The return of the iPad!

Almost a year ago I wrote a post about ditching my iPad 2 as I wasn’t carrying it due to it being almost the size of my MacBook Pro (without a case) once it was in a vaguely protective case.  Well a few months after that post was written Apple released the iPad Mini which is significantly smaller than the iPad.

I have recently purchased an iPad Mini 64Gb Wifi and so far I am very happy with it as its not much bigger than my Kindle Paperwhite (in its protective case) and the screen size is still big enough to be much more productive than on my iPhone.  An added bonus of the  Mini over the Retina screen iPad was the cost: the 64GB Mini was cheaper than the 16Gb Retina model!  As my original iPad2 was the 16 GB model I’d struggled for space on it, so the iPad Mini being smaller and having four times the storage for a lower price sealed the deal for me

The Mini has proven its self very portable and an excellent travelling companion as its light enough to take on a day trip and has long enough battery life to entertain me through a long haul flight.  Currently I am using a Apple Smart Cover and simple (thin) plastic shell to protect the back of the iPad which keeps the bulk down.

Update:  After a few near misses I have since swapped to using a Belkin Apex360 Advanced Protection Case which is the least bulky tough case I could find for the Mini, it has magnets in the cover flap like the Apple cover so the Mini wakes up when you open the cover.

Generating passwords with Python

Occasionally I find myself lacking inspiration for a password that I will not use frequently which I want to be secure and that I don’t mind storing in a secure password manager. When this happens I use the very handy UUID module in the Python standard library to generate me a semi-decent password.

"""Generate a string suitible for password usage using the UUID module."""

from uuid import uuid4

print str(uuid4())

This will produce output like the following:
e1de6232-4a74-45cf-8bc3-1dd8a76af4de

The main drawback with this approach is the generated passwords are not easily rememberable by the average human being so you need to store it somewhere safe and secure. If you lose the password or forget it your stuffed!

Travel Accessories

The following are my favorite three travel accessories that make life allot simpler when traveling and also keep my bags lightweight!  I tend to carry a Moleskin notepad, LAMY Pen and my favorite gadgets plus these accessories.

Sony CP-ELS USB Battery Stick Sony CP-ELS Battery Stick

Smart phones are great pocket computers but the one area they fail hard in is battery life.  Portable USB Battery packs like this Sony CP-ELS address this issue by making it simple to charge a smart phone when traveling.  Its ironic that my first mobile phone had a battery life of over twelve days but my much more useful iPhone 4S lasts just over a day at best.

It is no longer a case of choosing between using the phone during flights for music, games or movies or having charge when you arrive at your destination!

Skross USB World Travel Adapter Skross World USB Charger

USB has become the standard for charging cables over the last decade this means it is now possible to charge most devices using a USB cable.  This Skross USB charger lets you simultaneously charge two USB devices in almost any country in the world!

Its a great space saver as instead of carrying multiple power chargers and adapters you can carry this unit and a few charging cables.

Although my Canon S100 cannot charge from USB meaning I need to carry its separate battery charger with me too.

SanDisk EyeFi 8GB SanDisk EyeFi 8Gb Card

EyeFi cards have changed how I share pictures, now I no longer need to wait till I get back to my computer I can now wirelessly transfer images from my camera to my iPhone.  I then edit the images on the phone and upload them to the site or social networks of my choice!

When I am using a EyeFi card I will typically set the camera to save images in RAW and JPEG format so I can edit the images later on my laptop.

What are your favorite travel accessories that you can’t travel without?

Scott Hanselman on Productivity

Here is an excellent presentation given by Scott Hanselman on personal productivity and efficiency from Webstock 2012, I’d highly recommend watching all 42 minutes of it as he has many good tips.

It’s not what you read, it’s what you ignore by Scott Hanselman from Webstock on Vimeo.

I’ve actually used a set of email filters like the filters Scott describes for a while now and they do simplify things allot.  RescueTime is a great service and I’d highly recommend it for profiling your activity at work and working out where your time is actually going!  The pomodoro technique is also fairly useful for getting focus and there are handy applications available on most platforms for timing sessions.  And I’ve certainly been guilty of having a ‘guilt pile’ of reading material on my desk or coffee table too!

I think allot of the effort in achieving personal productivity is in the analysis where your time is spent and reflection on if that time investment makes sense, not on simply working harder.

Travel gadgets

I’m in the category of people who will naturally fill any given bag with stuff when travelling, I used to drag piles of stuff around ‘just in case’ I might need it. These days I try to keep the combination of items down to the essentials notepad, pen, lightweight jacket and a few gadgets. I seldom travel with a laptop unless I need it for photo editing I just don’t find I use them enough to justify the bulk and weight.

iPhone 4S

Apple iPhone 4S

I learned to get by with just a smart phone when I was with Barbara in her last few weeks in the hospice. To my surprise I found that with the rich variety of applications available on the App Store I was able to do 95% of what I needed to do with just a phone.  Smart phones really are more pocket sized computers than phones these days, I think I use mine as a phone about 1% of the time at best.

At times I am tempted by tablet computers like the Apple iPad but most of the time I find I can get by with just an iPhon. I did own an iPad 2 WiFi for a while but didn’t find I used it as much as I expected.

Kindle Paperwhite

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

As I am a fast reader I used to be guilty of weighing myself down with many many books when travelling so that I wouldn’t run out of reading material but since the Kindle came along this is no longer a back breaking burden!  As a Kindle has sufficient storage capacity of literally hundreds of books I am unlikely to run out of books to read on a trip, in fact usually the opposite happens I run out of time to read all the books I take!

The battery life of a Kindle is also so long compared to most modern devices that I seldom take a power charger for my kindle on trips shorter than a week as it can easily that long if not a few weeks.

Canon S100

Canon S100 Camera

While my iphone does have a okay camera, I prefer to have a discrete camera with me most of the time and the S100 is the smallest camera I own.  I find having a discrete camera also has the advantages of saving my phones battery life and giving me much greater control over my exposures than the phone interface offers.

The addition of RAW format support means that I can edit the images in applications like Photoshop or Lightroom when I get back from the trip too.

In a future post I will cover my favorite travel accessories to complement these three gadgets.

Wear sunscreen..

One of the instructors at the spin classes at the gym likes to play this song/advice by Baz Luhrmann at the end of sessions, so its now wedged in my brain.

It seems like pretty good advice though!