Journaling A Few Days With Day One

Journaling is a good habit, so it makes sense to support it with a good tool. Some prefer good ol’ fashioned pen and paper, yet others like to go digital. While there are many journaling apps, one often stands out: Day One. I’ve been using the app for a week, but this is not my first time trying it. What’s different now?

Day One has a positive reputation, having earned awards for its beauty, simplicity, and functionality. Added to that list are its more recent achievements: privacy and security via end-to-end encryption. Suffice to say, this digital diary deserves noteworthy attention for all its quality. So over the past few years, I’ve eagerly installed Day One a handful of times to try it, but the app never clicked with me.

One of the reasons was its interface. Despite exuding elegance, I found the high number of features, icons, settings, and fine text to be a bit much for my taste. In other words, it looked and felt distracting and somewhat overwhelming. I am accustomed to the relative simplicity of Apple Notes, which has been my main outlet for private journaling; Day One was “busier” by contrast.

Another issue I’ve waffled about — across a variety of productivity apps — is whether to rely on first-party software or third-party solutions. There are pros and cons to both sides; in general, I stick with Apple’s default apps for their ecosystem synergy. That said, there’s a distinct advantage to using a specialized journaling app over a generalized note taking app: dedication.

Day One app on iPad.

That’s why I am trying a third-party journaling app again. It recently occurred to me: I need to remove my innermost personal thoughts from the Apple Notes app. Instead, they should be kept in a dedicated or specialized app, separate from disparate folders and tags of general notes. This would let my secret musings be siloed into their own service that’s more private and secure, and it would allow me to focus attention on my journaling habit, giving it a vital boost.

Simply having a particular app icon — dedicated to journaling — on my iPad’s home screen or dock, for example, makes journaling more visually prominent. Seeing the Day One app reminds me it’s important to journal. More than that, it welcomes me to a dedicated place where I can pour out my brain’s firings and misfirings — unfiltered and unfettered.

I love Apple Notes and rely on it, but my journals felt somewhat overlooked within it; my journaling habit fell to neglect. This is despite the fact that I had a Shortcut on my home-screen to automatically create a new note with the current date in the title, which allowed me to quickly start the day’s diary entry. Also, since Apple Notes now features tagging, in addition to folders, I have begun to reorganize my notes by type and subject. This process, and the results, will work much better with my journals relocated to Day One.

My Day One-week streak!

I’ve only been using Day One for a week, so it’s too early to know if I’ll stick with it. I need a dedicated journaling app though, so I’m giving Day One a real try with an open mind. As I move my journals from Apple Notes to Day One, I backdate them as needed. I’ve also restarted daily journaling again, utilizing one of the features that a dedicated journaling app is uniquely apt for: a writing streak or goal. With Day One, I now have a widget on my iPad that shows my current 6-day journaling streak; it’s another reminder of the importance to reflect daily.

Day One Streak Widget
Day One Streak Widget.

Besides widgets, Day One has many other niceties that aid or improve journaling: calendar view, timeline view, auto date/time stamps, auto weather data, templates, daily prompts, reminders, and ”On this day”. This last feature automatically displays photos for any given date along with any journal entries on that same day. Seeing this in action has been somewhat revelatory, making me think it’s a feature that I can’t believe I’ve lived without.

I have only a few minor quibbles with Day One. I wish the passcode was at least 6 digits instead of a mere 4, or maybe an alphanumeric passphrase option would be better; I guess it’s secure enough. The app has extra icons, text labels, and other features I don’t need — like adding audio, video, or drawings — but the user interface overall is easy enough to look at and use; I’m already becoming accustomed to it. In time, I’ll probably unpack my bags, settle in, and feel comfy enough to unpack my feels and thoughts on a regular basis. And I’ll likely pay the annual subscription fee, which amounts to about the cost of one coffee per month — totally worth it I think. Otherwise, the free version is very capable so far.

So do you journal? If so, how often? And what tool is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!

The EdgeBook Is Born!

Microsoft is doing a thing. It looks interesting and exciting to this tech nerd. A new OS is coming along soon, called Windows 10X (poor name IMO), but more important are the new devices along with it. Basically, we’re talking about Windows powered Chromebooks, which I’m calling EdgeBooks.

I’ve used four different Chromebooks over the last few years and really like them a lot; they’re so simple! And they’re super affordable. Did I mention reliable? They run ChromeOS and all the Google stuff like Drive and Docs. Also, the Chrome broswer, in case it wasn’t obvious.

What excites me is that Microsoft is making their own version of Chromebooks using a new and modern version of Windows. Why the excitement? Because…it’s Windows-ish! And it’s Chromebook-ish at the same time. Somehow it looks attractive, like a good fit. It helps that I actually like Windows 10.

