What is it about a Moleskine?

ms1.jpgIt’s a notebook, plain and simple. A very well-made notebook, to be sure. It is, perhaps, a premium notebook (which would justify the price). I know, I have one. And it’s quite nice.

Yet, Moleskine is also a brand that brings a lot of emotion and sentiment to the humble notebook. Notebooks are about remembering things, writing them down to have later — and the Moleskine brand is based around the concept of being the best notebook you can use to remember. Just check out this description from the Moleskine website’s about page:

Moleskine was created as a brand in 1997, bringing back to life the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers over the past two centuries: among them Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Bruce Chatwin. A trusted and handy travel companion, the nameless black notebook held invaluable sketches, notes, stories, and ideas that would one day become famous paintings or the pages of beloved books.

 

ms3.jpg

Today, the name Moleskine encompasses a family of nomadic objects: notebooks, diaries, journals, bags, writing instruments and reading accessories, dedicated to our mobile identity. Indispensable companions to the creative  professions and the imagination of our times: they are intimately tied to the digital world.

 

ms2.jpg

A lot of famous people use(d) Moleskines, and a lot of people wax eloquently about the virtues of the notebook.

And now, they can do the same about the free official Moleskine app, for iPad and iPhone / iPod Touch:

The official Moleskine App for iPhone and iPad allows you to express your creativity through text, images and sketches. Pick a classic Moleskine notebook paper style, create a new thought and start to type or draw choosing amongst different colors and sizes. Once you are done with your thought, you can store it on your device and make edits whenever you want.

Features:

  • Pick a Moleskine notebook paper style: plain, ruled, squared
  • Write and edit a text note
  • Sketching tool
  • Insert and play with your personal images
  • Catalogue as many memories as you want with a full range of categories
  • Play with images provided by Moleskine
  • Geo-tag each note created and create a virtual map of your memories
  • Share your notes with friends through email or social networks

Of course, the Moleskine app is also a marketing tool to get the Moleskine name on your iOS device, get you comfortable and familiar with the Moleskine name, and presumably get you curious about the actual paper notebook.

Marketing aside, the app is a fairly good notebook app, with some interesting features. And it’s free, so what have you got to lose — maybe it’ll work for you, as the original notebook worked for Hemingway, back in the day.
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WordPress blogging on an iPad just got easier

Earlier today, WordPress released version 2.7 of their iOS blogging client. And I’m happy to say it works well so far, though I’ve only given it a very simple workout.

Previously I’d tried the WordPress app but had a number of problems publishing from it, random crashing etc. So I nuked it from orbit — the only way to be sure.

And then I replaced it with BlogPress, a paid app.

BlogPress is clean, works well, and has some nice features such as HTML shortcuts and TextExpander integration (a must for any iOS writing platform). But BlogPress is really designed to connect to more than just WordPress blogs, including:

– Blogger / BlogSpot
– MSN Live Spaces
– WordPress
– Movable Type
– TypePad
– LiveJournal
– Drupal
– Joomla
– Tumblr
– Squarespace
– My Opera

WordPress for iOS is pretty single-minded — it’s designed to talk to WordPress blogs (both hosted and self-hosted). And the blogging functionality is still pretty basic, but the one feature I really appreciate in the WordPress app (that’s missing from BlogPress) is the ability moderate comments.

As well, developers say they’ve killed over 100 bugs and reduced crash conditions, and cleaned up the user interface to make it easier to manage blogs.

So, actually now, I’m using both apps to manage my WordPress blogging — the free universal WordPress app, and the paid BlogPress app, mostly for writing and HTML work.

Here’s hoping that the WordPress app continues to grow up 🙂

Full details at the developers blog.

Saving time with Text Replacement utilities

I write a lot. Blog posts, proposals, reports, reviews, email…you get the picture. Often times I end up creating new documents that share similar format or content, and I cut-and-paste from older docs into newer ones. But I’m lazy, and always looking for easier ways to get the job done…

I’m Lazy
Over the past year I’ve been slowly learning how to save time and keystrokes by using text expansion software. In the old days we called them Macro keys.

Basically, what you do is create a database of commonly typed words, phrases or layouts and assign unique key triggers to each snippet of text. For example, I usually sign my email thusly:


Brad Grier

———-
Brad Grier Consulting
Lifestyle Technology & Community Media

Lots of characters and formatting, no?  Here’s the cool thing, all I typed to get that email signature was ‘.mysig’ (minus the single quotes). The software did the rest.

Another example? Sure!
Ok, the bright ones amongst you will be emailing me to say that most common email programs have a place for a signature, and it’s automated whenever you compose a new email. True. Save you’re email. But this was just one example. Here’s another.

