Productivity vs. Resistance

Today I want to talk about productivity, productivity tools, and how resistance destroys adoption of productivity principals. For me anyway.

Like I wrote about before in my Getting Things Done post, I’ve adopted many of David Allen’s productivity principles. To the letter, no. Do I stick with it at all times, no. But for the most part, it’s instilled a discipline that has build some positive unbreakable momentum.

The only way any productivity tool or principle can work for me is if there is no resistance to it whatsoever. No frustration. No bugs. No workarounds. So the task of being productive doesn’t become unproductive in of itself. The best analogy I can think of is when my father used to say “I’m so organized that now I can’t find anything.” Funny yes, but something to think about seriously to try to avoid.

So for me, anything to help me be more productive has to be quick and easy and it has to serve a real valuable purpose (e.g. save time, reduce efforts, reduce wasted mental energy).

A lot of the productivity tools out there are what other productivity geeks and gurus often refer to as productivity pr0n. Managing down to a microscopic level is counterproductive 99.9% of the time. For me, there is always something that produces resistance. I’ve tried and tested out most of the online to do list apps. All fail for me in that it takes too much work to add, maintain, view, access, etc. They are not ubiquitous. I need things at my fingertips at all time. I need them to work cross-platform. A click or two away. Fast. That’s why for to do lists, at work I use a simple pen and paper (how novel!) and for personal things Google Calendar. I’ll get into how to use Google Calendaras a todo list in another post.

For lists, docs, bookmarks, etc I require access to the files and lists from 1) home computer, 2) G1 Phone, and 3) Work Computer. Therefore any tool, besides my paper work to do list, needs to be web based and be accessible seamlessly cross-platform.

Regarding reference folders. They need to be painfully easy to manage. They fail me whenever I have to think for a split second “where do I file this again?” Paid phone bills go in a phone bill folder, car insurance goes in a car insurance folder, etc. I have one misc folder for anything that I think I might need to keep, but is too random to have it’s own folder. Then it’s safe, secure, and out of sight and out of mind. Duplicate folders need to be avoided too.

I use Google’s offerings for just about everything. Docs, Google Calendar, Bookmarks, GMail, Reader, even Picasa. It helps here that there is one login, so I don’t have to remember x number of usernames and logins (aka resistance).

Until Google launches their GDrive (hopefully it’s not a rumor), I’ll continue to use Box.net to store electronic reference documents. Google docs and speadsheets are ok, but I don’t want to convert every file to their format and then have to reconvert it back to .doc or .xls if I need to use it again. Sorry Google, MS Office will always dominate. As much as I’m not a fan of Vista and a huge fan of Google, I think MS Office can’t be topped anytime soon.

Some other time saving, mind freeing things:

  • Receipts go in a receipt box. Purged regularity.
  • Almost all services are on auto pay, with a reminder in Google Calendar to check that transactions go through on time and for the right amounts.
  • And for bills not on autopay, Google Calendar is set up with every bill due date to make sure bills are always on time.

My productivity tools:

  • Google Reader – I’m subscribed to all my favorite blogs, news sites, and industry sites.
  • Google Bookmarks – can capture what I may want to read later in addition to saving all my fav places.
  • Google Calendar – I’ll never miss a birthday, event, appointment, bill, etc
  • GMail – No brainer.
  • Box.net – store reference docs.
  • File folder – simple structure for easy filing.
  • Receipt box – get those annoying paper distractions out of site and out of mind.
  • Pen and notepad – ha. Can’t get easier than this.
  • Jotter and small pen carried everywhere. Hey if the phone battery dies, I can write stuff down.
  • Google Docs – capture and save ideas and someday maybe type lists and personal project plans.
  • G1 Phone – Access to these things at all times.

I just thought of a Yogi Berra type mantra for all of this “it has to be easy to make things easier.”

Homeownership and Mortgages

I thought I’d spin this off from my recent post Housing Crisis, House of Cards on CNBC.

Let me start by saying that I DO sympathize with people who are in financial trouble now, and who had been financially responsible all along. There are plenty of hardships that can cause financial turmoil, and I only hope that I never experience it myself.

This post is directed at those who were financially reckless and got themselves in over their own heads. I have zero sympathy really. Whether they were “victims” of predatory lenders or not.

I think the whole bailout notion needs to take past into consideration. Those who were financially responsible get help. Those who weren’t too bad—go rent somewhere. How the heck anyone would judge could only be a dream of mine.

This brings me to the title of this post. When are you considered a homeowner anyway? Seems to me that a lot of the reckless “victims” of predatory lenders have no equity in their home even before housing prices fell, so essentially they just rented space they thought they owned–but never remotely did.

