Finding the right GTD app

It’s been about three weeks since I decided to use Cultured Code’s “Things” solution to get my things done.

But before I eventually spent the money on Things, I took a deeper look at it, together with two other GTD apps: the Omni Group’s “OmniFocus” and Potionfactory’s “The Hit List”.

OmniFocusOmniFocus icon

While it is certainly the most precise implementation of Allen’s GTD Methodology, it didn’t “feel right” for me. Its look and feel are just not as simple and fun to use as Things’. However, OmniFocus also has a couple of advantages over Things.

  • Most importantly, the ability to embed files into the tool db
  • Location-based contexts are a killer feature on the iPhone client
  • The clipping (it’s kind of a luxurious copy & paste to create new tasks) flexibility and options are a little bit better than Things’
  • The View Bar and Perspective features. The customization and fine-tuning of almost any part of the GUI to get a precise “view” on the data and the ability to store and recall these so called “perspectives” anytime is a really powerful feature that stands out when compared to other task management applications
  • Especially compared to Things, having a granularity at minute level is way more flexible than a day granularity

The Hit ListThe Hit List icon

While The Hit List’s GUI looks very promising at first glance, it turned out to me that the application is missing some serious power. Note though that, as of writing, the current version is only the first public beta and that the lack of functionality might be addressed in future versions.

What really hit me was the effort they put into making the whole application navigable and controllable from the keyboard. There’s a key combination for virtually anything and it really seems like they’ve put a lot of effort into designing that. Shortcuts are often elegantly displayed next to GUI elements (yes, you can turn that off) in order to familiarize the user with the equivalent keyboard shortcut. It’s so omnipresent that it might even be a little bit too much, but hey, props to them for putting the effort in!

The most annoying thing about The Hit List to me were the tabs. They show them off very prominently on all screen shots so you’d expect it to be a killer feature, right? Well actually it isn’t: tabs are really just a duplication of the menu on the left, except that you can select which of the menu items get turned into tabs.

There were only 3 outstanding features in The Hit List:

  • The aforementioned keyboard controls
  • GUI animations are geniously designed! The GUI is really responsive and dynamic, but not too much, just the perfect amount of it.
  • Data selection is well designed. For example, filing a task into a project happens through a very responsive, intelligent and nice looking input box. Typing a few letters of any part of the project or tag is enough for the hit list to find what you’re looking for.

Things was the winner for me. But…Things icon

…although it was my first choice, I took the opportunity of gained experience and recent tool comparisons to point out 5 of the most important features / improvements yet missing within Things to become _my_ perfect GTD application. I will feature those in an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned!

Getting Things Done using Things

Uuh… what?

For those who are new to the subject, “Getting Things Done” (or GTD) is a task management methodology created by David Allen and described in his book “Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”. To be honest, I didn’t read that book, I read the corresponding Wikipedia article, in fact, let’s quote it:

GTD rests on the principle that a person needs to move tasks out of the mind by recording them externally. That way, the mind is freed from the job of remembering everything that needs to be done, and can concentrate on actually performing those tasks.

How I got into it

First off, I have a sh*t ton of information to manage at any given time. I have my job, a bunch of internet stuff going on and I’m part of multiple musical formations, so needless to say it rarely gets boring. I used to be able to manage all my tasks in-brain. However, seems I’ve hit a critical mass these days. Phone didn’t stop ringing, eMails were making my inbox explode and I kinda had the time for none of it that day. When the information rush finally ended, I was sitting there thinking “Hmm.. out of all that mess, what were those 2 things I wanted to do immediately?” — no clue! That’s when I decided I’d need a tool to manage my stuff.

Why Things?

After fiddling around a bit, I stumbled upon a Mac OS Application labeled “Things“, by a small company named Cultured Code. It looked pretty much exactly like my always-wanted-to-have task-management-application. Only downside (at the time) I thought was the price. I didn’t really want to spend $40 for it, +$10 for the iPhone version to sync tasks and take them with me on-the-go, which makes us $50 for a task management solution. But maaaan did that application look great.

