ActionMethod update

I have update on my previous post about ActionMethod. TL;DR I use orange to mark in progress actions.

A lot of people suggested other tools that would somehow help me better. I appreciate all sugestions sent and all of them were good. While some have some of the aspects better, Omnifocus, Things, they are bound to Mac platform and it is always better to have your actionable items with you everywhere. Also I’ve seen those tools and tried them long time ago. If I would pick one, I would take HitList as great tool and while using it, I remember I enjoyed it quite a bit.

I don’t believe it is a to-do manager I need, ActionMethod is a tiny bit more which is why it is so valuable to me.

Issue I had with ability to mark actions that are in progress or the ones I would like to do next or in immediate future, I resolved. ActionMethod has three colors to mark your actions. I started using orange to mark things that are either in progress or I plan to do soon. I’ve been doing this for few days already and it seems to be working well.

I wish they would address that, also, my critique of ipad app stands, they can do much better.

One last, very important thing. You should not jump from tool to tool and always get next shiny thing. I managed to do quite a bit of really good work using actionmethod and I will continue to do so. I wish it would expand in parts that would help me with planning, but I will not go on and create another to-do app :), that is for sure, I have better things to do.

Advertisements

Ubuntu – all the missed chances

If God existed, we would all be using lovely open source operating system called Linux. And we would be happy ever after. Unfortunatelly, there are those evil corporations that want to make us dependent on them.

What is really sad in this situation is that Linux and Ubuntu as one of better representatives of it makes it so easy. My main reason for writing this rant is that there is not a major distribution of linux that is geared towards developers! How weird is that?

Why do I, as a developer have to spend time installing and figuring out all the kinks (each time) when I have to use ruby or python or php. Gvim is not installed by default, hell, vim is not installed by default, let alone some version that is half-way configured.

Then when you start, you don’t get some developer friendly super productive environment, you get an environment that tries to mimic windows in the past and OSX now. Are developers really that unimaginative (this is rethorical question, you have to be creative and smart to write code by default)?

Only distribution that somehow is breaking this pattern is ArchLinux, unfortunatelly, as much as I agree with goals of this distribution, I didn’t have much luck using it, as it would break very easily and fixing it… well it takes time that I don’t have.

Here is what I would like. Simple distribution with latest packages, I want to be able to use java (if possible), ruby, python, mono, php, perl. All latest version, even for python. Let me have working nginx with wiki installed and maybe some other tools. Let me start in gui but with terminal taking whole screen. Give me some productivity apps as well. No need for office suite, thank you very much, I can always install one if I need it. Oh yes, please make sure git is installed as well as ack and other tools that make life easier. Zsh by default would be totally fine. Vim and emacs has to be present otherwise it is not developer distribution. Is this too hard to make?
I think any developer would agree that he would use such configuration and maintaining it shouldn’t be such a chore. I would start this project, but I am afraid that I don’t have the skills for it.

My thoughts on Windows 8

I’ve used Windows in the past quite a bit, lately I have to say, I am using mostly OSX in past few years. It is professional requirement and it’s been fun to use macs frankly. OSX is good for work, however for fun, you have to have Windows machine.

I expect new Windows to be huge, it will have an uphill battle as there are a lot of detractors, but since it is the future of how interfaces will be, I believe people will use it and like it.

My personal experience with it, was very interesting, what I liked about interface is that it helps you focus on task at hand, it doesn’t distract you too much with im’s and other windows. That alone is worth a lot.

Another thing is touch. I wasn’t sure how that will play until I went with my son to Microcenter the other day. He couldn’t let his hands off new Lenovo desktops. This thing has beautiful 27″ touch aware monitor. You could open Paint and it would register each of your fingers, which is awesome. They look amazing and I am genuinely tempted, especially seeing how my kids liked it, however, I am kind of guy who assembles his own machines, so however beautiful new Lenovo’s are, we will have to build our new machine ourselves.

Aside from Lenovo, I think there will be a lot of issues with Windows, I’ve seen Acer announcements and machines they offered are so unimaginative that there is no way people will buy that crap. I suspect other manufacturers will follow with equally unimaginative solutions, so it will take a while until we get more decent machines that run win8.

I believe touch will redefine how we interact with computers and there will be a lot of changes, which will be both frustrating and wonderful at the same time.

For example, I loved ipad, it was something I believed should be made long time ago, yet I didn’t understand the power of it until I saw my kids playing with it. Now, it is expensive toy and they do bang on it quite a bit, but it is also engaging educational tool unlike anything else. I believe new Windows with a little luck will be like that.

Here is what I see going for it. First they really made new interface fresh, it is well made, a lot of kinks to be worked out, but potential is there. Microsoft is company always focused on developers and with tools that surpass those avalable on other platforms. If it is true that native apps will have to be built, MS is in better position as Visual Studio makes building apps super easy.

Action Method review

I read few months ago ‘Making Ideas Happen’. This book is authored by people behind website Behance. Ideas in the book supposedly are represented by tool ActionMethod. Oh, and let me add, I am not related to Behance people and they didn’t offer me anything to write this.

First, book is really good, anyone interested in productivity should read it. I enjoyed reading it, it did open my eyes a little on several topics. For example, I always believed that messy desks are sign of people working… well maybe, but organized desks are sign of people accomplishing things.
They also tout that tools you use should be beautiful tools. And they do provide some.

So, naturally after going half-way through the book, I had to try ActionMethod (I did try it before once and didn’t use it). This time I tried it and decided to give it a chance. I bookmarked website in all my machines (desktop and laptop), I bought app for ipad as well as my android phone. This last one is really nice touch as it helps add actions when I am away from other computing devices.

