Is this the Best Gift List Ever?

wrapped-present

Some Background

I’ve been planning this post for a while. I originally started it back in November 2014 when I was off work with a slipped disc in my lower back. Fuelled by boredom and a lot of heavy duty pain relief, I tried to spend my time (between a lot of crap TV and reading every book and comic in the house) planning out and drafting various blogs. Much of what I wrote was rubbish. At points, I could barely string a coherent sentence together. However, one piece, that I started writing, seemed to get some traction.

This post is about that ‘original’ piece and the document that it became.

To keep things simple, I’m going to refer to it as ‘the contract’. You’ll see why below. It started as a joke and remains one (in a funny sense I hope), but maybe something that you will find interesting. In drafting the contract, it allowed me the opportunity to write an extensive list of all the topics, genres and interests that keep me excited. There’s a heavy slant on geeky loves but then that was one of the reasons that originally drove me the start writing it.

So, what is it?

The contract is essentially my Christmas wish list to my wife. However, it’s not a handwritten list of vaguely unoriginal items or even a table with links. No, it’s a legal contract stipulating exactly what I want/wanted for Christmas and giving very good guidance on how the Christmas holidays should be spent. Remember, I was on drugs (prescribed)! And, it is meant as some fun, not an actual legal requirement. Oh! and I have subsequently updated it this year, as you will see below.

It started as a basic wish list.

It grew into a longer document, with links, reading notes, footnotes and additional considerations. It got to the point where I felt it needed a better overall structure. And I needed to fill my days. This seemed like a good way to do it! My first career was as a solicitor, so I could just about remember the contractual basics. And, as it was a bit of fun, it didn’t need to be the finest example of commercial drafting ever written.

So, I started to construct the list into a basic contract.

I set out the period the contract ran for and the parties affected. I stipulated the compulsory watching of certain Christmas films through the holiday and specific ‘geeky’ tasks. In 2014, the outstanding ‘big’ holiday task was sorting and refiling a large chunk of my comic collection that had become unmanageable. Due to the fact that my back was screwed, I needed help with it and the missus was legally nominated as my second in command for the task. Well, as I’ll keep pointing out, it was fun to draft and I was on drugs.

The Contents.

I drafted a schedule of ideas for presents with all the relevant links at the end of the document and also crafted a defined term known as ‘Relevant Genres’ which could be used as a guideline for any present, activity or task that needed to happen over the holiday.

Additionally, it stated the maximum spend and that there was no stipulation preventing an overspend. It also gave guidance to the whole ‘controversial’ off-list option that so many people seem to employ. By covering this off, I was essentially giving ideas and hints for the next year of presents (birthday, anniversaries, following Christmas etc). Yes, it was all one-way traffic, but hey, so is every other wish list.

I also stated what was ‘not’ wanted. I’m sure I’m not the only one who often feels that presents like socks, slippers and aftershaves are only good if you actually need them! All too often, they seem to be pre-requisites for a Christmas stocking and honestly I’d rather the money was either not spent or spent on something useful, fun or relevant. The caveat, as above, is unless I actually do need a new pair of slippers (as I do this year actually).

So, having meticulously drafted it, emailed it to the missus and then have her completely disregard it (although, the extensive list at the end did help), I thought maybe someone else could adapt it, template it and get use out of it. So, here is it. I’ve amended it slightly and removed addresses etc but otherwise it is all there. Enjoy! And do let me know if you get any use out of it.

christmas-gift-list-template

II Reasons Apple have nailed it

Why is everyone making such a big thing about the new MacBooks?

macbook-touch-bar-1

I’m finding it really odd that commentators have such an issue with Apple after their announcement last week. The general concern seems to be, ‘why sell high end laptops in the age of the tablet?’

For me, it makes total sense for two reasons. 1. Apple has always been associated with luxury or high end tech. 2. As much as the tablet (in it’s purest form) is a great gadget, it does not (and never will) replace the laptop (or desktop).

