Tag Archives: Mac

Fixing (unrelated) annoying problems with Google Voice and the Mac App Store

The Google Voice problem was that incoming unanswered calls were going to an automated switchboard for some San Diego financial service that I have no relation to. If somebody called me and I picked up, that was fine, but if I didn’t pick up the call got forwarded to this financial service’s switchboard. Frankly, the financial service sounds shady. This was merely annoying rather than a big deal because people would just call back, or send an email or a text. But still it was a problem needing solving.

I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to fix this for months, when yesterday I thought to check which numbers were connected to that Google Voice number. Sure enough, one of the numbers Google Voice was set to ring was a landline number in my home office. But I disconnected that phone when I left my previous employer. Solution: Disconnect that number from Google Voice. And now incoming calls to my Google Voice number correctly go to my Google Voice voicemail. Yay!

For good measure, I configured Google Voice to no longer ring my iPhone when I get an incoming call and instead ring the iPhone Hangouts app. I tested it out and call quality is actually clearer through Hangouts than it is on the native iPhone app. And now I have two phone numbers on my iPhone, which could prove useful.

So I’ve gone from hating Google Voice and wishing I hadn’t signed up to … well, if not loving it then at least enjoying renewed hope for it.

The App Store problem was that I have iMovie installed on this Mac, and it’s due for an update through the App Store, but this is a company-issued Mac, and the iMovie update requires me to enter a password for another account, one that’s not mine. I don’t have a password to that account. This has been going on a couple of years now. Today I finally thought of a solution — I deleted iMovie. I haven’t edited a movie on the Mac in ages.

No big deal but that red 1 by the App Store was driving me crazy. And now it’s gone.

I’m still liking TaskPaper after a day

That’s already a breakthrough. Sometimes I spent a few hours on the weekend configuring a new productivity app and it fails to survive even an hour on a workday.

Here’s a big thing I like about TaskPaper: Because it’s plain text I can just arrange things however I want. Put tags at the beginning of a task. Arrange tasks into projects or not. Change the order however I want. Go crazy.

Two significant drawbacks: It doesn’t automatically support dated tasks. I mean, you can add a date to a task, but it won’t automatically stay hidden until the appointed day and then magically appear in your task list when it’s time. I knew that when I started trying it. There are workarounds, and I can live with it.

The second drawback is more significant: Because my task list is just a text file that syncs with Dropbox, if I walk away from my desk and make a change on my iPhone or iPad, that change will likely result in desktop conflicts. The only workaround is like the old joke: “Doc, it hurts when I do this.” “So don’t do that.” I need to remember to close Taskpaper when I leave my desk. That’s too easy to forget. I can think of a couple of workarounds: Keep a separate “errands and chores” list for things I need to remember to when I’m away from my desk, and keep a separate inbox exclusively as a place to add tasks as they occur to me when I’m out and about.

Day two with TaskPaper is Tuesday.

No good comes of connecting your Facebook account with your Mac

You just get a few annoying notifications every day.

Every few months, I seem to need to remind myself of this.

I think, “Wouldn’t it be a great idea to connect my Facebook account with my Mac?”

Then I do it and remind myself the answer is, “No.”

You get notifications of Facebook updates and messages you’ll see next time you log onto Facebook.

You see events on your calendar that you’re not interested in.

And you get birthday reminders for people you last talked to when you worked with them in the 90s.

You know how much I love birthday reminders.

Customer-thievin’ varmints

Apple Launches Evil Plan to Steal Carriers' Customers

Apple’s upgrades to the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, announced Monday, are focused on tightening integration of those three products into a unified universe. That’s both an opportunity and a threat for carriers.

The more useful Apple makes its mobile products, the more customers use them. That makes money for carriers.

The threat is that customers are loyal to Apple, rather than the carriers. Customers think of themselves as Apple customers, and the carrier is just a provider of the dumb pipe that connects their Apple devices to each other and the world.

– Me on Light Reading.

AppStorm gives the Notebooks app a thumbs-up review

Notebooks: A Flexible and Powerful Note App in Beta

This is a review of the January 2013 beta, but it looks pretty similar to the final version. Notebooks seems to be developed by one guy, and it’s a complex app, so it’s reasonable for development to be slow. 

I tried the desktop version this morning. It’s nowhere near as sophisticated and polished as the iPad and iPhone version. It’s pretty basic. But basic is good for me for a writing app. Like John Scalzi said: I just want to type. Nearly all my writing is plain text with very light formatting; I don’t need layout tools or complex formatting. To this day I am uncertain how to use stylesheets. 

