Not sure if want

We’ve seen a lot of cool stuff from Microsoft recently, first with the iPad Office announcement and then with the BUILD conference. New CEO Satya Nadella comes from Microsoft’s cloud division, and with him in charge and Ballmer gone, Microsoft looks like they might be serious about going from “a PC on every desk” to “Microsoft services on every device,” no matter who makes that device or what OS it runs.

So I started wondering. Could I be happy with Apple hardware, Apple media (aside from Kindle, because really, Apple, iBooks is embarrassing) and Microsoft services? I decided to find out.

Yesterday I signed up for a free month of Microsoft’s Office 365. This gives me the ability to edit data on documents in my Microsoft OneDrive via the iPhone, iPad and the web on my Chromebook. I have calendars, contacts, email and tasks via Outlook.com, and the tasks sync to my iOS devices, something Google Tasks doesn’t do.

So. How is it?

Meh.

The first thing I noticed is that Microsoft’s apps are maddeningly inconsistent. The iPhone version of Office (it’s not split into separate apps like the iPad’s Word, Excel and Powerpoint) has a nifty feature for viewing the “outline” of a document and jumping back and forth via headers. This is hella useful on a small screen and just the thing novelists need to quickly get to a particular chapter.

Word for iPad doesn’t do this. Neither does Word Online. So for the platforms where I’d be more likely to edit my manuscript, I’m stuck scrolling through an 80,000 word document. If I want to be able to jump around the document and type comfortably, I need to use the Windows or Mac versions of Word (which I can have on up to five computers).

But okay, maybe I can work around that. What about styles? As both an author-publisher myself and in my business formatting ebooks for others, styles are a must for formatting. Manually applying font styles or adding a discreet page break before chapter headings is something savages do.

The iPhone version doesn’t support styles at all. You can make text bold, italics or underlined, and you can change the text and background colors. But that’s it. The iPad version and the web version do support applying styles. And in opening a .docx file saved from Google Drive in Word Online, I found that the styles I actually wanted weren’t in the style chooser, crowded out instead by loser styles like “Heading 7″ and “Intense Emphasis.” Seriously, who uses those? And oddly, there was no way to change this.

The iPad and web versions of Word don’t allow you to alter or remove styles in any way. The only way to get back to my beloved “Heading 1,” “Heading 2″ and “Normal” was to — stop me if you’ve heard this one — open the file in Word for Windows and edit the styles there. Once I’d done that, the styles I wanted showed up just fine in Word for iPad and Word Online.

So currently, I’m still testing, but I have the sinking feeling that the New Microsoft is still more an idea than reality. Too often I’m sent running back to Windows to do any “real” work. I’m not saying the non-Windows versions of Word are afterthoughts, but they’re certainly not equal citizens, either. 

Next up: Microsoft’s OneNote vs Evernote.

Still thrashing about looking for the perfect ecosystem

I’ve come to realize that despite my honeymoon giddiness with the Chromebook, I’m still going to be buying a MacBook Pro as soon as I can afford one (next year? WHEN APES RULE THE EARTH?). As such, my insistence on “Apple hardware, Google productivity and Amazon media” probably needn’t be that strict, especially where it doesn’t, you know, work.

For example, iTunes Radio really is my best streaming audio play. On my iOS devices, it’s cheap (at $25/yr, it was cheaper than commercial-free Pandora even before they jacked up their rates, and minuscule compared to $120/yr for Rdio or Spotify), reliable and pretty good at finding stuff I want to hear. It doesn’t work on the Chromebook, but how often do I need to listen to music on the Chromebook and I don’t have my phone or iPad nearby?

And of course, if I’m going to listen to iTunes Radio, it follows at I should organize and purchase music via iTunes as well. Again, it works just as well as Amazon Cloud Player, but has the added benefit of being able to purchase music on the go.

Similar arguments could be made for iTunes as my store for movies and TV over Amazon Instant Video. The prices are about the same, the for-sale catalogs are about the same, but it’s much less of a pain in the ass to actually buy new stuff on the devices I’m typically using. The only advantages for Amazon are that I can buy and view on my Chromebook, and view on my Roku. But the Roku is due to be replaced, and I could easily replace it with an Apple TV instead of a Roku 3. I’d lose Amazon Instant Video but gain iTunes video. As for watching video on the Chromebook, there’s always Netflix. And I would be able to watch iTunes video on the MBP.

