Google Productivity Pad: October 2013

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Review: The Noticer by Andy Andrews

Title: The Noticer: Sometimes All a Person Needs is a Little Perspective
Author: Andy Andrews
Genre: Introspective
Stars: 4

I loved this book so much. Probably because at its heart it was all about living better. In all honesty I was teetering on the edge of giving it 5 stars, and you know what that means from me. This is a short read that won't take you very long at all, but you may very well think about it for the rest of your life.

Monday, October 28, 2013

How I became a morning person

So I promised you a post about this way back in August when I wrote this post, the death of the avian myth. The question always comes up, well if I am not actually a night owl then how do I become an early bird?
I am a simple man so I like the simple formula to answer this question:
You decide = You succeed
You can give me all kinds of excuses about that, about how you tried but it just didn't work. And I will say "Oh that is very sad, but the truth is as long as you have an excuse it means you did not really decide." And that is just the brutal honest truth that someone has to tell you if you are ever to change and live better.

Only morning people see the sunrise

But enough about you, this post is suppose to be about me. As I have said before I have had some struggle throughout my life with being a morning person. And there have been various times in my life when I have had to get up earlier. Of course a lot of this depends on what you consider early. Here's a timeline:
  • Home: Every person in my house was required to get up by 6:45 each morning to come to family scripture study. Some of us were more awake during that time that others, but we were all out if bed. That was basically my waking up time until I started seminary.
  • Seminary: In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) we have a weekday religion class for high school students, you can read more about it here. Most of these classes happen sometime between 5-7 in the morning. Because I grew up in a small town in the middle of nowhere there was no local class I could attend mornings so, I had a home-study program I could theoretically do whenever I wanted. However, my mother preferred that I do it at 6:00 in the morning.
  • College: When I went to college my first year my whole perspective of morning and night changed. 8:00 was suddenly very early to be starting anything let alone class, and it became the most natural thing in the world to see the backside of midnight and beyond (needless to say New Year's Eve quickly lost its charm). 
  • Mission: After my first year of college, however, I went on my mission. I've said before that Mormon missionaries adhere to a very strict schedule. Part of this schedule is waking up at 6:30 every morning, so for the next to years I was a morning person. I think this is probably when I first began to think that maybe it was all a decision whether you were a morning person or a night person. I saw many missionaries from different backgrounds and walks of life all conform to the same schedule, because of something they believed in. 
  • College again: returning to college I thought maybe the habits from my mission would just carry over. Of course I was wrong, bad habits are hard to break, but good habits are not. Within no time I was waking up just in time to rush out the door to catch the bus for my earliest class. And I was back to being a night owl staying up late, blearily staring at a computer trying to do homework without conscious thought. 
  • Home again: that following summer I returned home to work as an agricultural research assistant, which is essentially farm work involving a lot of meticulous data gathering. We normally started at about 7:30 in the morning, so you can imagine that my habits from college were no longer going to cut. But that did not mean that I was a morning person. 
A decision point: that summer I was home, I had one of the worst and most devastating experiences of my highly stable and privileged life. I began going through a phase that felt like a beach boys song "I come in late at night and in the morning I just stay in bed." Of course I wasn't staying in bed super late because of work, but I was only waking up to go to work. I was barely fitting in time for my scripture reading before heading out the door.
I was essentially just surviving from day to day, in something of a cloudy haze of alternately self-depreciation and feeling sorry for myself. In essence I was doing what most people spend their whole lives doing because, in part because they wake up with just enough time to get to work.
Well eventually two things happened that probably saved my life, or least made it more than a drawn out pity party.
  1. I had a friend: it is incredible what having a friend will do for you. I don't want to go into the power of friendship too much here because of space and time, but if you can be a friend to someone going through a hard time please do so.
  2. I went to a lecture: In the church I belong to we periodically have special lectures called firesides. I went to one that summer that served as a catalyst to change my life forever. The speaker at this particular fireside gave the "formula" that would allow us to become men and women that were successful that Christ would be able to use to help others. The first point in the formula was, "get up early, magic hours rule the world." He explained that the most productive and successful people got up early, well before most of the world. 
I really wanted to resist that concept, I wanted to pretended that it didn't matter when you gor up you could still be productive, but I knew from the history of experience I have related to you that that just wasn't true.  So I decided that night that I would change and become better.
Of course, it is hard for us to give up something we think is part of us, as I discuss I this post. I have not been perfect at this change, and getting up early is not the same as being a morning person, but it is a place to start. I have made tremendous progress at changing something that I thought for many years was just the way I was.
Now I know this post has been all about me, and pretty long. But I hope you enjoyed, and hopefully soon I will do a post all about how YOU can become a morning person. If you have any questions or thoughts please shoot me a tweet @halduauthor, or leave me a comment below.

