Tag: apple

Some Notes on Notes

More and more I find myself trying to simplify things. Take notes as an example. I am a prolific note-taker. Wherever I go, I carry a Field Notes notebook in my pocket, along with a couple of pens. (I have ink stains on various pockets to prove this). Why carry a paper notebook when I have an iPhone in the other pocket? To keep things simple.

Over the years, I have not yet found an app that allows me to jot down notes as quickly and easily as a pen and paper. If something strikes me, I pull out the pen and paper and scribble it down. That’s all there is to it. A phone, at its simplest, involves pulling out the phone, getting through its security measures, opening the appropriate note-taking app, and typing in the note1. In the time it takes me to get through the security measures alone, I could have jotted a simple note with pen and paper.

Then, too, many notes are ephemeral. I’ll use them once and never again. What’s the point of filling up a phone with notes I’m only ever going to look at once? In a notebook, I could tear out the page, but what I typically do it just leave the note there, and when the notebook is filled, I added it to the collection of filled notebooks I have on a shelf in my office.

Of course, pocket notebooks get you only so far. If I am sitting in front of a computer, then I’ll use the computer for notes, especially notes that are not ephemeral. In this regard, Evernote would seem like a logical choice for notes. But I have resisted using Evernote for actual notetaking, preferring to partition it for use as a kind of digital filing cabinet. Instead, out of a sense of simplicity (or stubbornness, depending on your point of view), I’ve migrated toward the Apple Notes app, with one important exception2

There are a few reasons why I have settled on the Notes app:

  1. It is a simple app that is easy to use.
  2. It comes installed on all Apple devices and since I’ve bought into the Apple ecosystem, that makes it a convenient tool. I don’t have to install any additional software to access my notes on a new device.
  3. It syncs with iCloud, so notes I create on one device are available on all of my devices.
  4. It integrates with Spotlight so searching notes is pretty easy.

Item #2 above is particularly important because I keep all of my device bootstrapping-related notes in Apple Notes. These notes include, for instance, a checklist of things I do to new machines and devices (configuration settings, software I install, etc.) I have a file for every device we own which makes for easy reference.

I’ve taken to using Notes for personal development work I do. I’ve also started using notes to keep track of articles I read, copying highlighted passages, or my own annotations there. While it is lacking in a few features3, it has been able to do most of what I need. Here is an example of a HOW-TO note I have in my Tech folder:

A sample HOW-TO note from my Tech folder in Apple notes

The purist in me admonishes myself for not using plain text file for my notes, but you know what? I like being able to format my notes, into lists and tables. I like having hyperlinks, and images. True, each note is not a separate file in the file system. On the other hand, the backend is a SQLite database, which I am perfectly capable of accessing programmatically if needed.

The point is, I haven’t had a need to do so. That is the beauty of the simplicity of Notes so far. I don’t worry about tagging, or notebooks. I do have a folder structure for my notes, and it is evolving, but even there, I aim for simplicity. Being able to simply search for a term in Spotlight and see matching notes has been incredibly useful. I recently read an article in Smithsonian by Richard Grant, whose writing I enjoy. I’d created a note for that article, and so I just tried a Spotlight search for Richard Grant:

Spotlight search for Richard Grant

That’s good enough for my purposes.

I also light the lightweight feel of the Notes app. When I use Evernote today, the application feels big and bulky by comparison. Of course, it does a lot more than the Notes app, but for notetaking, I don’t need much more than what Notes can do.

  1. I stubbornly refuse to use Siri or dictation for notes, although I use Siri for other things.
  2. The exception, not worth getting into here in any detail, is my work-related notes, for which I use OneNote because it makes a lot of sense to do so.
  3. I do wish there was a way to add to the list of default styles provided.

Oh, Apple, your mousing-around is killing me!

I upgraded to OS X Lion the day after it was released (the one day delay was due to the need to add additional memory). As those who’ve upgraded know, one of the trickiest things to get used to is how scrolling with a mouse or trackpad had changed. Traditionally, you use the scroll bar to scroll through a screen. Scrolling down the scroll bar rolls the contents “up” and vice versa. While this is what we are all used to, it goes against our naturally tendency. Apple has finally changed this so that we scroll the content as opposed to the screen. Once you see it in action, it totally makes sense. It is what we do on the iPhone and iPad when we scroll there. And it does take a little getting used to.

The problem for me is, I’m now used to it, and it is killing me because I use a Windows machine at the day job and that uses traditional scrolling gestured, which are opposite of what I’ve now gotten used to. So I come into the office and try to scroll through my e-mail, and it moves the wrong way. So I adjust but then forget five minutes later and it happens again. And again. My blood pressure rises and that can’t be good.