On point 1 above, Apple are clearly looking at their existing customer base as people who will stick with laptops. Most of those people will already have a laptop (whether it’s a MacBook Pro or Air etc) and probably also have an iPad. So, if they create a replacement for both, they are doing themselves out of business. For me, there is space in this world for both a laptop and a tablet.

macbook-touch-bar

As for the Touch Bar itself, I think it’s a brilliant idea. I’m not convinced that the touch screen is a great idea with a laptop. The few times I’ve used one, I find that I only use it for scrolling through websites, usually after I’ve first used the pad or mouse. So the Bar gives you touch screen functionality but in a space where your fingers already go. Simple. Ingenious.

I think Apple, are again, ahead of the curve.

Having said, all that, the Microsoft Surface Studio does look epic. Aimed at a different market however, I’ll be really interested to see how that device does.

What do you think about Rebirth, macOS & Suicide Squad?

Screenshot 2016-08-13 08.53.04

Whilst it’s summertime and work is quiet, the world of comics, technology and general geekiness seems to be in full flow.

Rebirth. I’m still totally chuffed that DC and Geoff Johns did that fantastic Rebirth issue.Of course, with the Watchmen angle, three Jokers and the return of key (missed) characters, it’s all to play for.

I posted my initial thoughts here but now a good few weeks on, I think I need to post a review (which I’m in the process of drafting). Ultimately, there is some good stuff, but I want one of the three topics mentioned above, to be currently making its debut.

At the moment, it feels like, we are off on another DC adventure (some good, some bad). Example: Nightwing. Not sure how long I’ll stick with it. Similarly, that first Superwoman title was a little strange! Not sure that it worked. Batman and Detective Comics are great, as is Wonder Woman. Anyway, I think a review then cull is in order.

Flash/ Justice League. I saw an article on CBR yesterday suggested (but in no way confirming) that the movie Flash and TV flash could in some way, be seen on the same screen due to the Speedforce. I love this idea (as I’m sure most fans do).

And if legal issues weren’t … an issue … then a simple shot where we see one Flash travelling through the Speedforce and shots from the other ‘world’ whizz by. They’ve already done it on the CW with images from other shows. I’ve previously tweeted on this!!!! Make it happen. 

Apple. We’re getting closer to the release of new tech and software. I’m most excited about macOS. I love a new operating system and especially one for my laptops. Aside from the few Google apps I use (Sheets, Gmail and Maps) I’m pretty invested in the Apple ecosystem and it has definitely improved over the years so I‘m expecting the iOS and macOS closeness to really pull things together. 

Suicide Squad. Critics have to spoil it for the rest of us. My thoughts on the DC universe and the constant panning they get, is simple. I think it has nothing to do with the movies.

These critics and let’s call them, Marvel only supporters, have it in for DC and Time Warner, simply on the basis that they don’t like the company. When BvS came out, there were people on IMDB giving it one star out of ten.

Now, either these people are not comic fans, going to see a comic movie and expecting Schindler’s List. Or, they are trolls. The latter is more likely. To be the type of person that does that, you must really have a lot of anger. Now I don’t think people hate Batman as a character. Superman gets mixed responses but again, I don’t think he’s universally hated. His comic book sales tend to be pretty consistent. So, that leaves the companies and the directors (that the companies choose.)

BvS, even if considered a flop, wasn’t a bad movie. I gave it a nine! Here. But for those that felt it was a disappointment, they were still scoring it at a six or seven. So giving it a one, is ridiculous. As to Suicide Squad, I’m going to see it tomorrow and write an honest review shortly after.

And, let’s not forget, these movies are made for the fans. 

How do you Manage your Tech?

Dude at work is having problems with his iPhone and it got me thinking about basic tech housekeeping. His problem on the face of it seemed simple. He’s bought a new iPhone (6S) to replace his old phone (5S). He’s also got an old MacBook Pro.

As he tells the story, he is unable to do a wireless backup to the old iPhone to enable him to restore to the new one. From what I can gather, he has managed to backup some items, but not all.

I had a play around with it and I could see that the old phone was just not doing a backup. As such I suggested that he remove some apps that maybe he didn’t want, clear out some old photos and give the phone a general clean out (even though he didn’t appear to be short of space, either on the phone itself or iCloud). The subsequent outcome has been to USB/lightning connect the phone to iTunes and do a backup that way. It has worked but some stuff seems to be missing from his Mac.

