About Productivity, Social Networks and everything else I'm interested in

Month: November, 2012

How to Automatically Transfer Evernote Notes to Omnifocus For Review

How to Automatically Transfer Evernote Notes to Omnifocus For Review.

An applescript.


Official GTD® OmniFocus Setup Guide — SimplicityBliss

Official GTD® OmniFocus Setup Guide — SimplicityBliss.


How to setup Omnifocus as a real GTD system.

How to Make an Interactive Network Visualization

How to Make an Interactive Network Visualization.



Ask the nerds: NerdQuery – Brett Terpstra

Ask the nerds: NerdQuery – Brett Terpstra.

For finding very interesting posts about nerdy subjects.

Notes on notes


Shortly after the 24:00 mark in the latest episode of Gabe Weatherhead’s Generational podcast, Gabe’s guest, Walton Jones, starts talking about his system for annotating and summarizing academic papers. If you can listen to that 8- to 10-minute stretch without being inspired to improve your own methods for managing the flood of information in your job, then you’re dead to me.

Walton’s system

To be sure, Walton’s system is highly tuned to the specifics of his profession. As a scientist, a good portion of his time is spent analyzing and synthesizing the research of others. That research comes to him in the form of PDFs of journal papers. He adds color-coded annotations to the PDFs as he reads them: red for summaries, green for references, yellow for results, and so on. This may sound like nothing more than a digital version of Post-it notes, but Walton has an amazing trick up his sleeve. When he’s done reading a paper, he runs an AppleScript that goes through the PDF and creates a Markdown document with all the paper’s annotations listed by page number and organized according to category (summary, reference, result, etc.). The Markdown is then turned into a new page in a VoodooPad document.

So he has this VoodooPad document with his notes on the papers he’s read, which is nice, but that’s not the end. Each individual note in VoodooPad is linked to the page of the PDF to which it refers. The power of this system is that he can search through his VoodooPad document, which has his notes and therefore uses terminology that come naturally to him while searching, and when he finds what he’s looking for, he can click a link and be taken immediately to the right spot in the right paper. This is so much better than simply searching through abstracts or lists of keywords, all of which are words chosen by others.

But don’t just go by my description, read Walton’s own explanation of his system.

My system

While I don’t pore over research papers anymore, I do deal with a menagerie of documents—drawings, photographs, videos, test reports, deposition testimony, presentation slides, email trails—that are increasingly in some sort of electronic format. I try to organize this mess by turning everything except the photos and videos into PDFs. Like Walton, I make notes on these documents as I go through them, but I don’t do it the way he does.

My system is based on talking. Long ago, I talked into a voice recorder. Later, I started talking into my iPhone, using Griffin’s iTalk app. With both of these systems, I’d replay the recording to myself and type up the notes, usually cleaning up the sentence structure as I went along. For the past two months, though, I’ve had a much better system: Siri.

Say all the mean things you want about Siri; for me, she’s a great dictation transcriber. The individual notes I make as I read through a document are typically one or two sentences long, which is just about the perfect length for Siri. In Notesy, I tap the microphone button on the keyboard, say my one or two sentences, and tap Done. A few seconds later, the note appears. Unless I’ve hemmed and hawed or there’s a peculiar word, the transcription needs no editing and I move on.

I have a particular format I prefer, with the page number on a line of its own, then the note itself, then a blank line. A typical session would be me saying something like

Fifty-two. New line. A solid or liquid to a change in direction will be as great as a ton per square inch. Period. There are many transformations of motion. Period. New paragraph.

which comes out in Notesy as

Siri dictation in Notesy

Notesy syncs to Dropbox, so the file will be on my Mac when I’m done making notes. The format is not exactly Markdown, but it’s easy to run a global search-and-replace to add a pair of space characters after each page number to provide the line breaks I want in the output. Marked then turns the text file into a PDF.

This is a pretty good system, but what’s missing—and what Walton inspired me to add—are links from my notes to the page numbers in the original documents. Since I keep my summaries in the same directory as the original documents, the links could be added this way in Markdown:

A solid or liquid to a change in direction will be as
great as a ton per square inch. Period. There are many
transformations of motion.

I’m currently working on a script that’ll do this. It works, but it isn’t especially robust and there’s too much “by hand” work in turning the Markdown into a PDF. I’ll do a complete post when I get those problems solved.

I should mention here that neither Preview (under Lion) nor PDFpenPro handles page number links correctly. Preview opens the original document (sometimes—other times it refuses and says I don’t have permission to open it, which is probably some kind of sandboxing stupidity) but won’t go the linked page number. PDFpenPro doesn’t even get that far; it opens a blank document that it claims in the title bar is original document.

