Mako “Things I Like”: 2017

Things that are worth looking at

Welcome to the annual Mako “Things I Like” report for 2017.

Keep on trucking

Over the past several years, I have been attempting to produce an annual guide to the changes that I have made to my computing habits throughout the year. As my workflow is in a constant state of flux (always trying to refine it), I have been being more proactive throughout 2017 in keeping this up to date in order to lessen the time commitment it takes to write this at the end of the year. I am considering about making this more of a “living” document in 2018 that is hosted up on one of my personal blogs (either https://www.furrygoat.com or https://www.makoism.com) that I update monthly — we’ll see how that goes.

This year, I continued to streamline my process consistently throughout the year for managing information, work, coding, communicating by starting with an “audit” of the applications and workflow that make up my every day. My everyday carry (EDC) was updated several times, but I was able to maintain my ability to get everything I need to done using a minimal set of software that was any device that I had with me.

Some of the general advice (https://shawnblanc.net/2016/02/audit-your-workflow/) I follow when auditing your tools/apps to keep it fresh and clean:

  • Apps — examine the apps on your phone, ipad and laptop — have you used it in the last 2 months? If not, you probably don’t need it
  • Media — do you need all those documents/movies/music on your phone or laptop with you? If not, storing things away in iCloud keeps my devices light
  • Higher Learning — do you have time set aside for writing in your journal every day? do you have a few hours aside a week for learning? do you read enough?
  • On the day to day — what is the best way to manage your day, get thru your to-do list, how to deal with the landslide of email, how to optimize reading for content that is most interesting?

I find if I keep auditing myself, I’m able to get thru mundane tasks, and have plenty of time to learn, expand and grow.

Flow

Continuing the general rule that I would not let email overwhelm me for the last several years, I have been successful at having my Inbox below 10 items before the end of each day. It’s amazing how liberating this workflow is.

The flow is simple. For every new mail:

  • If I can delete it, I delete it immediately.
  • If it’s something that I just need for information or later, quickly goes into the 2017 folder.
  • If it’s something that I can answer immediately, I do, and then it goes into the 2017 folder or deleted.
  • If it’s something that I need to think about, or take action on, I shoot it over to Things as a to-do item, with tags, a project and a due date. Then it goes into the 2017 folder or deleted.

The process is simple. With extensions on OS X and iOS, the flow is very quick — my inbox is never a dumping ground for tasks.

Things 3.0

Over the past few years, I have streamlined my workflow by optimizing to-do lists. While the tool I have used has changed (OmniFocus->Todoist->Things), the process is generally the same. While I really liked OmniFocus, it was a bit of a nuclear weapon for tasks (you can really do anything you want with it), I have come to enjoy the simplicity of Things 3.

Things is my central nervous system

My setup for 2017 has been as follows:

  • Areas: I have high level areas such as “Work”, “Personal”, “Projects” and “Shopping List”. Each area has a sub-area with only 1 or 2 general themes such as “Security” or “House Projects”. Headings are also useful for area organization.
  • Tags: Every item in the list has tags associated with them. This allows me quick and easy cross area searching, with themes such as “emerging technology” or “artificial intelligence”.
  • One of the most effective tags notations that I use is people (I format them as .name, so that way, I can assign tasks to people and check on them by the day they are due, or by searching for all the things “bob” owes me).
  • Recurring Tasks: I schedule monthly recurring tasks like “archive photos to backup” or “check on some airfare”.
  • Daily Review: I have a daily recurring task to review everything in the todo list, calendar, etc so I can prioritize accordingly.
  • Checklists: One feature that I have not used enough of, but can see it’s usefulness is todo items with integrated checklists. I want to play more with that in 2018.

And it keeps getting better and better with each new release.

Overall Setup

One of the things that has simplified my EDC is the “2 device” rule — never carry more than 2 devices (I don’t count the watch, perhaps I should). Given that the phone is a must, it flipped last year from the MacBook 12” to the iPad 9.7. This year, the iPad 10.5 replaced that. Even though I upgraded the “desk machine” to the newest MB12”, I don’t think it’s been unplugged from the monitor since it arrived. Interestingly enough, as 2017 comes to a close, I am now considering going back to the MacBook + Phone combo .. it’s becoming a never-ending cycle.

Regardless, I ended 2017 with an incredibly simplistic and light setup:

Other gear that I often use or travel with on regular basis:

Gear Bags / EDC

For my daily EDC, I’ve settled in on the Bolt Crossbody Laptop Bag. Waterfield makes incredible bags, I ended up with the Black Ballistic and Black Leather trim. It’s beautiful, light and carries quite a bit in a very comfortable format. I also create micro “travel bags” that are designed so I can just pick up one and go, depending what devices (Mac gear vs iPad gear) that I’m bringing with me. Even though there are multiple items in there, they’re actually very small and light and fit in a tiny EDC.

iPad Cable Bag

The iPad “Cable Bag”

Mac Cable Bag

The Mac “Cable Bag”

I have a similar bag for ‘Mac travel’ which consists of:

Travel Bags

RIP in 2017

As I am always auditing how I work, the following software was added to the kill list this year:

  • Evernote
  • Bear
  • Yahoo Stocks
  • Yahoo Weather
  • Partly Sunny
  • WeMo
  • Coda 2 / Coda Mobile
  • Apple Wireless Routers — if Apple can’t be bothered, nor can I. And there’s way faster options out there now anyways.
  • Comic Life
  • OmniFocus
  • Todoist
  • Skype
  • Documents from Redaddle
  • MyFitnessPal
  • TripCase
  • Fantastical
  • Ghostery — moved to 1Blocker everywhere especially after being acquired and adopting a horrible new business plan
  • Skype — moved to Wire for secure communications
  • CrashPlan — moved to BackBlaze
  • Synology NAS — moved everything over to a thunderbolt array connected to the Mac in the closet

New in 2017

So, what new things did I experiment with in 2017?

