Applications • OfficeSpacey • Productivity
May 2, 2013
There’s a nice article over at the NYTs on ‘Tools for Startups‘. A lot of these would be pretty handy for any company. I might even add a few like Basecamp and GoToMeeting.
Sometimes in larger companies, there are established systems in place that can be out-dated and loathed by the boots on the ground, but the group sticks with it. Additionally, changing these systems can be years of uphill battles. I encourage groups to just set up these inexpensive (often free) tools for their own group or project(s) and just kinda run under the radar. Most are remarkably easy to get started with, there’s often no technical requirements other than a web browser, and I’ve even see these tools re-energize a group/project.
These things are great for one-man-band setups as well as they make interacting with clients so much more efficient.
Oh, check out the comments too. Lots of good suggestions down there.
April 29, 2013
Just got this from one of my colleagues regarding a vulnerability in a couple very popular WordPress plugins:
We have become aware of a critical security vulnerability in very
commonly used plug-ins for the popular WordPress blogging platform that
present a risk to our customers. All customers using WordPress with
either the W3 Total Cache plug-in or the WP Super Cache plug-in are
encouraged to update their plug-ins as soon as possible. This upgrade
is necessary even if the plug-in is installed but not currently active.
Wordpress plug-ins can be easily updated from within the WordPress
admin interface’s plug-in section.
So make sure you keep your site updated. Once a site is live, there is constant upkeep, backups, and tweaks. Failure to do so leaves you open to a world of hurt.
April 16, 2013
There’s a lot of news of a bot net attack hitting WordPress sites. Here are a couple easy things to help keep your site safe:
- Download and activate a backup plugin like wp-db-backup. It will automatically backup and email your site’s database file each night, week, or month (you choose). A handy thing to have if you login to you site one day and see a complete, hacked mess. This is a good thing to have in your back pocket if things do go bad.
- Don’t use ‘admin’ as the username. Easy enough. In fact, newer installations of WordPress advise you not to use that when setting up a site. BUT, in the good old days, admin was the only name you could use. That put anyone that wanted to hack your site halfway there – a password away. I’ll do a short screencast on how to change one of those old ‘admin’ usernames if that’s what you’re currently stuck with.
- Use strong passwords. A few years back, I switched over to an application called ’1Password’. It generates these crazy passwords, stores them, and syncs them across all of my devices (desktop, iPad, iPhone). It’s like magic. The only drag is if I’m on a foreign machine and I have to key in a 24 character password full of uppercase, numbers and symbols. Try to type this on your iPhone…. VxmA9v#tie:4f8;/W2QwG^6a3qTC<Z (pretty strong password though, I’d think).
Coding • Thicksole
January 3, 2013
When building a website and especially (for me) while trying to tune in a particular style with CSS, the “command-s” and “command-r” keys, by all rights, should be worn off of my notebook. See, these are the ‘quick keys’ for Save and Refresh. Here’s the drill… Change the style, save it, and refresh the web page to see what it looks like.
I don’t need no stinking refresh.
Just as Mozart didn’t need an orchestra in front of him to play the parts before writing the arrangements, I’m sure there are plenty of developers that can visualize exactly what they need to see on the page and write out the code to perfection. In fact, I think I work with a few guys like that. But, that’s not me. And, it’s probably not you.
A lot of us got into the technology business through the side door as marketers, publicists, editors, sales people, writers, and creatives. Tools like WordPress and simple, reliable services like ClearDev.net‘s web hosting, make putting together a site, updating it and maintaining it a piece of cake. The technical gets out of the way so you can do the work you were meant to do.
I guess this post is just a reminder to me that this why Thicksole is here: to help non-tech professionals get through the technical things so they can get down to what matters most and ship their art.
OfficeSpacey • Productivity
January 2, 2013
David Allen’s productivity masterpiece, Getting Things Done, touches on something called ‘the tickler file’. I set this system up upon my first reading of the book, and, well, it just sat there. After the first few days, I forgot to check it. And then I’d remember but then realize I was behind a few weeks already so I would just skip it. Then the paper pile on my desk grew again and it was back to business as usual.
Then last year, I revisited the system. Only this time, I set a daily reminder on my phone to trigger a reminder to open the ticker file at 7am see what was on tap for the day. Seems a little tedious right? Now there’s a whole new system and a new reminder. UGH. Really, it’s not a big deal. It’s just a trigger there to condition my brain to check my backup brain. Eventually, it all became automatic.
Oh, so why the interest? Why bring it up now?
Okay, so it’s a new year and I like to get things in order, look ahead and try to make things as foolproof as possible. This year, I thought I’d really put this tickler file through it’s paces. So, on a quiet New Year’s Day, I printed out all of the deposit forms and envelopes for my monthly ROTH IRA contributions, the 529 deposits for my kids, recurring invoices that require mailed hard copies, estimated tax form reminders, and more. Then I loaded them into their proper month and I’m done.
No more coming into January and realizing I still could contribute $2k into my ROTH IRA! You see, as luck would have it, that’s the same time estimated taxes are due as well as local real estate taxes, and let’s not forget about the holiday spending comes home to roost. Not the best time to scrounge around for another couple grand.
It’s a great system to manage the physical things we need on specific days:
- Travel Info
Yes, I know a lot of this can be automated via electronic banking, but I still prefer to do the checks and slips. There’s something about the physical action of saving, investing, and billing that makes me feel good.
So, the tickler file. Yes, it’s analog and pretty simplistic, but if you don’t have one, I highly recommend it. It’s a powerful office tool. You’ll never have to keep repeating, “Man, I gotta remember to send in the cable bill next Thursday.” The idea is simple but the hard part is conditioning yourself so it becomes part of your life and it’s a trusted source for your work. Like so many other things, use it for 30 days and see what happens.
