Tech consultant turned priest.

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Give your idea a chance

Added on by Rick Stawarz.

Sid O’Neill:

You think about it whilst you’re mowing the lawn. A couple things occur to you and you realize that actually the first idea you had was OK, but really it’s just part of a larger idea. That larger idea is something you haven’t ever considered. It seems pretty fresh. You ponder it some more, think of a couple nice analogies that help explain the concept.

Boredom, which is the enemy of technology, provides furtile soil for curiosity and imagination.

Still on Path

Added on by Rick Stawarz.

 

Many people are mocking the sale of Path, a social network founded on the principles of privacy, intimacy, and intentionality. That's fine. I understand folks were burned by Path's pitch of being an escape from the ad driven business models of Facebook and Twitter. The problem is that Path didn't come up with an alternative business model that actually makes money. App.net was a similar failed experiment.

I'll continue to use Path, though. The reason is simple. The ten active users who I am friends with on Path happen to be family members. Our parents and siblings are all on it. We post daily. We post pictures of kids, thoughtful comments, current movie viewing, and even the occasional location check-in. We like Path.

Twitter is contextless communication that is increasingly losing interest to me and will never appeal to my mom. Facebook is a reminder of the wide bredth of political opinions held by my acquaintances. What I like about Path is its focused audience. The sad truth, though, is that intentionally small networks don't make the dollars. My family and I cannot sustain Path's San Francisco based staff for the long haul, especially since none of us are paying members. Maybe that's the problem. Maybe we all should pony up.

But, there is a reason why I never give Path dollars. Their inventory is entirely made up of virtual sticker packs. You know, images of Power Rangers and barfing dogs that you can embed into a post. Oh, I almost forgot; they also sell photo filters that can make my pictures look like they have overlays from the Matrix or whatever. I believe in supporting developers by paying for their services, but if that means buying tangential products that provide zero intrinsic value, then no thanks. Sticker packs and photo filters are lame attempts at making money no matter what the other underlying principles being championed by Path, Inc. I will not spend my dollars on sticker packs.

Give me useful features that make Path even more of a knock out solution for families who want to keep in touch without the boat load of carp from the Facebook. I have dollars waiting to go to Path when they add features like profile pages, photo albums, and event sharing.

But that won't happen. And that's fine. Because for the time being, my family and I just want to share our daily happenings without complication. Until Path ceases to make that simple, we'll be around.

Returning the iPhone 6 Plus

Added on by Rick Stawarz.

John Gruber:

If you want something bigger than an iPhone, get the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. It feels more like a new device — a hybrid device class that is bigger than an iPhone but smaller than an iPad Mini — than it feels like a bigger iPhone.

And:

The increased size of the iPhone 6 makes it worse when using it one-handed. But it makes it better when using it two-handed.

Jim Dalrymple:

Of course, the easiest way to use the iPhone 6 Plus is with two hands. My experience with the 6 Plus became much more enjoyable after I gave up trying to see how it worked with one hand and used two. One-handed operation can be done, two-handed is optimal.

Josh Ginter:

The iPhone 6 Plus is my ideal desk phone. I spend the majority of my days working at a desk, which means I have more opportunities to use the phone with both hands. The nature of your life and work may urge you to purchase a one handed phone. If, like me, your phone acts as a text/email/telephone conduit at your desk, you’ll be thankful to know that the 6 Plus excels as a desk phone.

You no doubt picked up the common refrain in reviews of the iPhone 6 Plus: It's fantastic for those who regularly use an iPhone with two hands. I've been using an iPhone 6 Plus for three weeks, and I'm not so sure I'm willing to concede even that much to the Plus.

Screen categories

In the kingdom of Apple, screen size dictates what kind of input device you use. The name of a device is irrelevant. Apple's product lineup is essentially different sizes of beautiful, retina screens. If the screen is small enough to hold, it's touch. If the screen is too big to hold, it's on a desk with a keyboard and mouse.

Touch screen devices are split into two subcategories: one-hand devices or two-hand devices. It's a subtle, but key, distinction. These iPhone 6 Plus reviews are drawing out the tension of a device that doesn't fit strongly into either of those subcategories. Is it a one or two-hand device? As Gruber points out, it feels like a hybrid. We all know that he's being kind. Another word for hybrid is compromise.

Compromises

Most everyone agrees that the iPhone 6 Plus is awkward to use with one hand. Some will say that Reachability eases this problem. No, Reachability adds more friction to using half the iPhone's screen. It's a step backwards.

