Kevin Gerard Fitzpatrick

Affordable Offsite Backup with Arq & Amazon Glacier

Let’s face it – in this day and age we all have valuable digital information that we are storing on our hard drives at home and probably using a Time Machine drive (or something similar) to backup our data in the event of a hard drive failure.

I have a great deal of photos, videos, web site code, and written work that I back up with a redundant drive at home whether it be my Time Machine drive or a redundant RAID array on my external drives.

It’s always been a little troublesome for me to think that this is my only 2 copies of my photos and videos. Nothing will ever get back my un-replaceable memories if my hard drives are damaged in the event of a disaster. My written work and code can easily be backed up on Dropbox since they are so low in file size, but the photos and videos are monsters (300 GB) as far as file size and I’d have to pay DropBox a ton of money to have them backed up.

I recently had a water accident in my house. The water came from the upstairs and flowed downwards (as water does) and ultimately hit the basement where my computer is. The good news is that the water hit the other side of the house where the computer IS NOT. It ruined quite a bit of things including a PlayStation, a TV, and an iPod SoundDock.

The only thought I had after that was – what if my computer was on the other side of the house and all my data got completely destroyed by the water accident? It was luck that it didn’t.

Prior to the water accident, I recently learned about Amazon Glacier & Arq from a colleague at work. I was a little skeptical of it because Arq is about $40 and I was worried what my costs would be from Amazon Glacier once I got the bill after backing up all 300 GB. However, after the water accident, I was willing to try it and take the risk of the costs. If it didn’t work out, I’d cancel it and just suck up the money I spent.

In the beginning, I got paranoid because what I read about Glacier being a “vault” where you store files wasn’t the case for me when Arq was uploading. It was uploading to my S3 which costs a lot more as far as storage costs. I then learned that Glacier has its own “storage class” on S3 that carries Glacier prices. So, it lived on S3, but it was in the “glacier” storage class which is much more inexpensive than regular S3 storage class. The only downfall to Glacier vs. S3 is that your data is not immediately available upon request. It takes 4 hours from your initial request to receive your data. The trade off seems like a good deal for those looking to backup their irreplaceable digital memories. It’s much more inexpensive for storage on a monthly basis, but the downfall is that you can’t access it immediately. This is not a deal breaker for me or for anybody looking to Glacier for off-site backup.

Arq is a pretty awesome piece of software. It consists of a full program where you input your initial settings and a menu bar widget on the Mac which is called “Arq Agent”. The menu bar widget runs in the background similar to Time Machine backing up the folders and files you specify it to backup. Each time the computer boots (or my external hard drives), it checks for changes and uploads the differential files to Glacier.

In the end, this ended up costing me $15 for my first upload and about $3 every month for the storage. That’s pretty awesome for storing 300 GB of data off-site. Arq cost $40, but that is a one time fee well worth it.

Finally! Off-site backup that is affordable. I will now sleep better at night knowing that I don’t need to worry about my photos and memories if my house burns down.

Adobe Sold Me.

Adobe has been sending me emails since Photoshop CC was released bugging me to buy a subscription for Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5. I must admit — $10/month is not a lot to pay for these 2 awesome photo editing apps, but I just don’t want to get stuck on a subscription. I also don’t want to get sucked into the $10/month introductory price and then have it be $20/month when my subscription renews after 12 months.

I photograph occasionally. It’s a hobby, not my career. So, to pay $10/month for Photoshop CC was not really a necessity. I already bought Lightroom 5 for $80, so my bases were covered as far as image editing software for my photographs.

What really got me was Lightroom Mobile. I am a sucker for anything mobile. I love shooting and using my Eye-Fi card for transfer of photos from my camera to iPad. I love editing on the go and before Lightroom Mobile, these photos never had an easy way to get into Lightroom. Now with the Creative Cloud and Lightroom Mobile, they do. One note to Adobe though (are you listening?) - please add an import via Eye-Fi card. That will eliminate the step of having to import to my camera roll first and clutter up my iPad’s small storage.

Lightroom Mobile is also the best editing app I’ve used on the iPad and its only in its infancy. It will get much better and have more features in the next few years, but for now — the features it does have seem to be the best in its class.

As of this writing, Adobe has also released Lightroom Mobile for iPhone which is a big deal for me (and probably many others). I take so many photos on my iPhone of my son and I want these photos to sync with my Lightroom. Now they do more easily than they did before.

