Google Productivity Pad: March 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

7 Ways to Spring Clean Your iPad

Well, it is that time of year again in the northern hemisphere where the birds are buzzing, the bees are singing... scratch that, reverse it. In any case, many people are going through their closets, garages, and cupboards (an aside, I remember the first time I realized that cupboard was a compound word; changed my life). They are throwing out junk, setting things aside for their summer yard sale (like android tablets and windows phones) and dusting in places that got missed all winter.

Its a great time of year. Spring cleaning originated because as the weather warmed windows could be opened, furniture and children could be moved outside, and the garage and yard were warm enough to work in (thus husbands also could get out of the way). Just because our iPads have nothing to do with the weather does not mean we can't use the opportunity of spring to clean them out. When their is a mental state already in place I say use it. Let's take advantage of our cleaning mood this spring to clean up our digital life.

Here are seven ways to go about spring cleaning your iPad. If you have others please comment or tweet them at me.

Camera Roll
Here is one of the great culprits of iOS clutter. We use the camera and camera roll for so much more than actual photography and photo organization that it becomes very messy.
  • Delete all photos you don't need any more
  • Transfer photos to computer for storage
  • Set up albums to organize your photos

We love apps so much, and so many of them are free that we can end up with quite a collection of apps we never use. I know I am a big culprit of this. Try these tips to know which ones to delete.
  • Go to settings > general > usage
    • see which apps are taking up the most space and delete the large ones you never use
    • see which apps have large "Documents and Data" files. Go into those apps and decide if some cached files can be deleted or cleared to free up space.
  • Clear out all open apps, then don't clear any for a week
    • At the end of the week go through and make a list of all the apps you opened. Delete apps that did not make the list.

Software Update
If you have been putting off updating to the latest version of your operating system Spring cleaning is a great time to do it. As of this writing the newest version is 7.1 and it should be fine for everyone to update to, except for jailbreakers.

App Updates
Does your App Store icon have a large number in a red circle on it because you always push off updating your apps? Sometimes there are good reasons to hold off on an update to a particular app, but many of us just forget to go in and do it, now is a good time to take care of that chore.

Throughout the year you download lots of apps, and on first opening a lot of those apps ask for permission to do certain things. Spring cleaning is a great time to go back and see what you have given permission for and take it away from apps that don't need it.

Go to settings > privacy and you will find:
  •  Location Services
  • Contacts
  • Calendars
  • Reminders
  • Photos
  • Bluetooth Sharing
  • Microphone
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
Each of these represents a feature of iOS that an app can ask for access to. None of these can be accessed without your express permission, and a list of all the apps that have asked for access can be found by clicking on each item.

Go through each of these as part of your spring cleaning an make sure they all actually need permission for what they have asked for.

App Folders
If you don't use app folders to organize your apps, spring cleaning is a great time to go a head and make some. Here is how.
If you do already use app folders go through them and make sure that apps are in the best place where it will be easiest to find them.

Chances are that just like your photos app your notes app is full of small files that you created for specific reasons that are no longer relevant or needed. Go through and delete everything you don't need. Notes you do need for later should probably be moved to a more permanent location.

And that's it! Once you have walked through these seven steps I think you will feel much better about your iOS organization and your devices will likely be much cleaner and have more space. If you have other tips for spring cleaning your iPad please leave them in the comments below or tweet them to @halduauthor.
That's it for now. Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

RIP iPad 2

The iPad 2, the only iPad with a number officially in its name, has been put to rest by Apple. It was removed from the Apple online store and replaced at the same pricepoint with the previously thought dead iPad with retina and lightning port (the 4th gen iPad).

One of Apple's longest running products the iPad 2 has really had a remarkable life. This long life is particularly interesting considering the fact that both the iPad 3rd gen and 4th gen (until now) had such short times on Apple's shelves.

Personally I always found it very odd that they kept the iPad 2 around as the low entry model for so long instead of just moving the last years model into that spot. This is the pattern they had been following with iPhones up until the last release where the 5 went into early retirement.

