Hjertnes.blog

Is it a waste of money to go to a university

January 28, 2014

This is kind of a response to Episode 10, of Pragmatic, an awesome show that you should listen to. But also some thoughts I have regarding Universities, and higher education in general.

One important note before we move on. I live in Norway. If you go to a public University here(which is the best ones, in many, if not most cases) you don’t pay much money in intuition. I paid less than $100.

I think there are people that should go to University, and I think there are people that shouldn’t.

This is a very difficult question, and I think there is something to both sides of the discussion. I think most self thought developers and designers don’t need to take a Bachelor. But, they should consider doing it.

I don’t take a degree in computer science, I’m working on a degree in History, with a minor in Philosophy. I think the general idea is the same.

You shouldn’t take an academic education if you just want to learn enough about something to go out there and do some kind of job. But there is something to the act of going to a university, and try to soak up as much information and knowledge as you can.

I can now spend either three or five years reading in depth about History, and philosophers, and discuss it with people that are doing the exact same thing. And you have more or less the same thing in a computer science department, they are playing around with projects and technologies that you wouldn’t get to work with in most development jobs.

Don’t waste your time in a University if your goal is to write iOS apps; go to Big Nerd Ranch and download their iOS development book.

/To be completely honest: most of the really good developers I have met, did not take a computer science degree, they either took something completely different, or didn’t go a University./

There is a big difference between the students you find in the computer science department, and the kind of people you find at the humanities department. Most of the people that complete something in my department are doing it because they are genuinely really interesting in their subject.

While I find this to a lesser degree in computer science departments; there are a lot of people that believe that they need that kind of education to work as a developer. It’s like taking a PhD in Physics to play basketball.

So, is going to a university a waste of money? It is a waste of money if you just want to learn a certain skill. But it is a great experience if you want to learn as much as possible about your area of interest, have good discussions and to learn how the academic and research really works.

A Bachelor or Master degree should be both a education and cultivation.

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Instapaper

January 26, 2014

I was sitting the other day and reading through my Instapaper queue, and I realised that something had to change. Instapaper have always been the place I go to read, and I just add anything that seems interesting. One of the problems with this strategy is that it might take a week, and it might take six months before I get to any article I add.

The result was that I came up with a set of three question, that I’m going to apply to anything I add to Instapaper from here on.

  • Would this article be interesting in three months?

  • Is it something I’m going to read, and not just “skim”?

  • Is this something I both enjoy and find interesting?

I think and hope that the end result after using these rules for a while will be fewer, but better articles in my Instapaper queue. But also a more enjoyable experience in general.

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Some reflections on iOS 7.

January 25, 2014

I don’t think there are many people that are happy with the current state of iOS. Seriously, even my mom complains.

There are a lot of things that are not good enough on iOS7, but I didn’t expect anything even close to perfect with this release.

I’m not the most “analyst” friendly person in the world, that’s just because most of them are crap. The thing that really piss me off, when it comes to a lot of the commentary regarding iOS 7 is that most of them don’t understand Apple. They release something, and continue to improve on it, until they have to “burn it down” to be able to continue the innovation.

I don’t think the first versions of OS X any better than iOS7, and I think the first version of iPhone was just as bad. The difference is that we have gotten used to something better since then. And I don’t think iOS 7 was close to ready, when it had to ship.

Apple could have shipped another iteration of the iOS1-6 look and feel, and I don’t think that would have annoyed, anyone, except most of us geeks. But Apple didn’t. They chose to ship something that they barely got out the door. My impression is that iOS7 is built for the future, and that iOS 7.1 and beyond will be awesome.

There are a lot of issues with iOS 7, some of them are design related, while others are programming related. There are three major issues that I hear about often:

  • Springboard reboots

  • Device reboots

  • Slowdown.

All of my current iOS devices are rather old, and I don’t experience many reboots of any kind on my iPhone 4S. But, there are some major speed issues. My theory is that there are some major memory leak issues on iOS 7, because my device isn’t slow after a reboot.

Is iOS7 unusable? No. Is iOS7 in general close to what we had in previous versions? No, it’s a lot buggier, and a worse experience in some ways. But there are also a lot of great new features that I have gotten used to, like for example background refresh.

