By the time OLPC officially launched in 2007, the “green machine” — once a breakout star of the 21st-century educational technology scene — was a symbol of tech industry hubris, a one-size-fits-all American solution to complex global problems. But more than a decade later, the project’s legacy is more complicated than a simple cautionary tale. Its laptops are still rolling off production lines, and a new model is expected later this year.
Here’s an update on the kit and software I’m using on a daily basis, just in case it’s of use.
My main computer is an 11” Macbook Air.
It has the i7 processor and 8gb of RAM and is the best computer I’ve ever used. I use it for home and at work, thanks to our Councils’ move to cloud based services.
I do have a work laptop, which I turn to when I need to access things like our HR and finance systems; and if I need to do some printing. It’s a Dell somethingorother.
In terms of software:
- Chrome is running the whole time, hooked into my work Google account, where I access Gmail, Google Drive, my calendar and so on. Pretty much all the productivity work I do for my job is in Google’s suite of apps.
- Trello and Tweetdeck are usually open too
- Safari is often open, which hooks into my personal Google account
- I have two other email addresses that I check regularly my desktop (I know…) which I host with Fastmail and pipe into Apple’s Mail app
- Slack is usually open. I’m a member of about five teams that I access regularly via the desktop app
- I use Reeder to keep up to date with RSS feeds (old skool, right?) – I use Feedly as the web service to keep it all in sync
- I bookmark stuff in Pinboard, which then autoposts into Twitter for me via Zapier. Zapier also zaps bookmarked links into Pocket for me, so I can read them later at my leisure
- Following a chat with Matt Jukes, I do most of my writing in Ulysses, whether taking notes, drafting blog posts or my email newsletter
- Occasionally I’ll use Transmit for FTP, I have Microsoft Office installed but very rarely use it, do the odd mind map in MindnodePro, draw something with Omnigraffle, have a chat with someone in Skype, listen to music on Spotify, or screenshot something with Skitch.
- I still have loads of different tools installed for editing text, most of which I don’t use very often or at all (Byword, Scrivener, BBedit, Atom, Writeroom, MarsEdit, probably others)
- Utilities wise, I use Alfred as a Spotlight replacement and TextExpander is usually running
- I store pretty much all my files in Dropbox
- My blog uses WordPress.com and I pay to use my own domain and to not have adverts
- My newsletter uses Mailchimp’s free tier
My phone is an iPhone 6, space grey with 64gb storage.
On my home screen I have the following things:
- On the top row: photos; camera; app store; settings
- Next row down: A folder with emails apps (Mail, Fastmail, Outlook, Inbox and CloudMagic – each app has a different email account feeding into it. I have too many email accounts); Natwest; Music; Google Maps
- Next row: Spotify; Simplenote (for todo lists and quick notes, rather than ‘writing’); Overcast (easily the best podcast app); a folder with ‘reading’ apps (Medium, Buzzfeed, Nuzzle, Yahoo News Digest, Pushpin (an app for Pinboard), Kindle, NextDraft, iBooks)
- Next row: Trello; HulloMail (provides a visual voicemail like tool, plus emails voicemail messages as MP3 files and transcribes them too); Wikipedia; Reeder (mobile version of the deskptop RSS reading app – again syncs with Feedly)
- Next row: Slack; Pocket; folder with messaging apps (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, iMessage); Safari
- Bottom row: Facebook; LinkedIn; Ulysses – for bashing text in during idle moments; Twitter
- Dock: Phone; Hangouts; Google Calendar; Gmail – the last three are all logged into my work Google account
The layout of apps regularly changes – I try and keep my most regularly used apps towards the right hand bottom corner – easily in thumb reach.
The second screen has other stuff on it, but I don’t use them on a regular basis really.
The main change over the last year or so is that Evernote has dropped out of this completely. It’s still there, but I hardly use it anymore – even to revisit notes previously made (which rather begs the question why I bothered making them in the first place).
Hope this has been useful and/or interesting!
I find this stuff so you don’t have to:
- Building an Open Source Laptop | MAKE
- Moving to GOV.UK – the MHRA experience so far
- How many people does it take to tame the Digital Dragon? (digital skills for all!)
- PauPress | Contact Relationship Management for WordPress.