Also as of this writing — Adobe has announced that they will make the $10/month subscription for Photoshop CC, Lightroom 5, and Lightroom mobile permanent which is great news for me and all us who bought a subscription at that introductory price. No more worries (at least for a little while) about Adobe jacking up that price next year.

I do wish there was a way to purchase Lightroom Mobile without a subscription, but there isn’t and therefore I got sucked into the Creative Cloud. I suppose there are worse ways to spend $10/month.

1 Month and Nicotine Free

I don’t normally write posts like this, but I wanted to share this – its been 1 month an I’m nicotine free. I’ve been on the patch for 3 years now and before the patch, it was the gum and before the gum it was cigarettes.

My father passed away from Lung Cancer in 2006 after 40 years of smoking. Before that happened, I had made attempts at quitting including a 6 month period with no nicotine. After my father’s death though, I wanted to get serious, so I started using the gum. I used the gum because I knew it would be hard to go “cold turkey” as I did last time. I didn’t want to have a relapse.

So, it began with the gum that lasted 4 years and then I started to find the gum a little too addicting as I would start chewing too much of it and it would make me sick. So, I went to the patch. I figured this would allow me to have only 1 daily consistent dose of nicotine each day. I quickly moved to step 3 on the patch (7mg of nicotine/day) and got stuck on that for 3 years.

Last month, I removed my patch and decided that I would go free. It was so relieving. It was a huge financial relief ($30 every 2 weeks) and a mental relief to know that I am no longer dependent. I think because I was on step 3 for so long, I really didn’t feel the “withdrawal”. I felt a bit, but not much. I think that it was more psychological at this point than it was addicting.

Out of all the things that helped much, I think the patch was the best. It got me away from the oral fixation that cigarettes and gum have and it gave me a controlled amount of nicotine per day. I think once I stabilized on that dose, it was easy to completely do away with.

I think I’m good, but you never know. I don’t think I’ll ever smoke cigarettes again on a regular basis. And here is advice for anybody out there that starts smoking at a young age…thinking about quitting or getting off of this stuff for 12 years. That’s what it took me to completely come to terms with it. It’s a very tough habit to kick.

Using OmniGraffle

I recently bought OmniGraffle for Mac for the first time ever. It’s hard to believe since I’m an app junkie and OmniGraffle has been around forever. I really never had much need for diagramming software to the point where I would pay for such an app. I’ve been into learning how to do more UI stuff and thought this would be a good place to start. My work also has a need for these kind of diagrams on the large complex sites we are working on. I like to use OmniGraffle to create massive site maps for these projects.

The program is actually quite complicated and not easy to understand immediately due to its complex and infinite nature. I got so frustrated wondering why lines can’t just connect easily to the shapes that I was laying out on the canvas. I then learned that I have to remove or put magnets on my shapes and that a line will “naturally” attach to the nearest magnet on a shape. So, it was all about magnet manipulation.

I was also frustrated at first at how long it was taking me to make a diagram and the lack of keyboard shortcuts for drawing automatic lines, etc. After all, this is OmniGroup — they make effective productivity software. I then discovered the outlining feature and along with the magnet manipulation, this turned out to work perfectly to make simple diagrams. I now use this every time I make a diagram.

The community surrounding OmniGraffle is great. There are so many stencils (templates) out there that people have built. Some are free and some are paid. A subscription to Graffletopia, a site that offers over 800 OmniGraffle stencils for $24/year is definitely worth looking into. I also purchased Eric Miller’s UX Kit for $29 which is great looking although I’m having a hard time figuring out what to exactly use it for.

On the not so good side, I do dislike the lack of interactivity. I wish this app did more like its semi-competitor Axure does in that department. OmniGraffle does have the ability to hide layers and show them upon actions as well as a presentation mode, but these things only work when you are in OmniGraffle. It would be great for these things to work in an interactive HTML export. We can’t send people OmniGraffle documents as most people don’t have it.

I also had the opportunity to use OmniGraffle 1 for the iPad and must admit that the iPad app is pretty awesome for a 4 year old app. It uses drag and drop really well and connecting the lines is actually easier on the iPad (for me) than it is on OmniGraffle 6 for Mac. I used a stylus with it which really helped. I normally use a keyboard on my iPad, but for OmniGraffle, I let the keyboard go since its really a drawing app.