So I decided to let my colleague take a look. He’s the “king of tools” at work and he actually read David Allen’s GTD book, so he was the perfect judge for a first-impression. After watching the “Things” screencast, he was like “Yep, that’s it, it’s almost perfect… If I had a Mac I’d go out and buy it”. After that, I spent several hours browsing through articles and forum posts. I ruled out any solution that would make me send my task data to a third party server like Remember The Milk, I just hate that thought! In the end, the only serious (Mac) alternative to Things seemed to be The Omni Group’s OmniFocus. But supposedly, that one would be less flexible by being bound too tightly to the GTD principles or at least less fun to use than Things. On a side note, OmniFocus is also twice as expensive. That made me reconsider Things’ price as not being too expensive after all.

I downloaded the Things for Mac demo and bought the Things iPhone application to be able to test the syncronization, which is epic btw. I’m 5 days into using it and applying general GTD principles now and I really feel like staying on top of my tasks a lot better than before.

I have yet to buy the full Mac application of things but before, I’d like to see if I have the courage continuing to apply GTD in my everyday life. I’ll try to report back as the experience goes on…

To be continued…

Recovering lost photos

photorecEver heard about those incredibly expensive file recovery tools? For recovering photos, documents and all kinda stuff? Since I run Time Machine on my Mac and since I do full backups of my valuable stuff regularly, I was pretty sure I’d never need one of those… until today!

Yesterday evening, I took some amazing photos with my Pentax DSLR. The lighting was absolutely perfect and I was looking forward to importing them in iPhoto today. I don’t sync my SD card with iPhoto every time I take a bunch of pictures. I generally wait until I need some pics immediately to copy all the previous ones over to my Mac. So this morning, I wanted to import the current batch of photos from my SD card into iPhoto. Worked as always, except for the photos I took yesterday evening. Out of the dozen or so I took, there was only one left. And that one was corrupted (a bunch of weird horizontal lines within the pic). ALL the others from yesterday were gone. And since I selected “Delete Originals after import”, the SD card was…. empty!

Having the exact same conditions as yesterday is unlikely, especially with the f’d up weather here in Belgium. Therefor, I decided to take a look at the file recovery tools out there.

Being on a Mac doesn’t help when it comes to finding free niche products. That narrowed down the available tool palette. I ended up taking a look at two tools: LC-Tech’s Photorecovery and Christophe Gernier’s photorec. The former being a commercial tool, I used the demo. The latter is an open source command line tool.

Continue reading

iPhone/iPod Touch headphone connector freaking out

To start off like the hosts of my favorite intrernet podcast

OK, so here’s the deal

iphone-headset-jackFirst off, I must admit that I don’t use headphones on the iPhone very often and that I carry it in my pocket all the time without a protection case, which may be part of my problem…. But anyway, sitting at work I wanted to listen to something other than this one song I’m looping on YouTube for days now, so I took my iPhone and the earphones. Put them in, iPod app, hit play, song fires up oka…. wow wait what the hack is that strange sound I’m getting here?! Yeh, indeed it was the kind of sound you get when your headphone jack starts to die or isn’t fully plugged in. Basically right and left channels cancel each other out and the only thing left is the difference between them, which is usually some weird reverb’ish sound. Lead vocals are usually gone when that happens and the phase is totally screwed.

I was wondering because my iPhone and the earphones are barely half a year old. I started hitting the headphone jack to see if that’s the source of the problem. Bad idea: things got crazy at that point!! I got slammed with loud crack noises killing my ears and the iPhone went all crazy playing and pausing the player continuously till I stopped hitting the connector… WEIRD!! Damn, my iPhone broke!

So I went over to Patrick, a colleage of mine who works in the office next door, to tell him about what just happened as he’s a die-hard Apple user (like me :-)), who happens to own an iPod touch. We started trying his earphones on my iPhone… works. My earphones on his iPod touch… works. WEIRD! As we were running out of ideas, we started babbling about how there supposedly is an immersion indicator in that earphone connector on the iPod touch. Enough for me to take my iPhone out of the pocket and use Patrick’s desk lamp to see if my iPhone also has one. Since I’m visually impaired, Patrick took a look and… found that there was a ton of dust at the bottom of my iPhone’s headphone connector! Took that out with a paper clip, headphones back in and voila! My iPhone rocks perfectly again!! Well THANK YOU SIR! πŸ™‚

Digg says I’m 1337… w00t!

