Subcription Victims

Ulysses, the popular macOS and iOS text editor, went to a subscription model. LastPass recently upped their monthly subscription price to $2/month, a 100% increase (among other things). 1Password, TextExpander, and a host of others have done the same.

I’m no fan of the subscription model for software – I think developers overvalue their efforts in many cases. I also understand that the other popular revenue models also suck. Apple does not make this any easier for developers or users.

I do not have an easy answer as I am not a developer. As a user, I am taking responsibility for the cost/value proposition each service (which software is becoming) offers to me. Part of the calculus is how much time and effort and enjoyment (or lack thereof) I will get leveraging another option.

Others take the victim approach to these announcements. In many cases I understand why. There is an increasing trend for revenue model changes happening without notice. Some companies do a poor job on their first stab taking care of existing customers. Others overcompensate for their existing users, alienating new users who think they are getting ripped off because they didn’t buy version 1 back in 2008 (or whenever).

David Sparks made the comment that “What [users] shouldn’t do is trash the app in review because you’re not happy with the business model.” I disagree. A developer’s or company’s behavior is relevant to the app review process as it exists today, especially in the Apple ecosystem. Many application developers act on negative comments in these reviews.

Now, were Apple and Google and Microsoft and other app store overlords to open up the app review process to categories such as technical, ownership, support, etc., my disagreement with Mr. Sparks would fall away. A more nuanced approach to feedback is needed in general. That is another post for another day.

I do agree with the fundamental fallacy of relying on negative app reviews for change. As a user, I recommend applying at least part of your righteous indignant energy toward something more positive for you.

I was in a 7 day cooling off period before jumping on the Ulysses bandwagon when the switch occurred. The initial cost for macOS and iOS before the change was a hurdle. In the new model, I can test it for two months for about $10 (as pointed out by Dr. Drang) before committing.

Fundamentally, anything only in the Apple ecosystem is a hard sell for me. I use and like using Windows 10, flaws and all, on my Surface Pro 4. I use my Nexus 6p running Android N almost as much as my iOS devices. If the application or service cannot run on at least one of those platforms, I have no need for it right now. 1Password and TextExpander are cross-platform, by the way, as are LastPass and iaWriter – two apps I am leaving.

By the way, I am doubling down on Emacs and org-mode. I picked them back up recently to help solve a few work related workflow issues. I get infinitely more flexibility with it and it is cross platform on everything but iOS. I learned I can capture and edit org-mode with Drafts.

And I like using/configuring/tweaking Emacs. Bonus.

En Route to Tokyo Observations, Part II

More musings from my trip:

  • I lost a great post to WordPress web interface requiring a random re-authentication.  I need to reconfigure Emacs org-mode to get it working with the new VPS.
  • There’s a bug in Delta’s InFlight Entertainment (IFE) system I often trigger. I turn the display off during boarding since all it does is flash advertising. The IFE kicks in for the safety video, and then shuts off as it was before departure. Unfortunately, that means the IFE no longer works unless I can talk the cabin crew into a reboot, which I doubt I’d do. I miss the travel map & stats.
  • Speaking of the IFE safety video, Delta’s quality seems to drop with each iteration. This “best of, award show” version is not just bad but a clip show at that.
  • At least Richard Anderson STOPPED YELLING AT US IN HIS MONOTONE SOUTHERN ACCENT. Now a days, Mr. Anderson talks to us at a normal volume & even throws in some inflection. Nice!
  • On a big international flight light mine (MSP – NRT), don’t follow the first cattle call to the gate. Almost always they open up another lane on the other side of the desk. Get there.
  • I hate neck pillows. More specifically, I hate that people have those giant half fuzzy inner-tubes around their necks. Throw in a pair of over-the-ear headphones and eye shades also around the neck and you hit the trifecta!
  • I LOVE Internet over the ocean! Well done, GoGo!
  • There’s a woman sitting behind me who is loving the show she’s watching. I hear her laughing every 5 minutes or so.

