Keeping up with Technology

I want to share a few of my favorite people and places on the internet. If you are looking for a way to keep up with technology news and reviews, these are great places to start.

Each heading links to a Twitter account.

Brian Renshaw

for tech and productivity

Brian is a good friend, and he is at the top of this list because he introduced me to everyone listed here except for MKBHD and Ben Mayo. Follow him on Twitter and check out his blog. (By the way, he says Jason Snell should be on this list.)

The Brooks Review

Apple & “the best” of everything

This might be my favorite site on the internet. Ben Brooks writes clear, incisive reviews, often laced with the perfectly placed, hilarious expletive. I read everything he writes — definitely a writing role model. He writes a weekly iPad Productivity Report, which is a highlight of every Monday. Several features of the site are only for members, including the Productivity Report. Membership is $4/month and absolutely worth it.

Federico Viticci

for all things iOS

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Mac Stories and dubbed iPad Sensei by the peeps at Mac Power Users. He is also a cohost of the new podcast AppStories, which is super sweet. I first discovered Federico when Brian Renshaw sent me a link to this legendary iOS 10 review.

MKBHD

YouTube Channel for tech products more broadly

Marques Brownlee reviews Apple and Android phones and tablets, headphones, cameras, drones, and all the rest. His reviews are to the point, balanced, and really well produced. His YouTube channel is one of only two that I regularly watch (the other is Casey Neistat’s).

Mac Power Users

Podcast for all things Apple

I listened to several tech podcasts during a recent 13 hour drive and was made keenly aware of just how good these guys are. There are a lot of tech podcasts out there, but most of them are horrid. David and Katie are just a pleasure to listen to. They have been doing this show since 2009(!) and are such pros. Their dynamic is as relaxing and delightful as the content is informative. The shows are super long but definitely worth the time investment.

Daring Fireball

First came across John Gruber via his markdown syntax page. His tweets are great, and his blog is sage.

Benjamin Mayo

I’ve just started following Ben Mayo. He writes for 9to5Mac, and I find his tweets interesting.

iOS 11 Wishlist

Here’s the best podcast I’ve heard on this topic.

My top three wishes:

  • Dark mode
  • A better way to find the app you want in split view
  • Markdown support for Apple Notes

If we get all three, I’m doing an end zone dance on Monday. The last one is the least likely, dark mode seems 50/50, but if selecting apps in split view isn’t greatly improved, the internet will spontaneously combust.

Several more:

  • Split view from either side of the screen, not just from the right
  • A unified, customizable control panel
  • 3D Touch on the iPad Pros
  • Improved UI for iMessage apps
  • Improved UI for Apple Music
  • Federico made drag and drop look pretty cool.
  • Apple Pencil support for the iPhone.
  • A more intelligent Siri — for example, she is a little slow and tells me the same joke a couple times a week. I’ll be getting ready for work and wonder what time it is. “Hey, Siri.” … wait for the ding … “What time is it.” She’ll say, “6:30am, time to go back to sleep” almost every day.
  • An enhanced Spotlight search so that one can use it to type to Siri — you can do this to an extent now, but I’d like it enhanced and promoted as the way to text Siri.
  • Improved iBooks app (I’m dreaming here, I know)
  • Significantly enhanced Mail app
  • Make Reminders an actual task manager.
  • Rename the Shared Links feature in Safari and make it a full blown RSS feed reader.

My Two Notetaking Apps

I’d probably long ago have gone seven kinds of crazy, one for each day of the week, if I didn’t simplify my life in every area where I do have some control. – > Odd Thomas

When I worked as an English tutor, I would regulary read that book with students who were struggling with reading comprehension. I fell in love with the story, and this quote always stuck with me. Like Odd, I think fewer is better; minimal is the goal. For notetaking, there are only two apps I use.

I’m making a distinction between notetaking and writing apps. These are just for notetaking.

GoodNotes

I’ve written about GoodNotes here (re: teaching) and here (re: notetaking). I use GoodNotes to take Greek and Hebrew reading notes, I use it to occasionally to jot down notes in a meeting, and lately I have been using it to take sermon notes in church. I use it for several other things, but these are the primary ways I use it for notetaking.

Apple Notes

For everything else, I use Apple’s Notes App. I moved from Evernote to Apple Notes a couple years ago and haven’t looked back. Just about every note I add goes into the default Notes folder. When using Evernote, I had a lot of individual folders, but I’ve come to think this is a waste of time. My notes are sorted by last updated, which means whatever I’m looking for is usually at the top of the list. If it isn’t, I can search for it. All my notes are stored in iCloud, and the iCloud sync has worked wonderfully for me.

