Hit And Miss On Microsoft’s Products

Instead of the traditional approach of charging users for a one-time purchase, Microsoft will be introducing a subscription model in the form of Microsoft 365 Home Premium, costing $99.99 for an annual subscription for up to 5 devices. 

The new offering includes the latest and most complete set of Office applications; works across up to five devices, including Windows tablets, PCs and Macs; and comes with extra SkyDrive storage and Skype calling — all for US$99.99 for an annual subscription, the equivalent of US$8.34 per month.

Smart move I believe.

They know their grip on Office’s suite of products are loosening, and this trend is set to continue. To facilitate adoption across different devices in the household, in comes the new model.

The student deal is even better – $79.99 for a four-year subscription, that’s equivalent to $20 a year. It’s a no-brainier really. Locking in students and familiarizing them with MS’ products would go a long way in retaining the share of the shrinking pie.

Having said that, I believe Microsoft is probably forgoing sizable share of the iOS crowd by not developing an app for that market.

That’s all for the good stuff. Now for the big hoo-hah. 

On the 64GB Surface Pro, only 23GB is available for use. The rest, well, they are already reserved for the operating system and built-in applications. Imagine the public outrage, opening up the device and realizing that they have lost 64% of the storage involuntarily to the system imposed by Microsoft.

According to the spokesperson, we can recover the space.

Users will be able to free up additional storage space by creating a backup bootable USB and deleting the recovery partition.

It’s irrelevant  It’s not the job of a paying customer to clean up the mess. That’s a big deal, because not everyone is savvy enough to know this before committing to the purchase.

To put it blatantly, it’s deceptive.

When I buy something, I want it to work as advertised. I don’t want a nasty surprise waiting for me in the form of 41gig, out of 64gig have already been reserved for something I have no control over.

That’s two end of the scale, a promising looking service being overshadowed by negative coverage and controversy.

The Future Of SimpleNote

A scan around the community will reveal the deep relationship many people have with SimpleNote. Lately, it has ran into problems with syncing and data losses. Some stayed on, in hope that it’s a one off bug. But these things persisted, and some left…reluctantly.

It’s like a strained relationship you want to salvage, but has no control over. It has served you admiralty well in the past, but the ever present glitches here and there mean you can’t fully trust it the way you used to.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel, it seems. It got acquired by Automattic, creator of WordPress. From their initial statement, they’re big fans of SimpleNote as well.

You know how sometimes, the services you love just disappear when they’re bought by someone else? Or they wither and die a slow and painful death? Not the case here. We made sure of that.

I’m cautiously optimistic, but also realistic enough not to pin too much hope. With that, let’s look back and reflect what made SimpleNote part of our essential workflow.


Today I feel like a jilted lover stalking their ex. I continue to check the developer discussion board and see many repeat complaints about bad syncing and data corruption….While tags and fast full-text searching are wonderful features of Simplenote, in the end data integrity wins the day.

Shawn Blanc:

Simplenote is invaluable to me because of the notes it holds. But a great app encourages regular use the same way a crummy app discourages it. And I can think of no higher priority for finding a great app than when looking for the one which will hold my digital brain.

Because of the syncing problems and apparent lost of documents, Shawn went on a wild goose chase in search for Simplenote/ nvALT replacement. He explored many capable alternatives, but in the end, he went a full circle back to the the original combo.

And the following three raving reviews:
Why i love SimpleNote – Still
All you need is SimpleNote
Splendid app called SimpleNote

Beware Of The Java Crap

I never know how much crap Oracle is pushing into our system. The only thing that catches my eye is the constant source of updates.

It really opens up my mind on how deceptive some major and established companies can be, and how many more out there are doing the same thing.

Svbtle Is Marching On


Just a quick update: we’ve recently raised a round of financing from great investors like SV Angel, CrunchFund, Betaworks, and more (including, previously, Y Combinator). Now we have the resources and absolute focus that will allow us to build not only a great collection of people, but also a new kind of media destination that approaches journalism differently–maybe we could call it the future of journalism, but we’re not entirely sure what that is yet, exactly.

I’m not sure if they are going to open up to the public in the future. Right now, it’s an exclusive platform where renowned personalities are invited to blog in.

Many have claimed they are going to define the future of journalism, but i’m more interested in how are they going to monetize the site.

At the very beginning, when questioned about this, he replied.

Dustin Curtis:

If the Svbtle Network works as well as I hope, there is nothing stopping me from building an exclusive ad network similar to The Deck. I haven’t really thought about it, but that would almost definitely be the best way to monetize this platform.

Having an exclusive ad network will give Svbtle control. Given the history of Dustin in building something for absolute control, it could be a real possibility.

Because Svbtle has a network of established and well known bloggers using the platform, the perceived credibility they have is very much at the pinnacle.

With the funding, they are going to hire developers to improvement the platform, copyeditors to curate and edit the content. With the way it’s going, it’s not a surprise if they implement it as a subscription model for its content. It may never reach mainstream popularity, but i’m pretty sure a sizable percentage of the readers on Svbtle are willing to pay for this service.

A Workflowy Review

Everything can be a list.