Skim, on the other hand, handles page number links like a boss. This was a little surprising to me, because Walton says in another post that it doesn’t and that he had to write a script to word around that limitation. All I can say is that Skim has worked fine in all my tests so far. I just need to get that script working so I can start using summaries with links.

via And now it’s all this http://www.leancrew.com/all-this/2012/11/notes-on-notes/

The iPad Mini and the cost of Retina


The iPad Mini is a conflicted product.

It’s much better than the iPad 3 and 4 to handle, carry, and hold up during use. It has the best external design of any iPad to date. It runs cooler than the iPad 3 or 4, it has almost the same battery life despite its much smaller size and weight, and it matches the iPad 2 and 3 in most performance benchmarks. It charges more quickly than the iPad 3 or 4, and it’s more versatile in charging, since it’s the first iPad able to charge at full speed from an “iPhone” AC adapter. The Smart Cover even sticks to the back better when it’s flipped around.

And, of course, it’s much cheaper than the other iPads.

But the non-Retina screen is rough. If you’ve never used a Retina-screened device, you probably won’t care, but if you’ve been spoiled by Retina, you’ll notice the lack of it in the Mini almost every time you turn it on. I stop noticing after I start doing something with it, of course, but those first few seconds are a rough reminder every time.

The iPad Mini is conflictingly high-end and low-end. It’s the cheapest, “entry-level” model, but since this is Apple and this is their second-most-important product, it’s not bad, much like the 11” MacBook Air. On the contrary, the screen is the only thing about the iPad Mini that feels low-end. If they release a Retina iPad Mini next fall — and I don’t expect one earlier — no part of it is likely to feel low-end except the price, a recipe for a fantastic product.

Despite being the cheapest model, the Mini has top-notch build quality and materials. Almost every hardware spec is great: great battery life, great performance, great storage and cellular-data options. It doesn’t feel cheap at all, and no part of it feels like it was short-changed or underpowered because of price alone.

Including the screen.

A Retina screen at iPad resolution has a much higher cost than the price of the panel. I’m convinced that the other tradeoffs and costs are why the Mini doesn’t have a Retina screen.

This isn’t theoretical: we can see the cost of Retina for ourselves with the iPads 3 and 4. The iPad 3 was the first Retina iPad and showed us the initial issues, and the iPad 4 shows us the best Retina iPad that Apple could ship with the technological improvements available since the iPad 3.

We can see that a Retina iPad screen is a much bigger power hog than a non-Retina screen of the same size. That’s why the iPad 3 needed to be thicker and heavier than the iPad 2, and why it takes so long to charge: the battery is huge. The iPad 4 has roughly the same size, weight, and battery as the iPad 3, so we know that technological progress hasn’t been able to meaningfully shrink it yet.

And we can see that pushing four times the pixels needs four times the GPU power to keep performance similar to the non-Retina equivalent, especially in games. To achieve this, the iPad 3’s A5X needed to be inelegant: it was physically huge, it drew a lot of power, and it ran noticeably warm even under routine tasks like web browsing. The iPad 4 was able to improve significantly with the much faster, die-shrunk A6X, but its GPUs still need a lot of power and it still runs warm.

It’s not hard to imagine, given what we see with the iPad 3 and 4, what an iPad Mini with a Retina screen would be like with today’s technology. Its battery life, portability, or performance would suffer significantly. (Probably all three.)

Apple didn’t make an arbitrary decision to withhold Retina on the Mini to save money, upsell more buyers to the iPad 4, or “force” the first generation of iPad Mini owners to upgrade next year. They chose not to ship a Retina iPad Mini because it would be significantly worse than the previous iPads in very important factors.

Imagine the fallout if a Retina Mini shipped with only three hours of battery life, or was inelegantly thick and heavy. Or, very importantly to the iPad’s market, imagine if its GPUs were slower and it ran existing iPad games extremely poorly. And then add the component-price differences: imagine a Retina iPad Mini that was bulkier, shorter-running, or much slower (or all three) and that started at $399 instead of $329.

That’s why we don’t have a Retina iPad Mini yet. It’s not only about price: it’s because the resulting product would suck in at least two other important ways.

Until a good Retina iPad Mini can be made, it will be an unfortunately conflicted product: high-end in every way except the screen, which is a big one. But this tradeoff is anything but arbitrary.

via Marco.org http://www.marco.org/2012/11/12/ipad-mini-cost-of-retina

BetterTouch Tool Remote Tips


For the uninitiated, BetterTouch Tool (BTT) is a donation-ware system enhancement application. BTT started out simply providing some additional functionality for the trackpad and mouse and has slowly grown into a serious hacker’s delight. BTT is a window manager, application launcher and much more.