Taking a look at the cookies a website stores is a great way to see what information they’re interested in. Of course, they could just store an identifier and correlate all other information on their server… but sometimes it’s just easier for volatile data not to bug the database.

… so much for the serious part of this post …

But there are also times when cookies transport key statements!!

I love new media

Still Alive Remixes album cover

Still Alive Remixes album cover

Those who know me have certainly noticed me talking about my love for new media companies (especially Revision3) all the time. Yep, media is changing, no doubt about that. And to me, the increasing popularity and value of video games is part of it.

Remember the old days when you had your small little NES with shitty monochrome graphics and some quirky music banging from the speaker? Well, in case you didn’t notice, those days are gone.

Fast forward to today… in the BlueRay age, we have high definition handhelds and gaming consoles. On a sidenote, I just attached my 360 to the Surround Decoder I bought 2 weeks ago, and it’s absolutely epic πŸ˜€ But not only the playback has been improved, distribution has evolved too.

Nice little example happened toady, and let me highlight the elements that wouldn’t have been 10 years ago:

I was watching trailers and in-game-footage from Mirror’s Edge on YouTube. That game looks amazing and I’m definitely going to get it. I could buy it online right now, but I’ll wait until I’ll be in the shop next time and do it old school ;-). On some of the trailers, they had the “official Mirror’s Edge soundtrack” playing in the background while showing off amazingly realistic over-the-rooftops-action from the game (when did games start to have commercial-grade soundtracks again?). The combination of that song with those high definition video sequences instantly got me. As soon as I got home, I fired up the iTunes store and searched for Mirror’s Edge. NOTE: I was looking for music from Lisa Miskovsky, an artist I never heard about until today! Not only have I found the soundtrack, but a whole album of remixes, done (just for that game) by some of the best DJs around… AMAZING! Instantly bought a couple of DRM-Free versions of that soundtrack. Right now, I’m blogging about it, maybe someone will read this article, go check out the song on iTunes or Amazon and buy it there, who knows…

There are days where all that stuff just overwhelms me and I put on my happy pants πŸ™‚

Ok, nuff said, here’s the song I’m talking about:

Lisa Miskovsky – Still Alive (The Theme from “Mirror’s Edge”) [Radio Edit]

The iTunes Album “Still Alive (The Theme from “Mirror’s Edge”) [The Remixes]” is here.

iPhone 3G day!

Yesss… I got an iPhone 3G!!

However, it was not an easy tactic to get it on day one here in Belgium… here’s my iPhone story:

It was pretty clear from the Beginning that there wouldn’t be lots of iPhones on launch day this 11th of July here in our tiny little country. So I called 2 Mobistar centres (the Belgian carrier selling the device) and one Apple Premium Reseller (APR’s are also allowed to sell iPhones) yesterday morning. The main info was horrible: only 10 to 15 devices per store! Good news was everyone would follow a first-come-first-serve guideline, so no reservations (even though some stores took reservations but I have no idea what happened to those). The Mobistar Employee from the Mobistar center in LiΓ¨ge told me “We even have one customer that said he’ll be here 2 hours before opening tomorrow”. OK now, information was retrieved…

There were only 2 ways to react: Either sit back and wait till there will be more devices (probably in the next couple of weeks), or be there as early as possible. I’ve been waiting for a “legal” iPhone for more than a year now so, damn you apple haters, I took the second option.

