Katie's Week in Review: December 4, 2016

I took last week off for Thanksgiving. I hope all of my readers in the U.S. had a happy Thanksgiving holiday with their friends and family. Getting back on track, here are the links of note for the week ending December 4, 2016:

ScreenCastsOnline Monthly Magazine: Gifts for Geeks

This month’s issue of ScreenCasts Online Monthly Magazine is now available in ScreenCasts Online Magazine App. In the December issue you’ll find an article from me about some of my favorite gifts for geeks this holiday season.

The monthly magazine is packed with streamable versions of Don’s excellent video tutorials as well as articles, reviews and tips from authors including David Sparks, Allison Sheridan, Wally Cherwinski and more. The magazine is free for ScreenCasts online Premium Members or available as a separate subscription or you can pickup individual issues. You can download it in the AppStore or find more info at https://www.screencastsonline.com/membership_benefits/

Mac Power Users #352: Workflows with Ian Byrd

This week on Mac Power UsersIan Byrd is a former teacher and professional speaker, joins David and Me to share his workflows and tips for giving full-day lectures and workshops, writing, video production and more.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • MacPaw: Get a 30% discount on all of MacPaw’s must-have Mac Apps on Cyber Monday - November 28, 2016!
  • 1Password Have you ever forgotten a password? Now you don't have to worry about that anymore. Save up to 20% using this link.
  • MindNode MindNode makes mind maping easy.

Mac Power Users #351: 2016 Holiday Geek Gift Guide

This week on Mac Power Users David and I share some of our favorite geek gift ideas for that special person in your life this holiday season … or maybe even yourself.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • The Omni Group We're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad. 
  • Automatic The connected car company that improves your driving and integrates your car into yoru digital life. Enter code MACPOWER to get 20% off your purchase. 
  • Making Light Get (or give!) a candle subscription and make some new habits. Use offer code "MPU".

Katie's Week in Review: November 20, 2016

It’s been a busy technology week for me. My new MacBook Pro arrived and let’s just say our relationship hasn’t gotten off to the best start. I’ve reinstalled the OS (yes, on a brand new machine) and hopefully things will be better going forward. Due to my computer difficulties this week I have a somewhat abbreviated week in review for the week ending November 20, 2016:

  • MacBook Pro with Touch Bar review: Keyboard chameleon - I always enjoy Jason Snell’s reviews of Apple products. He spends most of his time looking at the new Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro which admittedly I have now found much of a use for. I plan to spend some more time with Jason’s review and hopefully find some practical uses for the Touch Bar in my own workflow.
  • Mossberg: The new MacBook Pro is a fast, slim tweener - Walt Mossberg gives a bit more skeptical look at the new MacBook Pro and notes that while this is a sleek and modern new machine, it is not without compromises.
  • “Designed by Apple in California” Chronicles 20 Years of Apple Design - Something I never saw coming, Apple has released a book featuring it’s products for the past 20 years, essentially the “Jony Ive era”. Starting at $200 it’s a little too steep for my likes and probably poor timing given the recent complaints about the price of Apple’s new products. Nevertheless, while I wouldn’t buy this book for myself, I have added it to my Christmas wish list. It is gorgeous after all.
  • Apple to Halve App Store Fees for Subscription Video Apps - Mac Rumors - Rumor has it that Apple has been giving preferred pricing to certain video partners for some time, now they’re making it official across the board. Will this be enough to bring Amazon over? Time will tell.
  • Sal Soghoian Leaves Apple - Sad news for the Mac community and potentially a disturbing sign for the future of automation on the Mac. Sal is “one of us” and his departure from Apple leaves me with many questions and concerns.
  • MacBook Pro 13" Touch Bar Teardown - iFixit - iFixit takes apart the new Touch Bar MacBook Pros. Unfortunately this model has a soldered in place SSD (unlike the non-Touch Bar models) and iFixit gives this machine one of the lowest repairability scores ever. Just about any repair is going to be cost prohibitive and require a complete logic board replacement. Glad I opted for AppleCare.
  • Troubleshooting some nasty Safari malware | Macworld - Jason Snell recounts helping his sister who managed to come across some common Mac Malware. I’m seeing this more and more and Jason’s article has some great tips on how how to deal with this increasingly common problem.
  • Finally today, my pal Stephen Hackett, collector of all things Apple, has ordered Apple’s new book “Designed by Apple in California” and put together showcasing the book along with a collection of real life Apple products. It’s pretty cool. A special note, a black iPod Video that was previously owed by me makes an appearance at 1:37. I'm pleased to see my old gear is being put to good use!