As of this writing, the iPad app has been removed from the App Store due to the announcement of OmniGraffle 2 for iPad. I was taken back by this announcement (although I did know this would be coming soon) and decided to return OmniGraffle 1 for iPad since version 2 is coming out very soon. Being the awesome folks that they are, the OmniGroup honored the 30 day return policy and is going to return my copy of OmniGraffle 1. I do look forward to getting OmniGraffle 2 on the iPad and can only imagine how awesome its going to be. I really hope they add some of the outlining and automation features that are on the desktop version. That would make the iPad app a powerhouse.

Is the Browser Dead? Are Apps the Future?

There is lots of speculation about the death of the browser. In 2010, Wired first declared its death. Death is a complex word and a harsh one at that. The browser will always exist, but how the mass consumes their information will probably shift in the next few years.

This article in Forbes states that people spend 86% of their time on their mobile device in an app. The browser is only used 14% of the time. It also states that people spend about 2hrs and 42 mins on their mobile devices everyday. So, that means that people use the browser only 14% of the time they are on their mobile devices everyday for over 2 and a half hours. Wow.

On the other hand, this article in Tech Crunch defends the web. Threats to the “open web” have always existed such as America Online that aimed to have people stay within their app and environment the entire time, but it ultimately failed as people preferred the open web.

I think the browser will always exist and I will always use it. However, many people may stop developing for it (such as Facebook) if their app has more users than their web site and that may very well be the future for social media and other online services such as online banking and shopping.

With the statistics being what they are from the articles above, I would be worried if you work on web sites for a living like me. If the trend only keeps going in the direction of apps, many of us may find that our clients are no longer demanding web sites and would like an app instead. It’s just the ever-changing world of technology and we need to be prepared for it.

The new Omnifocus 2 interface
The new Omnifocus 2 interface

Omnifocus 2 for Mac Review

Omnifocus 2 for Mac was just released and it has been a long time in the works. It was originally intended to be launched last year, but Omni Group decided to hold back with the launch of iOS 7 and better suit OF 2 with the new Apple look.

Compared to Omnifocus 1, version 2 has an updated and beautiful interface. It is very pleasing to look at and work with.

Brookhollow Farms



We went to a place out in New Jersey today called Brookhollow Farms.  It was really fun and the day was absolutely gorgeous.  Anyway - trying to get back into some photography.  Here are 2 pics that I took while I was there today.
Zoom Info
Brookhollow Farms



We went to a place out in New Jersey today called Brookhollow Farms.  It was really fun and the day was absolutely gorgeous.  Anyway - trying to get back into some photography.  Here are 2 pics that I took while I was there today.
Zoom Info

Brookhollow Farms

We went to a place out in New Jersey today called Brookhollow Farms. It was really fun and the day was absolutely gorgeous. Anyway - trying to get back into some photography. Here are 2 pics that I took while I was there today.

A Note Taking Evolution

I started taking notes on my iPad when the iPad first came out in 2009–2010. I had the first generation iPad and I bought the Apple keyboard with it. It attached via the dock and would only work in portrait view.

Being there is an app for everything out there, I began to explore more in the App Store and thus my geeky quest to find the perfect note taking app(s) began.

I’m a plain text nerd (I can truly say that now) although I have used many apps that are not plain text based. In the end, I feel like most plain text geeks feel – it is the most adaptable and the fastest format to use. Everything should be plain text.

My requirements of this app (or couple of apps) were:

  • A Fast Startup: I usually run into meetings and need to begin right away. I can’t have a long app startup and then start a new file and name it and then add tags, etc. I just want to start typing.
  • Fast & Good: I don’t want to have to spend too much time editing notes, but I want them to look good. So, I need to be able to write good and fast. To do this, the app must be markdown compatible. I don’t want to click buttons to format my notes.
  • Distribution: I need to be able to quickly send these notes via email either from my desktop or the iPad.
  • Archive: I need to have these notes stored in one central place after they are saved.
  • Syncs: The archive needs to be accessible from the desktop as well, not just the iPad. This means that a cloud service of some sort (preferably DropBox) would be needed to sync my notes between the iPad and Desktop.

What I’ve Tried

It’s been a long journey, but I feel that I have tried just about the best of the best in the App Store to meet my above requirements. Below is my app evolution:

The Marker Felt App

We’ve all used one of these when the iPad was new. We never liked the interface, but the idea of taking notes on our iPad with Apple’s iPad keyboard was awesome. This is where I started with my iPad note taking. It only stored my notes on the iPad, but I was able to email them to people from the iPad and to myself.

