Category Archives: Creativity

The MacBook Pro w Touch Bar is Great for this Knowledge Professional


Macs are still Relevant to the Knowledge Professional

There are lots of reasons why a knowledge professional would like this Mac. First, it is a Mac which is historically the favorite for creatives. I’m going to assume that knowledge professionals must be creative to do their jobs regardless of the field. If you are operating with knowledge at a professional level and might be a knowledge enthusiast too, this is your brand.

But this gorgeous MacBook Pro is Pricey!

Let’s get this out of the way early. Yes. Apple raised their prices on these better quality Macs. You get your money’s worth, but yeah, it will cost you. As my father used to say, money doesn’t grow on trees. And the last 30-years haven’t been kind to the middle class. But your tools have never been like this.  You are better educated and more knowledge-capable than ever. If you are serious about your career, this big tax deduction is a great investment. It is your primary tool so consider cutting back elsewhere in your budget.

iPad is Not (Yet) Enough. Now that you are preferring Mac and are creating with knowledge whether writing, advising, creating presentations or diagramming, you’ll probably want a Mac not just an iPad to get your work done. I say you need both if you can do it because reading, the primary activity of a knowledge professional, is best on an iPad by a large margin. It feels better. It’s less awkward.

Mac wins when you are writing. If you are reading and typing, you’ll probably be better on a Mac than an iPad just due to the advantage extra MacBook functionality. With a Mac you can still read but you get some extras. The screen is adjustable to any angle and is always with you (you don’t need a stand or foldable cover to prop it up). The keyboard is really good and is built in. It works well on a table or your lap or anything in between. While Apple doesn’t give you a touch screen, it gives you the world’s best trackpad which you can operate and still keep your hands in perfect typing position.

Mac wins when you are gathering and organizing as you begin or review a project. The Finder with its multiple windows and ease of connecting and working with external data, beats the iPad handily in these critical knowledge functions. There are many Mac apps to choose from. I like Scapple for the visual note-taking. I like Ulysses because it keeps my serious writing and important notes in a database so all that stuff is there so I can grab what I need quickly. I think Scrivener is great for long writing projects. But also we have lovely OmniOutliner and Omnigraffle.

Why Would the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar be your choice for your next portable Mac?

Look and Feel

Jony Ive outdid himself with this Mac. I’ve got the space gray model which is stunning. I believe and its been documented that beauty can inspire and energize. What knowledge professional doesn’t need all the inspiration and energy they can get when faced with tough creative challenges? It is smooth as silk opening, closing  and adjusting the screen angle.  The screen is wide color and brilliantly lit. The touch bar is perfectly blended with the keyboard. The 4 Thunderbolt ports are small leaving the sides uncrowded.

Form Factor

I’ve been using the MacBook 12 and I have to say that the small size and 2 lb. weight are wonderful on your lap or in your bag. It’s better for me to have the extra screen size, though. I like big screens because I get a larger canvas just like I like bigger notebooks and note pads when I need to figure out what I am doing on a new problem or project. For me, the 13″ size is as big as I’m willing to carry or hold. I would not have gone 13″ if the MBPTB was bigger or heavier than its compact 3 lbs. I like that it is smaller than the MacBook Air 13 by a large margin and, of course, way cooler. It’s more comfortable on my lap.

The Amazing Touch Bar

I’m typing on it now. I have an iPad Pro 12.7 next to me but it is sitting idle for the reasons I’ve just covered. The Touch ID on the right edge of the touch bar is the biggest favorite out of the box. It’s not to be typing to login anymore. I haven’t learned much about the new touchbar yet, but I like that Apple has given me a small strip of iOS in this new MacBook Pro. That strip is great for discovering the commands available at any given moment. Simply engaging touch in the middle of a writing project may help your brain get a little more creative. I’m thinking it engages with the right brain, subconscious, primitive capacities of the mind where breakthroughs and insights are facilitated.

 Largest Trackpad

With the exception of the new MBP15 trackpad, this is the biggest trackpad around. Apple already makes by far the best trackpads. Turns out as you get into gestures including drag, pinch and zoom, the bigger the better. If palm rejection wasn’t excellent, the size of the trackpad would be an issue. Not a problem that I’ve experienced.

Fastest Solid State Drive

Apple says this solid state drive is twice as fast as previous SSD generations. This affects how fast things start – you are doing one thing and you do another thing. It’s extremely responsive. There’s no resistance to your effort. Faster is better when you work on hard stuff.