Week Ending 30 August 2015 Review

Dear Friends,

I’m working on a new habit – a weekly review. Not only will I review my week but I’ll post it here … in theory, at least.

The goal is to use Emacs org-mode for the day-to-day capture. The week end review will auto-generate. I’ll edit and publish … again, in theory.

Daily log

Monday

Back in the IBM Mexico City Santa Fe offices, working with my project team. Our IBM Security Latin America lead requested the team’s help on another similar project in Mexico. We said yes.

It rained in the evening.

Tuesday

More project work in the office. Our resource manager requested I reallocate time for yet another project, this time in Belgium. I said yes.

It rained in the evening.

Wednesday

Worked from the hotel as the team scattered on other customer’s projects. I booked my reservation in two parts to get the IBM rate for my entire stay. Today is my “check-in; check-out” day. Bonus for the move – Hilton upgraded me. Thanks!

It rained in the evening.

Thursday

Bumped into our IBM Security Latin America lead in the hotel. He requested my attendance at the IBM Security Summit Mexico 2015 here in Mexico City.

I’ve attended more of these types of vendor events than I care to recall. Bearing in mind Ginny Rometty (IBM’s CEO) signs my checks, I’m impressed by the minimal hard sell and generally solid information provided. My takeaway: my Spanish needs improvement toward adequacy quickly.

It might have rained in the evening.

Friday

Back in the office with the team. We solved several issues plaguing our progress. I’m unsure what happened; my afternoon contained one small non-meeting gap. Who books meetings late on a Friday afternoon?

It rained in the evening. I used the ill weather to finish watching True Detective Season 1.

Saturday

After breakfast I set myself up poolside. I applied SPF-50, cracked open a water bottle, and fired up my Kindle. I read.

It rained in the evening.

Sunday

Much like yesterday, except for the inclusion of swimming.

I’m re-reading Edmund Morris’ three volume biography of Theodore Roosevelt. I’ve found myself unfocused, lacking energy, and listless. A bit of “the Strenuous Life” is what I need. That, and another visit to Copenhagen.

I found the problem between my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and my GeChic 1303H external monitor – the Display Port to HDMI adapter. It functions best with a wicked curve, much like a hockey foreward’s blade.

I emailed the folks and texted with the kids.

Ed Rojas can’t make the podcast tonight. Tim and I will record without him.

It rained in the evening.

UPDATE: as I started editing this my stomach started up. Thus, this post goes up Tuesday.

Books read

Amazon.com: Old Man’s War eBook: John Scalzi: Kindle Store

I follow Whatever | FRAIL MY HEART APART, John Scalzi’s blog. I have for a long time. It’s odd I only now got around to reading one of his books.

It’s trite to say, yet putting this book down required a certain amount of will.

Amazon.com: The Martian: A Novel eBook: Andy Weir: Kindle Store

I cherish engaging hard science fiction. By hard science fiction I mean the story builds upon actual science.

Engaging, funny, emotional (I teared up several times), and an ultimate survivalist tale, I recommend this book without hesitation.

Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut – Amazon.com

I kicked off a re-reading of this book while on vacation a fee weeks back. Fun use of language in a satiric test.

Development

Based off of an article I read about Theodore Roosevelt in line with Benjamin Franklin – What Good Shall I Do? | The Art of Manliness I have these six meta items I target each week:

Knowledge (as opposed to raw intelligence)

  • greater understanding of internal IBM processes
  • IBM Security Summit Mexico 2015 provided insights as mentioned above
  • Deeper read of the Ponemon 2015 study

Abilities

  • My Spanish improves, though not as quickly as I’d like.
  • org-mode journal and todo tracking

People skills

  • I don’t know if this is real development: I repeated the same response to “How are you?” to two different people. I made sure to make eye contact with the second person to show it wasn’t mere reflex.

Fitness

  • I swam.
  • I have a plan.
  • My diet consists of mostly vegetables, then protean (dairy, eggs, meat), and fruit.

