Productivity Booster

Random iPad Tricks

Dave Gray mentioned on twitter that he learned how to lock the screen rotate on his iPad after only two years of owning it. Since that used to be the default way the side switch was set I knew about that one, but just in case you don’t, here’s how:

If you rotate your ipad the display will rotate so that it is always right side up, it even stretches or contracts depending on if you are in portrait or landscape view. This can be a problem if you are in bed reading while lying on your side, or if you have apps that you never want to go into portrait mode (I have an IM client that only shows 2 columns in portrait mode and I always want to see 3). Currently there are two ways to rotate lock – go into settings and set the side switch to lock rotation, or another trick: Double click the menu button and you’ll get a pop-up menu. Swipe the toolbar one screen to the right and you’ll see a rotate lock button on the far left (note that if you set the side switch to lock rotation this button becomes a mute button).

This also got me thinking of other tricks I’ve picked up:

Apostrophe: Being a grammar geek, I use apostrophes often. If you touch the ! and , key and swipe up you’ll get an apostrophe.

Screen Shot: If you hold down the button then click the on/off switch you’ll take a screenshot that shows up in your photo library. You can then click and email it anywhere.

Auto-pause: I plug my iPad into my car radio aux jack and realized that when you are done you don’t have to pause the music, pulling the headphone jack out automatically pauses the music.

1080P Video: The iPad will not play 1080P (because resolution that high on a 10 inch screen is not noticeable compared t0 720p), but I’m not really into re-encoding HD stuff just to carry on the iPad. Good Reader will play 1080p files (of course they are huge, but I’ll take that over re-rendering).

Bookmarking: You can bookmark any webpage to have an icon on your home screen just as if it was an app. Browse to the page you want, touch the box with the arrow icon to the left of the URL, and click “Add to Home Screen”

and, Dvorak keyboard layouts are supported if you use the bluetooth (or the stand version) Apple keyboard.

If you have any other tricks please share. Thanks!

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5 Finger Shoes and the Mid-Foot Strike

Recently I’ve been talking with a number of people about my “crazy shoes” and about technique with a number of runners. Ever since I ran the Boston Marathon in 2002 I’ve had trouble with my left knee, a common runners injury called IBS. As long as I have run I’ve also destroyed my second toenail on my left foot. For more than 10 years it’s been black or in some stage of falling off. I’ve read of long distance runners who have given up and had toenails removed, that was a bit too extreme for me.

About two years ago I learned that my friend Adam was running every day in his Vibram 5 Finger Shoes. I considered this impossible, as I would have to rest at least one day after every run to get over the aches and pains and let my feet rest. He got into it from Born to Run, and incredible book that I would recommend to anyone interested in running. It talks about technique, but most of all it’s a fantastic story about “The Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen”.

Speaking of fantastic stories, Adam’s is pretty wild too, a guy who at one point weighed over 350 and now is under 200 and training for an Ultra-Marathon (50 miles I think).

I enjoy being barefoot on the weekends so one day we went out to lunch in Lexington and we hit the running store so I could get a set of vibram 5 finger shoes to walk around in.

It was crazy, I was still running in my regular shoes but it changed my stride enough that my knee pain went away. The shoes force you to land on the middle of your foot, if you try to heel strike you realize that after about 3 strides you are destroying your entire skeleton. There is a lot of writing and religious discussion out there as to whether the running shoe and the heel strike is one of the greatest frauds of the last century, I can only judge by my own results.

This year one of my personal goals was to get some training on running form and check it out more. While looking for a coach I found a group that was running a full day clinic at a triathlon expo in Cambridge and spent a day in March with Vince, studying Chi Running, which is in line with what Born to Run is talking about (there’s also Chi Walking, if running is not your thing). I’m still too chicken to run in the VFF’s (I’m still well over 200) so I got a set of Newton Shoes which are a minimalist shoe, they are neutral (no raised heel), which makes them feel flat and much lighter than everything I’ve ever run in. I thought that I would have to adjust to those but from day 1 my feet felt so much better that I’ve never gone back.

If you decide to check this out don’t make the mistake I’ve heard many people make – wearing them as your new shoes. You have to consider wearing them as a workout, I started with short walks with the dog, building up over 6 months to the point where I could wear them all day. Just for walking around, never for running. I’ve had more than one person tell me “I wore them for a day and I was crippled, injured, hobbled, etc…”. From looking at them if they spent a full day in the gym they’d be in the same condition. How about giving 20 minutes a shot first considering that you’ve spent your entire life with your feet in casts?

