Google Productivity Pad: 2014

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Game Review: LostWinds

I don't discuss a lot of games on this blog, mostly because I am focused on using technology to be more productive, not less. But that doesn't mean I don't enjoy a good game when I find one and have a little downtime. LostWinds was such a delightful experience that I wanted to share it with you.




Game: LostWinds
Genre: Physics Platformer
Cost: $3.99
Stars: 4

LostWinds was one of the few games I have come across on iOS that I have felt compelled to finish. Partly because it was so charming and partly because it is not too long. The game is been around for quite a while (I looked on Wikipedia and it first launched on iOS in 2011), but it went free over Thanksgiving and that is why I had the chance to play it. In this review I will look at a few of the best aspects of the game.

Plot: 
In LostWinds you follow the simple story of Toku, a young boy who befriends a wind spirit. You have to travel around the platforming world to unlock various secrets and memories to help the spirits cleanse the land from the evil spirit that is polluting it. The story is compelling enough to keep you playing, but it doesn't develop a lot, most of it is told through on screen text between characters.



Controls:
The game uses fun and intuitive touch screen controls. Mostly the mechanic is swiping or drawing on the screen to direct the wind. You can use it to make Toku jump and fly, and also to control other elements like fire and water, or objects like rocks and pots.



The game is primarily a physics puzzler, with the player needing to figure out how to advance to the next stage by solving some puzzle normally involving the objects found in each level. This feels similar to the puzzle elements of classic games like Zelda. There is very little fighting in the game, and what is there is all done by drawing wind on the screen.

Graphics:
The world that you travel through in LostWinds is a beautiful whimsical cartoonish place. It has beautiful waterfalls, quaint villages, and crystal filled caverns. The lush colors make it an endearing place that you can't help but want to explore.



The monsters of this world are not frightening, and mostly appear as gooey blobs that try to stick to you. So it is certainly a game that is appropriate for children.

I don't want to spoil too much of the game for you so I will stop here. But overall I think it is a really good game that most people will enjoy playing. Would I pay 3.99 for it? Probably not, but if you can get it on sale I definitely recommend it.

Do you have a favorite iOS game? Share it with us in the comments below. Enjoy, and remember, live better.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Using Dvorak keyboard layout in iOS 8

As most of you know I have been waiting for many a moon for a Dvorak keyboard on iOS. I think that layout is far better then QWERTY. As a side note I had to type on a QWERTY a couple days ago and my wrists quickly started hurting. If you have hand trouble you may want to consider switching over to Dvorak too.

Well, the long awaited day has finally arrived and a system wide Dvorak keyboard is here! In fact it has been possible ever since iOS 8 came out in September. So why the long wait in getting the good news to you? Two reasons. First, nobody immediately came out with a Dvorak keyboard, much to my chagrin. Second, by the team keyboards started coming out school had heated up considerably and I had to put the blog on the back burner for a month or so.

But now it is time. In the past couple months quite a few 3rd party keyboards with Dvorak layouts have slipped into the App Store. I will tell you about two of them here: Fleksy and Dvorak + Colemak Keyboards.


Fleksy
Price: 99¢
Stars: 2

Fleksy came out with the launch of iOS 8, but they did not support Dvorak as a layout right away, even though they already did on Android. Many people really like the Fleksy keyboard and say they can type quickly on it, I cannot. I find the way they do predictive typing to be odd and unwieldy. When they finally did ad the Dvorak layout I found that the keys did not line up as you would expect them to if you were use to typing on a regular Dvorak keyboard.

You can see this in the image below. The entire top row is not aligned where it should be, I soon found out that for some odd reason this is the case in many Dvorak layouts on iOS currently. This makes it hard to type because the keys are not where you would expect them to be.




Fleksy has lots of language layouts besides Dvorak, and it has a lot of customizability in terms of color and size. It also has special swipe gestures for certain functions. My main purpose here though is to review it as a Dvorak keyboard and so I won't go into everything that it does.

Fleksy requires you to give it "full access" under keyboard preferences in order to change to any layout other than English QWERTY. Usually keyboards need full access so that they can do predictive typing, the only problem is that in order to do that they have to collect your keystroke data. This has caused a lot of controversy around the internet because it could potentially be logging things like passwords and credit card numbers. Almost all 3rd party keyboards will ask for full access, it is not just Fleksy.


Dvorak + Colemak Keyboards
Price: 99¢
Stars: 4

Right off the bat this keyboard is looking better because the keys are in the correct locations for anyone use to a standard Dvorak layout. This allows there to be punctuation on the main keyboard, just where it should be. It shouldn't take long for those people to become familiar typing on this keyboard.


This keyboard does lack a lot of the bells and whistles that Fleksy and many other keyboards have, but that doesn't bother me. I don't need fancy color themes or size options I just need something functional.

One thing it is lacking though that is a problem though is an Emoji keyboard. I use emoji a lot when tweeting or texting, so this is a bit of deal breaker for me as far as everyday use goes.

Dvorak + Colemak Keyboards does no require full access to use, so your keystrokes are not logged. You will have to enable full access if you want keyboard clicks however because this is the only way that Apple will allow them to get access to the speakers.


Where I am now
Still using the standard Apple QWERTY onscreen keyboard. Why? Because, and this is nothing the app producers have control over, but 3rd party keyboards have been spotty across the board on iOS 8. Perhaps Apple was not really ready for them, but no matter which one you use it is likely to be buggy. They are sluggish and sometimes (often) will disappear completely. This makes it really unviable to use a 3rd party option as your default keyboard.

So for now, even though I was waiting for this day for so long, I am still primarily using the default keyboard. I hope that Apple will make significant improvements to 3rd party integration in the future, or better yet just make Dvorak part of the standard language package.

Well I hope you have found this post helpful, even if a little discouraging :( If you have found a keyboard (Dvorak or otherwise) that you like to use on iOS please let us know about it in the comments.


