Tag Archive for dropbox

Where the Magic Happens

I’ve been using my new desk for about a week now, and I’ve managed to keep from burying it under a ton of extra stuff. I’m rather impressed with myself.

The Workspace Tour

Finally a desk I want to spend time at

Even more important, the desk is very comfortable. My last desk was constricting and had a lot of dead space consumed by the towering corner stand for the monitor, but I didn’t realize just how bad it had gotten until I sat down to work at this desk for the first time. Now I can comfortably read my notes or refer to manuscript pages, slide over a few inches to do paperwork, keep all my extra devices within reach, and not have the desk lamp shining in my face, all without giving up valuable work space.

My office is also my workout space. I lift weights four days a week, and my barbell plate tree is peeking in from the left edge of the photo. This desk leaves more room for maneuvering the barbell around, and it’s not as disastrous if I forget to move my chair before unracking the barbell for presses. Beneath the desk, my printer makes a pretty good—if somewhat expensive—stand for my running shoes.

Moving across my desk, from left to right:

  • Internet stuff and the VoIP phone. Telco-provided routers are cheap-ass garbage. The wireless on this thing dies 3-4 times a week, but I’m too cheap to replace it with a better router. I call the phone The Ratphone: we only keep it around for the Rugrats for emergencies. Far cheaper than a landline we’ll never use.
  • My Lift Big Eat Big lifting straps. These babies have been a life saver the last few months. I messed up my forearm in a judo match and my grip was shot. These let me continue lifting with pulling movements like deadlifts and rows, and as my grip is healing, they allow me to pull more weight so my grip doesn’t become my weakest link.
  • The next silver box is my external backup hard drive. If you have anything of value on your machine, you need one of these. The dead simplicity of Time Machine on the Mac makes backups as simple as plugging it in and forgetting about it. It’s already saved me a ton of time once with a dead hard drive. Between Time Machine, Dropbox and CrashPlan, my data is pretty much disaster-proof.
  • Desk lamp. My overhead light sucks. I’ll replace the fixture someday.
  • Rubz ball. Sounds kinkier than it is. Helps massage out plantar fasciitis. Allegedly.
  • Freedom: Credos from the Road by Sonny Barger. I usually have at least one non-fiction book around. They’re often martial arts-related, but right now it’s motorcycles. This book is a solid read; a good look at freedom by a guy who’s given up a lot of it.
  • The Piccadilly notebook. Not near as solid as a trusty Moleskine, unfortunately, but it gets the job done. And I prefer mechanical pencils, preferably with retractable points that won’t stab me in the leg in a pocket.
  • Android smartphone. My leash and my lifeline.
  • The iMac, my main workhorse. Why a Mac? Because five years on, it still runs like the day I bought it. No fuss, no muss, no crazy maintenance. It just works. I hate Windows, I still like Linux, but I love not having to tinker and tweak all the time.
  • Marv! Throw the switch and he gets laughs off his electrocution.
  • A stack of electronics: MacBook Pro, Samsung Chromebook, and an iPad 2. Not a one belongs to me; they’re primarily for the day job (tech director for a school district). They all come home a lot.
  • A binder from my karate dojo. This one has a lot of notes from a class where we talk about goals and leadership, and a lot of it applies to writing and career goals.
  • My messenger bag. Usually for lugging around a portion of the stack of electronics. Right now it has pens & pencils, ear buds and an iPod nano, a Bluetooth keyboard, and a pencil-edited short story manuscript. Oh, and a giant rubber band for rehabbing my forearm.

My camera is usually around, too, even though I don’t use it near as often as I would like. In contrast, my bookshelves are a lot more cluttered than my desk, and are buried under more than just books and comics.

Workflow is separate from workspace, so I may address that another time. I have several workflows, actually, often depending upon the device and/or the project I’m working with at the moment.

I’m typing this from my second workspace: a small table on my front porch. Laptop and a cigar, though no drink tonight. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ve seen it before. The important thing, of course, is that the work gets done, not where it gets done. All I really need is some kind of keyboard (or, in a pinch, the notebook and pencil) and a quiet spot.

And now that this post is done, I still have some of this cigar left. Off to do some real work.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: My Ladies

It’s been an insane week at work. Spare moments were spent wrestling with viruses and server headaches. As such, no camera time.

Friday, however, I had things mostly locked down and I took the family out for pizza (before returning yet again to work to follow up on a few things, and then spend a little more time at home logged in to a web server to wrap up—argh). While there, I snapped this photo of the Wife and Little Bird.

My Ladies

This is what makes it all worth while.

I first shot the photo with Instagram, the service which recently made the news thanks to a billion-dollar acquisition by Facebook. I’d been waiting for Instagram on Android for a while, and the Instagram version of this photo has a subtle filter applied.

I’m mixed on Instagram. For the social aspect, Instagram is far more active than picplz and Lightbox. From the first day I saw more activity on Instagram than any photo on the other services, despite all three of them having the ability to post photos to Twitter and Facebook.

Lightbox seems to have made improvements since I last used it a year ago, but I haven’t done more than play with it a little. picplz has better filter handling than Instagram in terms of seeing what a filter might do before the user clicks on it, though it has fewer filters available (the second half of picplz’s filters are the same as the first half, only with borders removed). That’s not a complaint, mind, as it cuts down on confusion and overuse.

I also don’t like that Instagram doesn’t post to Flickr. They seem to want photos to stay on Instagram and be shared from there, driving all traffic through their site. Yes, that’s how business works, but neither Lightbox nor picplz seem to have a problem with granting me ownership of my own photos. In fact, picplz even allows me to upload my photos directly to my Dropbox account.