I get the idea that the desktop version is still in development and features from iOS will make it in there eventually. But my rule is never to commit to an app based on the developer intentions. I decide whether to commit to the app based on what it does now. And what it does now seems OK to me. I’m not in love yet, but I’ll stay with it. 

I’m fooling around with the Notebooks app.

It’s a writing app for the iPad, iPhone, and Mac. It has a Windows version too.

I think it might be the ideal app for me for nearly all my writing. That includes my professional journalism, personal blogging, creative writing, online comments, and random digital scribbles. It might replace a text editor, word processor, scratchpad app, Scrivener, and much of what I use Evernote for.

Or it might be a dog. I’ve only looked at the iPad version, and that for only a few minutes.

Still. Impressed.

www.notebooksapp

Trying out The Hit List as a possible OmniFocus replacement

I’ve been getting dissatisfied with OmniFocus for months now. It’s just too complicated. And it’s too rigid in some ways.

OmniFocus is a high-maintenance app. I was spending too much time working on my to-do lists, and not enough time getting things done.

What I’m looking for is something much simpler.

I’ve looked at a few Mac and Web-based to-do apps recently and none of them seemed satisfactory. Then I saw this recommendation for Potion Factory’s The Hit List ($50). I spent a little while Saturday afternoon copying my tasks from OmniFocus to The Hit List, and now I’m trying it out. So far I like it.

The plus side:

  • The Hit List is much more flexible than OmniFocus about the order in which you display tasks. I can easily create a list of things I want to do today, put the list in the order I want to do them in, and then get to work. I haven’t found a good way to do that in OmniFocus.
  • The Hit List supports tagging, which OmniFocus does not. Tags are a good way of organizing tasks, although you have to watch out you don’t go crazy with them.
  • The Hit List has an iPhone app and over-the-air synching.
  • It has a nice-looking user interface. It reminds me a lot of Cultured Code’s Things. Actually. I can’t remember why I gave up Things.
  • The app makes extensive use of keyboard shortcuts. I’m not usually a big fan of keyboard shortcuts; I have trouble remembering them. But The Hit List does a good job with them. And The Hit List has a hints bar at the bottom of the app window that displays the most common keyboard shortcuts. I love this. All apps should have it.
  • When you create a new task, it appears at the top of the list. In OmniFocus, new tasks appeared at the bottom, and I couldn’t figure out a way to change that. For me, more recently created tasks are likely to be more urgent, and therefore should be at the top of the task list.

The minus side:

  • No iPad app. I can live with that.
  • No Outlook integration. Outlook is my company standard mail and calendar client. I can work around the lack of Outlook integration.
  • Poking around the Web site, I see users complaining that development is extremely slow, and that the developer is unresponsive to support requests and bug fixes. In particular, there seems to be an ongoing bug with recurring tasks and the iPhone app. Over the air synching seems to be problematic.
  • The Hit List, like OmniFocus, has a quick entry window. You type a keyboard shortcut, and a little window pops up that you use to type in a task when it occurs to you, without breaking flow of whatever else you were doing. That’s great. But the quick entry window doesn’t let you link to email messages. You have to do that from within the application window itself. That’s inconvenient; I create to-dos to respond to email a lot. I found this script to add email messages as tasks with links to the original mail message in Mail.app (rather than Outlook). I tested it and it seems to work; we’ll see how well it serves in real life.

Fortunately, there’s a two-week free trial of The Hit List, and I plan to give it a good workout. If it works for me, I’ll buy it, and won’t expect any upgrades anytime soon.

If it doesn’t work, well, I guess it’s back to OF. Maybe I can make OF work for me. Or I’ll take another look at Things, although I’m not optimistic about that app’s future. I hear good things about Remember the Milk, too.

For OmniFocus nerds only: A big feature request

OmniFocus is the control panel of my life. I write down everything I need or want to do in OmniFocus, and then when the time comes, I do it. This post is for my fellow OmniFocus nerds only; it won’t make sense to anyone else.

Here’s something that bugs me about OmniFocus, and that I’m hoping to see fixed in Version 2.0: The Folders/Projects/Groups structure is plain confusing. We should instead just have items which act as projects if they contain other items, and act as actions if they don’t contain anything else. Actions can exist at the top level, they don’t need to have containers.

Users should be able to nest these action/projects to an unlimited number of levels.

Eliminate parallel projects. They’re just confusing. I know what the theoretical difference is between parallel projects and the other kinds of projects. I just don’t see parallel projects as useful. To the contrary, I see their existence as harmful.

Single-action lists do essentially the same thing. The default for new projects should be configurable in preferences as either sequential or single-action lists.

I plan to write this up as a feature request and submit it to the appropriate email address at the Omni Group; I’d just like to show this to other people first, to see if I overlooked anything.