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Month: March 2013

Day One for iOS gets a huge update with PDF export and more

Day One for iOS gets a huge update with PDF export and more

Day One appOne of my absolute most used apps is the journalling app Day One, available for iOS and OSX. The iOS version this week received a major update, going to version 1.10, where the ability to export entries (single or a range) to a PDF file was introduced.

This is a terrific enhancement that allows the user to extract key data, perhaps sorted by tag (introduced last year to the iOS version) to a standalone PDF document, or perhaps to a PDF document that might then be stored in a system such as Evernote or DEVONthink.

Other updates include:

  • Custom date range- Tag filtering
  • Send PDF to iBooks, Dropbox and other apps
  • Export will run in background
  • Quick single entry export via Send menu
  • Historical weather increased from 3 days to 30 days
  • New reminder sound
  • Added Sanchez font option
  • Improved header and HTML styling

I love the direct Day One is taking, and look forward to these updates (and previous ones like tagging and geo-location) being introduced to the OSX version, soon (please)!

My iPad On The Go Setup

My iPad On The Go Setup

Anyone who has ever seen a scuba diver knows that diving is an activity that is intensely reliant on equipment. As a scuba instructor-trainer, I know that there is an important rule of thumb in how much gear to carry on any given dive – as much as you need and as little as you can get away with! I generally don’t need twin large tanks for a shallow reef dive, but these are a necessity when doing a “tec dive” to 50m.
When using a minimalist productivity solution – like iPad – this rule of thumb is equally important. It’s easy to forego a laptop computer, and then find yourself carrying around so much stuff that you lose most of the benefits of minimalism but you also need to make sure you’ve got what you need.

As part of my iPads of March challenge to test whether an iPad is a sufficient device for conducting my on-the-go activities, I thought it would be good for me to share my on-the-go setup.

Starting with the core, I use a iPad (3rd generation) with WiFi+Cellular and 64GB. I always max out the memory, as I store a lot of video content, and increasingly use my iPad for presentations. Although I could get away with a WiFi only model, and use Personal Hotspot on my iPhone or other available WiFi, I find that when traveling internationally not all carriers support personal hotspot, and WiFi in hotels and conference venues is often “spotty”.

When going with just the iPad, I use a Coocoon Gramercy messenger sling. This bag has room for my iPad, number of accessories organised with the included “GRID-IT” organisation system (pictured) and a small notepad (I generally carry a Moleskine for note taking). The size of this sling case prompts me to not carry unnecessary items around.

In the GRID-IT, I carry a number of accessories that I might need, including:

  • Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. I used to carry around an Apple Bluetooth keyboard in a Origami case, but the Logitech gives me a smaller profile option with overall less to carry around.
  • Mophie juice pack power station: although iPad generally gives me enough battery for a pretty intensive day of on-the-go work, you should always carry backup power. To be honest, I use this more often for my iPhone
  • Apple display connectors to connect to a screen or projector using HDMI or VGA
  • Apple camera connection kit (USB and SD)
  • Apple earPods
  • XtremeMac 2n1 stylus pen. Although I am not a big user of stylii, I love pens, and it’s occasionally handy to have a stylus at hand.
  • A small microfibre cloth

That’s pretty much it. I’ll be heading out shortly for a day of meetings and this is precisely the kit I’ll be carrying. Probably won’t use the display adapters or camera connection bits today, but they’re always handy to have on hand.

Now you know what I carry as an on-the-go setup for iPad for meetings, and general work out and about. I have additional items when traveling away from home, or when presenting or conducting training, and will cover these later in a separate post – remembering that we carry as much as we need, and as little as we can get away with.

Evernote’s password hack, and the security of your stuff in the cloud

Evernote’s password hack, and the security of your stuff in the cloud

Like all Evernote users, today I received an email (and blog post) advising that there has been an attempted security attack to their system, and that they have force-changed all user passwords:

Evernote’s Operations & Security team has discovered and blocked suspicious activity on the Evernote network that appears to have been a coordinated attempt to access secure areas of the Evernote Service.

As a precaution to protect your data, we have decided to implement a password reset.

