Taking Control of My iPhones

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Tags: geek life

I really enjoyed Bradley Chambers’ post on how he “took control” of the technology that was starting to take control of him. I’m in a similar boat being tied to one or more iPhones on a regular basis.

The iPhone has made my life simpler and more streamlined in so many respects:

But it’s also a very easy tooltoy to use to the exclusion of the people and tasks around me. I have found myself being annoyed by being interrupted “working” on my phone when really I need to be minding my real life.

To top all of this off, I have two iPhones: one work and one personal, though I have tended to use my personal phone for everything except conference calls1.

Bradley took these steps:

  • Email doesn’t show badges and only downloads new messages when I open the app. Not only has this resulted in better battery life, but I’ve not missed out on anything important. If something is urgent, I will get a phone call or a text message.
  • No social media notifications (Twitter, Instagram, etc)
  • Slack is set to only push @replies
  • Do Not Disturb runs from 5:00 PM to 7:00 AM, but allows phone calls. This makes my iPhone act like an actual phone.

For me, I went a slightly different route:

  1. I asked my employer to upgrade my aging iPhone 4S to a new iPhone 6 Plus. It was up for the contract renewal price, so they did without much fuss.
  2. I removed every single thing work-related from my personal phone.2
  3. On my personal phone, I set my Do Not Disturb to 9:00 PM to 7:00 AM, but allowing phone calls.
  4. On my work phone, I set my Do Not Disturb to 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM, but allowing phone calls from my contacts only.
  5. I leave my work phone in the basement on my desk when I am doing things around the house, as well as most nights overnight.3
  6. I removed nearly every push notification and badge from my personal phone. I still let my personal email alert me, but only silently. I do let my work email notify me on my work phone, but hten it’s not always on me, so this matters far less.

So far, despite being in love with the display on the 6 Plus4 and compelled to look at it just because it’s so pretty, I have found myself less electronically engaged and more personally engaged, even in the last week since making these changes.

I expect I’ll find more ways to make this work as time goes on. I’m not ready to go away from push email just yet, but it may come soon enough.

NB: One negative side-effect, if you could call it that, is that since I’m pulling out my personal phone from my pocket far less than before, I get very far behind on twitter. I am typically a twitter completionist, and rely on twitter to keep me updated on current events, so this means I’m usually about 24 hours out of touch.

I don’t know if I care to do anything about this, honestly…

  1. I use about two dozen minutes a month on my personal line, but working remotely means that I use a few hundred minutes a month for work calls, even if almost all of them are otherwise “toll-free”, a concept that has become ridiculous now.

  2. I now almost never run out of battery. It’s incredible.

  3. This is the most critical change. By leaving my phone somewhere I am not, I am simply not bothered by alerts.

  4. Which is, to be pragmatic, far too big to be a useful “phone”, but is a fantastic piece of hardware otherwise.

Ending a Workday

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Over at Wise Bread, Brittany Lyte shared her five best ways to spend the last 10 minutes of your workday. My favorite, which was also the favorite over at Lifehacker, was to clear your desk of clutter:

Studies show that a cluttered workspace actually hinders our ability to process information and concentrate. We aren’t aware of it, but clutter competes for our attention in much the same way as a whining child or a barking dog does.

Clutter absolutely competes for my attention the same way audible noise does; this has long been one of my triggers1. I’m a smidge obsessive about maintaining a semi-spartan2 workspace, so I’ve been doing something like this for years. I also make sure to power off my displays and speakers, put my trash/recycling where they can be easily retrieved by janitorial staff, and “reset” the furniture for the next day.

  1. Ask my wife.

  2. Read: minimalist. It’s such a buzzword and I hate to use it, but I do try to minimize everything that I have down to the bare necessities.

IKEA Sit/Stand Desk

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Tags: geek life

It only took them a few years, but IKEA seems to have finally come out with a standing-worthy desk to replace the infamous Jerker1. They are apparently in low supply, which explains why I can’t find them on the IKEA site at this point.

I’ll have to make a sojurn to our “local” store to play with it in person.

  1. I own two.


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If there’s one thing Christians love, it’s being blessed.

We’ve created a culture in which we measure God’s “blessings” in terms of dollars and cents, comfort and pleasure, wealth and well-being. So, if we’re happy and healthy and have everything we need, then we’re blessed, and we should thank God on social media.

Jamie hits it out of the park with this one.

So Jesus, the very incarnation of God among us, was like, “Um. You keep saying this word, ‘blessed’. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Because blessed does not mean pleased. Blessed does not mean happy. Blessed does not mean fulfilled. It doesn’t even mean fed or clothed or housed or healthy…

What it really means is that you are not alone, for God is with you.

