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What do you want to do?

This is the first of three articles as described in an earlier post inspired by Dave Gamache. Dave posed three questions:

  • What are three things I want to do?
  • What are three things I want to be?
  • What are three things I want to have?

This my response to the first question.

Write passionately

Writers don’t have to heave up turgid prose in countless cheesy paperback romance novels to share their passion. Hardware. Software. Computers for desks and laps, phones smart and dumb, and apps free and paid for all. When you love what you write about, your passion shines through.
If you think writers can’t be passionate about technology then you haven’t read the Daring Fireball. Do you think high-tech mumbo-jumbo is just a bunch of boring topics stuffed with technical terminology nobody understands or cares about? Let’s talk again after you read Robert Noyce and His Congregation by Tom Wolfe. Can’t have a little fun with it? Spend some time at Andy Ihnatko’s Celestial Waste of Bandwidth (BETA)
Flipping bits from the latest microprocessors to the lowly index card can’t be any better. Right? Merlin Mann was passionate about the value of index cards when he published Introducing the Hipster PDA in 2004. If you heard him talk about them with Dan Benjamin last week on his podcast Back to Work (s1e36 Writing on the Wind), then you know he is just as passionate about them today.
Paper can’t be cool? Check out Moleskine. Even better, take a gander at some products by Field Notes. Paper is magical even today. Put paper and technology together and you’ve got a horde of productivity nerds shouting mantras (Do it, delegate it, or delete it!) and waving copies of Getting Things Done in the air like it’s a street preacher convention. I can say this because I have practically been there myself, like, literally.

Live independently

One of my goals is to write for a living. Technically, I did that for a while as a newspaper staffer reporting the news to readers of local weekly and daily newspapers. The life of a general assignment reporter wasn’t as grand as it sounds.
No, really.
Sure, you can get hooked on finding the inside scoop and breaking a story before the competition, but most mornings and nights are spent with city council members and county commissioners, with school board members, police officers, and emergency responders. Just listening to the grinding sound of that bureaucratic sausage in production.
Like the man pleading with the genie after getting what he wished for (I mean, like, literally), I need to revisit my definition of writing for a living. Make that writing about something I love to write about for a living. I’m not saying I want to get rich, though as “side effects” go that’s not a bad one.
I want to earn enough to provide comfortably for my family and feed my gluttonous (not glutinous or gelatinous, which popped in my head immediately after thinking of the word gluttonous and are related by more than the letter “g”) desire for technological crack. iPhone 4S? Yes please.
Here’s what I think I’m trying to say. I don’t want to write to make money, but wouldn’t mind earning money while writing. If you’re writing with the goal of making money, chances are you won’t make a lot of it and probably won’t be happy during or after the attempt.

Stay hungry, stay foolish

Steve Jobs gave oodles of great advice during his time with us and bundled some of his best ideas in one speech given to the Stanford University Graduating Class of 2005. If you haven’t seen it yet, well, as they say here in the South, “Bless your heart.”
I’m making this easy for you. The video is embedded here, runs about 15 minutes long, and worth every second. Gobble it up now if you have the time (or sling the transcript over to Instapaper to read later).

Jobs shares three simple stories. One about connecting the dots, another about love and loss, and a third about death. A paragraph in the third story–the one about death–leapt out at me.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma–which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

The bow around this gift he left us was his memory of the final edition of The Whole Earth Catalog, its back cover decorated with a photo of a country road and a simple caption. “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”
I hope I can do that.
This is the first of three articles as described in an earlier post inspired by Dave Gamache.

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Nailing the Workflow

I’ve played around long enough. It’s time to commit to my writing tools and stick to them. Here’s the list.

On my Mac

As far as I’m concerned, Scrivener is the winner on Mac. I’ve tried them all and have no more questions. Scrivener is it for me.

On my iPad

Discovering Writing Kit made this decision easy. It quickly became the de facto app for writing on my first-generation iPad.

On my iPhone

I’m still waffling here, but since growing to version 2.0 Writing Kit has the edge. It not only syncs with Dropbox (natch) and handles Markdown beautifully and mimics the writing environment I enjoy on my iPad. Elements 2 by Second Gear Software still runs in my stable on my iPhone and iPad because it allows me to send HTML-formatted emails from within the app.
By setting my default Dropbox folder to the root directory, I can move within both apps from one project to another. For instance, I just swapped from my Mac to my iPhone and back to edit this article within the Scrivener hierarchy. Cool huh?
Note: I’ve heard it’s best to close Scrivener when you leave your Mac if you plan to edit files while you’re away. I hear that’s bad juju.