I guess the reason that the iPad 2 lived so long is that people kept buying them. Now personally I can't fathom doing such a thing as buying a two or three year old model new just to save a hundred bucks. This especially became true when the iPad mini came out cheaper than the 2. But I guess many people could and did do such a thing. I think I know more people with 2s than any other iPad model. Most people just don't grasp what the difference in processing power means and in a side by side store demonstration can't tell the difference between a retina screen and a non retina screen.

However, as well as the iPad 2 has done it really was time for it to die a while ago. And now with Apple offering refurbished iPad Airs for just $419 their really was no reason for people to ever buy a 2 for $400. The refurbed Air is my recomedation for anyone buying an iPad right now.

The big question now though is whether or not th iPhone 4s is going to die as the free iPhone option. With the iPad 2 dead it has no more 30 pin charger friends in the Apple store (except the iPod classic, but who counts that). And it may make sense at this poine for Apple to unify the line. They did just release a lower end 8gb iPhone 5C in other countries, but no word on if that will come over to America or not.

It will certainly be interesting to see what happens the next few months while we are in Q2, it is about time for another Apple event...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Why Productive People Make Their Beds

Do you make your bed everyday? You probably did when you were a kid and your mom constantly reminded you. Then you went to college and reveling in your new found freedom you decided you were going to leave your bed a mess... or you started waking up at 8:05 for your 8:00 class. That was probably the end of any kind of bed making routine for you.

Messy bed, messy life
When I talk to people who are going through difficult times and want to be achieving more balance in life I ask them if they make their beds everyday. They always say no. Now, it isn't that having a messy bed is the cause of a messy, out of control life. It is actually usually the opposite.

Consider our example above: the kid moves away from college, schedules a heavy class load, takes on a part time job, makes new friends who like to stay out late, joins the scifi club, and has a whole load of new responsibilities, including trying to decided what to do with the rest of his life. Soon he starts waking up late and the first thing to go is making his bed.

He's rushing out the door just to make it to part of his first class, there is no time to make his bed. It does not really matter thought, because well, it doesn't effect anyone else (except maybe his roommate), his mother will never know, and he is  just going to mess it up again later.

Here are three reasons that you will be more productive if you choose not to be like that college student and make your bed everyday.

Keystone habit
Have you ever heard of a keystone habit? Sounds important doesn't it?

A keystone habit is a little habit that is easy to do, but by doing it it allows the person to develop many larger habits easier, often as natural outgrowth of the keystone habit. This is true for both good and bad habits.

Consider our college student friend for a moment. He stops making his bed because he is getting up late. This contributes not only to a poor sleeping schedule but also to a subconscious sense of disorganization and lack of control in his life. Conversely the dedication it would take to wake up a few minutes earlier so that his bed could be made each day would make a huge difference in his ability to make other positive habits.

Paves the way for a morning routine
As a keystone habit, making your bed can lead the way to a whole slew of good habits that can make up a morning routine. Or vice versa, choosing not to make your bed can lead to losing those habits and replacing them with negative ones. In the past I have talked about the importance of being a morning person, and how to become one.
Sometimes the negative examples are the easiest to see. Our college student friend has formed a number of bad habits as he has been off on his own. As he chooses not to make his bed he begins to get up later and later, soon this contributes to other bad habits. He no longer brushes his teeth, he doesn't eat breakfast, he stops biking to school and begins driving, he starts driving too fast and becomes very frustrated with other drivers.

In contrast however by simply working at forming the habit of making his bed the college student can begin the process of developing many other positive habits. Once he has made the decision he must naturally make small change that will allow that decision to take place: he will need to get up a little earlier, in order do that he will need to go to bed a little earlier, therefore he will need to not stay out as late, etc, etc.

Resolves a commitment first thing
Besides the natural outflow from wanting to make your bed such as small time adjustments, there are mental benefits as well to beginning the day be keeping a commitment. See your brain subconsciously keeps track of all the commitments you have made to do things, the more of those that you don't do the more it wears on you. At the same time, the more commitments that you keep the better you feel and the more likely that you are to keep other commitments.