Appearance

  • Rocking it, as expected.
  • I found hair conditioner makes an excellent shaving cream.

Relationships

  • Stayed in contact with my kids & Stine through the week
  • A friend interviewed exceptionally with IBM
  • Updated my folks via email

Upcoming improvements

  • [ ] Keep up with Social Media more; not too much
  • [ ] More org-mode improvements

Moving from Emacs Org-Mode to Evernote

For those looking for Emacs and Org-Mode tips, I have news. I’ve moved from Org-Mode to Evernote (EN). EN has also taken over for a lot of what I used Emacs for.

I’ll still add tips and tricks as they come to me on my secondary devices where Emacs and Org-Mode still run.

Launching Org-Capture in Windows with AutoHotKey

I finally figured out how to launch org-capture from anywhere in Windows. I’m using AutoHotKey.

; org-capture
~F9::
If WinExist("ahk_class Emacs")
{
WinActivate
Send ^{c}
Send {c}
}
else
{
Run "C:\emacs-24.0.90\bin\runemacs.exe"
WinWaitActive, emacs
Send ^{c}
Send {c}
}
return
;

I have Ctrl-c c set up as the org-capture shortcut. I know there’s another option through something called org-protocol that might work better.

I just got it puzzled out, so I don’t know what my mileage will be. But I’m pretty jazzed at the prospects. Comments to the code might be forthcoming.

Is this working for you? Do you have a better way to do this?

Refactoring Emacs’ Org-mode, GTD, Information Capture, Good Data, 6 W’s, & the Kitchen Sink

This post can use a serious refactoring all by itself. I won’t. This is more of a thought experiment, internal discussion open to all, and a mild rambling brain dump. If anyone gets any value out of it (including me), excelsior!

I use EmacsOrg-mode for my GTD workflow. Emacs is ubiquitous for me on my computers. Org-mode is an add-on that I place a lot of stock in for information management and GTD. Mobileorg, the method/app that gets the Org-mode data to and from smartphones and tablets, is installed on my mobile devices.

Right now I use Org-mode mostly for work. Everything is in three basic files: inbox.org for capture, notes.org for note handling, and todo.org for task handling. These are more theoretical than practical. For example, I configured the org-capture function in org-mode to completely miss the inbox and place captured notes and tasks into their respective files. They should go instead into the inbox where I daily and weekly review and refile.

I also need my personal life captured in here. The line between personal and business time is beyond blurry. It’s more of a wind blown wave in the sand. Because of that and the highly similar nature of my day – it’s usual if not common for me to step out of the office for an hour or so to run an errand while I can be up the wee hours in my home office or hotel room working on budgets – I need to reflect my whole life in there and obliterate the microscopic distinction between the two. Plus my work life is generally more interesting of the two these days. Correcting that is a task in the new system.

This leaves me with a few open questions I’ve been pondering for a spell:

  1. Is org-mode the right choice?
  2. Is a one large file approach, several files approach, or a file per topic/project approach going to work out the best for me based on my current understanding and assumptions?
  3. How will I share this information with others as needed?
  4. How important are contexts in this new mix? For instance, will I care if I’m in the office or at home when doing most tasks? Do I care about a phone context since I always have at least one phone nearby? Same with a computer (though a keyboard context for writing might be good).
  5. How much of the rest of my time is spent in Emacs?
  6. How to keep safe, secure, and available?

The last shall be the first, the first shall be the second, and the rest shall fall where they may.