- comms2point0 – a primer about successful online communities
- Flickr: The British Library’s Photostream – AMAZING resource
- Mobile Opportunity: Wearability is Not Enough
- Housing organisations lag behind in social media and digital engagement | Housing Network | Guardian Professional
- The paperback edition of the Social Learning Handbook 2014 is now available
- A checklist for digital inclusion – if we do these things, we’re doing digital inclusion
Just before Christmas, and as a bit of a Christmas treat for myself, I bought an iPad mini with retina display and 3g mobile broadband access (ie not the wifi only model). I love it.
Up til now my tablet of choice was a second generation Nexus 7, produced by Asus but sanctioned by Google as the best of breed Android tablet. That I found to be my favourite tablet device so far, better than the full size iPad. However, while I used the Nexus 7 fairly regularly as a device to quickly check emails or check something on the web, it never became a vital piece of kit for me.
Since I have had this iPad mini though, it has barely left my side. Why is that?
- The size – and weight is absolutely perfect for pretty much any task. It is finally an iPad that works as an e-reader in that I can hold in one handed without getting a wrist strain. The smaller screen size doesn’t really matter to me when the resolution is as good as the retina one is on this thing and pinching and zooming is fine when I need something to appear a little bigger.
- The apps – is still where the iPad wins against Android devices. Sure all the big ones are on both platforms (Twitter, Facebook etc etc) but it’s the iOS only ones which you may not have heard of where the iPad stomps all over the competition. I’ve not come across an Android editor that can beat Byword, or an RSS reader as good as Reeder 2 – just to name two examples.
- The 3G – as mentioned above, my iPad mini has mobile data access for when I am out of range of a wifi network. My Nexus 7 didn’t, and it’s a game changer. A tablet is basically of little use without the net, and being able to access it pretty much anywhere significantly enhances the usefulness of the device. By the way, here’s a tip from your Uncle Dave – make sure your phone and your tablet use a different carrier for mobile data. That way, if one has a shonky signal, the other one ought to be ok. Mine are Vodafone for my phone and 3 for the iPad and I’ve never been without signal on both.
- The keyboard cover – After a couple of weeks, I picked up a Logitech slim keyboard cover for the iPad, and it is great. This being a mini iPad, it’s a pretty mini keyboard, although after a couple of days with it I could type fairly quickly on it- and much quicker than I could using the on screen keyboard. An additional bonus is that using a hardware keyboard with the mini frees up some vital screen real estate. The case works beatifully, snapping shut with magnets to protect the screen, and also using a magnet to hold the screen at a helpful angle when typing. It does all this without adding much to the size and weight of the device, which is fantastic.
I should probably think of a fifth thing, but these four pretty much cover it. What tablet do you use, if any? Do you love it like I do this one?
I find this stuff so you don’t have to:
- The History of Programming Languages
- Nextdoor Brings Its Neighborhood-Focused Social Network To The iPhone With Debut Of Native iOS App | TechCrunch
- Fedora Project Announces Pidora Remix for Raspberry Pi
- Doctors 3D-Print An Emergency Airway Tube To Save A Child’s Life
- Time to stop kidding ourselves about Government policy on Tech City
- Lessons from the ‘One Norbiton Neighbourhood Community Budget’ pilot
- M.I.T. Scholar’s 1949 Essay on Machine Age Is Found
- Build your own supercomputer out of Raspberry Pi boards
- The Google Cloud Platform Q&A – tecosystems
- What kit do you take for a live-blogging expedition? | Jon Worth
- Hadoop: What It Is And How It Works – ReadWrite
- Jaron Lanier: Information doesn’t want to be free, and ads are screwed
- Startup Engineering Cookbook
- Designing blogs for readers – Matt Gemmell
I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.
- Facebook’s ‘dark side’: study finds link to socially aggressive narcissism – "Psychology paper finds Facebook and other social media offer platform for obsessions with self-image and shallow friendships."
- The UK Hackspace Foundation – "Hackerspaces are physical places where people can meet to learn, socialise and collaborate on projects."
- ‘The world hasn’t ended’: what happens when you give all staff access to social media – A great story – lessons for many organisations fearful of letting people loose on online networks.
- FixMyStreet’s been redesigned – A welcome new look for a still vital site.
- The university as a hackerspace | Expedient Means – "Like any programme of study, work and investment, it needs careful thinking about how to set it up right, but from where I stand, it feels like a gaping hole in higher education that needs to be filled. Do you know of any examples that are already running? A ‘MIT Media Lab lite’ could be close to what I have in mind, but I have no experience of how it’s run and whether it breaks down the distinction between academic and non-academic staff to the extent I have in mind."