First Impressions of the 13" MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

My new 13" MacBook Pro arrived today. I’ve been working with the Machine for several hours this afternoon getting it setup and configured and can offer a few initial thoughts and impressions. David and I will be recording a Mac Power Users episode devoted to the new MacBook Pro and setup in a few weeks and I’ll have more to share by that episode I’m sure. For now, a few introductory thoughts:

The Overall Look and Feel:

  • The size and weight the machine feels great. I picked up a 13“ model and was concerned about it being slightly larger than the 13” Air I love. In all ways that matter, despite not having the taper, this machine feels smaller and more compact than the 13" Air. I’m very happy with the size and weight.
  • After years of Silver laptops I opted for the Space Gray finish. It’s a nice change. The machine is beautiful though probably not as dark as one would expect. Certainly not black like the MacBooks of old.
  • This is my first experience with a Retina display. Everyone warned me that as soon as I moved to a Mac with a Retina display I’d never be able to look at a non-Retina display again. The display is nice, and there is a noticeable difference from my 13" Air. However, I’m just not blown away as I expected to be. Likely my vision is not good enough (or perhaps bad enough) to appreciate the difference. This has me seriously rethinking whether I want to spend $1000 on the Apple/LG display or $500 or less on a nice 4k display.
  • It’s a beautiful machine. Of course, it would be.

The Keyboard and Trackpad

  • I’m not happy.
  • The keyboard is very different from the traditional MacBook keyboards. There is significantly less travel. I’d say this keyboard feels more like typing on my iPad SmartCover than it does my old MacBook Air, and that in my book is not a good thing. I’m a touch typist and am finding a lot more typos in my work today than normal. However, as the day has gone on, I’m slowly adapting. I’ll get better at this, but I’m not happy about it.
  • The trackpad is another story. It's too big. Because the trackpad is so wide your hands and palms naturally rest on it. I find this makes clicking and moving more cumbersome than on my 13" Air. I’m having a lot more missed clicks and having to contort my hands in odd ways to click. Maybe I’ll adapt as the day goes on.
  • I’ve long struggled with RSI and find that I am very sensitive to keyboards and mice. I’ll be curious after a day or two with this new machine how my wrists and hands feel. My feeling is that this setup will be worse - as I type this post my hands are already starting to ache, that’s not good.
  • On a positive note, the individually backlit keys are pretty.

Touch Bar and TouchID

  • I didn’t realize how often I used the escape key until today. Hitting the Touch Bar escape key isn’t bad, but it’s not as easy as a physical key.
  • Aside from the escape key and the TouchID sensor, I don’t think I’ve used the Touch Bar today. Honestly, it feels gimmicky.
  • Most of the options that appear in the Touch Bar can be easily accomplished using keyboard shortcuts. If you’re a keyboard power user, I think you’ll probably find that the easier and faster route. Additionally, in many applications I don’t find the Touch Bar suggestions particularly helpful. For example, when suggestions pop up for filing in Apple Mail they’re usually way off base. Hopefully developers will do a better job with Touch Bar support than Apple has, so far I’m not impressed.
  • TouchID I’ve found to be hit or miss. It’s very similar to TouchID on the iPhone or iPad. It can’t be used to unlock a Mac when you first power it on, you still have to type your password for that. There are also obvious system integrations where it’s missing. For example, sometimes I can use it when installing software, other times I can't. I also can’t use it when gaining access to secure system preferences. Odd.
  • Third party apps will be able to use TouchID but so far 1Password is the only App I use that has done so.
  • Here’s a tip - like iOS you can program multiple fingers for TouchD. I found it’s actually useful to program your far fingers on your right hand for TouchID support. I find I’m much more likely to stretch and hit the sensor with my middle or ring finger on my right hand than I am with my thumb index finger. (I also accidently trigger Siri more often than not!)

