25.7.08. Remembering Pausch

There are three things that I remember about IPC 8 (International Python Conference 8), besides it being the only Python conference which I've had the luxury of attending.

  1. Riding from Fredericksburg to somewhere outside of DC in a major Virginia snowstorm, only the first or second such snowstorm I had seen since moving to the area in late 1997.
  2. Meeting Tres Seaver.
  3. The final keynote, masterfully given by Randy Pausch.

Pausch, who passed away earlier today (July 25, 2008), was charismatic, smart, and opinionated, and his keynote was funny and engaging. I must admit that I forgot Randy's name, but I'll also gladly admit that many of the points he made have remained with me and I still think of them often. There are even a couple of anecdotes which I repeat to others. Not many people can give such memorable speeches and presentations. Thanks, Randy. I'm glad to have met and heard him in person once, and wish I had been able to do so again to thank him for some great insights and inspirations.

16.7.08. OmniFocus Revisited

I've been using OmniFocus for a while now on my Mac, and made occassional use of it's predecessor, Kinkless GTD. As an implementation of the "Getting Things Done" method, or just as a personal "what am I doing?" manager, OmniFocus 1.0 was pretty good. I, personally, liked it better than the alternatives I tried, but some of that may be due to familiarity with the OmniOutliner heritage. And OmniOutliner remains one of the greatest Mac OS X applications ever written. I believe it's one of the greatest outliners ever written. Sure, it doesn't have Mind Mapping support and it can't run a slideshow (although its data can be exported to OmniGraffle or Keynote). OmniOutliner is a joy because it's fast, beautiful, ridiculously easy to use, while still having a fair amount of power and flexibility. Kinkless GTD was actually a set of AppleScripts that made OmniOutliner act like a specialized GTD application (which OmniFocus now does natively).

But when it came to OmniFocus, I only used it at work, and even there I only used it intermittently. But with the 1.1 "Sneaky-Peek" version of the desktop client (still under development), OmniFocus supports synchronization via MobileMe or any WebDAV server. This not only enables me to share this information between the office, home, and the rarely used laptop, but it enables sharing with the awesome new OmniFocus for iPhone.

Second only to the iTunes Remote, OmniFocus for iPhone is the coolest mobile application I've seen so far on this young platform. OmniFocus for iPhone (or iPod Touch) can synchronize over Wi-Fi, Edge, or 3G. That alone makes it very useful. Cooler still is that it's location aware. "GTD" has a strong concept of contexts. A project may require picking up supplies at an office supply store, assembling at home, and mailing out items at the post office. With OmniFocus, you can add location information to any context. This location information may be based on where you currently stand (using Location Services), on a manually entered address, on an address from a Contact record, or on a business search. Then when looking at the "By Location" screen in OmniFocus, available actions get grouped by their location in relation to where you currently stand. "Grocery Store: 1 Mile; Post Office: 3 Miles..." Very Cool.

This is the first electronic implementation of GTD that actually appears usable. Even if you don't follow GTD religiously (I certainly don't), the projects/contexts combination is an effective way of organizing actions. The location-aware contexts in OmniFocus for iPhone help answer the question "what can I do based on where I am?" When used well, it should make it harder to forget those little items that you needed to do or pick up for some small project.

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12.7.08. iPhone 2.0 and the iTunes Remote

Like many others, I was bit hard by the server failure that crippled the big iPhone 2.0 update process this morning. It robbed me of said morning, and I opted to take the day off work. It's been a bit of a tough week, and last night I did my first show in months, and had company over until past 3AM afterwards. Since things are about to get crazy at work, I decided that I needed a day to catch back up on sleep while waiting for my phone to work again.

A few hours later, the phone worked.

One of the most surprising and enjoyable elements is the iTunes Remote. Full and comprehensive access to my fairly large iTunes library on the iMac: all playlists, etc, with the ability to control volume, jump around in songs, see artwork - just like the 'iPod' iPhone application! Sometimes, particularly in the morning, I might turn on Front Row and carry the nice little Apple Remote around with me to have some control over songs while getting dressed in the upstairs loft, but using the remote from up there often required reaching far over the edges and trying to point the remote in the direction of the iMac, just to be able to skip forward a track or two.

But now, I can control it all from the iPhone, without needing a line of sight! In fact, this might be what pushes me to pick up an Airport Express or two (one for speakers in said upstairs loft, maybe one to bring music out on the patio or the bathroom). Full access and control of 29 and a half days of available music playable out of real speakers and controlled by an untethered iPod size device - beautiful.

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