Disclosure: Archagon provided me with a free copy of Dvorak + Colemak keyboards to review. I never recommend anything on my blog though that I have not tried myself and that I approve of.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Why the Smartwatch Will Change the World (for the better)

It might seem like a big claim to say that the smartwatch will change the world, but at this point nobody can deny that major technologies have completely altered the way we do things. The refrigerator is a perfect example. Think of how our lives and the entire food industry was turned on its head by the refrigerator. Society was forever altered by the ability to keep food longer.

And if you want an example more close to your life look at the smartphone. What aspect of life has not been touched by this invention that is only 7 years old? If you think there is one just do a search an the App Store and I bet you will find out you are wrong :)

So yes, I posit that the smartwatch, and what it represents is about to change the world. Let me show you what I mean.

Notifications 
Imagine going from this:
Image from Death of Conversation by @babycakesromero


To this:
Image from redbookmag.com


Did you see it? Its quick. But it is crucial. When we check our wrist for a notification, rather than our phone it makes it so much easier to ignore that notification and it only takes a fraction of the time. The watch is much small screen so it places a much smaller barrier between you and the people you are physically present with, not mention the fact that it normally does not physically come between you and those people as well because you simply glance down at your wrist.

Why is this a big deal? I mean it seems like such a simple thing. In fact most people ask me what else my smartwatch can do besides receive notifications. They say that that would never be a draw for them. Honestly I felt the same way, but now even if the only thing my pebble did was receive notifications I would still get it just for that.

But here's the thing, we all have this false idea that an emergency could develop at any time, so we need to be connected to the world constantly. A smartwatch satisfies that "need" with out as much distraction as pulling out a smartphone every time.

Fitness Tracking
Thomas Monson has said that, "when performance is measured, performance improves." Most wearables have the ability to track you health metrics like steps and sleep, whether you bought them for that or not. And when you have something tracking how much you walk each day, let me tell you that you walk more. Different devices will have different health capabilities, but the general trend will be toward a population that is not just more health aware, but also actually more healthy.

Image from getpebble.com


Cracked Screens
How many cracked screens do you see a day? Probably at least a few, and why? In part because so many people walk around with their phone in their hand. Some people even run or jog while holding it in their hand! That is like saying you want a cracked screen. The Smartwatch will change all that.

Image from Mashable


Because I have a Pebble, when I am walking I don't need to pull my phone out to check a notification or the time, it is right there on my wrist and it isn't going to fall on the ground and shatter. I don't need to hold my phone in my hand while I am exercising because all of my music controls are conveniently located on my wrist as well.

Therefore I predict that when wearable technology comes into wide use we will see the number of cracked phone screens drastically reduced.

But some people hate watches
A lot of people say that smartwatches will never take off because there are not enough people who like to wear watches. That might have been a great argument until Apple entered the game. Next year the entire wearable industry is about to take a giant leap forward because the Apple machine is going to be thrown behind the Apple watch.

Apple has the power to design something so well that it becomes an integrated part of our life. Before the advent of the iPhone, smartphones/PDAs were the domain of business execs and nerds taping away on Blackberrys and Palm Pilots (I know because I was one of the nerds). Then 2007 rolled around and everything changed. The same thing happened with tablet in 2010, they had existed before, but very few people used them. Previously the same thing had happened to the MP3 player and in the distant past, the personal computer.

Image from apple.com


Each time Apple has defined a product category, it has exploded, and not just for Apple. The entire industry rises because of the popularity Apple brings to something. I expect to see sales of all wearables dramatically increase next year because of the attention Apple will bring to that market.

So I expect to see lots of people who said they don't like watches to start wearing them in the next 5 years, and I think they will be better for it. And watches are just one category of wearables. Most of the other categories, like glasses, goggles, pendants, etc still have a long way to come for mainstream use, but it is wave of the future and they will improve as time goes on.

Disappearing Technology 
Jack Dorsey (cofounder of Twitter and Square) has said that the best technologies "fade into the background, and they're relevant when you want to use them, and they get out of the way when you don't."

This is what I believe will ultimately let the smartwatch change the world. It is so good at disappearing, making you forget it is there until you need it. There is more that I have to say on this point but it will have to wait for another post.

These were just a few of the ways that smartwatches could change the world. If you can think of others please let me know in the comments below. I hope you have found this post enlightening and I would invite you to share it with others who might want to know more about smartwatches. Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to Screencast from an iPad Using QuickTime

With the introduction of iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite has come a little heralded, but incredibly important, new ability to make an iPad or iPhone screencast on a Mac with no third party software. In the video below I explain how to do this:



Requirements:
iOS Device using lightning connector running 8.0 or later
Macintosh computer running OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) or later
Lightning cable to connect them

Why is this so important? Well it means it will be much easier for me to make tutorials for you guys. To do this before you needed a third party app, most of which were expensive. Now just with QuickTime I can make high quality examples for you.

This will also make it possible for people to essentially share their iPad screen if they use QuickTime and a conferencing service like Google Hangout. Think how helpful that will be in helping people who are having a problem (once I explain to them how to hook it up).

I am really excited about the possibilities here and I hope you are to. Have a great week and remember, live better.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The dangers of consumption

Once Tuberculosis was one of the most deadly killers in the world, and during that time it was commonly referred to by a different name: Consumption. This was because it would decimate the infected person's body weight while it was destroying their lungs. In essence it would "consume" them.

Now we live in a time when, at least here the U.S. where I live, Tuberculosis is fairly well under control. In some parts of the world it is still deadly. But here in the U.S. we now have a different kind of "consumption" disease, one that attacks the mind instead of the lungs, and which tends to increase rather than decrease the person's body weight. And there is a real danger to how quickly this infection is spreading. 

Let me explain: there are primarily two kinds of actions we can take as human beings, actions of consumption and actions of creation. Whenever we eat, read, watch, or view something we are acting in consumption. Whenever we grow, cook, write, draw, film, edit, speak, design, program, build, invent, or think something we are acting in creation. 

Of all the animals in the world we are the only ones that have moved from consumption to creation. I personally believe this is because we are not animals but children of a divine creator. But, whatever you believe you cannot deny that this is the case, no other species creates on the level of humans.

