Early notes about ConnectedText

As a Mac user I’ve never seriously considered ConnectedText despite so many smart people1 who rave about it.

I recently installed Parallels and Windows 8.1 for a work project, so I thought it a good opportunity to give ConnectedText a go. Here are a few things I like about it so far.

It’s a wiki. Someone once told me that the word “wiki” is Hawaiian for “can’t find shit”. When it comes to large, shared wikis I might agree. However, for personal use, there’s nothing like a wiki for creating a nice, hyperlinked collection of notes. I just surround a word or phrase with double brackets ([[like this]]) as I’m typing and it becomes a link to a new or existing topic. If the topic doesn’t already exist I can click the link and fill out the details later.

Date Topics. This might be my favorite feature. Every day I create a new topic with the day’s date (e.g. 20150228). This topic is then automatically considered a “date topic”. Date topics render a calendar on the topic, making it easy to bounce around based on dates. They also automatically include a list of “Events” which are links to any other topics on that day starting with the date. So if I have a meeting, I create a topic titled “20150228 Meeting with So and So”. This topic will be automatically included in the Events list of the 20150228 topic. Date topics can also include the time (“20150228 1030 My scheduled event”) which is then included in the event listing.

Ct events
A date topic in ConnectedText

 

Cross-project linking. ConnectedText uses the concept of “Projects” which are basically independent wikis. The cool thing is that it’s easy to link between projects. For example, I have a “People” project. If I’m in my Personal project and want to link to my “Mom” entry in People, I just do [[people:Mom]] and clicking that link opens my People project and takes me to the Mom topic. With most apps I tend to use a single monolithic file/database but since ConnectedText makes it easy to cross-link I may reconsider this.

Categories. Entering the following in a Topic puts the Topic in a category: [[$CATEGORY:Software]]. All categories automatically have the own Topics which list all other Topics in that category. This is a quick way of adding some basic structure.

Ct category index
Category list in ConnectedText

 

After less than a month with ConnectedText, I’ve grown very fond of it. If it were a native Mac application the switch to ConnectedText would be a no-brainer. However, having to run it via Parallels adds a bit of friction. Before committing to it I have to determine if it causes too much friction, so I’ve been looking for ways to smooth out the experience a bit.

Here are some tools I’m trying (thanks to Dr. Kuehn for the recommendations)…

  • Breevy. Breevy is basically TextExpander for Windows. What makes it perfect for me is that it syncs snippets (both ways!) with TextExpander. That’s huge, since I use TextExpander in nearly every paragraph I type.
  • SyncBackSE. I’m using SyncBackSE to sync the project folders on the Windows VM with a mounted Dropbox folder so things can be synced between Macs. This feels awkward so I’m looking for alternative ways of syncing.

I’m going to continue my trial of ConnectedText with the assumption that I’ll work out the kinks. So far so good!

The Apple Watch Edition’s Upgrade Dilemma

Gruber commenting on The Apple Watch Edition’s Upgrade Dilemma:

The single most frequent question I’ve received this week is how can Apple justify $10,000+ prices for a watch that will be technically outdated in a few years. The simplest answer is that it’s for people who don’t care.

I suppose there are a small but significant number of people who can afford a $10,000 watch. What I find harder to imagine is that many of those people actually “don’t care” that their $10,000 watch will rapidly become obsolete. If there’s no upgrade path then Apple is selling to a tiny segment of an already small market.

(Via Daring Fireball)

Permalinks – Matt Gemmell

Matt Gemmell on date-based permalinks:

We’re all familiar with those URLs. The date of the post is explicit, so you need never wonder when it was written, or how recent it is.

Here’s the thing, though: they’re horrible.

On the other hand, I don’t think date-encrusted URLs are horrible at all. In fact, I often wish they were mandatory on anything even remotely time-sensitive.

They’re visually ugly.

Not really. They contain information and information is beautiful.

The page itself has the date of the post on it anyway. In the few cases where it doesn’t, that’s a deliberate design choice, and you’re not meant to be focusing on it.

I can’t think of a single form of writing anywhere for which the publish date is unimportant. Deliberately hiding the date may be a design decision, but it’s a terrible one.

I’d like to invite you to shorten your URLs, and get rid of the date cruft. By all means show the date of each article on the page, but get it out of your permalinks.

Ok then, I’ll accept your invitation. Perhaps I’ve been wrong. One way to find out: my links just went from /2015/02/my-title to /my-title.

UPDATE 2015-02-25: That lasted about 10 minutes. I hate having no idea when something was written before clicking and having to scan around the page looking for the date. I agree that shorter is better so I’m now only including the year, so /2015/my-title. I think we can afford 4 (technically 5 with the “/”) extra characters.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Tidyingup

It took a few people recommending Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” before I decided to read it. I’m glad I did, but not only for the intended reasons. I also got a few chuckles out of some of the sillier recommendations.

Not all the book’s recommendations are as silly as they first seem. For example, she suggests that before discarding something that I thank it for its service. I initially shrugged it off as feel-good nonsense but it turns out to actually feel good.

Since reading the book I’ve completely gutted my closets and they’ve never been, well, tidier. And I thanked every item of clothing before discarding it. Go figure.

It’s worth a read.

Apple IIc

I found an Apple IIc and monitor in storage so I thought I’d see if it would fire up. It did.

Apple IIc
Apple IIc

 

The IIc uses an internal 5 1/4 floppy and the only one I could find was “Writer Rabbit” so I popped it in, turned it on and everything, surprisingly, worked. I have no idea what to do with it now, but it seems a shame to put it back into a box in the basement.

Here’s a quick (1:00-ish) video of Jessica playing the game.

Window Tidy

I’ve tried many window management apps but none ever seem to stick around for long. The problem I have with most of these types of utilities is that they’re very keyboard-centric. When I think about arranging windows I’m generally in mouse mode, not keyboard mode. Moom comes close in that it’s triggered when hovering over a window’s zoom button but the target is pretty small.

I like Window Tidy’s approach of showing several large targets after I begin dragging a window, since that’s when I typically want to arrange things.

Cheap Film

For 35mm color negatives, I’ve always shot either Portra 400 or Fuji Pro 400H; both great films. Also,  at between $7.50 and $10.00 per roll, they’re expensive. And let’s face it, I’m shooting fast and loose, taking what most would call snapshots. It’s not art, that’s for sure.

Kodak 400 and Fuji 400 consumer films
Kodak 400 and Fuji 400 consumer films

Since I’m not creating art, I thought I’d try some cheaper films. I’m going to give the “consumer” films from Kodak and Fuji a try. I’m told both scan very well on the Pakon. At around $3.00/roll it’s worth testing. I’m expecting to not see a significant difference, which could save me a lot of money.

My new microwave has only one button

The microwave I bought 13 years ago (a Sharp Carousel) finally died last week, so I started shopping for a replacement. I wanted something simple. The simpler the better. I mostly just need to reheat leftovers.

I looked at several models recommended by The Sweethome but those fell into the same add-every-feature-we-can-think of trap that I was hoping to avoid. Why do microwaves need so many unnecessary buttons and modes and readouts?

Finally, I found the Sharp Medium Duty Commercial Microwave. Notice anything?

New microwave

That’s right, it has only one control. No presets, no defrost, no sensors, no carousel, not even a temperature setting. There’s not even a clock. I just turn the dial and it starts cooking! This makes me unreasonably happy. Yes I know other microwaves may only require pushing one button to cook something, but it’s one button out of many. That’s different, and not what I wanted.

But how well does the new one work? Well, I’ve only had it for few days but have used it a half-dozen times and so far I’d say it works perfectly for what I need in a microwave.

New microwave