It is also super easy to share a note with someone. You click a big plus sign and select how you want to share a link. That’s it. One way we use shared notes is to keep up with Beau’s steps every day. I share a note called called “Beau’s Steps” with my wife, and whoever puts him to bed can add his step count at the end of the day.

I like to use the Notes app to compile a list of links. To do so, I hit the share button in Safari and create a note with a link to whatever website I’m on. And you don’t have to create a new note each time. After clicking the share button and selecting the Notes icon, you can select the note to which you would like to add your link. This makes it easy to collect links for gift ideas or research topics or themed blog posts or anything else. It took me less than a minute to put together this list.

Competition

As I said, I shot the big green elephant.

The big, bad Bear, however, is trying to break into my notetaking workflow. I’ve fought him off for the time being, but I do really wish Apple’s Notes App had markdown support. I considered switching to Bear for mardown, but I could not find a way to export all my notes with images from the Notes App and import them into Bear.

Ideally, I could use Ulysses for both notetaking and most long-form writing. The one hiccup: Ulysses doesn’t support inline images. You don’t see your pictures until you export from Ulysses to PDF or docx or one of their many other export formats.

For now, notetaking happens in Apple’s Notes app and GoodNotes. Hopefully, we will see some improvements to the Notes app (markdown!) at WWDC next week.

Reading & Digital Notetaking

I’ve read with paper and pen, but these days if I am taking notes while reading, I use GoodNotes and a 9.7” iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil. I don’t know how many times I’ve been working with someone and wanted to check my notes but didn’t have the right little notebook with me. That’s no longer a problem.

Text

There are three elements to this way of reading: print text, lexicon, and iPad. If I’m reading Greek or Hebrew, I prefer to read from a print text — NA28, BHS, Loeb, or a reader’s text. I don’t mind reading on my iPad, I just prefer a print text for this type of literature.

Lexicon

It’s a different story for the lexicon: about half the time I use a digital lexicon on my iPad and other times I prefer a concise, print lexicon. The lexicon varies depending on the medium.

If I’m using a print lexicon, then it is either Clines’ Concise Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, Danker’s Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Liddell and Scott’s Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, or for the Septuagint, either LEH or Muraoka’s.

If I’m working off my iPad, then it’s either HALOT and Clines’ CDCH, BDAG, or LSJ in Accordance. It’s never really just one, and that’s the big benefit of a digital lexicon — you can easily switch between HALOT, BDB, CDCH, and DCH.

GoodNotes

GoodNotes is the distinctive feature. GoodNotes allows me to reap all the benefits of taking notes by hand, while simultaneously storing my notes in a digital platform I can access anywhere. The cherry on top is that GoodNotes automatically recognizes the text of your notes — even cursive — and you can search them. Unfortunately, it does not recognize Greek or Hebrew, but what app really does a halfway decent job with that apart from ABBYY FineReader. It would be unreasonable to expect GoodNotes to turn handwritten Greek or Hebrew into digital text, but one can dream.

You can pinch zoom on the GoodNotes paper and write, but I recently started using the zoom window, which allows me to have a larger writing line, while also letting me see more of the page.

As far as what type of notes I write down, this is my rule: If I look it up for any reason, I write it down. Usually it’s vocab notes, sometimes notes from a grammar, and occasionally something more reflective.

There are times when I use Accordance and GoodNotes in split screen. Because of the auto-advance feature of the zoom window, I can write continuously even though I have a relatively small space, half of a horizontal 9.7″ screen. You can see an example and more explanation of this feature at the bottom of this page, but check this out, too.

I can also copy and paste right along side my hand writing, and if I don’t like the way something looks, I can erase and rewrite it or cut and paste it somewhere else — yes, even the handwriting.

Wrapping up

I read at odd times throughout the day. Maybe it’s in the thirty minutes I have just before the students come streaming in, or maybe it’s while they are taking a quiz. Coffee shop, office, whatever — no matter when and where, I have my notes with me. Being able to share my notes with others is pretty sweet, as well.

GoodNotes and the Apple Pencil work so well together that taking reading notes sometimes feels like art. I can’t imagine a better digital notetaking environment.

