Google Productivity Pad: January 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Review: iPhone Only Photography

How many pictures do you take with your iPhone?
The answer is probably a lot.
How many of those pictures turn out the way you wanted?
The answer is probably not so many. 

I guess if we are going to spend a lot of time and effort taking pictures with our iPhones, it would behoove us to learn how to actually do it well. For this reason I read David Molnar's iPhone Only Photography book.

Genre: Mobile Photography
Price: $29
Stars: 5/5

Now you all know by this time that stars are not something I hand out like candy, I am pretty conservative in my use of stars in order to maintain their value. So why would I give 5 stars to this book? Because I think what it teaches is so important that everyone should know it.

This book will teach you how to capture memories using your iPhone. It does this primarily two ways by:

  1. Teaching you to take better photos
  2. Teaching you how to edit to recreate feeling
If you use any iPhone from the 4s up then you have a great camera in your pocket all the time and you aught to take a little bit of time to learn how to use it a lot better. Here is a quick example of what editing can do:



It is still not a perfect picture, but the second one describes much better visually what I felt on that fall day. And I did it all from an iPhone 4s.

Honestly I have always felt that photography was something that I was not very good at but that I wanted to be. iPhone Only Photography has opened up the complicated world of cameras and photo editing to me in a way that I can understand and work with. 

It is a really freeing experience to learn how to do something new that you know you can use for the rest of your life. Especially something that will help you remember your life better. I hope you will go check out iPhone Only Photography and see if it is something that can help you. You can try three videos for free that teach the skills from the first few chapters of the book.

One more for the road:


And remember, live better.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Choosing the Least Invasive Technology

In the medical field there is this idea of minimally invasive surgery. Do the least amount you have to in order to achieve the desired result. I have been bouncing this idea around for a while of how that relates to technology usage. See technology invades many of our situations, as well it should, technology is meant to mediate between us and the world around us. It should, however, only mediate or invade as much as we need it to in order to achieve the result we desire.

I call this idea: Least Invasive Technology (LIT).

So in order to choose a technological tool according to LIT you would first consider whether or not it can do the job you need to get done. For example when I need to do some coding if I were to want to use my iPad instead of my laptop it really wouldn't be feasible because most coding programs don't run on an iPad and it isn't really capable yet of the kind of multitasking you need in coding. Therefore I would need the laptop.

The second consideration, invasion to human interaction is a little trickier, but it cannot be answered until the first one is. For example a whiteboard is a piece of technology, we don't normally think of it as one, but it is. Both a whiteboard and a mirrored iPad can be used the draw visuals during a class, so they would both pass item number 1 if we were considering them. But which one causes more invasion to the human interaction?

That is a little harder to say because a whiteboard causes you to look away from students and to be at the front of the room, whereas an iPad can allow you to face anyway you want and be anywhere in the room you want. However people may be more comfortable with the use of the whiteboard than they are with a mirrored iPad because they are use to it.

Familiarity can make a technology less invasive than it might otherwise be. Novelty on the other hand can make technology more invasive than it might otherwise be. For example, my Pebble smartwatch is about as least invasive as technology can get, far less invasive than a phone being pulled out of a pocket or purse to check a notification. At least it is until somebody notices it, at which point it invades because of the novelty and becomes at least for a time the focus of conversation.

Invasion for novelty's sake will eventually wear off as a technology becomes more ubiquitous. And at least this type of invasion keeps you centered on interacting by conversation with person, it just may not be the interaction that you intended. That makes novelty something to consider when choosing a technology, but not the controlling factor.

I think the most important factor to currently consider when practicing LIT with electronic technologies is screen size.

Apple Products, conveniently lined up by size

When the screen is creating a barrier between you and the person you are interacting with, than the smaller the screen size the better. For example, if you can use either an iPad or a MacBook to take notes at a meeting you should choose the iPad. The iPad creates a smaller barrier between you and the others in the meeting and it can be used lying flat on a table or desk some of the time, making it the least invasive technology for the purpose.

When, however, the screen is facilitating interaction between you and another person the larger screen size may actually prove less invasive to the interaction. For example if I can video conference on either my iPhone or my iMac I will choose the iMac because it creates a better interaction with the other person.

We appear to be on a rapid march towards mainstream adoption of internet 3.0, the internet of things. In this new phase of the internet and technology more and more things will become connected. More tools will mediate between us and the environment through electronics. In this world being able to practice the philosophy of Least Invasive Technology will become increasingly important.

I hope something I have said today has sparked your interest, and I hope you will share it with someone else. I would like to see this idea be spread far and adopted by many. I hope it can help us to remember, to live better.

Icons made by Freepik from is licensed by CC BY 3.0

Friday, January 9, 2015

Control Center in iOS

Control center is one of the most useful features in iOS. Its purpose is to give  you easy access to system settings that you may need to access quickly or easily from anywhere on your iPhone or iPad.

