Tools that I use everyday, and why I use them.

Portability: I can access my documents from any computer. I started using Google Docs because I had to use an XP laptop for Campus safety and didn't want to use a flash drive.

Collaboration: Two or more people can work on the same document with updates in real-time. I found Google Docs to increase productivity even with two people working in the same room: I made all my project teams use it in my last semester at Biola, and it facilitated our workflow even with people new to it. I can imagine more efficient Torrey sessions where every person has the session's document open on the projector, and text as well as voice can be contributed by everyone in the room.

Ease of Use: Google docs was more intuitive than anything I have used since ClarisWorks (I find Word and Pages clunky), and it finally got me to use formatting with its Control+# hot-keys (using numbers 1-4 to denote different levels), which enabled me to finally make use of automatically generated Tables of Content, and made huge documents plausible.

Problems: It has its share of goofy bugs, but I enjoyed working around the software instead of in it: If I can't get something formatted *just right,* why bother, if I can get the same information in a different way? So for things that have specific formatting requirements and must be printed out I use Pages, for the rest, I use Google Docs. My good experience with Google Docs has led me to use Google Sites and Picasa as well.

Wacom Bamboo Fun

When I worked for M&J Productions in 2002 I got to use Graphire tablet, and since then it has been on my list. Finally, in when preparing for the move to Kenya in 2010, I bought a Wacom tablet of my own. This is day 1, so I'm still getting used to it, and I haven't compared it to the mouse that I've been using for the last two years, but I'm already loving it more than my trackpad. I immediately put its mouse back in its box: your average optical mouse is far better, but the tablet itself is great. And I finally have a version of Photoshop on my computer again - after 8 years of graphics productivity limbo, I'm back where I was in 2001.

Multiple Displays: Synergy, Teleport, and Air Display

More screen space means less switching between windows, which can shave precious seconds off of tasks, but has a much bigger impact on your concentration. I've found that for a single task, two screens improves my productivity markedly, and for working on more than one task at a time, more screens means I get overwhelmed less.

Air Display

I had quite a bit of trouble with Air Display, which is frustrating since it's the only app I paid for (Teleport and Synergy are free). In the end, I found that I have to "Turn AirDisplay Off" from my mac menu bar before disconnecting it - because if I just switch to another app on the iPad so that it loses its connection, then I can't reconnect, pretty much no matter what I try. But when I come in the next morning, it works again. Go figure. (Edit: Re-starting WiFi might also work, since that's what fixes problems connecting to my printer).


On a busy Wifi network performance for all three can be spotty, with Synergy seeming the most responsive and AirDisplay the least (which is understandable, since Synergy and Teleport only have to deal with sending mouse movements and keystrokes, whereas Air Display has to draw the entire screen over WiFi.) When I'm by myself in the office there is almost no mouse-lag whatsoever, except with Teleport.

Google Books & Amazon "Look Inside"

Specifically, it is good to have dedicated screens for certain tasks, like my custom task tracker. To that end I wanted to make the most of all the screens I had at my disposal:

  1. Current 13" MacBook Air at 1440x900.

  2. Old black 13" MacBook running Mac OS 10.7, 1280x800.

  3. Sony 17" SDM-X73 running at 1280x1024, 60hz.

  4. A 17" iMac G5 running Mac OS 10.4 1440x900

  5. A 10" iPad running iOS 5.


On my old setup under Mac OS 10.6 I used SynergyKW to connect the black Macbook with the iMac G5 on Mac OS 10.4, but that no longer worked when I upgraded to 10.7, so I had to install Synergy without the GUI. Since the Synergy site was down I spent a couple of hours command line following these instructions to install the stable 1.3.6 Synergy build, I decided to try the 1.4.5 beta and found out it has a GUI of its own - in no time at all it was set up and the Macbook Air was connected with the old Synergy install on the iMacG5.

Unfortunately, my black MacBook has a problem with incoming traffic that I can't pin down, so along with being unable to access it via AFP or SMB I can't control it with Synergy. But here comes Teleport to the rescue.

Whereas the connection was seamless under my old setup, in the new one where I'm running one computer on 10.7 and the other on 10.4, I'm running into all sorts of problems, such as a sticky command-key. I can't use command, shift, or any of the other keys right now, and intermittently I lose the ability to type on both Synergy and Teleport. And then when one computer went to sleep my MacBook Air got stuck without a usable mouse for a while.


Not as responsive as Synergy, but it's got an incredible drag-and-drop file mechanism and the ability to see the screens (and even the desktop images) of each computer. One frustration with this is compared to Synergy is that, in Synergy, I can move my mouse right from either the top or the bottom in my main setup, and I end up on the right-hand screen. With Teleport, it's placed like an extra screen within the MacOs display, and so I have to move my mouse down and to the left past the iPad to get to the "newjosh" display.

There is also a slight lag with Teleport when it gives you a little sonar bounce animation to tell you that you just moved your mouse to a new screen, which didn't happen with the old Teleport where there was no visual feedback, and the transition seemed to be seamless.

How do you read hundreds of pages from impossible-to-find books where Library's close at 4pm and it's raining? Between Google Books and Amazon I could read 80% of what I needed for my tutorial. Would I pay for full access? Definitely. I can't wait until Google makes its landmark deal with book publishers, because they finally went ahead and did what I knew was possible: make a digital copy of every book I've ever searched for. I have no patience for content industries that can't, or won't, keep up with the internet, and while I think publishers have done well for themselves in a business sense by waiting to commit to digital distribution (and forestalled the expectation that any book you could want should be available for free off of Kazaa), I think it has held back human development. Google (and Amazon) are in a position where micro-payments are plausible: I hope that Academic journals are next and that all of the world's information can truly be at your fingertips.