Because most people have been trained to make their beds as a matter of proper behavior and an expectation of their mother, most have a subconscious commitment to doing it. That is one reason that it works so well as a keystone habit, it resolves a commitment almost immediately upon waking up. To start your day with the resolution of a commitment mentally prepares you for the rest of the day.

There may be many aspects of your life that are out of your direct control. That can give a very overwhelming feeling. But you can make your bed every day and resolve that commitment to yourself. Even if you have no bed you can straighten your sleeping area and feel a sense that you have control of at least the first thing that day.

I know you may not like this advice that I have given. But just because you do not like something does not mean that it is not true. In fact it probably means it is true because if it weren't you would just ignore it, but instead it makes you a little upset and you feel a little anger inside. Well, I challenge you to try this for a week and see if what I have said is not true. Accept the challenge in the comments below or by tweeting at me and then report back in seven days (click here to tweet).

I believe you can change, have more control in your life, and be more productive. Just remember, live better.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

iOS 7.1

A couple days ago iOS 7.1 was released, and it seems to have been a long time coming. Normally the jailbreakers wait to release until at least the .1 version comes out so that the jailbreak won't be immeadiatly broken, but 7.1 has taken so long that the jailbreak has actually been out for quite a while now.

There is nothing to throw a party about in iOS 7, but it is a nice update for some. Most of the updates had no direct effect on me as they tendend to be for features I don't have (like Car Play) or don't use (like Siri's Mandarain voice). Things are suppose to run faster now, but I can't really say that I noticed, but of course I did not notice things running slow prior to the update so some of these will be bigger for those who were experiencing problems before.

Anyway, here is a list, tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

  • CarPlay

    • iOS experience designed for the car
    • Simply connect your iPhone to a CarPlay enabled vehicle
    • Supports Phone, Music, Maps, Messages, and 3rd-party audio apps
    • Control with Siri and the car's touchscreen, knobs, and buttons
    • Siri
      • Manually control when Siri listens by holding down the home button while you speak and releasing it when you're done as an alternative to letting Siri automatically notice when you stop talking
      • New, more natural sounding male and female voices for Mandarin Chinese, UK English, Australian English, and Japanese
      • iTunes Radio
        • Search field above Featured Stations to easily create stations based on your favorite artist or song
        • Buy albums with the tap of a button from Now Playing
        • Subscribe to iTunes Match on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to enjoy iTunes Radio ad-free
        • Calendar
          • Option to display events in month view
          • Country specific holidays automatically added for many countries
          • Accessibility
            • Bold font option now includes the keyboard, calculator, and many icon glyphs
            • Reduce Motion option now includes Weather, Messages, and multitasking UI animations
            • New options to display button shapes, darken app colors, and reduce white point
          • New Camera setting to automatically enable HDR for iPhone 5s
          • iCloud Keychain support in additional countries
          • FaceTime call notifications are automatically cleared when you answer a call on another device
          • Fixes a bug that could occasionally cause a home screen crash
          • Improves Touch ID fingerprint recognition
          • Improved performance for iPhone 4
          • Fixes display of Mail unread badge for numbers greater than 10,000
          • Continued user interface refinements

    Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

    Tuesday, March 11, 2014

    Hardware Review: Jot Stylus

    Update: The Jot Classic that I refer to in this article is no longer available from Adonit, the other versions of the Jot are still available.

    Finding a stylus that works well on a capacitive touch screen has been a challenge since the first iPhone came out. Prior to that time most people's experience with touch screens was in the checkout line at Walmart signing their name, or if they were either an important CEO, or just very nerdy with a palm pilot. I was a nerdy kid who did not buy much so my experience was in the latter. But these two touch screens shared a commonality that has never been present it the iPhone, they used a stylus to write and tap on a resistive touch screen. If you wanted to use your finger you couldn't, the best you could do was your finger nail.

