I’m officially getting older. I had to increase my coding font (Source Code Pro) from 12pt to 13pt.

Fixing Safari syncing issues in iOS 11.3

I had syncing problems with Safari since the first version of iOS 11.3 beta. Apparently, I’m not the only one. It’s started getting so bad, that I had to abandon Reading List in Safari because it’s randomly deleted saved articles. Sometimes there were random bookmarks showing up in the sidebar. Sites that looked like were added there by Frequently Visited Sites.

I got suspicious about this: maybe Frequently Visited Sites does something weird with syncing. I went ahead and turned it off on every device I own, also on each device that my girlfriend uses since she has a really big collection of bookmarks in Safari. After using Safari for weeks without Frequently Visited Sites turned on, I can safely say it fixed syncing problems. I haven’t seen lost bookmarks and deleted articles in Reading List since then.

If you have bugs like this, turn off Frequently Visited Sites in settings on every device that syncs with your iCloud account.

On iOS:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Find Safari.
  3. Turn off Frequently Visited Sites.

On macOS:

  1. Open a new tab or window in Safari.
  2. Control-click somewhere on the empty space.
  3. Turn off Show Frequently Visited Sites.

Wired has a nice collection of repeated apologies from Mark Zuckerberg over the last decade.

Last month, Facebook once again garnered widespread attention with a privacy related backlash when it became widely known that, between 2008 and 2015, it had allowed hundreds, maybe thousands, of apps to scrape voluminous data from Facebook users—not just from the users who had downloaded the apps, but detailed information from all their friends as well.

I’m getting tired of all Facebook’s crap so I have to get rid of it completely. I’m sure there is a shadow profile of me on Facebook servers even I deleted my account about a year ago.

I have Messenger on my phone with no access to photos, my location nor my contacts. My next goal is to get rid of that junk and move my communication of Android people over to Telegram. Luckily a lot of my friends and family use iOS devices.

Maybe I’m a bit masochist but I’ve always found SQL a really useful skill to have for filtering and aggregating a lot of data. I found this site which can help me master this a bit more with PostgreSQL, although the logic can be reused in any SQL based database backend.

Getting back the “None” tag filter in Things for Mac

Things 2 had a filter for to-dos that doesn’t have any tags attached. It was useful especially if you’re a tag completist like me, but apparently Things 3 had it removed. I’ve just read this Things 3 review yesterday and it mentions a hidden preference in Things 3, which brings back this filter:

As I created and used tags, I realized that there was no way to filter a view by items without a tag. This made me anxious that there were tasks missing tags and only visible when looking at all items in a view. So I reached out to support and learned that the “None” filter was a removed feature from a previous version of Things, and they were happy to give me the Terminal command to resurrect it! So yes, I’m a fan of Cultured Code’s customer support.

Well, he don’t mention how to bring it back, so I’ve asked Cultured Code. Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Quit Things.
  2. Go to Applications → Utilities and open Terminal app.
  3. Copy and paste this command into Terminal, then hit Return: defaults write com.culturedcode.ThingsMac NoneTagEnabled -bool YES

As you expect, it brings back the “None” tag filter option.

Apparently, it works only on the Mac, but it’s still a useful option to have. Maybe Cultured Code will change its mind, and brings it back to iOS too.

Meditation as a design tool

And that’s how I discovered that meditation is an incredible design and problem solving tool. Instead of wasting hours browsing the internet looking for a solution or an idea, I sit in my room, close my eyes and simply think about the problem. It’s an incredibly useful exercise and more often than not, I come up with solutions faster that I’d do by browsing randomly the internet.

It sounds like the “walking meditation” practice that Cal Newport mentions in Deep Work. When you want solve a problem, get away from your computer and go for walk focusing on the problem. You’ll get a solution almost every time.

I really like BazQux Reader lately. It can add even userfeeds from Twitter—which is really hard to do since Twitter removed RSS—so I’ve made a workflow which helps me subscribe to accounts from Twitter or Micro.blog. This way, I can follow everything in one app.