Let’s say you’re a web designer, and you use common CSS or HTML snippets. It’s a simple matter to add this code to the database, and call it with a few keystrokes. This Lorem Ipsum layout text block, for example:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nunc mattis arcu sed quam tincidunt et lobortis nunc volutpat. Phasellus lacinia nulla quis lectus molestie in commodo mauris blandit. Nullam in vestibulum velit. Donec libero est, volutpat non accumsan ac, rutrum vitae odio. Curabitur pretium mauris non nisi vestibulum tincidunt. Aenean tristique quam sapien, vel dapibus ligula. Maecenas commodo faucibus pulvinar. Donec eleifend ante eget purus luctus ultrices. Nulla quis sem magna, eget feugiat dui. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Etiam sodales enim in dui ultrices in dapibus ligula porta. Aenean adipiscing ipsum id massa luctus vel suscipit metus elementum. Morbi venenatis mauris eget metus tincidunt luctus eget quis elit. Cras eget ligula quis diam pharetra luctus vel ut tortor.

That was generated by me typing ‘.lorem’ and hitting the Tab key. Much easier than pasting it in from the .txt doc I keep in my design snippets directory.

As well, text replacement software can easily automagically enter other dynamic data such as the current date (.d) [ Thursday, October 28, 2010  ] or time (.t) [ 10:09 PM ] in a bunch of formats. You get the idea.

The Software
On windows, I’d recommend the free Texter program, created by LifeHacker editor Adam Pash. And lookie here, there’s a video:

For iPhone and iPad, I use TextExpander Touch. Same features, with a few extra bells and whistles such as application integration.

For OSX, I don’t have one. I don’t do any writing on our Mac, it’s my wife’s computer :smileyhappy: But TextExpander Touch has a counterpart (called TextExpander, of course) that runs on OSX and others consider it the ‘benchmark’ for Mac text expansion and scripting tools.

texter.jpgSaving time?
One other thing, Texter actually tracks the keystrokes you’ve saved, and provides this fun little report showing how much time you’ve saved using it, and provides a handy printable chart of all your replacement macros.

Hello coders and writers, do you use a text replacement application? If so, weigh in on your app-of-choice, or perhaps a favourite replacement macro you use often.



This post of is one of many I publish weekly at the Future Shop Techblog. Read more of my stuff here.


Write a comment, win a prize!

I’ve been a fan of Clickfree backup systems for a while now. Dropdead simple and effective for most home usage. Well now the kind folks at Clickfree have given me the opportunity to share the love, so to speak, in the form of a contest, my first, in fact.

All the gory details are here, but the contest is really simple:

To enter:
Take your worst / best backup hor­ror story and write-up a com­ment on the contest page that describes a data loss hor­ror story that was aver­ted or would have been pre­ven­ted if you had a trusty recent backup. That simple.

But wait, there’s more!

Of course there is. If you’re not the writin’ type, you can still win —
Clickfree has created a special code to get a 15% discount off your order through them. Simply enter Grier10 at the checkout and you’ll have 15% removed from the total.

Remember, don’t comment below if you want the comment to be considered an Entry — leave your comment HERE.

Again, full details on the contest here, but I’m looking forward to this. It’s my first contest, so be gentle with me please 😉

Four solid tech-news sites I use regularly

Back in the early days of blogging, before podcasting and Twitter and all this new fangled stuff, there was a trend amongst bloggers to occasionally do posts about the sites that have all the cool tech listings and news, as well as the cool people behind the sites.

These days, on Twitter, that kind of a shout out is formalized as #followfriday, or #ff for short.

I think it’s a shame that this trend has fallen by the wayside on blogs, so I’m going to do my small part to give it a kickstart by sharing a few of the blogs, bloggers and sites that keep me doing my thing.

Techmeme – likely one of the biggest names in tech news:

Techmeme arranges all of these links into a single, easy-to-scan page. Story selection is accomplished via computer algorithm extended with direct human editorial input.

Our goal is for Techmeme to become your tech news site of record.

For me, Techmeme is the pulse of Tech as it happens. Good to check in to, every couple of hours or so 🙂

Lifehacker – cool tricks and hacks to make your daily life a bit easier:

an award-winning daily blog that features tips, shortcuts, and downloads that help you get things done smarter and more efficiently.

Mashable – a great resource for tech news that matters. Usually first to have news and relevant commentary.

Mashable is the world’s largest blog focused exclusively on Web 2.0 and Social Media news. With more than 15 million monthly pageviews, Mashable is the most prolific blog reviewing new Web sites and services, publishing breaking news on what’s new on the web and offering social media resources and guides.

Ars Technica – a little slow with the breaking news, but awesome when it comes to detailed analysis of news and issues.

At Ars Technica—the name is Latin-derived for the “art of technology”—we specialize in original news and reviews, analysis of technology trends, and expert advice on topics ranging from the most fundamental aspects of technology to the many ways technology is helping us enjoy our world. We work for the reader who not only needs to keep up on technology, but is passionate about it.

So these are a few of my prime resources, what’re yours? Which sites are your must-go-to sites when you need to find out more about a tech topic?

