.9″ iPad and the Smart Keyboard I made a commitment to iOS. It was a slow process. I got it and the pencil so I can draw. I was out with a friend getting her a Smart Cover for her iPad and she talked me into getting a Smart Keyboard for my iPad. I love the combination. Almost all of my writing happens via this setup. The screen is large, gorgeous and crisp. The Smart keyboard isn’t my favorite keyboard of all time, but it gets the job done.

I can do about 90% of my personal-computing daily tasks on iOS. At dinner last week, someone commented that I’m an iPad Pro pro user.

I’m active in forums and discussions encouraging people to look at the iPad as a serious productivity tool. But, I give myself the fallback position of a Mac too often. This is getting in the way of my productivity at home.

So, I went back upstairs, shut down the two MacBooks and placed them on a shelf in my office. I took the keyboard to my gaming console and put it behind the monitor. That PC is also the media center for the house so I can’t I shut it down.

My goal is to find and the live the pain points of using an iPad as my primary personal device. There are a few outs I’m giving myself:

  • There is a weekly personal task I need a Mac to perform for the next 3 weeks or so. So, the Mac will be turned on to do that task and shut down
  • I might be playing a video game once a week with my friends, so the PC or Mac will be used for that
  • If I work from home, using my 27″ monitor and my PC is the best way to connect to our VDI solution. I will not live like a savage and try to spend 8 hours doing that task on my iPad
  • If I want to work in Xcode, obviously I’ll need a Mac
  • On the nights when I feel like I’ve earned some game time, I’ll treat myself to a night of World of Warcraft

If I hit a wall where I can’t do a task on iOS, but need my Mac to complete the task, I’m not going to bang my head against the wall fruitlessly and not complete it; I’m going to fire up the Mac, do the task, and make a note of it.

I need to get on my surfboard and ride this wave of iOS and iPads Pro as far as it will take me. I need to step over the line and see if I fall over a cliff.

 

This is part of a series on using the iPad Pro as my primary device. For more posts on this series, click here.

  1. Some of the posts I write there are almost blog posts. There’s a lively thread on using the iPad as a main device I’m involved in. Some of my comments have ended up as the basis for a post here.

Creative Goals, 2016: The Accountability Post

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about how I set what I felt were achievable creative goals for 2016. The year isn’t over yet, but it’s not too early to view the results. Nothing that will happen for the rest of the year impact the results, and at this point even if I did cram and meet them, it would be like getting some projects done just in time for your annual review at work.

I wanted to get the following done:

  1. Write 22 blog posts: Fail. Now, it’s possible I could write 22 posts before the end of year. I do have some cooking. If I did, though, it would satisfy the requirement, but not the intent which was to consistently deliver content for the site. Instead, there was a nearly 8-month gap between posts.
  2. Finish one piece of art beyond the sketch phase: Success. I likely won’t show it to anyone, and it’s still rougher than I would like. I did sketch and ink it in Procreate. It’s not an original piece of art, though. I saw a drawing someone did online and thought, hey, that’s in a style close to what you can draw, give it a go. It’s not colored as his is. I’m color blind and don’t feel comfortable working in colors yet.
  3. Write 40,000 words of fiction: Epic Fail. I didn’t write one word of fiction. I’m not disappointed since I thought this was the unlikely one to complete. Fiction writing is the hardest form of writing for me to do. I have the basis of a character. In 1999 I started working on a novel set in London. The main character was a bit of a Lisbeth Salander-type, but before Stieg Larsson’s novels came out. I’m still working on what her story is, though.

Extra Credit:

The year wasn’t a total dumpster fire for creativity, though. I got back into model railroading and rejoined the club I was a member of. I’ve been helping them with some scenery projects. I’m also building a module for the Ntrak organization I belong to.

I also did a photo night with a co-worker and have been getting back into some photography.