Personally I take pride in my home, which is a work in progress (but that’s another story). The work going in is an investment to the value for the future. It won’t be until it’s 100% paid off that I’ll feel like a tried and true home “owner”.

G1 Bugs

Why bore my vast audience with posts like this? Well because I don’t have a vast audience and because I like to use some blog posts to keep notes and refer back to them for reference. Maybe someone will notice. Maybe one of my three monthly unique visitors subtracting the two who accidentally stumble across it is a bigwig over at Google.

There are some pretty annoying bugs on the G1. Showstoppers, no. But they bug me.

  1. When opening Gmail through the app, often times it opens up to a conversation that was deleted and purged days ago. I’m not sure why this happens.
  2. Sometimes too, when the above happens, I don’t get notifications of new e-mails that come in.
  3. Think about calling into somewhere with voice prompts, like any customer service line. When you call and put the phone on speaker, there is no way to keep the screen from timing out quickly. So when you have to wait to “hit 9 for other,” you have to hit menu twice and pop open the number pad quickly to do it. For some reason it goes blank in a few seconds. There should be a way to “lock” it open when on speaker or when using a hands free device. I’ve fumbled with this too many times, with the delay forcing me deeper into CS VoicePrompt Hell.
  4. There is no way to edit recurring events in Calendar without crashing the whole calendar. You have to go to a separate browser to edit recurring events. And if you try, you have to clear out all the stored calendar data and resync to get it working again.
  5. Since it’s Google’s own app, I’ll include it here. The Scoreboard app is always late with scores and never notifies me of anything until I go in and hit refresh in the app. Even after all of the recent app updates. The point is to pick your favorite teams, and have a notification after each score. I don’t need or want to constantly open the program and hit refresh each time. Plus the scores are always way way way behind the live score. It’s quicker and easier just to go to espn.com or something.
  6. Even after RC33, the camera continues to blow. A few posters on the t-mobile forums reported an improvement, but I haven’t. It takes a good 5 seconds from the time you hit the button until the pic is taken, resulting in a blurry mess unless you are taking a pic of something completely still (e.g. not my 9 month old son).
  7. Battery life! I’m throwing this down as a bug because the battery life isn’t too too too much of an issue with me as the inconsistency of it is. Sometimes I can get through a day of moderate to heavy use. Sometimes the battery just sucks itself dry in a few hours. I can’t figure out why. The peanut galleries on the many message boards are no help either. Actually they do more harm than good IMO with their harebrained advice. At least I found that a reboot of the phone seems to help this.
  8. GPS is sometimes unreliable too. And just to make it clear, since my wife has a G1 too, I’m able to test things side by side. So I’m judging these things side by side under the same conditions. Just last week, my wife’s G1 was able to hone right in on a location, while mine kept getting stuck with the big blue radius. Mine seems to have worked itself out since, but it’s a mystery to me why this happens sometimes. Again the peanut gallery message boards are no help whatsoever.
  9. Voice Search is an abomination. It has yet to even come close to what I say. It’s such a waste that I’ll never ever use it again.

Otherwise I love it. Don’t get me wrong, I think those things are relatively minor in my grand scheme of rating the phone on the whole.

This brings me to why I resent the message boards so much. Hence the peanut gallery comments above. I should have known this kind of dynamic would exist since I post to sports message boards. Well maybe not since I didn’t think there would be hardcore “fans” of the phone. On the boards, you are either a hater, or a lover and nothing in between. Nothing annoys me more than response from the lovers who say “then get a iPhone if you don’t like the G1” or “you should have expected this with a first generation phone” whenever anyone posts the tiniest complaint or concern. With the “lovers’” attitudes, you’d think the phone is perfect and in no need for any improvements whatsoever. See more about this in my Tech Fanboys, Workarounds, and Lay Users post.

Housing Crisis, House of Cards on CNBC

I got to watch a very interesting documentary, House of Cards, on CNBC over the weekend that outlined clearly what took place to cause the current housing/mortgage crisis:
http://www.cnbc.com/house-of-cards/

I thought the documentary did an excellent job in not politicizing anything and not overtly vilifying the people and companies at fault. But it made clear that there is plenty of blame to go around.

The program laid out a perfect storm of negligence, which ultimately led to where we are today.

  • Government mandates that more American’s should own homes.
  • Which leads to lenders going too far: eliminating restrictions and giving loans to just about anyone.
  • Which leads to a housing boom.
  • Which causes home prices to skyrocket.
  • All of this in combination of the Federal Reserve reducing interest rates
  • Leads to more and more homeowners to refinance, and cash out equity and get into more debt.
  • Which leads to more shady and predatory lenders coming aboard.
  • The tremendous spike in home loans (including sub-prime) created enough mass to enable these “loans” to be sold as mortgage backed securities to investment firms.
  • These securities receive a AAA rating from Moody’s, which is a stamp that they are the best of the best safe secure investments.
  • These securities are packaged up and offered as investments to other companies, intuitions, and other private investors.