I am a heavy Evernote user, and put a lot of stuff up there – from basic research to business records. I love that I can easily find my key information so easily. They have solid apps for OSX and iOS (although they have been increasinly buggy lately), and a good browser based system to get at my information from anywhere. I love having my stuff in the cloud so I can get at it whereever I am.

For the past couple of weeks I was teaching a PADI Instructor Development Course in Fiji and on several occasions I was able to quickly get to records that I needed but didn’t have with me through my iPad or MacBook Air. Too easy.

Lately I’ve been wondering about the wisdom of having all my eggs in one basket. I trust the Evernote team, and as a Premium User I have a paid account. But my concerns are two-fold:

  1. If Evernote ever goes away (unlikely, but still a risk), what will happen to my data.
  2. Evernote has to be ever-vigilant for hacking attempts, and they have to win 100% – hackers only have to win once in a blue moon.
  3. As Evernote’s servers are not in Australia, my data may be legally accessed by a foreign government without warrant!

So it was good to see the following paragraph:

In our security investigation, we have found no evidence that any of the content you store in Evernote was accessed, changed or lost. We also have no evidence that any payment information for Evernote Premium or Evernote Business customers was accessed.

The next paragraph, while honest and direct, certainly gave me pause to continue to consider the future of my information storage:

The investigation has shown, however, that the individual(s) responsible were able to gain access to Evernote user information, which includes usernames, email addresses associated with Evernote accounts, and encrypted passwords. Even though this information was accessed, the passwords stored by Evernote are protected by one-way encryption. (In technical terms, they are hashed and salted.)

Just yesterday (before the email went out), I downloaded a copy of DEVONthink, an OSX app that does many of the same things – allowing you to store snippets and documents, easily find them, OCR them, etc. Using DropBox you can sync data between multiple Macs, and there is an iOS app. The latter feels a bit clunky, and looks like you need to sync via Wifi. I hope Dropbox sync is coming soon to that, because my iPad is rapidly becoming my main on-the-go device.

There has been a lot of debate about Evernote vs. DEVONthink, and there are very passionate people on both sides, with some very persuasive reasons for their approach. Evernote’s cloud based storage is both it’s greatest feature and it’s biggest drawback, depending on your perspective. I had planned to use DEVONthink side-by-side with Evernote for a couple of weeks to get a feel for which (if either) is the better approach for me. I still will, but I think I’ll move more sensitive info straight away.

Back to the security issues. I have waiting for a while for Evernote to introduce 2-factor authentication. Google has had this for some time, and Dropbox also introduced 2-factor security in 2012, following similar hacking attempts.

Evernote needs to implement 2-factor security as a matter of urgency.

While I am at it, Apple also needs to implement 2-factor security for their iCloud services as a matter of urgency, particularly if they want Documents in the Cloud to be taken seriously.

Going forward, my personal rule is that 2-factor authentication is a threshhold feature for any cloud based service that I use to store any thing I would consider proprietary or sensitive, let along confidential. I recommend you consider the same approach.

Evernote’s team made some additional excellent suggestions for security:

  • Avoid using simple passwords based on dictionary words

  • Never use the same password on multiple sites or services

  • Never click on ‘reset password’ requests in emails – instead go directly to the service

The first 2 should be an absolute given, but it’s clearly not the case. The third one has tricked most people at least once, making the first two even more important.

Most people I know have a password management strategy that consists of three passwords:

  • a simple “throwaway” password they reuse on most websites
  • a more secure one for some selected sites
  • a most secure one for banking, finance, health, etc

In all three cases, most people re-use the same passwords, perhaps with minor variations.

The hackers know this and have setup ways of “sniffing” passwords. One way is to setup a rogue site, and when users try to sign on, they take the username and password and throw that at other sites, knowing that they will often get a hit. Even if they only get 1% success, they have a starting point. Mat Honan of Wired magazine’s own case teaches us that once a hacker gets “in” at a low level, they can use that information to gradually get full access to your life.

So you need to ensure you don’t re-use passwords, and that those passwords must not be simple. When it comes to hacking and security, most hackers are way better at hacking than users are at securing.