    Enter the iPhone, the first widespread device with a capacitive touch screen. Steve Jobs gambled that people actually did not like tapping around with a stylus on a Palm Pilot, or hunting about with a BlackBerry scroll wheel. He thought they would like to just be able to touch the screen with their fingers and have it work. It turns out he was right.

    But a problem has remained since then and that is the trouble with hand writing on an iPhone or iPad (or any capacitive touch, rip off phone that has followed). It's not that people haven't tried to create styli for touch screens, but almost all have tried from the same basic concept: lets take something that feels like a finger and put it on the end of a stick for people to write with.

    This concept has resulted in many cheap, and even some expensive, rubbery tipped styli. None of which work well. The problem in that they have no precision at all, they are the touch screen equivalent of drawing with a blunted crayon.

    Enter Adonit. A creative team of thinkers who looked at the problem in a new way and came up with the Jot stylus:

    Their idea was to make a stylus that felt like writing with a ball point pen, something no one had ever done before because even the old resistive touch styli felt more like a pencil.

    The Jot uses an innovative concept to accomplish its goal. It is tipped with a metal ball covered with a conductive disk. The ball presses down on the disk to activate the screen with much more precision than either your finger or a rubber tipped disk. The disk is clear so that you can see what you are drawing.

    Their are certain apps that have been optimized for the Jot to make it even more precise, but it works well even in apps that haven't been. I have found the Jot to be the most natural writing experience I have ever had on the iPad or iPhone. I have owned two Jots for several months now, both the Jot Classic, and the Jot Flip (which reverses to a normal ink pen).

    The main complaint that I have with the Jot and that I have seen other have is that sometimes the disks that come on the Styli become "loose" and loose their precise nature. This has been the case on my Flip almost from the beginning and finally two weeks ago the disk fell off completely making it useless until I get a replacement disk.

    Other than that it is one of the best companion products you can have to the iPad. Their is a large selection of Jots available now, including some that use bluetooth to increase accuracy and all for natural writing with the wrist down (I have not tried these).

    Since its invention others have made precision styli but I have not yet had the chance to try any of those. If you are looking for a good stylus I highly recommend that you check out the Jot, especially if you were thinking about getting a rubber tipped that cost $10 or more you might as well just spend a little more for the much more precise Jot Classic.

    Thanks for reading, that's all for now, but remember, live better.

    If you have questions or comments about the jot please leave them below or tweet them to me @halduauthor

    You can order a Jot from Amazon here (affiliate link).

    Thursday, March 6, 2014

    Your desktop is also not a todo list

    Often times one of the first problems people have with task management (I know I do) is that they use tools for the wrong purposes. They try and force things to be task managers that were never intended to be. This is especially true of digital spaces but can also happen to physical tools.

    The trouble with this is two fold because not only do you try and force the program to be something it is not, a todo list, but you also cripple it for the purpose that it was intended for. I have written in the past about not abusing email or your web browser this way. Today I would like to talk about a third space that is similarly misused: the Desktop.

    Does yours look like this ever?

    Both Physical and Digital
    Remember that the digital desktop is skeuomorphic in its origin, meaning its form and function were set up to resemble the real world. It is essentially suppose to be a virtual representation of an actual desktop, similar to the one your computer is probably sitting on.

    The trouble is that when the digital desktop was created the physical desktop was already being abused as a task management system. This abuse was transplanted the the digital version, and both physical and digital continue to be abused to this day.

    The thought process behind it goes like this: Oh I have here a [document, or a file, or a picture, or a video, etc] that I need [to do something with] I will just set it here [on my top of my desk, or on my desktop] to remind me to do [that thing]. The result of this process whether physical, digital, or both, is a cluttered unusable desktop which increases stress and lowers productivity.

    It is a Workspace
    It is important to remember what the purpose of the desktop actually is: it is a space to be doing work, not a space for work that could or should be done. The things there are suppose to be being worked with. If you aren't working with it now or in the immediate future that it should go into you actual task management system and the resource you were going to use to remind yourself should get filed away in a place you will find it when you need it.