From our daily groceries shopping to writing a new chapter on your latest novel, everyone and everything can benefit from having a list.
But the problem with most note-taking software and app is this – they often have redundant features that most of us don’t need, don’t want, or hardly use them. Most of these force you into a structure-like interface. The rationale of taking note is of course to take the task out of our mind, so we can focus on other things. Organizing can come later.

Most apps however, forces you to define the task, organize them, and tuck them nicely into a particular place. Maybe that’s the reason why people don’t stick to note taking app for long, it’s too rigid.

I have used several such apps in the past, in hope that i will be more productive and efficient. But none has stuck with me for the long haul. It’s either too complicated or cumbersome to maintain, and eventually i stopped using them altogether.

Then comes the change

workflowly 2

But all these thoughts change when i chanced upon workflowy some time back. It’s like a giant white depository to store all your thoughts, ideas, words. Anything. It’s so simple in concept, but so many other apps fail to execute properly. It’s clean, its typeface is easy on the eyes, and it’s extremely user-friendly. Register, sign-in, and start right away. Before you know it, your lists will be growing bigger and bigger. Of course, you can always delete or cross out completed items.

The beauty of this app is of course you will always turn to it when you have something to note down. Many apps failed to take off in this area – users download them, but eventually they will turn to other alternatives for their note taking. This is where workflowy execute it brilliantly and getting users to use their app for all their needs.

The app is available on the PC, iOS and Android. Make a list and it auto-saves your progress and synchronize automatically to the rest of your devices. The heavy footwork is being done in the background, so you can just focus on taking note. Right now, you need a net connection for it to work but the paid version promises to allow offline access in the future.

An app for everything

Fire up workflowy and you will be confronted by this giant white space. It can be daunting, nothing but white area enveloping your sight. But this is what makes it so powerful. You are deprived of all other distractions. No unnecessary due date crap, no title to fill in. Just you and your words. This is also what makes it so flexible. It doesn’t impose any restrictions on your list, so you are free to write and create list in any way you like. It’s a list in a list within a list. Take for example, you are writing on a new book. The main list is your book title, follow by the chapter’s name. Sub-list in your chapter’s name is your ideas, character’s development. All these can be further subdivided and move around as you go along.

In essence, workflowy is like a giant list, and you can create sub-list under it. Within this sub-list, you can have nested list and so on. You can further zoom into one of this list by clicking on the bullet point, after which you will be taken to a new page. Sublime.

What you can see from this app is a bird’s eye view of all the tasks you have written. You can organize them, prioritize them and execute them. You can zoom in to a particular task and add notes to the entry. It’s extremely functional, it’s very fluid and it’s great when you want to have an overview with regards to a particular task. Browse through them and you have an idea, and from there you know what’s missing.

Nothing is too small for a list. Your observations from watching the cartoon show with your kids could be the platform for future blog post. The contact number you have just gotten from your neighbor. Everything is part of a bigger thing. Every list is part of a bigger list. The possibilities are endless, i bet even with the same content, no 2 workflowy looks the same. You can tweak, organize them.

Some apps are targeted at specific audience. Some are better at project management tracking, some are good at reminding you to complete a particular task at a specific timing and date. All this have their places, but workflowy is like the jack of all trades. And this jack does everything competently. It can be as simple as you want it to be, or it can be a never ending tunnel. Everyone and anyone can benefit from it. You can easily master it, because the fact is, you just open the app up and input things.

Hash-tag and Sharing

Some of the neat features included are hash-tag #. It can be your GTD. Label them such as #Today, #Work, #Personal or #Important. Make a list that should be completed today and cross them off as you complete them. Nothing more satisfying than crossing tasks off your working list and knowing that there’s one less task to worry about. Sharing capability: You can share the list with the ones that you want. Say you are planning a picnic with your friends. Send them the list of items to bring on the day. You can choose to allow them to edit the list, or for just pure viewing. If you are ambitious enough, the cross platform sharing is ideal for virtual team collaborations too.

The normal version allows you to create up to 500 list per month. You can gain more space by having referrals or upgrading to their Pro version. Each referral gets you additional 250 items monthly. I’d rate myself as a moderate to heavy user and I create list for just about anything. With 750 items to play with monthly (thanks to a referral), I have yet to hit the limit.

Seriously, I have nothing but praise for workflowy. It’s understated, but words and already getting around. If you are already a workflowier, hello there. If you are sitting on the fence, get your feet down and try it out.

You might just be a advocate, like me.


Choosing What To Exclude Is The Hardest Thing

Tim Cook:

What we’re reading is that it’s a fairly compromised, confusing product, Cook said. One of the toughest things you do when making a product is to make hard tradeoffs. That’s what we’ve done with the iPad, and the resulting user experience is incredible.

Apple understood hard decision must be made. The rationale is not being good at everything. Their philosophy is to be great at something. The built quality of Ipad is still second to none. They understand to keep the form factor slim and sleek, they have to sacrifice retina screen for ipad mini.

