What I learned from TechTalk 2011, London

I guess it’s my time again for #idevblogaday. I’ll keep this post short, as I’m still struggling with a bug that prevents me from submitting Clean Writer Pro.

At the beginning of this week I was at Apple’s iOS5 TechTalk in London. It was great. Apart from the rare opportunity of meeting great iOS developers from around the world(I met awesome guys from UK, Vietnam, Germany, Canada, Romania and more), the talks day also brought me a (hopefully long-lasting) inspiration and motivation. In particular, there are three most important things I came back with

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More AppStore scams – Flash Video Exposer

While casually browsing the AppStore I noticed an intriguing app called “Flash Video Exposer” which, at the time, was #1 Top Paid app in the Romanian iPad App Store. It was also in the top 30 paid apps in the iPhone App Store. Problem is, all user reviews unanimously cry that this app is a scam, and a pretty expensive one actually (8 euro).

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Free will vs Freedom

People tend to overthink the meaning of free will. I believe that free will should be taken more literally. To have free will means exactly what it says: to have the liberty of will/wish/desire/dream. Free will is not freedom. Freedom comes from free do – liberty of doing stuff, liberty of action. Free will, on the other hand, only refers to the liberty of will, of the thought and/or heart. 

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From laptop to the tablet/phone: 5 FREE key tools to keep you in sync

Desktop, laptop, iPad, iPhone.. – more often then not you feel like you might have too many gadgets. You are constantly searching for a website you glimpsed at only 2 days ago, and unable to find it in the browser history – so you wonder – Was I on my laptop when I found that article? Or was I on the iPad? Or maybe it was a Twitter link that I clicked on my iPhone.. ? Also, that quick note I had.. where on earth did I save it.. and on which device?

To get you sorted in this digital mess, we present to you the 5 most important tools you can use to de-clutter your digital existence Evernote, Simplenote, Dropbox, Push the Page and Instapaper:
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Sean Connery, Stephen King and the Most Important Advice on Conquering the Writer’s Block

Forrester: What are you doing?
Jamal: I’m writing.[…]
Forrester: Is there a problem?
Jamal: No. I’m just thinking.
Forrester: No thinking. That comes later. You write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is to write. Not to think.
[…]
Forrester: Start typing that. Sometimes the simple rhythm of typing gets us from page one to page two. When you begin to feel your own words, start typing them.
Forrester: Punch the keys for God’s sake! Yes! You’re the man now, dog.

Sean Connery as William Forrester, a character inspired by J. D. Salinger – Finding Forrester


“When asked ‘How do you write?‘ I inevitably answer ‘one word at a time‘”

Stephen King


I could write this blog post in over 1000 characters, going on and on about the importance of starting something – anything as opposed to just sitting on your ass, thinking about how to start. How the simple act of typing – whatever random first words – unclogs that area in your brain responsible for inspiration. How, when you want to write something(a blog post, a short story or even an essay) but you don’t know exactly what, you could start by simply copying a random passage from a random book, and leave your mind flow from there to your own next sentence, own next scene. In the end, you might want to rewrite that initial first passage. Whatever. Don’t think about that end part, just think about the NOW.
But I won’t do that. Instead, I’ll just let the magic words of Stephen King and Sean Connery’s character from Finding Forrester sync in.

It’s easier than it looks

The year was 2005. I was having my lunch on a bench in the Trocadero Park, at the shadow of the Tour Eiffel. Hordes of tourists were bustling on the esplanade, photographing the breathtaking view. Me, on the other hand, was quite unimpressed by the view for which tens of millions fly to France each year. I had seen it hundreds of times. I was working at less than half a mile from the glorious symbol of Paris, in a software company providing the trading floor software for most of the banks in the top 50 world. Living and working there, in the 16eme Arrondissement, the poshest quarter of Paris, showed me that everything is possible; even for a Romanian geek born in the last decade of the communism regime and whose parents’ salaries were less than $200 per month. Me, on the other hand, had gotten my raise and, at age 24, was earning monthly more than both did in 1 year.

