Amazon eliminates free cloud storage

Amazon sent me this email last week:

“Thanks for being an Amazon Cloud Drive customer! Amazon Cloud Drive is introducing new unlimited storage plans.

You can now save all your photos in one place with the Unlimited Photos plan for $11.99/year, plus 5 GB for videos and files. Or, if you have more than photos that you need to keep safe, the Unlimited Everything plan is perfect for all your photos, video, files, and documents, for $59.99/year.”

Astute readers will note the free 5 GB plan has been eliminated. I have no sources on why Amazon did this — maybe people weren’t really using under 5 GB, but I wonder if this is due to e-book piracy. I do wonder if most of what people were using the Personal Documents for pirated ebooks and this is Amazon’s way of getting some money from this.

Either way, it sucks. I used to use Personal Documents to store PDFs of manuals. I’ll likely just toss them in iBooks now.


How I practice guitar at home

My stage rig only gets used at practices these days. I’m in my home office so often it’s just easier to practice my guitar on my MacBook. This quick post goes into the tools and software I use.

My main guitar for my punk band is a 2009 Silverburst Epiphone Les Paul Custom. I’ve replaced the bridge pickup with a Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates pickup that I love. I also have an after market set of guitar knobs with skulls on them. Because we play a lot of Social Distortion, the guitar is tuned down to Eb and usually has a capo on the 2nd fret. So, essentially it’s a half-step sharp from standard tuning.

When I practice at home my guitar goes into an Apogee Jam and then into IK Multimedia’s Amplitube 3. I’ve found Amplitube the most flexible of amp sims. It has licensed amps from Carvin, Marshall, Orange and lots more. I have a few presets for heavy metal, blues, and punk. They’re pretty much just different amps.

When I practice at home I’m not usually too worried about extra effects like delays and flangers. I’m usually just playing to iTunes and I’m more worried I’m getting the song down correctly than worrying if I have the right amount of delay. Speaking of iTunes, I have a playlist with all the songs my band is working on. Sometime I’ll get unlazy and rearrange in our set list but that’s a chore for another day.

This set up works well and eliminates most excuses to practice. There is usually a guitar within arm’s reach at the house. With this setup I can just plug in and play.

Life with a MacBook Air (and why I didn’t go iPad-only)

Two weeks ago, I bought a MacBook Air. The better half’s laptop died and we needed to get a replacement. I wanted a smaller laptop, so I gave her my MacBook Pro and bought an Air.

At the time, I seriously considered getting a new iPad Air 2 and going iPad only. Obviously, I didn’t, so I wanted to talk through some of that thought process.


Translating my overall workflow experience on iOS 8 still feels a little clunky. I have my creative projects folder on iCloud I use to sluice information into over the course of a day. I’ll either print a page to PDF, save a photo, or file away a document.

Some of this stuff I’ll clip into Evernote for. I’m still on the free account and usually just run up against the 60mb transfer limit. On OS X, the Evernote web clipper works a treat. For some reason though, I can’t get a photo I’m viewing in Safari on iOS to invoke extensions. When I bring up the share extension, none of the extensions are there. I can save the photo to my Photos app and upload it to Evernote from there, but that’s an unnecessary step.

I also wasn’t able to easily publish to Gigaom on the iPad. No blogging app on iOS could break through the front-end Gigaom had built– we had to choose the channel we were posting to before creating a post. I’d usually just copy the HTML in Byword to WordPress in Safari. I could do this in Safari on iOS, but I’ve never been very happy with WordPress on iOS Safari. The joke was on me since Gigaom shut down the week I got the MacBook Air anyway.

Adjusting to life on the small screen

Going from a 15” to an 11” screen hasn’t been as tough as I expected. I thought for sure I’d have some eye strain that hasn’t been the case. While it’s not a Retina screen, it does seem a little bit crisper than my 2011 MacBook Pro.

The 11” screen seems very suited to full-screen. I don’t maximize the Finder, but OneNote, Word and Byword I usually run full screen. I think I remember Jason Snell mentioning that he ran a lot of apps on is 11 full-screen and I find myself leaning that way as well.This is also the first Mac that I have put the Dock on the right-hand side of the screen. A little more vertical real estate is handy.

The post-Air creative life

I expected I’d be slightly more productive with the Air. I wasn’t expecting I would be a lot more productive. During the day, I use my Air at work to take notes in meetings. It’s more comfortable than my work laptop and I don’t have to worry about the battery running down.

At home, though, my desire to work on creative projects has blossomed since I got the Air. The small size really got me going. I have an L-shaped workbench in my office. The Air is small enough that when I’m working on a model, I can bring up a reference photo without the laptop taking over the bench.

I also like having a machine that’s dedicated for writing. When I pretended I was looking into writing on my iPad I was trying to make sure my writing files would also be editable on iOS. Right now, since Byword is still my main writing app that’s not an issue, but I’m leaning towards using Scrivener for my longer-form projects. However, that workflow may end up also end up on iOS since the iOS version of Scrivener is getting closer..

Is the MacBook Air the last laptop I purchase?

Most likely.

