The To Do List

For many years now I’ve been a fan/slave of the To Do List.   I used to do this the old school way with pencil and paper.

After tiring of constantly re-writing the same items (that I hadn’t managed to get done) onto new lists each day I progressed to using MS Outlook’s in-built Task List feature.

This helped, but I quickly realised Outlooks limitations, most prominently that I needed access to Outlook to see or update my task list. This meant I often forgot to add items that came up when I was away from my computer.

Early this year I discovered the new breed of To Do List services on the web and am now a contented user of Toodledo. It ticks all the boxes for me. The core product is free. It is web-based with a clean, fast and customisable interface. There is an excellent iPhone (Android, Blackberry etc) app for it so I can take my list with me wherever I go and keep it correctly in sync. It even syncs easily with Outlook so I have a complete local backup of all that I have ever done (should I ever need to recall that I collected the dry cleaning last Saturday).

I can’t imagine living without a tool like this now. I no longer have to rely on my (sometimes unreliable) memory to keep me informed with what I need to be doing each day. I am sure I am much more productive because of it.

Do you use a similar tool? Does it help you “get things done” and be more productive? Put an item on your list to let me know.

What would you do if you found £200?

Last Thurday evening, whilst on my way to a night out with friends I found £200 in the street.

My initial reaction was to pick it up and carry on to the bar, thinking about the free night out I was about to have thanks to this timely piece of good fortune.

However, I quickly realised I couldn’t enjoy this as someone, somewhere was now feeling really bad realising they were £200 out of pocket. I actually now believe (a little bit) in Karma and that the universe finds a way of equalising things out. I think this realisation has developed from watching too much My Name is Earl.

To cut a long story short I decided I needed to do some good with the money. Here is where I invested it in the end:

£25 – (suggested by Michelle Evans)
£25 – (suggested by David McAdam)
£25 – (suggested by Ondrej Rafaj)
£25 – (suggested by Samantha Woods)
£25 – Max’s Sponsored Walk (suggested by Samantha Woods – cheque is in the post)
£35 – (My charity of choice)
£40 – The Andy Shambrook “I’ve lost my wallet fund” (to be donated to a cause of Andy’s choice)

Thanks to those of you who made suggestions.

This does prompt the question though – What would you do if you found a large amount of money? Let me know via Twitter or comments:

Amazon Kindle 3G Review – The eBook Has Arrived

My new Kindle arrived this weekend.  This is Amazons’s new 3rd generation eBook reader.  There was some media fanfare when this device was announced a few months back, but all has been quiet of late.  Is it any good, and will it be a significant entry to the market?

The first impression is good.  It is well packaged in the minimalist style Apple has got us all used to. The size is just right.  It has the same dimensions as a small paper back book and is around the same weight.  The battery is only called upon when turning pages or downloading new books, so it will easily go 1 month between charges.  The e-ink screen is easy on the eye and can be used outdoors in bright sunlight (unlike the iPad).  New books can be downloaded over WiFi or 3G.  The Kindle looks and feels good.  It is not as flash as the iPad, but is not trying to be.   It is well priced at £109 for WiFi only and £149 for WiFi/3G. It would be nice to see this fall below the £100 mark soon, however someone, somewhere is buying it as it is now sold out until mid September.

The Kindle means I can now carry all my books with me wherever I go, without breaking my back.  The list of available books is somewhat limited at present, but expect this to change quickly.  You can even download trial versions of any book so you can read a bit before you buy.

A great feature is that I can read my kindle books on my iPhone or iPad when I don’t have my Kindle with me. I will never be without my books again.  It even remembers and syncs the page I have reached in each and every book so I can immediately continue reading where I left off on a new device.

This Kindle serves 1 purpose, reading books, and it serves that purpose well.  Better in fact than any other device currently available.  Amazon already control the means of content distribution for books.  Now they have a good device to distribute electronic formats, they will continue to dominate the book market in the way Apple have done with music.