I think most reviews are being too kind to the new iPhone 6 Plus. Not only is it a poor one-handed device, but it is also a poor two-handed device.

It is still limited by only being able to fit two thumbs. Typing on the iPhone 6 Plus is no faster than the iPhone 5.

Typing with two thumbs is a way to speed up typing on a one-handed device. It is a limitation of the device if typing must be done with two thumbs. If you're going to be typing with two hands on an iOS device, you might as well grab the iPad and use more than just your thumbs, right?

Typing is not the only point of friction for the iPhone 6 Plus. Plenty of apps have buttons at both the bottom and top of the screen, which again, demands two hands. iPad apps welcome two-handed controls. iPhone apps weren't designed with this in mind.

Tweetbot, Mailbox, and Messages are examples of this. Each of these apps have key elements at the bottom of the screen, but also have the Compose button at the top. The 5.5-in screen insists two-handed operation while the apps assume that one-handed operation is the dominant way.

Before buying the iPhone 6 Plus, I already knew it wasn't going to be usable with one hand. What I didn't realize is how much I would not like using it with two hands, either. Several times over, I would set down my iPhone and move to the iPad for typing, reading, or casual gaming.

I realized that I want the iPhone to be the best one-handed device and the iPad to be the best two-handed device.

Is Plus for you?

Not everyone will feel the same way I do. I suspect the iPhone + iPad combination will evolve as a pro solution, much in the same way many heavy users have both a laptop and desktop.

For people who aren't heavy iOS users and don't enjoy having multiple devices to keep track of, maybe the hybrid 5.5-inch device is a great solution. If that's you, you don't glance at your iPhone as much and are content keeping it in a jacket pocket or day bag. You should take inventory of how you use your phone before purchasing the Plus.

  • What pocket do you keep your phone in?
  • Do you use your favorite apps with one or two hands?
  • Are your apps optimized for swipe navigation? (Swiping the edge of the screen to go backwards instead of relying on a dedicated back button.)
  • How much typing do you do on your phone?
  • If you're hoping to also replace your iPad with an iPhone 6 Plus, do your iPad apps also require two-hand typing?

The answers to these questions will help illuminate whether or not the Plus is for you. My guess is that the iPhone 6 Plus will attract casual users who don't have an iPad.

As for me, I want the best device for every situation, not a hybrid which achieves most tasks with mediocrity. Now a 13-inch iPad -- that would be nice.

Appinstructor Fellowship

Added on by Rick Stawarz.

Appinstructor is the consulting company I started nearly five years ago. During that time, I've met other former fruit stand workers who do roughly the same thing. That's both a blessing and a curse of the internet. You think you're unique, until you find out there are 5,482 other people in the same boat. "Wow, you're just like me! You left Apple in order to train people on Apple products in the quiet and comfort of their own home! Neat! You like Evernote, OmniFocus, Squarespace, The Talk Show, the AeroPress, Square, Monument Valley, and Reeder, too? We're twinsies!" I digress. 

Not being content with Twitter conversations, I started a Slack group for like-minded Apple consultants. Currently, there are twenty of us in the group. We've talked about how we chose our rate, what's our favorite non-nerd backup solution, why iPhoto can go ahead and just die, what we do for managing client notes, how to troubleshoot wifi the bestest, and doing client work on the weekend. It's a helpful community.

You don't have to be a former Apple employee to get in on this. If you are simply a friendly tech consultant or if you even work at an organization as an IT department of one, we'd love to have you join us. Go ahead and knock on the door: http://appinstructor.com/fellowship

By the way, this is just the beginning. There will be more efforts like this to increase our sharing of knowledge and advice. We're having too much fun to just stop here.

Remotely lock a Mac's screen with Launch Center Pro

Added on by Rick Stawarz.

David Sparks writing at MacSparky describes a way to use an iPhone to remotely sleep a Mac. This is useful for those who sometimes forget to lock their Mac before heading to the water cooler for the latest sportsball chat. David's recipe involves Drafts, Dropbox, and Hazel. Basically, he prescribes writing "Mac Sleep" into Drafts and sharing it to Dropbox. Hazel on the Mac recognizes the new file, and sends the Mac into dreamland.

It works well, but I wasn't satisfied having to actually type a phrase into Drafts every time I wanted to sleep my Mac. Yeah, I'm lazy like that. Lucky for nerds, Launch Center Pro has been updated with a neat feature that reduces the command to just one button. It quickly creates the Dropbox file with the proper name which thereby puts the Mac to sleep. Rather than annotating David's fantastic instructions, I wanted to rewrite the instructions with Launch Center Pro as the centerpiece.