Microsoft didn’t quite do that with Surface, Cook implied, and the market will recognize that. “You could design a car that flies and floats, but I don’t think it would do either of those things very well. … People will look at the iPad and at competitive offerings, and I think they’ll conclude the iPad is the better choice.”

MS is trying to please everyone. Here they have a device trying to fit into the needs of different type of users. Users are confused with what Surface can do for them. The fact is, the future is not looking exactly bright for them.

There is no denying that Windows are on a downward fall.

Once the snowball starts rolling, it picks up pace at a frenetic pace. Apple build and retain their customers around the core ecosystem. Microsoft may have to learn a thing or two because the barrier to exit is even more potent than the barrier to entry these days.

Practise The Art Of Self Control

It is interesting to read the impact of smartphones have on our lifestyle. At the same time, it is also very depressing to acknowledge the fact that our habits very much revolve around the smartphone.

Stephen Hackett:

The problem is that five years of reaching in my front right pocket any time I’m free has created a strong habit, and I need to quit cold turkey. 

I’m similar, only because my iPhone sits in my left pocket instead of the right one. I’m also guilty of reaching for my phone consciously or subconsciously  The action action i’m likely to do when i’m idling is to reach into my pocket. It’s like an addiction, or an assurance, whichever way you look at it. Assurance because it keeps me occupied when i’m aimless.

It’s the habit we are cultivating that is dangerous. Thanks to the advancement of technology, being bored is the least of our worry. We are being entertained anytime, anywhere. And being bored is actually vital, and essential for creative work.

We lose track of our surrounding, only to be too focused on what’s happening inside our smartphone.

If twitter is taking up too much of your time, delete it. It’s drastic, but action has to be taken for the good of our well being. If the twitter app is right in your screen, you can put them in a folder.

This solves 2 issues:

1) If you can’t see them as much as you do now, you are less likely to have the urge to click it.
2) It takes more than one click to get into the app. In other words, it makes you work harder to get into the app.

On my screen, i have productivity apps like Dropbox, Simplenote, iA Writer and Day One on my main screen. All games are hidden in one folder, and they are not sorted according to genre.

Ben Brooks:

When I stopped using Twitter in favor of App.net, I noticed that I just stopped caring about checking either that often. My App.net feed is so slow that I can catch up every few hours, in a few minutes.

With the abundance of apps craving for our attention, it is not surprise to note we are struggling to keep up with the hectic pace generated by our interests. Feeds unread, emails unopened, tweets unreplied, it all adds up.

We all have a choice, the choice to change our lifestyle.

It’s The Details That Matter

Philippe Starck:

We never retouched the project which means that from 2007, to the launch this year it is basically still the same,” Starck said. “We spent just one day every six weeks, for five years, on refinements. Millimetre by millimetre. Detail by detail.

So delicate, so precise, right down to every minute detail.

There is not a single useless item inside… not a single useless pillow, or a useless object. In that sense, it is the opposite of other boats. Other boats try to show off more and more. Venus is revolutionary. It’s the extreme opposite.

Job’s design process is not to remove everything right down to the bare minimum. Rather, it’s about building things from the bottom up. If things ain’t necessary, they would be left out.

Big or small, yacht or nano, it’s reflective of its obsessive personality for simplicity.

The Dawn Of A New Era

A few days back, i bit the bullet and ordered a MacBook. A Retina MacBook Pro 13″ to be exact. I figure out for my needs, a 13 inch would be sufficient and i don’t need the high end processor and nor the graphic power that the 15 inch MBP offers.

I went with the stock configuration, and that means i only have 128gig of space to work with. Gone are the days where i have tons of hard disk space, waiting for me to fill them up.

Speaking of which, as i recall the bitter-sweet memories of the past decade, i am struck by how awesome the technology world has enabled the world to be a better place. Involuntarily, memories came flowing back like raging river.

  • I hang out a lot in Xtremesystems
  • I was fascinated with heatsink design. My favorite is from Zalman, an exquisite work of beauty and performance. To top it off, they operate in nearly silent mode.
  • I like fans, namely 90mm ones.
  • I was obsessed with benchmarking. Superpi and Prime 95 were my playgrounds.
  • I sourced for the best BH5 ram. I still remember trying for 2-2-5 @ 250mhz.
  • There were many occasions where i ran case-less.
  • I would wait at the newsstand for the latest issue of Atomic and Maximum PC.

Those were the days. The memories shall remain beautiful and I will always recall them fondly.

The dawn of the next era is here, and it starts with iPhone and MacBook Pro.

A List Of Sites I Adore

I have always been a fan of sites that have clean design and writing with a personal touch. They represent what is good about the self-publishing scene and the advancement of technology.
I’m grateful for the design, ideas, insights and thoughts they have given me. I have learnt a big deal from them, and i feel i’m just at the start. I’m pretty sure as i embark on my own adventure, i hope to leave a trail like the ones mentioned. It’s a massive privilege to be able to acquire knowledge and pick up a few tips or two from these guys.

In no particular order, they are:

Shawn Blanc
Chris Pearson
Pat Flyn
Jamie Brittain

Rafal Tomal
Dustin Curtis
Alex Rister
Design by Front

And of course:
Leo Babauta