Anyway, it made me realise that I have a pretty robust housekeeping process for my tech and that actually, as long as I stick to it, my gadgets seem to tick along nicely (of course, as soon as I publish this post, it will all pack in). I’m not bragging!

What do I do that my colleague doesn’t? Well, some of the things are as follows.

Keyboard Pic

Quarterly photo clear out and back up.

I have my iPhone automatically backup to My Cloud so it’s not such a big deal for me to delete old photos. However, before I do that, I make a point of doing a manual photo backup to my home PC, so as to essentially make a backup of a backup. Then I delete the photos I don’t want. This way, I hope that I have all bases covered as best one can.

Regular OS and app updates.

I don’t do automatic app updates (although I’m thinking about it). Instead, I tend to do a bi-weekly or monthly catch up on any app updates to make sure everything is running smoothly. Usually, by this point, any kinks have been ironed out. Similarly, with OS updates I do tend to be an early adopter and download the updates/new OS as soon as I can. I do enjoy a new OS.

Quarterly app deletion.

We all have apps that we keep out of sentimental or rainy day reasons. If I find that I haven’t used a piece of software for 6 months I tend to delete it, unless, it is something that I know I’ll get pleasure from once in a blue moon (Lightsaber app being a prime example). By doing this, I find that I can get back a good bit of space that otherwise vanishes simply because the system is clogged.

Internal app maintenance.

Photos and Notes are of course two apps that I make a point of ensuring are clean and up-to-date. Similarly, I find apps like Pocket can get really full quickly. I try and make a point of on a monthly basis going through my Pocket articles and deleting and archiving.

Regularly close downs apps from multitasking.

I’m terrible for letting apps just run and run but I’ve got better over the last few years of ensuring that I close things down. I know from conversations with friends and colleagues that most people are shit at this!

Regularly check space and storage (including iCloud).

I often go into settings and check where I’m at with phone space and iCloud space. This is your guide to deciding whether a spring clean is necessary.

What steps do you take to ensure your tech is performing at its best? 

Managing Your Tech

Dude at work is having problems with his iPhone and it got me thinking about basic tech housekeeping. His problem on the face of it seemed simple. He’s bought a new iPhone (6S) to replace his old phone (5S). He’s also got an old MacBook Pro.

As he tells the story, he is unable to do a wireless backup to the old iPhone to enable him to restore to the new one. From what I can gather, he has managed to backup some items, but not all.

I had a play around with it and I could see that the old phone was just not doing a backup. As such I suggested that he remove some apps that maybe he didn’t want, clear out some old photos and give the phone a general clean out (even though he didn’t appear to be short of space, either on the phone itself or iCloud). The subsequent outcome has been to USB/lightning connect the phone to iTunes and do a backup that way. It has worked but some stuff seems to be missing from his Mac.

Anyway, it made me realise that I have a pretty robust housekeeping process for my tech and that actually, as long as I stick to it, my gadgets seem to tick along nicely (of course, as soon as I publish this post, it will all pack in). I’m not bragging!

What do I do that my colleague doesn’t? Well, some of the things are as follows.

Mac IM

Quarterly photo cleaning out and back up.

I have my iPhone automatically backup to My Cloud so it’s not such a big deal for me to delete old photos. However, before I do that, I make a point of doing a manual photo backup to my home PC, so as to essentially make a backup of a backup. Then I delete the photos I don’t want. This way, I hope that I have all bases covered as best one can.

Regular OS and app updates.

I don’t do automatic app updates (although I’m thinking about it). Instead, I tend to do a bi-weekly or monthly catch up on any app updates to make sure everything is running smoothly. Usually, by this point, any kinks have been ironed out. Similarly, with OS updates I do tend to be an early adopter and download the updates/new OS as soon as I can. I do enjoy a new OS.

Quarterly app deletion.

We all have apps that we keep out of sentimental or rainy day reasons. If I find that I haven’t used a piece of software for 6 months I tend to delete it, unless, it is something that I know I’ll get pleasure from once in a blue moon (Lightsaber app being a prime example). By doing this, I find that I can get back a good bit of space that otherwise vanishes simply because the system is clogged.

