Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Abco Tech Bluetooth waterproof speaker

For Christmas last year, Amy gave me an Abco Tech Waterproof Wireless Bluetooth Shower Speaker & Handsfree speakerphone for one of my gifts. :)

Most days, I use it for 10–20 minutes, mainly for 89.3 KPCC. Music sounds good, too.

After a couple of months, it finally needed to be charged because the battery indicator was low.

Solid, great suction, and sounds good (considering the environment and acoustics). I like it.

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Review: Glif by Studio Neat

My wife has fun recording time–lapse videos — with an app that escapes my memory at the moment — and taking photos with her iPhone, so I bought her a Glif by Studio Neat. It helps that John Gruber recommends it. ;)

Even though since she hasn’t been using it as much, I think I’ll get one for myself soon.

I read while eating breakfast or lunch, and it’s super comfortable when my iPhone is held up with the Glif.

Since I sometimes carry a Bluetooth keyboard, I can also use it for writing in a pinch if I don’t want to take out my laptop.

Custom Roost Laptop Stand for 11–inch MacBook Air

Bryan's current setup

I was stoked to receive a The Roost as one of several awesome Automattic Christmas gifts a few months ago. While it wouldn’t fit my 11″ MacBook Air, I saw Joey Kudish receive one that would fit. After a few pings and a couple of days, a custom Roost stand arrived.

(How am I worthy?!)

Previously, I used a mStand laptop stand by Rain Design. It was okay and stylish, but it didn’t compare to the raised height of The Roost.

Another bonus: I love the portability! Along with my Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad, when I venture out with my laptop and backpack, I bring The Roost.

I’m fortunate that I don’t feel shoulder or neck pain, so taking steps like this hopefully means I can prevent it.

To James Olander and Warren Kleban: thank you for making this happen!

Instapaper’s site on mobile is beautiful

While trying to see how many items I saved to Instapaper in my Read Later folder, I loved how everything looked on their site (Safari 7, iPhone iOS 7.1). Super easy to read. The layout has room to breathe, and elements are spaced well.

If you know someone who rarely needs to use Instapaper offline, they’ll love it.

(I enjoy Instapaper for iOS, too. Worth it.)

Another bonus: Instapaper Weekly and Product Updates are opt–in, the way it should be. :)

I never found my current number unread items, and I’m cool with it. Less stressful.

Track shared data usage for two with DataMan Pro

I installed DataMan Pro on my iPhone on January 2nd. While it was slightly uncomfortable ditching my unlimited (grandfathered) data plan from Verizon Wireless when I upgraded my phone, this app makes it a breeze to track my cellular data usage.

From left to right, and top to bottom:

  1. Current usage from this month
  2. Smart Forecast estimates usage for the rest of the month1, while the Balance displays how much cellular data I can use for the rest of the day.
  3. Stats: Usage by day
  4. Stats: Usage by hour
  5. Settings > Data Plan
  6. Settings > Data Plan > Add Usage
  7. Stats: Usage by month

Setup Tips and Observations

Data Plan — Review a few monthly statements. If your billing cycle starts on the same day every month, use the Monthly plan type. (e.g. 14th of the month)

For Data Cap, I just switched it from 1,000 MB to 1 GB (screenshot not shown) because 1 GB = 1,024 MB. Every bit helps!

Add Usage — To start accurately, log into the account with your service provider to verify your current data usage.2 Add the largest unit byte (whole number), then convert the decimal (probably from MB to KB) to add that last portion.

Multiple people — Amy and I share 2 GB of data, so we’re splitting that in half for each person.

Notifications — DataMan Pro includes push notifications at four configurable thresholds (called Usage Alerts). The defaults are 50%, 70%, 90%, and 100%.

Verizon Wireless can send email or text notifications when you reach certain preset thresholds (50%, 75%, 90%, 100%). I’m going to disable them because they reflect shared usage. We’re only concerned with individual usage.

In context, if I’ve used more data than Amy in a month, it’s up to me to ease up. She shouldn’t stress about it. :)

Turn off Percentage Badge — If you’ll primarily rely on push notifications, you probably don’t care to see the percentage badge on the app icon, so you can turn that off in Settings > Advanced.

Interesting trends — When I’m home for most of the day, which is usually the case, I don’t use much cellular data.

However, when I’m out and about, Rdio, Day One, and Tweetbot can use up quite a bit if I’m not careful.

I’ve since disabled cellular data for the following apps in iOS 7 (Settings > Cellular):

  • Rdio
  • Day One
  • App Store
  • Netflix
  • Newsy
  • Scanner Pro
  • TuneIn Radio

Quirks

I always forget:

  • Swipe left goes to Settings
  • Swipe up displays your data usage over time.

Conclusion

I’m blessed to be able to work from home with a fairly solid internet and Wi–Fi connection. When not traveling, I don’t need to pay another $10/month for another 2 GB of shared data.