Brad’s first blog contest – backup horror stories

And we’re done. I’ve received some excellent entries in the Backup Horror Story contest. Give ’em a read below, and feel free to add your comments too. And of course, feel free to share your horror story too, but sadly, this contest is closed.

Welcome to the first (of hopefully) many contest I’d like to run on my blog. I’ve been doing this tech-writing thing for a while now, but I’ve always been looking for ways to more closely engage with you. I think I may have found it with this style of contest — I get you to write for me. It’s ok, I have prizes 🙂

I’ll get to the details in a moment, but first let me frame the scenario: Backup Horror Stories.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all, at one time or another, lost some important piece data; your digital photo collection or music collection. Perhaps you’re a writer and all your ‘in progress’ manuscripts are now toast. You’ve lost data. No external copy or backup available. Poof! Done!!

That’s the scenario, now the details:

The Prizes and Sponsor
Clickfree – a cool Canadian company that specializes in no-brainer backup solutions is sponsoring this contest and has given me a few Clickfree Transformer SEs for this contest. Since Clickfree is all about simple backups, the theme of the contest kinda suggested itself 🙂

In the past, I’d reviewed Clickfree’s C2 Portable Backup drive – a solid unit. The TransformerSE we’re giving away in this contest uses similar technology, only you provide the USB drive. Here’s the official company line on the TransfomerSE:

The Clickfree Transformer SE (Special Edition) turns any USB hard drive, iPod, or iPhone into a simple automatic backup solution for your computer. Just connect the Transformer SE to your computer, then connect the USB hard drive, or iPod/iPhone via USB into the Transformer SE. Backup will start automatically onto the available free space of the connected product, whether it is a 3rd party hard drive, or an iPod/iPhone.

I will be doing a full review of the Clickfree TransformerSE very soon, but don’t let that stop you from entering the contest.

To enter:
Take your worst / best backup horror story and write-up a comment to this page that describes a data loss horror story that was averted or would have been prevented if you had a trusty recent backup. That simple.

Important: If you’ve not commented here before, your comment may be held in moderation until I can authorize it. No worries, I do this daily.

The Rules:
I’m keeping this fun, so the rules are simple.

1) It’s a blog comment contest – tell me your story in a comment to this page using the form below. Anyone can enter. Only comments entered into the comment form below on this page will be eligible.
2) After that you post a comment, let me know through a private email notification to me (via this in-blog contact form). It’ll let me know you’ve entered and be sure to provide a valid email address for follow-up should your entry be selected. No, I won’t sell or spam you..the email address is to be used ONLY for this contest. After the contest, all email entries will be deleted.
3) Top 3 comments will be selected for a prizes. I’m not sure what criteria I’ll use to judge yet. Maybe the funniest, most dramatic, most potential for loss-of-life, I don’t know. Maybe the most support from other commentors (get your friends to help out!). But there will be three, and I’ll write about them in a follow-up post.
4) Random draw for a few more prizes. It’ll be random.
5) Winners notified within a week, delivery within a month via Canada Post.
6) The contest starts now (March 1, 2010) and runs until Midnight, March 31, 2010. Timestamp of the blog and corresponding email to me will determine entry date and time.

Bonus Prize: Everyone Wins
Ok, now this is also very cool. For the month of March, the fine folk at Clickfree have also authorized a discount code for orders on their site. Place any order, use this code ( Grier10 ) and they knock 15% off the price of your order.

The Tablet Cometh: Some thoughts on Apple’s announcement

Next Wednesday, Apple will host one of the most anticipated technology announcements of the year, perhaps of this still-fresh decade.

The reason for this level of attention is that everyone anticipates that Apple will re-launch a device that the industry has been trying to make work for 20 years — the Tablet computer.

As some pundits predict, this could be the thin-edge-of-the-wedge that will change the publishing industry. Think eBooks, newspapers and magazines:

If the tablet does emphasize ebooks the way analysts expect it to, we can only hope that Apple helps show publishers The Way in a future version of the iPhone SDK, similar to Amazon’s active content Kindle development kit (KDK) announced yesterday. If the tablet succeeds in its arena, the way the iPhone has before, authors and publishers will be able to Publish Different.

The currently leading name for the device is the iSlate – based on some clever detective work that uncovered Apple ownership of the domain name:

…islate.com was registered to Apple in 2007, through an intermediary (to disguise its true owner). At the moment, that domain doesn’t seem to lead anywhere—and there are a couple explanations.

And, earlier this month,  coincidentally coinciding with CES and the plethora of Tablet, Slate, Pad announcements from other hardware vendors, Apple announced Wednesday’s event, apparently leaked business and product production information, and generally kicked the hype level up a notch.

And frankly, I hope Apple does release a Tablet. This kind of technology has the ability to change (again) how we work and think about distributed computing tech. making it more mobile and  creating new modes for consuming and interacting with content.

And yes, I’ll be paying attention to the event and posting my thoughts shortly afterward.