The USB-C Thunderbolt Ports

I’m not the best one to judge the downsides of not having the ports that came on previous MacBook Pros. I already have been using a single USB-C port with my MacBook 12 for over a year and a half and 4 ports seem like a complete luxury even though USB-C. They aren’t as compatible so I’ve used Apple 3 port adapters when I wanted power and a backup. With four ports, I don’t need a hub or multiple function adapters. I plug in power in one port and a hard drive and a USB stick all at the same time. I’ve got a 64 gig USB-stick that has a regular USB3 side and a USB-C side so that’s already available and I recommend one of these if you are new to USB-C.

My 2013 MacBook Pro 13 had an SD card slot, 2 USB3 ports and a Thunderbolt 2 port.  Now I get 2 full speed Thunderbolt 3 ports and 2 full speed second generation USB-C ports. I just bought 2 new $89 1-terabyte 7200 rpm G-drive portable drives in space gray from the Apple Store. I can’t find that $89 price anywhere else so I think Apple is helping out on that price a bit to make buying new USB-C drives palatable.

I am a technology enthusiast, so all these really powerful and fast, state of the art ports seem good. The lack of legacy compatibility and requirements to sometimes use an adapter for old drives seems like a very reasonable price to pay considering how small and light the MBPTB is and what I get. You can get a USB-C to USB3 adapter for about $10. Apple has their USB-C to USB3 adapter for sale for $9. Apple is trying to make these adapters affordable to smooth your way into the future.

You can keep all of your dongles at home except maybe take that USB stick with USB-C and USB-3. You already had a USB stick with you anyway didn’t you?


Knowledge Enthusiasts and Knowledger

I’ve been writing about knowledge apps for over two years here and now I’m going to begin the reveal on my latest knowledge pursuit.

I am building an iOS and Mac Knowledge app using FileMaker 12. FileMaker Go on iOS is free. My distribution options are wide open. This is the creative part of my app journey, though, so distribution is not on my mind yet. It is great fun building the app I want for my iPhone, iPad and Mac.


I call my new app-in-the-making Knowledger. It’s the shortest app name I could think of that plays on the word Knowledge – the focus of the app. For now it is a code name. Things are in flux.

Knowledger is a customizable, personal knowledge dashboard. It can pull information from Wikipedia, Google Search and Google Maps on subjects of interest. It is your own database and internet tool. Ambitious Knowledge Professionals may want to use FileMaker Pro to integrate Knowledger into their own Filemaker framework. Lack of integration is one of the frustrations in the knowledge arena and the door is open to go there as needed and desired.

Knowledge Enthusiasts

If you are a knowledge professional, you must keep up in your area of specialized knowledge and also knowledge in general – including current events. You don’t operate in a vacuum. Forces outside your specialty affect your work. Your perishable knowledge exists in world that changes every day.

Computers have been the tool du jour for knowledge professionals for good reason. You need to master the tool to function as a knowledge professional or pay a price. Now we have new species of computers: iPhones, iPads and their brethren providing access to information 24/7.

Are you a Knowledge Enthusiast? I’ve come to believe that my real market is what I call Knowledge Enthusiasts. I’m one. I love to learn. I have learning goals that exceed my professional interests. I am curious about my passions and become curious easily. Managing my attention so that it goes where my priorities are is part of the reason for Knowledger.

Maybe 5 – 10% of the population share this passion for knowledge whether working or not. That’s where Knowledger comes into play more broadly.

The Holy Grail of Knowledge

I’m treading on dangerous ground working on an app called Knowledger. Having access and storage of all your notes, ideas and clippings, books, whatever is what the knowledge enthusiast craves. Ideas, insights and information slip away as other pieces of information and other ideas come to mind. Knowledge at your fingertips. Google says they want to put the world’s knowledge at your beck and call. I’m entering holy grail turf with caution in my own way and trying to keep focus in the midst of a hurricane. Here’s what I’m up to.

Knowledger Features in Development

In its current incarnation, Knowledger tracks your people, groups, places, things, ideas and works. Whenever you encounter any of these and want to save them and follow them as needed, you just type in the name. Data entry is next to nill. Quick. No hassle. Frictionless.

One of the problems you encounter on iOS is that you have to operate in app silos – App A doesn’t know what App B is doing. That problem is starting to be addressed here and there by URL schemes that allow apps to talk to each other. Knowledger uses URL schemes to talk to other apps. Knowledger can access the web with FileMaker’s built in browser, but stopping there limits you. Key Apps used in concert can crucially improve the experience and aid your knowledge quest.

Knowledger can talk directly to excellent Wikipedia apps like Articles and Wikipanion. It can talk to Chrome if you have it installed. It can talk to Drafts and Day One. This inter-application communication is a key feature of an app that is designed to be your dashboard to the world of information beyond your doorstep.


Creating requires invention which requires concentration over time. It is facilitated by obsession. To be creative you need to be mulling over the roadblocks to your vision, dwelling in the subject matter at play and using your subconscious to do the rest while you are driving, dreaming or in the shower. You need to have your note pad ready at all times to capture the stray insight that comes your way. But, the dwelling on and obsession piece is where Knowledger comes in.