Why You Must Vaccinate Your Kids

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Earlier this year there was a court decision in favor of several schools in New York state wherein the court determined that the schools could legally prevent unvaccinated children from attending school when another student has a vaccine-preventable disease:

Citing a 109-year-old Supreme Court ruling that gives states broad power in public health matters, Judge William F. Kuntz II of Federal District Court in Brooklyn ruled against three families who claimed that their right to free exercise of religion was violated when their children were kept from school, sometimes for a month at a time, because of the city’s immunization policies.

The Supreme Court, Judge Kuntz wrote in his ruling, has “strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations”.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/23/nyregion/judge-upholds-policy-barring-unvaccinated-students-during-illnesses.html Benjamin Mueller

This was the right decision, and while I’m glad it was decided as such, I’m anxious to see where it goes next. The plaintiffs are appealing, and as the chain of appeals goes in the US, I will be really interested to see if this lawsuit eventually makes it to the Supreme Court. Affirming that public health concerns over-rule 1st amendment claims seems like an important precedent to be set at the federal level.

Dr. Aaron E Carroll, a prolific health policy blogger and vid-caster, in addition to being a pediatrician and professor of medicine1, wrote a nice piece about this for CNN Opinion. He made several very good points about herd immunity, which is an often neglected point in conversations with those who are either uncomfortable with, or opposed to, vaccinating their children for whatever reason. For instance, regarding the Varicella2 vaccine, he wrote (emphasis mine):

What’s notable is that from 2004 through 2007, not one child less than 1 year of age died in the United States from chicken pox. None. This is remarkable, because we cannot give the varicella vaccine to babies. It’s only approved for children 1 year or older.

In other words, all those babies were saved not because we vaccinated them against this illness. They were saved because older children were.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/09/opinion/carroll-vaccinate-kids/index.html Aaron Carrol

I’ve read many of the objections to vaccination. Every single one of them is, in my opinion, without any merit. There is simply far too much research showing that vaccines are only positive, that they save lives, that they eradicate disease, and that avoiding them can cost lives.

Bottom line: If you are not having your children vaccinated, or you elect to delay vaccination to be on an alternative schedule which “makes sense to you”3, you are putting your children and everyone else’s children at risk. This is conscious negligence, not “exercising your parenting freedom”.

I have friends who vehemently disagree with me on this topic. Some day I will not be surprised if that disagreement becomes irrelevant and states begin enforcing vaccination by law. It’s my hope that this decision reinforces precedent allowing states to consider just that.4 I would not be surprised if the first state to attempt to do so is California, given that they declared a Pertussis epidemic last month, and this was not the first time it has done so this decade. Pertussis is a disease that should have been eradicated from the planet, and was technically near extinction, until folks stopped vaccinating their kids against it. Considered possible in 1975, eradication of Pertussis moved from a scientific challenge to a public health (enforcement) challenge in the late 1990s. That challenge seems to have failed, even with a vaccine with a 70% efficacy rate.

I still think Penn and Teller said it best.

  1. Among other things. Does this guy sleep?

  2. Chicken Pox

  3. It’s worth noting that the Institute of Medicine is attempting to determine if it’s feasible to study the effectiveness of some of the proposed alternative schedules out there, but until it’s been studied, it’s simply far safer for everybody to stick to the standard schedule, which has been extensively studied.

  4. Of course, I’m not a lawyer, so what do I know anyway?

Defensive BASH Programming

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Tags: linux

Nothing is new here, but from my experience pepole like to abuse BASH, forget computer science and create a Big ball of mud from their programs.
Here I provide methods to defend your programs from braking [sic], and keep the code tidy and clean.

I’m guilty of regulary ignoring so much of this. The comment threads, though absent the author, held a few other interesting nuggets. For instance, there’s an IDE for BASH.

WWDC Thoughts

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Tags: apple

I had a rare (for me, anyway) opportunity to stream the WWDC Keynote at work on Monday. Normally I have to follow one of the many live blogs and then watch the video after the fact, and even in the last few years since the stream has been public, most streams have been choppy and un-viewable.

The two-hour keynote was like drinking from a firehose of awesome. Some thoughts have been percolating since, and so what follows is what’s been on my mind:


My 2¢: for the past few years it’s felt like Apple’s only goal was to put us in our place. Now it feels like they might want to be friends.

For the first time I can recall, I was thoroughly entertained during the keynote. I wasn’t just waiting for the details on what they were releasing; I was genuinely entertained. The presenters, seasoned and raw alike, were confident and seemed to have a ton of fun. They played to developers, and the audience (largely developers) seemed to eat it up.