The symptoms
But even though we are the only creative species on the planet we have come to a point where we value consumption above all else. Let me share a few examples:

Netflix:
The streaming giant has built an empire out of consumption. Now don't get me wrong I like Netflix as much as the next guy, and no corporation or technology can be held responsible for our own personal actions, but I have gotten concerned with the introduction of the auto play feature. What this introduces is the rampant consumption of one T.V. show after another (which yes I know people were doing before anyway).



Here is the concern, this symptom points to an underlying problem that people consume without thought anymore, they are seeking the stimulus above all else, and have to seek more and more of that stimulus. People no longer think about what they are taking in, they don't analyze the work that has been put before them, in essence they don't create anything with what they have consumed. Like little Pacmen they go through life with their mouths wide open, constantly seeking to consume more and more of whatever stimulates.

Movie Theaters:
Go to movies sometime, and stay in the theater until the credits have finished rolling, then look around you. If there happens by some lucky chance to be somebody left you should make friends with that person. Why? Because they value creation. They have stayed around long enough to give a little bit of respect as a consumer to the people who create.



Besides respect there is another good reason to stay through the credit roll, it gives you a chance for contemplation of the film you have just seen. This gives you a chance to make meaning from it, the opportunity to become a creator. The soundtrack of the film and the concept art that often accompanies the credit roll help to facilitate thoughtful remembrance of it. If you came with someone you could even talk with them about what they thought; because guess what, there is nobody else in the theater.

So often our consumption of movies and other entertainment never goes beyond the superficial question of : "did you like that?" we never get to the more important question of why? A question that invites creation. In fact being a thoughtful consumer of media these days can often make people annoyed. They do not want to actually think about anything. They have already moved on to seeking the next stimulus and if you are still contemplating the last one they find that frustrating because it requires something of them, something they are not prepared to deal with.

In addition to movie theaters we could talk about live theaters. I have been to broadway shows that I know people have paid hundreds of dollars to attend only to see people get up a leave before the curtain call, sometimes before the last scene because they think the last scene has happened. Far more than at movie theaters this is a sign of complete and utter disrespect for the creators who have just put so much work into providing you with entertainment. But you don't have time to stay because you need to move on to the next stimulus, probably your smartphone.

We are like a culture of addicts, constantly looking for the next hit, never satisfied by what we have just consumed.

Throw-away culture
Let's turn away from entertainment for a moment to look at physical objects. When was the last time you repaired something or paid to have something repaired? Probably not recently. See repairing is an act of sub-creation, and we don't value that in our society. The only things we repair are those that we still consider major expenses: cars and houses. What do we value? The ability to consume rapidly. If my toaster or my television is broken that endangers my ability to consume so it has to go and be replaced by a new one. A snazzier one that will probably break twice as quickly.

Divorce
I am not going to deal with this in depth, it is just another manifestation of the throwaway culture of rapid consumption we live in. We don't fix things, we throw them away and get new ones, whether that be toasters or spouses. Marriage is act of creation at its very core, it is no wonder then that it cannot survive when viewed merely as an activity of consumption. When the stimulus is gone or ceases to be easy, we move on to the next hit.

You were created for more


The truth of the matter is that you were meant to be a creator. It is creation that actually drives the human mind to joy. It is creation that advances society. It is creation that brings us closer to that divine Creator who created us.

What can be done?
Well, we won't change the whole world with one blog post, but you can change, and you can do it now. If you recognize symptoms of rampant consumption in your own life, then stop being that way and start being a creator.

Analysis
They first step I believe is to stop taking in without putting out. So the next time you go to a movie, or watch a show on Netflix or Youtube, begin with analysis. Go deeper than a superficial "did you like it." Ask why you liked it? Ask what the major theme was? Ask how you feel about the characters moral choices? Ask what the symbols were and what they represented?

If know one will talk to you because this behavior of creation is too radical for them, then do it yourself, you could write it down to make it more real.

Here is the point, stop going to consume things and brining nothing to them. Everyone can at least bring thinking to everything that they do. So don't take anything in without making something of it. If your body did that it would die, your mind is the same way.

Analysis will actually cause you to start seeking higher quality content, because you will know that whatever you consume you are going to be thinking about a good while to follow. This is the same with food, once you start thinking about what you are eating you start eating better.

The Internet
The internet has enabled massive mindless consumption of worthless low quality content on a global scale. But it has enabled every person with access to it to become a creator of something. It has enabled both the acts of creation, and learning how to do them. It has also facilitated conversation and analysis on a large scale.

So decide that the internet will become more than a tool of consumption for you. Decide to do something with what you find there. And not just anything, but something meaningful.

I know this has been a long post, but I think it is important. Please share this post. There is danger here and so I hope this post will inspire at least one person to think, remember, and live better.


Friday, October 17, 2014

How to delete apps on an iPad or iPhone

So you downloaded an app that looked cool, but it turned out to be pretty dumb or it crashed all the time, so you want to get rid of it. How do you do it?



The process is actually very simple:

  1. Go to the home screen
  2. Hold down on an app until they all start to wiggle and an "x" button appears in each corner
  3. Tap the "x" button on the app you don't want
  4. It will ask if you are sure? Choose yes. 
  5. Taadaa! The app is now deleted :)
Be aware that when you delete an app all of its data stored on the device will be deleted as well, so make sure there isn't anything important inside of it before you do. Apps like gmail, Facebook, and Twitter all store their data on cloud servers far away so when you delete the apps you data is actually still there, that is why you can visit those sites in web browsers and see everything you could see from the app. 

Exceptions: the only exceptions are apps that come preinstalled on your iPhone or iPad from Apple (Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Messages, iTunes, Weather, Tips, Safari, etc, etc). We call these the stock apps and you cannot delete them because Apple does not make that an option, mostly because many of them have functions necessary to your phone running correctly.

An alternative and more complicated way to do this is to go to Settings > General > Usage > Manage Storage. Then click on the app you want to delete, you will then be taken to a summary screen of that app where you will have an "Delete App" option.

The reason you may sometimes want to use this approach is because you might want to see which apps are hogging the most space on your iPhone or iPad. For example when I go I find that there are several graphic intensive games that hog my space I hardly if ever play them. If I were tight up for space I would know I could delete these and quickly get some back.