There are huge possibilities for knowledger. We are a world of knowledge workers in a knowledge economy. Flooded with information, most of which we don’t want. Collect the places that catch your interest and learn about them in your spare time. I’ve got Iowa where my grand father was born to go with Duluth where my Norwegian grand parents migrated. I’ve got the classic cities like Paris, London, Rome and Berlin. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland. And Akihabara, the amazing gadget shopping mecca in Japan. Every time I capture a new place or person I get a sense of satisfaction that I’ve claimed them for my collection.

Better Use of your Time

If you are a knowledge enthusiast, you may be among the minority who resist the call of various iOS games, staying on track with your quest for relevant knowledge. Or not. I would like you to have Knowledger with you as a constructive option and alternative to seductive time-fillers.

With Knowledger, you spontaneously add people, places and things as they occur to you. You favorite the ones you want to dwell on and unfavorite them when they’ve become less interesting or you’ve moved on.

That’s it. Your knowledge system dashboard and personal interests database.

Considerations on Whether to Get an iPad mini

Oct 29: I see that all models of the iPad mini are now showing 2 weeks for their delivery time in the US Apple store. Brave souls have taken the plunge sight unseen. It would help to evaluate this new device to hold it in one’s hand and try it out though. I’ll report back to you on Friday when mine arrives.

Like most Apple products, the build of the smaller tablet is excellent, easily surpassing the competition on the market. By comparison, the Nexus 7 and Fire HD feel like toys. Other manufacturers are going to have to up their game with this product in town. It’s just a striking difference in materials and solidness.

Updated Oct 26: I  preordered a white, wifi-only 16gb iPad mini at midnight Thursday. Please note, I would get an LTE 32gb iPad mini if it was my only iPad but I’m keeping my iPad 3 LTE. I can create a personal wi-fi hotspot with my iPhone 5 for my mini if needed.

At $329, the iPad mini is a more costly than we expected. I had it pegged at $249 and some thought Apple might get crazy and hit $199. I already have the iPad 3 which is now old news with the new iPad 4 announced yesterday.

I thought I would pounce on the mini when I imagined it to be a cheap smaller iPad even if it wasn’t retina because I wanted a Nexus 7-sized tablet that could be a cross between a color kindle and an iPad. I could forget about Kindle and be iPad all the time using my iPad 3 at home mostly when a bigger screen seemed better and using the mini around town when I was travelling light.

Spoiled by the size and lightness of the Kindle 2, I’ve wanted a smaller, lighter iPad all along. I bought a Kindle Fire last December. Even though it is a bit of brick, I liked the size especially for reading. I bought a Nexus 7 in July and love its size, shape and weight. Both of these are gathering dust because I can’t get the apps I want on these devices. I’m not married to google, so that ecosystem doesn’t hold me. I strongly prefer iBooks as an ereader to the Kindle app and don’t appreciate the dumbed down interface on the Fire.

There is inherent loss in just reducing a product in size. We took the time to go back to the beginning and design a product that was a concentration of, not a reduction of, the original. - Jony Ive

These are my big considerations on whether to get this little iPad mini:

  1. The size, thinness and lightness. Everything I liked about the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 will be even better on the mini. It will be easier to hold while I’m using it. It won’t have to be propped up and accommodated to get into a comfortable position. It will be cute and lovable. It will be fun.
  2. It doesn’t have a retina display. I love my iPhone 5, iPad 3 and MacBook Pro retina displays. Firsthand observers who played with the iPad mini yesterday say it is noticeably not a retina display. The word disappointed was mentioned even though further comments emphasized that the screen is very good and better than the iPad 2 screen which is good. I hope the greatly reduced size and weight is more than a fair trade for losing retina. Even for someone spoiled by other retina devices. Retina is high priced in terms of size and weight (you need more batteries).
  3. It’s expensive especially when compared to the Kindle HD 7 and Nexus 7. The comparable Nexus 7 is $249. You have to pay an extra $79 to get the better hardware (but not better screen) and app ecosystem. That hurts. On the other hand, you know very well that $79 doesn’t go far and your time has value. If this tool works for you, do you want the best in class tool or one of the cheaper, economy tools?
  4. It’s a cheap iPad. I paid $359 for my Kindle 2, so this is an amazing bargain in a lot of ways. This is going to be great if you don’t have an iPad yet. It’s $170 cheaper than the iPad 4 retina.
  5. Should you have both a mini and a regular, though? That’s my question. How many devices can you use? This may just be a the right tool for the job situation. I know that my iPad 3 is great when I’m sitting up in bed with my knees up. It’s great on a table with my Logitech keyboard cover when typing. When I need room for whatever reason, that bigger canvas will still be preferable. But when those situations aren’t there and I want easy and light, like for reading which is my highest percentage use, the truly pad-sized, iPad mini will be great! The iPad mini will be a lighter adjunct to my laptop when I need to bring it along with me.