As always, if you found this post helpful or interesting you can  it, or use one of the buttons below to share.

Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Apple's iPad event, my thoughts

iPad Air: This thing is absolutely amazing. The fact that they were able to shrink the iPad that much really impresses me. The biggest change was kind of spoiled by the iPhone launch which showed us the A7 processor, but it is going to make an incredible difference to have 64 bit processing in a tablet.
I don't think most people comprehend what this is going to mean, people ho-hum about processors because there is always a new one coming out, but the processor is what makes your iPad go so you should probably care about it, but the fact that you don't is evidence that Apple is succeeding in their goal of making devices and specs disappear into the user experience.
What people don't see, because it feels so natural, is that iPad has untethered people in a way the laptop never could. With a 64 bit device that will untether more people because suddenly you can do processor intensive work away from your desk that you never could before. For many people going all iPad can suddenly become a reality.
Retina iPad Mini: I'll admit I did not think we were going to get this device, so I am all the more blown away by it because of my skepticism. I'm really amazed that they have given it an A7 processor and a retina display. I guess the battery performance enhancements of the A7 were the only way they could have got the retina display to work and still have given all day battery life on the iPad mini.

Mavericks: Because if my internet situation have been unable to upgrade either my MacBook or my wife's MacBook Pro to OSX Mavericks yet, but I hope to soon. What I will say is that I think Apple is awesome for releasing this operating system for free. It makes me happy to see that they recognize that we have already spent a lot of money on their computers and so they are willing to let us keep them up to date for no cost. I am excited to see the performance improvements that should come from upgrading.

iWork: Now iWork does not excite most people, because most people have been tethered to the oppressive MS Office Suite for so long that they think productivity apps are something that you just have to deal with problems on because you have to use it. This is not the case with iWork, which, like everything Apple does, just works.
So, I am excited for the updates to iWork. Apple has shattered the industry's pricing model which makes me happy every time they do it. But the thing I am most excited for is collaboration on all kinds of projects through iCloud. Lets face it we have all been stuck on google docs far to long. And while I love the annoynous animals on those, working on something that actually works will be a far better experience.

Final thoughts: in this event Apple leveled the iPad models. They made it so essentially the only difference between an Air and a Mini is the screen size. I believe this shows that they are not interested in making cheap products, they are interested in making great products that people will use. They know that people want different sizes of tablets and they also know that people want the same power out of a Mini that they get from an Air, so they have made that the case.
They have essentially said that they will not make a cheaper product, but if you want something that costs less they will sell you an older excellent product at a lower price. Which is fine by me because Apple's "old" products are still leaps and bounds ahead of any of the competition. Why? Because Apple designs with the consumer in mind from the beginning and they only bring to market those products that are the very best quality.
Unlike companies like Samsung who rush as many different products to market as they can hoping that somebody will like some of them. This is why Android products feel outdated so fast, they were not designed with you in mind to begin with. Contrast that with the iPad 2 which I still see being used by people everywhere everyday and which Apple can continue to sell because it was such an amazing product to begin with.

