Category Archives: Tech

Three weeks with the new iPad

Awhile back I posted about being a freelance tech worker. Here’s another tech related post, originally posted at my MacProductive Blog. For anyone living remotely in a small space the iPad is a perfect choice for computing and for many it may be the best Internet access available.

It’s been three weeks with the iPad 3. By necessity it has been my primary work machine. Due to the remote location of my cabin/office my internet choices are limited. My first generation iPad was jail broken and I used it as a hotspot for my MacBook Air, my primary tool for web design projects. To be honest most days that first-generation iPad was used primarily as a hotspot. When my workday was finished I would use the iPad for reading books, RSS feeds via Reeder or browsing the web with Safari but that was about it. With the new iPad I have not been able to jailbreak and so it has become my main tool for getting things done and I am happy to report that it has held up well in this role.

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago in my iPad 3 Mini Review the increased RAM in the new iPad has made it a much more functional device and I don’t hesitate to switch apps as I work. In fact, thanks to the increased memory, switching between multiple apps is instantaneous. Unlike the first generation iPad, this new iPad truly feels like a powerful computing device.

I’ve compiled a list of my most used apps thus far. A typical day includes the following tasks:

  • Client website updates
  • Website design, ie, coding CSS and HTML
  • Correspondence via texts and email
  • Project and task tracking
  • Writing
  • Invoicing and basic banking

My most often used apps:

  • Safari and Reeder
  • Textastic
  • Mail and Messages
  • CloudConnect
  • Wunderkit and Calendar
  • Blogsy, WordPress, and Writing Kit
  • FileMaker and PocketMoney

A few notes

One area I’m still not settled on is task and project tracking. I had been using Wunderlist but switched to Wunderkit in the hopes that some of our community projects might be better coordinated with shared projects. Unfortunately I’ve not had a lot of success getting folks on board with it. As of now there is no app for the iPad so I do most of my Wunderkit tracking via the web app which is not too great on the iPad. The iPhone Wunderkit app is actually pretty good and I may begin using it more.

Another part of my workflow that is a bit clumsy is image creation and editing which still requires that I go to my Mac for Pixelmator or Photoshop. Once I’ve got the image set there I turn on the iPad’s wifi and get the file via CloudConnect. Then I turn off the wifi and upload the file to the server via 4G and CloudConnect. Photoshop Touch has very good reviews so I’ll likely give that a try soon.

Other work related apps that I have but don’t use very often include Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. I can’t imagine not having them and I do expect that they will get a good bit of use.


Though it’s technically not an app I have to mention the importance of the new dictation feature. With the original iPad I felt I had to have an external keyboard. I am a very fast typist and using the software keyboard frustrated me. To be fair, I didn’t really give it a chance. The dictation feature in the new iPad has been an amazing benefit to my productivity. It makes sending emails, texting, and even writing articles much easier.


As much as I enjoyed my first generation iPad for reading and casual email, it was never a work tool for me. With so little memory it felt more like a casual device. On the few occasions I tried to use it to get things done I often ended up frustrated. Not so with the new iPad! This is a very capable device easily up to the task of getting actual work done.


Being a one man shop


This was actually written for the blog on my freelance Mac consulting/web design gig, MacProductive but I thought I’d cross post it here as I’d guess some of the folks that read a site about homesteading might also be interested in making a living doing freelance type work as they seem to mesh together pretty well. I suppose it’s meant to just provide a bit of a taste of what the workflow is like for anyone who’s not taken the leap but is thinking of it. I may do a few more similar posts, filling in a few details on the things a freelancer has to think about and do.

MacProductive is not a multi-person business. I do it all. Track invoices, meet clients, code css, set-up tables in FileMaker, set appointments, design graphics in Photoshop, write some content, track project status, remind clients when they’ve not gotten me something I need, slop the hogs and more. Just kidding about the hogs but I do have a small flock of chickens! Going it alone requires organization and a willingness to develop a large skill set. No doubt it is a challenge but it also keeps things interesting.

Oh, and I should offer a bit of context, in this small town setting most of my work is with small business owners, many of which are not all that tech savy. More than a few of them do little more than check email and browse the web. Several of them only have Facebook accounts because a family member insisted and set it up. They are usually middle aged or older and so busy with their businesses that they’ve not taken the time to really learn what computers and web technologies have to offer.