Hope you get the idea. Here’s a quick video on how to set up a tickler file system. Get those folders ready!
Pro tip: Don’t get bogged down with finding the perfect folders, labels, color coordinating, etc. That kind of stuff is a total time suck. I like this video because she just took a sharpie and wrote 1-31 on the folders and started using the system. Neat and organized isn’t the same as productive.
OfficeSpacey • Productivity
January 1, 2013
Happy 2013! I’m sure most of you are sweating out 3 weeks of debauchery, armed with a shiny new gym membership. Go go go! Me? I’m here at our global headquarters in Fairfield, CT (okay – it’s my home office over the garage) setting up some things for the year that I want ‘automated’. More on that later.
But, I wanted to share this little Mac tip. For those of you not familiar with Jerry Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break the Chain” advice, here’s the deal (snipped from the above linked Lifehacker article):
He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.
He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
Now, to the point (finally). To make a cool, 1 page, full year calendar on your Mac, just open up the “Terminal” application (under Applications/Utilities/Terminal), then type in:
And hit return. You’ll see this:
Now, a quick command-p, and a new, full 2013 calendar will be served up hot and fresh from your printer. Neat, right?
Give that sucker a title like “Exercise 30 Minutes” and tape it in a place you’ll see it everyday. Multiple goals? Just print out multiple calendars.
BONUS: For a great article on Jerry Seinfeld and a little New Year’s Day inspirado, check out this NY Times article:
Applications • Mobile • News
December 26, 2012
Just in time for all of those new Christmas iPhones and iPads, Apple’s iTunes App Store just accepted the “How Your House Works” app we built for John Wiley & Sons. It’s pretty cool – very visual and easy to find what you’re looking for. Repeat toilet troubles? Well, we included a “favorites” button so you can create a list of your favorite areas of interest. A last minute addition of some social networking functionality lets users tell the world what they are fixing. Good times.
Applications • News
October 19, 2012
Here’s a good way to start the weekend…
Voted into “The TOH Top 100: Best New Home Products 2012“, our NKBA Kitchen & Bath app got a nod from the folks at This Old House Magazine. The list shares “all the coolest new products to make your home smarter and more stylish, chosen by the editors of This Old House” and we’re happy we could make something to be on it.
Hardware • News
September 7, 2012
Yesterday there was a lot of excitement over Amazon.com’s new Kindle hardware announcements. For me, the most exciting part was the information on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program.
This segment of the presentation started with some sample rejection letters from superstar authors ranging from Stephen King to Dr. Seuss. One author receiving as many as 60 rejection letters before finally getting a deal on number 61. Bezos went on to ask, “How many authors did stop after 40 rejections? Who are the creators we’ve never known?” Good questions.
This is when he offered information on the KDP program and the success people are finding. In fact 27 of the top 100 Kindle books are from the KDP program. The program is easy to join, the payment is 30% to Amazon & 70% to the author, writers keep their copyrights, follow their own schedule, and get global distribution.
So I did some digging to find out more about the authors featured:
Here’s the thing: 2/3 of these authors use WordPress (the third is on Blogger). 3 of 3 have professional websites. What came first, the success or the website? I’m not sure. But each successful author has a site with a blog and a way to directly communicate with their readers – new or old.
If you’re an author, published by the old guard, or yourself through KDP, you need a website to be successful. Wordpress is a great platform for this. And we’re here to help with everything from buying a domain name, to setting up your hosting, installing WordPress, designing & customizing, and even training. We’ll take care of you. We want you to be another success story.
Here are the details direct from Jeff Bezos and a number of successful KDP authors, starting at 19:20 in (though it should start there automatically):
Mobile • News • Thicksole
May 15, 2012
I know. I know. Every time we release a new app, I say it’s our best to date. But this one is special because it came about from failure and rejection.
Since 2009, we’ve been building Flash Card and Self Test apps for John Wiley & Sons’ leading higher ed titles so students could review key terms and concepts anywhere. In all, we did about 20 apps. They all looked the same and behaved the same, but just contained different content. And that’s where we ran into trouble.
In January, we submitted two more apps for review and they were rejected. Not because of any scandalous reason, but because we had so many that were similar and Apple felt we were cluttering up the store. First reaction, my head almost exploded. An hour later, I kinda realized, they had a point. So, the next thing was, well, we either overcome this or get out of the Flash Card/Self Test app business. We went with the “overcome this” option.
After a quick huddle up, we looked at how other higher ed publishers were handling this, and couldn’t find a good example. Actually, we couldn’t find any example. So we looked for businesses with no relation to education and found a few that did “in app purchasing” really well. That was it – we’d build a container where students could buy and run the apps they needed. It would be a container of self study tools. We ended up calling it that Wiley Business Study Center, but during design and development, we just called it “the container app.” Like most other ideas, it started in a 99 cent spiral notebook. I know, it’s high tech and your mind is probably blown right now:
Of course, some of this never made it through to the final app, but a lot of it did. This was well before we decided to make it and all the apps inside “universal” so they’d look great on the iPhone or iPad.
We laid out the plan and Wiley accepted – and they were amazing through the process. Together we fleshed out the look, logic and behavior of the new container app. It was a lot of work. A lot of proofing. A LOT of proofing. And they were insanely patient. In a nutshell, here’s what we did:
- Built a new universal container app
- Recoded 14 existing apps so everything was the latest and greatest
- Reworked the images for the new high-res displays
- Created 6 NEW apps
- Made all 20 apps universal
- Added a new feature to ALL of the self test apps – “Review All Chapters”
So when I see this app available on the iTunes Store, I don’t see one app, but 21 separate apps that at times felt like 42 apps since testing on both iPhone and iPad.
Time to celebrate!
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