Essential week : ET Phone home : Survival on the Note 3.

During ‘Essential week’ I try to look for the answer : How much gear do we really need when on the road. Each day I’ll focus on a piece of gear or a solution to find the “essentials” a mobile geek really needs to Communicate, Create, Consume and be entertained.

Just the phone please
If there is one thing I constantly have around then it has to be my phone. My trusty Galaxy Note 3, allthough a little big, is my lifeline to the digital world when I leave the house. With fast 4G connection, the ability to hook up to wifi hotspots, a large screen, a fast processor and 32 gig of onboard storage .. it kinda ticks all the boxes. Lets see :

Communicate
Allthough I seldom make phonecalls on the device itself, I mostly use it in handsfree mode in the car. (I do all my ‘classic’ phonecalls from the car) Occasionally I will shoot off a quick call using the Galaxy Gear smartwatch that I have around my wrist. The majority of my communications however are digitam : Email, Instant messages, Social Media and even Google hangouts. The sceen and the speed on the Note3 accomodate that perfectly. A little big for a classic ‘mobile phone’ but more the adept at being “a digital sidearm”.

Consume/Entertainment
The Note’s screen is big and bright and it has some room to spare for content, so reading books, surfing and watching video’s on the device is pretty sweet.
The experience is enhanced by the S-pen that makes surfing a little easier using the pen instead of your stubby pinkie. Listening to music and podcasts ? not realy a problem aside from the fact the size and wheight of the note 3 do make it a little hefty to take out for a jog.

Creativity
As for creating audio and video material the Note3 is pretty powerfull. The camera is great, the onboard microphone too.. but typing on the device can be a little hard. Using “Swiftkey” instead of the native Samsung onscreen keyboard helps a little, but typing out long emails and blogposts is not something to look forward to. The note3 is big , but also heavy, so holding it your hands and thumb-typing the next edition of “The Hobbit” .. will be painfull.

Solution
I went online and found a great little bluetooth keyboard from RAPOO, the E6300. I had originally purchased it for use with my Android Tablet .. but there were some pairing difficulties. Rapoo reported back to me that the keyboard was “designed” for iPads and IOS devices, but it worked great when pairing it with the Note 3.

Just the phone ?
well, the “extras” to get everything done with “just” the Note3 do require you to “add” a couple of ingredients. I managed to use the Note 3 as my “full” daily driver when attaching a pair of Apple earbuds (they have a great microphone) and the Rapoo bleutooth keyboard. After being able to tilt the Note 3 in the optimal viewing angle, I was able to punch out the required email shitstorm and even cobble together a decent blogpost in Evernote.

102911_rg_RapooKeyboard_01

 

Pro
Using just the Note 3 (and the external keyboard) does have its advantages.

  • Small
  • Fast
  • Everything in one device
  • Always connected
  • Keyboard + stylus combo = Quite effective

Con

  • Heavy drain on the battery during heavy use.
  • Little on the heavy side.
  • Small screen
  • Rapoo keyboard is a little on the small side.

Conclusion

Yes you can survive on just the Note3, but only barely. Be prepared to focus on mobile apps (since this is a mobile OS) and have a charger handy. The Rapoo is a nice addition to what is in essence a VERY powerfull smartphone with a nice big screen. To get things done in a pinch these “essentials” will get you through the day .. although we are afraid the Note 3 (on a single charge) … won’t.

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Switch week : Linux on the iMac and more.

I love Apple products. Seriously. I do. They have liberated me from a life of ONLY using windows into a world of creativity and ease of use. Over 8 years ago they made helped me switch from a life of cleaning up temporary files and cookies on Windows 2000 machines to a computer environment that allowed me to compose music, record podcasts, edit video’s and do so much more. On a Mac it ‘just worked’.  I still use Macs today. The high quality of their hardware is exceptional but unfortunately , so are their prices. Over the years a rift has arisen between what I demand of an operating system and what Apple has to offer. The fact that I have become a slider , who switches from OS to OS to get stuff done is not always very compatible with some Cupertino’s hardware and software interoperability’s. (Read : vendor lock in).  Luckily I am free to choose : I hop from Linux to Windows to OSX and use the best operating system for the task. I’m free .. free to “leave the walled garden” when I want to. 

We love our iMac.