You can find all my bookmarks on Pinboard.
I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.
- Government Reservists 2 – an idea for the Big Society? | Podnosh – "We do need government to change itself and fast. Might government reservists now be a way for active citizens and government staff to understand each other better, work together more closely and wrought change?"
- Open Data: Challenges & Opportunities « West Midlands Regional Observatory – Interesting event in Brum on 15th July.
- Swansea Scrutiny – Great WordPress based blog site for Scrutiny in Swansea.
- Open Source: Give as well as take – "To this end, I will be encouraging all new WCC application development projects to distribute their source code and documentation under an open source license. The first example of this is the application that drives our open data catalogue, developed using Ruby on Rails and hosted on Heroku."
- Easy Business Finance Software, Simplified Small Business Accounting and Cashflow Planning | inDinero.com – A SaaS accounting package for small businesses. See Kashflow, Freshbooks etc
- How to Build Engaging One-of-Kind Facebook Fan Pages – "Don’t let anyone tell you it is easy to create a successfully engaging Facebook Fan Page. It is not."
- Will the iPhone and iPad finally kill off the Mac? – "Until recently, I would have said that the (open, permissive) Google/Android system would win out over the (closed, tightly controlled) Apple device. But sales of the new iPhone lead one to wonder if it will be Apple, and not Google, which replaces Microsoft as the company we love to hate."
- The Big Society #2: Strengthening local leadership – "Whether they’re called community leaders or organisers, local champions, or bastions of grass roots democracy doesn’t really matter; current and future councillors play a big role in supporting the Big Society."
- 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Opening Up Public Data – 100% Open – "What economic and social value can be generated with all this data? How can we make more innovative products and services for less?"
- Guest Post: A Developers’ Guide to the Linked Data APIs – Jeni Tennison | data.gov.uk – "Linked data offers some great advantages for publishing government data. The approach makes it easy to publish information in a way that allows it to be combined with other sets of data, without an up-front agreement about exactly what information should be published."
You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.
There has been a flurry of reviews and opinions about Apple’s new gadget, the iPad, this weekend as the devices has been launched in the States. They should be in the UK by the end of April, and I still haven’t made up my mind about whether I’m going to get one or not.
A really interesting debate was kicked off by Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing with a specific philosophical problem with the iPad, in that it is a computing device that is seemingly at odds with the prevailing culture of computing:
The way you improve your iPad isn’t to figure out how it works and making it better. The way you improve the iPad is to buy iApps. Buying an iPad for your kids isn’t a means of jump-starting the realization that the world is yours to take apart and reassemble; it’s a way of telling your offspring that even changing the batteries is something you have to leave to the professionals.
In other words, where is the room for tinkering with a device like this? How can you get a piece of software onto your iPad, other than by having it accepted by Apple onto the AppStore?
Jeff Jarvis also has issues with the iPad:
The iPad is retrograde. It tries to turn us back into an audience again. That is why media companies and advertisers are embracing it so fervently, because they think it returns us all to their good old days when we just consumed, we didn’t create, when they controlled our media experience and business models and we came to them. The most absurd, extreme illustration is Time Magazine’s app, which is essentially a PDF of the magazine (with the odd video snippet). It’s worse than the web: we can’t comment; we can’t remix; we can’t click out; we can’t link in, and they think this is worth $4.99 a week. But the pictures are pretty.
There’s no denying it is a beautiful bit of kit, though, and a winning user experience. Take the review by Jason Snell:
One day, devices like the iPad may very well change the way we view computers and technology. But right now, I don’t believe the iPad is going to make anyone stop using their main Mac or PC. If you were in the market for an e-book reader or a supplemental laptop, though, I’d give those plans a serious re-think.
Because the iPad is such a new concept, Apple faces some serious challenges in making people understand how they might use it and why they should buy one. It’s not a product type people are familiar with, like a PC or a phone, or a TV or a lawnmower. It’s neither fish nor fowl, and consumers are pretty comfortable with their chicken and salmon, thank you very much.
Joe Clarke also has an interesting take:
This was the weekend those of us with high standards lost their remaining residue of patience for ideologues who hyperbolize about open systems without actually creating something people want to use.
I think there is an important distinction to make between those who use computer purely to consume stuff – whether it’s web browsing, playing music and videos, doing a bit of online shopping, Facebooking and emailing, and those who create on a bigger scale using technology – those that produce a lot of content, whatever the medium, and those that want to program computers to do things.