The Amazon Kindle will help lead the charge in the market shift away from paper, and towards electronic reading. Get ready for a big change in the way you consume books.  The eBook has finally arrived.

With great power comes great responsibility. Are you listening Apple?

A big thank you to those of you who provided feedback on my last (and first) blog posting.  To be clear, although I was singing the praises of the iPad, I was also sounding the alarm about Apple and its growing level of power and control.  Let me explain some more…

I do believe the iPad to be an incredible piece of technology.  Having had an iPod (since 2003), an iPhone (since 2008) and an iPad (for 5 weeks), I cannot imagine life without these incredible devices.  So enamoured by them am I still that I have just gone the whole way and purchased a MacBook Pro to complete the deal.  It’s so nice and shiny!

The iPhone HD (4G) will be announced by Steve Jobs at the Apple World Wide Developer Conference later today (Monday 7th June 2010).  Some say the surprise has gone due to the whole Engadget affair.  We all already know pretty much what is coming.  However, let us not forget that this will still offer massive improvements on where we are with the mobile phones right now.  A hugely improved screen, longer battery life, a front facing camera and multi tasking via the new operating system are reason enough to still be impressed and excited.

That all said, I am not a supporter of Apple.  I see them as a potential big and scary threat to many other things I hold dear (newspapers, publishing, music, software development).  The main point of the last blog entry was to warn that Apple is entering the Microsoft, Google, Facebook league and once organisations get that big and have control of so much, it can be bad news for the rest of us mortals.  The real power in the world now lies with these companies, and the individuals that control them.

As a user of Gmail for 6+ years it terrifies me to think what Google know about me from my email correspondence (Everything!!).  Having recently switched to Chrome, they now also know everything about my web browsing history and habits as well.  Boy, that could get embarrassing if I ever have to go to see them for an interview.  “So Mr Kneafsey, at 2.30 AM last Thursday morning you spent 45 minutes reading…”.

Forget worrying about identity thieves going through your bins.  This is where the real threat to your identity will lie in the future.  The power this level of information gives the likes of Google, Facebook and Apple over any of our lives is immense.  To quote a great line from a great man – “With great power comes great responsibility”.  I only hope that the likes of Google remain responsible.  However, they may maintain the “do no evil” ethos, but what is to stop strong governments from forcing them to hand over their accumulated knowledge on all of us for “the greater good”.

That all said, I am still buying an iPhone 4G the day they appear in the UK.  They are so shiny!

Is the launch of the iPad the start of a new era in computing?

The Apple iPad goes on sale in the UK on Friday morning. It is probably the most hyped piece of technology ever.  Is it a game changer, or just an over-sized iPhone?  The answer is both and so much more, and that is why it will be one of the most important computers ever!

If you have some spare cash, buy some shares in Marvel comics!

The iPad is simply brilliant for reading books, magazines and comics.  To see what I mean watch the demo video for the Marvel Comics app.  Marvel is going to make a medium sized fortune with this app.  Aged comic book fans, who wouldn’t dream of setting foot in a comic book shop, will be suddenly paying £1 to download X-Men #96 that they could never dream of having as a child.

The iPad also opens up a new world for game players.  Real Racing HD and Scrabble are the best examples of the gaming potential of the iPad.  The large iPad hand held screen with motion sensitivity and the iPhone as a controller is a potent combination.

The built in Safari browser on the iPad works nicely.  Video embedded in web pages now makes sense and works well.  Browsing the web is now the multimedia experience it has long been trying to be.  The iPad is perfect for the sofa, bed and kitchen or anywhere else where a laptop is oversized and over-powered.

Everywhere you go, and everything you do…the iPad can go with you, and there will be an app for that!

The range of iPad specific apps is limited at present but this will change very quickly.  The real interesting apps are still a glimmer in someone’s eye (hopefully mine) but expect this device to be used in situations and places you never thought possible.  The potential is limitless – think hospitals, schools, shops and restaurants just to start.   The European Parliament has preordered 763 iPad’s, one for every MEP.  It is good to see the worldwide recession has not prevented our public servants treating themselves to this “vital to their jobs” bit of kit.  The iPad will reach critical mass quickly, so get ready to see it in the hands of people on trains, tubes, buses, coffee shops and parks soon – and don’t expect it to be unusual for long.

