At the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos
Decluttering, Minimalism

Retiring the Original Anatomica T-Shirt

The monsoon-colored Icebreaker Anatomica t-shirt that I have been using for the past year has developed several more holes. There’s three in the back and one near each of the armholes. As a result, I am retiring it from daily use and transitioning it for use during my runs. The merino wool used by Icebreaker in this shirt is great for temperature regulation, odor resistance, and fit, but durability has not been one of its strong suits.

A few months ago, Icebreaker revised the Anatomica shirt. The old version was made from 96% merino wool and 4% Lycra, and the new one is made from 83% merino wool, 12% nylon, and 5% Lycra. Icebreaker says the updated fit is more comfortable and durable. I wonder how the added nylon will affect its odor resistance after repeated wearings. While the new Anatomica retails for $70, you can still find the old version at 40-60% off if you shop around. REI, for instance, has been trying to clear out its stock of Aegean Blue and Lucky Green for months now and is currently selling them for $31 (54% off). Stocks of those are bound to dry up soon, so get them while they are still available if you like the available colors.

When my current shirts have worn out in one to two years, I may take a look at the new Anatomica or try out the wool t-shirts from Wool & Prince and Outlier. Until then, I have four more of these shirts in my minimalist closet, three short sleeves (red, heather gray, and black) and one long sleeve (monsoon), that I’m rotating through. Pictured above is the black v-neck, which if given the choice, I would standardize on as my default t-shirt color.

Technology, Travel

Continuing Thoughts on Portable Keyboards

I’ve been on a keyboard buying spree lately after cancelling my WayTools TextBlade order two weeks ago. While I like the iPad’s software keyboard, I can still type faster on a physical keyboard. Writing code on iOS devices prior to the iPad Pro has been a torturous exercise, with constant tapping and re-tapping of the 123 and #+= keys to access commonly used programming characters. An external keyboard makes this all so much easier.

With the money that was credited back to my account from WayTools, I now have three working keyboards that I can use with my iOS devices or Mac computers:

  • iPad Keyboard Dock (iOS only)
  • Logitech K811 Easy-Switch Keyboard
  • Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard (MFK)

These are in addition to my venerable Logitech K760 solar-powered keyboard which I’ve been happily using for the past four years.

Three keyboards for my iOS devices

iPad Keyboard Dock

This keyboard was originally sold as an accessory to the first iPad. Featuring a 30-pin connector, it also works with the iPad 2 and the iPad 3rd-generation (with Retina Display).

To get this keyboard to work with the iPad Pro, I bought a Lightning to 30-pin cable adapter and a 30-pin female to 30-pin male extension cable. At 0.2 meters long, the Apple adapter is too short to position the device and keyboard in a usable manner. Note that not all 30-pin to 30-pin extension cables are made alike; some only transfer power and not data. The non-cable version of the Lightning to 30-pin adapter is another option if you want to use the iPad Keyboard Dock with an iPod touch or iPhone.

Two downsides to using the iPad Keyboard Dock. The first is the cable and adapter mess that you have to go through to get the keyboard talking to the iPad. You’ll have just as many cables if you want to plug in an old PS2 or ADB keyboard into an iPad.

Second, the iPad does not charge when plugged into the iPad Pro’s 12-watt AC adapter via the Keyboard Dock’s passthrough 30-pin connector. The iPad’s charging indicator turned on, but the battery continues to drain.

Says it's charging, but the iPad Pro's battery is still draining when connected to the iPad Keyboard Dock

As a result, I don’t see myself using the iPad Keyboard Dock with the the iPad Pro. It still works well, however, with iPads that feature the 30-pin connector. I can see using an older-generation iPad has a distraction-free writing station in the future.

I was able to win the iPad Keyboard Dock on eBay for just a cent. The cables alone to get it to connect to a Lightning device cost $28!

