43 Folders

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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Apple, Macs & OS X

Life Without a Laptop, Week 1

When the iPhone came out this summer, I was locked into a contract with another cell phone carrier, one that I couldn't escape on pain of a $200 surcharge. So I waited it out, and dreamed my little iPhone dreams all alone with my Plain Jane cell phone and suddenly archaic-looking iPod Video.

To be honest, I didn't really need an iPhone. I work from home, rarely more than a few yards from a computer (we had two laptops and a Mini in our house at the time). I don't travel for work, and when we go on vacation, I never bring work with me anyway. When I do leave the house for extended periods of time during the day, running errands, taking appointments, etc, it doesn't matter because I'd trained myself to plan ahead for that situation. Besides, I never get any messages that can't wait a couple hours until I get back to a computer anyway.

I was amazingly good at rationalizing away my need for an iPhone, but I still wanted one ever so badly. So last week I created a way out.

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Jacob Marley vs. Bob Marley: Shutting Out the Ghost of Music Past

In the few weeks since I wrote my first plea to trim the fat from your iTunes library, I've continued purging my own collection. On the first pass, I simply deleted the clearly objectionable stuff, things that I couldn't understand what made me want to keep them in the first place. It was rather easy, and like I said, it slimmed my corpulent media collection by a third.

Now though, it's getting down to brass tacks, and I'm making some hard decisions about what to keep. I don't need to do this for disk space, mind you, but as I've been trying to do a better job of organizing all my music and video with smarter lists and ratings, I've come to a simple conclusion: even if I still think it's good, I just have too much.

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My fling with a Sony Reader

So there I was in Las Vegas, flush with cash and giddy with excitement. Seduced by the sleek lines, thin profile, and promised efficiency of the PRS-505. Call me “Sony Reader,” I imagined it purring, “and together we will travel the world.” It spoke to both the bibliophile and gadget hound that live deep within my soul. How could I resist?

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Palimpsest: the guide to a (mostly) paperless life

It seems that many of us otherwise computer-oriented geeks have a surprising and earth-unfriendly confession to make: we love paper. Notwithstanding the entirely digital nature of my own trade, for example, I'll freely admit that there is really nothing quite like the smooth glide of a mechanical pencil over a big sheet of crisp, white office paper to facilitate good writing and thinking.

I can't plan out a new piece of software—or write an essay for that matter—without first messily scribbling my ideas out as mind-maps or rough user-interface sketches onto paper. My brainstorms are too messy and flow too quickly for the computer to be able to accommodate my chaos, yet that early disorder is essential to crafting the order and structure that will follow.

And yet I used to have serious reservations about this tendency to spoodge my thought process onto tree carcasses. It wasn't until I finally learned how to get rid of paper, that I was able properly to embrace its use in my work.

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Vox Pop: Workflow for the Fujitsu ScanSnap?

In comments about yesterday's "Making friends with paper" post, I was reminded by 43f member Adam Hooks...

A couple months ago, on a MBW episode, Merlin, you recommended some scanner/pdf solutions and you said you would elaborate on that on 43f at some point. I thought this was related to reducing your reliance on paper. How did your scanning experiment go?

Adam remembers correctly that I purchased and preliminarily fiddled with the Fujitsu ScanSnap S500M for OS X (Info, Amazon). It's a small-footprint, high-speed document scanner that a lot of people have been talking about lately. I'd read so many reviews and blog posts about how easy it is to use that I was intoxicated by the dream of a life -- if not without paper storage -- where I could at least try to minimize my unnecessary paper clutter and start making document archiving easier and more searchable.

Given the not inconsiderable cost of the unit, I'm embarrassed to say that I got busy with other stuff and haven't yet returned to using the ScanSnap in any automated way.

Doesn't mean I'm not interested or haven't gotten started...

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A Tale of Disk Crashing Woe, and the Utilities That Saved Me

Apologies if I'm a little cranky, but I've suffered two hard drive crashes in as many weeks, and while I was able to recover somewhat gracefully, the aggravation of watching plodding status bars for hours on end while I wait for my data to load has been unbearable. Fortunately, my wife has employed Bobby Knight-proof safety features in our home office and chained everything to the desk, or else I would have chucked it all out the window.

But since I'm finally back online, I wanted to give a tip of the binder clip to three little programs that saved my bacon during these past two weeks, one crowd favorite and two lowly OS X utilities:

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Vox Pop: What's on your iPhone app wish list?

Now that Steve has announced there's an iPhone/iPod Touch SDK coming in February, what's at the top of your application wish list?

The Question to You

What’s the first application for iPhone you’d like to see? Where’s the biggest hole in your iPhone world right now?

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Put Your iTunes Library on a Diet

My music buying habits have slowed considerably since my college days, when I'd rush down to the music store every Tuesday and spend every penny I hadn’t guzzled through a beer bong the previous weekend, but I still managed to amass a rather prodigious CD collection. When I got a Mac and an iPod, this turned into a rather prodigious iTunes library, and quickly became a major thorn in my side.

Having suffered through a couple hard drive crashes, upgrades, and subsequent backing and re-backing up lately, I've really been feeling the weight of that 100+ GB media millstone around my neck. I felt so great when I ripped that last CD and put all those unsightly jewel cases into storage, thinking it would simplify my life. Instead, it just created bigger headaches.

I know, I know, there are a bazillion ways I can slice and dice my iTunes library, storing it on different drives, shunting the videos off to a server, pimping out my machines with terabyte drives, etc, but it begs the question: do I really need all that crap in my life?

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Clippings intelligently convert "stuff" into OmniFocus tasks

[Disclosure: I'm a volunteer contributor on the development of the OmniFocus app]

You could be forgiven for being exhausted by my harangues about the importance of putting actions into their own special place outside of email, web sites, or other action-bearing media ("Email is just a series of tubes," Senator Ted Stevens, might one day say).

In fact, liberating actions from the email in which they arrived and putting them into a system that you trust is arguably the most important tenet of Inbox Zero. But it's also advice that leaves a lot of people scratching their heads: "OK, big shot, so where do I put this new task, and how exactly is it supposed to get there?"

Well, I'm happy to say that recent sneaky peaks of OmniFocus now have a pretty neat way to help with this problem. It's called "Clippings," and if you're familiar with the similar feature in OmniOutliner, you can imagine how it might work in the context of a task-tracking app and the complementary apps whose contents you want to direct to it.

Alongside the recently-added Perspectives, this is a feature that is making me very happy right now.

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Geek Throwdown: How to sync two or more Macs?

Enter the Octagon

Here’s an experimental new feature: The Throwdown. Take a problem that lots of people face and tell us your personal favorite way to deal with it — in as much detail and with as much persuasion as you can muster.

Today, a lot of us are living on two or more Macs -- which is great, except for the challenge of keeping the contents and settings of multiple machines effortlessly in sync.

Now before you pop in, holler "dot mac," and jump back on your Segway®, consider that many folks (including your author) are looking for a lot more than simple document syncing and perfunctory preference sharing. How about if your needs are more nuanced:

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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