DataMan Pro will help us stay strong or realize when it’s time to fork over some extra cash. I gladly paid $4.99 for DataMan Pro, and will buy a second copy for Amy’s iPhone.


  1. In other words, if I don’t change anything with my service provider or data usage habits (like disabling cellular data for certain apps), I’ll use too much data on my account. With Verizon Wireless, overage costs $15 per GB. 
  2. Note the timestamp. That doesn’t update in realtime, so you may need to check several times and make multiple adjustments with Add Usage until it matches up. After that, DataMan should match exactly with your service provider. Should. ;) 

I love Scanner Pro for iOS

I grabbed Scanner Pro for free a few weeks ago via 9to5Mac. Awesome timing!

Previously, I was using a new, regular envelope each month to keep small paper receipts for over a year — shoved into a shelf in my home office.

I’m on a purging kick, so I aim to shred old receipts that aren’t important.

For receipts worth keeping, capturing with this app is quick, and the scan quality is phenomenal.

Which receipts are worth keeping? Here are some examples:

  • Health–related co–pays, medication.
  • Car maintenance.
  • Non–grocery items (gadgets, non–trivial household items).

I’ve decided to scan all receipts, and I’ll archive the less important items into a ZIP file every month. I’ll also do the same in the rare case I take written notes.

If you’re intrigued, Scanner Pro for iOS is currently $2.99 in the Apple App Store — originally priced $6.99, about 58% off — for less than 48 hours.1


  1.  I’m not sure when the promotion began, so just snag it. ;) 

How Things makes me even more awesome

Things 2 screenshotAround nine months ago, Isaac Keyet persuaded me to try Things for Mac by Cultured Code. I usually prefer plain text, but that’s too simple for the stuff I jot down.

With keyboard shortcuts galore, I quickly fell in love with this app. It costs $49.99 for Mac, $9.99 for iPhone, and $19.99 for iPad — and it’s worth every penny. I’ll explain how I manage tasks with Things.

At work

At Automattic, we communicate internally through IRC, private P2–themed sites, and Skype. However, I do receive email notifications regularly because it helps with my workflow.

At the beginning and end of each shift, my routine consists of processing my email (new post or comment notifications), and reviewing IRC or Skype messages I missed when I was offline. I skim messages, open batches of five to ten browser tabs, and delete the corresponding emails.

When I come across a post that requires more digging (i.e. longer than a minute), I press Control–Option–Space bar to use Quick Entry, which automatically inserts a link in the notes. That item gets saved to Things. (Inbox, by default.)

Without moving my hands from the keyboard, I can enter a title and tags for the item. When I’m done, pressing Return saves the item in Things and the Quick Entry window disappears, leaving me where I left off.

If there’s a block of text that’s perfect for the notes, highlighting it before pressing the Quick Entry with Autofill keyboard shortcut adds it to the notes after the link.

I also sort my Inbox items into Next or Scheduled after processing email. (This might be against GTD methodology, but I equate the Scheduled focus to my digital tickler file.)

If I have an idea that isn’t linked to a webpage or email, or if someone pings me and I can’t get to them right away, I can press the Quick Entry keyboard shortcut (Control–Space bar) and jot it down in seconds.

It’s exhilarating to know that I’m not missing anything as long as it’s in Things (or my calendar, of course).

Pro tip: Read through the keyboard shortcuts a few times, or print it as a reminder. I’ve been using my trackpad too much.

Not at “work”

Away from my desk, I can write new items or ideas quickly with Things for iPhone. I add items from the Things home screen, saving to the Inbox by default.

When I get home, I add additional context (tags, notes). If I’m browsing a site or Twitter, and something piques my interest, I’ll take the extra few seconds to copy the URL in my clipboard to paste in the item notes.

I used their mobile app with local sync via Wi-Fi (before cloud sync), and I think it’s superb now that cloud sync works perfectly.

Wading through tasks

I’m infatuated with tags, making sure I assign the correct one for each item. By doing this, my Next screen is super focused, allowing me to ignore stuff I can’t handle at the moment. Here are a few examples:

  • At work, my Automattic tag allows me to ignore errands and tasks I need to do at home. (Tag management side note: computer is a parent tag, while Automattic is a child tag since I’m in front of a computer when working.)
  • My home tag removes items I need to do at home and away from a computer.
  • My errand tag focuses my view to tasks when I’m out and about.

Relevancy

This process allows me to batch tasks. I’m not constantly changing gears between P2s, Trac, updating support pages, helping people using WordPress.com through email/forums, processing photos, or writing posts (like this one).

I’m also not worried about forgetting the context of an item. I add just enough notes to describe what needs to be done.

Conclusion

If you work on a Mac every day, you should check out the 15–day free trial. I’m pretty sure you’ll love it.

Thank you, Things, for keeping me sane. :)