So the big question is how committed am I to Apple hardware? I think I got the answer to that when I looked into doing a Verizon EDGE upgrade to an HTC One M8. As soon as the Verizon rep told me I’d have to give up my iPhone 5S, I almost physically pulled back. The phrase “recoiled in horror” is thrown around a lot these days, but…

So. The Chromebook is a nice and affordable stopgap until I can buy a 13″ retina MacBook Pro, and a backup or spare laptop after. I won’t be moving to Android anytime soon (and it’s worth noting that Amazon Instant Video isn’t available for Android either) and as a result, Apple makes more sense than Amazon for media.

Except.

I’m sticking with Amazon for books, Kindle and Audible. Whispersync Voice is too useful. But there are really no downsides to picking that over iBooks. I’m not missing out on any integrations other than Flipboard.

Okay, so with that exception, I’m using Apple instead of Amazon. But what about Google?

The problem here comes down to tasks. Currently, I’m using Todoist, but it feels heavy. Not as heavy as Omnifocus, but close. I have an inherent contradiction when it comes to task management. I want something that can handle the complexity of nested projects and tasks, contexts and start dates when I’m planning. But anything that can do all that is going to feel too unwieldy for capture and doing, so after I get all my stuff into it, I tend not to look at it and stuff doesn’t get done.

So I’m considering going with the simpler alternatives built into Google and iCloud. But which one? The obvious answer is Google. There are good Google tasks clients for iOS, not the least of which Pocket Informant. Google tasks seems to support nested tasks to an arbitrary level, at least on the web, and it integrates with Gmail and Google Calendar.

But.

Google Tasks doesn’t support repeating tasks, and a lot of the tasks I have are for things I have to do periodically. Now, I could argue that I don’t really need tasks cluttering up my tasklist for things like laundry, trimming my fingernails and getting a haircut. When those things need to be done, I’m going to notice without having to check my list. So maybe I can do without those and just use Google Tasks to remind me of things I need to be reminded of.

The other problem with Google Tasks is that it hasn’t been updated in years, and a lot of the functionality of it seems to be duplicated in Google Keep. Just as Hangouts seems to be about to replace Voice, I wouldn’t be surprised if Tasks is discontinued soon. This would be unfortunate, as Keep doesn’t work very well on iOS.

So what about iCloud? Here I’d have simple lists that support both repeats and location geofencing. And iCloud Reminders would actually make a fine GTD system if patterned on the original paper list concept of GTD. One Inbox list, one Projects list, one Someday/Maybe list and however many context lists I need. Only, if I use that, wouldn’t I be better off moving my calendar, contacts and mail to iCloud too?

For calendar and contacts, that’s not so bad. But mail is a problem. Mostly, that iCloud doesn’t allow me to send email from jeff@kirv.in. I don’t want to start using my @me.com address for everything.

So the question here is do I need to have everything productivity-related under one roof? Contacts and mail kind of need to stick together, and it’s nice to have calendar the same.

And then there’s the question of notes and documents. I’m digging Google Drive for my document storage, and there’s no problem with continuing that on the MBP. But it doesn’t work so great with iOS. The Google Drive app on mobile (iOS and Android) is ridiculous, and certainly not viable for quick notes.

Evernote is also heavier than I’d like, but it does work pretty well across platforms. Simplenote is tempting, but the web version has issues with the Chromebook.

So I’m torn between Google and Apple for PIM/email data, and no idea what to do about notes at all. Although with Drafts adding support for Google Drive, I suppose I could just create documents there called “[[topic]] Notes” and append notes to them as needed.

I think I’m going to try sticking with Google for all my data (as opposed to media), keep Google Tasks as flat as I can and see how things go.

My life with a Chromebook

I needed a laptop.

This was tough for me to accept. I’ve been pretty insistent recently that I could do everything I needed to do with just my iOS devices. I mean, that’s a big part of what Writing On Your Palm is all about. But now that Kathleen and I have launched Taledancer, I knew I needed more than I could really do on iOS. Particularly, I needed the ability to use Google Drive with something approaching a real keyboard. And while the iOS version of Drive is better than it used to be, that’s not saying much. It still can’t do word count, for crying out loud. I’ve also come to realize that while the iOS Squarespace apps are fine for writing blog posts, they can’t manage pages or do other site management. I needed something that would let me use full web apps with no compromises.

And unfortunately, I’m moving later this year and changing jobs next month, so shelling out $1,500 for a shiny new 13″ retina MacBook Pro was also out of the question. I still plan to buy one of these eventually, but probably not until next year. And I needed something now.

Of course, I could have gone back to my Lenovo G575, a netbook APU with a 15″ screen and less than an hour of battery life, and over six pounds to lug around with the AC adapter. Running Windows. Uh, no. I get paid to be frustrated by Windows in order to fight for the users in my day job, but I’m certainly not doing it on my own time.