Each line above added more fuel to the fire. The more momentum created led to more dangerous lending, more refinancing, more securities packaging, and even more risky “mortgage products.” All really a “House of Cards.”

Not one person or company up and down that line asked once, “will these people be able to repay their loans?” Or maybe they did and brazenly ignored it. Instead, it was gimme gimme gimme more. Just one stop along the line would have staved off this nightmare. Just one. But everyone dropped the ball, even the gullible “homeowners.”

On a personal note, I put equal blame on the homeowners who got into the mess too. Spare me the sob stories, please (on that note the documentary didn’t really sympathize with the homeowners too much—which is good). Instead of moving from Compton to Yorba Linda, why not find somewhere in the middle? Instead of cashing out your equity to get swimming pools and cars, how about just simply taking the lower interest rate?

I know there are plenty of other cases, but I’m referring to the people who wantonly got in over their heads.

When my wife and I were looking for a home, we had a pretty clear figure of how much we can afford each month. We knew that some time, somehow, the mortgage has to get paid—in full. This is simple common sense. And this is why people getting foreclosed on homes they can’t afford don’t get any sympathy from me. I live in a modest house, not a McMansion.

At the rate of debt these people were in, they didn’t own the houses. They weren’t homeowners at all. They were just debtors occupying space. When foreclosed, they don’t lose their house, they don’t lose anything because it was never theirs. It stinks that they have to brush themselves off and move somewhere they can afford, but they reaped what they sowed.

I consider myself a free market capitalist, but this mess just threw me for a loop. If there are no checks, then greed can and will find a way infect business. I don’t know if “regulations” and “government oversight” are synonymous, but someone needs to look over what’s going on at all time—and at some point put in restrictions if something doesn’t smell right. Like in this case, MAKE SURE THESE PEOPLE HAVE THE INCOME TO PAY THE LOANS BACK.

I kinda sorta touched on this in another post of mine, Credit – A Pyramid Scheme?

I didn’t have the time or energy to articulate it more at the time, but in the home boom craze, people got loans that they could never ever repay, this artificially sustaining (and inflating) a market. Home values were bunk. A vicious cycle.

Sad state of affairs.

To protect the innocent, I’ll be vague with the reference to who this is exactly.

A conversation with “someone” this weekend revealed what I think is an ill in today’s society. A weak society.  This “someone” got a call from their 9 year old son’s school because he won too much at basketball during lunch recess. That’s right. He had been playing basketball with his friend, and apparently they won every game they played. Now he is forbidden to play basketball “on the same team” as his friend at lunch.

This makes me sick on so many different levels.

First. What’s wrong with the kids!? I hope I’m not starting to sound like my parents with a “when I was a kid” story. But when I was a kid (there I go) nothing like this happened. Hey I never always won at playground sports. And if I lost, I didn’t cry to my mommy. Although at times I was a sore loser (more like many times), but that’s another story. I left my crying and pouting on the field.

Second. What’s wrong with the parents!? If my son ever comes home to me whining about losing a playground game… Let me stop. He isn’t because hopefully I raise him right. But lets just pretend there is an odd chance he does. Well then son, I’ll say, 1) we can go out and work on your basketball skills, 2) you can just try your hardest and hold your head up and learn and get better from the losses, or 3) you can take up another sport or activity. I’d never call the freaking school and whine about my son losing.

What next? Cry to the schools when Johnny boy loses a spelling bee for hmmmm let me think… spelling something wrong. Ring, ring ring. “Hello?” “Um yeah hello school, I have a complaint. My son spelled cat kat, but I think he should still share first prize. Or else his self esteem will be shot and he’ll become a serial killer. You don’t want to live with that on you conscience, do you?”

Third. What’s wrong with the school!? Can’t they just say, “Listen parent, your son can’t win at everything. It’s not our responsibility to enforce talent parity during schoolyard activities.”

I see this more and more. When I was a kid (oh no, here I go again!) sports were sports. You had some really good players and some really bad ones. Well that is true today, but today the bad ones are coddled way too much. I see it in little league baseball. I see Johnny boy striking out in the most embarrassing way possible. No problem yet. But the parents CHEER them on when they do! Big problem there. I’m not a crazed lunatic sports parent type, but spare the kid the flattery. They see right through it. Just tell the kid to try hard and better luck next time. Don’t cheer his strike out or error like the kid just pitched a perfect game.