They say that true perfection has to be imperfect…

As with most Apple launches, the first generation device is not all it could be.  The Wi-Fi is unreliable (a weak and poorly located aerial), it takes too long to charge and burns through the battery quickly.  It lacks sufficient memory to run its apps, meaning developers are severely constrained when building software.  It is expensive to buy and lacks a camera.  Apple will of course resolve these shortcomings in the 2011 versions of the device.  Indeed, many of these “features” are deliberate by Apple to ensure healthy sales of the 2nd generation devices.  The only weakness Apple will not address of course is the price, because they do not do cheap.

The addition of the camera in the 2011 model will make the iPad the killer device for video conferencing.  The iPhone 4G (July 2010) will blaze the path for this and the iPad will take it mainstream.  The upgrade to the operating system (OS4) to allow limited multi tasking will add massive value to both the iPhone and the iPad and help keep the competition at bay for a little while longer.

Hoping to see Flash on the iPad, er…don’t hold your breath…Steve Jobs is no fool!

Do not expect to see Flash on the iPad ever, period.  HTML 5 is the way it will be and the world will follow suit.  Sorry Adobe!  The choice of Objective C as the programming language for the iPad is not coincidental.  Picking Java or .Net would have given a controlling hand in the future to Oracle or Microsoft and Steve Jobs was never going to make that mistake.  Having started my career as a C developer back in the 1990’s it warms my heart to see this language making a powerful return.  Thirty-Eight years young and entering a renaissance.  Now that is lasting power!

Reports vary, but somewhere approaching 2 million iPad’s have been sold in the US to date.  In most locations, they are indefinitely unavailable.  In the UK, they were available for preorder from 10th May.  By 14th May, Apple had sold out the first allocation, and as of now the earliest you can get your hands on one via the Apple website is an unidentified date in (late) June.

The world is changing, and Apple understands this…do you?

The iPad represents a new era in computing.  It will prove to be the most significant computer since the IBM/PC of the 1980’s.  It will permanently change the operating models for publishing,  gaming and video to name just a few.

In 1848, Karl Marx said that power in society lay with the owners of the means of production.  In today’s world this is still largely true, but all the factories are now in China.  So where does the power lie in the rest of the world?  Power in the West at least now lies with the owners of the means of distribution.  On the surface Apple is one of the World’s largest technology companies, but what they really are becoming  is the world’s largest content distributor.  They started this trend with music, which they now dominate much to the record industries disdain.  They will continue with books, magazines, newspapers, comics, games etc.   The group that controls the distribution of information will be all-powerful in the 21st century.  Google started this by controlling content on the web, Facebook are carrying the torch for digital personal information, and Apple is starting the 3rd leg of this relay race.  Watch this space, and be afraid if you are a content producer because you are about to be owned by a fruit!  The man from Del Monte (Steve Jobs) has said “Yes”.

Check back here next week for an update following the UK launch of the iPad.

Highlights of a fictional Forbes interview with Iron Man/Tony Stark

Forbes: What’s the key to being a successful CEO?
Tony Stark: Delegating and a great tuxedo.

Forbes: What makes you a hero, and not a vigilante?
Tony Stark: Perspective. And the mansions. But mostly perspective.

Forbes: Do you ever feel guilty for being an arms dealer?
Tony Stark: No. Do you ever feel guilty for being a puppet of global media monoculture? Of course not.

Forbes: You’ve got a reputation as a playboy and a bit of a cad. Do you think it’s deserved?
Tony Stark: Deserved? Earned.

Forbes: What’s the best thing about being rich?
Tony Stark: I now own Forbes and US Weekly.

Forbes: What’s the best thing you ever bought?
Tony Stark: Iron Man on Blu-Ray.

Read the full interview here


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