content top

How to Set your China Unicom 186 ‘Service Password’. 中国联通服务密码

After some extensive and rather bizarre searches aided by Googles helpful new translated search feature I finally found how to set your service password for a China Unicom mobile number. This allows you to Log In to their online services and do other things like link your number to an existing account. Much discussions on Chinese forums told me the default number was ’123456′ which obviously did not work as a login to their site, but after more searching I found you can change your service number without phoning the service line (something I was a little reluctant to try given my Chinese is not great). Here’s how:

Simply text the following:




And that’s it! This works for my new number which is of the ’186′ breed. Your new password must be numbers only and no longer than 6 characters. I think. Below is some Chinese which might hopefully help someone out there…






Leave a Reply...

is highly curious about this hilarious ‘No Rocket Powered Cars’ road sign in China, other ideas anyone?:

Leave a Reply...

is proud owner of his first new age Electric Vehicle #EV. Thanks Alice!

  1. haha congratulations! I am in poland by the way! I must call u and tell u how im happy now. Ive started work and I am doing the things I like. I ve got skype phone also so we can chat! You also seem hapoy from your status updates,how is job hunting going?

  2. Good to hear from you! You are working in Poland – amazing. Do give me a ping on skype, I’d love to catch up. Oh, and I’m still waiting for a letter!

  3. This is great!! What’s the range? My bro has a vextrix, so slightly bigger (but hard to judge from pic).


  4. How the hell did it get my avatar?????

Leave a Reply...

is at CBC’s cloud computing investor conference with a number of exciting emerging companies in the space:

Leave a Reply...

Why I’m switching from OmniFocus to Things after 2 years

I started using Omnifocus to remember, collect, and organise my tasks back in 2008. I never followed GTD strictly but liked the flexibility of Omnifocus to allow my specific work style.

Since then, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to use in a way that makes me efficient. In fact, I was spending far too much time looking for things and organising them in Omnifocus and too little time actually doing them. So I looked at Things more seriously, which has got a lot of attention recently for it’s nice interface and iPad app. I was instantly converted. Here’s a quick run down on why.


You don’t need to be a Steve Jobs to see this. The Omnifocus interface leaves a lot to be desired. Even with it’s high level of customization in how it displays items, the Things interface wins hands down. It’s easy to find what you are looking for, simple, and elegant. And there is not a clutter of features you don’t need, just the right level of user interaction.

The Things Today List

I struggled for a long time with flagging items, making them due, even trying a ‘Now’ context in desperation, but couldn’t find a good way in Omnifocus to make a simple task list for  today. The today list in Things brings a simple implementation of exactly what I was looking for. The list is automatically populated with due items, a cool feature in itself, but the real power is in the flexibility of being able to add and remove items from the today list with ease. Perfect. Great for just getting things done.

Tags vs Contexts

Strict GTD relies on the rather airy idea of context as ‘the set of tools available or by the presence of individuals or groups for whom one has items to discuss or present’. Omnifocus allows single contexts, but actually I’ve never found any use for the context view in Omnifocus. Contexts have only ever got in the way for me, except when you really want to tag something when they fall short because you can only assign a single context to an item. Tags in Things work great, they are unobtrusive and powerful, allowing Tag hierarchies and easy addition, removing, and searching of tagged items.

Areas vs Single item projects

I like the idea of Areas of Responsibility in Things. They are kind of a cross between single item lists and contexts in Omnifocus. Because you don’t need to ‘complete’ them though, they are a much more natural container for things like simple home to-do lists which awkwardly end up in single item ‘projects’ in Omnifocus.

Sorting and Filtering

Things wins here too, mostly because of the different way it handles items. I am able to easily select items inside containers based on tag, and also order them by date due. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely enough. In my experience the Sorting and Filtering in Omnifocus is highly frustrating. You cannot sort within projects. You cannot filter within projects. These are serious oversights, and frustratingly the program teases users into believing it might be possible by showing column headings to sort items and view controls to filter them, only to discover that these controls only work for entire projects. How annoying! The screenshot below demonstrates this gripe. Not one of the filtering or sorting columns has any effect on items within projects, even when viewing that project.

iPhone App

Syncing in Omnifocus has always been slow, though on my new iPhone 4 it’s finally a little faster. The iPhone app with Things is simpler, faster, and more usable than Omnifocus on the iPhone. Until I got my iPhone 4, all the ‘updating database’ wait screens on omnifocus made entering or editing items on my iPhone something I rarely did, instead relying on Apples simpler and faster Notes app.

