Tag Archives: reviews

I’ve solved my podcast problem

Since I started using Rdio I’ve run into a problem: I never open iTunes. This is mostly okay as Rdio replaced my local iTunes library. The downside is that my podcasts live in iTunes. By not opening the app the podcasts never update and I forget they exist.

A few days ago someone, I have no idea who to credit because Twitter search is a clusterfuck, who I follow on Twitter mentioned Instacast. It’s fantastic.

Instacast gives you a native iOS app that is built around one thing: subscribing and listening to podcasts. It’s a great example of a focused app that does one thing and does it really damn well. Best of all it’s not connected to my iTunes library. My podcasts now update every time I open Instacast. No need to be chained to iTunes.

The player is also tuned specifically for podcasts. The built-in Music app places a volume slider at the bottom, Instacast has a time slider. It still has all the necessary things like AirPlay and local caching.

Overall it’s just a really well-polished app. I’m excited to get back into podcasts now that they’re more easily updated right on my iPhone.

The Hit List Review

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I’m using The Hit List as my task app. Before, I used OmniFocus which was good but was just too much for my needs. I don’t need the flexibility perspectives offer, the sync was pretty slow, and the user interface was just not my style. The Hit List is a wonderful change and a really well done app.

UI Gold

A nice interface doesn’t make up for a sub par app. But, when you start with a well designed app like The Hit List a gorgeous interface really makes the app shine. Those small touches I mentioned in the earlier post are just part of the story though.

For example, task entry in the iPhone app is a thing of brilliance.

Task entry in The Hit List for iPhone

Not only is the adding interface simple but once you start typing one task you get that slick plus button in the bottom right. Want to add another task right away? It’s just a tap away.

This thoughtfulness carries over into the desktop app in more ways than I have time to mention. One of my favorite features though is the ability to view any task as a card.

Any task can be viewed like this and you’ll see the title, tags, date information, and a totally free form note field. I use this view way more than I first thought I would. In some ways it’s replaced how I use Notational Velocity. If I have a quick idea for a blog post I can just create a new task and start writing. It’s a great way to just capture information for later.

These two features allow me to really get the most out of The Hit List. I can get right into the app on my iPhone or on my laptop and start right into inputting information.

The whole point of a task app is to not spend gobs of time with it. You’re supposed to spend all that time on the actual tasks. 🙂 So, it’s crucial for an app to make it easy for me to get in, enter my information, cross things off, and get out. That’s exactly what The Hit List does.

A smart app

Another area where it’s clear Andy Kim spent a lot of time working on is the little things surrounding tasks. The repeating task interface is a great example of this.

Like other task apps The Hit List uses natural language processing to parse what you mean when repeating a task. For example, if I type “1st” it automatically sets the task to repeat every month of the first.

Similarly typing “Mondays” or “Monday, Tuesday” will, respectively, repeat it on every Monday or every Monday and Tuesday. Just another way The Hit List lets me add tasks without thinking about how to use the app.

The task filing I mentioned in the earlier post is another example of this. It’s seriously incredible. With one or two keystrokes I can select a task and file it where it needs to go. Or, with a couple of keystrokes I can go to any list I have created.1

There’s more too

That barely scratches the surface of my love for this app. Almost every day I find myself amazed by how wonderful it is. It takes just a few minutes to learn the basics of the app and not much more time to really master it.

The Hit List certainly isn’t one of the cheapest task apps out there. It’s $49.95 for the desktop app, $9.99 for the iPhone app, and $19.99 a year for cloud syncing.2

Sure, it’s a sizable outlay for software but I can’t think of an app that you’d want to spend more on than a task app. It’s your digital brain, invest in it and you’ll get way, way more than $80 of value out of it.

Andy Kim has done a terrific job with this app. As an early beta tester I can say that the 1.0 desktop app and the long-awaited iPhone app have blown away my expectations from when I started using it a few years ago.

  1. All it takes is pressing “g” and then typing the list you want to go to.
  2. Syncing which is blazing fast by the way.

WaPo tries to seat TBD.com at the kids’ table

The article published today by The Washington Post about TBD.com, is pretty sad. It is rarely a good thing when make your childish attitude clear in the first 8 words. That’s not a lede, it’s a put down.