Since the only thing I was using on the Lenovo was Chrome, I started wondering, “why not Chrome OS?” I’d had a Google Cr-48 back in 2010 when they first sent them out to early adopters and other test-minded people. It was an interesting machine that I eventually bricked trying to reflash the BIOS to run Linux. As you might surmise, Chrome OS wasn’t really powerful enough then to meet my needs. But hey, it’s four years later. Maybe things are different now.

I did some research on Amazon, discovered the Acer c720 that my friend James Kendrick speaks so highly of is generally well-reviewed and decided to swing by Best Buy on the way home to take a look at one in person, maybe even buy it there if the price difference wasn’t too outrageous rather than waiting nearly a week for Amazon to send it to me.

First Impressions

Looking at the display model, it was way smaller and lighter than I’d expected. It’s half the weight of my Windows laptop and not much bigger than my encased iPad 2. The screen is bright and crisp, though the matte-finish, TN display washes out quickly at any angle other than head on. This makes it less than ideal for watching Netflix in bed with my girlfriend, but fine for typing and web surfing. I have the iPad 2 or the iPad mini for video, anyway.

The keyboard seemed responsive and large enough for my ham-hands, something that became an issue over time with the ZAGGkeys Cover for the iPad mini (which, I might point out, cost half of what I paid for the Chromebook). Not backlit, which is disappointing considering the ZAGGkeys and my Logitech K810 are, but I’m a touch typist so it’s not necessary.

The touchpad is great in showing exactly how bad most Windows touchpad drivers are. It supports multitouch gestures like two-finger scrolling and I can even reverse the direction like they do on newer versions of OS/X so scrolling feels more like it does on a tablet — pull down and the window contents move down. It’s responsive and just not derpy like the trackpads on my HP and Lenovo laptops.

Initial Setup

Setting up a Chromebook is pretty simple. I connected to WiFi — it may be worth noting here that the c720 doesn’t have a wired Ethernet port — and signed into Google. That was it. It synced my extensions and bookmarks from my other Chrome installations and I was ready to go. It had some difficulty connecting to my home WiFi, but I attribute that more to my crappy WiFi router, which seems to take much longer to connect than most devices expect.

It’s also worth pointing out that if you use a complex, non-human-readable Google password and a password manager like 1Password, you’re going to have trouble with Chrome OS. You have to type your Google password quite a bit, at least on every bootup, and you’ll have to do reboot at least as often as Chrome OS updates itself. It didn’t take me long to decide that I don’t like manually typing it in one character at a time looking at 1Password on my phone. So, like my 1Password master password itself, my Google password is now an XKCD-style passphrase, something I can memorize and type in myself when needed. And while I kept the HTML version of 1Password open in its own window via Dropbox on my Chromebook, I couldn’t change passwords in it from the Chromebook or use the Chrome extension to add new ones.

Apps

Of course, every platform comes down to what you can do with it. My initial run with Chrome OS was cut short because I just couldn’t get the utility out of it that I needed to. Is it any better now? Yes, but.

Yes, the app situation is much better. Most of the apps and services I use daily are usable on Chrome OS. 

First off, the Google apps work great on Chrome OS, as you’d expect. I can even switch between Google profiles pretty easily, something I was worried about since I’m signed in to the Chromebook itself with my main Google account. And Google Drive integrates with the Chromebook down to the filesystem level. I can save stuff from the web and upload stuff to the web directly from Drive, so the 16GB of local flash storage is mostly cache. My real file system is my 115GB Google Drive.

Other things designed to be web apps also work great. ToDoist, my current pick for task manager, looks and works great either in a side-docked pane or drop down extension in the toolbar. Evernote works fine, though a bit clunkier than native variants. Feedly, Verizon Messages, Couple.me, Squarespace, Twitter… All fine.

But.

1Password got to be a pain in the ass very quickly. Even running the HTML version from my Dropbox was less than optimal, especially since it couldn’t offer to save or generate new passwords. I ended up switching to LastPass for my password management since it works cleanly and without compromise on both Chrome OS and iOS. This would become a pattern.

I’ve also mostly dropped Dropbox in favor of Google Drive. This is partly because of how seamlessly Drive works with Chrome OS, and partly because as I was getting my Chromebook set up, Google dropped the prices on Google Drive storage space. I’ve got 115GB for free for a year just as part of buying a Chromebook, but I’m seriously considering giving Google the $10/month I was paying Dropbox and instead of 100GB from Dropbox, getting 1TB from Google. That’s enough for me to store all my ripped DVDs and back up all my music if I decide I need something in addition to Amazon, Google and iTunes.

