How technology sculpts my day; A view of Billie’s day!
I’m often asked, “What app is that?” or, “Why do you do <something> this way?” So, here it is. This article entry will try to cover the hardware and software I use daily to make my day more automated, more informed, and more ‘universal?’ in the age of the Internet.
I’ve decided to break this into three sections: Hardware, Software, and Timeline. I’ll also include links to whatever I can, to better give you reference as to how you can join in the fun, should you find any of this useful.
Bluetooth: All of my devices have bluetooth, and that’s pretty essential for most of this.
iPhone: Many of the apps rely on the unique/specific features of this device. Though, I’m sure much of this can be replicated on Android.
Vehicle: I have a 2014 Veloster. It has bluetooth, USB input, XM Radio, 12v power, and touch steering controls. In our state, it is illegal to use mobile devices while driving.
iPad: Bluetooth, Wireless. Used as an ancillary device mostly when travelling or at home on the couch.
Mac: I have a iMac 21″ with second display. This is a hub to many of my core setups, and a backup to most cloud storage.
Mophie Juice Pack: An iPhone case that has an additional battery. comes in handy with all this daily menuta.
USB Chargers: I have one at my work desk, one in the car, one at home, and a couple spares in the trunk and drawers. Trust me, you can never have too many.
USB Extension: I have 4 of these. They are just simple cables that add 6-10 feet of USB. This is useful for charging where the outlets are in odd locations.
Cheap Old Laptop: I choose a PowerBook G3, and added a bigger hard drive.
Bluetooth to Headphone adapter: Allows any device with a headphone jack to stream to bluetooth.
Bluetooth Headphones: Essential for wireless living, or working out.
USB Thumb drives: I have a bunch of these, never know when you need offline data
I will do my best to include all the software I use in this article. I will add them in the order I use them.
Pandora(iPhone and Mac) – www.pandora.com
Slacker Radio Mac/iPhone) – www.slacker.com
Nest(iPhone) – itunes.apple.com/us/app/nest-mobile/id464988855?mt=8
IFTTT (Mac/iPhone) – Automate your life! – www.ifttt.com
BlueLink (iPhone) – itunes.apple.com/us/app/hyundai-blue-link/id524221770?mt=8
Good morning! I am awoken by my iPhone’s built in Clock/alarm feature. It can play any ring tone or built in sounds it has, and vibrates. Habitually, I hit snooze the first time, to stop the errant noise, but am awake enough to know that I still have about 20 minutes before I NEED to be awake. I take this off the charger, put it under my pillow as not to wake the husband. The vibration is what wakes me up the second time.
Shower Time! This is where bluetooth first comes to play. My bathroom and shower has bluetooth speakers. I flip on Pandora or Slacker Radio, and get my wash on! (uhm, yeah.)
Time to head to work.
– My Keurig has made my coffee with it’s old-school-but-still appropriate LCD clock/timer.
– The Nest thermostat detects that I am leaving, and adjusts the thermostat for ‘away’. Should the temperature outside get too hot for the kitties, I use IFTTT to tell my Nest to kick on the air and get the fan going. Basically, if the temp gets above 90, or below 65 as reported from weather.com, the NEST will get a message to turn on the air or heat to get the house to a preferred temperature.
– The proximity remote on my car has unlocked my doors as I approach, and when I start the car with my keyless push to start, the iPhone auto-connects to the computer built in.
– Depending on the day, I will either listen to standard over the air FM, or opt for XM. Occasionally, I like to stream Pandora or Slacker. No matter the choice, the bluetooth connection can stream from my iPhone Apps, or the built in XM and Pandora link can do that for me. I also have a USB thumb drive full of my favorite tracks, plugged in to the car. This is a fall-back, usually if I’m just not in the mood to hear streams, or if I want a specific song. Or if the internet is being wonky.
– As a force of habit, I like to know what my ETA will be, and if there’s any major traffic or construction I should avoid. For this, I open WAZE on my iPhone. This app is also great, because it has a community shared experience to it; it relies on Google traffic, but also USER-Reported issues. Situations that would elect a better course, like construction, accidents, speed traps, traffic cameras, weather, and slow downs/congestion on the path ahead. It’ll even offer alternate routes, based on that information.
– When traffic is messy, or I just don’t have time to sit in stop-and-go, I take the Toll-way. This is a 75MPH road, no stopping, using a transponder sticker or license plate identifier. (www.e470.com )
– Once the apps on my phone are open, I can throw it on the USB charger, and ignore it. It uses bluetooth to announce course changes, traffic alerts, and does all the music streaming and such on its own.