Also, who the heck decided to put the term community engagement in scare quotes? Perhaps it’s more depressing that The Post does not even know what that idea means. If the company had cared about community maybe they wouldn’t have had to sell Newsweek for a dollar.

End of year reviews and the grading system

This would be ideal:

In my ideal management world, a review is simply a documentation of well-known facts, your performance over the year. It also contains constructive advice and insight regarding how your boss believes you can improve on that performance. My dream is that you already know all of this information because you’ve been getting year-round feedback from your boss.

Minimalism and my ideal news experience

As I’ve mentioned before I’ve been using Shaun Inman’s Fever for a while now as my sole RSS reader. The more I use it the more I come to love it and in the last few days I’ve realized why: it does exactly what I want it to and no more.

In my case I want to use my RSS reader for one thing: reading. This is why I felt that it was worth $30 to move away from Google Reader.

As Google has developed Reader over the past years and months I’ve felt that they’ve strayed from the original idea of providing a lightweight and fast way to stay on top of the news that’s important to you. If I want to share an article, save it for later, email it to a friend, or “like” it I have my own ways of doing that and don’t want those features to infringe upon the primary purpose of my RSS reader.

The fact that I was so willing to drop $30 on a product that I couldn’t even use a demo of is a testament to my faith in Shaun Inman as well as my simple frustration with Google. It also got me thinking about news in general and the experiences that most (if not all) major news organizations provide.

Continue reading Minimalism and my ideal news experience

A new Che film

Somehow this slipped by me when it came out, but apparently there is a new movie about the life of Che Guevara in which Benicio Del Toro again plays Che. The movie weighs in at almost 4 and a half hours long (which could be a good thing in my eyes). Alas, it was only released in select theatres so I guess I’m left watching it when it comes out on DVD.

Read the New York Times review here.

Michel Foucault – Discipline and Punish

I’m currently reading and enjoying Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. Taken from Wikipedia is the summary/main information:

Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison is a book written by the philosopher Michel Foucault. Originally published in 1975 in France under the title Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la Prison, it was translated into English in 1977. It is an examination of the social and theoretical mechanisms behind the massive changes that occurred in western penal systems during the modern age. It focuses on historical documents from France, but the issues it examines are relevant to every modern western society. It is considered a seminal work, and has influenced many theorists and artists.

Foucault challenges the commonly accepted idea that the prison became the consistent form of punishment due to humanitarian concerns of reformists, although he does not deny those. He does so by meticulously tracing out the shifts in culture that led to the prison’s dominance, focusing on the body and questions of power. Prison is a form used by the “disciplines”, a new technological power, which can also be found, according to Foucault, in schools, hospitals, military barracks, etc. The main ideas of Discipline and Punishcan be grouped according to its four parts: torture, punishment, discipline and prison.

Read the full Wikipedia article.

A critique of Morrison

Finally, another human on this planet that does not think that Toni Morrison is the greatest writer alive. B.R. Myers writes of Morrison’s new novel A Mercy that:

How shallow and vague that is; how glibly it breezes through the life of the mind. A Mercy is eked out with a few set pieces, but even they rush us through; the book never seems to settle into narrative “real time.”

For all its cheerlessness, the novel is anything but grittily realistic. Some scenes, such as one in which a character gets out of her bath “aslide with wintergreen,” evince an effort to make even these miserable lives picturesque. But Morrison’s failure to evoke the period is more the fault of her all-too-contemporary prose style: “1682 and Virginia was still a mess.” No one likes an archaizer, apart from a million Cormac McCarthy fans, but a novelist writing of the 17th century should at least avoid language that is jarringly inconsistent or out of place. Reminiscing, the slaves vacillate between would-be-poetic English and an equally improbable sort of Hollywood Injun: “Shadows of men sat on barrels, then stood. They said they were told to break we in.” Anachronisms abound, from New Age lingo like “She gives off a bad feeling” to the dialect of the postbellum South: “her borning young.” We are even told that our Anglo-Dutch trader had “gone head to head with rich gentry.” What, and not drunk their milk shake?

For the one required class on campus Freshman year we were required to read Beloved which I found to be a self-indulgent and arrogant piece of literary crap. I have never been able to understand why Toni Morrison gets the praise that she does for her novels while other American writers simply get overshadowed.

Link to the original article.