Prepare your Mac

  1. Create a folder in Dropbox. Eg: "/Apps/Launch Center Pro"
  2. Create a Hazel rule for that folder to run an Applescript whenever a file called "Sleep Mac" appears. Also include an action for Hazel to trash the file after the script executes. Here's the script:

tell application "Finder"

    sleep

end tell

Feel free to test the script by creating a TXT file in that folder and name it "Sleep Mac."

Create Launch Center Pro action

  1. Create a new action, and name it something like Sleep Mac. Using the Action Composer, head here: System Actions > In-App Dropbox > New File
  2. Name: Sleep Mac; Text: whatever; Path: [same Dropbox path from above]; Name: Sleep Mac
  3. Tap Done, cute it up with a lovely icon, and tap Done again

You should be all set. If you're like me and find yourself wandering away from your Mac before locking it down, this recipe should ensure your information is protected from prying eyes.

New Job

Added on by Rick Stawarz.

Can I share some fun news with you? A couple weeks ago, I accepted a position as "Academic Technology Administrator & Integrationist" at a local Christian private school. I never thought I'd have one job that combines my love for technology and theology, but this one just about nails it. In a nutshell, I'm supporting about a hundred teachers, a few hundred devices, and a lot of parents. We're asking questions about the role of technology in the classroom and home. This is especially fun to do against the backdrop of biblical anthropology, educational processes, and computer science. To phrase it differently, I get to do Appinstructor in the context of a Christian school. I'm pumped.

What about Appinstructor?

Appinstructor is still open for business, I'm still taking appointments, and Scotty is still taking the Birmingham Branch to record levels. The reason why I didn't simply try to restart Appinstructor from scratch here in Minneapolis is because I don't know very many people in this town. When I started Appinstructor in Birmingham in 2010, I left an Apple Store of 100 friendly, former coworkers willing to send me referrals. I had a decent client base from the get-go. A second launch in this town would be a different story.

My role with Appinstructor will be a bit different now. In addition to taking a few appointments here and there, I'll continue to direct Appinstructor's new initiatives and possible expansion into new cities. If anything, my new job at the school will provide a new vantage point for watching the horizon of Appinstructor and the tech industry at large.

What about pastoring?

One of the traditional roles of the deacon is to have one foot in the church and one in the world. In a sense, this new job helps me explore that diaconal calling, as well. I'll continue to preach and assist the staff in seasonal ministries and projects, and one day, I hope to start discerning the possibility of planting a church.

Future

As for this blog, I'm sticking with the original intent: post sermons and tech thoughts. Perhaps now, I'll toss in education and iOS deployment. God knows that once school starts up, I'll have plenty from that department to share, too. Thanks for tuning in.

Alfred: quick search of religious texts

Added on by Rick Stawarz.
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Most Mac power users have heard of Alfred. It's a free app that shows a simple search bar used for finding pretty much everything. By default, Alfred will search Google, Amazon, Wikipedia, your address book, email, and any other file on your computer. Don Southard did a wonderful writeup of Alfred about a year ago at MacStories.

Alfred can be extended for even more streamlined productivity, and I wanted to share a couple of my favorite Alfred add ons. The first set has to do with custom web searches. For example, I frequently search the online version of the Book of Common Prayer. With Alfred, I simply type "bcp" into its search bar, and then the phrase I'm looking for, say, "wedding". Alfred will then conduct the search and show me the results, one of which is the Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage. Once Alfred is installed on your Mac, just click a link below to add the custom search to your collection.

Another way Alfred can be enhanced is through workflows. There are some simple ones for checking the weather, searching Evernote, and a slew of other things. The ones below don't have anything to do with religious texts, but if you're reading this far, you might as well check them out, right?

iMac target display mode and target audio

Added on by Rick Stawarz.

Every now and then, I stumble upon something that's a game changer for my personal workflow, but way too nerdy to share on the main Appinstructor blog. Here's one of those things.

Our home has a 27" iMac which my wife mainly uses, but when I'm at the desk, I like to use it as a display with my MacBook. (Learn more about Target Display Mode here.) What has always bugged me though, is that when playing audio, it would play though the laptop's speakers, and not the iMac's. Apparently, I was doing it wrong. When you Option-click the audio icon in the menu bar, "iMac" is one of the options.