To draw a line to an Android phone I used in 2010; the HTC Hero. HTC shipped an Android 2.0 update that was way worse than the performance you’ll see on an iPhone 4 or 4S running iOS7; or what you saw on iPhone 3G running iOS 4.

A lot of companies have shipped versions of their products that are way worse than what Apple do, or have done during the last few years. This is not an excuse for Apple, but we have to live with the fact that everyone expect Apple to deliver on a much higher standard than any other company out there.

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TaskPaper

January 23, 2014

The last, and first time I wrote about TaskPaper, was only a few hours after I installed it. You can read about that here. Following that post, I talked a bit with Mike Vardy on Twitter. Which ended in me saying that I was going to talk a bit more in depth about TaskPaper, after I’ve been using it for a while.

This post goes into depth on a few different topics, mainly TaskPaper, how I use it, some considerations I had to take before going for it, and also my GTD system in general and some other GTD apps I’ve used in past.

I started writing this post after using TaskPaper for a month, and then continued to writing it, and it was published after I had used TaskPaper for a full month.

My GTD app history {#my-gtd-app-history}

I might write an article about all of the different GTD and todo related apps and services I have used at some point. But this is about the three major ones I have used during the last six years. And a few notes on two that I have tried to use as my main GTD system.

Reminders and that Gmail thing. {#reminders-and-that-gmail-thing.}

I use Reminders now, but only for the fraction of my tasks that either are recurring, or require a due date. The rest are going into TaskPaper. I have tried to use both Reminders and Googles built-in Task manager in Gmail a few times. And I think they are both pretty decent. I would love to be able to get away with using Reminders, but I can’t. They are just to simple. The problem with them is that they are not designed to handle the amount of tasks and project that I would need them to handle.

Remember the Milk {#remember-the-milk}

Remember the Milks is a great Web-based GTD app, with apps for iPhone, iPad, android etc. I used it for a total of two years, on two different situations. RTM is great. But it has it’s limits.

You might ask, why should I use RTM when I have Reminders? For one, I think RTM is designed to handle the amount of tasks and projects you would fine in the typical user that is between the simple needs of Reminders and the advanced need in OmniFocus or Things. But. It is also great to have as a platform independent solution. There have been times when I’ve had an iPad, Mac and one of those Android things.

Things {#things}

Things from Culture Code is one of the two power user GTD system for OS X and iOS, and I used it for a total of two years. It was great. Like I said with RTM, Things is not as advanced as OmniFocus, and a lot simpler. I think they attend to two different user groups. I think a lot read Getting Things Done, then they decide that Reminders isn’t enough. And then they go to Things. Let’s face it. Things is a lot easier to get started with, than what you will find in OmniFocus. But I also think a lot of people move on to OmniFocus from things, if or when they grow out of it.

OmniFocus {#omnifocus}

OmniFocus is kind of the goto GTD app for all of us crazy productivity nerds that belong to the church of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”. I love the book, and I still love OmniFocus. I also used this app for two years straight. This app managed to get my through one full time job with an insane amount of tasks to complete, a lot of private projects, some studying on the side, and some times some part time development gigs.

I didn’t grew out of OmniFocus per say, but what it is and was is not the kind of GTD system that is the right thing for me right now. I don’t need a lot of due dates, start dates and stuff like that. I need an easy way to write down a lot of tasks in a very short time. I need some basic ways to organise them. In shallow and deep structures. I need some basic tagging, and most important of all, a simple way to combine Tasks and Notes. Both from a getting them in there perspective, and from a reading them perspective.

What I needed was something like a notebook, but digital. And what I found was TaskPaper.

Why plain text and “open containers” matter. {#why-plain-text-and-open-containers-matter.}

I have been working very hard to limit my tools, and to refactor what tools I use and to try go get by with less. I used to have a lot of text editors; now I don’t.

One of my goals for 2014 is to move back to using my nvALT plain text file database as the storage for my tasks, notes and everything else that I am working on. And implementing a good GTD system in something like TaskPaper was a very important part of this.

The reason I like to use formats like TaskPaper and Markdown which is just text, in an open container, like Dropbox is that I can use any tool I want to work with them. For example, I can use Notesy to edit both my notes, write on a new blog post or to work with my TaskPaper document.