– If I need to, I can post to facebook or send a message to someone using the car’s built in microphone – which connects to Siri. “Tell my husband, ‘I’m off to work, have a great day.”, “Send it”.
– On a side note, don’t text and drive. Seriously, it CAN wait. #ItCanWait
– Once I’m at work, I have a ritual of closing all my apps that I’ve opened, while riding up to the sixth floor of our building. It’s not a requirement, but I feel like it saves battery if a GPS app isn’t constantly checking where I am.
– If I have forgotten to lock my vehicle, I will usually get an email within the first 10 minutes or so. “Veloster 2014 VIN: xxxxx is not armed.” or similar. I switch over to the Bluelink app, select ‘Lock and Arm’, and my car gets a signal to lock itself up.
– At my desk, I have Windows 8, and an old school Mac (PowerBook G3 – PowerPC with 256MB of RAM – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PowerBook_G3#PowerBook_G3_.28FireWire.2C_Pismo.29 ). Even though this Mac is over 14 years old, it still serves a great purpose! You see, music at work is allowed, but our firewall doesn’t allow any kind of Music streaming. Well, with a quick swap of the hard drive on this old beast, I copied over 200GB of music from my personal library to it. With iTunes running, I have 24,000 songs on shuffle. Better than any ipod, and It’s a great little notepad/extra screen (anyone remember OS X Stickies? – www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/how-to-exploit-the-stickies-app-in-os-x ) for all those quick items that I just can’t seem to get away from. Saves some paper in the office, too!
– When I am ready to listen to music, I find that wires only get in the way. For 17$, I was able to buy a Headphone-to-bluetooth converter that I plug into the Mac. That streams any music from iTunes to my Motorola bluetooth headphones. If I want to listen to Pandora or Slacker, the headphones can also connect to my iPhone. The added feature of this is that it also acts as a hand-free headset, so when I get a call, I can use them as well.
– Speaking of music: I mentioned that I have A USB port in the car with a thumb drive. I have a bunch of these. They are like, 7$ each for a 16GB drive. That holds anywhere from 2500-8000 songs, depending on quality. They are easy to carry, and can stay connected to any device. When I get new music at home, I bring the drive in from the car or home from work, drag and drop them over, and I’m all set! I also have a couple drives that contain my favorite digital images, for my digital picture frame and for the car. Did I mention that the car can do audio, videos, and slide shows? So yeah, a thumb drive is always something to keep on hand.
Throughout the workday, there are several interactions between devices I make use of in order to communicate, share data, and access the cloud. This part is less of a time line, and more of random use cases.
– Launchy: www.launchy.net/
This is a great little app. If you are stuck on Windows 7/8, but love the Spotlight feature of Mac OS, then you will love this. You assign it a keystroke (defaults to Alt-Space). Then, you tell it what folders to index. Personally, I have it index my Start Menu Items. I’ve also created a folder of common shortcuts, including Application Shortcuts made with Chrome. From there, I simply hit the keystroke, type the first couple of letters of the app or shortcut, and it launches! Much faster then Windows’ version of the ‘Start Menu’. 
– Email: www.google.com/mail
I check my personal email regularly. While this is available on the iPhone, I find that a full keyboard is often a better method. To accomplish this, I make heavy use of Chrome. Personally, I think GMail is the best service out there, so I’ve adopted much of the Google Suite as a whole.
– Chrome: www.google.com/chrome
At work, our tools and utilities require the use of Internet Explorer, so I won’t go into the work aspect of things. For everything else, I’ve come to the dark side. For the longest time, I was a huge FireFox fan. It was speedy, had a mess of plug-ins and tabs, and ‘felt’ good to use. As of late, I’ve moved away from it. There are a number of features that FF just doesn’t offer. Here’s a short list of the features I use:
: Create Application Shortcuts – mrwweb.com/power-user-tip-chrome-application-shortcuts/
– – They run in protected space; if one crashes, they don’t affect each other.
– – Cookies aren’t shared between the main browser and the apps (unless you open a tab FROM the app), so I know I’m not sharing my data/password with the general browser.
– – I use tabs and bookmarks for work, but don’t need them on my GMail app or Facebook.
– – Settings like font size and window position are memorized per ‘app’
– – They come complete with their own icon, if the website supplies one.
: Universal shared features.
– – It will sync Apps, Extensions, Settings, Auto-fills, History, Themes, Bookmarks, Passwords, and Open Tabs between any Chrome you may have on iPhone/iPad or Mac/PC.
– – Using Chrome, I was able to abandon most of my third party apps that did the same thing. (XMarks, for example – wwww.xmarks.com ).
– – All data is protected behind your Google Account, so it’s pretty secure.
– Chrome Extensions:
While I’m on the topic, here’s a list of the extensions I use, and why.
: Auto-Reload – Used when I need a site to refresh every so often, to see latest data from it.
: Currently – I don’t like the default blank page/tab; this makes it useful with weather and other info.
: Eye Dropper – Sometimes I need to know what color a page item is.
: Faviconize – Adds the custom icon to links in Google search results.
: History Cleaner – Adds a History Cleaner button to the bar.
: Lastpass – allows immediate access to my password locker and auto-fills on many sites. I use this over the Chrome Password manager, just for cross-browser (Firefox, Safari) support.
: PushBullet – Send any page, file, document, text to any device with a single click. Great for sending addresses to iPhone or contact info.
: Tab to Next – When opening a new tab, it usually goes to the end. If I right-click and open link in new tab, it puts that tab directly NEXT to the one I’m on. Personal preference.
: Window Resizer – I test applications in many window resolutions. this is a quick way to resize the browser.
Each of these are available on the Chrome Store. chrome.google.com/webstore/category/extensions?hl=en-US
– Calendar: www.google.com/calendar
I have created an Application Shortcut for this. It keeps it nice and tidy, and quickly accessible. I hate things getting lost or co-mingled in a mass of tabs.
– Docs/Drive: www.google.com/drive
Pretty straight-forward on this one. Google Docs and Drive is a great way to keep the most important 15GB of documents and files you may need. It has apps for every kind of device, and links to your Google Account, so they are always there. Plus, it keeps an off-line copy of your documents on any computer that has the Application installed, so you are always in sync.
– Remote Files: www.soniq.org/os-x-hints/18511/
This is a big one. I use a slew of tools to access remote files, and have outlined much of it in the link above, but I’ll go over the main tools here.
: Dropbox – www.dropbox.com
– – Fast syncing between computers and iPhone, cloud access, and password protection. Plus, share a file via link to anyone.
: Drive – www.google.com/drive
– – Fast syncing between computers and iPhone, cloud access, and password protection. Plus, share a file via link to anyone.
: Tonido – www.tonido.com
– – Turn your home comptuer into it’s own file server and ‘cloud’.
– – Access files on your computer from anywhere
– – Stream music and video from your iTunes Library, or Folders on your computer
– – Photo galleries indexed from your computer, show in thumbnails for ease of retrival.
– – Access from any browser, or iPhone app, as long as your computer is online at home.
: Team Viewer – www.teamviewer.com
– – When you need to physically do something on your home PC, this is the way to do it. This runs on your machine, password protected, and allows you to ‘VPN’ back to it from iPhone or PC application.
– Reeder/Feedly: feedly.com/
I am a BIG fan of keeping up to date. There are a number of sites that I like to check daily for the latest stories, rumors, updates, etc. 5 years ago or so, you would have to browse to each site, scroll through, and then make bookmarks for anything you needed later.
Then came Google Reader. Godsend. Give it a URL of your favorite sites, and it would aggrigate into a clean feed. You could favorite things for later, email them to friends and such, post them to Facebook.
Then, for reasons still not fully known, they cancelled the service.
Thankfully, Feedly stepped up. In a matter of minutes, you could export your feed to Feedly from Google, and you were back in business. With that, a number of iPhone apps adopted Feedly’s API, and now, I can see all my news via Feedly’s site, or using Reeder ( reederapp.com ) on iPhone. I’ve also created this as an Application Shortcut from Chrome, to speed up access.
– Facebook: www.facebook.com
If you’re not familiar with the largest social netowrk on the planet, I would be surprised that you are even reading this right now. Facebook has inundated itself as almost a Utility in the lives of today’s Internet User. Social sharing, links posting, calendaring, event management, photo galleries – it really has a bit of everything. That said, it can be annoying and daunting. For that reason, I have made Application Shortcuts for the common uses I get from Facebook. I have created these shortcuts:
Facebook News: www.facebook.com/checkpoint/?next
– LastPass: www.lastpass.com
As they say on their site, this is the last password you’ll ever need. They are right. But be sure to make it a complex, and memorable one. LastPass is a password manager, but oh so much more. Features:
: Cross-Platform, Cross-Browser with Plug-in
: iPhone app
: Auto-Fills common fields (with choices of pre-set templates)
: Prompts to remember passwords in it’s database
: Stored on the cloud
: Generates passwords for you, to help keep security high
: Stores other data, as you see fit – Credit Cards, Addresses, etc.
– Text Messaging:
I text. A lot. While at work, this is a bit obvious, if my phone is always in my hand. Enter, once again, bluetooth. You see, any bluetooth keyboard will work with iOS. So, I leave my phone on the charger, in it’s dock (smartphonepedia.com/samsung-galaxy-s3-desktop-charging-dock.html ). When a text comes in, i simply swipe, type, and send. It never has to leave the charger, thus I never give the appearance that I am not taking time away from my work.
Now, you may notice that I linked to a Galaxy S3 dock, and not an iPhone dock. This is because the Mophie Juice pack is my primary case – and it uses a micro-usb charger port.
– VoiceMail: www.youmail.com
One thing I dislike more than chatting on the phone to people I don’t need to talk to (who could have easily emailed the info), is calling a voicemail system, listening to messages, only to realize I don’t have to call them back. YouMail changes that. This app, available on your phone and the internet, has a number of features that make voicemail almost.. fun? For example, YouMail reads your phone book, and imports your contacts. Once it has them, you can assign custom greetings to each! They have a database of messages to use, or record your own. You can also upload MP3 clips! Don’t want to customize with music or your voice? No problem – they also have a SMART Greeting. This will take the first name of the caller ID, and speak on your behalf. “Good Morning, Joe! Billie can’t take your call right now, please leave a message.” When a message is left, YouMail can use notifications to let you know, email or text. For a small fee, it can transcribe the messasges and send a text of what was said! Wait, you don’t like who’s calling? Just use DitchMail. This will present the caller with a message of your chosing, then hang up on them. No ability to leave a message. Personally, I like the AT&T recording “The number you have reached has been disconnected, or is no longer in service. Message 1ML43.” While your carrier may have a visual voicemail or instant replay, I highly doubt they can match the features of this service. There are a bunch more features, like emailing the voicemail to others, sharing and linking to Facebook, assigning photos, auto-discovery of businesses… Oh, did I mention that the basics (all but text annotation) is FREE?
– PurpleMail: www.purple.us/purplemail
Not many people know this, but I speak ASL. many of my friends back home are deaf, and it was a great opportunity to learn and grow. PurpleMail offers voicemail services to and from my friends, so that anyone who speaks english (US Service only) can leave a message. A licensed translator will record the message on video, in ASL, to the end (deaf) caller.
– IFTTT: www.IFTTT.com
IF This, Then That.
So, it’s not really something I DO everyday, but more about what I don’t HAVE to do. IFTTT is the bridge between many different apps, websites, and social interactions. I’ve outlined how I use this modern miracle in another article I did a couple weeks back, but here are the highlights:
: When I favortie a video on YouTube, it will automatically post it to my blog
: When I Check-in on FourSquare, IFTTT will add it to my location calendar (I like to see my locations)
: When my zip code is reporting snow from weather.com, IFTTT will send me a text
: If I post a status to Facebook, IFTTT will add it to my Status Diary on Google Docs
: When the weather in my zip code gets above 90 degrees, IFTTT will tell my NEST to turn on the fan. Additionally, if NEST sees the temperature above 83 degrees in the house, it will tell IFTTT to tell NEST to kick the air on for a couple more minutes.
– Home Maintenance:
At home, I have quite a few things going on that are all linked together. the ones you probably know are Netflix and Hulu. They are great cheap alternatives to Cable or Satellite, and they work on pretty much any modern Internet devices.
Beyond that, there are a few more things that go on at home, accessible to me through the internet and iPhone:
: Security – I was going to go with Apple’s suggestion of the iSmartAlarm (store.apple.com/us/product/HE225VC/A/ismartalarm-home-security-system-deluxe-package ), but I felt that was too much for what I needed. So, for a bit cheaper, I have an internet enabled DVR, 4 wireless cameras, and a 3G based security system. After all was said and done, I have a website I can connect to on my iPhone or PC, and see each camera, cehck the status of power, motion and entryways, and get email or text alerts if something goes wrong.
For those who want an even cheaper solution, I suggest this article: netsecurity.about.com/od/newsandeditorial1/a/Diy-Iphone-Controlled-Home-Security-Camera-For-Less-Than-100.htm
My ride home is pretty much the same as my drive in. I won’t bore you with a repeat of the drive in, but needless to say, I use the same apps and connect the same way.
Once I’m home, my ‘online time’ is split up between the iMac, the Macbook Air, the iPad, and the iPhone.
I’ve attempted to mirror my iPhone and iPad. Realistically, this just isn’t useful – since what I do on each device is vastly different. My iPad, for example, is used for web surfing, games, videos; whereas my iPhone is for social media and communication. My iPad also has almost triple the memory, so I can actually store media locally, and is only wifi – so streaming is not always possible.
That said, here’s my home workflow.
– Fluid: fluidapp.com/
My Mac at home is setup with Fluid. This is an app that works in the same way Application Shortcuts do on the PC. I have one for each of my web-based apps. The benefit of this is visibility and memory. When I have the web-apps open as their own application, I can see quickly on my tray what’s open and what to switch to. With Spotlight, I can Command-Spacebar to it (or Command-Tab if already open) with a couple keys.
Once the apps are open, they function as you would expect a full app to. I can resize them, change font sizes, all independent of the browser.
On my Mac, I have moved away from most of the Apple provided apps. Again, this is a choice, becasue I wanted more ‘tweaks’ than they offered.
: Mail – I use GMail as a Fluid created App. I shrink the font size a bit, and it takes up a fraction of the browser or OS X Mail Space. As a backup, I have AirMail (airmailapp.com ) because I like to be able to script messages using AppleScript (www.macosxautomation.com/applescript )
: Browsing – Chrome. As with work, all of my items are sync’d and linked.
: Music – iTunes. I still use it, I still sync and organize with it. I don’t know a better solution, and it’s pretty stable.
: Chat – Adium. A multi-chat app, it allows me to IM with all the big ones, AOL, Messenger, Facebook, ICQ, Yahoo!, etc. (adium.im )
: Photos – I used to use iPhoto. It was free, it had tagging and face recognition. Now that I have 70,000+ photos, it’s no longer an option. It simply can’t keep up with the volume of files and changes. I have switch to Aperture (www.apple.com/aperture ). There is a cost to it, about 70$, but to me, photos are paramount to my life. Aperture offeres all the features of iPhoto, plus smart albums, tagging, meta keywords, IPTC tagging, labels, face tags, GPS tagging, and much more. The main reason I use it is the many integration features. For example, I can create a smart album of photos that are tagged with my face. Then I sync that to Facebook. Once the link is made, anytime I tag new faces with my name, it will add them to Facebook. Pretty neat, huh?
: Linked Tools –
As I mentioned above, there are a number of tools that I use to get data and information accross devices. To do this with the Mac, I’ve implemented a few services. I’ve illustrated them all on my posting about building your own cloud (www.soniq.org/os-x-hints/18511/ ), so here are the main features:
– – Tonido: I can serve files to many or just myself.
– – Picturelife: picturelife.com/ – This site syncs to Aperture, and gives you like 10GB to have cloud copies of all your photos. Great Service. They have an iPad app as well.
– – Dropbox, Google Drive, Box.com: These all have apps, let you sync files, and share. I like them all.
So really, I think that’s pretty much the big stuff. I have some other things that I have automated, setup, but they get pretty geeky, and I think i’ve suffered you through enough at this point.
Some for honorable mention:
– iTunes Song Cleanup: I use Tuneup (tuneupmedia.com ) – this app scans through your massive iTunes collection, and adds all the missing pieces. This includes album names, artist corrections, BPM, artwork. It’s usually pretty good, because it compares the ‘soundprint’ of the song with the title and artist in your library to a database online, and gives you a MATCH or a LIKELY match. the likely matches are about 80% correct, so I’d take a quick look before committing the changes.
– Batch Image Resizer: (soniq.org/macsoftware/9044/ ) – I often get a set of photos that just need a quick adjustment of sizing. This does that. I use it. Alot.
– SizeUP: (www.irradiatedsoftware.com/sizeup/ ) – this is a great tool, if you are like me, and like windows to be in certain places. It assigns a set of key commands to resize and rearrange windows, very quickly. I find that I use it on my Mac so much, that I get irritated when I can’t do the same thing on my Windows 8 Machine.
So, really, that’s it. Hope you find some use from this. Have a great weekend!