Before saying anything about ActionMethod, I did try a number of productivity tools and systems. I’ve been fan of Getting Things Done for a long time. I am still surprised when people have email in their inbox etc. However even with all this, lately, with three kids, I’ve been having trouble getting done anything. And most of the time, I didn’t even know what I should do.

One of the first impressions I had about ActionMethod, is that I finally could organize things in a way that makes sense and feels natural. What I did before is either tried to make multiple lists, or single large one that would have everything mixed up. This is just very poor way to keep track of things. Also, some tags, just not disciplined enought to use them properly I guess.

ActionMethod has a way to organize projects in groups, so I have for example, my big client group with all projects going on there, I finally don’t have to dig through the mail when someone calls me up about something we talked month ago, since it is a project that is on-going, I would look it up in action method, see what was left to do. So that way of organizing your tasks brings a lot of clarity in what needs to be done and where are those areas where tasks are present.

I have lists for learning and list for articles I would like to read. So having those is really beneficial and helps me feel in control.

What I think is missing from action method is that tasks that are in progress are not well accounted for. Book suggest we mark it done when we shoot someone email and recreate task. This is total bullshit honestly. Another thing that is not good is that I can’t plan my day by selecting which tasks I would like to do and work off that. There is focus group but it is limited to 5, which is great kanban like principle, however in practice I have things I am waiting on and would like to have more available for me to work on. So, I would like to have ability to mark things as in progress.

Another thing that annoys me is that ActionMethod on ipad is actually very ugly app, so it breaks principle that tools we use are beautiful. Where website provides organized view of work, Ipad app feels very cramped and I am never sure where my tasks are. I don’t have issues with phone app mostly as I use it for adding tasks.

I keep using actionmethod for now, as it does bring clarity and organization to my daily work, however, there are some frustrations with it that I feel the need to address.

Making DIY IPad stylus

So, few things iPad is missing are: SD card reader and good stylus. It turns out, at least for this other thing there is an easy remedy.

After seeing one my colleague Mat got, I realized it could be easily made. Here is the one he got, it is very flimsy and doesn’t give you very good feel.

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2358529,00.asp

I started off with experimenting with different materials. It turns out that those gummy kitchen sponges works exceptionally well.

diy_ipad_pen 011

After that I experimented with how to fit sponge into pen and which one would be good for it. It turns out, from my vast collection of pens and writing paraphernalia, very few can be used. Only Parker Jotter was close and because of how deep barrel of the pen is, I have to give up of sticking sponge through it.

I had to think long and hard what could be used for it and then it hit me to use drinking straws for it. For a moment it looked like this will not be good, but it turns out it works fantastic. Responsiveness of touch-screen to it is awesome. It is very easy to manipulate icons as well as to draw in drawing apps.

diy_ipad_pen 009  diy_ipad_pen 010

I hope this will inspire other people to make their own, maybe few in different colors. Let me know how it goes.

 

Now I am trying to find good app for jotting down notes and sketches. If you have any recommendations, please let me know.

Oh, Google OS

Oh boy what excitement Google announcement created. They will create a browser OS?! And this is somehow special and unique (InstantOn anyone?). Mike Arrington is up in flames posting on tech crunch. He can already see his CrunchPad running with beautiful new OS.

As always I am skeptical. For start the most important reason is:

* They DIDN’T SHOW ANYTHING !

It is not typical of Google not to show a thing. I suspect that what they have is not that big deal and if they shown it people would be disappointed. With Wave they had unfinished product yet it didn’t prevent anyone to admire it even when it crashes, because it is unique and beautiful.

Secondly they will run browser on top of reduced Linux. So Debian with few Google tweaks, how is that special in any way? I am surprised we didn’t see more solutions like that already. There are few InstantOn OS’es that  are like that but most of them cost money, and this will be free? Ubuntu Remix is free.

My only concern is whether you can run Skype on this thing. Maybe I am not as excited over it as Mike Arrington, but I can see myself using CrunchPad in the future with browser on top, Google or not.

Update:

I’ve been following TechCrunch as they seem perfect recepient of the googleness of GOS, seems that after initial hype they are coming to see the reality, which is still very good, just not as paradigm shifting as thought initially. Josh Bigs explains.

“ChromeOS will beat Windows or even OS X is like expecting Coby to come up behind Sony and Samsung next year…”

Upgrading to Win7

Today I took a plunge and went ahead to get Win7 early. Thing is that however nice Win7 is, it doesn’t really bring that much in terms of innovation, frankly I was considering not spending the money if it is $200, especially because we don’t have one, but 4 win machines. So being early I got it at barely acceptable price of $100 per upgrade (professional). Now just to wait till October. I do have evaluation copy installed, in fact I am writing this from win7. It is very nice and pleasant operating system. I wish few more things were present that can be found standard in Linux for example, like more visual themes, virtual desktops (a must) to name the few. I did get all that already but with third party additions, I will write about that in seperate blog post.

I wish MS would sell and upgrade OS like Apple does, I don’t know who doesn’t have multiple computers and providing family packs is good way to go about it. Plus it is cheap, even though they take more money from each person then MS because they release every year. That would be fine with me. I heard some rumors that MS will offer family pack but it was not available at the moment and I am pretty certain I wouldn’t pay $200 for upgrade, so I took what was available instead of waiting for something uncertain.

Can’t wait to get my hands on it because I plan to do a lot of customizations and knowing I will upgrade to Win7 kind of stops me from doing major things.