If you are using Rails and Passenger and upgrade to mountain lion, you’ll need to do a bit of tweaking to get them playing nicely again. Here’s what I did:
Passenger & Apache
The Mountain Lion installer will replace your http.conf file in /etc/apache2/ with a new one. After doing a diff and discovering no important differences, I simply put my old one back (marked by Apple as httpd.conf.old in the same directory). However, I had to comment out this line:
Because that module no longer exists in 10.8. As noted here, Apple have removed the sharing toggle for Web Sharing (Apache) so, use these commands to start:
sudo apachectl restart
sudo apachectl stop
sudo apachectl start
and /var/log/apache2/error_log to debug other problems.
Somehow, my upgrade to 10.8 introduced/changed my root mySQL password. I don’t have one, for development purposes, so I had to find a way to remove it again. For that I did the following:
1. Stop MySQL
2. Run sudo /usr/local/mysql/bin/mysqld_safe –skip-grant-tables
3. Run /usr/local/mysql/bin/mysql mysql
and execute the following query:
UPDATE user SET Password=PASSWORD(‘YOUR_PASSWORD’)
WHERE Host=’localhost’ AND User=’root’;
4. Restart MySQL
Where did SVN go? I don’t know, but it wasn’t in its usual /usr/bin/ position after I installed 10.8. Nowadays, you can install the command line developer tools independently of the gigantic 3gb Xcode package. Installing that small package bought me back a latest version of SVN, as well as GCC and a number of other useful tools. You can download it here after logging in with your Apple ID.
Please note, the 4.4 version of the command line tools will not be available there until after the official launch of 10.8 Mountain lion.
Lets face it, iOS Maps uses up too much of your data package. If you don’t believe me, try this:
Check your data usage in Settings -> Usage -> Cellular Usage
Reset it, or take a note of the value
Go to Maps, and search for a city youve never viewed before in map
Zoom in a few times, and pan around for 30 seconds
Check your data usage again
That’s right, 2-3 MB for that small privilege!
The problem isnt just the amount of data itself, but the fact that it gets deleted soon after you download it! Why? The maps app on the iPhone has a very small, ~22MB cache. So even if you use your home WiFi to pre-download all you need for your week away to Paris, it’s likely you can only access a tiny bit of your previously viewed maps before you need to download again. And for that you need cell access, to drain more data from your monthly allowance (or force you to sell your house to pay for roaming fees), and patience.
1. First you need to jailbreak. Luckily this is possible on all devices, including the iPhone 4S (at time of writing).
2. Now there are a number of existing solutions you can try. However, I found (at time of writing), some are difficult to understand, and none of them work with Google Maps or iOS5. In case this changes, and because it’s likely my solution will one day fail, I’ll list some of them here:
We are going to modify the cache database to stop it deleting old map tiles, thereby allowing it to increase in size indefinitely. Don’t worry, its not as hard as it sounds.
Find and Copy the /private/var/Library/Caches/Maps/MapTiles/MapTiles.sqlitedb file to your Mac / PC (you can do this using a file copying program such as iExplorer [http://www.macroplant.com/iexplorer/], or using ssh).
Add the following trigger to the database by executing the following query:- “CREATE TRIGGER prevent_delete BEFORE DELETE ON image BEGIN SELECT raise(IGNORE); END”
Quit Maps on your iPhone
Copy the MapTiles.sqlitedb back to the same location on your phone, replacing the original
Ensure the file has the correct permissions, owner: mobile, 775. You can use terminal, ssh, or even iFile (an app available in Cydia) to do this.
Restart your iPhone.
Now try it out! It’s best if your on a wifi network, but 3G will do. Pan and zoom around the map all you like, and after a few minutes check the size of the MapTiles.sqlitedb file. It should grow beyond 22Mb, and when you go back to previously visited places, it will load instantly, and without need for network.
You may have to be connected to the internet for a second or two when you first load the maps app after a phone restart in order for them to work offline. After that you should be able to close and open it and view all tiles without being online and not using any data.
GPS does NOT appear to work at all without a network connection in the Maps app or any apps that use Google Maps API in iOS, even if you have perfect line of sight to the sky and the area you’re in is definitely cached. I have no idea why this is. Please correct me if I’m wrong.
Your maps will eventually become outdated if you live in a fast changing country like China. You may want to delete the cache file at this point and repeat the process above to make sure it’s not limited to 22MB
Your Maps may eventually have problems, after all this is a hack, though mine hasn’t yet with my cache file at 150mb.
If your very geeky like me, you can discover the location of the MapTiles database for all the applications other than the official Map app, that use the maps api. One of my favourite such apps is called cartographer. By creating a symbolic link from your modified MapTiles database to the common location for the other apps, you can use the same cache for all your maps related apps!
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Apple TV Advertisement, 1997
Every day at 3:10pm when I was seven years old, I would get start to get excited, because school was about to finish. That meant in just a few minutes I could race home and carry on with my drawings. My father was the headmaster, and he had decided to buy a Macintosh for the school bursar, who happened my mother, to do the accounting. Using a computer saved her hours of filling in forms and doing manual calculations, but that was not why I was excited, as I perched myself on her office chair and double clicked ‘MacDraw’. I would play for hours in this simple application, letting my creations come to life, experimenting with digital ink, simple lines, circles and patterns on the black and white screen.