The results have been amazing, in a 9k race that I started the season off with both this year and last year I was 7 minutes faster. It used to take me two days to recover, I couldn’t run without taking a rest day for my feet and back, now I feel like I could run at lunch after a morning run. Last year nine miles a week was average, I can do 20 a week running faster with less effort, and less pain. Sometimes I even enjoy it. My only regret is that I didn’t change my technique a long time ago. Better yet, I’m glad I never had my toenail removed – for the first time in years it looks normal.

Productivity Booster

10 More from the Cleaning Crew

Talking about screen maintenance created enough discussion that I wanted to put out a few more things I’ve found. Here’s the cleaning process when one of my family drops off one of their dead or spyware encrusted machines:

  1. Get the dust out. I never used forced air cans anymore, always a vacuum cleaner. They both do a decent job but the forced air just moves the grime to some other (hopefully not worse) place, the vac solves the problem. The key here is put the screws and parts somewhere far away from where you are vacuuming.
  2. While you have the box open check to see how much these upgrades would be: more memory, bigger hard drive if necessary, solid state drive if cost effective. These three updates can give huge performance boosts.
  3. When working on a machine, especially laptops, if you Google hard enough you’ll find PDFs that the manufacturer’s have for their tech people that show you, step by step, in detail how to do most common tasks like replace drives, memory and laptop screens. Sometimes you will find similar stuff on YouTube (usually from people selling the parts you’ll need).
  4. Remove keyboard grime with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. I used to just suck it up and buy a new keyboard every 3 years or so, they are cheap enough and tend to get gross. Mr. Clean has changed that, I have been using a Microsoft Natural Keyboard for almost 10 years now. You can pop off the keys and wash them in a bucket of cleaner with a brush, vacuum the case out and wipe out the wrist rest grunge with the eraser.
  5. I also discourage Bluetooth or wireless mice and keyboards. I’ve never had a cabled set fail on me, but have had plenty of situations where people forget they need to change the batteries in them and are wondering why they are getting weird behavior. I’m also comforted by this as it proves that even though I like to clean stuff I am not compulsive (like people that buy wireless components because they can’t stand to have a cord on their desk).
  6. Drill – Just like the pit crew, having a drill with a phillips head tip makes it a lot faster and easier to get cases open and shut. Two things here – spend the money for one with a clutch so you can set the torque instead of stripping screws, and you can usually get a spring extension so if you bend it around a corner – very useful in tight situations.
  7. External Hard Drive Enclosure – Two reasons for this – if you are upgrading a hard drive you will use this to clone the new drive so you don’t have to install everything from scratch, or if you are virus busting you can pull the drive from an infected machine and plug it in on some other spare machine to pull the data and not have to deal with whatever stupid reason windows is not booting up (please, not YOUR primary machine for the love of all that is holy, I’ve never seen a cross infection, but that’s nothing to play with). For $30 this one does both the big drives in tower machines, and the smaller laptop 2.5 inch form factor.
  8. Rescue thumbdrive  РI have a 16GB stick with a bunch of common tools that I may need to try first before ripping a machine apart.
  9. Backups – since it’s family and most of the time I’m upgrading a hard drive, I keep the old drive as backup (or when virus hunting, I usually pull their data to an external drive and then do a clean install, I’ve never found repairing an infected machine to be worth the time it takes). Odds are, even though you tell them every time they have a disaster, they are not doing it. While you are doing that throw in all the PDFs you found in #3.
  10. Set minimum thresholds for your IT organization. I used to keep all kinds of spare parts and spend time working on machines over 6 or 7 years old, now I tell people to bite the bullet when I’m going to have to order special parts and can’t guarantee that something else won’t crap out in the next 6 months. Don’t have eSATA hard drives? Time to replace it. I’m also reaching a point that if one of my nieces or nephews doesn’t step up I may say I only support Mac. I’m just not up for spyware battles anymore.

Any tricks/tips you’re using?