Evernote

Now we’re moving along. Evernote was a big deal on the iPad. I was able to take notes in Evernote, save them and then have them available on my desktop Evernote client. It was easy to email notes to everybody that looked good too. So, why not just stay with Evernote? I decided Evernote was more of the end point of where I could archive my notes, but not the starting point. It took too long to startup and get going. It also didn’t support markdown and was not plain text.

One thing I dislike about Evernote as an archiving solution for meeting notes is its complexity. Most apps don’t let me choose a notebook or tag my notes when sending to Evernote, so I need to go in to Evernote and move my notes to the appropriate notebook and tag them. Sure I don’t have to do this, but Evernote just makes me feel like I should.

Note & Share

This was the first time I would use 2 apps to accomplish my goals. Note & Share was a simple text editor app. It’s main feature was to write your notes and then get them wherever else. They didn’t live in Note & Share. So, I was able to get them to Evernote for archiving and able to get them to email. It met most of my requirements - but the interface was just terrible. I also disliked the idea of sending to Evernote and then sending an email. 2 steps were 1 too many. So, I moved on.

Byword

Byword had a nice interface, markdown support, a publish to Evernote feature, an email feature and a desktop client as well that it synced with. Wow - I thought this was it.

After a few weeks of note taking in Byword, I found the iPad app to be kind of clunky and slow! Each time I used it I found the typing on my Bluetooth keyboard lagging behind what I was actually writing which was so annoying when you were taking notes in a meeting and everybody was talking really fast. When I returned to my desktop, it also wasn’t easy to find the notes that I just took in the meeting. It just wasn’t fast and syncing wasn’t intuitive. You had to start a new file in your Dropbox folder in order for it to be in Dropbox.

OmniOutliner 2

I started to give up on the iOS text editor after Byword. I decided I would use something more professional such as OmniOutliner for taking notes. It turns out that OmniOutliner was awesome as I can take notes, move rows around and arrange them differently when I went to clean them up. Formatting was a breeze too because you worked off a template with level styles. The problem with OmniOutliner was 3 things: not a fast startup, no markdown support, and not many choices for exporting (especially if you want to just put it in a body of an email).

The truth was that OmniOutliner was meant to do greater things than meeting notes. Like its sibling OmniFocus which is more than a “to-do list”, OmniOutliner was more than a note taker. It was an outliner, a place where ideas start and formulate. I use it now mainly for “thinking” documents like doing site maps and budgets.

Drafts

Drafts is awesome and I still use it all the time. Like Note & Share, Drafts is not a place where you store your notes, you would write them and then move them. It has got a wonderful interface, is fast on startup, has markdown support and generally does everything I need. The only downfall is that I need to do a 2 things: send an email and then save to Evernote or Dropbox to archive the notes. Again - 1 to many things. I’m lazy.

Notesy and nvALT

So, this is where I am at now in my evolution of note taking apps for iOS and Mac desktop. I decided to give nvALT a try since it is talked about so much and has a great reputation in the plain text community. I then downloaded Notesy for my iPad which works great with nvALT. Put simply, all nvALT and Notesy do is have a bunch of text files in one folder that are searchable. This folder is in Dropbox, which keeps my notes synced between the 2 apps. Notesy and nvALT do the same thing - they automatically save files and they save it to the same place so all notes are synced. So, the only thing I need to do is send an email from either app which is very easy.

This solution has met all my crazy requirements so far. My only criticism of Notesy is that I wish the interface was more like Drafts. It’s kind of not as slick and pleasing.

Abandoning Evernote for Plain Text Note Archives

I never wanted to give nvALT a try because I felt that it was sort of a conflict with Evernote as far as my note archive was concerned. I love Evernote and I pay for it too. However, I really dislike how long it takes to start up and the initial find of any note (especially a plain text one). It is almost painful sometimes.

Evernote is great for keeping PDFs, images, screenshots, scans (because of its OCR) and sharing these documents. However, for simple plain text notes - I think I’ll use nvALT. It’s just so much faster.

Apps Talked About In This Article
iPad Apps
Mac Desktop Apps

Day One Journal

The Perfect Journal

Day One is an electronic journal that has one of the best user interfaces that I have ever used. It also has a number of cool features including tags, GPS, weather capture, and much more. It syncs across all your devices and can be used anywhere to capture and write about the present or a moment that happened a week ago.

I love to keep records of what happens in my life, but I don’t necessarily want to share everything with everybody. This is especially true when it comes to my child. Although I love showing him off on Facebook, I don’t want to be “one of those people”. I also don’t want hundreds of photos of him available to all my “friends”.