I really should be taking video of @marcoarment during this segment. He is literally bouncing.

Overall, they rocked it.


The UI refresh looks nice. Nothing huge, nothing so ground-breaking that anyone should be up in arms about it.

I need to play with Mail to know if it’s worth going back to it from Airmail. The version of Mail in Mavericks is pretty terrible for Exchange.

The notification center overhaul / widgets look neat but possibly annoying. It seems to indicate that Dashboard is on its way out someday, which I like.

Spotlight’s update sounded like it might upset Alfred, but I use Alfred for so much more than finding/launching stuff. I think it still has a permanent home.

iCloud Drive and Photos

This could be a “big deal” for me. I’ve been a big Dropbox user for years, and have loved the ubiquitousness it delivers. Between that and Crashplan, I don’t worry about my data being lost1, and can easily share a song, document or whatever with anybody. My photos are all in one place, and for the moment I haven’t run out of space2. I am, however, almost exclusively a Mac user now, and having a native experience for cloud-based file storage sounds great.

Also, it’s less expensive than Dropbox. I have the Pro200 plan now with Pakrat3, which costs roughly $200 a year. For the same storage space on iCloud Drive, I’ll pay $48. That’s $150 I can do better with.

I have a lot of questions about how they’re going to deliver this, such as:

  • Will there be a Windows client?4
  • Will all of my iCloud Drive files be synchronized locally? Can a 3rd-party tool back up those files from your file system?
  • What if my local drive is smaller than my iCloud Drive? What gets sync’d locally?
  • Given this will integrate with the new Photos application, can I have photos in multiple structures or only in the Photos “silo”?
  • Will the folder structure be “normal” or will it be in my /Users/matt/Library hierarchy somewhere, obfuscated from me without Finder?
  • Can I symlink in/out of the folder structure?
  • Will there be an IFTTT channel?
  • What about file sharing, share links, public links, etc.? Will I still need/want Dropbox, even a 2gb free plan, to share via links?
  • What sorts of privacy statements are they making about these files? Dropbox seems to be taking it seriously, or so they say.

The iOS implementation looks really awesome. I’m mostly concerned about how this is manifested on my Macs.

It seems like they’re going to replace iPhoto with this on the Mac. I’ve always hated iPhoto, so I’m interested to see how this pans out. I’ve wanted an app for photo management that I didn’t hate for at least six years.

Family Sharing

This is great. Just great. So long as by “credit card” they’re also ok with “PayPal Account”. Also, I have no intention of sharing apps with my son’s iPad, but this was interesting:

Just caught this detail on the iOS family sharing. pic.twitter.com/hgwMmOxE1k

iDevice / Mac Integration

Again, it all comes down to implementation. If they use Bluetooth LE, that bugs me, though this would seem a straightforward way to tackle proximity so that my computer at home doesn’t try to answer my phone call when I’m on my way to the office. I hate having bluetooth enabled everywhere, so I’d prefer they do something different, for instance a P2P wifi connection ala AirDrop. It would seem that they’d need to be clever about proximity, and I see all sorts of holes using things like common network details for other connected networks. I suppose they could use signal strength.


Group messaging looks cool, but not something I’m likely to use very often. I can see my wife using it more with a few friends, or groups or parents or something.

Audio messages are wicked cool… Who needs voicemail anymore?

SMS in iMessage is fantastic, and is a feature my wife is actually excited about.5 I’d greatly prefer a full keyboard for messaging whenever I could have one, but speaking of keyboards…

Other IOS8

3rd-party keyboards


AirDrop between iDevices and Mac


Enterprise Features of IOS8

They didn’t even talk about this, but I’m jazzed about:

  • S/MIME from Mail. Woo!
  • You can email meeting attendees from Calendar. Should have been that way forever!
  • Swiping to mark read/flag/etc.
  • Designate threads as VIP
  • Turn out of office on/off from my phone


I don’t have a lot of thoughts about this yet, other than that I’ve had a few ideas for iOS apps for a while, and learning Objective-C was the only thing stopping me. This might be enough to get me moving.


Overall, I’m excited by all of this and am trying to decide which Mac is going to run the Yosemite dev preview when it’s ready.

  1. I suppose I need to worry about it being kept

  2. Based on my estimates, I have until 2016 or so.

  3. Because I never, ever want to be faced with an OMG where did that file go??!? moment ever again.

  4. Someone has to ask…

  5. She normally rolls her eyes about these sorts of announcements, but this actually piqued her interest.