And there you have it, you can now delete apps from you iPad or iPhone. Hope you have a great weekend, and remember, live better. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

How to create keyboard shortcuts on an iPhone or iPad

Do you have to type the same thing over and over again? Maybe it's your username, maybe it's a question you get asked all the time, maybe it's your birth date, maybe it's a hashtag. Whatever it is, it can be super annoying to have to type out all the letters and words you need every time you need them. It is like having a typewriter all over again! (by the way there is an app for that if you really feel nostalgic about typewriters).



Fortunately there is a way to solve this problem and it is built directly into iOS, no app required. It is called keyboard shortcuts. Now this can be a little confusing because we normally think of keyboard shortcuts on the computer as being things like "cntrl-f" or "cmmd-z" to cause certain actions to occur. On iOS it is different. A keyboard short cut here means that you can type in a few code letters and iOS will ask if you want to replace them with some predetermined text.

Let's say that I have to type my consulting website's url all the time, and I don't want to do that anymore, so I make the shortcut bcom expand to the text bendnielsen.com. I show how to do this in the gif below:



Then every time I am typing and I need to put in my url I can save time by just typing out bcom, my iOS device will then suggest bendnielsen.com in the same way that it does with autocorrect. Isn't that awesome? Notice in the gif below how it follows the capitalization of what you actually type, so you want to watch out for that.



And that is really all their is to it. You can add as many of these as you want, and they can even be quite long, so you could put a whole email template in here if you chose and get it all typed with just a few letters. Be sure to make you shortcuts something that you wouldn't normally type naturally so you don't accidentally trigger them.

There you have it. Go create some keyboard shortcuts to make your life easier, and remember, live better.



Thursday, October 9, 2014

Technology Quotes from October 2014 LDS General Conference


Every six months after the LDS Church's General Conference, I compile together all the quotes I can find that talk about technology or social media. As a member of the Church I feel it is important to know what the leaders of the Church are saying about technology. My philosophy is, why have Prophets and Apostles, if you won't listen to them?

This conference in general had the tone of raising a warning voice to the members of the Church, there was much encouragement to do better, and to be better. And that trend was certainly present in the quotes about technology and media. The Church embraces technology and media for the good it can, but the leaders who see afar off also raise a warning voice of the potential pitfalls.

I hope you find this compilation useful, and please let me know in the comments or on twitter if there are any quotes that I missed.

 President Packer: "This great conference is being broadcast in 94 languages by satellite to 102 countries but is also available on the Internet to every nation where the Church is present. We have over 3,000 stakes. Our full-time missionary force exceeds 88,000, and total Church membership has passed 15 million. These numbers serve as evidence that the “stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands” continues to roll forth and will eventually fill “the whole earth” (D&C 65:2)." (The Reason for Our Hope)

 President Uchtdorf: "Suppose you were able to travel back in time and have a conversation with people who lived a thousand or even a hundred years ago. Imagine trying to describe to them some of the modern technologies that you and I take for granted today. For example, what might these people think of us if we told them stories of jumbo jets, microwave ovens, handheld devices that contain vast digital libraries, and videos of our grandchildren that we instantly share with millions of people around the world?

Some might believe us. Most would ridicule, oppose, or perhaps even seek to silence or harm us. Some might attempt to apply logic, reason, and facts as they know them to show that we are misguided, foolish, or even dangerous. They might condemn us for attempting to mislead others.

But of course, these people would be completely mistaken. They might be well-meaning and sincere. They might feel absolutely positive of their opinion. But they simply would not be able to see clearly because they had not yet received the more complete light of truth." (Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth)

 Elder Andersen: "We might remind the sincere inquirer that Internet information does not have a “truth” filter. Some information, no matter how convincing, is simply not true." (Joseph Smith)










 Elder Perry: "That old enemy of all mankind has found as many devices as he can think of to scatter tares far and wide. He has found ways to have them penetrate even the sanctity of our own homes. The wicked and worldly ways have become so widespread there seems to be no real way of weeding them out. They come by wire and through the air into the very devices we have developed to educate and entertain us. The wheat and the tares have grown close together. A steward managing the field must, with all his or her power, nourish that which is good and make it so strong and beautiful the tares will have no appeal either to the eye or the ear. How blessed are we as members of the Lord’s Church to have the precious gospel of our Lord and Savior as a foundation on which we can build our lives." (Finding Lasting Peace and Building Eternal Families)

 Elder Cook: "I recently met a fine teenage young man. His goals were to go on a mission, obtain an education, marry in the temple, and have a faithful happy family. I was very pleased with his goals. But during further conversation, it became evident that his conduct and the choices he was making were not consistent with his goals. I felt he genuinely wanted to go on a mission and was avoiding serious transgressions that would prohibit a mission, but his day-to-day conduct was not preparing him for the physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual challenges he would face.7 He had not learned to work hard. He was not serious about school or seminary. He attended church, but he had not read the Book of Mormon. He was spending a large amount of time on video games and social media. He seemed to think that showing up for his mission would be sufficient. Young men, please recommit to worthy conduct and serious preparation to be emissaries of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

My concern is not only about the big tipping-point decisions but also the middle ground—the workaday world and seemingly ordinary decisions where we spend most of our time. In these areas, we need to emphasize moderation, balance, and especially wisdom. It is important to rise above rationalizations and make the best choices.

A wonderful example of the need for moderation, balance, and wisdom is the use of the Internet. It can be used to do missionary outreach, to assist with priesthood responsibilities, to find precious ancestors for sacred temple ordinances, and much more. The potential for good is enormous. We also know that it can transmit much that is evil, including pornography, digital cruelty,8 and anonymous yakking. It can also perpetuate foolishness. As Brother Randall L. Ridd poignantly taught at the last general conference, speaking of the Internet, “You can get caught up in endless loops of triviality that waste your time and degrade your potential.”

Distractions and opposition to righteousness are not just on the Internet; they are everywhere. They affect not just the youth but all of us. We live in a world that is literally in commotion. We are surrounded by obsessive portrayals of “fun and games” and immoral and dysfunctional lives. These are presented as normal conduct in much of the media.