6 – I will keep my org files in Wuala. My mobileorg publishing will be done with Dropbox. Both are cross platform and cross OS options. Wuala is encrypted for data in transit and data at rest with me holding the keys. Dropbox isn’t as secure, but it is the only method I can make work of disseminating the data between my device platforms. Mobileorg allows for simple encryption for the data in transit. I hope the developers continue to improve it and maybe offer different cloud storage options. I don’t like using external services for such things. There is no similar solution in-house, and no explicit prohibition of a public option for tangentially relevant data. Until there is a viable internal option I am using the tools that are available. Having two separate solutions will allow provider diversity, though I could integrate an internal SharePoint option later. I continue to take appropriate actions, such as checks for data integrity and

1- I think Org-mode and Emacs will stay my tools of choice, at least for now. I need to affix GTD as a habit more than I have. The tool used is largely irrelevant. When I bust out org-mode I not only feel like I have a better grasp on what I am doing, I actually accomplish things in a more strategic fashion. This is especially true in comparison to my Inbox. I always get burned when I use my Inbox as my todo list.

5 – Quite a lot of my time is spent in Emacs, actually, considering that my technical role is wafer thin. It is almost always running. Probably my best use is again with org-mode, but for doing presentations. I like drafting it in org-mode before subjecting it to MS PowerPoint or Keynote. It’s my external editor for Lotus Notes and my default for many file types in Windows. I used to use it for my Twitter client. I should dust that off. Emacs’ w3 is a great distraction-free web browser.

4 – I will ditch contexts in my GTD except for two – detached and keyboard. “Detached” (or maybe untethered) is for those times when I don’t need a network connection to work. These contexts should have all of the information needed stored locally. The other, keyboard, I need as mentioned above. Other tasks I can complete using an iPhone, iPad, Android device, or whatever. These contexts will be managed as tags on existing entries prefixed with the ‘at’ sign (@).

3 – Sharing information outside of org-mode is both incredibly easy and insanely difficult. org-mode uses flat text files. Internal logic presents the data in an efficient manner. While any old program can open text files, they can’t necessarily understand them. I think I can get around this by setting up agenda views published to HTML on the corporate SharePoint portal, for example. My group uses Lotus Notes for email and calendar, so I need to come up with a workable way to share at least the calendar stuff. Email I’m less concerned about at the moment, though if I can convince the powers that be to turn on secure IMAP …

2 – How to structure the file(s)? This is really where things go wonky for me and why I kept it for last. I love the idea of "one file to rule them all". A monolithic file will eventually get too big, too unwieldy, and too vertical for me to get Emacs and org-mode to handle it all. Too many small files takes the vertical problem and makes it horizontal. Having a separate file for each project, for example, is a great idea until one note or one task needs to be shared between two or more projects. My current sparse files option might be the best, but not how they’re currently setup. Notes and tasks need to be together.

I think my inbox.org concept is sound if I just use it.

I will kick things off with three main files: inbox.org, world.org, and archive.org. All of my daily capture will go into the inbox. All of my current stuff will reside in world. Nothing should go into world directly. Older items will go into archive. Daily I will empty my inbox. Weekly, monthly, and annually I will review the world. I will quarterly and annually review the archive. I will also have a “Someday/Maybe”-type file and a “reading room”-type file. I was going to have some miscellaneous files, but I don’t want to go too far afield on what I can see. Miscellaneous files may end up being out of normal view. I will reconsider this as things go.

I will keep my work calendar in Notes for the time being. If I can figure out a way to automate sharing the calendar between that and org-mode/Emacs calendar I will do so.

I will make projects contexts, tags prefixed with a ‘@’. A note or a task can be tagged with as many as needed.

Another thing I can do, and this is something of an aside but an important one, is I will be able to open notes and tasks associated with my team (and others). So, when I’m with them on the phone or standing at their desk I should be able to pull everything up about them as a tag filter across projects and everything. That kills off the far too frequent "What was that other thing I wanted to talk with you about?" query.

This reflection and rambling course of action brings up another issue, one that is not specific to any tool or method. I need to capture better information. I had a conversation with one of my bosses not too long ago. It was a long chat. There were many concrete tasks I needed to deliver. One item should have been concrete and easy to do but I wrote it down incorrectly. By the time I got back to it in a late review I couldn’t remember the "what" and "why" of the conversation though I had a time frame.