Productivity Booster

Cleaning Your Screen

Knowing how to sharpen the saw is one of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (which is only $3.99 for the Kindle by the way). Doing some work prior to stepping on the battlefield can tilt the outcome to your favor. For anyone who is a knowledge worker, maintaining your computer equipment is the equivalent of keeping your guns clean. Odds are, as a reader of this blog you are also your family’s IT department, keeping the fleet running.

Over the years I’ve picked up a few tricks on maintaining machines, and during time spent working with the differences that show up in an image on screen vs. in print, I have learned the value of a good screen.

A dirty screen creates eye fatigue, if you aren’t cleaning your screen on a regular basis wait until you have a good layer of dust and clean it up at the end of a long day. You’ll be surprised to see how it takes a load off your eyes.

How to clean it is another question. For years I have used Bausch & Lomb Sight savers, single wipes like the napkins you get at better BBQ joints (better as in food, not as in fancy). These have alcohol in them and they were great for cleaning CRTs, but I’ve heard mixed statements about using them on plastic LCDs. I’ve never noticed a problem or had any scratches, but after 3 years I tend to have either bulb problems where the monitor is not as bright as it has been, or other issues with laptop displays which require a replacement.

Recently I purchased TV Armor, a plastic shield that goes over the TV so now my son can throw Thomas the train at it all day without harming it. It came with a two stage wipe from Brillianize, which did a very nice job so I decided to buy more and run a test of the Bausch & Lomb vs. Brillianize vs. Klear Screen Travel Singles. I was surprised by the results, the key is not in the application of the cleaning fluid, but in getting it all off the surface afterwards. The Bauch & Lomb wipes (from my local BJ’s warehouse) do a good job if it’s not really dirty (or greasy), and if you keep wiping until it’s evaporated. If you wipe quickly and stop it will remain streaky.

Brillianize and Klear Screen are almost exactly the same. The Klear Screen wet wipes are a bit thicker than the Brillianize, but not by much. The dry wipes from Klear Screen are thicker but have a more cotton texture that left some residue not on the screens but on other surfaces such as laptop cases. The Brillianize dry wipes are more of a paper and leave no residue (even cleaning up the Klear Screen residue).

What made a huge difference was that the Klear Screen came with an iKlear, a small Antimicrobial Microfiber cloth. I thought this was all hype until I used it, it took more of the cleaning agent off the surface than either of the dry wipes and gave my laptop and iPad an amazingly clean surface. Once the grime is off with the cleaner if you are only wiping fingerprints the cloth does fine on its own. Since then I have noticed the staff my local Apple store using a similar cloth to wipe down their gear to get rid of “fried chicken fingers” off the hardware.

I have another post I’ll drop in a day or so about other cleaning things I’ve tested, but that’s it for screen cleaning.

PS – I’ve learned that screens are like photographic gear, the more you spent the better they are. There’s a reason why the Apple Cinema Displays cost so much, and it’s the same reason why film and photo editors use them. From my own anecdotal evidence I’ve found that I’ve only needed screen calibrators on cheap or really old monitors. If you spend enough up front and upgrade after a few years, calibration is never an issue.

Productivity Booster

At the Half

Second Quarter is gone and we are looking at the back half of the year. Here’s the update:

No real movement on the family front, the big goals there are to get the summer vacation in order and visit my brother, both of which are still in the planning phase. I also need to find a huge pile of cash to get back on track with little man’s college fund, that will prove difficult given the current cash flow situation of the full time mom (a sacrifice that is well worth it in my mind).

On the personal front my fitness and weight loss goals are on track – primarily thanks to mid-foot strike and no processed flour and sugar except for my cheat day. I also had my “fun” goal of seeing some live music (was it really 3 years since I’ve been to a concert?) which I did with the power of the 80’s – Peter Gabriel and Def Leppard.

Financial goals are on track thanks to Run to Home Base, that raised a big chunk of my donation goal, and another donation that will involve us visiting the set of Extreme Home Makeover, which will be excellent.

Work is going very well, in the hobby section the podcast model needs a bit of tweaking, but writing is taking precedent this quarter.

One change I made this year was to hit my weight goal by end of Q3, because it’s foolish to think I’m going to lose weight with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the end of outdoor running in Q4 (all I want to do is maintain, and that gives me some cushion if I’m not at 100% by end of Q3). Only one other bummer, I missed the deadline for the Falmouth Road Race, which would have been my 10th. I may have to get the black Trans Am to go bandit.