Macintosh Operating System 1.1, 1984
When I was 13 I got my first mac, and although I didn’t know it at the time, it was just after Steve Jobs returned to Apple. I remember seeing a poster at my high school with the Apple logo, that simply said ‘Think Different’. I liked that a lot. It didn’t look like an advertisement, it looked like advice for life. In the mid nineties Windows was taking an aggressive lead in the home computer OS m
arket and I was made fun of by my friends for using and defending Apple. When Mac OS X came out in 2000, I was very excited because it was based on UNIX, more powerful, safer, and more stable, but my excitement only made my friends laugh more. Interestingly, now half of them have iPhones which run the mobile version of OS X: iOS.
It is a reminder that Apple was not always cool and popular, a reminder that the company made a monumental comeback at the hands of Jobs. After his return in 1996, he swiftly began work on the iMac and the iPod, launched in 1998 and 2001 respectively, and thus began a line of increasingly popular products designed with high utility, yet beautiful simplicity. Jobs has left behind a legacy of products that have revolutionised personal computing, and changed many lives for the better. It’s hard to imagine what the personal computer, music, and phone industry would be like if it wasn’t for Apple. You may not agree with Apple’s closed product philosophy, but you can’t deny their massive influence in multiple markets. Jobs has left us a lasting legacy of amazing products and ideas, and a company with a mission to continue innovating and transforming our experience of a product. This is his first gift: the legacy of products and market changing innovations.
But what of the man himself? How do we make sense of the overly critical, hypersensitive, super-passionate genius who frequently behaved in ways we wouldn’t tolerate in even the most forward thinking and modern organisation? I think the answer is, most of us can’t make sense of it, but we can still learn from him. The idea that someone with so much darkness was also able to rise up so high is not unique, of course; it is the paradoxical nature of every hero in every good story ever told. Somehow it’s the controversial ones, the flawed ones, and the ones who are at extremes in the personality spectrum who make a dent in our universe, leaving the rest of us behind in the dust, stunned.
It is probably harder for a western mind to understand this paradox than an eastern one. In the West we tend to categorise things, as indeed Jobs often did himself, as either good or bad, perfect or terrible, you either like it or you hate it. Here in Asia they have a better grasp of how everything, including people, are both positive and negative at the same time. Jobs was a both the Ying and the Yang, pulled to both extremes, highly brilliant and highly flawed. For the rest of us swimming around somewhere in the middle of this sea of consciousness, trying not to appear too stupid in life, he doesn’t make much sense.
Steve Jobs, 1984
Yet to Jobs, it’s likely most of the rest of us didn’t make sense. Much of his character traits appear to echo a deep-set belief that ‘You are already naked’, meaning your days alive are limited, so why waste time conforming? “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” Jobs said during his speech to Sanford Graduates in 2005. How many of us would like to truly be able to live every day as if it’s our last? Jobs left behind him a trail of evidence of someone who consistently managed to fight passionately for what he believed in, rather than succumb to the drone of acceptability. He is living proof that it is possible to live a high engaged, energetic life following your heart.
And then there’s his massive and very public moment of failure, which is the most important part of his stranger than fiction story. Jobs’ dark side caught up with him, and still under the spotlight of public attention, he was forced out of Apple, the company he’d almost single handedly built. But he quickly picked himself back up and got back to doing what he loved doing, showing the world he was not through. His failure also taught him about his dark side, and in turn enabled him to grow. This theme of growth through failure is one of the most important lessons of life, and again, his life story is proof of this. Real heroes are not perfectly shiny, and they have all, in one form or another, suffered a great setback in their lives. Rather than being a straight – running success, Jobs was knocked hard, only to pick himself up again, eventually to return to Apple.
Apple Market Cap, 1981 – 2011
And what a comeback – a more mature, but equally determined man, who’d been but a youth when he left, returned to lead Apple to one success after another. Some call it ‘the greatest second act in the history of business’. Jobs proved that perseverance and great passion in what you do can overcome the inertia of what the world told you you just couldn’t try to do. In a world that whispers to us to be balanced, stay cool, and get an MBA, Steve Jobs carved out a completely different path, showing that other realities exist beyond what most of us take for granted. And so it was that the boy of 70s counter-culture California, determined and unafraid to fail, gave us his second gifts: that of his story.
When Jobs died an early death, I began looking back at his life in more detail, and these powerful themes of passion, failure, and the paradoxical hero popped out of his story. Despite having been an avid Apple product fan my whole life, I realised that the gift of his inspiration; his larger than life personality, was worth a lot more than his products. He not only gave us the Macintosh, the iPod, and the iPhone. He taught us to work hard for what we believe in and what we love. He demonstrated that the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who really do. And he truly showed us the meaning of ‘Think Different’. Thank you, Steve, you will be missed, and appreciated, for a long time.
This is a prepared text of the Commencement address delivered by the late Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005.
“ I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.
The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.
And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
My second story is about love and loss.
I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.