    Your physical desktop was not meant to hold all the papers in you filing cabinet. Your computer desktop was never intended to show you all of the programs and files on your computer. This false notion was propagate by all the computer programs in the 90's that on install came with a pre-checked box that said "place shortcut on the desktop."

    Generally when you are done working with something on either desktop, one of two things are suppose to happen: it gets filed or put away, or it gets thrown away. The real key here though is that the items that should go on your todo list go there to remind you in the proper way to get them done, and that your desktops stay clear for working.

    Now I would hate for anyone to think that because I write about this that I either am, or think I am perfect at it. I have been actively working at this for over a year now and I still struggle with it. Productivity is not something most people are natural at; if it were, it wouldn't be productivity it would be normal. As we are trying though it is important to remember to live better.

    Thanks for reading, and if you found this helpful please share it with others. And if you have thoughts on the matter please comment below.

    Tuesday, March 4, 2014

    RootsTech 2014 recap of my day

    This is rather late in coming since RootsTech was February 6th to the 8th, but my blogging schedule was thrown off by the watching the Olympics (which I loved). Even though I am late I wanted to give you all a recap of my day at RootsTech. I was only there for the last day because my wife and I only registered to attend the free classes for members of the LDS church on the last day of the conference, next year I hope to be able to attend more.

    What is RootsTech?
    RootsTech is a conference centered around the junction of genealogy and technology. It is cosponsored by the LDS church and several large genealogy research companies. Genealogists and family history consultants as well as hobbyists and bloggers come from all over to attend in Salt Lake City.

    There are many keynotes and breakout sessions and even special classes just for youth. For those like me who live tweeted the sessions we attended there was #RootsTech. And for those far away at home many sessions were streamed online.

    What does it have to do with iOS?
    As mobile technology proliferates more and more of the tech genealogists and family history consultants use moves to apps on the iPhone and iPad. Because it is an industry dominated by an older demographic this change is interesting to watch. Particularly because this segment of the senior demographic tend to be more on the tech savvy side. Even though my wife and I were certainly among the youngest attendees at the conference, I saw many people using iPads throughout the day.

    Since the inception of the iPad it has lended itself well to the senior crowd because of its ease of use. This year at RootsTech there were actually whole class sessions devoted to using an iPad for family history. Many of the vendors in the expo hall had iPad or iPhone apps now as part of their service. So this an exciting time, especially in an area like genealogy where mobility and technology have always been part of the process.

    Just to give you a sample of what types of iOS related features were there I will highlight a few:

    Billion Graves Project
    This was one of the coolest iOS integrations I saw there. These people built an app that creatively combines the features of mobile technology to create both a service project and a genealogical database.

    The concept is this: volunteers with smartphones walk through cemeteries taking pictures of gravestones and geotagging those images with each grave's location. The information on those headstones is then transcribed into a database that makes them searchable. Individuals looking for their family's graves can then search for them and find the location and see a picture.

    I just think this is awesome and I hope that I will be able to help out with it.

    Trunx photo storage app
    One important aspect of family history is preserving ours for the future generations. Trunx is a cloud storage service that attempts to help you do that through photos. They offer secure back up for your pictures with timeline and location data.

    Trunx did one of the most creative promotions I saw at RootsTech, which involved using an iOS device. They provided you with a photo scavenger hunt bingo card. You downloaded their app, created a special tag for the bingo game, then you went back through your past to find the appropriate pictures and tag them. Once you had bingo you went to their booth in the expo hall and got a prize. If you had the special Disney Land square you got and additional prize.

    What I liked about this was it did not just get your email address on a piece of paper, which is what most booths were doing. It did get your email address, but it also took you through how to use the service in a fun way.

    Lastly I used my iOS device the whole day to stay on top of the conference using twitter with the conference hashtag, #RootsTech. It was a great way to know what was going on in other parts of the conference and to see what others were thinking.

    All in all I had a great day at RootsTech. I learned a lot that is going to help me in my family history this year. I'm excited about the possibilities of mobile technology in this space. That's all for now, and remember, live better.