A couple more pics:

Zoom & GoodNotes for Online Teaching

This is a season of lasts. The last Greek 3 class has come and gone, today is the last day of exams, this afternoon will be my last private Greek lesson with two particularly amazing students, and yesterday was the last online lesson with a student I have been teaching Classical Greek.

Two apps have helped make this a successful year of online teaching — GoodNotes and Zoom. Zoom is simply the best online classroom environment I can imagine, and GoodNotes is my favorite digital writing platform.

Zoom

Neither you nor the student nor the student’s family have to be tech savvy. It is as simple as sharing a link and following the instructions. If you meet with a student at a set time every week, Zoom allows you to schedule individual online meeting rooms. If, however, you meet at different times every week, you can just use the personal room you are given when you sign up.

My favorite feature of Zoom is how easily I can use it with my iPad Pro as a digital whiteboard. I normally run the meeting through the Zoom app on my MacBook. When I need a whiteboard, I click a share screen button, choose share iPad screen, and then connect my iPad to the MacBook via AirPlay. It has worked seamlessly throughout the entire school year.

At times I have been without my laptop, and I simply ran my meetings via the Zoom iPad app. This worked smoothly, as well.

GoodNotes

GoodNotes is the digital hub that connects me, the student, and any writing or assessments that are transferred between us. For whiteboard purposes I created a notebook called Greek Scribbles. This is where all our in-class, random notes go. I also have a notebook to keep up with assessments. The assessment workflow goes like this:

  • Quizzes and tests are sent to me as PDFs.
  • I drop them into our GoodNotes assessment notebook.
  • I grade the assessments with an Apple Pencil in GoodNotes.
  • GoodNotes automatically backs up the notebooks as PDFs to Google Drive (or Dropbox or others).
  • I share the assessments notebook PDF via a Google Drive link.

Now the student and the student’s family always have digital access to all of their assessments as soon as I finish grading them.

This is the method I have used all year for three weekly online lessons, and I recommend these apps without hesitation. More on GoodNotes later, but for now, back to wrapping up what is left of this year’s lasts.

RSS in Safari

My feed reader died back in 2013 like everyone else’s. After Google Reader, I tried Feedly and a couple other services but never really settled in. Twitter eventually filled the void, but the problem is that it never stopped pouring. The demise of Google Reader left me drowning in social media.

I killed Facebook as a New Year’s resolution in 2016 — the only one I’ve ever successfully kept — and now I’m trying to take a step back from Twitter by using Safari’s Shared Links feature. I think I would have discovered this feature earlier if it weren’t so poorly named. I have no idea what “shared links” is supposed to mean in light of what the feature does. I’m trying to keep up with pages or posts, not links, and neither I nor the authors have shared them.

The name aside, using Shared Links is simple. Just navigate to a favorite site, click the share button, and select Add Website to Shared Links.

Do the same thing with as many sites as you would like to keep up with, and then click View, Show Shared Links Sidebar (command + shift + 3) to see a list of the most recent posts from these sites.

To view your feed on an iOS device, select the little book icon and the @ symbol.

Adding sites to Shared Links on an iOS device is a little different. Once you are on a site you want to follow, do this:

  • Click the book icon.
  • Click the @ symbol.
  • Click Subscriptions at the bottom of your list of posts.
  • Click Add Current Site.

I like reading posts as they appear on the actual websites to which they belong, and navigating to a post via your Shared Links feed allows you to do this.

One other cool feature: After you finish reading a post, there is an UP NEXT banner at the bottom of the screen that allows you to scroll down and go straight to the next post in your feed.

You can check out iMore for their intro to Shared Links.

Also, Brian Renshaw has other ways of keeping up with sites, but I prefer to just use Safari.

Reading the GNT Online

As classes were wrapping up and I was encouraging students to read Greek over the summer, I found myself wishing I had written something on the best way to read the Greek New Testament online for free.

The best way to do this is with James Tauber’s MorphGNT or the Bible Web App. As for lexicons, the online LSJ or Logeion app or website are superb.

MorphGNT

The MorphGNT site is beautifully simple.

Click the book, click the chapter, and if you want to check a parsing, either hover over the word (laptop) or click the word (mobile). James tells me that he has much more in store for the site, including an entirely new reading environment. The current site is nice so I can’t wait to see what he has up his sleeve.

Bible Web App

I just discovered the Bible Web App. Its appearance is similar to MorphGNT — super stripped down and clean. One added benefit of this site is that you can click on a word and get basic lexical help. One shortcoming: the words are not fully tagged. As you can see below, all you get for ψηλαφάω is “verb.”