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Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Technology quotes from General Conference October 2013

Every first weekend in April and October the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds our General Conference. The prophets and apostles of The Lord along with other church leaders speak to the church on spiritual matters. I try after every conference to gather the quotes that have to do with technology. There were not a whole lot this time, I think we got most of it in the special broadcast earlier in the year. But there were a few I found. If you found others please let me know.

Elder Hales,  General Conference: Strengthening Faith and Testimony
"Heavenly Father has provided the way. At this conference, 97 percent of the Church can hear these messages in their own language. Millions of members in 197 countries will watch this conference in 95 languages. In just two or three days the messages will appear on in English, and within one week they will begin to be available in 52 languages. Now we receive the printed Church magazines within three weeks of the general conference. No longer do we have to wait months for the talks to arrive by mail. On a computer, phone, or other electronic device, we can read, listen to, watch, and share the teachings of the prophets. Anytime, anywhere, we can enlarge our knowledge, strengthen our faith and testimony, protect our families, and lead them safely home.

The messages of this conference will also be woven into the online youth curriculum. Parents, you may access youth lessons for yourself on Find out what your children are learning, and make it the subject of your own study, family discussions, family home evenings, family councils, and personal interviews with each of your children concerning what they need to be taught individually.

I encourage all members to use the resources on the Church’s websites and mobile apps. They are continually being refined so that they are easier to use and more relevant to our lives. On you will find resources to help you study the gospel, strengthen your home and family, and serve in your calling. You can also find your ancestors who need temple ordinances and resources to support you in the work of salvation, including sharing the gospel. Parents can take the lead in preparing their children for baptism, the priesthood, full-time missions, and the temple. They can help us walk the strait and narrow path of temple ordinances and covenants and qualify for the blessing of eternal life.

In last April’s conference, in the general priesthood meeting, I told about my father drawing a picture of a knight in armor to teach me about putting on the whole armor of God and the spiritual protection it brings.

After that session was over, a father reported to his family what he had learned. Inspired, their young son Jason searched to hear the message for himself. A few days later he appeared in family home evening to share the lesson with his brothers and sisters."

Elder Ochoa, Look Up
"Given the urgent need for spiritual preparation in a time of such peril, I want to extend a word of warning about one very strong sign of the times. My professional life put me on the forefront of technology, so I recognize the value it has, especially in communication. So much information of man is now at our fingertips. But the Internet is also full of much that is filthy and misleading. Technology has augmented our freedom of speech, but it also gives an unqualified blogger false credibility based on the number of viewers. This is why now, more than ever, we must remember this eternal principle: “By their fruits ye shall know them” ( Matthew 7:20 ).

In particular, I caution you not to view filthy images or give your attention to the false accusers of Christ and the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both actions create the same effect: the loss of the Holy Ghost and His protecting, sustaining power. Vice and unhappiness always follow.

My dear brothers and sisters, if you ever come across anything that causes you to question your testimony of the gospel, I plead with you to look up. Look to the Source of all wisdom and truth. Nourish your faith and testimony with the word of God. There are those in the world who seek to undermine your faith by mixing lies with half-truths. This is why it is absolutely critical that you remain constantly worthy of the Spirit. The companionship of the Holy Ghost is not just a pleasant convenience—it is essential to your spiritual survival. If you will not treasure up the words of Christ and listen closely to the promptings of the Spirit, you will be deceived (see Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:37 ). We must do these things."

Elder Cook, Lamentations of Jeremiah: Beware of Bondage
"First, addictions that impair agency, contradict moral beliefs, and destroy good health cause bondage. The impact of drugs and alcohol, immorality, pornography, gambling, financial subjugation, and other afflictions imposes on those in bondage and on society a burden of such magnitude that it is almost impossible to quantify.

Second, some addictions or predilections, while not inherently evil, can use up our precious allotment of time which could otherwise be used to accomplish virtuous objectives. These can include excessive use of social media, video and digital games, sports, recreation, and many others. 

