I'm no longer going to worry if home videos I take are too dark, or if photos are out of focus or badly framed. I'll keep all of them.
Such is the potential (and early evidence) of AI-enhanced photos that I believe one day in the next 5-10 years I'll be able to run all these low quality images through some software magic and turn them into pin-sharp, perfectly exposed items.
Your photos are the likely to be the most precious digital assets you own. They’re special and you can’t replace them.
But how many people lose them each year? A lost phone, a broken PC, a failed hard drive, an accidental deletion etc.
This is an avoidable tragedy.
Here’s my guide to never losing your digital photos.
Start using Google Photos
That's not all. At photos.google.com you can search your photos for things like "beach" or "tree" and it'll magically find them. Robots, eh?
As a bonus, it also works with iPhone Live Photos (the moving, Harry Potter style ones).
Seriously, do it.
Other phone backup options
I also use Dropbox in two ways. Firstly, my master photos library is stored in a Dropbox folder on my mac. So every photo is backed up tot the cloud. And secondly, I set the Dropbox iPhone app to back up my photos too. That way if I were to lose my phone, my photos would be safe
Handling a crashed PC
Macs and PCs fail, so although your photos will already be safe on the cloud, restoring your computer is easier with a full local backup. On a mac, this is easy – just switch on Time Machine. It's free and comes with your mac. For a desktop, keep the external hard drive (or two) connected all the time.
God forbid, but if you are burgled or get fire/water damage, you don't want to lose all your data. I recommend using CrashPlan as a final backup backstop. It's $5 pcm and effortlessly, continuously backs up 5 computers to a remote server. Great to install for family members.
There has been a rise recently in ransomware – malicious software that encrypts your hard disk until you hand over thousands of dollars. This is horrible. This backup strategy will protect you from losing your photos, but in any case be sure to always update your pc or phone whenever you're prompted to do so. Security updates are boring but necessary.
Finally, go old school
Print your favourite photos. It's always nice and something we all do less often nowadays. Places like Photobox will help you make albums and I recommend the TouchNote app which lets you send any picture on your phone as a postcard.
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 worry, this is super easy and takes 2 minutes (on a mac, anyway) and stops anyone who nicks your computer from ever seeing your files
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
- Get a password manager
- Set up 2FA on your email account
- Encrypt your disk
- Get a VPN for when out and about
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.
I love David Lynch’s view on being open to ideas. I’m reminded of an interview I heard where a writer recounted that he lived upwind from a more successful author – and he liked to keep the windows open in the hope to catch passing ideas before ‘that bugger got them’.
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
- The unexpectedly good Private Eye podcast with a revolving doors special – the questionable trend to comfy jobs after a political career.
- The Spectator: Labour’s indestructibles: Can anything stop the hard left?. They argue that even a catastrophic loss in 2020 wouldn't change the move left.
- An old interview with Neil Kinnock on his life in politics. Some of the issues he faced are back again today
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
- Great interview with Hunter Davies who had extraordinary access to the Beatles in their heyday. Fabulous anecdotes.
Got any podcast recommendations? Email me.
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.
Neat of Apple to ‘leak’ the WWDC dates exclusively via Siri.
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”
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.
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.
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.
Don’t read this if you’ve not seen the final episode.
I’ve just finished watching the finale and what an unexpected finish. But yet it all makes perfect sense and we’d been given clues all along the way.
Don has spent the final series trying to find love and family life and been rebuffed at every turn. He gets divorced, Sterling Cooper leaves him, his dying wife rejects him and even the daughter of the woman who’s husband’s name he steals is too messed up to be family for him.
In the final episode, he only connects with his inner pain through a stranger’s dream – the tale of how an ordinary man thinks everyone else is having fun and he’s left on the fridge shelf locked away – like an unwanted product.
Don’s can’t find inner peace by chanting Om with the seekers on the clifftop, but he recognises how such moments move other people. His sudden smile is not soulful enlightenment, but for a marketing insight. It literally dawns on him, “Well this would make a great Coke ad”
He has failed at finding true happiness, so he goes back to selling it to other people.
He leaves the retreat, goes back to McCann and makes that Coca-Cola ad.
As Peggy says, he’s gone home.
We didn’t have tech culture magazines back in the 80s. There were things like Computer Shopper and probably Tandy catalogues, but, with perhaps the exception of nascent video game mags, no-one loved the change of experience that was coming – it was all about hardware and tech specs. God, it was dull.
I distinctly remember reading an article about a new CD player in a solemn hi-fi publication. The reviewer found it hilarious that the remote control had an eject button. He thought it must clearly have been an oversight as what was the point in ejecting a CD from across the room? You had to go to the machine anyway, so who needed such a button?
Of course, all remote controls now have such buttons. No-one needs them, but little, marginal conveniences all add up to a better product experience.
But people don’t like change. It makes them uncomfortable. And it’s much easier to direct that inner discomfort externally with left-brain scoffing about why something won’t work and asking whether people realy need them.
The Apple Watch reminds me of that review. I took delivery of mine this week and I know this is the start of something.
The killer benefit of the Watch is that you spend less time needing to fish your phone out of your pocket, unlocking it and navigating to the app you need.
Now text messages, sports scores, walking directions and more are a simple glance away. Leave the phone in your pocket, your bag or on the kitchen table.
That doesn’t sound like a huge existing problem being solved, but when you experience the simpler, smoother experience, you don’t want to go back.
It’s a bit like having the CD already ejected by the time you’ve walked over to the player.
Always bang on the money
From Confessions of an Advertising Man. 1962
Bob Dylan, speaking at Musicares
Sam Cooke said this when told he had a beautiful voice: He said, “Well that’s very kind of you, but voices ought not to be measured by how pretty they are. Instead they matter only if they convince you that they are telling the truth.”