Other Notes

Just because I’m nailing my workflow to the apps I described above doesn’t mean I’m excluding apps–such as OmniOutliner for iPad and iThoughts–that support my work.

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iPhone 4S – An Introduction, Not A Review

Apple’s new releases have encouraged a flair for fiscal irresponsibility in me reaching back nearly two decades.
My will was strong as the positive reviews of the MacBook Air began flooding the web, but this is probably due to the higher upgrade cost. I need a new laptop like I need a new iPhone. Besides, iPhones are cheaper.
So, I have a new iPhone 4S.
I knew the 16gb version at the low end wouldn’t be enough and I was pushing the limits on my 32gb iPhone 4. The available stock at the nearby AT&T store helped me select the 64gb 4S. It was all they had left, so that’s the one I got.
It’s my Christmas, birthday, and anniversary gift for the coming year and that’s just fine with me. There aren’t a lot of little things I want, but there are a number of big ticket items on my wish list. Now, there is one less item to worry about.
Now, it’s time to get reacquainted with my new friend Siri. I knew her when she was younger, but we have a lot of catching up to do.

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Daring Fireball: Universe Dented, Grass Underfoot

The most beautiful piece I’ve read about Steve Jobs.
Daring Fireball: Universe Dented, Grass Underfoot:

But the thing that struck me were his shoes, those famous gray New Balance 993s. They too were well-worn. But also this: fresh bright green grass stains all over the heels.

(Via @gruber)

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My Wrist Used to Hurt

I had a theory that Apple’s Magic Mouse, possibly exacerbated by the Magic Trackpad, was killing me. I use the mouse at work and the trackpad at home, and the pain in my right wrist has been steadily increasing during the past several months.
Three days of field tests that began with swiping a larger mouse off the desk of a coworker who has been out of the office lately seem to support my theory. When the pain eased after a single day of use, I quickly ordered a Logitech Professional MX. After three days, the pain in my wrist has practically vanished.
Something else that pains me is that I adore my Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad. Alas, I am passing those on to others and digging the Pro MX.

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iPad met its match in the TouchPad | Nanotech – The Circuits Blog – CNET News

iPad met its match in the TouchPad | Nanotech – The Circuits Blog – CNET News:

On Friday, August 19, Apple’s iPad finally met its marketing match. That’s when Hewlett-Packard’s TouchPad went on sale for as little as $99 and triggered the kind of buying frenzy that had been reserved exclusively for products from Apple.

Uh huh, and the Microsoft Zune is going to destroy the iPod, right?
I shouldn’t be so snarky. I’ll reserve further comments until the next version of the TouchPad is released.
I hope @gruber has this one filed away for future claim chowder.
Update: He found it.

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Apple TV update failures

I found Apple’s Express Lane while haggling with a new piece of tech over software updates.
We got tired of wrestling weirdness with the dying first generation Apple TV in our living room. It’s dying a painful death, so we bought another second generation Apple TV to put in that room.
The Apple Store had a refurbished model in stock and we ordered it without hesitation. I’ve had great success with refurbished Macs and this Apple TV is not an exception. It arrived in perfect condition, just like the brand new Apple TV we bought a few months ago.
The only problem we’ve had is that the refurb came with iOS 4.1.x installed and the updater refuses to install the latest version (the one with the MLB, NBA, and stability fixes).
At first I feared we had received our first dud from Apple, and the jury is still out on that one, but it looks like it is simply a server issue on Apple’s end.
I picked up a thread on Apple’s own discussion forums where other users from all over the U.S. and Switzerland to Australia were struggling with the same issue. There are sporadic stories of success, but it wasn’t finding me. That’s when I discovered Express Lane.

Support in the Express Lane

The support service is represented by what looks like an iOS app icon in Apple’s now infamous blue hue. Log in with your Apple ID, leave a phone number, and set up a time for Apple to call you back.
It worked like a charm.
I set an appointment for today at 11 a.m. My iPhone 4 rang just a few minutes after and I had an anticlimactic answer by 11:10 a.m.
The rep told me the “higher ups” know about this issue and confirmed there is a problem with the Apple TV updates server. While he couldn’t give me a firm ETA, he did let me know they are working to fix it.
Patience is the fix. It isn’t what I wanted to hear, but the update should install correctly sometime in the next few days. So I will muster my patience and try the update again tomorrow.
Followup:Patience failed. We downloaded the ipsw file from a squirrelly source, connecting the Apple TV to a Mac with a Micro USB cord (the same cord used with the Amazon Kindle) and using iTunes to manually update the device (hold the option key and click restore).