What stands out about Windows 10X is that it’s based on Windows 10. But 10X is modernized, fresh, and above all, it’s super simplified. The legacy stuff from years past – cleaned out. Also, it runs the Microsoft Store, which has simple modern versions of Microsoft Office.

The main feature is, of course, the browser. Instead of Chrome, you get Edge. I use Windows 10 with Edge on my work laptop. It’s really good.

With that in mind, what might these new Windows 10X devices be called? How will they be marketed? Here are a few ideas:

  • WinBook – because it’s a Windows laptop.
  • EdgeBook – because it’s a Windows laptop mostly to run the Edge browser.
  • CloudBook – because it’s a CloudOS laptop, or a CloudPC.
  • SurfBook – because of “Surface” laptops. So why not also SurfOS?

There are two bits I find very interesting about Win10X:

  1. No resizing windows (unlike Chrome OS)
  2. No local file storage (unlike Chrome OS)

First, I love the simplicity of always full-screen app windows; they’re like tablet apps. This removes one of the three icons in the upper right corner of regular Windows 10 app windows.

And this might mean that many or most EdgeBooks will be quite small. They’d have to be just big enough to squeeze in a full-size keyboard. Like many Chromebooks, I think EdgeBooks will have 11.6 inch screens. That’s great for Mobile Computing.

Second, a lack of local file storage sounds like the antithesis of Windows. But in our modern computer world, it also seems normal thanks to cloud computing. I think most of us are used to this nowadays. On my Chromebook, I default to storing everything in Google Drive. On an EdgeBook, you would do the same using OneDrive.

A big attraction I have not mentioned yet about a Windows version of a Chromebook: privacy. I would lean towards using an EdgeBook in order to distance myself from the data-harvesting Google ecosystem. Microsoft might be similar in this regard, but I think it is much less so than Google.

Check out what Microsoft says about Edge and your privacy.

The Edge browser defaults to Bing search, which uses a web indexing engine by Microsoft, not Google. My current search service now is privacy-centric DuckDuckGo, which uses the Bing search engine, among others, for results. It’s quite good.

All in all, an EdgeBook with Windows10X has me excited. If nothing else, it will increase competition for Chromebooks, in turn making Google innovate them more. If I wasn’t planning on buying an iPad later this year, I’d likely get a new “EdgeBook.”

Watch the video below to see a demo of Windows 10X.

What do you think? Reply below with your comment. Contact or Email me at the buttons above. Thanks for reading!

Edward Snowden’s Permanent Record

Now Read This

Maybe the US government is logging my keystrokes as I type this. Or maybe only Google is since I’m using Docs on a Chromebook to write. Ambient Privacy and Surveillance Capitalism are important topics. But for this review of Ed Snowden’s memoir, I want to focus on only the literary aspects.

A True Story

For the record, Permanent Record is a good read.

More than that, Snowden’s account of the events of his life, leading up to when he revealed classified documents, is a great book that I didn’t want to put down. I devoured its pages over the weekend. Everybody loves a good story; Snowden’s story, and the telling, is fascinating.

When the memoir was released last week, my interest was piqued. But I thought I’d wait to purchase the book. By the next day, I saw on Ed Snowden’s Twitter account that the US government was suing him and/or the book publisher. If the federal system of America does not want Snowden to profit from his memoir, that’s one thing. But if it didn’t want me reading it, that’s another thing. Fearing the book might be yanked off store shelves, I decided I should buy it right away.

I’m pretty much a 100% eBook guy. I always want the digital version to read on my device. But knowing how easy it is for a company to delete, remove, or retract an eBook from eStores and eReaders, I wasn’t going to risk it. I bought Snowden’s hardback from Amazon just in time to get it before stock ran out, which happened by a day after my Prime order.

Snowden’s recount of his formative years leading to his dangerous decision to pull back the curtain on secret NSA operations gives the pretext and the context of that monumental revelation. His life, his decision, and the US government’s actions are on permanent record, thanks to Snowden and his memoir.

It begins when he was a young boy, detailing key parts of his upbringing that help explain his personality and character, things that inform and influence his life circumstances, choices, and conscience, which all factor into that single point of deciding to bring to light the dark arts of one of America’s most secretive organizations.

Ed Snowden was a bright young man with a knack for computers. You could say he was one of the top web surfers in the world, riding one of the biggest waves to ever hit the shores of the States. Read: he was unparalleled in his aptitude for networking. It was intriguing to read about Snowden’s skills and how he honed them. Being part geek and part nerd myself, I related much with Snowden.