I may have mentioned somewhere that I was a Journalism and Broadcasting major in college. I trained for capturing accurate information. I did this by asking six simple questions:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?
  • How?

Why I don’t do this at certain times is fodder for yet another post yet another time.

Some of you may ask, "But I don’t need all of those when capturing data, do I"?

No. A good rule of thumb is no fewer than three. In my vague example above what, when, and why would probably have been sufficient. Who was a given value of "me". Where and how wasn’t part of the equation.

My management style rarely has a "How" or "Where" component to tasks I assign, though from time to time one of those can be introduced. Since I travel constantly for work, the "Where" bit can play a role.

Before sharing your data with others, especially higher ups and customers, you need all W’s answered. You should have references where possible.

I think the most frustrating thing around this process is that it’s not as simple as it should be. A colleague of mine constantly rails against managing to the exception (pot-kettle-black; another post), and he’s right, but how do you define what constitutes an exception. That takes us off into yet another post for another day.

Am I addressing my personal life, such as it is, in this? Is this actually going to help or hurt or make no difference? I won’t know until I take the plunge. One thing that I might alter will be the Someday/Maybe stuff. Items for my employer I will want to separate from my personal stuff. There will be an occasional overlap. I’ll deal with those as they come.

Another issue that is still out there is the data. If I leave my employer, who owns the data? If I mix the personal with the professional with the employer-specific stuff, how do I divorce it if need be?

I need to make a task to roll in my aborted OneNote experiment. I tried using OneNote. It’s a surprisingly great tool. The lack of an easy-to-use internal reference system, the inability to dock it at login, difficulty in reorganizing or refiling data, no overarching view of tasks, and its GUI-only nature limits its usefulness. Maybe if I was on Outlook & Exchange and never left a Windows/iOS environment it would work better. It does have a lot of things I quite like: templates (though not as easy to use as they should be), audio capture as part of note taking, tabs & pages & notebooks as its metaphor, OS-integrated capture, some third party tools to fill some gaps, and integration with SharePoint and MSN/MS Live with strong encryption for the data in transit (not sure about data-at-rest). I can see using it as a replacement for org-mode, but it will take a lot of work and decisions by people senior to me to make it a true replacement for work.

Two other things play a role in org-mode: Emacs calendar/diary and BBDB. The calendar is as described. The Big Brother DataBase (BBDB) is another animal. BBDB is a contact list. More value comes from using it in an integrated Emacs environment. My contacts are all over the place and in serious need of review. BBDB will be my main contact repository. I can move things in and out somewhat easily.

This post exceeded any reasonable expectation for length, breadth, and buckshot content.

It brings up another important point. I should be able to edit posts in Emacs, too! Someday/Maybe, perhaps. There must be a WordPress option for Emacs.

I have some concrete deliverables from this, some things to work on, and some “nice-to-haves” down the road.

Here endeth the … whatever this is.

Kicking the tires on OneNote 2010

I’ve been a user of org-mode in Emacs for a number of years. I really like it. I’ve been hamstrung by the tools I have to use at work. They are not open systems or they are not configured to be open. So I cannot use the power of Emacs and org-mode as I would like. If I could integrate my work email, calendar, contacts, and so on I could RULE THE WORLD!

Hmmm. Perhaps not that, but I would be more potent with my information.

The amount of time I spend doing technical things dwindles regularly. I keep my hand in to keep from getting too rusty. I also need to make sure I’m keeping up with the state of things. The bulk of my time is spent in meetings, in email, in spreadsheets, in presentations, in documents, and researching.

I was surfing around the other day and stumbled on a review of Microsoft OneNote 2010. I lost the link, but the article intrigued me. Maybe I can use OneNote to replace org-mode for me in my work life?

There are a lot of similarities between the two. It makes me wonder if the developers are or were org-mode users. While surfing I can make notes that are automatically linked, I can store notebooks on the web or in SharePoint. I can arbitrarily capture data and associate it later. I can link from one item to another.

I’m just getting started, but so far I’m liking what I see. More to come!