Elder David A. Bednar recently cautioned members to be authentic in the use of social media. A prominent thought leader, Arthur C. Brooks, has emphasized this point. He observes that when using social media, we tend to broadcast the smiling details of our lives but not the hard times at school or work. We portray an incomplete life—sometimes in a self-aggrandizing or fake way. We share this life, and then we consume the “almost exclusively … fake lives of [our] social media ‘friends.’” Brooks asserts, “How could it not make you feel worse to spend part of your time pretending to be happier than you are, and the other part of your time seeing how much happier others seem to be than you?”

Sometimes it feels like we are drowning in frivolous foolishness, nonsensical noise, and continuous contention. When we turn down the volume and examine the substance, there is very little that will assist us in our eternal quest toward righteous goals. One father wisely responds to his children with their numerous requests to participate in these distractions. He simply asks them, “Will this make you a better person?”" (Choose Wisely)


 Elder Scott: "Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media. You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God. If so, do it!" (Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority)






 Sister Marriott: "Sisters, you strengthen my faith in Jesus Christ. I have watched your examples, heard your testimonies, and felt of your faith from Brazil to Botswana! You carry a circle of influence with you wherever you go. It is felt by the people around you—from your family to the contacts in your cell phone and from your friends on social media to those seated next to you tonight. I agree with Sister Harriet Uchtdorf, who wrote, “You … are vibrant and enthusiastic beacons in an ever-darkening world as you show, through the way you live your lives, that the gospel is a joyful message." (Sharing Your Light)



 President Uchtdorf: ""We need to accept that the commandments of God aren’t just a long list of good ideas. They aren’t “life hacks” from an Internet blog or motivational quotes from a Pinterest board. They are divine counsel, based on eternal truths, given to bring “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.” (Living the Gospel Joyful)

"Do you suppose it matters to our Heavenly Father whether your makeup, clothes, hair, and nails are perfect? Do you think your value to Him changes based on how many followers you have on Instagram or Pinterest? Do you think He wants you to worry or get depressed if some un-friend or un-follow you on Facebook or Twitter? Do you think outward attractiveness, your dress size, or popularity make the slightest difference in your worth to the One who created the universe?" (Living the Gospel Joyful)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Boundaries, the Pomodoro Technique, and Productivity

Warning: I am writing about a topic that I have yet to master, as such these are musings, not dogma.

Some people are more productive than others. I think we can take that as fact.

Sometimes each of us is more productive than other times. I think we can take that as fact too.

Taking these two facts together I think they beg the question: Why?

Why is that one guy a straight A student, on the basketball team, runs his own business after school, and volunteers at the hospital? And all I can manage is to be a B-average student, period?

Why was I am able to do so much last month when I had three projects due, my sister was getting married, and I was helping organize the 5k? And this month I can barely stay on top of my reading homework?

I don't know that everybody faces these questions, but I know I do. I don't really have the answers yet, but I am forming some ideas. These ideas center around the idea of boundaries. Boundaries are those pesky things that have troubled mankind since the beginning. The interplay between structure and freedom has been the quest of philosophers for millennia, and is at the very heart of the American Paradox, of which I have written elsewhere.

But today I don't want to attempt to deal with the large questions, I would rather just think about it on a practical level.

Parkinson's Law:

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." Cyril Parkinson


I'm sure most of you are already familiar with this idea. Why will work do this? I actually have no idea, but it must have something to do with us as humans, since work has no volition in and of itself. I might better read, "humans will take as much time to do work as is available for its completion."

What we find then is that really effective people are often good at setting deadlines for themselves, arbitrary of the deadlines that are actually in place regarding the task. Super effective people seem to take it one step further and have the ability to set micro-deadlines and make themselves believe them.

Pomodoro:
One such system of setting micro deadlines is the Pomodoro technique, which I reviewed a watch app for here recently. The system of 25 minutes on task, 5 minutes on break, creates micro-deadlines by which you know you will stop working on the project. It seems to work even better if you alternate tasks every 30 minutes, so you know you will not be getting back to that project for a while.

I find that when I can get myself to apply Pomodoro I feel more productive. Now I am not 100% sure how to measure that empirically, but feeling that way is at least half the battle. It is sometimes just difficult to get myself to actually do the Pomodoro, because my lazy self knows it will have to work once I do.

So here is my challenge to you, go try the Pomodoro technique to set yourself some micro-deadlines, then come back here and report to me how productive you feel. I think it will help you live better.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Meet the Mormons, Advanced Review

I was recently privileged to attend an advanced screening of the new movie Meet the Mormons. This is the first theatrically released film ever produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (otherwise known as the Mormons). It is a documentary detailing the lives of six ordinary members of the Church. Its purpose is to help the world know what Mormons are really like. I'll give my spoiler free feelings first and then my spoiler thoughts after.

Title: Meet the Mormons
Stars: 4
Type: Documentary



My feeling over all is that the movie is GREAT. So why four stars? Because it was awesome, and 5 stars are hard to come by. You can read my star policy here.

The movie was fast paced because they have to cover 6 lives in just over an hour of movie time. The stories that the tell are diverse, and all of them are amazing. I do not think you will feel board at any time during this film if you love to learn about great people. Learning from great people is something I encourage here at ProductivityPad.

The film is very diverse in its setting. I think a clear purpose was to help get rid of the stereotype that all Mormons live in Utah. Two of the six individuals live outside the U.S., and of the four who do live in U.S. only one is lives in Utah. Out of the six only two are ethnically white.

The movie is not heavy on the doctrine of the Church, which is good because the purpose of this film is not so much to show what we as Mormons believe, but more about who we are as people.

As a piece of cinematography I was impressed with the film, particularly considering the small number of people who worked on it. Documenting six different lives in six different locations is a lot of filming.

If you would like to see the film go check out the locations page to see if it is playing near you. And if it isn't you can request it in your city. If they get enough requests from a location they will come to it. And remember that all proceeds from this film go to the Red Cross, the Church receives no commercial benefit from it.

Spoilers: if you don't want to know anything about the stories before seeing the film stop here.