Now, there is a companion iOS app, BTT Remote, that turns any iOS device into a remote control and track pad for a Mac. I took the app for a spin and it’s working very well. Check out Brett’s review for more info on what this new app can do.

Here’s a brief look at how I’ve configured the app on my iPad. I’m not using at as a remote control. I use it as a companion keyboard palette for my Mac. I generally have at least one iOS device sitting on my desk anyway. In this way, I can easily reach over and trigger a simple macro without needing to remember a keyboard shortcut or configure a new Keyboard Maestro palette.

Actions are triggered almost instantly. Occasionally there is a fraction of a second delay but in general, the actions work as if they were keyboard shortcuts.

Actions are configured on the Mac side and instantly sync to a connected iOS device. Icons are customized through drag and drop into the action on the Mac or by selecting one from the included library. I’m using some of the included icons as well as a few WooCons.

Launch Checkvist

This action opens my Fluid app for Checkvist. BTT provides an action to open any application.

New Mail

I created an Automator application that does one thing. It creates a new email using my Macdrifter account. BTT launches that app and a new email draft appears in front of me.

Rode Mic

This action uses the trick I wrote about previously. It sets my audio input and output to my Rode Podcaster microphone.

The real trick here, is that BTT is actually just triggering a Keyboard Maestro macro through an AppleScript application.

From within Keyboard Maestro, I created a new group called “BTT”. This group should always be active if the macros are to be accessed by AppleScript. Each macro in the group is setup to be triggered by an AppleScript. When this setting is enabled, the macro will provide the script text to use. Just copy that out.

I have four macros:

  1. Audio out to Rode
  2. Audio in to Rode
  3. Audio out to Mac
  4. Audo in to Mac

These use the functions I have described previously.

Next, I created an Automator application that executes the AppleScript from above to run the macros. For example, this script sets the audio input and output to my Mac. Notice that it is actually running two macros.

This Automator application is called by BTT when I tap it on my iPad or iPhone. One tap and my audio input switches.

Mac Audio

Same as above but switches my audio input and output to my Mac.

Left and Right Split and Move to Next Monitor

These all use the builtin window management functions of BTT to split my frontmost window across the screen or send it between displays.

Mission Control and Expose

These also use the built in BTT functions to control my Mac.


This action just launches the Terminal app.

Color Picker

In BTT, macros can be configured for a global scope or for within a specific application. I have two versions of the color picker action. One is the global color picker available in the OS and that is triggered using the default BTT action.

The second action is scoped for only within Acorn. This one triggers the Acorn color picker using menu choices. BTT can access nested menu options with a straightforward configuration.

Open iTunes

This is the only action I would use while not sitting in front of my Mac. This is for those times when we sit down on the couch to use the AppleTV and I realize I iTunes is not running on my Mac. This macro just launches iTunes but it saves me a trip downstairs and makes everyone a bit happier.


BTT Remote is a handy little utility app. I like best for the times when I’m sitting right in front of my Mac. And if you’re a Magic Trackpad user, now you can have one the entire size of your iPad, since BTT also provides a full screen trackpad view as well. I’m not sure if I’ll stick with it, but it has some interesting options.

I’d also add, if you are a BetterTouch Tool user, buying the iOS app is a great way to support the developer.

BTT Remote | Universal | $2

via Macdrifter http://www.macdrifter.com/2012/11/bettertouch-tool-remote-tips.html

US military looks to social nets for intelligence strategy


Students at a U.S. military graduate school in California are mining social media with new methods that may change the way the armed forces collect intelligence overseas.

Students and researchers at the Naval Postgraduate School have tackled two projects that could begin the shift in the way intelligence is gathered. The first is a piece of software they wrote that harnesses the Twitter API (application programming interface) and the second is a project focusing on Syria that uses many social networks to look at U.S. policy options there, though civil liberties experts say the technology concerns them.

The software for Twitter, called the Dynamic Twitter Network Analysis (DTNA), is now being field-tested by three Defense Department units overseas to help gauge public opinion in some of the world’s hot spots.

The software pulls in data from the public Twitter feed, then sorts it, live, by phrases, keywords or hashtags. The program is continuously updated, integrating a mapping feature and geo-tagged information. Intelligence officers could use DTNA to understand people’s moods about a topic, or hopefully prevent or simply respond faster in any future U.S. embassy attacks.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

via TechHive http://www.techhive.com/article/2013726/us-military-looks-to-social-nets-for-intelligence-strategy.html

Preferential attachment: be first | Implicit None

Preferential attachment: be first | Implicit None.

Scientific fact: the rich always get richer.

A couple of new TextExpander snippets – Brett Terpstra

A couple of new TextExpander snippets – Brett Terpstra.


Snippets need some work.