One thing I consider when indulging in more than one iPad or other tablet device like the Kindle or Nexus 7 is that we are moving away from paper. As we do so, we will need digital paper devices of different sizes just as paper pads and notebooks come in a variety of sizes. We don’t limit ourselves to one size of paper pad but use many sizes. The full-sized iPad may be your perfect size, especially if you are a fairly large-sized human. Women, normal to small-sized men and children will really love the iPad mini’s smaller, lighter, more portable form factor.

One last thought. The iPad mini will certainly get a retina display in a future update. Just as the Macbook Airs will get retina. But, the extra size, weight and processing requirements of the retina display are tradeoffs that these diminutive devices cannot yet abide.

Related post: Nexus 7 vs. Kindle Fire 2 vs. iPad mini updated Oct 23 2012.

Other good posts on iPad mini:
eReader Joy: New: iPad Mini.
Josh Topolsky, the Verge: Apple iPad mini Hands On
iPhone J.D.: Why Lawyers will love the 4th gen iPad and iPad mini
James Kendrick: iPad mini: Why I’m buying one as soon as possible

The iPad mini is going to be so cool

iMore’s iPad mini concept by John Anastasiadis from last week, says it well.

I bought a Nexus 7 a couple months ago and it has just whetted my appetite for the real thing — an iPad mini. Even though the Nexus 7 is the best tablet for Android, it doesn’t quite cut it for someone who uses a Mac and has or has had an iPhone or iPad. If I were a big Gmail fan and strongly preferred Chrome over Safari and a few other things like that, I might be happy on an Android device, but I’m not.

The apps are better on iOS. No argument there. App quality on a glass slab is a big deal. If you only use the most basic apps plus games, it doesn’t matter as much. But, I’m an independent knowledge professional living by my wits and I need the best apps available full stop.

With that disclaimer, let’s get down to why I’m so excited about an iPad mini which I fully expect to be available sometime in October (or possibly even September).

Size matters. This time in a reverse direction. This argument also applies to the iPhone relative to the big iPad. If you can get the job done on a less expensive, smaller, lighter, more portable device, do it. With the addition of the iPad mini, we will have three sizes to choose from. That might seem like a lot but look at notebooks in the paper world. There are tiny notebooks the size of an iPhone, lots of them the size of an iPad mini and other larger ones including many that are 8-1/2 x 11 — letter-sized. People have been carrying these around for centuries. As paper really does fade back into a special-circumstance material, we need devices of different sizes that come with unlimited pages.

Size matters for Creativity. Now here’s the reverse of this notion. A bigger work area helps you when you are trying to wrestle a creative challenge to the ground. It would actually help to be surrounded with 4 walls of screen even to get the full immersion that is like a murder room for a murder investigation. Same creative challenges. So, the iPad mini will be smaller than the iPad we’ve come to know. That will be a limitation for some things. Keep in mind, though, that we already have AirPlay to throw your iPad screen up on a TV screen. There will be more and more that kind of thing going on. Screens keep getting bigger and cheaper.

But it’s the notebook (Device) you have with you that matters. Just like the camera you have with you. A lot of people, even me sometimes, don’t carry their iPads everywhere they go. They keep them at home – which is a great place for the iPad but it is a shame that they are often left there to sit.

The iPad mini is going to be easier to hold one-handed for all kinds of reading which we know is job 1 for most iPads. How many times do you use your iPhone to read even when an iPad is available? I use my iPhone a lot for reading while standing around, when it is handiest and in bed. I’m betting I will choose the iPad mini a lot more often than my big iPad when it comes to both creation and consumption just due to its nice size and weight. The big iPad will be like Steve Jobs’ truck to a car analogy when compared to the iPad mini.

The iPad mini will be easier to take with you:

  • It will fit in pockets — not all pockets but percentage-wise, way more pockets than the 10″ iPad can fit in. Cargo pants might work well with the mini.
  • It will fit in purses. Yes, big purses are popular but there are many women (and men) who carry something smaller — too small for the 10″ iPad to fit comfortably.

It’s Cheaper. Vast quantities of rumors are out there right now and the consensus is that the base model iPad mini will cost somewhere between $199 and $299. That’s a country mile from $499 and means that many more people will be able to buy these iPads – all those students and underpaid knowledge professionals doing good work that doesn’t happen to pay well. All those younger family members who might also be smaller and more mini-sized anyway. All those kids and adults in developing countries where incomes are lower than in the US.