Even more gripping than Ed’s tech-star status were the inner workings of the US Intelligence Community (IC). Like many, I enjoy the entertainment of spy-thriller movies and espionage novels. This genre of stories is naturally intriguing due to the inherent secrets and mysteries shrouding the characters and actions involved. But in Snowden’s memoir, it is by default an order of magnitude more engrossing since it is a true story!

From a literary standpoint, of course Permanent Record is written in the first-person perspective, which makes it more direct and immersive. But it’s not written only by Ed Snowden. The last chapter is written by Snowden’s then girlfriend. It is a collection of her personal diary entries during the initial days Ed went missing. She tells a true spy story, involving the FBI, with raw emotion. It grabs you.

(not an affiliate link)

Get Snowden’s Permanent Record

Permanent Record is a book I recommend you read. That’s another reason I bought the hardback version. I want to easily share it with friends or family so they can be sure to consume it.

If you want a good book to read, Permanent Record will not disappoint. You may not even be able to put it down. It has the real-life makings of a riveting story: drama, emotion, danger, action, secrets. I suggest you grab a copy while you can.

Have you read the book? What do you think? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Privacy And Technology Mixed

Like Oil and Water

There’s been a lot of bad news in the past several years about data breaches and other privacy related issues. You would think that, like oil and water, Privacy and Technology just don’t mix. Despite advances in security and protection with our web-connected devices, privacy keeps getting thrown under the bus. Are there any tech companies you can trust these days?

Apple Privacy

One of the biggest proponents for techno-privacy is Apple. They market Privacy as a feature of their premium ecosystem, and it’s one with great benefits. What are the greatest perks of online privacy? Identity, Autonomy, and Security come to mind.

You may have heard sayings like, “Your device, your data.” As an individual, you have personal info: some is private, some is public – you should be the one to decide. The problem is too often others – tech companies, smart assistants, algorithms – decide for us.

Amongst the big-tech oligopoly, Apple has been the company you can trust the most. That’s a big reason why I bought into Apple’s “walled-garden.” You could ride a chariot on top of those walls! In one ad, they boldly declared that, “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.” I like the reassuring sound of that; it’s comforting.

But no company is perfect. We now have the recent discomforting news that Apple has, perhaps inadvertently, shown hypocrisy – which might as well be heresy – by violating its users’ privacy. They allowed contractors to listen to personal audio recordings coming from Siri, the digital assistant. It’s bad enough news that long-time Apple blogger, John Gruber of Daring Fireball, did not have good things to say about the situation. I think Apple has broken some trust.

Is there anyone you can trust these days to respect or protect your privacy? I think Apple is still the one big-tech company you can trust the most, and that should be borne out in how they respond to this new debacle.

Google Privacy

Besides Apple, I also bought into the Google universe, having just switched from iPad to Chromebook. I’m also leaning towards trading my iPhone for an Android phone. I like going all-in. This is mostly because I’m a tech-geek; gadgets are my thing. But the issue about privacy did weigh into my decision to leap over Apple’s garden walls into the world-wide-web that is Google’s domain.

If I value my digital privacy, how can I leave Apple for Google? Fair question.

In a blog post published earlier this year, I made the following simplistic statement:

“One reason I prefer Apple over Google is because of privacy. Google wants all your data to throw ads at you and feed their machine learning stuff. Apple respects your privacy and would rather not have your personal data.”

Like big-tech companies that update their privacy policies, I’ve updated my view on Google’s position towards privacy. The bottom line is that I find Google’s mix of privacy and technology acceptable. Maybe they’re not as trustworthy as Apple, but I think they’re trustworthy enough.

While I prefer Google did not collect and use so much of my personal data, they give me enough opportunities to opt-out or opt-in at particular points. Their Privacy and Security pages have greatly improved over time, and the GDPR keeps them in check.

As for Google throwing ads at me, the fact is ads are thrown at me everywhere all the time by numerous sources. It’s not as if Google is the sole dispenser of unpleasant ads. And on the contrary, the data Google collects is used to show me pleasant ads, which are relevant to me and my interests.

Also, the data Google collects is used to “feed their machine learning stuff.” Maybe Google’s A.I. Machine is a glutton, but I trust all that data gets put to good use. I know it benefits Google, making their machine algorithms more “intelligent” overall for many purposes.

For me, I get a lot of perks like being reminded that I have a bill scheduled for auto-pay coming up. How did Google know that? They “read” my email. But the “they” referred to here is not some group of human curators. My understanding is that it’s automatic, part of the Google machine learning mechanism. It’s powerful and magical albeit opaque and misunderstood. But again, the fruits of this labor are very practical and beneficial to me.