Stuck on NJ TransitI got stuck on the NJ Transit this morning (what else is new) and I looked out the window and saw this view.  Not a beautiful view, but a very industrial look at NJ.  Smokestack in the background, graffiti in the foreground.  I think its interesting.

Stuck on NJ Transit

I got stuck on the NJ Transit this morning (what else is new) and I looked out the window and saw this view. Not a beautiful view, but a very industrial look at NJ. Smokestack in the background, graffiti in the foreground. I think its interesting.

Using AfterLightThis app is kind of awesome.  It doesn’t blow the grain or sharpening out like most photo editors even when I have it at 100% as in this selfie of me.  Finally an app that works pretty well.

Using AfterLight

This app is kind of awesome. It doesn’t blow the grain or sharpening out like most photo editors even when I have it at 100% as in this selfie of me. Finally an app that works pretty well.

Boxer InboxMy Boxer inbox. Notice the icons for each of the emails which adds a nice visual touch.


Alternative iOS Email Clients

The App Store has many alternative email clients that offer some great features for email fanatics. One of the more popular ones is Mailbox which at the time only works with Gmail. Mailbox has support from Dropbox (who has helped building it) and I heard that if you signup for Mailbox, Dropbox even provides you with some free storage space.

If you need more than just Gmail, Boxer supports most email clients including MS Exchange, Gmail, and Yahoo. The above 3 are the three that I have used through Boxer and they have all worked successfully.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch Responsive Site Launch

This was a cool site to work on.  It was responsive which was a first for me to work on.  I’ve worked on other so-called responsive sites, but I felt this one was really the first major one due to how many breakpoints it had and how much it changes from desktop to tablet to mobile.  


The coolest part about it was how the photograph of Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig locks to the width and height of your screen no matter what device you are on.  It displayed differently across devices, but you are always able to see the full photo upon arrival.


Above is a screenshot from my iPhone.  Looks awesome when you get here on mobile.  The large 1920x1200 desktop is really cool too cause the photograph is gigantic.


Check it out at HedwigBroadway.com

Hedwig and the Angry Inch Responsive Site Launch

This was a cool site to work on. It was responsive which was a first for me to work on. I’ve worked on other so-called responsive sites, but I felt this one was really the first major one due to how many breakpoints it had and how much it changes from desktop to tablet to mobile.

The coolest part about it was how the photograph of Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig locks to the width and height of your screen no matter what device you are on. It displayed differently across devices, but you are always able to see the full photo upon arrival.

Above is a screenshot from my iPhone. Looks awesome when you get here on mobile. The large 1920x1200 desktop is really cool too cause the photograph is gigantic.

Check it out at HedwigBroadway.com

Launch Center Pro

Screenshot of my Launch Center Pro home screen on my iPad.


Launch Center Pro

“Launch Actions, Not Apps”. That’s the basis of Launch Center Pro. With the ever growing number of iOS apps that have support for URLs to launch their apps as well as execute actions within that app, Launch Center Pro took what already existed in iOS and made it easy for users to take advantage of in a nice simple clean interface.

It sounds simple and almost unnecessary to most folks, but it makes a big difference when you constantly use your iPhone or iPad and launch a lot of apps per day. It can usually save you 1–3 steps. Not only does this make a difference in time, but it also makes a difference psychologically. You feel you are doing things quicker and are more apt to do them sooner than later.

Launch Center Pro (LCP) has made its way into my dock on my iPad and iPhone and its now my gateway app for any other app. It’s replaced my phone app (on my iPhone) in the dock only because I can do so many phone actions from it that are easier than launching the phone app.

Our_Time

Our Time

Me and my son making funny faces after his bath. We probably do this anytime he takes a bath.

What’s important in life? What’s important in “Our Time” that we have to live? It’s a question that most of us ask ourselves a lot. Once in a while we sit back and re-evaluate what our priorities are. Do I want to work as much as I do? Do I need to make more money than I’m making now to help support my family? How can I spend more time with my family and make them happy?

We ask ourselves these questions commonly or at least I do. However we may answer the questions above, I think we all know that if we were to lie on our deathbed (even the most financially successful of us), we wouldn’t say “I wish I spent more time in the office” or “I wish I spent more time working”. I think more commonly we would say, “I wish I made my wife feel more special” or “I wish my kid and I spent more time together”.

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