So I’m torn. Instagram nails the social aspect, but it sucks having to repost photos to other services. Maybe Facebook will force some stupid changes on Instagram and make my decision for me.

In the meantime, people, lay off with the filters. Yes, some of the filters can make some photos look great. However, slapping a burned-out red filter over a shite photo of nothing doesn’t make it look old and kitschy, it makes it look like an even bigger pile of shite. There’s a reason the photography world has moved on.

I realize Instagram is trying to reproduce the old feel of the Polaroid instant cameras. This is why they have the square crop, too. Yet if you shot the same photo with an actual Polaroid instant camera, you’d say “Wow, this is garbage.” Why is it hip to post a digital reproduction of the same garbage to Twitter?

Stop it.

Candids are great. Shoot your food, shoot random objects on your desk, shoot nothing, knock yourself out. Part of the instant appeal is instant sharing. Just keep in mind, while not everything has to be art, not every candid needs a filter.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The iPad as a Mobile Writing Platform

I’ve come to enjoy writing in Pages on my Mac, and using the Pages app on the iPad is proving to be just as capable. Enough people have asked how I like it that I thought I’d just go ahead and write up what I’ve done to turn it into a great system for writing on the road.

First, let’s talk about the on-screen keyboard. While it’s not near as bad as some would expect, it does have its quirks. When typing in landscape mode, the key sizes and spacing are not far off from a standard keyboard, and just as with the iPhone, the predictive typing and auto-correction helps smooth most typos. The downside for full-fingered typists, however, is the rearrangement of some of the keys, most notably dropping the exclamation point down to the comma key and having the apostrophe as a sort of sub-key of the comma (hold the comma key and swipe up to get an apostrophe). I still haven’t quite gotten used to it, but at the same time, it hasn’t really slowed me down, especially for short works or outlines.

I found an easy solution in adding a Bluetooth keyboard. This gives me finer cursor control and text selection with the shift and arrow keys, and it leaves me more screen real estate for typing. Even carrying both the iPad and the keyboard, I have less bulk and weight than a laptop and I still get the benefit of longer battery life.

There may be other writing and text-editing apps available, but again, I’ve found the Pages app works quite well. Most of the basic formatting, like numbering and indenting, has made it to the app, and it can export to PDF and Word docs as well as to the native Pages format.

Two ways the app could be almost perfect: 1) More flexibility in exporting apps (such as to Dropbox, below); 2) Add support for comments. My editor at Evileye Books makes extensive use of the comments features in Pages and Preview on the Mac, and he’s getting me addicted. It would be so much easier if those comments also showed up in the Pages app, even if it was through something like an icon placeholder if not having them on-screen at all times.

To get files to the iPad, as well as to keep them in sync on other devices, Dropbox is a must. I have their software installed on my desktop, my laptop, my iPod touch, my iPad, and now my shiny, new, Android-powered smartphone. Put a file in a Dropbox folder and it’s uploaded to the Dropbox server, where it is then pushed out to every device subscribed to the account. I can even access my files from any browser, or use it to share files with other people. The Dropbox app can open and read Word docs, PDFs, and Pages files, and it can send files right to the Pages app for editing.

Dropbox’s single, most important selling point is it helps ensure I have the most current copy of a document available at all times. No more comparing time stamps, copying across a network, and no more juggling thumb drives and hoping they don’t suddenly crap out. If Pages could export back to Dropbox directly, the system would be bulletproof.

My next must-have app is Evernote. There are competitors like Simplenote, but whatever the final solution, they help keep my notes synchronized across my various devices. I still brainstorm best with a pencil and paper (so the Moleskine still goes with the iPad), but important notes get dropped into Evernote for easy access. Evernote makes it easy to keep notes for different projects sorted, and the tagging makes it easy to find them. I can also take photos and drop them into Evernote, and there’s a voice note feature I have yet to take advantage of.

I have the Kindle app loaded on all of my portable devices, too. While it’s nice to have as a distraction or for inspiration, I also have a free Kindle edition of The New Oxford American Dictionary on hand for when I don’t have an Internet connection and searching Google isn’t an option.

And that about sums it up. I have email and my address book, of course, but the smartphone handles most of that. Same for Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress apps, but I don’t consider those must-haves for the actual process of writing. Google Earth and Maps can be helpful at times, and I’ve got things like a first aid reference, a how-to guide, and a drink mix app for occasional use as well. I have yet to use the Dragon Dictation app for more than just tinkering and testing, but I can see how it might be useful at times, too.

Lately I’ve been all about keeping it Spartan. The core tools are the true necessities; the rest are just flashy apps and distractions. I spend all day multi-tasking on my desktop and laptop, so it’s nice to have a pared-down device with just one app holding my focus on the screen. I’ve come to enjoy editing and proofing on the iPad as well. Using it like a tablet closely mimics editing on paper, and it feels more relaxing than sitting at a desk or keyboard. Again, if I could add comments to documents, it would be almost perfect.

Finally, I love the portability. I carry a lot of extra gear in my laptop backpack for work, and I can drop the iPad into my karate backpack without adding significant weight or bulk (I keep karate notes in Evernote as well). I can drop the iPad into a messenger bag, with or without the keyboard, and haul it to a convention or on a short trip with no problem. Hell, I can even drop both the iPad and the keyboard into a saddle bag on my motorcycle and really travel light.

Time was I thought I’d never be able to do without a laptop. Now I feel like I’m just using the laptop out of habit. I’m not quite ready to give it up, but if I had to, I bet I would get along just fine.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.