Still missing:  Smart Lists/Projects

I still don’t have a killer feature I’ve been hoping would come to Omnifocus for a long time. Mac applications such as iPhoto, iTunes and Mail have had smart group features since the early 2000s, allowing users to group items based on their metadata. I wonder why these have yet to be included in GTD lists – becaus I’m sure this kind of feature would be an instant hit with users.

I have been using Things for a few weeks now and am very pleased I made the switch. Having got increasingly frustrated with Omnifocus, I can get back to being productive as my Things stays out of my way and works flexibly with my requirements.

  1. Interesting … I’m seriously considering the migration from Things to OmniFocus for two reasons:

    - OTA sync
    - sub-folders

    I had already migrated if I could test OmniFocus on the iPhone. Unfortunately, Apple still does not allow for test versions in the App Store …

    • Martin, I agree OTA syncing is a big plus, having to be on the same local network as Things is a disadvantage. I now prefer tags to subfolders though.

      • As you may already know, OTA syncing is coming to Things. From what I’ve read it’s one of the most requested features. According to their Development Status site, the server is in internal testing:

        Hopefully they deliver this feature soon. I think Things is a great app and they risk losing market share to OmniFocus if they don’t deliver soon.

        I would also very much welcome subfolders. I use Things for both work and personal endeavours and like a way to separate projects based on area of focus. For now I preface the area of focus with the name of the project (e.g. a vacation project in my “Fun” area would have the name “Fun | Trip to Whistler”).

        • For those of us who have used Things from the beginning, they’ve been talking OTA sync since the beginning… and as of recently, they still say the solution is a bit lost:

          Ironically, I found this article debating switching to Omnifocus, I can’t take it now with an iPad and an iPhone and a Mac Pro!

        • thanks for this discussion, guys.

          tim, sorry to nitpick, but something you wrote was confusing:

          “For now I preface the area of focus with the name of the project (e.g. a vacation project in my “Fun” area would have the name “Fun | Trip to Whistler”).”

          what you actually meant was “I preface the name of the project with the area of focus.” :-) “preface” means “to put something in front of.” so you’re prefacing the *name*, not the area. :-)

          sorry, but the reversed items caused me, at first, to misunderstand your point. now that i understand, i must ask:

          isn’t that what things’ “areas” feature is for? shouldn’t you have an area called “fun,” containing projects like “trip to whistler”? unless i’m mistaken, that’s precisely what the feature is for. :-)

    • How is that OTA syncing working for Things users? I’ve got two Macs, iPod Touch, iPhone and soon an iPad 2. I try to sync Things using dropbox but I’m always concerned that I’ve left it open on one of the Macs. I test OF two months ago but just didn’t want to pay for everything again since I was vested in Things. Now that I’ll need to buy something for the iPad, I’m thinking I’ll make the switch.

      That first sentence was meant to be rehtorical since there’s no cloud syncing yet on Things even though it has been promised over and over by Culture Code. When I tested OF, the syncing across machines worked the first time and everytime. It reduced stress knowing that I wasn’t going to corrupt the db. Granted OF looks a bit more complicated but I’d rather spend the time learning how to leverage it versus time spent cleaning up duplicate entries are re-entering lost enteries due to Things’ inability to properly sync.

  2. I’ve had a similar experience to yours, Nick.

    I used OF for several months and finally gave up due to its complexity. I have understood, used, and not used every bell-and-whistle, and I can tell you OF refuses to just “sit there” while I get my work done. There’s always something that is not intuitive or not obvious! In contract, Things, which I’ve started using recently is so wonderfully simple that GTD takes virtually no effort. I’m really getting things done with Things.

    A word to those who are concerned that Things does not currently support sequential projects:

    Omnifocus does have that support. But I found that in almost every project the real sequence is more complicated that a simple list of tasks. There are multiple dependencies, some tasks have no dependencies, etc. Omnifocus attempts to manage this with an outline (group) capability inside projects, and I tried to use that. But I found that it’s more detail than I require and it is too complex to be transparent.