The tagging for nouns and adjectives is better. For ἀρχῆς in 1 John 1:1 you get “noun: genitive, singular, feminine.” For some words the popup feature takes a while to load or never does. I clicked ἥτις in 1 John 1:2, waited a full minute, and it never loaded.

If you click on a word and select Find all occurrences, Bible Web App will open a parallel tab and display every form of the word in the GNT. This is impressive.

By clicking the three grey bars at the top left of the site you can select Settings and adjust the font size, background, and more. Again, wow. I don’t know how I am just discovering this site. You can do more here besides read Greek so do click around.

The text used by MorphGNT and the one I link to on Bible Web App is the open access SBL Greek New Testament edited by Michael Holmes. You can learn more about it here. It’s so nice to have a recently edited, open access Greek New Testament.

Online LSJ

The lexical helps provided by the Bible Web App will supply basic definitions of words you have yet to encounter, but for the idioms and less frequent meanings, you will need something more. The MorphGNT website does not yet provide definitions of any kind.

You can, however, open the online LSJ in a separate tab or in split view and easily look type in whatever word you want to look up. As you type, a drop down appears, allowing you to select the exact form.

Logeion

The Logeion website works the same way. It provides the full entries from LSJ, “Middle Liddell,” and more. Middle Liddell is a concise version of an older edition of LSJ, but it is still widely used as a reading lexicon.

If you have an iPad, the Logeion app is a must have. It is free and glorious. It can be used offline and works well in split view, too.

There are plenty other options for reading the GNT online, but these are the ones I’ve tried and recommend.

Comparing OT Texts in Accordance

After saving a workspace, you can launch it with just a couple clicks. This is one of my favorite features in Accordance. As I show below, it only takes a minute to set up, and a second or two to launch. I regularly use this feature to quickly see several ancient versions of the Old Testament in parallel.

Set up the texts

Open your Hebrew Bible, and use the Add Parallel button to add the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls and all the other ancient versions you have in your library.

Save the workspace

Order the columns however you like, and then go to File > Open Workspace > Add Workspace and name it something like OT Texts.

Next time

Now, the next time you are in an OT text and want to check the readings of other ancient witnesses, simply two-finger click (or right-click) on the verse reference and go to My Workspaces > OT Texts. This will open a new workspace in a separate window with all the ancient versions in parallel. When you are finished, close that window and your back to your text.

Video Example

The Best Blogging Platform

I’m still searching for it. Squarespace can’t be the best option.

The OK

For someone like me, a CSS and HTML novice, Squarespace is easier to customize than WordPress. You have to customize because an elegant, simple, blogging template doesn’t exist, in my opinion. As long as you are writing text-only posts, Squarespace’s iOS app is decent. You can easily write your post in Ulysses and paste the Markdown straight into the Squarespace’s Blog app. And you can easily edit a post in the Blog app without having to open a browser.

The Ugh

It stinks, however, that Squarespace is basically inaccessible from a mobile browser, which means you cannot tweak the design of your site away from your computer. Even on a computer, customizing the site or editing a post is driven by a sidebar menu that buries settings in submenu upon submenu. Editing a draft or finding the button needed to write a new post is far from elegant. I should do a screen cast to show you all the little pop-ups and invisible menus that appear as you hover your mouse across the screen to find the Manage Posts button. Oh, and if you want to include pictures in a post, don’t even think about it until you get to your desktop or laptop. But when you finally get to your laptop and open your Markdown post in a browser, good luck with typing your first edit in the correct place. Your cursor will likely be in one place, but when you start typing the words will appear either one line down or one line up. Hopefully, you are just working with a Markdown box and not HTML. If you are working in an HTML box, then apparently you have to insert custom CSS to get your hyperlinks to show up in the right color. Finally, it seems to me almost every Squarespace template is designed to be an online store front or art portfolio. This template is the closest thing I could find to a clean, minimal, template for text-mostly blogging.

Whether using Squarespace in a browser or mobile app, the platform feels clunky and disorganized. There has to be something better out there. I wish the Ulysses folks would create one.

Dock Preferences

I think it is important, if you you do have the Dock showing at all times, to have this box checked in the Dock system preferences:

Checking this box will help keep your workflow streamlined, even in the middle of the day when you are running from task to task with 5-10 apps open.

You don’t want to see this:

You could see this with the same number of apps open and windows minimized: