Month: February 2013

How to Take a Digital Sabbath

I love my iPhone, iPad and Macbook. I am sure if you scanned your office, you could probably name a few digital devices that you too are also fond of. What would happen if those devices were gone? What would happened if you knew for the next 24 hours you couldn’t use them? Could you survive?

I think we all know that we could “survive” without our digital devices, however there is still tension there when you know you might be apart from them. Have we become too attached to our digital devices? If so, how do we create some space so we can maintain proper perspective?

One way to keep perspective is go on a Digital Sabbath. A Digital Sabbath is where you take 24 hours and step back away from email, text messages, television or any other electronic device that gives you information (iPad, Kindle, etc…). With a Digital Sabbath, you give yourself time to reflect, listen to God and allow for some uninterrupted time with your family and friends. So how do you take a Digital Sabbath? Here are a few ways to get started:

Tell Your Church Staff About It

Before you take a Digital Sabbath consider talking with your church staff first. Are there possible pitfalls to you being out of the loop? Are there ways to prepare your staff and church members for the fact that you are not going to be available? Including the staff not only helps you eliminate potential problems, it also helps them feel as if they are part of the Digital Sabbath as well.

Set Up Auto Responders

Go ahead set up your email to auto respond so that people know that you are not ignoring their email, however instead you are taking some time away from your digital devices. If you have an Android phone, there are a few apps like SMS Text Auto Responder that will auto respond to your texts for you (sorry, iPhone users, you have to jailbreak your phone to get that functionality). Also go ahead and change your voicemail to let everyone know when they can expect to hear back from you.

Give Your Devices to Someone Else

If you are someone who thinks they might be tempted to cheat on a Digital Sabbath, think about having a family member or friend hold onto your devices. This also allows someone to check your messages for you to let you know if there is something urgent that needs your attention.

Find a Secluded Location

Find a place where you won’t be around people where digital devices will be prevalent. The less you are around other people’s devices, the less you likely will be thinking about checking yours. For me, I like to go to a park, the library or on take a long drive.

Find a Partner

Consider getting a friend or the family member to take a Digital Sabbath with you. In fact, think about taking the whole family on a Digital Sabbath. This might encourage conversations about how technology is not only affecting you but your family as well.

Document How You Feel

As you go on your Digital Sabbath, take a moment and write your thoughts down as the day goes along. This is a great time to reflect on how technology is shaping your life. Begin a dialogue with yourself about what needs to change and how to implement the change.

Advertise Beforehand

Before you start, think about publicly declaring that you are taking a Digital Sabbath. This will put some pressure on you to make sure that you live up your commmitment. Have some fun with it and start a countdown on Twitter or Facebook. You could even use a hashtag like #digitalsabbath to let people keep track of what you are doing.

I know for some of us, this seems like a daunting task, but isn’t that really the issue here?   If we can’t take some time away from our digital devices, are we really in control?  Maybe if we took one Digital Sabbath day, we could regain some of that control and even find some new meaning of the word “Sabbath”.

Questions: Do you a take Digital Sabbath? If so, how? Click here to comment below.

photo credit: .m for matthijs via photopincc

My Android Experience

A few months ago I decided to venture into the world of Android.  I wanted to see what some of my geek brethren were so excited about.  My choice was a Nexus 7.  I have now finished my little experiment and have moved back to the iPad.  Here are my overall impressions of the Android experience.
What I Liked
Notice I use the word liked and not the word loved.  There is a lot that I liked, but nothing that I really loved about the Android platform.  First, the customization factor is a big win for those who like change and feeling like a true geek.  Modification of devices always seem to be a hallmark of geeks and Android comes through on this.  Second, I really liked the widgets.  Having the ability to instantly add something to a Remember the Milk account or create a quick text document in Google Docs account without having to open the app is a really handy feature.  Finally, I loved the seven inch tablet size.  I see why Apple followed suit with the iPad mini.

What I Did Not Like
Where should I start?  Well, first the touch screen is really not up to par when you compare it with an iPad.  The first couple of days I had adjust to the fact that it’s not as responsive as the iPad, it’s not a huge difference, however it is just enough to notice if you are a heavy iPad user.  Secondly, the menu system is complete mess.  At the bottom of the screen are buttons for home, back, menu and search.  That would seem to be okay, however the problem is that the back button can utilized differently by every app, making it virtually impossible to figure out what would happen when it is pushed.

Third, while the app selection is slowly gaining traction in terms of quantity, it still seems far behind in terms of quality.  The main problem is that while some apps claim to be built for your tablet, they really seemed like phone apps stretched to fill your screen.  Now I know that iOS does this, but you decide if the iPhone app will be stretched, thereby making it clear which apps are not really designed for the iPad.  I assume the reason for this oddity in Android is the device fragmentation which would lead a designer to make their app responsive like a web page.  This works for the web, however it doesn’t translate well with applications.

Finally, the settings were a nightmare.  While granularity in settings can be a great thing when you want to tweak something, it can be bit of pain when you take the item right out of the box.  I felt like I was back on Facebook trying to figure out the security settings.  I can’t imagine an average consumer understanding or enjoying this experience.

Overall
If you are completely invested in Google products then I can see why Android might be an attractive option.  However, with the increase in quality of Google apps for iOS I think that argument is waning.   I really can’t recommend this platform to anyone, unless you are someone who knows what they are doing behind the scenes.  However for the average end user my advice is to stay away.

How to Send Any File to Your Mac or iPhone With Instashare

Sharing a file between your Mac and your iPhone can be a pain. There is the iCloud method, which feels like throwing your files in deep dark closet and hoping you can find them later when you need them. You can use Dropbox, however that only works well when sending stuff to your iPhone from your Mac and not the other way around.

The solution I want is where I can take a file, place it in a window then have it appear on my iPhone. Now with Instashare I can do that. Simply install the application on your iPhone and the desktop client on your Mac. If you want to send a file to your iPhone from your Mac just click on the Instashare icon on the menu bar. You then should see a window pop up. Now drag the file you want to transfer on the window. On your iPhone launch the Instashare app and you should see a notification that your Mac wants to transfer a file to your iPhone. Just accept the transfer and the file will be delivered to your iPhone. From there you can use the “Open in” feature with any of the corresponding iPhone apps.

If you want share a file from your iPhone to your Mac, just select the file you want inside of the Instashare iPhone app and a list of devices should appear. Drag the file over the name of the device that you want to transfer it to. (Keep in mind two transfer between devices they need to be on the same wifi network). On your Mac you should see a request appear to accept the file from iPhone. Confirm the transfer and watch your file appear on your Mac.

Enjoy.

How to Automatically Make Any PDF Searchable on Your Mac

I have started reading Paperless by David Sparks and one of the key ingredients to going paperless is being able to search your documents not only by the title of the document, but also by what is inside the document as well.

In order to reach this nirvana of document searchability, you have to figure out how work around the problem of PDF’s. While the PDF seems to be the universally accepted format of devices these days, it’s not exactly search friendly when it comes OS X’s Spotlight or my favorite search tool Alfred.

However, you can make this happen through the magic of OCR (Optical Character Recognition). With OCR, you can turn any pdf into a searchable document. This is actually quite easy if you have copy of Adobe Acrobat Standard or PDFpen. Both of which contain tools that will convert your PDF into readable text.

This all sounds great, however if you are like me, you don’t want to have think about this. You are constantly getting emails with PDF attachments that have been downloaded, but you don’t want to spend the time converting them to be OCR friendly. You would prefer it would happen in the background while you are working so that you are not having to remember to open up your PDF application of choice and convert the pdf.

So I have dug around and found a way to make this happen. Using Applescript and Folder Actions you can automate the whole process to happen in the background so you don’t have to think about it. (Notice that one of the keys here to making this work is designating a folder to where all of your email and web downloads will go. This is important as we will be applying Folder Actions to this folder.)

So if you are brave, here is how the process breaks down:

  1. You will need a copy of Adobe Acrobat Standard or Pro. You can also use PDFpen or if like as well.

  2. Go to Take Control Books and download these Applescripts. Follow the directions listed in readme.txt file as to where to place the Applescripts.

  3. Create a folder where you want the PDF’s to reside whenever they are downloaded from your email or the web. You can leave the default as the Downloads folder as you like, however that tends to become junk drawer for me so I have created a folder called Action Items and have made that my default downloads folder.

  4. Select the folder you have just created (or the Downloads folder) and then go to Finder > Services > Folder Action Setup. Once selected, a Folder Action Set Up dialog box will appear asking you which script to attach to the folder. Select the script entitled “OCR This (Acrobat)”. Then check the box labled “Enable Folder Actions”. (This is assuming you have Adobe Acrobat installed, if you are using PDFpen select the script for that program instead.)

  5. Now test the folder action by placing a PDF in the Downloads folder (or Action Items). At this point Adobe Acrobat should start up and ask you to name the new file that will be OCR ready for you to search on. (You might be asked the first times to run the script to verify that you want perform the recognize text function on the file. It happened to me twice, and then thereafter quit popping up and started working smoothly.)

Now if you follow these steps you should be able search for text inside your PDF’s using spotlight or Alfred (for Alfred just simply type “in” then spacebar then text you want to search). Hope this works for you, contact me if you questions!

Drafts for iPhone

I have made it known of my affinity for Alfred for OS X. Not only is it a great application launcher, but it also has the ability to send text to various applications such as Omnifocus and Evernote.

When it comes to the iPhone I want the same ability and Drafts for the iPhone does that. Simply launch the application and you are greeted with a blank screen and a keyboard. At first, you might assume you are working with a simple text editor and nothing more. However, when you tap the arrow on the lower right you are greeted with multiple actions to manipulate the text. Here is a quick list of what you can do with your text:

  • Send to Twitter
  • Send to Facebook
  • Add in Omnifocus
  • Save to Evernote
  • Save to Dropbox
  • Email
  • Message
  • Copy to Clipboard

Drafts also supports Textexpander and custom URL schemes (more on this later). Grab Drafts and thank me later.

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