So when my beloved wife started to notice that our 4 year old iMac was getting a little slow, I started to wonder what I could still do with it. Although I can still install the latest version of Mavericks on the machine, I do hear the silent whispers from Cupertino calling to “Buy a new Mac”.  Perhaps that would not be a bad thing. Sell it off second hand and buy a new one. Problem is : its a 24 inch iMac. It fits wonderfully on my wifes desk and brings her a lot of joy. The options we have is buying a smaller 21 inch or a bigger 27 inch iMac. In both cases we would have to spend valuable cash for a small speed increase.  Was it worth it ? I decided to ask the most important question I ask ANYONE who needs a new computer : 

What do you use it for ? 

To be honest : Niejana doesn’t use the Mac for that one thing that makes a Mac special : A reliable multimedia workhorse. She uses it to surf , do administrative tasks, manage her emails , her photos and stuff like that : No Final Cut Pro , Logic or any other of the great Apple production tools.  So I asked the question : Why not keep the machine but ditch the OS ?

_niejana_s_imac_after_a_couple_of_hours_of_tinkering.__Can_you_spot_what_s_odd_in_this_picture_on_February_16__2014_at_0857PM_by_Knightwise

Time for a light weight alternative.

Linux is the obvious answer. It runs on almost anything and has a high degree of versatility. Its many graphical interfaces are strange, alien and mostly built for and by geeks. But that was not what we wanted : The goal of this project was to offer the SAME experience .. only faster. So what LOOKS like OSX but IS in fact Linux. The answer : Elementary OS.

Elementary OS :  ‘I-can’t-believe-this-is-not-osx

So I bit the bullet, downloaded the 64 bit version of Elementary OS and installed it on the system. (No dual boot, no nothing). I don’t recommend going through this route if its your first time running Linux on a Mac. ( See our “Dual boot” articles to learn how) Elementary LOOKS like OSX and is a beautiful combination between the complexity (and power) of Linux (Elementary is based on Ubuntu 12.04) and a simple interface that LOOKS like OSX. 

Making it look right.

Installing the standard tools Niejana uses ( Chrome, Thunderbird, Openoffice, access to Gmail and stuff) was not hard, because we largely use “slider friendly” applications in this house. Next morning I just pointed at the machine, told her the “close” button was gonna be on the other side of the windows, and left for work.

Time to jump the walled garden.

So was I done ? No, I was just beginning. This is a cross platform household with Macs, Linux machines and Windows machines. That meant I also need to “liberate” all the data from iTunes and  iPhoto into an environment that would be accessible to both our remaining macs AND our linux machine. 

So hang in there.

This week you will get more tips and tricks about “liberating” your data from a proprietary application like iPhoto, iTunes, iCloud and others so you can access them in a “slider-friendly-world”.  Installing Elementary was just the beginning. Because whoever told you can only play YOUR music in CERTAIN application on SPECIFIC hardware … was wrong.

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kw706 : Storytime “Turning off your notifications” and “Digital Robin Hoods”

Back by popular demand its time for another “Storytime” episode here on Knightwise.com We take a good look at the question “Why notifications are bad for you” and try to inspire you in your post Black-Friday gadget overload to save a bit of the planet and become a “Digital Robin Hood”. We have good friend of the show Konrad Dwojak coming by with a photography tip and bring

Shownotes.

Music.

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Why turning off your notifications is better for you then you think.

As I stack away the last empty suitcase its official : Our annual summer holiday is officially over. A two week road trip through the south of France with just me and my family has left me relaxed and revitalised for the coming months amidst the busy mayhem of my modern day over connected life. The great thing about going abroad are the insane roaming charges for data communications. at 1.5 euro for every 10 measly megabytes you do the right thing and turn the data reception on your smartphone OFF.  The result ? A notification free zen zone that lets you rediscover what it’s like NOT to be bossed around by technology.

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“Notifications, alerts, pop ups, dings and dooh-dah’s : The over connected mother-in-law that will never leave you in peace”.

There used to be a time when people were “unreachable” They would be away from their home phone and nowhere near a pay phone. There was just no way in hell you could get in touch with them, even if it was urgent. All you could do is wait. Back then we did not wonder if said person might have been abducted by aliens or stepped into a transdimensional rift, there was no cause for alarm or general panic .. they were just “unreachable”   

The very notion of this “unreachable” concept is of course absurd today. Now we do not only have to be “available and connected” every second of the day, we also need those connections to be so instantaneously, so direct, that the notifications of their arrival have become a priority to whatever activity our human lives behold at that very moment. Vibrations, pop-ups, Notification balloons, unread counters, flashing LED’s … Short of setting our pants on fire whenever a new email arrives, our computers and smartphones seem to think that the digital flow of communications should take precedence on whatever activity we are performing at that specific time.