Power and Performance

  • Today I’ve mainly just been setting up the machine so haven’t thrown any significant tasks at it. However, I have been surprised at how quickly I was able to download apps and transfer files. Maybe it’s the newer 802.11ac networking, maybe it’s the faster SSD, but downloading installers from the Internet and syncing files from Dropbox occurred far faster than I’ve ever experienced.
  • Battery life is hard to test, especially on a brand new machine. Lots of tasks have been running in the background including Mail downloading, Photos syncing with iCloud, Spotlight indexing and more. Therefore my battery life has not been great today. About 3 hours with my initial charge and an estimated 5 hours on my second full charge. These are not representative of normal usage and I’ll know more once the initial setup calms down.

All the Dongles

  • I posted about all the dongles I picked up in anticipation for the new MacBook Pro. I’m pleased to report that so far it appears everything works. I’m even able to use my old 24" DisplayPort Cinema Display using the Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter, however I’m using an older Belkin Thunderbolt Dock as a passthrough to make this work.

After spending about 8 hours with the MacBook Pro it’s a very powerful and sexy machine. But there are a lot of compromises. After spending nearly $3000 on the machine and all the adapters, I really hope it grows on me.

Tech Services I'm Using to Run My Law Practice

Most of you know a couple of months ago I made the decision to leave my law firm job and strike it out on my own. Opening my own practice has always been something that I wanted to do, and the timing seemed right to make this leap.

One key factor in my decision to open my own practice was the availability of technology and services to help small business owners. Several months before making the move, I started exploring exactly what would be necessary to open my own firm and the costs involved and was pleasantly surprised that the overhead was very manageable, especially for someone who was tech savvy. While I won’t bore you with the specifics relating to a law practice, I’ve had several people ask me about the tech related services and products that I’ve used while launching this my own small business.

Web Presence:

Of course any modern business needs a web presence. I wanted my own domain name, website and custom email address. There are many products and services that could be used for this and I’m sure some will debate my choices. I choose my services based on a number of factors including price, features, ease of use, maintenance (or lack thereof) and security.

I purchased a domain name (www.floydlaw.net) through Hover. I used Hover simply because I had an existing relationship with Hover and their prices are reasonable while they offer ease of customization and privacy. Of course, the biggest challenge was finding an available domain name. You can imagine having a fairly common last name as well as being in the legal field meant that lots of the names I wanted were not available. I couldn’t find a good .com so I had to settle with a .net.

squarespace-logo-horizontal-black.jpg

For my website hosting and design I choose SquareSpace. Again, SquareSpace is a company that I choose primarily because I was familiar with their product. This site is hosted on SquareSpace and I’ve built a number of sites on SquareSpace so I was comfortable that I could put together a site that looked good fairly easily. I had a few friends and colleagues recommend WordPress, and I agree that platform would have offered more flexibility and room for growth in the future. However, I personally wasn’t as comfortable working with WordPress as a backend and didn’t like the idea of ongoing maintenance.

Full Disclosure: both Hover and Squarespace are sponsors of Mac Power Users

I struggled a bit with my choice of email provider but ultimately choose a Google Apps for Work account. This provided me not only with ample email storage but also access to other products I thought I would use with my business including Google Drive, Contacts and Calendars. Although I have access to these services through my personal account, because of the nature of my business I wanted to keep work files segregated. I also liked the ability to activate two-factor authentication for additional security and the ability to access these services from almost anywhere. Google Apps for Work costs $5 per month per user which means I can add on as my business expands and have administrative control over those accounts as well.

Bookkeeping and Invoicing

Bookkeeping is probably the area that I had the least familiarity with and is the one that I’m still figuring out. I have a CPA friend who handles my personal taxes and will also be handling my business affairs so I looked to her for guidance in this area. Essentially I told my CPA what my plan was and asked if I could pay her to setup my business and teach me how to run the books. She gladly agreed as this would make her job during tax time a lot easier.

She set me up with a basic QuickBooks Online account. While this does have a monthly fee, my CPA felt it would be the easiest to maintain and for us to share information so she could help me with regular audits and end of the year taxes. For now we’ve started on one of the lower-tier plans with the idea that we can always move up if my business needs warrant it. Right now I’m basically using QuickBooks as a glorified checking register, but as an attorney we also have to do some fancy things like keep track of client trust accounts.

