Google Productivity Pad: September 2014

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:

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.

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.