Alright so I will now talk about my least favorite part of the film which happens to be the very beginning. The opening and ending of the film is a girl in New York City. She is not one of the Mormons whose story the film tells, but she serves as the frame of the film over all. I found her to be annoying and I'm glad they did not have her do much narration during the actual stories.

My least favorite part was easy to choose, but my favorite part was a harder choice because so much of the film was good. Each story has a "meet the" title followed a descriptor of the person they highlight. Probably the most touching story for me personally was the Missionary Mom.



4 out of the 6 individuals were not born in the church but converted later in life, and the Missionary Mom is one of those. This means that not only do they talk about her sending her son on a mission but they also talk quite a bit about her own conversion to the gospel. Having been a missionary myself and having worked with people in very similar situations I found this story really struck home for me.

You are set up in the beginning of that story to think that amidst all these other stories you are about to get the tale of some regular Mormons in Utah, sending their son on a mission. But that is just what they want you to think before they delve into her back story as a young single mom on the streets having fled her abusive addict mother. The story of her rescue is an amazing one of missionary work and faith. And it is one of the places you can clearly see the ripple effect of the choices we make.

Well I will stop spoiling the movie for you now. But it was great and I hope you have the chance to go see it. It doesn't matter who you are I think you will be inspired by these stories.

I think seeing the good others do inspires us to remember, to live better.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pebbledoro, a Pebble Watchapp review

Having a Pebble smartwatch is a fun and nostalgic experience for me. Why? The joy of having a grayscale screen that only a few other nerds have and trying to find extremely useful apps in a very simple interface reminds me so much of my early days using the Palm IIIxe. You never really know if an app will work or not, and there is a small group of mostly volunteer open source developers working on it. 

Pebbledoro is a great example of this feeling. It is an extremely simple but very useful app. The app was created by developer mertdikmen, and is an app for implementing the pomodoro method.

Essentially the entire app can be seen in this screen shot: 


If you are not familiar with the pomodoro method it involves a productivity system of working for 25 minutes and then breaking for 5 minutes, and then working for 25 minutes and then breaking for 5 minutes. It is a great system to help you increase focus. Orthodox pomodoro practitioners use a tomato timer, but pebbledoro replaces that with a simple app on you wrist.

As you can see in the screenshot there are just three controls: Start, stats, and stop. When you start the little black square will begin to appear at a rate of 1 per minute. When it is done you will feel a small buzz on you wrist. The break will not start immediately so you can finish up whatever you are doing that moment, and then push play again to start the break. During the break the black squares will disappear at a rate of 5 per minute.

The stats button will tell you how many pomodoro cycles you have completed using the app, which is not incredibly useful but might be fun to know.

The stop button will cancel the pomodoro.

You can still receive notifications on the watch while using this app, although that might throw off you focus.

Well that is about it. A simple but useful app for the Pebble or Pebble Steel. 

Thanks for reading, and remember, live better. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How to use iCloud Keychain and find your saved passwords

And now we are going to talk once again about a very useful, but often not understood, function of the iPhone and iPad: iCloud Keychain.



What is it?
iCloud Keychain is Apple's built in password generator and manager. If you create a new account on a website you will often see when you get the password step the option for a long and complex auto generated secure password.

This is iCloud Keychain trying to help you out. Instead of using the same password that you have used for everything since 1998, it wants you to use a secure password that nobody could guess because it is randomly generated. The only problem with a password that nobody can guess is that you cannot remember it either, but that is ok because when ever you get the website Safari will just autofill the password for you.

This way you can have a different password for every website without having to try and remember them.



Friday, September 19, 2014

How to Setup an iPhone or iPad (iOS 8)

So you have a fancy new iPhone or iPad with iOS 8 and you are all ready to set it up? Good that is what I am here to help you with.

Setting up any iOS device has become a fairly simple process, if you are able to follow Apple's steps completely when you first turn on your device. However if your wifi is not working, or you forget your Apple ID, or you don't have an Apple ID, the process can be a little trickier. And if you don't restore from an existing backup that can also make it a little more work, unless of course it is your first time using an iPhone or iPad.

First off the easiest way is to follow Apple's instructions when you first start up your iOS device, they will walk you through several grey screens. These screens will help you connect to your wifi network, set your iPad up with your Apple account, or get one if you don't have one, set up iCloud, and restore from an old back up if you have one, ask if you want to use Siri, etc.

It is important that you are able to connect to a wifi network at the beginning of set up otherwise most of the steps cannot happen as they require internet. If you do not have internet connection or are not sure what you want to do at a particular step in the process don't worry you can always go back and change things or get them set up in the settings later, that's what this post is for :)

Now at this point in the process I strongly suggest setting up an iCloud account if you don't already have one. This is especially useful if you use other apple products (i.e. iPhone, MacBook, iMac, or iPod touch) because it allows a lot of communication between them.

Not everything that needs to be setup on your iOS device is set up during the initial phases. To get those taken care of you will need to go to the settings app. Also if you had skip any steps at the beginning this is where you will go to change them.

It does not actually move
but this GIF was too cool to pass up


Take a good look at that icon, its your new best friend. The setting menu's will allow you to change almost anything on your iPhone that can be changed.

Now we will go through settings, if you missed a step during the initial start up you can take care of it here.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How to use iCloud Tabs in Safari

Many people are not utilizing one of the best productivity features on their iPhones and iPads simply because they either do not know it exists, or they don't know how to do it.

It is iCloud tabs, which lets you automatically open up tabs that had open on another device. And it is actually very simple to do. Lets say you have productivity pad open on your Mac, but you want to read it on you iPad, here is what that would look like.

You have this webpage open on your Mac...

...and now you do on your iPad too

Here is how you do it on an iPhone:



And a Mac:

video


As long as you are signed into the same iCloud account on all your devices you shouldn't have an problems.

To check on a Mac just go to: Apple menu> System Preferences > iCloud > account details. Also make sure that the Safari box is checked. As in the video below.

video


This makes it very easy to switch from one device to another without having to remember and type in complicated URLs. The only problem you will run into is with password protected sites, you will have to put in your login info again on the new device.

