A Ride in the Rain

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Just went on an extended ride through the east side of Portland in the rain, on the bike I received yesterday. The combination of weather, and my old bike being slightly out of commission for a few weeks means I haven’t ridden as many places I was before. Winter can sort of make you forget how great going outside and doing something — even a little — physical makes you feel. Your body feels better, and your brain works better.

Anyone serious about development should be serious about how they treat their body. Both with what they eat, and what they do.

Rainy Bike Ride

Investing in Customer Service

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There’s good article in The New Yorker this week about how Uniqlo and other companies have become more financially successful by investing in staff in numbers, training and compensation, and how other companies have failed or faltered by doing the opposite.

I’ve shopped at Uniqlo before and it’s about as close to an Apple Store experience as you’re going to find from a non-luxury clothing retailer. And although their not mentioned, clearly Apple is another company which has taken this to heart.

One who hasn’t is Home Depot. I was in one of their stores last week, and this quote from the article is a perfect description of the experience:

When Bob Nardelli took over Home Depot, in 2000, he reduced the number of salespeople on the floor and turned many full-time jobs into part-time ones. In the process, he turned Home Depot stores into cavernous wastelands, with customers wandering around dejectedly trying to find an aproned employee, only to discover that he had no useful advice to offer.

I think that anytime a company can invest in improving their customers experience, it’s going to pay off whether it’s by having support staff, or hiring more retail employees. It’s sad that the model of making things as hard for customers as they can be to try and cut costs has become something, we’re so accustomed to. Even worse is that it doesn’t even seem to work.

Making Instapaper Folders Useful

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I haven’t ever known exactly what to do with folders in Instapaper. But I’m a sucker for systems and organization, so I’ve really tried. In the past I’ve used folders to turn Instapaper into sort of a pseudo-bookmarking service, but not having other organizational features (e.g. tags) makes it a pretty bad choice for that, and I want to use the right tools for the right jobs. I’ve decided that Instapaper works best when I treat it like an inbox I need to clear out — purely as a “… Later” service. The idea is that everything saved to Instapaper should be consumed and then archived, leaving no stale items.

Instead of having folders like “Recipes” and “Development” to store articles indefinitely, my folders are:

  • Read Later
    • News articles and blog posts.
  • Watch Later
    • Videos people send me mostly.
  • Cook Later
    • Recipes I’d like to try soon.
  • Buy Later
    • Things I intend to buy online (apps, Amazon).

What makes this work is a feature in Instapaper that was a bit hidden to me until now. From the Instapaper website you can save a bookmarklet for any folder and have it work just like the “Read Later” bookmarklet. I have one for each of my folders as the first four items in my bookmarks bar, so anything I save off the web can get stored in the right place automatically1. Once I’m finished with an item I archive it, and things I’m pretty sure I’ll want to look at again I send to Pinboard, where they can be organized in greater detail.


  1. Since items that get saved from apps will always go to my “Read Later” folder, I just organize those when I’m in the app. 

iPad 3, iPad 2 and iPhone 4S Cellular Speed Tests

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I wanted to see what the real differences were between Verizon’s LTE, and the AT&T 3G connections I’ve been using, so I ran some tests and decided to post the numbers. The devices I used were a new iPad, an iPad 2 and an iPhone 4S. I tested all of them from my home in Portland Oregon using the “Speedtest.net Mobile Speed Test” app with their cellular (3G/4G/LTE) connections, plus the new iPad on my home Comcast connection.

  • iPad 3: Home Comcast via Wi-Fi
    • Download: 31.05Mbps
    • Upload: 5.03Mbps
    • Ping: 14ms
  • iPad 3: Verizon LTE
    • Download: 14.20Mbps
    • Upload: 3.42Mbps
    • Ping: 44ms
  • iPad 2: AT&T 3G
    • Download: 5.57Mbps
    • Upload: 1.23Mbps
    • Ping: 99ms
  • iPhone 4S: AT&T “4G” (HSPA+)
    • Download: 7.16Mbps
    • Upload: 1.26Mbps
    • Ping: 99ms

The LTE numbers were way better than I expected — 14.2 down is probably better than most home (or any coffee shop) Internet connections. It also looks like AT&T’s HSPA+ “4G” is a little faster where I live than regular AT&T 3G for downloading, but only a little. My overall impression is that AT&T 3G is pretty fast where I live, and that Verizon LTE is holy shit fast.

Addendum to Previous Post

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In the previous post I talked about my reservations regarding the way that iCloud syncing is handled in an app like Byword, but forgot to mention that Byword for iOS includes Dropbox support for syncing as well as iCloud.

I tested it a bit, and iCloud definitely works more seamlessly in this version — changes tend to get picked up faster on both ends — so you’re still compromising (for now) one way or another with or without iCloud. It is possible, however, to use Byword on iOS without changing your entire workflow.

Shawn Blanc’s Review of Byword

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Shawn Blanc on iCloud Syncing:

The iCloud integration is, as with most other apps, painless and quick. I’ve found that apps which sync their documents through iCloud are quicker and more reliable. However, what I don’t like about using iCloud syncing is that it is application-specific. And so, in a way, an app becomes a silo of my work.

I’m trying out Byword for writing blog posts, and so far this is my main sticking point. Keeping all of my drafts in Byword means apps like BBEdit (on OS X), or Elements and Writing Kit (App Store) (on iOS) into a secondary position. Each of these apps does some — or many — things better than Byword, but if I choose to use iCloud, a multi-app workflow will be a lot harder to maintain.

I have more to say about this, so I’ll save the rest of my thoughts for a more thoughtful review in the next day or two. I will say that I think the Metaclassy folks did a great job on both versions of Byword and most of my reservations have been about iCloud syncing as a concept, rather than Byword itself.

Desk Reorganization With Snapshots

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I did a little reorganization in my office today and took some snapshots. I’ve been trying to find a more ergonomic place to put my keyboard and mouse since my desk is a bit high for my chair, and doesn’t have a keyboard tray. Instead of trying to install one, I got a “Dave” laptop table from IKEA for $20 and am using that instead. I actually like this better since the table is adjustable, and while I’m planning to phase out the desk soon, the table will still be useful around the house. I’m also pretty stoked on how much desk space I freed up.

DeskDesk and ChairDesk 2

The CueCat

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Brent Simmons — “Each Generation is Doomed to Reinvent the CueCat”:

Here’s the thing about the CueCat: it wasn’t that the hardware sucked, it’s that people aren’t going to scan things to go to a web page.

I’ve never heard of the Cue Cat, but the Wikipedia article is fascinating to me in that I’m pretty sure you could actually replace every instance of “Cue Cat” with “QR Code”, and it would still be pretty accurate. I’m yet to see any person in real life scanning a QR code even though I see them everywhere.