Logitech K811 Easy-Switch Keyboard

I bought this keyboard for two reasons. First, it will work alongside my K760 in the office. I have two laptop computers, along with my iPhone 6s and my iPad Pro that I’d like to use with an external keyboard from time to time. Both the K760 and the K811 can only connect with three devices at a time. Having both keyboards on my desk allows me to use the K811 with one computer and the K760 with another computer. Both keyboards will also be paired to my iPhone and iPad Pro.

I’ve used abyssoft’s teleport in the past to link up my keyboard and mouse/trackpad to multiple computers, but I’ve noticed that transitioning from one computer to the next is not as smooth as it used to be.

Second, the K811 (or the Microsoft keyboard) may replace the K760 as my travel keyboard, as it’s slightly smaller and lighter than the solar-powered keyboard.

Typing on this keyboard feels different than on the K760 or the aluminum Apple Wireless Keyboard, but I am slowly getting used to it. One thing that has been throwing me off on all of these keyboards is the different buttons on the top row. For instance, F8 on the K760 is a battery indicator button, and the power switch is at the end of the top row. On the K811, F8 and F9 are for adjusting the backlit keys and the power switch is on the edge of the keyboard. My muscle memory is constantly under attack whenever I switch between these input devices.

The keyboard normally retails for $99, but you can find the K811 keyboard for around $84 on Amazon or between $40-75 on eBay.

Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard

The primary selling point of the Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard is that it folds in half. This makes the keyboard half the size of the K811 keyboard when you’re not using it.

The Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard is half the size and a tad lighter than the Logitech K811 Easy-Switch Keyboard

While the keys are all in the same place as a regular English keyboard, the size of certain keys is variable. Punctuation keys such as comma, brackets, and double quotes are smaller and the T, G, H, and N keys are bigger. There’s also the giant crease in the middle of the keyboard where it folds in half. I wonder if Microsoft tested slightly larger versions of this keyboard with keys that were the same size. I would prefer this even if the keyboard was slightly larger. A bigger MFK that folded in half would still be smaller than the K811 when stowed away.

The MFK can switch between two devices via Bluetooth. It has an OS-switch key in the upper-right that re-configures the Fn/Command, Option/Alt, Home, Control, and Escape keys for Windows, Android, or iOS. One thing that’s annoying is that the Esc key in iOS mode functions as the Home button, even though the dedicated Home button on the bottom row does the same thing. I’d prefer if it acted as an Escape key.

All of these keyboards could benefit from improvements to iOS. One is the ability to re-map hardware keys so I can make the Caps Lock key function as the Control key; I can do this on OS X within the Keyboard pane in System Preferences. Second, I would love to have Emacs-style bindings throughout iOS, as this would allow me to edit text faster. I’m a particular fan of Control-D to do forward delete.

Like the K811, the Microsoft Foldable Keyboard retails for $99, but it’s available for $59 on Amazon or around $40-50 on eBay.

Future Travels

I didn’t have the K811 nor the Microsoft Foldable Keyboard until this week, so I ended up bringing my K760 to the Code/Media 2016 conference in Dana Point last week. The K760 worked fine, but I would have preferred the reduced weight and bulk with the K811 or Microsoft Foldable Keyboard. I’ve been trying to get my travel weight down to ten pounds or less, and every ounce counts.

Since long typing sessions is not yet common on my trips when I’m traveling with just the iPad Pro or the iPhone 6s Plus, I think the Microsoft Foldable Keyboard would serve my needs better than bringing the K811. When folded in half, it’s much more portable. Over time, I hope to adapt to the odd-layout and smaller keys. If I’m traveling for work with my laptop, I would definitely bring the K811, the Roost Laptop Stand, and a wireless mouse. Having the display elevated is much better ergonomically for me.

Note: Some of the product links in this article are affiliate links with Amazon. Purchasing these items using these links may provide me with a small referral commission.

Apple, Photography

Migrating from Apple Aperture to Google Photos

In the middle of 2014, Apple announced they were ceasing further development of Aperture, the company’s professional photo management application I had been using to catalog and post-process my images since 2005.

