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Carl’s noddy guide to staying safer online

If the endless news stories about people and companies being hacked makes you go "la la la not listening" then you probably need to pay more attention to staying safe online. Identity theft is a real drag. In any case, I hope you find these suggestions useful:

Stop reusing passwords

The worst thing you can do is use the same password on any old "funny quiz" type of site that you do for Amazon or Deliveroo etc. When the insecure fun site gets compromised (I.e. the data is stolen), the thieves take the password list and try it on all the legit sites looking for password re-users. They get many matches. Don't do it.

Stop making up passwords yourself

It's not enough to use different passwords, they need to be good, strong passwords too. Don't think of passwords as "no-one will ever guess that" as no-one does guess them – hackers use massive computer networks to try millions of guesses per second. Bottom line – you can't use a regular word or phrase. It has to be truly random.

So use a password manager

You really should use a piece of software called 1Password. It does the following:

  • generates different uncrackable passwords for every site you visit
  • stores them securely
  • enters them for you (no typing)
  • accessible from phone, tablet and computer

Other things you should do

Set up "two factor authentication" (2FA)on your email account.

  • Wait, wait – it's not as awful as it sounds. But it is important.
  • The number one thing a thief wants is your email password. Once they have that, they can ask for a password reset from all your sites as they go to your email.
  • 2FA works on the principle of "something only you know (password) plus something only you have (your phone)"
  • once set up, when you log into your email on a strange computer, you'll be prompted to enter a one-off code that you get from your phone.
  • services like Gmail do this, so google "set up gmail two factor authentication" and you'll automatically be much safer than 99% of people

Encrypt your disk

Don't use public wifi without protection

  • the wifi in shops, airports and hotels can sometimes be fake (set up by the shady guy in the corner) or just easily hackable.
  • the good news is, if you use a VPN (I use this) then you just switch it on and use whatever wifi you like. Using a VPN is like driving around the internet in a bullet proof car.

So in summary

  1. Get a password manager
  2. Set up 2FA on your email account
  3. Encrypt your disk
  4. Get a VPN for when out and about

Podcast episodes worth a listen – Nov 2016

I listen to a lot of podcasts so you don't have to. Each month I'll share the best episodes.

If you're new to Podcasts, I'd recommend Overcast for the iPhone.

News, business & politics

Tech & geek stuff

  • Decrypted, Ars Technica's TV podcast about Westworld. If you are enjoying Westworld (it's great isn't it?) then consider this unofficial companion podcast. Sure, its nerd territory, but it's fantastically refreshing to have smart intelligent commentary from a female host. Fabulously well put-together too.

Arts & misc

Probably episode of the month

Got any podcast recommendations? Email me.

Software to manage a small business

I run a small consultancy business called Cloud CMO. I help multiple clients in growth and change companies to manage their marketing strategy.

Naturally, I want to spend more time helping people and less time on admin. To that end, over the past few years I have tested a number of software tools to help me manage my time.

I thought it might be useful to share what I use in case it is useful to other people. YMMV of course, but these all work great for me.

Best for storing & syncing – Dropbox

There are plenty of cloud storage options nowadays, but Dropbox remains the best option. It’s rock-solid reliable, cross platform and quick. I pay for the 1TB option and am happy to do so

Best for presenting – Keynote

PowerPoint is the universal standard still, but Keynote wins out for being that bit more pretty and how well it works across Mac, iPad and iPhone. The recent addition of Keynote Live, which allows remote presenting is a real bonus.

Best to-do list – 2Do

It’s no exaggeration to say that the Getting Things Done methodology changed the way I work forever. Amazing and very much recommended. I tried loads of software tools to implement this. Omnifocus is too complex for my taste, and Things broke my heart by never being updated. The new king is 2Do, which is powerful, flexible and easy to use.

Best for taking notes – Evernote

I have a love and hate relationship with Evernote. It’s unwieldy and has far too much clutter, but it’s fantastic for taking notes and preparing for meetings. I have a folder per client and routinely write up thoughts, records and ideas. Plus it;’s easy to dump in any related documents whether PDFs or Office files.

Best for keeping track of status – Trello

I use Trello to keep a record of business development pipeline. Lists of cold, warm and hot leads. It’s very simple, free and flexible software for many purposes.

Best for creative and strategic writing – Ulysses

Evernote is for notes, but Ulysses is for writing. Whether it’s creative copy, a strategy document or a full-blown book, Ulysses offers a distraction-free, backed-up environment for keeping track of everything. It also allows simple export to WordPress, Word and PDF amongst others. You have to get used to Markdown, but it’s really not hard and – once you see the flexibility it brings – it’s kinda awesome

Best email client on iOS – Spark

There are a few good options out there now – Outlook is great, but I’ve found Spark to be the most usable. The killer feature is reliable snoozing – the ability to easily hide email you’re not working on and have it automatically re-appear at a time of your choosing. This helps enormously in managing multiple projects or clients. With a single swipe, I can make that message disappear from view safe in the knowledge it’ll reappear just before the meeting.

Best for collaboration – Google Docs

Google Docs remains the champ in real-time multi-user editing of documents. It’s wonderful for keeping a single master copy of whatever you’re working on and has pretty flexible options for who can change what. One thing it’s terrible at, still, is tables on iOS. To this end, Pages still has a role to play.

Best for password management – 1Password

If you haven’t got a password manager, then – sheesh – you really, really should. 1password is simply awesome software that lets you generate, maintain and easily enter unique, uncrackable passwords for every service you use. Worth every penny and regularly updated with new features.

Best ‘read later’ software – Pocket

The key to time management is to help your brain not get distracted. To that end, whenever I see an article I want to read, I simple right-click and add it to Pocket instead. Then, when I do want to indulge in a bit of reading, I have a readymade list of saved articles at my disposal with all the ads and graphics stripped out leaving just the clean text.