Now .. if we go back to the days of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in “You’ve got mail” and you only GET an email once or twice a day .. its quite nice to have your computer blab out that AOL jingle whenever a new piece of electronic correspondence arrives in your mailbox… but these days that’s just not the case anymore. We get boatloads of emails, notifications, instant messages, tweets, tags and more .. but it seems like every single event still gets the same popup or sound that sent Meg Ryan on her way to a fake orgasm in an overcrowded diner (Sorry , wrong movie).

The paradox lies in the fact that as the quantity of these “informational events” rises, their quality diminishes. The messages are higher in frequency but shorter in content. What used to be a 150 line email (with one “You’ve got mail” jingle) now consists of 150 instant messages (each with their own separate ding).  And if we draw that analogy up a level : Imagine your mailman ringing your doorbell EVERY SINGLE TIME  he drops a flyer or a piece of spam into your mailbox. I think by day three you would be ready to shoot the poor man … and yet we “accept” this level of interruptions from our technological devices every single day.

The result : ‘Fragmented reality’.

With your ‘Virtual world” constantly interrupting your “Realspace” your attention span gets shattered and you experience the world around you in a distracted and shallow way. I’ve called this symptom “diminished presence” because even when you are in a “real” conversation with somebody you are not really “There”… The actual moment (and connection) you have with this other person gets interrupted by dozens of other fragmented interactions from cyberspace who in turn fragment your interaction (and attention span) in real space .. The result :  Reality confetti : The way you experience your day / your life .. cut up in small incoherent pieces leaving you with a feeling of confusion : What did I actually talk about over dinner last night.

Retake your life, Remaster your tech.

So what to do  ? Throw away your digital devices, Buy a Chuck Wagon and hide up somewhere in the mountains ? .. No, don’t worry I’m not going to go that far .. You can still be the hyperconnected supernerd who is the closest thing to Tony Stark your friends will ever know .. but your interactions with technology need to be on YOUR terms. How ? Here are some pointers.

This is a notification to turn of your notifications.

The first thing you need to start doing is turning off your notifications. Whether those are email, facebook, tweets, rss feeds, Voxer messages, dirty pics via Snapchat or what have you : Make sure they no longer have any AUDIO or HAPTIC (vibrational) notifications on your mobile device. In other words : If you are not actually LOOKING at the device you won’t know they are there.  Yeah .. it will be hard at first .. you will suffer from withdrawal and constantly check your phone to see if there is something there .. but that will pass … At least this way you won’t be interrupted by a random spam mail from Runkeeper at the very second you want to kiss the girl/boy/anime-drawing of your dreams. The point is that the interactions with your information streams are going to be ON YOUR TERMS. Just turning of the sounds/vibrations on my phone have given me more focus on my moments in reality when I need/want them. I still check my phone when I’m bored .. but I’m not Pavlovs dog that starts to slobber for new info whenever the bell rings.

Disengage the creational from the communicational.

For you creative types out there. Try writing/composing/drawing/singing/creating something while you need to keep track of 5 Facebook chats. The chance is the end product of this labour of constant interruption and attention diversification will look like some piece of homework your dog ate, pooped out, ate again and then threw up.  And still you THOUGHT it was going to look great but the constant interruptions completely fragged (and fracked) it up for you.  The answer here is to split the devices you use for CREATING (and consuming) content and those that you use to “communicate”. I read and watch movies on my iPad .. Facebook, Email, Twitter and all ther rest of my social media tools are on my “Communicator” (an iPod touch thats lying around the house) There is no shame in having multiple devices if they each serve a specific purpose.

Let technology work for you.

So try to be your own little Sarah Connor and pick up the “Fight against the machine” Imagine your Cellphone is that evil Terminator that wants to hunt down any coherent perception of reality and blow your attention span to smithereens with its arsenal of pushy notifications. Take back what’s yours : Mastery of technology. The fact that YOU operate your devices. YOU drive your car when and where YOU want to . You do not eat when the microwave tells you to (if your microwave tells you things you should clean it more often) and YOU use your phone to communicate when YOU want to.  Forget the modern urge to “constantly” be on top of things. If you were a 90’s stockbroker who managed to make the deal of a lifetime because he INSTANTLY got info on his blackberry .. thats just awesome .. But if you read that DM on twitter 20 minutes later than intended  … i’m sure the world is not gonna grind to a halt.

So step back from the churning river of push notifications and retake your position as master of your own technology ..  This is your final notification to turn off your notifications .. Because its good for you.

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KW Videoblog for 7-6 : Cyberpunk Librarian tells us about cross platform sliding at work.

Together with some great community content from viewer Cyberpunk Librarian who is showing us “How he uses cross platform technology at work” we also have a guesthost for this weeks videoblog.

Shownotes

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kw606 : Making your Mac cross platform friendly.

macbook-sliderWe dive behind the microphone and give all of you Apple users a slice of pie you don’t want to pass up on. We talk about making your Mac “Slider” friendly and how to put up ladders and crawl out of Apple’s walled garden. We have quite a slew of interesting tips and tricks on how to run “cross platform” applications, files, filesystems and connections through your favorite Mac. Learn and listen to this episode of the podcast that is filled to the rim with community feedback and contributions and great music by Youtube princess Juless.

Shownotes.

Tweak code (Copy and paste in your OSX command line)

#make dock appear instantatiously

defaults write com.apple.Dock autohide-delay -float 0 && killall Dock

#don’t reopen every file when you reopen your app.

#in preview

defaults write com.apple.Preview NSQuitAlwaysKeepsWindows -bool false

#in quicktime

defaults write com.apple.QuickTimePlayerX NSQuitAlwaysKeepsWindows -bool false

#kill the dashboard

defaults write com.apple.dashboard mcx-disabled -boolean YES

killall Dock

#show the path in the finder

defaults write com.apple.finder _FXShowPosixPathInTitle -bool YES

#disable window animations

defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSAutomaticWindowAnimationsEnabled -bool false

#enable direct scrolling

defaults write -g NSScrollAnimationEnabled -bool NO

#no more bouncy windows when scrolling

defaults write -g NSScrollViewRubberbanding -int 0

#set time machine backup to 1800

sudo defaults write/System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.backupd-auto StartInterval -int 1800

#force expanded save-and-print  dialogs

defaults write -g NSNavPanelExpandedStateForSaveMode -boolean true

defaults write -g PMPrintingExpandedStateForPrint -boolean true

#no 3d-glassy dock

defaults write com.apple.dock no-glass -boolean yes

#show hidden files in finder

#defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE

#killall Finder

#3d glassy dock

defaults write com.apple.dock no-glass -boolean no

#make hidden app icons semi transparent

defaults write com.apple.Dock showhidden -boolean yes

#create a ‘recent items’ stack

defaults write com.apple.dock persistent-others -array-add ‘{ “tile-data” = { “list-type” = 1; }; “tile-type” = “recents-tile”; }’

#screen grabs in jpg

defaults write com.apple.screencapture type jpg

 

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Give your IOS device an organised touch with Shelved wallpaper.

The downside to having an Android device is that the home screen is completely tweakable. What starts out as a pristine and low-key desktop, soon turns into a mayhem of icons, shortcuts and widgets. The downside to such unrestricted personal freedom on your device is that you sometimes risk ending up with a home screen that looks a lot like your Uncles Windows 95 machine after 2 years of use.

Ios users have no such troubles. Cupertinian law has stated that there ARE no widgets and that each row of icons must be completely filled before you add another row of icons below. Such totalitarian control makes for a tidy room .. but also a dull one.

So what to do ? You want to give yourself at least some notion of “personification” of your portable device ?  You can do so by putting up some shelves… Wallpaper shelves that is. Howtogeek.com has an interesting collection of “wallpaper shelves” for that very purpose. I agree, its not a very exiting hack, since in IOS every screen has the same wallpaper .. but its way better then having the picture of your beloved covered in icons that cover up his/her/its sweet facade.

You can get the wallpapers HERE.

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Leaving your gadgets in the car ? Don’t forget to “Cloak” them.

Traveling around with a bunch of tech stuff in the car is always a little tricky. You might need that laptop with you on your roadtrip, but you are surely not going to drag that 17 inch Macbook Pro all the way up the 298 stairs to visit that random monument of William Shatner along the way ? So you need to leave stuff in the car. Here are a couple of tips on how to do that … safely.

  • Store them out of sight. : Leaving your Tomtom gps stuck to your windshield as you walk away from your vehicle is just plain dumb. Don’t even leave your gadgets in plain view. 
  • Don’t store them in the “Obvious” locations : Leaving your Cellphone on your passenger seat or in your glovebox is also something thats a little tricky. If anyone pops into your car to grab your gear, these are the first places they are going to check. The trunk is tricky but a little better because its completely out of sight.
  • Park in sight. : Did you see a parking spot in an alley somewhere ? One of those places where nobody walks by and your car is completely out of sight of passers by ? Don’t ! Make sure you park in a place where somebody smashing your windshield might get “noticed” by other people.
  • Take your gadgets “undercover”. : A friend of mine had a greasy pizzabox parked on his passenger seat. When I asked him if he just had dinner, he flipped open the lid and revealed his laptop and smartphone nicely stored inside He had even made nice compartments and had used some Velcro to keep everything in place. With the lid down it was a pizza fest in progress, with the lid UP it was a little datacenter. A cool hack ! 
  • Cloak your gadgets. No matter how hard you hide them .. some of your gadgets might still be detectable… How ? They are actually screaming “I’m RIGHT HERE”. Leaving bluetooth enabled (and having your devices detectable via bluetooth) gives any passer by (with evil intention) a pretty good idea if there is any tech stored nearby. If you leave the “default identification” on , your smartphone might actually be telling them what kind of loot they expect. Its hard to determine where exactly stuff is stored .. But if your car is the only one around … they might have a pretty good chance of scoring if they smash your window.  So : Airplane mode !

These are just a couple of tips to keep your tech safe in the car. Do you have some more ? Or perhaps you want to share YOUR secret hack with us ? Do so in the Comments Section below.

 

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Find focus by building your digital Zen-Zone.

After our home renovations I found myself forced to move my office to the attic of our house. It was time to tear down the carefully constructed nexus my digital lifestyle up one level. But it was also time to think things over on how I wanted stuff to be set up. Where my old desk was arranged in a C-shape, surrounding me with multiple monitors and computers, all available with a smooth swivel of my chair .. my new office was a “one line setup”, stretching out the entire length of the workspace in a single row. This meant it would be impossible to use the setup with just “one chair”, in essence creating more then one workspace. What now ?

“Comfort zone”.

I decided to do things differently this time. My multi-monitor-multi-media workstation with its 2 massive 24 inch displays, its mixers, its speakers and all the other gadgets would be sprawled onto one “desk” and .. I would leave the other desk completely empty. Instead of packing it with screens and keyboards, a little lamp, a wireless mouse and a collection of power and network cables was al that was visible on the workspace. This “second desk” is the one I want to use when the countless windows and digital clutter are getting out of hand. I just pop down here with whatever laptop I’m using (My Mac, My Linux machine, My work laptop) to get things done. I just sit down, hook up and focus on what I’m doing. Distractions are few because .. its just a cosy little corner .. opposed to a Nasa style multi-display supercluster.

“Zen Zone”

But just a “different spot” is not enough. One might still be bombarded by digital distractions like eMail, Social media and so forth. So I created a different user profile on my laptop (s) that I call the “Zen Zone” A profile that does not have IM or eMail clients configured. Just the bare minimum will suffice. Access to a browser, word processing apps, whatever I need to get stuff done .. but ONLY that. If I really wanted to I could remove the admin rights to this profile, change the proxy settings and make sure that my “Zen Zone” would be unable to access the internet unless I reboot. It might be tricky to do so when you work in the cloud a lot, but when you need to “get down and dirty” with something you need to get done .. this might help you with your self discipline. You need to “log out” and “log back in” to a different user if you want to go online. This will surely help in controlling your impulses to “quickly browse the web”.”

“Zen-ware”

Especially when it comes down to writing or being creative, having as few distractions as possible does help a lot. There are a number of applications that help you do this. Taking away all the bings bongs and chimes from the busy desktop interface and just giving you a plain interface.  Ommwriter ( Windows, Mac, Ios) or Focuswriter (Linux and Windows) are great ways to find a tranquil slate of screen to do your thing. Finding an online pomodoro timer might also help you keep your Cyber-ADD in check by giving you a focus-countdown timer with rewards when you completed a task.

In the end it comes down to a little self discipline and letting technology work for you instead of getting in your way .. to get stuff done. So : What are YOUR tips and tricks to stay focused and not goof off all the time ? Tell us in the comments section.

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