May 2, 2012

This Blog

We're always looking for that new thing out there. Fresh ideas drive us and technology carries us.

I've dedicated this blog to writing about simple software that make our lives easier. But now that I've looked at dozens of todo lists, email applications, and more, I've noticed that our simple computers are frustratingly complicated.

Jennifer Morrow, a member of Firefox's user experience design team, went to a mall and interviewed Joe, a man who had never used a computer before. In his blog post, it's talked about how experienced users like us would normally think that many of the design philosophies and ways to interact with technology are very intuitive. Joe shows otherwise. For most of the tasks that he had to attempt, he frequently answered with, "I don't know".

What does this mean? I've promoted software that works, but in the end, I'm only giving out things that work for me. I never considered the possibility that those I'm giving these suggestions to might not understand what I'm saying.

This is my second blog so far, and it's been a heck of a time to share the way I use my Macbook. Now that this chapter has come to an end, I think if I were to continue, the topics I choose would be much more personal, allowing me to explore ideas that come to my mind. I have a passion for looking into topics of leadership, speaking, culture, the way I experience things, volunteering, and more. For example, writing about this awesome organization Liters of Light would be terrific!

That's all there is for now, and maybe in the future, I'll have moved into new and more exciting ventures!

Apr 4, 2012

Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram Alpha is a computational engine. You type in any equation, any statistic, any type of data you can think of, and it’ll work with it.
So I’ll type in “time in london” and it’ll bring up data in convenient charts and graphs. It was nice enough show a clock of london and also one of my current location, Seoul.
You can type in any math equation as well and it’ll bring up results almost instantly.
Above, I inputted “square root of (65*5435)”. It can also plot graphs, solve functions, and more.
You can input practically anything related to data. Compare the calories in a bagel compared to that of a marshmallow, look up which airplanes are above you right now, find out how many days are left until Christmas, 2019 (2821 at the moment, anyway). You can find out the maximun speed of a hawk or a dodo bird. Check out Wolfram Alpha, I'm sure you'll find it useful.

Mar 26, 2012


An avid computer user may use Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, or another service for you email. Personally, I promote Gmail, because it's generally much snappier to shift through emails.

With one of these email services, a variety of clients are available to actually browse through your email. You can pick their online client by just going to their websites, or pick an alternative like Outlook, Thunderbird ("what's that" you say?), or Apple's Mail.
Sparrow is a simple mac email client.

Today let me present Sparrow, a straightforward and simple to use mac email client. What's unique about this application is the ease of use it brings with it. The interface is clutter-free, lacks annoyances, and lets you get through your email quickly.

Pull down the inbox to refresh your messages, check the dock icon or the menubar icon for new message counters, and manage multiple email accounts at the same time. If you have a multitouch trackpad on your computer, you can also use gestures to manage your messages.

A key feature that I enjoy is how Sparrow compiles all of your email accounts into a single "Unified Inbox". I have two personal emails and a school one, so this makes going through email smart and swift.

There's a free version with an ad at the top and a paid version without it. Try Sparrow out!

Mar 12, 2012


I do advocate backing up files onto an external harddrive as it's been hammered into my mind like a set of computational commandments. Thou shalt backup thy files... thou shalt blog. However, why not take advantage of that omnipresent internet connection I have access to?

That's where Dropbox comes in. It's an application for all operating systems, including mobile ones like iOS or Android, and you can think of this service as equivalent to an external harddrive in the Cloud. This means that you can not just have your files backed up, but that you can access them from anywhere you can get an internet connection.

The way it works is simple. You're given one folder called your Dropbox and you put your files in there. You can create folders, put in your images, save them, rename files, and more. It acts like a normal folder. The trick in it is that behind the scenes, every file you put in there is uploaded to Dropbox securely and automatically. You keep your files on your computer and on the web, and on every device that can get to the web.

You can share your files too by getting direct links to them for other people to look at and download. There are a bunch of other useful features and the owners are constantly adding more.