I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.
This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960′s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
If you’re having trouble getting the passenger preference pane to run under mac os x lion, that’s because it needs to be rebuilt using XCode. I’ve built it and offered a download below to save you the hassle:
The 2010 Macbook Air. I’ve had my 13″ MBA for a few months now, but when I first got it there were a few unanticipated surprises that made it an even more worthwhile upgrade. I replaced my 2008 Macbook pro, which had a faster processor and a 7200rpm 500gb harddrive, but despite this I haven’t looked back. Its an upgrade which brings a much faster user experience, a smaller & lighter package, and 3x longer battery life, which by any standards is impressive for a next generation of computer.
Before I got the Air, I was using my Macbook 30% less because the iPad can do a lot of the same things in a much smaller package. With the 1cm Air, it’s the iPad which takes a back seat again, an indication of how mobile our computing lives have become. It’s all about portability. Anyway, without further ado, here are a few pleasant surprises of the new Air:
No Sleep light to prevent Sleep!
The air has no pulsating sleep light like the older Macbooks and powerbooks which I was used to, so no having to stick bits of paper over the ‘sleep’ light before you go to bed to make sure you can sleep.
The speakers are significantly better quality and louder than my 3x bigger Macbook pro!
Silence is golden
Naturally one of the Macbook Air’s main advantages is it’s fast, quiet, and low energy SSD. But not until you sit in a completely silent room to get on with some creative work do you really appreciate how amazing real computing silence is. I should add, that is until you do something like some heavy photoshopping at which point you might be shocked by just how powerful and loud the fan is! Who said no moving parts…?
Squeeze on the plane
Finally, a computer with desktop power and high resolution (1440×900) that really fits comfortably between your economy seat and the one in front. Perfect.
Virtual Memory with SSD
I was trying to decide whether to fork out another $X00 for 4gb of memory in the apple store, when I decided to do a quick test. Why would you want more memory? When you run out of wired memory of course. And what happens then? Your computer starts using virtual swap memory located on the… oh god… hard drive. Hence all manner of slowness and doom. But wait a minute, if your hard drive is 3x faster, what effect does that really have on a memory swamped system? Turns out the Macbook Air SSD has another hidden advantage. When you’re out of memory, your machine will perform much much faster than a computer with a traditional HD which is out of memory, because it is using your SSD instead of a slow and fragmented traditional HD. My quick tests proved conclusive, and although many would argue 2gb wired memory is not enough by todays standards, I am very satisfied with performance.
It should be possible, it should be easy. You have two or three devices with two or more calendars and want to keep everything in sync, have an online calendar view, and be able to share calendars with family and colleagues while having them automatically update whenever a change is made. Now at least it is possible, if not easy.
In this guide we will look at how to use Google calendar and its CALdav support to link all your Apple devices and calendar.google.com with full, instant syncing between them all whenever you make a change. No waiting to sync in iTunes or putting up with read online calendar subscriptions!
1. Create a new account at http://calendar.google.com.
2. If you have iCal on your Mac you can easily sync this new google account, by simply going to Preferences -> Add Account -> Google Account -> Put in your details. All your calendars in your account will appear as ‘delegates’ which is kind of the CALdav equivalent of sub calendars. It looks a but strange in the iCal interface but it works. You can even copy events from your existing computer calendars en mass into your new synced calendar. They will instantly sync and you can view them on calendar.google.com
3. iPhone and iPad syncing primary calendar (the first one).
* Remove all existing google calendars from your iDevice, including unchecking any ‘sync calendar’ checks in your Google Account. Also make sure NO calendars are set to sync with your iDevice using iTunes. Go to iTunes and uncheck all calendar syncing to removed synced calendars. This is to avoid confusion later.
* On your iDevice go to Settings -> Mail, Calendars -> Add Account -> Other -> Add CALdav Account
* Fill in the following information:
Password: <your password>
Description: <your calendar name>
* Click ‘Next’. Now you have added your primary calendar.
4. iPhone and iPad syncing second, third, fourth etc calendars. If you already have just one calendar set up and you are happy with syncing only one of your calendars, you don’t need this guide. If you would like to sync multiple calendars on your account, not just one, read on…
CLICK A CALENDAR (FROM 2ND ON) TO REVEAL SETTINGS
* Go into your google calendar account -> Calendar Settings -> Calendars. Click on a Calendar and then locate the Calendar’s ID in the settings. Compose a new to yourself email with the calendar addresses like made up in a list this:
You add your gmail account to Apple Mail because you like Apple Mail. Everything looks good, and you can send and receive messages as expected. Now you get a difficult question from a client and you want to see the email you sent to them from your iPhone 2 days ago. Naturally, you click on ‘Sent’ folder, and scroll down… Oops! The email you sent from your iPhone is missing from your Macs Sent folder.
Luckily, this is easy to fix. First you need to search for the proper Gmail sent messages folder which shows ALL sent messages, not just ones sent from your Mac. You can find it if you dig into EMAIL ACCOUNT NAME -> Sent Messages . Now simply right click on this folder and choose the menu option Mailbox -> Use This Mailbox For -> Sent.
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.
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.