Internal app maintenance.

Photos and Notes are of course two apps that I make a point of ensuring are clean and up-to-date. Similarly, I find apps like Pocket can get really full quickly. I try and make a point of on a monthly basis going through my Pocket articles and deleting and archiving.

Regularly close downs apps from multi tasking.

I’m terrible for letting apps just run and run but I’ve got better over the last few years of ensuring that I close things down. I know from conversations with friends and colleagues that most people are shit at this!

Regularly check space and storage (including iCloud).

I often go into settings and check where I’m at with phone space and iCloud space. This is your guide to deciding whether a spring clean is necessary.

What steps do you take to ensure your tech is performing at its best? 

Always Reference Your Source

I wrote about this topic four years ago (see here) as I’ve always found people with the ability to plagiarise and copy other people’s work to be distrustful. If you want to use someone else’s work, reference it. Acknowledge it. But don’t hold it out as your own!

image008

This was what I said four years ago on the topic (it’s not my greatest piece of prose, but you get the point).

It’s an old saying. One in fact, that seems to have been forgotten. I’ve noticed over the last few years fewer and fewer people see the need to reference their point as belonging to someone else.

Internal emails in the office that contain information from another source (copied verbatim) but no mention of where or who originally wrote it. Verbal conversations that contain points made by another and used as if said for the first time. Quoting someone else but never acknowledging the source individual or creator. This is common place and akin to plagiarism.

There have been recent cases especially on the Internet (which I’ll name in the comments section) that showed that even in the age of digital work that is easily copiable, you can still get caught – or certainly accused If there are close similarities.

If you are referencing a piece of work whether digital or via a previous conversation, remember to quote or reference the owner of the comment. That is much better than pretending it is your own original thought and hoping people will believe you came up with it.

Bear – A Lovely Writing App

I read about this app a couple of days ago in The Next Web – Bear is a beautiful writing app for crafting notes and prose and was immediately keen to try it. It is in beta at the moment and it is pretty easy to get an invite so I did exactly that.

Whilst I get the feeling that the iOS version will be the real point of concentration understandably (I haven’t tried it yet), I was more interested in the Mac version. I do love a nice writing app! Especially one I can use on my Macs. I’ve downloaded it to both my MacBook Pro and my MacBook Air. So far, I have to say, I’m impressed.

With Apple pushing the new Notes app earlier this year and giving it a serious overhaul, I do wonder how easy it will be for another note/prose app to get space in the market? But, one thing Bear seems to do really well? It’s a really beautiful looking piece of software.

I’m using the three panel style; left column (sidebar) is a list of notes and tags, middle column (notes list) is a list of all the note entries with preview and then there is the main window editor.

From my limited testing, my initial thoughts are as follows.

* I love the simplicity of tagging a word and it appearing in the sidebar (using a hashtag, it allows you to filter your notes and ruminations). This could be incredibly useful for quick search and easy filing.

* In preferences you have five different themes to chose from, which are all suitably different. I’m currently using Solarized Light.

* Being able to pin a note to the top is really handy and a nice feature.

* The information panel is also very handy. Lots of information is provided but I particularly like the word count and read time (this is becoming an integral part of internet use now). From here you can also PDF a note which is another nice little feature that I’ll get good use from.

* The style Bar has the usual heading options, italics, bolds and so on. I like the bulleted and numbered options and you can use a note as a checklist, which is also very handy.

* You can also paste pictures which is something that you would expect to see but is still a feature that makes things simple and that’s the whole point isn’t it!

Screenshot 2016-07-21 18.39.25

Notable omissions (and these aren’t necessarily a problem for everyone) but are settings that I would use. And they may well be functions in development.

* No font options, either in terms of changing the font or its size. That is something I would like to see.

* Being able to justify text is also a feature that I get a lot of use out of so that would be a pleasant addition.

Overall, I do like this app and will definitely continue to use it. As I stated earlier, I do think that with Apple Notes and the likes of Evernote somewhat ruling the market, it will be difficult to get people on board. However, if the aesthetics of your apps are important then look no further. This definitely is an functional app with style.

And if you do try it, pass your feedback onto them. I’ll be doing that shortly.