How we preserve time for family is one of the most significant issues we face in most cultures. At a time when I was the only member of the Church in our law firm, one woman lawyer explained to me how she always felt like a juggler trying to keep three balls in the air at the same time. One ball was her law practice, one was her marriage, and one was her children. She had almost given up on time for herself. She was greatly concerned that one of the balls was always on the ground. I suggested we meet as a group and discuss our priorities. We determined that the primary reason we were working was to support our families. We agreed that making more money wasn’t nearly as important as our families, but we recognized that serving our clients to the best of our abilities was essential. The discussion then moved to what we did at work that was not necessary and was inconsistent with leaving time for family. Was there pressure to spend time in the workplace that was not essential? We decided that our goal would be a family-friendly environment for both women and men. Let us be at the forefront in protecting time for family."

Elder Perry, The Doctrines and Principles Contained in the Articles of Faith
"This doctrine is to the Church like a battery is to a cell phone. When you remove the battery from your cell phone, it becomes useless. A church in which true doctrine is no longer taught is similarly useless. It cannot guide us back to our Heavenly Father and our eternal home...

All of us should aspire to embody these attributes and lead lives that exemplify them. The truths taught in the Articles of Faith build upon one another like the components of a cell phone mutually supporting one another. Like the elaborate supply chain that adds components to a cell phone, the Articles of Faith supply us with key doctrines of the Restoration. Each article of faith adds unique value to our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ."

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How I ended up with an iPhone

If you know me very well you know I am somewhat of a paradox, because I am a very big Apple fan who has never owned and iPhone, there aren't very many people in that demographic and now I'm not either. For years (since giving up my old palm zire) I have owned an iPod touch and been very happy with it. While I have always been very interested in the iPhone and what was going on with it I never felt any need to own one.

Here's why:
  • That's a lot of money for a cellular radio: If you buy an iPhone straight out (off contract) they cost a lot of money, much more than an iPod touch. That just seemed like a lot of money to me to get a cellular radio. Especially since I would never use the cell phone feature because I hate cell phone companies.
  • I hate data plans: If you have read my blog very long you know how I feel about data plans and the way cell companies use them to rip people off. I refuse to pay for one so I figured I would never own an iPhone on contract, and I could never afford to pay for one off contract.
What happened: 
  • I always buy used: I never buy electronics new, it simply is not worth it with the fast depreciation of their value. Now fortunately Apple products hold their value better than some others I could mention, but still I prefer not to take the initial hit. Food is about the only thing that I buy new.
  • Lost and Found Sale got canceled: Traditionally BYU, where I attended school, holds a lost and found sale every fall, where unclaimed items are put up for sale and auction. This is a place where I have gotten some good deals on used electronics in the past (as well as a lot of other items). Well this year it got canceled for some unknown reason, this left me with an unused electronics budget.
  • I went to a yard sale: well, I go to lots of yard sales, it's part of how I avoid buying new, but this yard sale had something I had never seen at a yard sale before: an iPhone. Granted it was a 4S which is now a two year old model, but the upgrade is all in where you are coming from, not where other people are.

Why I got it:
  • iOS 7: my iPod touch has been a loyal and faithful device, but it is not able to make the upgrade to the new operating system. In order to keep writing a relative blog here I knew I would need to be able to talk about iOS 7.
  • Sweet deal: Off contract phones are expensive, like new computer expensive. Even old models can fetch a pretty good price. So when I saw a good deal on one, that made we want to jump on it.
  • Better camera: Once I knew the phone was a 4S and not a 4 I knew that the camera in it would be much, much better that the one on my iPod touch or the one on my iPad mini. Since I never carry a camera with me anymore the purchase of a new device is essentially also the purchase of a camera.
  • More Memory: the phone had of course been reset so I could not tell how much memory it had before I bought it, but I knew it would have to be more than my 8 gig iPod touch. Up until the release of the iPhone 5S there was no 8 gig version of the 4S, and this was before that release. So logically I had to at least double my memory to a 16 gig by purchasing it. It actually turned out to be 64 gig which made me feel even better about my purchase. 
So there you have, I bought an iPhone, at a yard sale. How many people do you think have done that? If you have a good story about getting a sweet deal on an Apple product I would love to hear it in the comments below.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What my iOS devices are to me

Recently I had a couple of experiences that caused me to start thinking about this.