    In contrast, Things permits me to mark some of a project’s task as Someday. I do that and leave the few remaining to review in Next Tasks in no particular order. The simplicity of this approach makes my work go much more smoothly than it did when I was worrying about dependencies in Omnifocus.

    So I urge everyone to try Things first. If you think Things is a better solution but you’re concerned about sequential projects, my advice is to not worry. The capability is more trouble than its worth. And if you have projects with tens of tasks and multiple dependences, I suggest you use a real project management application for them, like OmniPlan or Merlin, and move tasks from them into Things (if you feel you have to) only as appropriate.

    • I’ve never gotten the whole complexity complaint. I keep OF as simple, or simpler, as the way I used in the past. Does it take a little bit of playing around and knowledge before you can use OF simply? Sure, but it’s worth it for me for the other reasons I love OF (ota sync, folders, contexts, etc).

      OF has a lot of bells and whistles, and it’s easy to spend your time playing with them instead of getting things done, but that’s a user problem. When you have enough self control to leave them alone, they stay out of your way.

      And it’s also funny that 5 months later things STILL doesn’t have ota sync. Pitiful.

      • jack,

        with all due respect, you start out by saying you’ve never “gotten” the complexity complaint — and then you proceed to literally *describe* the complexity! lol.

        “Does it take a little bit of playing around and knowledge before you can use OF simply? Sure…”

        (that’s complexity.)

        “OF has a lot of bells and whistles, and it’s easy to spend your time playing with them instead of getting things done…”

        (that’s complexity.)

        “but that’s a user problem. When you have enough self control to leave them alone, they stay out of your way.”

        that’s illocigal. in order to know which features to use and which to “leave alone,” one must become acquainted with the app’s features. and when the app has so *many* features, it requires time to have enough familiarity to know that “that’s a feature i don’t need.”

        more complexity. :-)

  3. Nick,

    Doing my weekly google search on Omnifocus and my current OF pain point and came across your post. I’ve looked at Things a half dozen times hoping it would be a better fit for my needs than OF, but have always concluded that OF had the edge. I’ll look at it again. One critical capability with my OF set up: the ability to quickly toss items in my inbox from gmail, my phone (Jott->mail->inbox.

    Looking forward to seeing you and Alice in May!


  4. Whenever I use OmniFocus seriously I find about one annoying bug per day. I’ve exchanged hundreds of emails with OmniFocus Support (who are always polite) but they basically never get fixed and OmniFocus hasn’t changed or improved at all. It’s a complicated behemoth.

    Do you have any advice on migrating data from OmniFocus to Things? I have a lot of data in OmniFocus and it would cost me a serious amount of time to re-enter it.

  5. Welcome! I’ve been using Things before its launch on the iPhone, and I’m now using it across all my devices (MBP/iPhone/iPad).

    I remember being hesitant about it, after hearing so many good words about OmniFocus. I have to say though, I haven’t regretted that decision to this day. While OmniFocus is full-featured, I find the Things (albeit being simpler) more practical.

    The ‘Scheduled’ feature is brilliant as well, just for pre-arranging some tasks for the days to come, and not to worry about forgetting to do them.

  6. I struggled with Omnifocus for a few months and began dreading using it when I started my day. After reading this and other articles, I tried Things and have been pleased. After about 8 weeks, Things has definitely added efficiency to my work life. Broken record but I just need cloud sync and I’m good to go.

  7. Why not use both? I have and it’s working out great. Here’s how I use it.

    I drag and drop Omni todo lists as hyperlinks in Things project or task note area.

    Things: iCal sync, overall project management, overall ease of use

    Omni Outliner: Details outliner lists (multi-level cascading lists), useful for job estimation as a free lancer with the time columns, templates for repetitive checklists

    The other program worth mentioning (maybe a little off topic) is Typinator. Custom time and date stamps for note taking for tasks notes that may be needed before a task can be completed. (plus other uses for repetitive text in emails etc)

  8. Sorry folks, that should be Omni Outliner instead of Omnifocus for my above post. I’ve never tried Omnifocus.

  9. Wow.. I thought I was the only one that found OnmiFocus unnecessarily complex and highly difficult to find a single view that showed me everything I wanted to focus on right now (like the Today View) while feeling confident I wasn’t missing anything.