Getting YouTube content in a podcast format

There used to be a lot of video podcasts back in 2010 (yes, you can create video podcasts too). Then suddenly a lot of that content disappeared and/or moved to YouTube. Everybody says that one of the best things about podcasting is that it’s a completely independent medium, so I’m not sure why video people are so obsessed with YouTube, but that’s a topic for another talk…

Anyway, since the podcasting format is a way better method to follow my favorite channels than the YouTube app, I started to dig around on the web to find a way to subscribe YouTube channels in iTunes or the Podcasts app (or in any podcast app). After a couple of minutes, I’ve found Podsync which helps me do just that. I can paste the link of a YouTube channel into Podsync, then instantly get a URL of a podcast feed which I can subscribe too in my podcast app of choice (no Overcast support at the moment, because it doesn’t support video podcasts).

Why do I want to do that?

  1. Google can’t track me from a podcast client.
  2. No ads (although I should support my favorite channels on Patreon or something).
  3. Every video player is better than the YouTube website/app. iTunes and Podcasts have picture-in-picture built-in, which is awesome.
  4. Since Podcasts downloads every new episode by default, I can follow my favorite channels even in offline mode.
  5. No related videos are being shown while I watch an episode, which may help to reduce my hours watching YouTube.
  6. Every multimedia content I follow is in one app now.

I love this way of getting new content from YouTube. I even became a monthly Patreon supporter of Podsync—it’s just $1—which has some nice added bonus features like audio–only channels. If you’re following a lot of channels on YouTube, but don’t like the iOS app, you should take a look at Podsync.

David Sparks writing about scheduling his workdays:

I treat the blocks of time more like versatile soup ingredients than a rigid jigsaw puzzle, so I am happy to move them around as I’m planning the next day.

I like this analogy of the calendar working like a puzzle where I can put and arrange pieces of my time as blocks. The problem is making a daily plan then scheduling my whole day simply doesn’t work for me. This system feels too restrictive, and believe me, I tried it. It was creating unwanted stress and admin work because I got into the flow, ignored notifications then rescheduled stuff constantly.

I like the idea though. Also, currently I have a longstanding problem reviewing my right task lists at the right moment. Using my calendar, I’ll try to schedule blocks of work categories, like @Home or @Admin which are representing context lists in my GTD system. I hope it will start to form at least a list review habit for me, so I can start to trust more in my system.

The secret for this—as with many things—is trying to not overdo it.

On grayscaling your phone addiction

I’m trying out a new display setting in iOS to use in evenings. There have been a couple blog posts lately talking about grayscaling your screen, which should help with phone addiction. For me, it looks like just another productivity fad, but having a gray screen could help relax my eyes at night a bit more (using in conjunction with Night Shift).

I’ve added Color Filters setting to my Accessibility menu so it’s a quick toggle in Control Center. I can easily turn on when I want to use it. This’ll make the following gray home screen which is nice for reading in the dark.

But don’t believe it will help you deal with your phone addiction. If you think it does, then I assure you it’s just another placebo effect like when people are blocking Facebook in their browser, because they think it will help them using it less.

Well, I don’t want to pop the productivity bubble of blocking stuff, but what helps is removing your account from Facebook. Same applies to phone addiction: you have to remove those time-wasting apps from your devices and then be mindful of how you’re using your phone. Turning on an accessibility setting then complaining about colored app icons which makes us addictive to stuff is just stupid. Addiction is a way bigger problem than that. You have to acknowledge that your phone is just a tool and it’s your responsibility of what you’re using it for.

I’m just thinking about why iCloud Keychain still doesn’t support generating two-factor authentication codes as 1Password does? This is exactly what Apple should design as user friendly as it can.

The great thing about blogging is that I can grab my iPad and start rambling about a topic which then turns into an idea I want to do. So, I publish the raw post (sometimes privately) and then send its link to my inbox to review later.

I just love to do this!

It’s Saturday so the best way to spend the day is developing an iOS app for my blog. I wanted to search it’s content from Spotlight, so I’ve created a small app that loads all my posts into a table view and also indexes them. Now I can search and load the actual post. It’s really cool to quickly find my stuff and also a great way to learn new APIs in iOS.

Wow, I’ve just realized that I can post stuff from Micro.blog’s iOS client to my blog.

Really cool!

12/02/2018, 18:46 – Colin Walker

The outboard memory is like an external hard drive, a place to curate any useful information, quotes, facts or figures you might come across. You might be familiar with the term “commonplace book” which is, usually, a handwritten book where all these references and snippets would be placed.

I’m very into the idea of using my blog as a commonplace book. Maybe some of that stuff should be public though.