Home Automation

Finally nuked the horrible WeMo lights after several years of suffering, and went full on to automate the house where possible.

Wireless and Networking

Since Apple also got out of the networking game with the deprecation of their Airport products, I finally upgraded to mesh wireless, and took control of my firewall by building my own.

  • Eero– Hands down the best. I get a solid connection now on my wifi wherever I am around the house.
  • OpnSense– In December, I decided to do the heavy lifting around my home network firewall and build a custom OpnSense router. This is amazing. I have a quad-core, 2ghz, 8gb/64gb router now that pretty much handles DNS, VPN, AdBlocking, and anything else I throw at it. Certainly not for the faint of heart, but this has provided me an incredible amount of control (and more importantly understanding) on what’s going on with the home network. More on this coming soon, but here’s a shopping list:
  • Firewall Micro Appliance With 4x Gigabit Intel LAN Ports
  • Corsair 8GB(1X8GB) 1600MHz SODIMM Memory
  • 64GB mSATA Internal SSD

Newsletters

As I slowly swing away from reading RSS on a daily basis, I’ve been following more newsletters than I used to:

Twitter Lists

I know that there’s lots of hate out there for Twitter, but I’ve found it to be a phenomenal tools for focused information gathering. The secret of course, is Twitter Lists. A list, as described by Twitter “is a curated group of Twitter accounts. You can create your own lists or subscribe to lists created by others. Viewing a list timeline will show you a stream of Tweets from only the accounts on that list.”.

I have created several lists for things that interest me: Triathlon, Apple, CyberSecurity, Gear, etc. I’ve also curated special lists such as “Mind Changers” — the people that cause me to think. By ridding myself of the firehose, this really has made Twitter one of the most important stops on my daily reading list.

NAS Upgrade / Home Backups

What can you do with 20+TB of storage at home? Well.. pretty much anything you want to . I did a big switch this year however (mostly due to Crashplan’s insane new pricing) — I switched from using a Synology NAS to a dedicated 4-drive Thunderbolt DAS. The home server is still on a MacMini, which handles Plex media server, OSX server, time machine, content caching server, etc.

Backups are now up on BackBlaze, and I couldn’t be happier with them. It has unlimited storage, a nice native set of apps for mobile and desktop and it’s really way faster than Crashplan.

Notifications

I’ve been doing more and more in 2017 with custom notifications. Inspired by blog posts on Streamlined Pushes and Shell/Watch Notifications, I’ve been wiring more and more into Pushover (available on Mac and iOS).

Notifications allow me to keep up with what I care about

Pushover is pretty cool — for an incredibly cheap one-time price ($4.99) you can create custom notifications that can be triggered from almost everywhere.

  • Using NTFY, I can have long-running shell commands let me know when they are completed.
  • I can have alerts and monitoring trigger notifications from the house.
  • All my IFTTT notifications are now also wired via Pushover — so I get a notification instantly when a new iOS release is out, or if SpaceX is launching a rocket.
  • etc .. the list is really endless.

The idea of a “personal notification system” for things that I really care about (rather than apps just bothering me) is very compelling. I plan on experimenting more with this in 2018.

Apps I currently use

This list contains the apps that I use on a fairly regular basis. Of course, there’s a few other things laying around on my devices, but I audit it pretty regularly.

Daily Focus

  • Things 3 (Mac and iOS) — moved from OmniFocus to Todoist. See above for more on how I handle lists.

Reading / Watching / Listening

Writing and Taking Notes

  • Notes (Mac and iOS) — On iOS 11 and High Sierra, the built-in Notes app is now a formidable app to my old Evernote usage. Due to the simplicity of syncing over iCloud, I finally took the plunge this year and haven’t been happier.
  • Ulysses (Mac and iOS) — Long form writing (including this document), blog posts, and presentation outlines have found a home in Ulysses.
  • Quotes — I’ve also been experimenting with keeping a “Quotes” folder in Ulysses with shared quotables I discover as I traverse the Internet. Adding to this via the share sheet in iOS makes it super easy to archive them here. Perhaps I’ll use these in a presentation down the line.
  • DayOne (Mac and iOS) — I use DayOne for jotting down simple thoughts daily. Clearing my mind at the start of every day of the “junk” has been really helpful for me to maintain better clarity.

Other Applications and Tools

Privacy and Security

  • 1Blocker (Mac and iOS) — I’ve tried several, but 1Blocker seems to have the best mix of configuration, control and whitelisting. Now with selective blocking, I have upgraded to 1Blocker on both Mac and iOS.
  • MicroSnitch (Mac) — Alerts you to when an app or process uses the mic or camera.
  • Little Snitch (Mac) — Allows you full control over what apps can do on the network
  • KnockKnock (Mac) — Malware scanner for the Mac
  • 1Password (Mac and iOS) — The best password manager out there.

Utilities

Communications / Social Networking

Storage / Documents

Shopping

Working Out

Travel

Dev Tools

Homescreens

What I use in 2017

Dock

2017’s dock remained pretty close to prior years.

The Dock

Seeking a Change in 2018

Optimize, optimize, optimize. Would love to cut back on a few apps to simplify things. And frankly, Apple should finally get off their butts and release xCode for iPad. 😉

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