Personally, I use Dropbox to hold all my school files and personal photos. That way, I can get to my school files on any computer, even ones that aren't mine, when I need them. Everything is secure and easy!

You can get a free account with 2GB (+ extra space for free), or pay a bit more to get even more space.

Try out Dropbox, you might find that it's a great way to supplement your harddrives and replace your USB drives.

Mar 5, 2012


Bookmarks get messy for me. I tend to find myself creating a list of things in a "later" folder of bookmarks and dumping in an enormous list of websites, cat pictures, YouTube videos, and everything I come across while browsing the internet. This just doesn't work well. For starters, you'll ignore every single link in that mishmash of silly putty (not to say that the links themselves are bad!). You just push it there into your read it later bin.

I've found that the system used in web browsers just doesn't cut it for me. And so, here I am using Instapaper instead.

This web service is simple. To quote, it's "a simple tool to save web pages for reading later." How it works is that you create an account ID (you don't need a password, but you can use one) and then you can just start adding links in to your reading queue using a bookmarklet or your phone. Your webpages (be it images, articles, videos) will be saved an a convenient link in your web account. For example, if I wanted to add this blog to the website, I could navigate to the link and just press a bookmark button from there. Voila.

Instapaper Add

It's easy to use, and what makes it better than an endless list of bookmarks is that Instapaper works like a true reading list. You can press the "text button" in order to get a text-only version of your page that excludes all images and gives you pure and readable print. The "archive" button allows you to hide that website from your main list and keep it in storage in case you ever wish to revisit it in the future. It's simple to use and absolutely works well. In fact, if you look at the website itself, there are very few images on the site itself to make it quick and snappy.

If you're fed up with constantly fixing your bookmarks and constantly ignoring them, try out Instapaper. You can also get it on your iOS devices and Kindles to read on the go.

Feb 24, 2012

Quick List of Apps

From an old white one to a brand-spanking new MacBook Pro, there isn't much that I don't understand how to do on this computer. And now, four years later, I've got a hefty collection of applications that conveniently help me get through the day. Here's a quick list of a few free ones that you might find useful.

F.lux uses your timezone to control the tint of your screen.
If you stare at your screen all day for work or for play, you'll notice a blue tint that emanates from your bright display. This is meant to replicate the sun, which of course, you don't want to stare at at nighttime. The purpose of f.lux is to change this glow during nighttime to a softer orange in order to ease the strain on your eyes. While the tint at first may be noticeable, you'll become accustomed to it within a couple of days and you'll wonder how you lived without it.

Now, I can disable it for a moment when it's active and a terrifying blue glow shoots directly into my eyes! Augh, nobody wants that.

Add a calendar to your Mac's time menu bar item
If you're on a Mac, then go ahead an click on your time icon in your menu bar (at the top left, near the spotlight icon). And poof! Well that's a bit disappointing. Wouldn't you rather see a calendar in place of that boring menu? Day-O does just that. Now, you get a small calendar icon next to the current time and day, along with an actual calendar that pops open whenever you click on the menu bar item. It's a quick and easy way for me to plan out future dates, and actually see what day an event is. Easy, simple, and quick.

Third icon from the right is Caffeine.
Caffeine is another very simple menu bar application that has one simple function: stop your screen from locking or going into your screen saver. Now when would this be useful? Surprisingly, the option to have rapid access to the auto-lock on your computer is very useful. Pop it on and your computer's screen just stays on until you close it or turn it off. Flip it off again and then your computer locks up normally in order to keep everything safe.

Here's a simple way I use it. During a lecture in class, I'm looking up at a screen or a teacher, and then back down to take notes. And at times, I'm just looking up without paying attention to my computer. But this leads me to the situation in which my computer automatically locks up and I have to wait for the screen to turn on again and everything to slowly load back. This is where Caffeine can help!

All three of these apps are little tools that keep out of the way and perform their functions phenomenally. Try one out, or all of them if you've found them useful. All are free, so don't worry about paying a cent.

