The Levenger Circa System

28.12.2014 01:00

I have been using the Levenger Circa notebook system for well over a decade. In fact, I’ve been a very happy Levenger customer and regular consumer of their products for about twenty-two years now.

It’s actually quite hard to write about something you have used for a very long time. Mainly, because it becomes a part of your life and who you are to the point you are practically unaware of it — it’s just there. This is what the Levenger Circa has become to me.

Don’t get me wrong, a bound paper notebook is good for many things. I have way more than my fair share of them. Some I use daily. They have their place and job to do.

But, for many things, you need flexibility in the grandest sense of the word. You need the freedom of being able to re-arrange pages at will. You may have need to mix different paper types and styles. Maybe you need to mix 5×8 with some 3×5 cards with some 8.5×11. Or, perhaps annotated ruled pages, followed by a blank one, followed by two gridded pages, followed then by a zipper pouch for miscellaneous scraps. There are those times when you’d like to print off a report, punch some holes into it, and then put it into a notebook with some related handwritten notes. When such flexibility is needed, I reach for my Circa instinctively. I know a project has become a Project — one that really matters — when it has a Circa to live in.

The Circa system is very interesting. I have considered many times, but I don’t think it’s for me. But you should take a look if you are looking for a flexible paper system.


The New Rules of Tech Journalism

28.12.2014 01:00

Things have gotten out of hand. Tech writers are given far too much freedom to perpetuate inaccuracies and falsehoods, as well as a generous helping of incompetence these days. That’s why it’s time to put a bit of structure in place for those publications that don’t understand good work from bad work.

What follows are the New Rules of Tech Journalism. Wouldn’t life be grand if the sites we read every day followed even two or three of these things? I know I’m asking for 15 separate miracles, so take the below with tongue firmly planted in cheek.


The One-Person Product

28.12.2014 01:00

In 2006, I moved to New York and started working for David Karp doing web development for various media companies. That fall, in a brief gap before starting a new client, David said that we were going to make a prototype of an idea he’d had for a while. He had already bought the domain: tumblr.com, because it was an easy platform for publishing tumblelogs.

Marco wrote this piece when Yahoo bought Tumblr. This is my favorite post about it, and one of the best things Marco have written.


The TROVE Wallet

28.12.2014 01:00

Full disclosure, they sent me a sample wallet (from the “coffee” colorway, pictured above) a while back so that I could eventually write a review. Though the review isn’t quite finished yet, the TROVE has already usurped the Supr Slim as my primary wallet. The Slim was great because it forced me to cut down on the stuff I carry with me each day. The TROVE took that idea and improved on it in every way — it not only looks and feels nicer in the hand, it’s better constructed as well, thanks in no small part to the leather accents surrounding its exterior.

The TROVE is a interesting wallet. And I think I will get one, when I get rid of my current wallet.


The Ultimate Guide to Solving iOS Battery Drain

28.12.2014 01:00

I worked on the Genius Bar for almost two years, and the most difficult issue to solve was short battery life. It was extremely difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why someone’s battery was draining.

I made it my mission to discover the specific reasons for iOS battery drainage. This article is a product of my years of research and anecdotal evidence I gathered in the hundreds of Genius Bar appointments I took during my time as a Genius and iOS technician, as well as testing on my personal devices and the devices of my friends.

iOS 7.1 came out recently and brought with it a bevy of design tweaks and performance enhancements. However, some users are reporting poor battery life since the update, and many blogs are reporting it as fact. This is not one of those “Turn off every useful feature of iOS” posts that grinds my gears. My goal is to deliver practical steps to truly solve your iOS battery woes.

I have used this article many times, to optimize power consumption on my iPhone. Take a look!


These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things (2014 Edition)

28.12.2014 01:00

In what is becoming an annual tradition, the staff here at Tools & Toys have gathered to collect some of our favorite… erm, tools and toys of 2014. It’s been quite a year. Our team is a little bigger, the site is a lot prettier, and there are lots of new items to talk about. Let’s get started!


Two Alternatives To Field Notes.

28.12.2014 01:00

I love Field Notes Brand notebooks. I’ve been a customer since the beginning. In general, I purchace several packs of each “special edition” COLORS release. I find them both fun and functional. They’re built solidly enough and they break in well. Whereby, I tend to enjoy the patina they get and think they look even better when they are beat up and used a bit. As well, they have become very popular and enjoy an almost cult like following in the pen and paper circles.

But, sometimes, one might want to enjoy something similar, but different. For one reason or another — perhaps something in a different size or price point. So, I thought I would suggest two possible alternatives. One that is a little bit smaller in size, yet higher paper quality and cost. The other a bit larger in size, yet slightly less in paper quality and cost.

Having alternatives is always a good thing. I’m going to stick with FieldNotes for now. But this article is a good one, if you want something different.


Holiday Photography

27.12.2014 01:00

On this week’s episode of The Weekly Briefly I’m joined by my former podcasting partner in crime, Ben Brooks. We talk about (a) what sort of camera you should buy if you want to upgrade from your iPhone, and (b) how to increase your chances of snapping a few awesome photos of friends and family during the holidays (and pretty much any other time).