First, I attended BYU's Cougar Tech Expo. At the expo I attended a session where it was talked about unexpected things your iPad could be for you. These included a television, a cell phone, a GPS, and a Remote Desktop.

Second I had an small argument with one of my buddies about the merits of the iPhone verses an Android. I explained to my friend that Android owners generally use their phones as phones(which he does), while iPhone users use them for much more than that(which I do). This phenomenon is due in large measure to the superiority of the App Store to the Google Play store. However when pressed I had a hard time articulating on the spot exactly what I use it for.

These experiences got me thinking about everything our iPhones, iPads, or iPod touches can be to us. Mine are such an intergral part of my life at this point that its hard for me to even think in the moment what I them for. So I sat down an made a list of what mine do for me or items they replace. Here it is:
  • Laptop
  • Planner
  • Social Media manager
  • Instant messenger
  • Alarm clock
  • Email
  • Flashlight
  • Radio
  • Notebooks
  • Todo list
  • Calculator
  • Tickets
  • Weather advisor
  • Navigator
  • Camera
  • Photo editor
  • Level
  • Number pad
  • Score keeper
  • Contacts book
  • QR code scanner
  • Book to read
  • Education assistant
  • Video game system
  • Flash cards
  • Goal tracker
  • Personal trainer
  • Budget tracker
  • Car maintenance calendar
  • Idea catcher 
  • Coloring book
  • Scriptures
  • Hymnal
  • Dictionary
  • Web browser
  • Sketch pad 
  • Magazine
  • Newspaper
  • Brainstorming
  • Whiteboard
  • Word processor
  • Sheet music
  • Video viewer
  • MP3 player
So there is a list of some, I'm sure there are others. You will notice that I did not say phone, because I have a separate feature phone that I use for calling and text messaging, because I refuse to pay carrier smartphone fees. So the main feature that Androids are used for, I don't even use.
Now of course you could say that most if not all of these things are available on the Android side, which is true. I did not say they weren't, I just said they are hardly ever used. Having never had the displeasure of owning such a device, I can only assume that is because they are not very good.
What do you do with your iOS device? What other items does it replace?
I would love for you to share us by commenting below.

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Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Using the iPhone or iPad sleep timer

For as long as I have used an iPod, and now iOS, there has been a feature built into it called the sleep timer. However even though it is a really useful feature it has always been underused because it is often hidden and people don't know about it. My brother in law who uses it frequently suggested that I do a post on it. It is one if those things that I, in my little tech world, took it for granted that other people knew how to do.

The concept: is actually really simple. The idea has always been the you want to listen to music, but you may only want to listen to music for a set amount of time and then you would like it to stop.
This may be for a number of reasons, but the most common one is probably that you listen to music while falling asleep and you don't want the music to keep playing all night, that would just be ridiculous.

So you could create a playlist that just happens to be the length of time it normally takes you to fall asleep, then you could give in a cool name like "lullabies" or "sounds of the night." Or, you could just use the sleep timer, then you could listen to whatever you wanted or put the whole thing on shuffle.
Counter to what you may think, however, the sleep timer is not in the iOS music app. It is, in fact found in the clock app under timer(red arrow), and then under sounds or When Timer Ends (orange arrow) all the way at the bottom the option listed as "stop playing" (yellow arrow).

This picture shows both an iPad on iOS 6 and an iPhone on iOS 7

While it may seem odd that this is not found in the music app, there is a good reason; by being in the timer app it can stop anything that is playing, not just music. This will allow you to use the sleep timer with podcasts, iTunes U lectures, white noise applications, audiobooks, etc.
Now in order to use the sleep timer just:
  1. set it to the appropriate time, say 30 minutes
  2. select "stop playing" as the sound
  3. turn on your audio
  4. go to sleep
Sweet dreams.

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Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.