Feb 20, 2012

The Purpose of this Blog

In this day and age, there's always a new website or tool that helps people get things done. Task management startups keep people organized, new online tools and social networks like Pinterest are captivating the young, and an ever increasing number of applications are being pushed out by developers. In this blog, I try to look at the software in our lives, and ways to improve the way it works with us and the way we work with it. And yet, while this constant innovation is stunning, it becomes addicting to go from one new thing to the other.

Take a look at my Macbook's dock to the left. Each one of those shiny application icons is a new story to be told. I could write about how email's become so much easier to shovel through with Sparrow. A post about Reeder could explain my love of RSS feeds of various blogs and news from around the world. And I could even talk about Evernote, which I'm sure most readers of this blog would know. Perhaps a simpler note-jotting App like Notational Velocity is what you're looking for.

But that's the dock, and not the entire arsenal of applications I use. The collection I have is much larger. And move the story online, and I'll never have to stop writing. It's a cliche topic, but it's one that never gets old.

However, this also makes you think, "oh! But won't all of these things overload my computer and I?" Well, that's why I pick out the absolute best to write about.  There shouldn't be a hassle finding the right wrench for the job.

Also, I'll put in the occasional blog post about what I'm reading, tips for life (perhaps), and more.

If you're reading this post, I'm already thankful. A weekly post, and sometimes more, will keep you captivated with the new things that keep on coming. So, enjoy the blog, Andrew.

Feb 10, 2012

Airborn (by Kenneth Oppel)

Airships, sky pirates, and fantastical journeys; I've always been in the mood for unconventional flight in the air.

I've kicked off the month with a fresh book, Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. From what I've started on and also from some quick skimming online, it's based around an Earth on which airships are the primary source of transportation. With this includes the story of Matt Cruse on one of these ships, the Aurora. There's tragedy with death, mystery with disbelief, and thrill with floating ships.

A friend of mine randomly stuck this book into my face and I took a second to glance at the cover. I instantly knew what the story would include. I walked around for a few moments in the library and I asked if anybody had already read it, and to that, they'd always answer that it was uproarious (or just fun). So let's take a crack at it.

Kenneth Oppel, other than writing Airborn, also wrote the Silverwing Trilogy, Colin's Fantastic Video Adventure, and This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. Surprisingly, his first book was published after being read by Roald Dahl and passed on to his publisher. It was also about a teenage boy's addiction to videogames, which was a fun tidbit to hear. Oppel spent three years at Oxford while doing doctoral studies in Shakespeare.

Stories about worlds that are so close to ours except for minor details are the most enjoyable for me. Airships being used rather than airplanes, fictional hydrium gas which is lighter than hydrogen, and creatures that fly about in the sky. It's piracy and sailing in the sky, and there's nothing more exciting than this age old twist! I'm also hoping to figure out what my buds find so greatly awesome about this tale. Though I'm told the next two books in the series drag on a bit, so we'll see.

Feb 3, 2012

This is Why I Love "Remember the Milk"

"Don't forget the milk! Pardon? Oh no!"

I was on the phone with my Mother and I had obviously missed the deadline. She was out of checkout and on her dandy way home. And so, regrettably I didn't have a delectable bowl of cereal the next morning.

For my school life, along with most of my personal reminders, I use Remember the Milk. It's another task manager (which there are a sea of these days) that I've come to love. Because first, I can view all the tasks I have left on my phone. And this is awesomely useful whenever I don't want to open up my computer. And second, because it's also on the web, rather than just an App on my Mac. Again, useful for finding out what I need to do wherever I can get a web connection.

Oct 22, 2011

From Wordpress to Here

I've moved here temporarily from my Wordpress blog! With a new design here, I'll be chugging along with a moderate stream of content. Yeah!

I'll talk to this guy later.

I do have to say that Blogger wasn't the easiest platform to get right into, especially with its very limited set of starting themes that are just kind of ugly. And while the theme of the blog might seem a bit too simplistic, I believe it's elegant and shows off everything a good blog should have.