Aperture continued to work in OS X 10.10 Yosemite, and it works more or less under OS X 10.11 El Capitan. All bets are off for OS X 10.12, so I have finally decided to take stock of my options for migrating away from Aperture. I had compiled quite a library of tagged, annotated, and organized images since I started taking digital photographs in 1999 with an Agfa ePhoto 1680, a 1.3 megapixel camera with a swivel lens).

I use iCloud Photo Library, and the majority of images there are from my iPhone camera. I have over 174,000 images in my Aperture Library totaling 1.68TB in size and only a handful of those photos have made it into my iCloud Photo Library. Apple doesn’t offer a storage tier greater than 1TB (I have the 200GB plan), but I don’t think I would sign up even if they did. As much as I like the idea of having all of my images in Photos and accessible from all of my devices, I am concerned about the performance hit of such a large library.

Exporting over 174,000 photos from Aperture took three days.

Last week, I exported all of the images in Aperture to JPEG files, a process that took three days. Last year, I purchased my 2015 Retina 15″ MacBook Pro without the discrete graphics chips expressly because I have had two laptops crap out due to overheating chipsets. The fans were on 24/7 for the entire export time, and the battery was actually discharging very slowly even though the computer was plugged into power. Knock on wood, but I hope I didn’t cause my laptop’s motherboard any permanent harm!

A little over one hundred thousand images remaining to upload.

Right now, I am uploading all of my images to Google Photos. The service offers unlimited storage if the images are downsized to 16MP. That’s a fair tradeoff for me, since I already keep multiple offsite backups of my RAW images. I am also very interested in the automatic tagging of photos, animated GIFs and panoramas that Google Photos offers. I have spent probably months manually adding metadata to my images; I am ready for a machine to do the job for me now. Yes, there are privacy concerns about giving Google access to my photos, but as with the megapixel limit, I am at peace with the tradeoff at the moment.

I did not get around to making each RAW image perfect before exporting a high-resolution JPEG in Aperture; that would have taken forever. I figure if I come across a photo in Google Photos that needs adjusting, I could edit it in Google Photos itself or open the original in Aperture (if it’s still working, otherwise Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop), dicker with it, and re-upload it to Google.

I did consider other options before choosing Google Photos, such as SmugMug and Upthere. While the megapixel limit is higher in SmugMug, there is a 5,000 images per gallery limit; I didn’t want to spend the time right now to upload my photos in 5,000 file chunks. I have some friends who work at Upthere, but I haven’t found the time to use the product. Upthere is also a startup in a space where there’s been much consolidation, and I can’t speak to its long-term prospects. While Google’s track record with new products hasn’t been the best, I don’t think Google Photos will go the way of Google Wave or Picasa; I feel reasonably confident that it will be around in some form or another for the next decade.

As far processing and organizing my RAW files moving forward, I am still looking at DAM and RAW processing products. There’s Lightroom, but I have never warmed up to its file organization system. I used to use Capture One, but I am hesitant to plunk down a few hundred dollars and have to upgrade every few years (something I’d have to do with Lightroom too). Knowing me, I’ll probably continue to poke along with Aperture until the software finally dies or until I buy a camera that Aperture doesn’t support. My Canon EOS 5D Mark II is almost 8 years ago, but it still gets the job done. That’s one piece of technology that has lasted the test of time thus far!

Rants, Technology

Cancelling my WayTools TextBlade Order

There was a draft of this post that had been waiting to be published on this blog for over four and a half months ago. It’s time to post it and provide a four-month update.

“I’m still waiting for my WayTools TextBlade multi-touch keyboard that I ordered back in January, 2015. The company said that they would ship in February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, and now mid-October. Unexpected hardware changes and revisions to firmware are the reasons for the delay, but WayTools keeps telling its customers that shipments are right around the corner. I’ll believe it when the TextBlades ship. Other customers are getting restless, judging from the increase in the amount of order cancellations and disappointed posts on the WayTools forum. The company has not done itself any favors with its passive aggressive attitude on the forums and its habit of cancelling orders for those customers who complain too much.”