Basically, I’ve done an audit of what services I use for what activities, and settled on services that work on any platform. Google Drive instead of Dropbox. ToDoist instead of Omnifocus. LastPass instead of 1Password. Verizon Messages instead of iMessage.

You can see where this is going.

By keeping all my media with Amazon (books, audiobooks, TV, movies, music), all my productivity data with Google (mail, contacts, calendar, files) with a few cross-platform standalones where they fit (Evernote, Comixology, LastPass, Twitter, ToDoist), I’ve pretty much divorced myself from needing any particular hardware. The Chromebook does everything I need. So does my iPhone. And my iPad. So would a shiny new Moto X, but let’s not get into that right now.

Odds and Ends

It’s also worth noting that on the off chance the Chromebook doesn’t do something I need it to do — thinking mostly about ebook format conversion here, for which I need Calibre — Chrome OS has another trick up its sleeve. Chrome Remote Desktop. Through this, I can remote into my laptop at home or my laptop at work, hit the full screen key and it’s pretty much like I’ve got a Windows laptop. I wouldn’t watch video over it, but it’s fine for my occasional needs.

Battery life has been impressive, and it charges quick. Because this is running a full Haswell processor, it can’t do the microUSB use-the-same-charger-as-your-tablet trick that the new HP Chromebook can do, but the upside is that the full PC-style charging brick works fast. I’m getting between 5-8 hours on a charge, more than enough for a typical outing, and it recharges back to full in an hour or so. If I’m using it all day, I usually have to plug it in in early afternoon, but then it’s good for the rest of the day.

Conclusion

I’m far more impressed with the Chromebook that I expected. This is not only adequate for my needs, but it feels like the right computer for me. Small and light, cloud-aware, as simple as possible, but no simpler. The more I use it, the more I want to, and I’m rethinking whether I need a “real” laptop at all now. Time will tell if online tools like Pixlr will be able to do the kind of graphics work I need, but if I end up doing all that on an iPad Air and everything else on the Chromebook, I think I’ll be pretty happy.

Introducing Taledancer

I’m proud to announce Taledancer, my new business for providing author-publishers everything they need to get from manuscript to published ebook.

One of the common complaints I see from new author-publishers is that they don’t want to learn all the skills necessary to be a publisher. They just want to write. The problem is that as many happily traditionally published authors will tell you, a publisher provides a lot of services apart from the actual writing that are necessary to produce a book. They design an eye-catching cover. They work with the author to edit and shape the manuscript into a novel. They proofread and typeset that novel. These are professional skills that not every author wants to learn.

Taledancer aims to provide those services for authors that just want to write. Come to us with a manuscript, and we’ll work with you to edit it, design the cover, format the ebook and post it to various online stores. We offer individual services and discounted bundles, so we can do as much or as little as you need. And in the coming months, we’ll also be offering new services like covers with completely original commissioned artwork and print book layout for CreateSpace or Lulu.

So if you’re an indie writer who wants to sidestep the technical stuff, or a midlist traditional writer looking for an easy way to get some backlist novels posted now that you have the rights back, drop by and take a look at what we can do for you.

Taledancer.com

Just write. We’ll do the rest.

ZAGGkeys Cover for the iPad Mini

Originally posted on my WordPress blog on December 7, 2013.

I’m really digging the iPad Mini. Like I said before, I think this is the ultimate writing machine. All the power of a full size iPad, but more portable. So it’s perhaps not a surprise that it didn’t take me long to try to turn it into a laptop.

I swung by the Apple Store and took a look at their keyboard offerings for the iPad Mini. I’m still pretty happy with Kate — my Logitech K810 — overall, but I was looking for something even more portable. Something that wouldn’t require a bag to carry. The only thing Apple carries in their stores like this is the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard for the Mini, and it didn’t impress me. It’s plastic, requires disconnecting it from the magnetic Smartcover-like hinge before sticking it in a slot with only one viewing angle to type, and because they needed room for the slot, the keys were cramped. I shrugged and went home. On the up side, I got in and out of the Apple Store without spending any money, which is rare.

Then as I was catching up on Amplified on the mighty 5by5 podcast network, Jim Dalrymple mentioned the ZAGGkeys Cover for the Mini. It seemed to solve a lot of the issues I had with the Logitech keyboard, and he picked up his in FutureShop, the Canadian version of Best Buy. So I thought it might be worth swinging by my local Best Buy to take a look at one in person. Before I went, I downloaded the Best Buy app and verified that they had some in stock. Remember when you had to just get in the car and go look? #likeananimal

For the most part, I’m very impressed. The keyboard is a smaller, improved version of the ZAGGkeys cover I had for my iPad 4. The big difference in this version is that it holds the iPad Mini by the edge in a rotating hinge like a laptop screen. Especially on a keyboard the size of the iPad Mini, this allows the keyboard to be much closer to normal size. Basically, it’s no worse than a netbook keyboard, and thankfully doesn’t try to cram the up arrow inside the right shift key, a common size hack a lot of portable Bluetooth keyboards used to use which made touch typing impossible for me, as every time I tried to capitalize a letter on the left side of the keyboard, I’d find myself typing in the middle of a word on the previous line.