Like I said earlier, I bought the MacBook Air because it fit all of my needs right now without any compromises and I couldn’t afford to wait. While I admire Federico Viticci and his ability to make an iPad Air 2 his main computer. I’m not there yet. I think for me, we are still one or two iOS releases away from me going all-in on iOS.

The MacBook

If you told me a new MacBook would inflame the tech sphere more than a $10k Apple Watch I’d have laughed my ass off. Yet that’s pretty much what happened. Apple announced a new MacBook with one port and the Internet lost its shit.

Letting go of the idea of a power user

Peter Cohen called out power users in this excellent NSFW article.. Here’s the funny thing about so-called power-users: they don’t really exist. People just have different computing needs. A co-worker bought the shut-up-and-take-my-money MacBook Pro. If she ever pegs that processor and fan it’s probably because Flash got over-active. She just doesn’t dig into the depths of OS X. However, I bought the 11” MacBook Air – a $1200 difference. I’d say I dig far more into the inner workings of an OS than she does. Which of us is the power user? Even fi I had the money I doubt I have bought that MacBook Pro.

So, back to the MacBook

I absolutely love Apple brought back the MacBook name. Like other writers, my money is solely on the eventual retirement of the MacBook Air line. You’ll have the MacBook, and the MacBook Pro. I’d take a side bet on Apple going with MacBook and MacBook Plus, but I think that’s a stretch.

The MacBook has one port. Rumors of Apple sneaking into people’s houses and ripping the USB ports from their existing laptops seem to be unfounded. This port is a USB-C connector. It can drive a display, other USB devices, and power the device. It also has a 12” Retina screen and roughy the computing power of a 3-year-old MacBook Air. Like the original Air, you’re paying for a super light laptop. This is not the laptop you want to edit a Final Cut Pro movie on. It is the laptop for people who just live in Microsoft Word or iWork and browse the web. You know, most of us.

Here’s the thing: most people don’t care, or need to know what processor, ram, or storage space is on their laptop. People that care about any one of those probably care about all three. That said, if you gave me the new 12” MacBook for a week and forbade me from researching anything about it, I’d probably fall in love with it and want to take it home with me.

But would I actually buy one?

That’s a good question, isn’t it?

Two weeks ago, I bought a new 11” Air. My needs were somewhat immediate: a laptop died and needed to be replaced. Time was a luxury I didn’t have. As of this writing, I’m within the two week return window and will not be returning it.

A lot of that decision is based on the new MacBooks still aren’t available until April 10. If they were, I’d actually seriously think about it. It has double the RAM in my Air and starts at 256 Gb of storage all for just $100 more than my Air.

The decider would be if it’s bigger (I don’t know how it compares to the Air) than the Air. Most of what I do on my Air is writing and web surfing, and the 12” would be good for that.

Going solo

Gigaom shut down March 9th. With it went my main freelance gig. For a while I’ve thought of just opening my own site, but the reality of freelance writing is not unlike the cobbler’s children: If I was going to write about a topic, I wanted to get paid for it. If it was a topic I wouldn’t get paid for, I wrote a topic I would get paid for.

As a result, my personal site languished. I never wrote there because articles would just end up on Gigaom. Last December I started thinking about a different home for my writing. A Plan B if Gigaom ended. It happened sooner than I thought.

I thought The Casual Techie was a good way of describing what I wrote about. If you look through my author archives on Gigaom, you’ll see that most of the time I wrote about topics that appeal to a broad range users, typically about how to use your devices better, or new products I tested that I think are notable. That trend will continue on this site.

There are a few other topics I will now be able to cover as well. Gigaom pretty much avoided product and app reviews. I will be reviewing products here. See the about page for a link to my email if you’d like me to review your product. I also love creating music, so expect a posts about using technology to make music.

Welcome to my new home. I hope you stick around for the ride.

On Gigaom

I started writing for Gigaom in June 2009. Back then it was still The Apple Blog. While we were part of the Gigaom media empire, it didn’t feel completely assimilated. This naturally changed over the years. Eventually, the entire Apple channel went away and was replaced by the Mobile channel. I kept writing and they kept publishing.

When I started almost all of us were freelancers. We’d have a Gigaom employee as our editor but I remember days of 5–6 writers dividing up the content especially around Apple event time. We’d lose freelancers and never really replace them as more Gigaom employees wrote posts. Finally, it was just Geoffrey and I holding the fort on weekend duty.

The gig ended when Gigaom shut down Monday. I’m going to miss it.

Looking back, it’s amazing that it lasted so long. In this day and age, a 6-year freelance gig at a tech place is an amazing run. My editors left us alone. I came up with all my own story ideas. Most of the stories were based on my personal experiences and how I used tech. I’d receive great feedback from readers and it was the rare site where I didn’t mind wading into the comments.

I’d actually expected the gig to end soon, and in a lot of ways I think it went about a year longer than I thought. I wasn’t, however, expecting the site to shut down. I just expected with only two real freelancers (that I knew of, anyway) on the Mobile beat one day I’d get the email they were done with freelancers.

In terms of what I’ll be doing, I don’t know. Gigaom was my only major freelancing client. I’ll start looking for more. I also have an unused domain name thats perfect for my tech writing so I’ll be launching that Real Soon Now(TM).