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Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada

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Essential Apps for Time and Money

Chris Campbell

Sometimes when you grow accustomed to certain applications they disappear as they're always there and you use them all the time. In compiling a list of apps that I use every day, I forgot about the ones that are so completely integrated that I don't really think about them as I just constantly use them. Oddly they are all related to money and time.

I get things done and (frequently) stay within a budget with the following apps for my iPod Touch: OmniFocus, Spend, and Grocery Gadget. Interestingly they all use lists and two of them use the cloud to synchronize the data that they use.

The Beauty of Simple Apps

Chris Campbell

iPods, Almost TouchingOver the past few months I've been relying on my 2nd generation iPod Touch more and more for connecting to the online world. On a recent 3 day trip I didn't even take my MacBook pro with me and I didn't miss it at all. All of my reading and email and even posting things online all stayed up-to-date all with the tiny little powerful computer in my pocket. While an iPhone would allow me to be connected all of the time, there were enough wifi hotspots to keep me connected for most of the day every day.

Another realization that I made is that the applications that I rely upon to stay connected are simple and powerful. The five apps I use throughout every day are Twitterrific, Tumblr, Simplenote, Reeder, and Instapaper. Simplicity is the key and if a choice needs to be made between something that is simple and works most of the time and something that may have a lot more possibilities, it's obvious that simple is the way to go.

The other aspect of the five apps that I use every day to connect and share things with the world is that all of them rely on APIs to get and share the information that they use. That means that it doesn't all just stay on my iPod Touch, but that everything is synchronized so I can check things out on my MacBook Pro or even another computer on the web and I don't have to worry about losing something. Now I start and end every day in bed with my iPod Touch doing a little bit of reading and catching up using my favourite apps.

Synthesizing Stories on Bad Metaphor 11

Chris Campbell

bm11.jpgWith some of my online homes I've been quite active and with others, not so much. One of the things that is quite enjoyable to do is record audio podcasts with my son John. We started doing the Bad Metaphor podcast (an audio podcast) a few years ago and would sporadically update it. Due to some perfectionism and procrastination the output has grown increasingly infrequent, but John always wants to create more, so we've started recording podcasts again in a more casual way to try and get them done and up more often.

The wonderful thing about technology is that it advances and makes things easier and cheaper all the time. So last weekend we sat down on the floor with my MacBook Pro, my Zoom H2, and John's Nintendo DSi along with a stereo omnidirectional microphone from Giant Squid Audio Lab and we recorded a new episode of Bad Metaphor in Soundtrack Pro. The neat thing is that we were able to do some multitrack recording right to disk with the audio from each of us going to separate tracks and the music going to a stereo track. This means we can adjust the levels after the recording and also means that it is much faster to edit. It's a setup that works and I'm really glad that we figured it out and I hope that we'll be doing a lot more soon. So go on over and take a listen to the under 8 minute episode 11 of Bad Metaphor: Synthesizing Stories where John plays some music using his Korg DS-10 emulator.

New MacBook Pro

Chris Campbell

New LaptopI've had a lot of Mac laptops (actually every laptop I've had since the first has been a Mac) and I can say for myself that the new 15-inch MacBook Pro that I have is great.

Best. Laptop. Ever.

The only other laptop where I've felt this sort of love for was my "Pismo" G3 PowerBook that just felt right and was powerful and beautiful. With the G3 PowerBook it was the balance of speed and power and features that made it work. The slightly curving case was comfortable and fit easily into the carrying case. It was fast to set up and very flexible with 2 FireWire 400 ports, USB, s-video out as well as VGA out. There was AirPort too... and this was 8 years ago. I haven't plugged in a laptop to go online at home for 8 years!
Over the past near-decade things have changed a lot with technology and with the new MacBook Pro Apple strikes the balance just right again. There are 2 USB-2 ports, one FireWire 800 port (which is a bit of a pain, but with an adapter cord, all of the FW400 things work with it), ethernet, a different Mini DisplayPort plug for external video (which means you need to get adapters for VGI or DVI out), and an SD card slot. I initially thought that the SD card slot was kind of strange, but I find that it's great for getting pictures from the SD card in my digital camera. It is very fast and I don't need any cables as I just pop in the card and the transfer speed is a lot faster than through the camera with cables. While I haven't tried it yet, it will also work great with digital audio files that I record with my Zoom H2 recorder, which also uses SD cards.
The battery life is amazing. While the official story is that it will last up to 7 hours, in reality, it's still pretty amazing, and I've been able to get more than 6 hours out of it and I haven't had the battery die on me yet. It runs very quiet and doesn't seem to get very warm. I'm using the lower capacity video card as it takes less power. With the video card with twice the RAM (512 MB), it apparently eats more power. For video editing that's the one that will get used, but for surfing and writing and other non-video tasks, the display is fine.
The screen is absolutely gorgeous with the best colour and contrast that I've ever seen on a laptop. In working with photographs there is a lot more detail and the colours just seem to pop. I don't know about using it for serious colour-correction, but it's dramatically better than anything I've seen before.
Some unique changes that are part of Apple's zen-like design ethos is the new, buttonless trackpad. The trackpad is much larger and the whole thing is a button. Initially I didn't even notice the change, since the larger area works perfectly with my thumb where the button would have been. The trackpad is made from a similar glass to the surface of the iPod touch and there are all sorts of cool multi-touch features. Two fingers to scroll, three fingers to page around, and four fingers up and down for Expose (for hiding things and showing all active windows) and finally four fingers left and right to switch between applications. In the System Preferences there are great little videos demonstrating all of the multi-touch mouse action, which makes it much easier to understand.
The new 15-inch MacBook Pro is a simply beautiful and powerful laptop that makes me fall in love with design and laptop computing all over again.

Bitdepth is now 7

Chris Campbell

I suppose 7 is a lucky number, and I can't let an opportunity pass to start posting again, so what can be said about this blog turning 7?
It appears that a lot of my bloggy energy is dissipated due to Twitter and Tumblr as well as 43 Things. Maybe I'm not as focussed on writing or haven't had the time to reflect and write properly. Are we all becoming addicted to smaller screens and the constraints of 140 characters?
There is the more instant gratification of sending something out and getting a response. It happens with a blog, but with Twitter you can send a few more out and it can feel more conversational. But I still do like to seek out writing that is longer and sometimes more thoughtful and I enjoy writing that.
The good thing about birthdays and anniversaries is that it gives you a chance to take a pause, reflect and think about where you are. So now I'm here, thinking that it's good that I have a home on the web and glad that the tools and process for putting things here is so simple that I can move from computer to computer, or device to device and read, write and create in many different and simpler ways. So now it's easier to create and connect with the amazing people that are out there (like you). Now it's time to write something a bit more interesting than writing about blogging.