TaskPaper vs Todo.txt {#taskpaper-vs-todo.txt}

I decided to go plain text with my GTD system. But which should I pick? There was two very popular options out there. I think there are more, but these two was the one I’ve heard about. And they are quite different.

Todo.txt is different from TaskPaper on a few different things. For one, it has a lot more functionality that TaskPaper, and it seems like it is designed a lot more from the “easy to parse for the developer”-perspective. One of the things I love about TaskPaper’s format, is how simple it is. And how easy it is to work with it, and how fast I learnt it.

The format rather than the apps {#the-format-rather-than-the-apps}

After realising that TaskPaper was a lot like my go to markup language, markdown, I also realised another thing Im not just picking a few apps for managing my tasks here. Those does not really matter in a plain text world, what I am going is to pick a format.

And I picked the format with the fewest features, and the format that was the easiest for me — as a human to both read and write. I picked TaskPaper.

The OS X app. {#the-os-x-app.}

Let’s move on to the OS X application, this is where you find the TaskPaper experience at it’s finest. It’s a text editor, that includes different markup depending on what you are typing. A project will have bolder and larger type, and notes are highlighted with grey text. While completed tasks get a strikethrough formatting.

The app makes it very easy to work with TaskPaper, it treats the document as a text file. This means that you can just do everything with your keyboard, if this is your thing. But there is also buttons and menus for creating tasks, notes, and projects, if this is your thing. There are also menus for focusing on certain tags or projects.

One of my favourite features in the app is that you have a search field that let’s you create rather complex queries. The query “@next and not @done” would show all of my tasks with the tag “next” that isn’t complete. This is a search I use all of the time on the mac to keep track of everything that is “up next”.

[Text Expander][4] is a great companion app here.

To sum things up, Task Paper for OS X is a great app with all of the power any power user want to have. But the app is designed in a way that makes is very easy to get started.

The iOS app {#the-ios-app}

The iOS app was unfortunately removed from the store. I won’t get in to details about here. But you read about why Hog Bay Software decided to go so here. The app have been open sourced, and I think someone might pick it up, and start doing something interesting with it.

The iOS and OS X apps for TaskPaper is kind of different. The OS X app is a text editor with some TaskPaper specific features, and the iOS apps is more like a regular GTD “list” app. And I also think the iPad and iPhone versions have their own respective strengths and weaknesses.

I think the iPhone version is a very good app to mark items as completed, and to just look up items within a tag or project. And the iPad version on the other hand is much better at adding new items, due to it having an extended keyboard, with some task paper specific buttons on the top.

One note regarding the iOS apps is that they slowed down, when I tried to work with some large TaskPaper files in them(larger than 50K).

Sync {#sync}

Dropbox is the go to syncing mechanism for TaskPaper, and it’s fast and works more or less like you would expect it to. Just one heads up, try to always save and close the document if you plan do open it in iOS.

The reason for this is that the OS X version is not as good as I want it to when I comes to saving when it comes to autosaving and loading changes from the local file in the background. This is probably something I expect the developer to fix in the coming versions of the OS X app, now that he is focusing only on OS X apps.

Third party apps {#third-party-apps}

One of the great things about TaskPaper + Dropbox sync is that you can use anything capable of editing text. Let’s get into the great third party apps I use to work with TaskPaper, on both OS X and iOS.

nvALT {#nvalt}

nvALT, is one of my favourite OS X apps, and it is one of the five apps that would be enough to do all of my work. To sum it up, nvALT is a note taking application that have great support for markdown, have full text search and stores all of the notes in plain text files. I store everything from my notes, blog posts to my “bookmarks” in it.

nvALT is not as great as TaskPaper when it comes to working with your TaskPaper files, but I often use it for it anyway. The reason for this is that I often need to get down a few task, while working on something else.

Notesy {#notesy}

Notesy is my iOS counterpart to nvALT, and it have been my go to notes application on iOS since I started using it. It’s fast, reliable and it is the only application that can handle any amount of notes I have sent it’s way.