And so I woke up this morning at 5:45 AM to head to the nearest APR in Verviers: “Cipiyou“, hoping I’d be the first-in-line! It was about 6:30 AM when I arrived… and yesssss I was the first one to show up! From there on, the battle was kinda over. I’d just have to wait the 3,5 hours until the store opened at 10:00 AM. This has probably been one of my nerdiest days EVER:

  • Sweaty (yesterday night it was sweltry like hell and no time for shower this morning ;-))
  • Unshaved (because I only shave like once or twice a week and, well, I haven’t for some days)
  • Diggnation Shirt (a *must*, yyyyhaaaa!)
  • < 5 Hours of sleep
  • Sitting on a pillow in front of the store with an umbrella because it was raining nearly the whole time

(Photo taken with my old Sony Ericsson P910i)

The first customer other than me showed up at 9:15 (store opens at 10:00). Okay okay, that was like 2:45 of “lost” time but dammit, I wanted that iPhone TODAY! From 9:15 forward, there was a new customer every few minutes… the Mobistar center down the street opened at 9:30. At 9:45 the 25 people that waited in line and couldn’t get one of the 10 iPhones came to the APR, hoping to get one here. I found myself talking with #2 and #3 in line… damn it’s cool meeting people with the same interests. I knew some of the folks from “the” belgium-iPhone forum ( http://www.belgium-iphone.com ), I had a blast!!

As announced, they opened at 10:00, I was the first one to get a brand new white 16 GB iPhone 3G, it was EPIC! I heard afterwards that there had only been 2 16GB iPhones at the APR and 3 16GB ones at the Mobistar center, the rest were all 8GB. Btw, people want 16GB iPhones, Apple. Build more of those!!

Now let’s all wish a long life to my iPhone! πŸ™‚

Stop the domain parking madness!

Parked WebsiteF that… I came up with a cool idea for a Web2.0 project while taking a shower yesterday. Now I’m looking for a cool name, I came up with a bunch of good ones (like 5 or so), which is unusual for me. So it is even more frustrating that every single domain I tried is parked! That’s right: not just taken, I would be ok with that, but parked.

For those of you who don’t know what domain parking is, it’s basically registering a domain “just in case”, “for future use” or “just to own it” but not putting any real content on it. Service providers like GoDaddy even offer putting ads on such domains so that whoever registered them can earn money. While that might sound like a funny method to earn money, the side effects are huge.

Flash forward to 2015…

I have about 350 domains. That’s not a problem since they only cost 20 cents a year.

My buddy has been hired as “domaineer” by a local toiletbrush seller, he’s registering internet domain names for them all day long “so they own them… just in case”.

Google and the W3C announced that they will introduce a new HTTP status code: 40404. It makes perfect sense since a “this domain is parked” is way more likely than a “page not found”. Status code 404 has been deprecated.

Seriously <insert name of internet organization having the autohority to forbid domain parking>, DO SOMETHING AGAINST IT!

Update: W00t! Finally found one πŸ™‚ More infos later (might take a while since it’s an in-my-spare-time project)…

The song I couldn’t get: Josh Harris’ “Too little too late” remix

This is totally killing me! I heard that excellent “Jojo – Too little too late” remix on Energy98 ages ago. I immediately fell in love with the remix (I can’t stand Jojo’s original, it’s too R’n’B’ish for me). Since I want to support artists who make good music, I went to iTunes to buy it. Unfortunately, as all too often, that particular remix wasn’t available on the Belgian iTunes Store. A quick international search indicated that it wasn’t available on iTunes at all.

“Too bad for them” I thought and went to see if I could get it on a p2p network. Unfortunately again, the search results for “too little too late josh harris” were blown up with useless crap MediaDefender style, so I gave up.

Today, months later, I refreshed my search checking Google and Amazon. I had no luck on Amazon, but google brought up this imeem.com result

http://media.imeem.com/m/AM145gGktl/aus=false/

Yesss, this is the song I’m talking about. Now I know I could capture that flash’s output to a file blablabla… hey! I’m an audiophile, so don’t even try to sell me flash quality.

No, seriously, WTF is wrong with media? They’re obviously still not getting it… I’m not a pirate, I want to spend my money on music I like, but they’re still riding their old selective distribution horse “If we don’t think it’s worth it, we won’t distribute it”, well at least not in a way the majority of pepole can benefit from. In today’s petabyte era, why don’t they put everything they can in online stores so people can choose to buy a track even if it’s a couple of years old or if it wasn’t, in their opinion, quite good enough to be put on the physical EP?

I guess I’ll never stop blaming the music industry…