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On Information Gathering and Archiving

This year I promised myself not to make any public personal New Year resolutions. Life is unpredictable enough as it is, and year-long commitments are way too often bound to be broken. So, why purposely aim to disappoint myself later on? Why should I want to feel like shit sometime later for not having been able to do stuff that was not in my power to do so, in the first place?

Instead, for the past days I’ve started to try out some new professional, productivity and lifestyle changes. The difference from New Year resolutions is that they are just that – try outs; I won’t feel like shit if they don’t work out, but I will like it if they eventually turn into habits.

 

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Powertool for your Mac – Hyperdock

I’m not the kind to praise apps, but once in a while a recently downloaded app makes me so happy I need to share it with the world. Today I feel this way about Hyperdock, a currently free beta app (the developer warns us that once it gets final it will cost a small fee – although if you want to keep it free you can probably just disable the automatic updates). To be noted that there’s no hidden reward for me for this tiny review – the developer didn’t contact me about the app(as a general rule I tend to ignore all email I get that promotes web services or apps), I’ve hard about it from a Tweet and decided to give it a try.

Hyperdock installs itself as a System Preferences pane, and replaces the OSX standard Dock with a much more powerful version of it, kind of like a swiss knife of system goodies:

  • Window previews – when you hover over the icon of an opened app in the Dock, you get to see a small bubble with live preview of the app’s opened windows.
  • Powerful shortcuts – for all the apps in the Dock, you can configure particular or general shortcuts. Take the default shortcuts for instance – Option+Left click on any of the Dock apps will trigger Expose to show the windows opened by that app. Shift+Left Click will hide it, etc.
  • Window Management – by far the best feature, allowing to quickly snap and resize windows(Windows 7 style) by simply dragging them to the screen edges, etc. It successfully replaces the $14 Divvy app and adds, on top of that, quick shortcuts for moving and resizing windows.

There are other features listed on the app’s page, but I stop at this for now. I can only hope that the developer will chose a small enough price for the app(I’d expect less than $10, but I’d really hope something like $5) to encourage wide adoption of this pretty great all-in-one app.
Give it a try and let me know what you think of it in the comments below.

Do it yourself – Fullscreen mode for your Mac apps

Everyone knows that multitasking is usually bad for your productivity, and that in order to get ‘in the flow’ one would need to focus on the task at hand and nothing more. Having your app maximized to your screen size might be enough most of the times, but a real full-screen mode(that is, covering also the Dock and the MenuBar) would be even better.
Apparently the next operating system version for your Mac(OSX Lion) will add native support for full-screen apps. But until then, neither of these two options are made easy by the current Mac OSX version.

If you’re in the same place as I am and too impatient to wait for your full-screen productivity boost, I found a temporary solution. An awesome one which, best of all, is completely free(although donations to their developers are welcome)!

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Three Tools for a more Productive Day

To mark my comeback to HackTheDay blogging, I’ll share with you three amazing apps I use on a day-to-day basis:

  • Jumpcut – minimalist clipboard buffering for OS X – it’s a free(even open-source) tiny app that stays in the menu bar and remembers every fragment of text you copied or pasted lately. So whenever you’re in a IM discussion and are too afraid to copy-paste something in order not to lose something already in the clipboard, don’t panic – with Jumpcut you can manage more than a single item in the clipboard. You can even define the keys to switch around them – mine is Ctrl+Option+V
  • Dropbox (referral link, if you use it you get an extra 250MB of storage)- one of the hottest startups of the moment, provides seamless sync of a special folder and all it’s contents onto the web and all the computers connected to it. The free account allows for 2GB of disk space (upgradeable up to 8GB of space – you get 250MB extra for each friend referred to the service) but you can also pay $99/year for 50GB of space or $199 for 100GB of space. The way I use this is by saving all my text files and docs inside, so they are safe in case of disk crash. Also, I can easily access them using lots of 3rd party tools – including your’s truly ‘Clean Writer‘ – iPad simple text editor app.
  • Sparrow – a new email client designed specifically with GMail users in mind that’s quite the rage lately. It looks beautiful(way better than the default Mail.app OS X email client) and integrates seamlessly with GMail, with live updates and more fun features. Above all, it’s pretty minimalist, letting you focus on the email writing instead of useless extra features.

Those were about it for today. Other tips for a more inspired and productive day will come soon.