    1. Although an early GTD fan, I think the concept of single contexts being available at any given time is antiquated and simply doesn’t apply to today’s knowledge worker. All my contexts are available all the time, so I need to intelligently “filter” what I want to see.

    2. The separate Content view in OmniFocus is a waste- COMPLETELY USELESS! The only reason I ever use it is because tasks can’t be sorted in Project view like Nick detailed in this post.

    I switched to Things, although I’d like to see a few additions like folders and ability to edit multiple items.


    Abdul Karmach
    Free Internet Marketing Tips

  10. Thanks for the useful comparison. I recently took a GTD day-long seminar, and I found that I hadn’t really understood it before. GTD is really more of a disciplined approach to one’s work and life, and the tools really don’t matter at all (whatever you like and makes you productive is good — OF or Things, or paper, etc.). I can tell from articles and comments I’ve read on the interwebs that the vast majority of people who criticize GTD don’t understand it (e.g., having a context like “Now” or using multiple contexts are guaranteed to fail). In fact, GTD addresses directly and successfully the exact issues that people complain about in regards to GTD. If people would only borrow the book from the library and read it, they could transform their work and life and happily settle on either OF or Things, whichever they prefer. If you don’t believe me, then read the book.

  11. years ago, i was devoted to Things, but grew tired of the lack of sync. i also followed omnifocus closely, and even then, there were complaints of complexity and bloat. plus it’s ugly. Things is beautiful and has a nearly perfect feature-set, but — no sync.

    so, i left Things and went to the cloud-based

    there’s no desktop app. it runs in any web browser, and there’s an iphone app. the ipad app’s in beta now. you can email tasks to RTM, you can tweet tasks to RTM. no matter where you launch/load it, everything’s in sync.

    so why am i reading this article? because there are a few things that bug me about RTM and because development within the company is PAINFULLY slow. we’ve been asking for various features for years — and they don’t appear. again, the current features work very well. flawlessly. but we’re accustomed to developers listening to our suggestions and issuing occasional updates. what’s the average? 2 or 3 updates/year? RTM seems to be updated once/year — and the updates are usually maintenance updates that add support for new languages or something. the UI never changes (despite many, many suggestions), and aside from missing a few features, it’s getting long in the tooth.

    so, i keep scouring the web for a replacement for RTM. i’m convinced that Things is still the best solution for me, over all — or *will* be, once they add sync. but until they do, it’s not worth the hassle of switching platforms. i wouldn’t mind spending the money on omnifocus, but as far as i can tell, it’s still wrong for me in the ways that it always was. but i remain open, which is what led me to this thread.

    finally, today i learned about — which looks very promising, but carries the ridiculous pricing scheme of $9.99/month. sorry. i’d rather pay $50 up-front than be tethered for life.

    REALLY hoping cultured code gets its act together with Things. they’ve updated the status:

  12. Personally, I tried them all. I ended up with Omnifocus as Things was too limiting in stupid ways.

    Omnifocus has been absolutely key in my newfound productivity.

  13. Buy Things and send an e-mail to asking for a beta invite -> get OTA sync for mac / iPad iPhone.. profit? Been using it for a over a month on all 3 devices with great success.

Leave a Reply...

is about to have dinner at top of China World Trade 3, the recently completed tallest building in Beijing:

Leave a Reply...

What were Apple thinking with new iTunes 10 greyscale interface?

It looks a little like there should be a switch ‘I’m not colour blind’ somewhere in the interface, to enable colour icons again. I thought one of the basic tools used by UI designers in differentiating interface elements was: colour. Maybe it will grow on me, but first impressions of the new iTunes 10 interface are: very unimpressive.

  1. The album list view with a hybrid of list and album view is working out pretty well for me, but you’re right that the greyscale icons don’t really make sense.

    Yes eventually I’ll learn to use it better, but I think Apple is overly driven by the urge to go minimally simple such that they’ve lost touch of what they’re good at. Think of the last generation of iPod Shuffle, they just went too far with the minimalistic approach—a lesson that they’ve learnt and brought back the buttons this time round.

Leave a Reply...

content top