The idea, frankly, that someone would buy an iPad so that they could learn PHP on it, or something, is a bit daft. Instead the iPad could be seen as the type of device people first use to get online, and if curiosity makes them want to find out how stuff is created, they graduate to more flexible machines, in other words a laptop or desktop computer.
I suspect then that iPads – and similar tablet devices – could begin to replace netbooks, which are often bought as cheaper alternatives to full laptops. As Tim Anderson’s recent piece shows, though, even an entry level netbook can be a pain to get working.
My main use for an iPad would be in using tools like my email, Twitter, and especially Google Reader, in a comfy way when I am away from my desk. Whether that’s worth £500 I’m not sure.
The interesting thing is to watch emergent technology to see where it will go. The great example is SMS and mobile phones – it was never thought likely that people would use text messaging, and yet it is a phenomenally popular tool.
Here’s another example, from my own technology use. I bought a Kindle a few months ago, mainly to have a play and without any serious idea that I might stop reading paper books. However, I’ve found myself using it more and more – but not to read books.
It’s really easy to get PDFs on the Kindle, either by emailing them into a dedicated address for my device (which costs a few pence) or just transferring by USB when the Kindle is connected to my computer, like any other external storage. The Kindle has now become the thing I use to read documents published electronically, whether white papers, instruction manuals, policy documents, whatever. Rather than staring at my laptop screen, or printing them out, I now just download them onto the Kindle and read them on there.
So it’s possible that the game changing use of devices like the iPad hasn’t even been identified yet. But I think it is important to recognise that these things are devices and not computers, at least not in the sense that a lot of us are used to.
I recently got a Kodak Zi8 video camera. It’s like a beefed up Flip and I think it should be considered the default choice for social reporters everywhere.
I did this video review of it, which turned out even ropier than I thought it would. Still, I’m learning.
Ironically, the review was recorded using a Flip. Maybe that’s my excuse?
Nick Booth has just published a nice post, where he recommends the Flip over the Kodak for ease of use.
I’ve had an iPhone for about 18 months now. In the summer, I upgraded from my 8gb first generation model to a 32gb 3GS. It’s awesome, and with the 3G, extra processor speed and storage, plus improvements to the camera and the phone experience, I’d say it is the first true experience of what the iPhone was always meant to do, if that makes sense.
Here are a few recent examples of how the iPhone doesn’t change your life, but does subtly make it so much easier, and sometimes stranger:
- Before having an iPhone, when I went on trips to London for meetings and things, I’d take a laptop, mp3 player, and my phone. Go back a couple of years and I’d have a PDA as well (a Palm Tungsten T5, if you’re interested). I might have had a separate camera, and possibly something like a Flip, just in case. Now, unless I have a bit of work to do when I am traveling that involves a lot of typing, I just take the iPhone.
- I got a phone call the other day, when I happened to be in London, from someone asking to meet up. They told me where they were, and as soon as I hung up, I looked up where it was on the map on the iPhone, and where the nearest tube station was from it, and where the nearest one from me was. Then I went straight to the Tube iPhone app to get the best route from where I was to where I needed to be. This is great for me, as I don’t really know London that well, and means I don’t have to faff around with loads of maps, looking like a tit. Instead I get to stare into my phone, looking like a tit.
- Today I was in Halfords, looking for a bike rack. I found the one I wanted, but it wasn’t priced up! A normal person would find a Halford’s staff member to ask. I just went to the Halford’s website on my iPhone and searched for the product’s reference number. I got the price in a couple of seconds.
- On the train home, before Christmas, I was having several conversations, all through my phone. One was using SMS, one on Yammer, another on Twitter, another through email and another on IM. I skipped around them, keeping up and responding to each without any real thought. When I got home, I really couldn’t think why I was using each medium to talk to those people – I had the mobile number of the person I was emailing, so I could have sent them a text, for example.
The interesting thing about 2,3 and 4 is that I didn’t have to think about what I was doing, it just happened. The iPhone’s interface isn’t perfect – for instance, why are the compose buttons for SMS messages and emails at different ends of the screen? – but it’s still fairly intuitive and keeps out of the way. Having all these different streams coming into one device just makes everything so fluid.
The one issue is that typing a lot just isn’t feasible. This seems to be a great way of sorting that out, though:
I’m not willing to jailbreak my phone though. Let’s hope something similar that’s authorised will appear soon.