Well I hope that helps. It is a simple tip that can save you a lot of time. Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Apple Watch, First Thoughts

As promised, I will now give my initial thoughts on the Apple Watch that Apple announced a few days ago. First let me just say that if you haven't gone and watched the video of the Watch it is worth it just so you can see the bands snap closed. Apple has such a great way of presenting a product, if they made a garbage can it would have a cooler video than most luxury cars.

It is beautiful
A lot of people have said and are going to say, "its just strapping a screen onto your wrist." And that is true, in many ways it is, but only Apple could take that concept from nerdy to fashionable. All smartwatches, beyond basic fitness trackers, are going to be a screen on you wrist, but nobody has made one that looks so nice as Apple's does.



Don't get me wrong, I love my Pebble Steel and I am totally convinced that it is the best looking smartwatch on the market right now, but let's face it, it isn't 14 karat gold. That being said I will not be throwing my Pebble out any time soon.

The bands
It is a testament to Apple's design prowess that the bands on the Watch are one of the things I am most impressed with. I was telling some friends the other day; leave it to Apple to take an experience as bad as changing your watch band and make it fun.

The bands will be easily switched by pressing a release on the bottom of the Watch, no need to go to jeweler to remove pins. This will mean people can easily have multiple bands to switch out, but it also has a more practical purpose for some people, namely left-handers. The switchable bands me that left-handers, most of whom wear their watches on the right hand, can easily swap out the two sides of the band to orient the watch correctly on their wrist with the crown the correct spot for left-handed operation.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, First Thoughts

Alright, now that there has been a couple days for the news to settle and the hands-on reports are out, I wanted to give my non-hands-on impressions of the new iPhones.

I like them

No surprises there, right? I normally like what Apple puts out and once again I think they have made some fantastic new products this year.



iPhone 6 and 6 plus
I am admittedly a phablet hater. I think they look dumb when people use them and that the reside in a space that does not need to be filled. So I don't foresee myself ever owning a 6 plus. Even the 6 might be a little big for me, that remains to be seen until I hold one in my own hands in a few weeks.

One thing I would like to note is that Apple took their sweet time making a bigger phone because they were unwilling to just jump on a bandwagon without thinking through the user experience first. They thought through things like screen resolution on a bigger screen, and one handed operation, and how the operating system would look different on it.

The screens look really good on both phones, but when you are watching on a screen that is lower resolution than the screen you are looking at it is hard to tell...

They both look like gorgeous pieces of design, they are amazingly thin and incredibly elegant from the pictures and videos. Of course if I were spinning in slow motion on a white background I might look elegant too... never mind I wouldn't.

The Letdown
The main thing that disappoints me about these phones is the camera. The fact that there hasn't been any major improvement since the 4s is hard to understand. Each year brings us an incremental improvement, and slow and steady wins the race I guess... But the iPhone is the most popular camera in the world so I would have thought they would want to do more. I was really hoping that with a protruding camera we would get an optical zoom finally, but alas it was not to be.

My feeling on this is that Apple probably has a better camera in the wings, but they are holding it as one of the major improvements for the 4s. They couldn't give everything to us at one time (then who would buy next year?). Regardless the optical zoom probably needs more development before it is ready.

The upshot of the camera staying the same is that I feel less reason to buy any new phone soon, the 4s still has essentially the same camera as the latest model, and it can update to the new operating system, so it should hold fine for now.

Apple Pay
The big benefit of the iPhone 6 and plus in my mind right now is Apple Pay. Why? Because as Tim Cook said, credit cards are old technology that is insecure and needs to be replaced. Is that a reason to run out and buy one? No, not yet. But we know that millions of people will buy these phones, and that means the can begin to take place. This is something that really nobody but Apple could do, and I am excited about it.

Will there be security problems with Apple Pay? Absolutely, and people will make a big deal out of them. That is why Apple is so brave to enter the space. The deal is that there will not be as many security problems as there are with credit and debit cards. Apple waited to do this until they had technology like touch ID in place to help make it more secure. This is in stark contrast to other companies who have ran helterskelter into the mobile payment space producing fractured products with low security and no vision.

Alright, that pretty much sums up my thoughts on these new phones (ok let's be honest, I could talk for hours about them, but those are the important things). I don't want to make this post to long so I am saving talking about Apple Watch for my next post. Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Apple's September 9th event rumor roundup

Here we go again. Apple will be holding another event tomorrow. And everything currently points to it being a big one. From the fact that Apple is returning to the Flint Center where Steve Jobs first announced the iMac, to pictures of a huge "structure" they are constructing outside it, it seems September 9th will be a day Apple fans will remember.

Here is an image of the invitation that was sent out for the event:



Apple's invitations usually contain a hidden message, but it is almost impossible to pick it out until after the event. However it is worth noting that this invitation is significantly less colorful than last years when the iPhone 5C was announced.

Anyway, here are my predictions on some of the more popular rumors.

iPhone 6: yes we will see the iPhone 6, and I think that will likely be the name of it as well. All the models (if there is more than one) will ship with iOS 8 of course. I am hoping that the 16 GB option will disappear and that 32 GB will become the new starter. I also think the new phones will also come with a 64-bit A8 processor and a new M8 processor for movement tracking.

4 inch: I am doubting there will be a new 4 inch iPhone, but I do think the 5S will move down into the second tier spot and the 5C will move into the free spot, so there will still be options for those wanting a smaller screen.

4.7 inch: This model seems all but confirmed by rumors and photo leaks at this point. I would be very surprised not to see it. It also seems likely that it will be getting a sapphire screen which will make it much less likely to shatter.

5.5 inch: I hope we don't see this model, there have been a few leaks indicating it, but I really hate phablets, and so my personal side is causing me to say no on this one. It just seems to big to the point that it would be filling the same spot the iPad mini already does.

Friday, September 5, 2014

iPhone and iPad tip: How to add the Smiley Face (Emoji) Keyboard

Have you always wanted to be able to get all those smiley faces and other special characters on your iPhone and iPad? These can help you to express emotions in what are normally plain text situations. Getting them is simple once you know how to do it.



In order to get these characters you will need to install an extra keyboard onto your iPhone or iPad. If you speak a language other than English you are probably already familiar with how to do this, but for English speakers the Emoji keyboard is often the only one they ever add.