And when I was a kid (man I’m getting used to this!), sippy cups of juice, fruit roll ups, and other tasty snacks were left for after the game. Although I remember them more as hot dogs and soda, but that’s even ANOTHER story all together. During game time, you focused on the game. Now you got the parents meddling during the games.

Let me emphasize that I know there is bullying. And this is way way way beyond that. Taunting and beating up on kids is one thing, losing a pickup game of basketball is another. And this is way way way beyond the lunatic sports parents and coaches that yell at their kids during the game. Is there a happy medium anywhere?

G1 and Google Wish List

Now that I have the phone for 3 months, here is my updated wish list for both the phone and other Google products I use (or want to use) on the phone. Funny how I broke the RC33 update news to the G1 world at large, yet I’m still waiting for my RC33 update. How cruel is that?

Anyway, here are some things I wish my G1 could do. I’ll categorize these as no-brainers and seem like they are doable and ones that might not be doable (just my own non-technical opinion).

  1. Save attachments (txt, doc, exl, pdf) from Gmail. Or from links on the web. At least with RC33, you can now save from MMS. But why not from Gmail or the web?
  2. Read those said attachments. Or better yet edit them too. A nice doc viewer and/or editor. Hopefully this will come in the form of an app soon.
  3. Allow for create/write/edit access to Google Docs. This one blows me away.
  4. Whether this resides on the phone on in Gmail, there needs to be a better contact manager to find dupes, merge contacts, etc.
  5. Integration of Google Bookmarks. I HATE saving multiple versions of bookmarks. I like to have everything in one place, all synced, and seamless. This goes for Chrome too.
  6. Fix to Calendar where you can edit recurring events.  Right now, you have to edit recurring events in the browser. The app crashes…
  7. Let the mobile version of Picasa see more than 100 images. Right now, you can only see the first 100 images per album.
  8. This is not so much the G1, but Google and Google Calendar. Fix iCal fetching already. I’ve been following the bug for months and months. If fixed, it can show an iCal synced calendar nice and seamlessly in the Calendar app.
  9. Integrate Tasks with Google Calendar, not just Gmail. Again for seamless integration.

Here are other items I wish for, which I don’t know if they are doable or not.

  1. Better camera software. I’ve yet to take a non-blurry pic.
  2. Better battery life. Oh heavy use days, I need to recharge this thing a few times. I have to carry a charger, plus keep one in the car, at all times.
  3. A gotomypc like app. So I can access files on my pc from the phone.

Come on Google, get these done!

I broke some G1 News (RC33 Update)

No I didn’t get a chance to enjoy any minute of fame. But I’ll gladly brag that I broke news that the T-Mobile G1 aka Google phone put out an update–RC33.

I had noticed that my wife’s phone was getting an update last night. Could it be the long awaited “cupcake” I asked myself. After firing it up afterwards, there was nothing different to write home about.

So I posted to the t-mobile forum. Barely legible since I was posting from the phone. The forum acts up when posting from the phone.

I guess the whole cupcake rumor/no rumor thing has everyone skeptical, because readers demanded a screen shot. After about 5 attempts at a non-blurry shot, I posted this:
http://m.flickr.com/#/photos/soreco/3249188324/

Here is where I broke the news:

See some people REFUSE to believe it, even after I posted a screen shot.

Here a Google related blog didn’t believe it at first:

Updated G1 App Rundown

This post will be a long one. Some time has passed since my last review. Here is what I have installed and how I rate them. These are apps in the Android Market, not the ones that come preprogrammed on the G1. Assume what’s not installed either 1) a duplicate of one I have installed, 2) terrible and has been uninstalled, or 3) doesn’t interest me.

AK Notepad
Simple note taker. Something like this should be included. Don’t like that it doesn’t have a “traditional” save or save as.

AndFTP
Simple FTP client. I really haven’t used it much. Or have a great need for it. If there was a html/text editor on the market, I guess I can use it to edit my websites. I kicked the tires on it, and it seems to work fine.

Any Cut
Used to create shortcuts. Pretty cool app and easy to use. For example I created a desktop icon/shortcut to call my house. And another one to open the browser straight to google reader. I like simple conveniences. This helps make conveniences conveniently.

aTrackDog
Love this app. It tracks all installed apps on the phone, and searches the market to see if there are updated versions. If there is an update, it links right to the new version to install. Before this, it was a pain in the neck to search each app one by one.

BistroMath
Tip calculator. Does what it’s supposed to do.

Bookmarker
A little clunky UI, bit it helps manage bookmarks. Another feature that should be built in, but oh well. It helps overcome the phone’s shortcoming.