Here is the thing. Some of my notes is two words, while other of them is a 10 000+ word notes file containing all of the notes I have taken from an entire text book. And I have a lot of them. Notesy is the only app that never crashes on my. One of the other great features in Notesy is that it have full text search, like nvALT and it let’s you customise large parts of the application.

Editorial {#editorial}

Notesy is often my only writing and notes application on iPhone, but I also use Editorial on the iPad. Editorial is this crazy thing that let’s you build workflows to automate things, with both built-in functions, and with Python(!!) — it’s awesome.

The other great thing about Editorial, is that is seems like it was built for both online writers and people like me, that need to switch to a browser to do some quick research ALL THE TIME. I use it to find links, and I use it to make sure that I really understand what I am writing, while doing notes for my studies.

It’s a great app, and I have written hundreds of thousands of words in that thing.

Here is a great blog post about using Editorial with TaskPaper.

Drafts {#drafts}

Drafts is another of these great and innovative iOS applications. The basic concept is that you have a simple text editor that always starts up with an empty text file. Then you can either send it on to other applications with a lot of built in integrations, or write your own to apps with a url-scheme.

The way I use this is to “prepend” text to my default TaskPaper file(add it to the beginning).

The difference between reoccurring tasks and Habits. {#the-difference-between-reoccurring-tasks-and-habits.}

I rediscovered one of my favourite apps from the iOS version 6 period, while writing this post. And immediately changed parts of my setup and workflow. Habit List is a app designed to handle tasks regarding to habits. Let’s take a look at the differences between using Habit List and recurring tasks in for example Reminders.

Let’s say, I want to get into working out. This is one of the things you would want to use Habit List for. The reasons for this is that you might not want to do it on particular dates, but rather let’s say three times a week. And you would also want to keep track of when and how often you actually did it.

This is all parts of the functionality that Habit List provides.

And then you have other kinds of tasks like “Adding events for all of my lectures in the coming week”, is not something I want or need to have in Reminders. For one, I don’t care to see the stats, and it is just something I need to do — not just each week, but every sunday.

In other words, the difference lies in stuff you want to have statistics on, and to have both functionality that is made for one thing — creating habits.

My workflow {#my-workflow}

Now, finally. This is how I do things myself.

Pen & Paper. {#pen-paper.}

I often use Pen & Paper, and my go to tools for this is large Moleskine notebooks, pocked sized FieldNotes and my beloved Retro 51 pen. I journal, and do quick capture stuff in the Field Notes when this is the fastest and or the most fitting tool.

While I use Moleskine’s when I need to write notes on paper, or need to plan out larger projects.

Later I bring all of the stuff I write on paper into either nvALT if it is notes, TaskPaper if its tasks and Day One if it is journaling.

TaskPaper {#taskpaper}

My current TaskPaper setup consists of three different .taskpaper files: GTD, Wishlist and Archive. Wishlist is just a collection of different items I want, but don’t need or have the money to buy right now. I could store it in the main GTD file, but I prefer to have them separated. It makes it a lot easier to get overview of things.

Archive is just a file where I move completed items from the GTD file, this is to make the file load and sync faster. But also to avoid having hundreds, if not thousands of completed items and projects at the bottom of my file.

GTD is the main file I am working on at any given moment. I use a lot of projects, and I use a few very simple tags. — nnn — I add this tag to any item that I intend to work on “next”. It’s pretty close to how I have used flagging in various other GTD systems. I find it useful to have an easy way to look up what I should tackle after what I was doing. — @today — This is more like a hard deadline. This is a indicator that I need to do this today. — @monday — @sunday. — I don’t use these a lot. But I do so sometimes. I introduced a set of tags for each day, to have something similar to the forecast view in OmniFocus, it’s just a simple scheduling paradigm, the few times I need it.

This is the generalised tags that is crucial to my workflow in TaskPaper, I also use some vert specific ones. I’m not going into them here.

OS X {#os-x}

My GTD workflow in OS X involves three different apps. I use to Reminders to recurring tasks, and stuff with a due date. And the rest ends up in a .taskpaper file. My main app for this is TaskPaper. I might use some other TextEditor, but I rarely do so.