This is where my next rule of web security kicks in – I use 1Password to generate a separate password for each and every site I visit. Of course there are a lot of sites I visited before using 1Password, so once those sites are in 1Password, I can from time-to-time go through and manually change those passwords, starting with the passwords that are least secure.

Whilst on 1Password, I’d recommend that if users want cloud access, they store the 1Password file in a Dropbox account, not iCloud, because of the fact that Dropbox has implemented 2-factor security.

I also have a category of sites that require the highest security, so I have those sorted together into a group in the 1Password app, and I change those passwords twice a year when the clocks change with Daylight Savings (an idea I got from MacSparky).

Clearly this issue has made me re-consider aspects of my own approach to information security, and has reinforced others. I recommend that everyone do the same, and take at least the following actions:

  1. Use only reputable services that provide 2-factor authentication for cloud storage of personal, sensitive or confidential data;
  2. Have a personal password management policy that includes never re-using passwords, and never using dictionary passwords. Use of an app like 1Password, LastPass or similar may help.

The “be alert, not alarmed” approach is the right one. We users need to recognise that information security is a moving target, and that balancing convenience, ubiquity and security is a constantly changing challenge. We need to reevaluate our balance regularly!

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iPads of March 2013

iPads of March 2013

My iPad main screenIn March 2012 I decided to go for a month using my iPad as my primary on-the-go device – a month I called iPads of March. My iMac in my home/office continued to be my “heavy-lifting” device for processing images/videos, building presentations, text formatting for some manuscripts I was working on and for accounting activities for my business. But I used the iPad for pretty much everything else – including researching, writing, email, task management, presentations, etc.

I wanted to test the idea that iPad is approaching the point when it could be a primary on-the-go device for a power-user like me. For content production as well as consumption.

Of course, where iPad leads others follow, so I know that when iPad reaches that point, we consumers will have a range of iOS, Android, Windows and other devices to help us do our work and live our lives.

I chose March last year for a couple of reasons – it was the month that the 3rd generation iPad was to be launched, but it was also a month in which I had no scuba instructor courses scheduled, as these courses are intensive on my workflows and technology (multimedia rich presentations and lots and lots of paperwork).

My findings were interesting. I found that my iPad could easily handle 90% of my on-the-go work that my MacBook Air would normally perform. In fact, there were three main things that were missing that would be a show-stopper for using the iPad as my primary device.

  1. Multimedia presentations using Keynote were (and continue to be) awkward and crappy. Many of my Keynote presentations have embedded media, and getting these into Keynote for iOS is cumbersome and results in significant quality reduction of the videos.
  2. Document scanning to PDF is pretty awful. I don’t mean low volume stuff using the iPad camera, but piles of multipage documents. I need to keep records of lots of paperwork, and to date I have not found a workable solution that approaches my NeatReceipts scanner for scanning out and about. When I am in town, I can do my scanning at home on my trusty Fujitsu ScanSnap 1500M.
  3. Business accounting software. My accountant wants me to use MYOB. I have the FirstEdge software for OSX, and there is no iOS application support.

In 2013, things are changing. While Keynote has not improved media handling as yet, there are other web/app based solutions that I am exploring. For scanning, the introduction of the iOS capabilities into the Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 suggests that future versions of their mobile scanners will do the same. For financial accounting, I might upgrade to a package that would allow mobile integration. Or just live with the fact that I do my finances only from the home office.

March 2013 presents itself as another month with no scheduled courses that require rich multimedia, though I have some other courses/presentations that will allow me to test some concepts. My MacBook Air is in with the Genius Bar folks for repair, so it seems to me that I have once again the opportunity to use the iPad as my main on-the-go device. I am going to focus on making presentations work on the iPad, as scanning is on the horizon.

I’ll make two quick predictions and see how they turn out.

  1. The iPad will have made giant strides, and will be close the gap on becoming my primary on-the-go device
  2. There will be no new iPad launched in March

Keep an eye on djp.me/ides/ to see my posts tagged about my iPads of March 2013 experiences.