  1. Go into your settings app.
  2. Click "General"
  3. Then scroll down to "Keyboard" and tap it
  4. Then tap "Keyboards"
  5. Then Add New Keyboard
  6. You well then see a list of all the international keyboard in alphabetical order (except for English which is on top.
  7. Scroll down to "Emoji" and tap it.
You are now done. Now whenever the onscreen keyboard opens up you will see the globe icon in the bottom left. If you click that it will switch to the Emoji keyboard.

Here is a Gif I made that shows you how. You might want to  for later.


Isn't that awesome! Now you can express all that emoji goodness. Hope you have a wonderful weekend. And remember, live better.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How to use, and not use, your iPhone or iPad at Church

So, with the recent devotionals from Elder Ballard and Elder Bednar on Technology and my own thoughts on the use of screens, the natural extension is to think about how those screens are being used or should be used at Church. Now these are just my own thoughts on the matter, they aren't doctrine, and they are aimed primarily at members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormons) since that is the church I am a member of.



I will break this up into two sections: how to use, and how not to use. The second section is the one likely to offend the most people, but the first one will offend some of the more paper centric crowed. I would ask whatever camp you fall into that you not actually get offend but that you take these ideas and see if they can help you live better.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Gospel Library 3.4.5 update

Yesterday there was an update to Gospel Library for iPhone and iPad.
The changes were as follows:

  • Refined Search, including having exact phrase and keyword results display
  • Adjusted Screens to have newly added screens display at the top
  • Added role-based content capability (e.g., if you are serving in a bishopric, you can now access Handbook 1)
  • Fixed various bugs and stability issues
After updating and looking around the app here are my thoughts:

First off I was very happy that this update did not go back to causing the headache of redownloading all of the content you might have downloaded before. This update appears to have kept all of the data stored in the app previously. 


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Screen Test: Enhance or Detract

For a while now I have been concerned about screens. I have two main concerns:

  1. the amount of time I spend in front of a screen
  2. life being filtered through a screen
Now I am clearly not anti technology by any means, I write a technology blog, I work in the social media industry, I am getting my masters degree in instructional technology, and I will be teaching a class this fall on using technology in the classroom. In fact I am starkly opposed to those who talk about technology as thought in cannot produce anything more than superficial stimulus with no meaningful experiences.

But I am concerned because the area is still new and we don't know much about its effects.
I admit that I don't want to live in a Wall-e like world where all interactions take place through a screen. 


I think in the early 2000's we teetered near this fate as more work became computer centric and tied people to desktops and laptops. I believe we were pulled back from this by the mobile revolution that began to take place after the iPhone and then the iPad were released. People are coming to realize that while most jobs now have a computer or internet component to them (for many communication), many do not require you to constantly be in front of a traditional computer because they can be done from anywhere on a mobile device.

I consider this a good thing, because I believe that the less obtrusive technology can be while still bringing enhancements to our lives, the better.

What concerns me now is that this new ecosystem of mobile computing has brought with it its own challenges. The accessibility of the screens when we are out of the house has made us subject to constant drive for more.

More what?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Hardware Review: Pebble Steel Smartwatch

About a month ago I took my first steps into wearable tech and asked for a Pebble Steel Smartwatch for my birthday. For those of you who don't know about the Pebble it is a Smartwatch that communicates with your smartphone via bluetooth to perform various functions while your phone remains in your pocket or across the room. It was the most successful kickstarter project ever raising in excess of 10 million dollars. The steel is the second version of the Pebble.

Image found on SmartWatching.com

What does it do?
The main purpose of the pebble is to have certain functions of you iPhone available on your wrist without having to remove your phone from your pocket, or go across the room to check it. It comes out of the box ready to receive notifications, control your music, and set alarms. Oh and it also tells time! There are also a bunch of different apps you can install to increase the functionality.

To many people having notifications on their wrist doesn't sound like it would be that useful, many friends have told me they don't have a hard time pulling out their phone. That was my original feeling when the pebble launched but then I heard many people say it was actually way more convenient to have it on their wrist than they thought it would be.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

How To Stop Game Invitations on Facebook (like Candy Crush)

Are you ever excited when you get on Facebook and see that there are a whole bunch of notifications and you think people must have really liked you last photo, only to find that they are all invites to play Candy Crush? It is super annoying. I am here to help you fix this problem.

Image credit to Ricky Foster

I did not have time to cove this on my post on making Facebook better, but I know that it is a frustration for many (including me).

Of course there are other annoying games besides Candy Crush, Farmville in particular comes to mind when I think of games we love to hate. But Candy Crush seems to be the worst right now.

Now hopefully you followed the advice of my last post and cleared out your stupid friends, that should have helped this problem some, but not all. For some reason, unknown to human psychologists, even seemingly sane individuals will send out these game invites, and you may really want to see their other updates, so you have to stay friends with them.

A Word to the Inviters
First of all, if you are that person sending out those invites I have 2 words for you:

STOP IT!

Why in the world are you sending those out? So you can get some little game perk if 500 of your friends sign up? It is not worth it to lose all your friends, so stop it.

2 Ways to Stop Them
For the rest of you, here are two ways to block them:
  1. Option one is when the notification arrives there will be a tiny little "x" in the top right hand corner when you scroll over the notification. Click this and you will have the option of stopping notification from that game.
  2. If you missed the little "x" but you know there is a game you do not want to see notifications from ever you can take action to block the game preemptively: 
    1. Go to settings (top right hand corner drop down menu)
    2. Once in settings go to Blocking on the left hand side.

                3. You will see a several option here. The one you want is called "Block Apps." All you have to do is start typing the name of the app you want to block, as you can see me doing with Candy Crush below, just click on the name when it appears and you will block that app. 



Hurray! No more annoying notifications, at least until they come up with a new game.

If you do have a friend who is constantly inviting you to many different games or apps you can block notifications from just that person on this page as well.

Well there you have, I hope this eliminates some anger and frustration for you and helps you to live better! 
What are the most annoying games you get invitations for? Tell us below so we can block them :)