So, while I applaud Apple’s change here, and while I find that it actually is better once you get used to it, I can’t help but think that this mousing-around of theirs is going to put me into an early grave. The frustration of having to use sloppy mouse gestures on a windows machine–and using them wrong–is going to kill me!

ETA: See Reed’s comment below for a way of emulating this behavior on Windows. I just did it on my Windows 7 machine and now scrolling works the same as in Lion.

Apple’s in-app purchase policy

I read today that Amazon finally caved to Apple’s in-app purchase policy. I can understand Apple’s desire to get its cut, but the desire to enforce this policy puts an unnecessary burden on customers and creates usability issues that are extremely annoying. For instance:

Right now, if I want to buy a book from the Kindle app on my iPad, I can click the Kindle Store button and it will open a web browser to the Amazon Kindle site so that I can make my purchase. If I decide to upgrade to the latest version of the tool, the button will no longer exist, meaning that I will have to navigate to Safari, and then navigate Amazon. This adds two additional steps to a process that was almost as efficient as you can get. Adding steps to a process? Really?

This might be good for Apple’s bottom line, but I have a question for Apple: how it this useful to consumers?

Alarmfail 2011

I use my iPhone as my alarm clock. I rarely need an alarm clock because I generally wake up when I want to, but I set it as a backup. It has a soft harp sound that won’t wake Kelly and I can have an alarm for weekdays and weekends. Last night I set my alarm for 5am.

I woke at 5:20am and my alarm hadn’t gone off. I got up, went downstairs, made breakfast and set about my writing work for the day, mildly annoyed that I lost 20 minutes.

Turns out, there is a major bug in iPhone alarms in 2011. Apple is working on a fix, but until then, the best solution I’ve seen is this one. What’s even more annoying for me is that the fix will no doubt be released as iOS 4.2.1 or something like that. And since my iPhone connects to my old PowerPC iMac, I can’t get the update because it is not supported in iTunes on the PowerPC anymore. I have 3 choices in the short term:

  1. Live with the workaround
  2. See if I can buy a version of OS 10.5 which will allow me to continue to use the most recent iTunes and receive updates for my phone
  3. Get a new computer

My iMac is limping along and is nearly 7 years old. I probably should get a new computer, but the iMac is only used as our desktop server. I have a MacBook which is up-to-date. I suppose another option would be to kill the iMac, take it offline and use my MacBook as our “server” in the short term, until I’m ready to replace the desktop machine. I plan on replacing it with a Mac Mini, but I ‘m not yet ready to spend the money on it.

All of this because the stupid alarm clock won’t work on the iPhone. Bad Apple. Go stand in the corner for the rest of the day.

Leopard upgrade

Apple’s newest OS upgrade (OS 10.5, codename, “Leopard”) was released on Friday. There’s a ton of cool new features and I decided I’d head over to the Apple Store and pick it up. At the same time, in the back of my mind, I’d been thinking for a while now that it was time for a new laptop. I’ve had my iBook for 2+ years and I’ve really wanted one of the newer Intel-based MacBooks. So today, I killed two birds with one stone.

I bought a new MacBook, and that came with an upgrade to OS 10.5.

I was given the Federal contractor discount, which saved me a little over $100. I am now the proud owner of a MacBook 2.16 GHz Core Duo with 1 GB of RAM, 120 GB hard disk, built-in iSight, and all of the usual Apple bells and whistles. And as always, I also got the Apple Care to go along with it.

All told, it cost me $1,500.

I’m in the process of upgrading the machine to Leopard as I write this.

Now all I need to do is figure out what to do with my old laptop. I was going to give it to Doug, but he doesn’t want it. Most of my friends already have laptops. I don’t want to sell it on eBay. If I can’t find a friend who can use it, then I’ll donate it to charity.

A refund, of sorts

If you haven’t already heard (I’ve had 5 people tell me in the space of 5 minutes), Apple has announced a refund of $100 to all purchasers of 8 GB iPhones prior to yesterday’s price slashing. The refund will be in the form of a store credit, but hey, that works for me. It’s nice to see that they are doing something for those of us who helped their stock prices soar by buying iPhones early.

Airport Extreme

I finally got around to purchasing an Airport Extreme base station today to replace my old wireless. My primary motivation was twofold. First, since I have all Macs at home now, I wanted the Apple base station. Second, I lost the CD’s to my old wireless router and had no way of enabling encryption. Now that I have my base station, my home network is finally encrypted.