Here’s an example workflow for one of my recent web projects. First, of course, meeting the client. In this particular case I heard from a friend that they were interested in having me do a site so I stopped into their shop when I was in town. Just as often contact is via email or a phone call. Luckily I dropped in at a time when they could actually spend some time meeting so I didn’t have to reschedule a return trip for the initial consult.

We spent time discussing the content and design of the site they wanted as well as the domain name. I set a time to return for some photos. We discussed fees and payment and I was on my way.  A two days later I emailed them an initial design with some basic content written up and in place. A day later I returned for a follow-up meeting/progress report and to take pictures. We refined the text, filled a few gaps, settled on a domain name and I was on my way.

By the following day I’d set-up the domain name and hosting (which I will manage for them, remind them of payments due… another responsibility for me), refined the text and processed images. At this point I fine tuned the design of the site, photoshopped a few images and then uploaded the site. Over the weekend I made a few more refinements and submitted to Google. The following week stopped in again. At that point the site is, essentially, finished. Time to drop off an invoice. Over the next month or so I’ll monitor Google and if the business owner can coordinate with his daughter who manages his personal facebook account, we’ll get a business page set-up and linked to. Total time on project: about 7 hours and another hour at the shop talking, over the course of about a week.

Apps used to get it all done: Coda, Transmit, iPhoto, TextEdit and Photoshop to put the site together.  iCal for setting meetings/reminders and FileMaker Pro for invoicing.


Geek in the Garden

Please excuse this momentary lapse into a bit of geekitude. A few years back I started using geekinthegarden for email and various account user names because I was, after all a geek who spend a good bit of his time in the garden. These past two years living at the homestead I’ve been much less a geek and more a gardener. In fact, a big part of my push to move to the homestead was to get my hands back into the soil and to finally learn more about permaculture and put it into practice. Beginning in 2005 I’d started to see a pileup of evidence that peak oil and general collapse were finally at the door and felt it was time to get serious about growing my own food.

As I’ve gotten a bit more involved in town via the Fredericktown Revitalization and in working with the city on their website this past winter I found myself at the computer more often and have really enjoyed the work. I’ve built a few new websites as well as a pretty extensive FileMaker database. Something that I’ve really taken note of is the lack of local utilization of technology by the small businesses and non-profits around main street. Most people know the basics but VERY FEW get beyond the web browser. I’ve met lots of folks that could benefit from knowing more about the available tools. Small businesses should not be tracking inventory with a spiral bound notebook in 2010.

It was easy to sit at the computer during the cold days of winter but now that the weather has warmed it is increasingly difficult and the internal conflict has gotten me thinking a bit about the future. What is the role of technology in our lower energy future. Is this kind of work to build the digital literacy of a community a wasted effort given the kind of future we have coming? Just how important will laptops and iPads be in two years? Five years? What about websites, spreadsheets and databases? While I really like the idea of sharing the knowledge I have about these kinds of digital tools spring suddenly reminds me that this is the time to grow food. Should I also be shifting my community time in the same direction?

I’m also thinking about this in the larger context of the FRI and the larger Main Street movement. I strongly support the general idea of building the local economy as well as the preservation of historical main street architecture. Neighborhood and main street revitalization is a good thing but there should be a balance in our efforts to build (or rebuild) the local economy within the context of a limited energy future. Peak oil is here and will only become more obvious. Have I spent too much time thinking about building/stabilizing the local economy and not enough time thinking about the local food and energy system? I realize that it does not have to be either/or, there can be a balance. When I joined up with the FRI I knew it was a Main Street group and had (have) no problem with that but I was more interested in the Transition Towns idea. Main Street is in the right direction but I’m impatient with our lack of progress and what often times seems to be a lack of interest in the local business community.

As an anarchist I’m not all that interested in the profit motive or volunteering my time to help others make a profit. I don’t have a local business, they do. They don’t seem to understand the interconnection between their business and their community. That said, I AM interested in building the self reliance and resilience of the local community and that means working with business owners to some degree. I suppose what this post comes down to is that I’m trying to find a balance in how I spend my time. I’m wondering what folks in this community want and need most, trying to understand how I can have the most meaningful impact.

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