In addition to QuickBooks I’m testing two similar invoicing services, Harvest and Freshbooks. My gut reaction is that Harvest may be the better fit for my business because it seems to have better time tracking features (very important for attorneys who often bill hourly) as well as integration with QuickBooks. However, I want to give each of these services, in addition to QuickBooks’ own invoicing capabilities a few months worth of trials to see which one wins out.

I haven’t adopted a formal “practice management” solution yet as I wanted to wait until I was a few months into my practice to see what my needs were, or even if I needed something like that for my business. However, I am looking at Clio, which is web-based software specifically designed to help lawyers manage their practice.

Brand Identity

Katherine-L-Floyd-PLLC-Logo-V-Colour.png

I knew one of the most important things for a new business was to have a solid brand identity. I am probably more graphically inclined than most attorneys, but I am not an artist or graphic designer so I knew it would be money well spent to reach out to a true designer to help with my branding. To the rescue was grafiksyndikat who designed the Mac Power Users logo as well as the artwork for Relay.fm. He was able to put together the logo as well as business cards and letterhead and provide me with print-ready files that I could use for all my marketing.

Most of my colleagues who started their own practices put together a simple logo using text in Microsoft Office or let the person at their local print shop come up with something. I’ve already been passing out business cards for my new business the past few weeks and have received so many compliments on the branding. It’s really the little touches like this that stand out.

Without going too crazy, I have taken my fancy new logo and had some marketing materials printed up. I was able to order 1000 business cards for less than $30 through GotPrint and picked up custom notecards with envelopes through VistaPrint. Be careful when ordering print products and compare prices both locally and through online vendors. It’s easy to overpay in this area and you may be surprised that some of the online shops are more expensive than buying local.

Office Products and Supplies

I’m renting space in an office complex so while I don’t have to stock a full office, I do have to buy all my own supplies and equipment. Because I’m currently an office of one, I don’t need huge quantities, but I have greater needs than an individual. I’ve done a good bit of comparison shopping and found that Amazon has been overall the best place to shop for office supplies and equipment, regularly beating my local office supply store on both price and selection. With 2-day prime shipping, I can order what I need and it will be delivered to my door within a couple of days meaning I don’t have to devote a lot of office space to storing a stockpile of supplies.

Because storage space is at a minimum and I can’t risk running out of office essentials, I’ve tapped into some automatic replenishment services. For example, I purchased a Brother laser printer that is Amazon Dash Enabled so my printer will automatically reorder toner when it is getting low. Similarly I’ve signed my HP inkjet printer (which I use for color documents) up for HP’s Instant Ink service. Instant Ink is probably a good deal for people who use ink jet printers occasionally and allows you to print between 50 - 300 pages per month for a recurring subscription fee. I’m on the lowest tier plan which includes 50 pages per month (more than enough for me) and at $36 a year this is a bit less than what I was generally spending a year on ink.

Sleepless Nights

While I admit that I have had a few more than normal sleepless nights the last few months thinking about the future and whether or not my decision to go out on my own was the right one, I am certain of one thing. For the tech savvy, entrepreneur, this has never been easier or more affordable.

This article first appeared in the September Issue of ScreencastsOnline Monthly Magazine. ScreenCastsOnline monthly magazine is packed with hints, tips, articles and links to streamable versions of ScreenCastsOnline tutorials and delivered monthly via Newsstand on the iPad. You can find out more at [https://www.screencastsonline.com/membership_benefits/

Mac Power Users #350: Accessibility Workflows with Shelly Brisbin

This week on Mac Power Users Shelly Brisbin stops by to talk about Accessibility and gives us a run down of the various Accessibility features and options available on Mac and iOS, how they can be used, what developers can do to make their Apps more accessible and how we can help friends and family use these features.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • Eero: Blanket your home in fast, reliable WiFi. Use code MPU for free overnight shipping.
  • TextExpander from Smile Type more with less effort! Expand short abbreviations into longer bits of text, even fill-ins, with TextExpander from Smile.
  • Marketcircle We help small business grow with great Mac, iPhone and iPad apps including Daylight and Billings Pro.