Apple’s naming convention still doesn’t make sense

At Apple’s annual developer conference, WWDC, Apple retired a name they’ve been using for 15 years. Unlike OS 9s funeral, OS Xs wasn’t so dramatic and for good reason: it’s not a big change. OS X is now becoming macOS to fit more in line with iOS, watchOS and tvOS. The problem is, it still doesn’t make sense.

That looks wrong:

macOS

That’s better:

OS X

Ooh, so pretty and streamlined. Until you look closer.

  • iOS 10
  • macOS Sierra
  • watchOS 3
  • tvOS

That doesn’t look right either. It’s a confusing mess, iOS and watchOS are arithmetically assigned, whereas macOS has a semi-random name. It’s really not a big deal, but I will say this: I can’t imagine Steve Jobs allowing this.

The Apple GTD System

The two most important things about your system are that you trust it and enjoy using it.

I’ve been using the getting things done methodology for over half a year, and since then I have used Evernote almost exclusively as my system. Evernote is a great application for implementing GTD. You can apply contexts using tags, and create your different lists using notebooks. What’s more there are levels to these, you can create nested tags and notebook stacks. Evernote is also a multiplatform beast, featuring web clipping and the best way of saving emails I’ve seen. But with all of these features comes weight. Even when first using Evernote it feels big: like an unexplored wilderness. Thankfully, it didn’t take me too long to acclimatise (mostly thanks to www.thesecretweapon.org).

However, Evernote felt larger than necessary especially on my phone and iPad. I would often find myself only using my system at my own computer, because the mobile interface just couldn’t display all the complexities. So I lost trust in my system and almost avoided using it. I realised it was time to change. A key point David Allen makes about GTD is that it’s not about the app. There is no GTD approved app, because the app isn’t really what’s important. It’s about making a system you feel comfortable with. That could be physical even. The point is, it needs to work.

I tried many apps briefly:

  • Remember The Milk – Weird interface and the logo kind of freaked me out
  • OneNote – just as powerful as Evernote with almost all of the same problems
  • Todoist – the app places too much emphasis on urgency and the free version is too limited
  • Google Keep – No way of storing notes in different bins
  • Simplenote – a bit too simple

Eventually I looked at my iPad’s home screen and saw Reminders: an app I had never opened on my previous iPad (which I had for 3 years). I then thought, perhaps this could work. So I typed in ‘GTD Reminders’ into Google and bang a concise, but plentiful article from you guessed it: Lifehacker.

The transition took some time, about an hour to transfer it all out of Evernote. But reminders could not take on all of Evernote’s workload, for Evernote was storing detailed notes, receipts, manuals etc. So what I had to do was split it up which perhaps counterintuitively has made my GTD far more enjoyable to use. The diagram below shows what I transferred and to where.

Diagram 1That may not mean much to you. Quite frankly, I struggle to work it out. But all you need to know from that ‘diagram’ is that I split up all those bins and contexts on the left that were all in Evernote into three apps: Notes, Reminders and Google Drive*. Google Drive also stores my general reference and project materials.

It’s a lot more manageable. I’ve even modified a few things, like finally realising the need for a @read/review context and Reminders (as the name suggests) can remind you with an alert to do a task, for example I’m reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People at the moment, so I have it set to remind me to read it every other day.

I must admit, there are a few things I miss about Evernote. For instance, before I would clip email receipts straight into the Receipts notebook. Now I have to save the emails as PDFs and if there are multiple emails for a receipt I then have to merge them. But this has the upside of ensuring that all reference materials are stored in the same place as opposed to some on Google Drive and some in Evernote. Reminders also lacks tags. Tags allow for a task to under multiple categories e.g. @Home, Now, Project A. My workaround for this is to use the Notes feature in Reminders which is slightly more tedious as I have to enter it each time (it’s not automatically saved like a tag is), but it makes the system cleaner and less complex.

Reminders

All in all, I’m relieved. This slight, but considerable modification to my system has already motivated me to stay focused and get things done. I can see it working for the considerable future.

I will keep you guys updated on any changes and if you have any questions about my implementation or what GTD is please feel free to contact me here.

*I know this is called the Apple GTD system, but Google Drive is essentially the same as iCloud Drive, and plus Google Drive works on all Apple devices.

The Height of Computers

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the future and we have to accept it. But it will also be the demise of mankind. Thankfully, for most of us we’ll be dead before we get to see the demise of our species. But still, don’t be too sad.

I have been convinced by the likes of Stephen Hawking that AI is dangerous. It will evolve at a rate we cannot even imagine. Eventually, it will replace us, like how the Neanderthals were defeated by the homo sapiens. The better, smarter and more cunning species won. It doesn’t sound like a very positive look at the future. And I will agree, it’s upsetting to think that mankind’s greatest achievement will lead it to its ultimate fate. At the same time, AI is the next biological-digital evolution. It sounds unprecedented, but it is not too unlike the story of how the Neanderthals were entirely replaced by homo sapiens.

From all this, I have come to the conclusion that we just have to accept it. I even aim to work in some part of the AI industry that will lead to our downfall. I do not subscribe to the belief of fate or nature being controlled by some sort of external being, but I do believe that nature has a way of self-improvement. It will let the better side win and in this case it will be AI. How they will win is anyone’s guess. I’ve even got a few guesses of my own:

  • AI outright captures us and destroys us, similar to what the Cylons attempt in Battlestar Galactica
  • A combination of climate change and AI: we cannot live in the extreme conditions on Earth, but AI can

That second possibility also acts as another reason for why we need to accept that AI will replace us. If we do not develop AI, climate change or an unforeseen event will destroy us. We should at least go out in style, not in pity and desperation. AI could be our redemption for treating our planet so poorly.

You may now feel a bit heroic. Let’s make a plan. We can produce AI, redeem ourselves, but still live on, right? We could cheat. If we all moved to space, before the AI were smart enough to realise, perhaps we could escape. Live our lives completely separately from AI. It would be like time travel, going to a snapshot in time before AI.

The problem with this plan is that you could then not answer the question: ‘Why did you make AI?’ For this plan to succeed we would need to have it all sorted out before the AI were even useful tools which would then mean that we created the AI for no reason. We created them, then left because we knew they would kill us, but they didn’t even help us. It would be a complete waste of time. So, in reality what would happen is AI would start doing dodgy things like in the movie I, Robot by which time it would be too late to jump off into space. By the time we were ready to do so, guess what, they’d be smart enough to figure out and put a stop to it.

To leave you on a slightly more uplifting but still bleak look of the future, perhaps now (the next few decades) will be the height of computers. Computers before they do everything for us and turn us into trivial beings. Cherish this moment in time because it may be our best.

HAL-9000
I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that. (2001: A Space Odyssey) The ‘flawless’ HAL-9000 betrays its masters.

 

Bridge Of Spies Shows That Spielberg Still Has it

We all know what a good director Spielberg is. I’m not going to repeat the fanboying, but I will tell you about how Spielberg’s latest film is a sign of more good to come.

Steven Spielberg has given us some of the best action films of cinema: Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and Jaws. But also the most emotional films of cinema: Schindler’s List and War Horse. His range is almost unrivalled.

But, he’s not perfect. He’s the same guy that gave us The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and War of The World’s.

This means that when he comes out with a new film, you know it should be good, but there is a possibility of disappointment. In fact, the more good films Spielberg makes the harder it becomes for him because people expect better and better.

I can say that Bridge of Spies is in my top 5 most loved Spielberg movies. Okay, so I haven’t watched all of his films (don’t worry, I plan to) but I’ve seen some of his agreed upon best. I was expecting to enjoy the film. The trailer had the qualities of a really good Spielberg film: originality, moral questioning and happiness but with sincerity. After I watched it though, I only really thought one thing: I wanna watch it again.

That is very rare for me. I love a lot of films, but for me to feel that. I don’t think I’ve felt like that before, usually I just want to go the toilet. Something about Bridge of Spies makes it so enjoyable. It can be funny, especially Mark Rylance’s performance, and it can be tense. But it is always enjoyable. I was continuously engaged because despite knowing absolutely nothing about the true story behind this film I felt like I understood what was going on and who to root for, but I still wasn’t quite sure how it would all end.

Tom Hanks also plays a pivotal part in this movie’s success. He plays what seems like a Tom Hanks kind of character: a charismatic, straight-talking family man, but he isn’t a hero straight from the cookie cutter. He’s not an anti-hero, but you get a feeling that he’s not in the popular opinion. One of the greatest scenes of the movie is on the New York Subway which highlights that really well.

It’s directed really well. And I don’t say that because it says ‘Directed by Steven Spielberg’, I say that because it is. The camera doesn’t feel like it’s playing tricks either. Because this isn’t an action film, I don’t feel like something’s just hidden out of shot for a scare. The camera shows all and what I see is good.

The soundtrack isn’t John Williams. Literally, it’s not (don’t worry though he’ll be back for next year’s The BFG). Instead we get Thomas Newman who in his own right is one of the greatest film score composers. The same guy that scored American Beauty, Finding Nemo and Shawshank Redemption. I knew it was Newman before I saw the credits because it had that Newman feel, motif, whatever the musical term is. Now, unlike Seinfeld I really like Newman (Thomas Newman), and whilst it’s not going to get an award for best soundtrack, the score really drives the thriller aspect of the film through. It also gives it that grand war feel. Prime example here.

All in all, Bridge of Spies is a 5 star movie in all regards. If I had to find one fault it would be the somewhat unclear and boring scenes showing the American prisoner’s experience. They just didn’t keep up with the nature of the other scenes.

Please Bear with McCreary

Bear is a really cool name, but also the name of a really cool guy. If you have watched Battlestar Galactica (2004-09), Black Sails, Outlanders or Agents of SHIELD you’ve had the pleasure of hearing some of this guys work. I might get all fanboy crazy over here, but McCreary is on John Williams’ level in my eyes.

I was first introduced to McCreary’s musical talent and creativity in good old Galactica. I will save my love for Battlestar Galactica (BSG) for another blog post, don’t worry.

At first, I wasn’t really captivated by the score and when I happened to be watching a YouTube video of some of the soundtrack (as you do) I saw comments like: “this is the best soundtrack for any TV show EVAR” and “the soundtrack alone makes this show worth watching”. My younger, more ignorant self didn’t get it. Why did they think it was so good?

I started to appreciate the music more and more, along with the show. But one episode stood out. The episode is definitely one of my favourites and the music played a major part. Resurrection Ship was brilliant – probably, the highlight of season 2 for me. Its major plot point and climax featured such a gripping and tense track called Prelude to War. The combination of fantastic story/character development and musical development combined, created one of the most powerful plot points in all of television. I promised I wouldn’t make this all about BSG so I’ll get back to the music.

Even as the show saw its decline in its final season, McCreary carried on strong with him covering All Along the Watchtower by Jimmi Hendrix. Granted, the original is better, but I think he covered it perfectly for the theme and essence of the show at that moment.

Where things get interesting is in Black Sails, however. I found Black Sails through the composer. This must be rare. Who watches a TV show because of the composer? I doubt many can claim that. I actually enjoyed Black Sails, although I get bored really easily so stopped watching it after a few episodes. BUT, my favourite part of the show, and I say this not to say that the show is boring or rubbish, is the theme. Boy, is it (any good superlative here). Just have a listen.

Thanks Bear McCreary for your musical ability. You know how to make a man cry, and please do carry on.

Onedrive, I’ve had Enough

I can’t take it anymore! The stress Onedrive places on me is way too high to justify using it any longer.

I recommend you read the blog post two posts prior before reading this one because I explained a good chunk of my reasons for making this change. I’ve been using Onedrive well, before it was Onedrive (Skydrive) and I’ve never really had problems with it. I prefer the web interface of Google Drive and Dropbox as they don’t try too hard to be different, but the extra storage from backing up my photos from my phone and the ability to edit office documents in full fledged Microsoft Office and have them sync to Onedrive without the app were really attractive offers that I couldn’t pass up. Now things have changed.

Sadly, I think it’s time to move on. And it is a real shame. I’ve always backed Onedrive. You got more storage space than with DropBox and it played nice with almost any file type, unlike Google Drive. Microsoft’s recent changes to the pricing and storage for Onedrive, whilst they do not directly affect me, have made me lose faith in the service. As a user of Onedrive I can no longer trust Microsoft to stick to the script as it were. Imagine you had 3TB of data in Onedrive. That’s a tonne of files. Microsoft then says: “sorry, but you’re gonna have to move two thirds of that because we feel as though we made a mistake in offering unlimited storage.” Can you trust that company any longer, especially with mission critical and personal data? I don’t think you can. Yes, you should have that data backed up, but transitioning 2TB to a new system is no easy task especially if you’ve linked files to programs etc.

The real point is I don’t have to put up with this. That’s the beauty of cloud storage these days. I can fairly easily move between a service if I feel one is no longer satisfactory. For me it’s not a real pain and as long as I can edit Word documents at school, I’ll be fine. That’s why I’m going (back) to Dropbox. I’ll be reducing my storage by a factor of 10 (30GB to 3GB), but I only use about 1GB on Onedrive anyway, and overall I’ll be happy to regain control of my files and remove what I and many others consider to be malware on Windows 10 (Onedrive).

Adios Onedrive.

Art

Art. The three letter word that means so much.

When I was young and (more) ignorant I saw art only as traditional art: paintings. As I’ve grown, I’ve come to appreciate more and more things as art. The obvious ones: music and film of course are considered art. It was only till recently that I considered video games as art. The point is almost everything is art.

People love to discuss ‘what is art?’ as a philosophical question and debate. I, perhaps thankfully for you, don’t see it that way. Anything that has been designed, in part, for the sake of it is art. That’s why I’d consider an iMac as a piece of art, but a square yellow post-it note not so much. Although I can see the major flaw in such a definition as art is not so prescriptive. The square yellow post-it note 50 years in the future may be their Mona Lisa. You see art and sentimentality are like twins. As time progresses so do perspectives and as art is so subjective it’s only natural for its definition to change.

As for blogs? Art? Yes.