Both OS X’s nature, and the maturity of the TaskPaper for OS X makes this part of my workflow kind of boring.

iOS {#ios}

iOS is bit more complex. I always use Drafts on both my iPhone and iPad to quick capture ideas and tasks, and even projects I need to plan. The TaskPaper app is often used to look up certain tags or projects, and it is also my preferred app on OS X to mark tasks and projects as completed.

Notesy on the iPhone and Editorial on iPad is however my go to apps for writing down larger portions of tasks, and for planning projects. The reason for this is that I find it a lot easier and more efficient to do this in a text editor environment.

In other words: drafts for quick capture, the TaskPaper app for viewing and searching and Notesy or Editorial for editing. They are all great in their own unique and awesome way.

Reminders & Habit List. Both of these apps are also a crucial part of my workflow. The stuff I track with Reminders is planning the coming week(adding events to my calendar), processing my paper notebooks, and reviewing my tasks. While I have stuff like working out three times a week, journaling every day, taking a daily selfie and playing guitar every day in Habit List. The divide between the two is like I based on if I want to have statistics on how often I actually do it, and if I need a loose scheduling.

Reminders works on certain days and times, while Habit List allows me to set “every 2-3 days” or “3 times a week”, something that is awesome for certain tasks.

Conclusion. {#conclusion.}

This setup is all in all very different from what it used to be, just a few weeks ago. I used to have everything in one app, OmniFocus. But I feel that this app is a lot more future proof, than it used to be. I’m a lot more mindful about what kind of task it is, and if every actually needs a due date.

You might say that this system is a bit more fiddly, and it is, but I know that the majority of my tasks will work on any computer I am going to use for the coming 25 years. That is not something I can say about my old Things or OmniFocus databases.

Links. {#links.}

Feedly is the worst.

January 20, 2014

I might have an Feedly account, but I know that I have not used it much. They have pulled a lot of shit during the last few months. And I would have blocked access for them, if I did have the ability to do it with Squarespace.

Here is the deal. If you have some kind of service that either show content — like RSS services like Feedly and FeedWrangler do — do just that — deliver the content. Don’t fuck with it. Leave it alone. Don’t try to do any crap to spike your traffic in any way.

The same goes for URL shortening services. Leave all the meta-data alone, shorten the url and leave the rest ALONE.

I will never — NEVER recommend anyone to start using Feedly.

Assholes.

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My e-mail setup.

January 18, 2014

E-mail is crap. Sorry, but I had to say it. I have tried it all, There would be at least two home screens full of e-mail apps on both my iPhone and iPad if I installed them all. And I would spend a fortune if I had an active subscription to all of the cool and interesting e-mail hosting and related services that I have tested.

My current setup is quite simple. I host my email account at FastMail.fm and I use MailRoute for spam filtering. And I use the standard Apple Mail.app applications on both iPad and Mac.

I don’t use the because they are the best, but because they are good enough. I found out something interesting when I moved from a few a bit prettier and fancier apps to then stock ones, last year. And that was that I spend far less time, “doing e-mail”, if I used worse apps.

You need to find out what works for you.

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Tagging

January 14, 2014

I have been thinking a lot about tagging during the last few days, both about how to do the actually tagging and what I need to have to actually use it. Close to any type of information management app and or service have some kind of tagging these days.

Lets start with what I need to have, to actually spend the time to do the tagging. First and foremost, I need to be able to export the data I store, including the tags, to a format that I can parse with a scripting language. I will never invest the time, if the tags is just something that is, and will continue to be stuck inside that container.

I do also need good tools to manage it all. How do I add, edit and delete the tags, these are all important questions for me. All of this need to be both simple and easy to use.

And last, the tools for searching the tags need to be in place.

Types of tags. My opinions is that there are two kinds of tags, these days. There are native tags, like you will find in Evernote, Simpletnote and Mavericks. Its an integrated part of what ever system you are using. And then you have the hacky way. I have used tags in nvALT in a weird way during the last years. I just wrote for example @blogdraft somewhere in a blog post draft, to be able to search for that string, with anything that had full text search.

The end result is often bettter than what you have in Mavericks today. Because that would work on anything. Something the built in os level tagging wont.

There are three places I use tags in my day to day life, today. I use them in Day One, where I just assign one tag to each jounral entry. This is more like a category system, than tagging.