You access control center by swiping up with one finger on the bottom of the screen. You can do this in almost any app and even the lock screen, so long as your settings (settings > control center) has both "access within apps" and access on lock screen" set to on.

The top row in control center are all settings that can either be turned off, or on by tapping on them. When an icon is black on white that setting is turned on, when it is black on gray it is turned off. You have access here to Air Plane mode, Wifi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, and Lock Screen Rotation.

Down from there you have a brightness slider control. This allows you to quickly adjust the level of the backlight on you device. Just slide right to make it more bright and left to make it less.

The next section contains the standard audio controls: Play/Pause, volume and fifteen second skips backwards and forwards.

Then we get the airplay and air drop controls. However these controls only appear if they are turned on and can be used. For example if you had wifi off they would not show up because they require wifi to function. Similarly if there is no device around to connect to they will not show up.

The final section of control center contains a row of quick access apps. You cannot control which apps appear here unfortunately so hopefully you like the selection that Apple has chosen. You can use the flashlight, the timer, the calculator, and the camera. Personally I think this is a useful collection, and I use control center to access all of them regularly, except for the timer.

Using control center can help you save a lot of time leaving apps or unlocking the phone to go to the settings app when something just needs to be done quickly. I hope you find these tips helpful, and remember, live better.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Life at double speed: How to learn more by listening twice as fast

Learning is something that it seems quite certain we will never complete. For the life long learner there will never be enough time to discover, let alone study, everything that they may want to. This is the reason that I can get depressed walking through libraries if I let myself consider how many books there are that I will never read.

For this reason I have tried to find ways to learn faster, and one of the best ways I have found is to listen to things at double the speed. I try to listen to all spoken recordings at double speed. Podcasts, audiobooks, online courses, TED Talks, YouTube tutorials, all of it gets sped up if it can.

This pace can take some getting used to, but once you have developed the habit of listening this way you find it excruciating to go back to normal playback speed. It will seem so slow to you that it will be a burden to listen to it.

Of course some of this is dependent on the person you are listening to. Some people talk twice as fast as most people anyways and those you may not listen to at double, at least not right away. Other people talk so slow that you may want to speed them up even faster than double speed, but I don't know of a way to do that without going through more work than would be worth it. So a general rule of thumb is to go at double speed.

Here is a quick rundown of how to listen at double speed to the content I mentioned above.

The native podcasts app on iOS 8 makes it easy to listen at double speed. You simply click the speed button in the lower left corner that normally says 1x and change it to 2x. You could also start with 1.5x if it makes you more comfortable starting out, that is what I did.

Podcast hosts vary widely on the speed that the talk so it can take more getting use to with some than it does with others, but I have found that all the podcasts I listen to regularly can be listened to just fine on double speed and after some practice it sounds normal to my ears.

Most 3rd party podcast apps also have a speed up option, some with more granular control than Apple's native app.

For audiobooks, it depends on which app you are using, but most have the speed up options. For example I listen to books in both Librivox and Overdrive and they both allow you to speed up your listening.



Audiobooks are almost always recorded at a slow pace and so they can be sped up with very little trouble. I also find that annoying voices are less troublesome at double speed.

Online Courses
If you take a course online the instructors will likely talk slower than they need to for you at certain times, while other times you may need to go back and listen again to catch a difficult concept. When they are speaking slowly it can be helpful to put them on double speed. The service I have used for online courses, Udemy, does not allow you to speed up videos when you watch in a web browser, but when you use it iOS app you can. So check and see if your service has an app, and chances are you can speed up the videos there.

TED Talks
TED talks are an invaluable resource when it comes to learning and expanding your understanding. Most of them can easily be listened to in half the time. Unfortunately the TED app on iOS does not give you the option of playing either video or audio at double speed, so I don't use it. Instead I suggest using the native podcast app to listen to or watch talks on the various TED podcast channels, or watch them on YouTube as explained below.

The ubiquitous video site is one of the great founts of knowledge in the 21st century. Nearly anything you might want to learn can be learned on YouTube, to the point that I once said I was a graduate of the U of YouTube. However this learning can be done much faster if you learn to watch at double speed.

This particular method requires you to do a little prep work because the YouTube app does not currently allow double speed playback.
Go to and make sure you are signed into your YouTube/Google account. Then click the check box to use the html5 player. Once you have done that you will find an extra option under the settings gear on YouTube videos that will allow you to change the playback speed. You can do this on your iPad or iPhone as long as you watch videos in safari and are signed into your YouTube account.

And there you have it, a simple way to speed up your learning that you can do today! I hope you find this article helpful, and that you will share it on your social networks. If you use other apps to speed up learning please tell us in the comments below.

Enjoy learning at double speed, and remember, live better.