Chess
Played a few times. What can I say, it’s chess.

Countdown Alarm
Pretty self explanatory. No more burnt Ellios pizzas for me!

Free Dictionary Org
Another no brainier. I used it once. And only once. Worked though. So I like it.

G-Notepad
Simple txt editor. One one problem though. It won’t save. Perhaps it’s a bug. I’ll hold on to it for a while to see if the bug is ever fixed. Or until someone comes out with one that works. I like saving txt files over what AK Notepad has to offer. Only if it works…

Gmote
Turns your phone into a remote for the media on your computer. Lousy UI. I’m holding on to this until they either polish it up or something better comes out. It’s also a PITA that the phone has to be connected to the same wireless network as the computer. ‘Cause most of the time I don’t know what each is connected to.

GPS Tracker
This is pretty sick. Sick as in good sick. When GPS is activated on the phone, you can track my every move!

Here I Am
This is pretty cool too. Same idea as GPS tracker, only you can e-mail or text the coordinates to anyone. That opens up a Google map with your location. I guess it can come in handy if you are lost in God knows where and you need to explain where you are to someone.

imeem
Copied and pasted from my last app update: Streaming music based on favorites. I like it so far, I just need to play with it more and add more favorites.
I guess the downfall is the UI, or else I’d use it much more. Also, you can only skip 6 songs in a given time, so that’s a drawback.

Last.fm
Another streaming music app based on favorites. Picks up where imeem leaves off in terms of UI and unlimited skipping of songs. Only thing, it has some critical bugs to work out. It doesn’t play in the background (unless the app is open). That’s pretty stupid. It also hasn’t been saving any of the songs I “loved,” costing me 2 hours of my life on the weekend. It they work these things out, I’ll be ditching imeem for this.

OI File Manager
Simple file manager. Chalk it up to another feature that should have come with the phone. At lease all of these apps are free for now.

Picasa
Pretty cool add on that lets you sent to Picasa straight from the picture viewer.

PicSay
Lets you add captions and other cool things to pictures. I’ll probably never use it. I guess I want to be cool, so I’ll leave it on.

Pictorial
I actually just uninstalled this one since it appears Picasa mobile web version now lets you view all pics. There used to be a 50 or so pic limit per album. It was good while it lasted. It lets you interact with your Picasa albums.

QSearch
I guess the novelty wore off since my last post. A basic on screen keyboard which allows you to save milliseconds of life and time by enabling you to do Google searches without having to open the keypad.

Quickpedia
Basically wikipedia reformatted for the screensize. I realize how much I don’t use wikipedia since I used this once just to check it out. Good if you use wikipedia though.

Quote Pro
Stock quotes. Nice interface. I can see how much my 401k isn’t worth anymore.

Ringdroid
Haven’t used and probably never will. I’m happy with the funky default ringtone. Another app to make me look cool I guss.

Save MMS
Lets you save text message attachments. Another app that should come standard. Pretty useful given the phone’s lack of ability.

Scoreboard
“Live” sports scoreboard, which allows you to track your favorite teams (nfl, mlb, nhl, nba, et al). It’s also supposed to send you an alert whenever there is a score change during one of your favorite teams’ games. For some reason, for me it’s always late and I don’t get the alerts. I’ll hold for bug updates as this has potential.

Scrambled Net
Cool game.

Shazam
Identifies music playing (on the radio for instance), then lets you tag it, buy it, and/or look up artist. I’ve actually used it, so it’s not just to make me look cool!

ShopSavvy
Lets you scan a barcode of a product, then gives you comparitive pricing in the area. Good for an unsavvy shopper like myself. I haven’t needed it yet though.

Solitaire
Just your basic solitaire games.

Stopwatch
Yes, I’ve used this several times to see how fast I can tap start then stop. I don’t know how much faster you can get than 00:00.1!

System Monitor
I hate that memory numbers this shows doesn’t match up with what the default phone dialog shows. It might be on my soon to kill list.

Text Easy
Never used, but can come in handy for texting multiple contacts. I don’t text much, if you can’t tell.

The Weather Channel
Easier than looking out the window or opening the door to see what it’s doing outside.

Toggle Settings
Eliminates the PITA of having to navigate through settings to do basic things like turn on/off wifi, gps, ringer modes, ets. You can manage all of that stuff on one simple screen.

Video Player
Haven’t used, but it might be ok I guess.

Voice Recorder
I should probably use this more to capture thoughts. Simple to use, save, and send.

Yellowbook
I know where everything is already. Probably good if I ever traveled more.
I need a break now.

This is my blog, links, and other random stuff.