Best for RSS – Reeder

I still mourn the much-missed Google Reeder, but Reeder remains a fantastic feed reading client. Perfect for keeping track of news and infrequently-updated sources. I use Feedly to manage the actual list of feeds.

Best for Podcasts – Overcast

I listen to a lot of podcasts and have found Overcast to be the most useful. As well as having good chapter support, it also has smart speed (to speed up without affecting pitch) and voice boost for greater clarity. The playlists are fiddly at first, but a real power addition.

Best for PDF editing and annotating – PDF Expert

Such a powerful tool. Whenever I get documents for pre-reading, I fire up PDF Expert, which allows me to easily annotate (highlight, add text) or even edit (redact, change copy). I then save the updated document in Evernote for easy recall in the meeting.

Best for dodgy wifi – Express VPN

I don’t trust the ropey wifi that you get in coffee shops, so I always switch on my VPN to protect myself from unsavoury types. Express VPN is reliable and works well wherever you are.

Best for quick sharing – Dropshare

A little bit fiddly (but quite satisfying) to set up, Dropshare is perfect for when you have a document you want to quickly send a link for. Faster and easier than Dropbox for this purpose, Dropshare puts your file in AWS and generates a shareable link on the fly.

Do let me know what you think and ideas for anything you think I might try.

Podcast episodes worth a listen – Oct 2016

I listen to a lot of podcasts so you don't have to. Each month I'll share the best episodes.

If you're new to Podcasts, I'd recommend Overcast for the iPhone.

News, business & politics

Tech & geek stuff

Arts & misc

Got any podcast recommendations? Email me.

Podcasts worth a listen – Sept 2016

I listen to a lot of podcasts so you don't have to. Each month I'll share the best episodes.

If you're new to Podcasts, I'd recommend Overcast for the iPhone.

News & politics

Tech & geek stuff

  • Andreesen Horowitz (A16Z) do the best VC podcasts. I expected this special on 'pre-commerce' or 'pre-tail' would be jargonny and shallow, but it's full of surprising insights.
  • Similarly, A16Z on microservices is a must listen. Using Netflix as an example, they explain how servers are no longer rented by the year, day or hour – but by the millisecond. It's pretty transformative in terms of getting dev done so worth knowing about.

Arts & misc

Got any podcast recommendations? Email me.

Courage was the wrong word for Apple

Phil Schiller got a bit of criticism for using the word courage to describe why Apple got rid of the headphone port. It’s been received by some as a bit marketing and fluffy. It’s also a little bit defensive and maybe slightly Yes, Minister.

I think the deeper problem is that the word is about them and not about what we get.

I’d have suggested they focus on Apple being the company who moves things forward.

No want wants wires. They want great sound and great usability.

Traffic for transit apps

Idea: traffic for transit apps.

Wouldn’t it be great if the likes of Citymapper could give you not only the route options for how to get from A to B, but which were the least crowded options? I’m sure that’s possible due to counting phone signals etc.

I would love to know “northern line is fastest, but this other option is quiet and only takes 5 more minutes”

No ad spend required

Phil Collins reshot all his old album covers. Great way to get publicity for something as routine as a reissue.   

The last Mac I’ll ever buy

I’ve just ordered a fully tricked-out iMac 5k. It’s going to be awesome. It’s quite pricey, but it’s a business purchase and I think I’ll get five years out of it. 

But it just dawned on me that it actually may be the last Mac I ever buy. 

By 2020, it’s entirely conceivable that iOS is the dominant Apple platform, and that the notion of an immovable ‘desktop’ or a ‘laptop’ will be redundant given the power of even the most flimsy device. 

It’s also quite believable that power apps such as Photoshop, Lightroom and the like will have come along such that they work perfectly well on the descendents of the iPhone/iPad or have certainly been replaced by apps that do. 

I recently bought an iPad Mini, thinking I could use it for reading and light work. No one is more surprised than me that it’s already become my default daily carry for my consulting business. My Macbook Air and its heavy power supply are left at home.

The comparison that iPad can’t do this or that as well as a pc/Mac is misleading and baggage from a dusty generation. The comparison doesn’t matter. Today’s under 20s won’t care. 

It seems to me that computing will become ever more modular, pervasive and… just simpler. As others have noted, yes PCs are better for things like typing up long reports – but why are you writing those reports at all when everyone can have real-time dashboards on their phone?
So, as it may be the last one I ever buy, I plan to really cherish that new iMac.

Spinning a line

My friend Cliff pointed out this cartoon from the New Yorker.   It’s very funny, but the humour comes from wondering why people buy vinyl when it is more expensive and less convenient than digital formats and streaming. Surely it makes no sense?
For me, this shows the limitations of thinking about marketing propositions in rational terms. People by and large don’t make logical choices and in the case of vinyl, as always, it’s worth thinking harder about what they really are buying. 

They might articulate that they prefer a warm sound, or they appreciate the larger artwork, but I suspect on a deeper level they’re buying into how it makes them feel and how it fits their desired self image. 

Do they long for a taste of their formative years? Or maybe it’s an oasis from an always on digital world. 

Whatever it is, vinyl continues to sell and it’s a reminder that rational thinking and rational messaging can only ever scratch the surface. 

What the hell is digital?

There’s an old zen tale that goes like this:

“..There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

Now replace the word ‘water’ with ‘digital’

Businesses continue to think of digital as something separate. Consumers don’t see it like that. To them, it’s just part of their life. It’s all around them and just something that is.

Let’s stop referring to digital marketing. It’s marketing in a digital world.

You are not so smart

A brilliant, readable and humbling guide to the way our brains work. And the ways they don’t.