You could say I’ve chosen to trust Google. Frankly, switching from iPad to Chromebook, I had to. But it was still a choice. If I want to use Google’s devices and services, I must decide to trust them with my data.

Getting Personal

When it comes to putting my personal trust in Google, or any company, there’s always risk. Even Apple drops the ball. While some trust is based on a company’s lengthy privacy policy or catchy marketing, it also boils down to personal experience.

In all my years of both my wife and I using Google, we’ve had zero privacy problems. Instead, we’ve enjoyed the many benefits of Google using our own data for us, not against us. Google’s “free” services have served us well.

Although bad news about data hacks and surveillance is too prevalent and causes anxiety and uncertainty, we all have a personal choice when it comes to our data and how it gets used. How much control we have is sometimes up for debate. But we do, by and large, decide which companies we trust with our info. Hopefully, they’ll continue to earn it by showing more respect for our privacy.

What’s your take on digital privacy? Does location tracking or recorded audio listening creep you out? Do you trust Google or Apple more? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

A Chromebook Experiment

Chromebooks are interesting computers – all-Google-or-nothin’ laptops. They’re popular because they’re simple and affordable. But some people still think Chromebooks are too limited because they’re “just a browser,” nothing more. But what more do you really need?

Simplicity is a strength.

If less is more, then a Chromebook is enough computer for most people. When you think about it, a web browser is all most people use most of the time. Besides, Chromebooks do have web-apps that run in their own windows.

But what about the other limitation that Chromebooks only work while online? Well, that’s not entirely true. You can do a lot while offline. Plus, you’re almost always online anyways.

With wi-fi and cellular data everywhere, you’d be surprised how seldom you’re without an internet connection. It’s practically a utility nowadays like electricity. If the power is on or your battery is charged, you are most likely using the web.

They’re Google

A few years ago, I was all into the Google ecosystem. I had an Android smartphone and used all of Google’s services online. So for me, a Chromebook was a nice fit. That’s when I bought a super affordable Samsung Chromebook 3.

So the biggest reason I chose a Chromebook was because I used almost nothing but Google stuff. You know, Photos, Maps, Docs, Drive, etc. It made a lot of sense. A Chromebook, like a nearly pure Android phone or tablet, is pure Google running Chrome OS.

I can say firsthand, logging into a Chromebook with my Google account and all my email, docs, photos, and music just being there was super nice! Like Apple’s own mantra, it just worked. I could even watch my movies from the Google Play store (streaming or download for offline viewing).

They’re Simple

Another reason I chose a Chromebook back then: they’re just so simple. The software is not not crammed full of accessory apps, antivirus software, or third-party utility programs. They have just what you need, the stuff you want, and that’s it. Imagine that!?

And on the hardware side, a Chromebook’s simplicity means you don’t need a power hungry processor, which in turn eliminates a noisy fan. This also results in lighter weight and longer battery life. Chromebook hardware is much like a tablet! But you get a built-in keyboard (no fussing with Bluetooth) and a “case.”

They’re Affordable

Chromebooks are amazingly inexpensive. I scored mine for less than $200 after tax, brand new, from a big-box retail store. And I never felt like I “cheaped out.” I got super value in a great deal.

Because Chromebook’s are so low in price, you can afford an upgrade to a new one every year if you wanted to. Or you can spend a little higher on one for a better screen and faster processor yet still save on cash compared to traditional fancy laptops or ultrabooks.

They’re Not Private

My Chromebook set up did not last too long though. My Android phone plus Chromebook combo, nice and simple as it was, was broken apart when I switched back to owning an iPhone. That, in turn, led me to go all-in with Apple stuff. So I ended up switching to a new and nicer combo – iPhone plus iPad.

I’m now about as Google-free as I can be. I deleted all my Google data and turned off or restricted as many of Googles services and features as possible. Nope, I don’t use Google search. I use Duck-Duck-Go. And no to Goole Maps too! I use Apple Maps.

One reason I prefer Apple over Google is because of privacy. Google wants all your data to throw ads at you and feed their machine learning stuff. Apple respects your privacy and would rather not have your personal data.

That said, if the privacy stuff does not bother you, and you’re really into the Google ecosystem but have never tried a Chromebook, I would recommend it. Seriously. But I would tell you to not get the cheapest one. Shoot for closer to the middle range to get a bit more memory, CPU power, and at least a Full HD 1080p display.

Do you like Chromebooks? Are you a desktop, laptop, or tablet person? Sound off below, or shoot me a message. Thanks!