And then you have how I now do it in Simplenote, as native tags, and used to do as a “in the text”-keyword or tag in nvALT(nvALT support the same type of tagging, but dont have any good way to search them).

And I also use, a few Mavericks tags. These are tags that I apply to certain files, with hazel, at certain locations, to signyfi that I have to do some kind of processing on them.

Like clearing out my Downloads or Desktop folder.

One of the most important things about any tagging system is that you need to have a purpose. I never tag stuff, without having a real reason for them. I do it in Day One to be able to find everything of a certain kind of journaling in a simple way.

I dont tag most of my notes. But I do tag notes like published blog posts, drafts for blog posts and other kind of writing that is not a draft but something that is either in draft form, or is pubished / sent etc.

Remember find a real need before you go crazy with any kind of tagging.

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The new Simplenote.

January 13, 2014

I have been playing around with Simplenote tonight, it’s very cool!

It’s been a long time since the last time I used Simplenote, it was around the time when everyone moved from using Simplenote as their go to sync service for their nvALT database, to Dropbox.

They now have apps for: — OS X — iOS — Web — Android / Kindle

I have played around with all except for the Android version, and they are pretty great. The thing I really like about them is that the whole experience and design is close to identical on all platforms; at least as much as they should be.

Why did I do this? Just for fun.

I’m going to write a longer post on all of the different apps I use for writing on various devices after I’m done with another large post, I’m working on.

One of the key reasons I started playing around with Simplenote was to have a good, simple plain text note solution that I could point non-geeks to. And simplenote is just that. I can’t tell them to download nvALT, change various settings there, install dropbox and then to install Notesy on their phone. That would be too much. But I could tell them to just install Simplenote everywhere.

I was a bit sceptical, but the fact that they have a export tool that can export everything you put into Simplenote — including tags, got be to at least give it a chance.

What’s to pro and cons here?

Pro: — Beautiful and well designed apps — Very fast sync — Simple. — Tags. The tagging support in the sync, and how it is implemented in the apps is very cool!

Con: — The search is not as fast, as what you find in nvALT — No Markdown support. — Less third party apps. — The sync converts spaces to tabs. Don’t put your TaskPaper files into Simplenote!. — No premium accounts available at the moment…

Check it out here

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The 1Password audit-review – every week.

January 13, 2014

One of my intentions for 2014 was to do the 1Password Audit, every week. I’ve always had this as a regular task, but it was more on the monthly, every three or six months basis. And there are many reasons for me not recommending that for anyone.

Here is what I have realised when it comes to doing reviews of your passwords. You need to do it often. And here is why: — People often just sign up to services with their old “default” password without realising it(Yes, I do it too) — It’s more secure — It’s easier to do and complete a practise where you change 5-10 items once a week, and take the rest later, than to do it all in one day. The latter alternative is baffling, boring, and I ended up skipping it half of the time.

This is by the way a great chance to check out the new iOS 7 re-designed Habit List

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Three times in a row, poff, gone.

January 10, 2014

I used to listen to a lot of different podcast, I mean a lot! And I still do, don’t get me wrong. But I have realised during the last six months that I need to cut down on the listening, to get through the amount of reading and writing I need and want to do each day, week and month.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love podcasts, and I would love to spend more time listening to podcasts. But I don’t work as a full time developer anymore, and I found a lot easier to combining debugging, writing code and sysdmin stuff, with podcast listening.

I use Day One to keep track of stuff. And this was no exception. This is what I do. I open Day One, when I skip a show, I add a new entry “Skipped podcast so and so, episode number that.” and add a few tags like for example “podcast”. Now, I will unsubscribe if I see that I have skipped the last three episodes of a show. Let’s face it, there are show I listen to every single time without exceptions. While there are show that I listen to most weeks. And then you have the shows I really like, but I don’t have the time anymore. There are of course also shows that have changed a lot since I started to listen to them.

One last note. There are shows that I want to keep track on, so I keep them in my RSS reader instead of my podcast client of choice. The reason for this is that it is a lot easier to scroll past a few pages on rss items, than to download and then remove podcasts. And if I see some episode that I want to see from a past show, then I can just huffduff it.

Huffduffer is awesome

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