As a way to pass the time, I drew a twelve-month calendar for 2016 called, Waiting for TextBlade.

Waiting for TextBlade

It’s now mid-February, and the TextBlade remains an elusive product for customers. At the end of December, 2015, the company released the companion app for the keyboard on the iOS App Store, which gave hope that they would ship in January. Then, at the end of January, WayTools announced the Test Release Group (TREG), which is a shipment of pre-release TextBlades to a small group of customers (hundreds). The TREG is designed “to accelerate validation and help refine the product quality and experience.” WayTools also noted yet another hardware problem with the shield layer (that protects against leaking electrical noise) that they would be fixing.

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Decluttering, Minimalism, Musings, Technology

My Tech Workspace from 2004 to 2016

Every week, The Sweet Setup interviews an Apple aficionado about his or her computing environment. I enjoy looking at the the products, software, and workspaces these people use on a daily basis; it gives me ideas on what hardware or apps I might want to try out in the future. Plus, I like looking at photos of minimalist desks!

In the process of uploading all of my photos from Aperture over to Google Photos, I came across the photo below. It shows how my computing environment looked like twelve years ago on January 10, 2004. Nearly all of the technology items in the photo are now obsolete, have been recycled, or are gathering dust in my house. The items cost many thousands of dollars in total; I got great use out of some of them, not so much for others.

My workspace circa 2004

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The Minimalist Closet One Year Later
Decluttering, Minimalism

Minimalist Uniform Project – One Year Update

It has been one year since I began my minimalist uniform project. Previous updates featured my nearly empty closet and a check-in at month five. What’s new after a year?

A few weeks ago, I discovered a small hole in the back of my Wool & Prince button-down shirt. I sent photos to W&P customer service, and they sent me another one (which I will be altering to adjust the sleeves). Ultimately, they thought that the hole might be the result of a moth, as opposed to some defect in the shirt. In the meantime, I’m looking at ways to protect my wool shirts from being eaten by moths without using moth balls.

A moth is the likely culprit for this hole in my shirt.

A moth is the likely culprit.

When I take my other gray button-down to be altered, I’ll see if the tailor can repair the moth hole in my original.

Wool & Prince recently released a dressier version of the shirt with a spread collar. I am a bigger fan of this type of shirt over the button-down, and I see one in my future collection.

Over the past year, I bought some additional Icebreaker t-shirts that I was able to find on discount at either or REI Outlet. In addition to the gray short-sleeve shirt that I originally purchased, I added a red, heather gray, long-sleeved gray, and v-neck black Anatomicas to my closet. My original Anatomica shirt is showing signs of wear in the back. That’s to be expected, since I have worn it pretty much every time I went out. When it gets too shabby, I will turn it into an around-the-house or exercise shirt.

Icebreaker Black V-Neck Anatomica Shirt and Bluffworks Pants. Photo taken with prototype Light camera at Code Conference 2015.

Icebreaker Black V-Neck Anatomica Shirt and Bluffworks Pants. Photo taken with prototype Light camera at Code Conference 2015.

As for my two pairs of pants, I am surprised at how well the Levi’s Relaxed Fit 559 jeans have kept, as I haven’t washed them once since I bought it. I used to wash my jeans regularly and was frequently disappointed at (1) how quickly holes developed in the knee area and (2) how the fit got worse over time. I did lose an extra half-inch off my waistline, however, so the pants are a little looser today than when I purchased them. My Bluffworks pants have been reliable and remain relatively wrinkle-free. I still wish there was a 29/29 size option. If I were to buy them again, I’d get the 29/30 length and have the length altered to 29.

Having less clothes that also have reduced maintenance requirements has been great. Folding clothes after doing the laundry is a snap when there’s almost nothing of mine to fold! Finally, I’ve created another pile of clothes that I’ll be donating to Goodwill or Hope.

One year in, and I remain extremely pleased with the minimalist uniform project. I see no reason why I’ll stop in 2016.