July 2012

I started my blog back in December 2010 and it's still going strong. I've posted at least once post a month since then, so feel free to browse through the archives.

All-Ett Wallets

Around 2005 I got myself an original All-Ett canvas ‘sports’ wallet. Since it was designed for American notes, I had to be a little creative on how I stored money in it, but it was so much smaller than anything else I’d ever used and I was hooked.

When my canvas wallet started to get worn down, I decided to replace it with the leather version which looked to be even stronger. I was right, and it lasted many years! While I’ve been very happy with the performance over the years, recently the canvas part of the wallet had become unstitched – allowing cards to leak*.

As the quality and size was just perfect for me, I decided to get the same design as a replacement…

My new replacement arrived a couple of weeks ago, and again the quality of the workmanship has gone up. The stitching is now far better, making it less likely to happen again. Hopefully this new wallet will last me just as many years! I can highly recommend All-Ett if you’re looking for a thin and modern wallet design.

* Resulting in a rather lolworthy incident where I thought I’d lost my drivers license while out with friends in York.

Using Windows 7

I have used Windows 7 since the early betas, as is always the case with new Windows releases – I was very interested in what new features were coming. Over the years I’ve come to rely on these features quite heavily, and like millions of other people I’m currently use it as my primary operating system.

My use of Windows 7 has changed quite a lot over the years – from simply changing themes to using totally different applications. But as Windows 7 is coming to the end of its life (for me anyway) I’m interested to see how my computer usage will change and evolve when Windows 8 takes over as my primary operating system.

So I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on how I’m using Windows on my MacBook today…

I like to keep things simple, a trend that will no doubt continue to Windows 8. As part of this I usually keep the number of applications I pin to the taskbar to absolute minimum. On my home computer this is PowerShell, Outlook and OneNote.

In the notification area I tend to have only power, networking, and volume icons, as well as the awesome Process Explorer. This is pretty much all I want to see down there, and everything else gets hidden away. (Remember when we couldn’t hide stuff down there? Ugh!)

Because this is a laptop, I tend to run a lot of my programs either maximised or side-by-side using Aero Snap. This is by far one of my favourite features in Windows 7, and I use it all the time. Just grab the title bar of any window and drag it to the top, left or right of the screen to snap the window into place.

Windows itself is just the shell that works around the applications, and right now the applications I tend to use the most (other than the web browser) are:

  • PowerShell
  • Office
  • Visual Studio
  • Expression Studio
  • WebMatrix
  • Windows Live Essentials
  • Zune
  • WorldWide Telescope

All of these applications are made by the same company as the operating system they are running on, so you’d think that they’d all behave exactly the same. This is not the case – each one tends to have its own UX and personality. Something that’s probably going to change in Windows 8 thanks to the advent of the Metro design language.

There are plenty of other smaller applications that I also use, including (but not limited to):

  • Paint.NET
  • EOS Utility
  • FileZilla
  • Flux
  • KatMouse

Oh and as for the browser? My current choice is actually Google Chrome. Mostly because of the spell checking functionality. I’ve used Internet Explorer 10 pretty extensively on the preview versions of Windows 8 and I quite like it, so the chances are I’ll probably move back to IE when it comes out at the end of the year.

Finally I also spend a large amount of time in PowerShell console windows. I have a lot of applications and scripts that I use in this environment, and I’m really hoping we get some kind of full screen Metro treatment to PowerShell – until then I’m probably going to have to use the Desktop to run these kinds of apps.

Windows 8 will definitely let me work in exactly the same way I do today – you can get access to all of the desktop and features of Windows 7 (with more stuff) so there’s no doubt about that. But will things change?

Eventually Metro-style applications will take over from the desktop applications we are using today. It just might take a while.

Digital Junk

I know a lot of people who are file collectors, ranging from keeping every possible bit of information which has a memory attached to it, to keeping all their emails even though they’ve dealt with them.

I personally feel that a lot of this stuff can weigh us down, so I try to keep it all to a minimum. But there is always going to be a lot of ‘digital junk’ that has to be dealt with – even if you are careful about what you keep.

The ‘Spam’ folder

One of the biggest sources for digital junk is obviously spam, by letting email into your life you’re opening yourself up to all kinds of rubbish. Because email was essentially invented by hippies, there’s no system in place to force users to prove who they are – this means you can send an email from Bill Gates without any email servers batting an eyelid.

Yea sure things are better these days, but I still tend to get quite a lot of spam. I also have a policy where any email address that isn’t trusted is automatically put into my spam folder. Because of this I tend to check my junk email at least a few times a day. Oh the joy.

The ‘Junk’ folder

I tend to make a folder called Junk inside my profile (C:\Users\Julian\Junk) where I stick any files that I haven’t yet decided where they should be (or if I need them at all!) Usually I just chuck everything from my Desktop into this folder when I’m done with it.

Saying that, I don’t usually keep anything on my Desktop at all. I only tend to use it for creation of content that is about to be uploaded or put into another project folder that I’m working on.

The ‘Downloads’ folder

Downloads probably the ‘buit in’ Windows folder that gets the most junk I have to sort out. Downloads tend to be a mixure of stuff you want to keep, stuff you wanted to just open to view, and (in my case as a developer) millions of documents that I’ve downloaded from one of Branded3′s internal tools.

Ahhh first world problems.

These Vizio PCs look fantastic

Apparently Vizio make televisions – but I have only heard of them since they started building personal computers.

They’ve split it into three categories:

It’s the Light + Thin Ultrabook that has my attention though.

Obviously there is a comparison with another American company who makes aluminium products, and I would say that their are certainly a lot of design similarities with the MacBook range, but the operating system choice is what’s exciting for me.

Plus with the Microsoft Signature configuration by default, I know the operating system will run really well without the typical bloatware that the likes of HP and Dell preinstall on their computers.

Vizio are very new to the PC market and definitely one to watch. I can’t wait to see how well their touchpads work with Windows 8, and I look forward to seeing what their next generation machines will bring. You can find out more information in Vizio reboots the PC – a brilliant article and video combo produced by the team over at The Verge.

At the moment, this machine is at the top of my list for most desirable Ultrabook.

Update…

After publishing this post I started wondering if they would ever see the light in the UK. After doing some looking around I managed to find this post on Facebook that does not look very promising. The search continues…