I have spent most of my days off since 22nd of December to get through most of my podcast queue. And this episode have been one of my favorites, this far.

Shawn Blanc and Ben Brooks talk about buying cameras. I think I agree on most of what they are saying. But I can’t get aboard on everything. This is how I think you should get into photography].

  1. Look at all the major players: Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Fuji etc.

  2. Figure out how big or small of a camera you need. Bigger cameras have larger and better sensors, while smaller are easier to carry.

  3. Find the brand that fit with you. You will be investing in a system. Everything you buy: body, lenses, flash etc will be for that system. You can always upgrade the body and keep your stuff later. As long as you stick with the same system.

  4. Find something you love. Some people pick camera system based on how they look. And I get it, I do the same with computers, tablets and phones. But I have always picked cameras after how they feel in my hand. Canon and Nikon design their system cameras with ergonomics in their mind. A lot of other brands, don’t.

  5. The most important thing is to pick something you know you will use.

Having a good camera is a great investment. You will get better pictures. But you won’t get great pictures unless you treat it as a craft.

Things have changed a lot in the last two years. There wasn’t much of a standard in the mirror-less camp. I have greater confidence in it now. I would still go for a regular Canon DSLR. But that’s just because I love them.

Find the system that you think fit you, try to hold different models in the store, to find the brand that feels right. And then buy the best lens you can afford. I would recommend starting with a prime; it’s a great way to learn how to shoot. And then spend the rest of your budget on the body.

The reason I think you should get a prime is simple. You get more for the money, compared to a zoom lens. And it enables you to focus on the camera settings.

[^0): What I mean by “getting into” is having it as your hobby. In other words: really learn it.



25.12.2014 01:00

I started to thing about this a few days ago. Where do we go from here? We have powerful computers everywhere. We have good looking hardware and software. And most of it is pretty easy to use. My mother that haven’t used a old school computer ever. Can help my grandparents wih their iPad. She have become a pretty damn good iPhone and iPad user. Without much help.

Where do we go from here?

I think most of it is in linguistic analysis and artificial intelligence. We have apps like fantastical that can figure out what I mean with “lunch at noon tomorrow with Bob at the diner”. And apps like Soulver let me do a lot of complicated math with plain English. This is the area where I think the future is. Both as audio and text.

To pick the meaning out of language is the place where I think the future of great software is.

Well. I really don’t know. But this seems like the most logical place, right now. It might chang


My Favorite iOS Apps 2014.

25.12.2014 01:00

The year is almost over. And I thought I should compile a list of the apps I really love. iOS is the platform where I find the apps that I love. There are many great OS X apps, but I never feel the same kind of affliction for them.

  • DayOne is my all time favorite app. I don’t think there is anything out there that have given me a similar joy. Or that I have spent more time in. I journal every day. And I do it in DayOne.

  • 1Password is the app that gives me peace of mine. And keeps everything together for me. I store everything important there. There is nothing even close to 1Password. It was one of the apps that got me to buy an iPhone; similar to that Textmate got me to buy an Mac.

  • Fantastical is the only calendar app that makes sense to me. It’s simple to add events and it gives me a simple and easy to read overview. It’s the calendar app for people that don’t use or like calendar apps.

  • Drafts is like FieldNotes. I use it to write down stuff, because it’s simple, fast and easy. Then I move it to somewhere more appropriate, when I have time.

  • Editorial have become my go to writing app. I even prefer using it over my Mac, when I need to write something, and time isn’t an issue. I love writing on my iPad and iPhone. And editorial makes it easy to write, and easy to publish. It wouldn’t be possible without it.

  • Overcast is the podcasting app I always wanted. It have the simplicity of Instacast, the beauty of Castro and the power of Downcast. It is the only podcast app I have been happy wih.

  • Pedometer ++ is my step counter. It is the kind of app that do one thing. Keep track and visualize how much I move. It’s great.

  • Unread. There have been many great rss clients over the years. But all of them have been more or less like NetNewsWire or Reeder. Unread was the first one that felt new and different. It makes it simple to get through the feeds, in a way where I don’t send everything to Instapaper. A great app.

  • Instapaper was the first iOS app I paid for. It does one thing way better than any other read it later app, and that is to read. There are many others, with a lot of fancy crap. I don’t care about it. Instapaper is made for reading first. And the others doesn’t.

  • Left to spend is my budget app of choice. Well it isn’t strictly a budget app. I don’t care that much about what I spent money on. I just want to keep track and limit how much I spend. Left to spend is made for that.

  • Threes is the first of two amazing games I have found for iOS this year. It’s addictive and fun. I spend too much time playing it. It’s a fun game you can play any time. Either before going to bed, or when you have a break.

  • Soulver is my go to calculator. I love writing, and Soulver combines writing and math. Spreadsheets and most calculator apps never clicked with me. But solver does.

  • Monument Valley is my last app, and the most impressive game I have ever played. I haven’t met a single person that don’t like it. The game play, look and feel is equal to none. The only thing I don’t like is that it’s never long enough.

Here is the list of all my current favorites. It was meant as a list of 4-5 apps, but ended up with a lot more. Enjoy.