Which isn’t to say this keyboard is without compromises. The 1, ;, ‘, and [ keys are half-width, and the apostrophe key in particular is causing me some trouble as I tend to overreach and hit enter when I mean to type a contraction or possessive. Tab is also moved down to share a key with Caps Lock, and dash, underscore, equal and plus are all bunched on a single key requiring the Fn key to get to the latter two. But all in all, I’m not having too much trouble getting adjusted to it. The key action and travel are up to ZAGG’s usual high standards, and the keyboard is backlit with 3 brightness settings and a variety of colors. I tend to leave it on white considering it’s a white and silver keyboard mated with a white and silver iPad.

There’s a row of special keys across the top, since this keyboard has the vertical space for them. The usual media control keys, copy and paste — but oddly, not cut — and keys for home, lock, dictation/Siri and showing/dismissing the on screen keyboard for more esoteric characters. There’s also a “world” icon on the Command key that when paired with the Fn key, gives you access to other language on screen keyboards. I pretty much just use this for emoji, but it’s nice to have.

When closed, the keyboard matches the iPad perfectly and really does make it look like the world’s thinnest netbook. The keyboard is about a millimeter thinner than the original iPad Mini fits snugly. The extra weight is noticeable, but is definitely preferable to carrying a separate, detached device like the K810. As I tend to leave the full size iPad at home as a media device, this means when I leave the apartment I’m generally only carrying the iPhone, the iPad/keyboard and maybe my Anker battery pack for recharging them both if I expect to be really busy or away for the whole day.

I’m also finding myself keeping the keyboard attached when holding the iPad in portrait orientation for reading, using the keyboard as the left half a hardcover book. The whole kit is surprisingly comfortable to hold this way.

I really only have one quibble. The hinge holds the iPad by friction, not magnets, and I noticed a hairline fracture in the plastic on the outside edge. I was going to exchange it at Best Buy, but when I got there I took a look at two of the other devices on the shelf. Each had a similar fracture in the same place, and one had two. So it looks like it’s a very minor design flaw that I’m just going to have to live with. So far it hasn’t been a problem, but it’s something I’m going to watch out for.

I’ll also note that because the keyboard holds on to the iPad by friction and has a pretty tight grip, I’ve heard it doesn’t work so well with the just fractionally thicker retina Mini. But if you have a first generation iPad Mini and you’re looking for a quick and portable way to get some real writing done with it, I heartily recommend the ZAGGkeys Cover.

The Prompt and why I can’t use OmniFocus

On this week’s “The Prompt” on the mighty 5by5 podcast network, Federico Viticci and Mike Hurley discussed using URL schemes to make and use advanced workflows in iOS. It’s a great discussion, but what really got me thinking was Ticci pointing out that while Apple talks a big game about this being the “post-PC” era, they don’t really give a lot of visibility to people who really use an iOS device as their primary, even sole, computer.

I’ve been running into the same mindset with OmniGroup, a developer who has been making OS/X apps since OS/X was NeXTstep. They make a GTD-oriented task management app, OmniFocus, that’s widely considered to be the bee’s knees by all the productivity gurus.

The problem, though, is that while the iOS versions of OmniFocus are priced as premium iOS apps (I’ve paid $20 for the 1.x verison for iPhone, another $20 for the 2.x version for iPhone and $40 for the iPad version), they are missing crucial features (namely, the ability to create saved searches, or “perspectives”, something the iOS version of Evernote has done perfectly well for years) that you only get if you also have the Mac version (which I believe costs $80).

This isn’t about money, or at least not directly. I don’t have a problem paying for a tool I get a lot of use out of. But it seems to me that, like Apple, OmniGroup talks a big game about iOS but doesn’t really mean it. They’ve been coding for OS/X so long, they just assume you use a Mac. And their iOS apps are crippled because of that assumption.

As it turns out, I don’t use a Mac. And I have no intention of buying one just to run OmniFocus. I’ve already spent $80 on OmniFocus and I’m staring down another $40 when the iOS 7 redesign for iPad comes out. And for my $120, I get a watered down solution that doesn’t really work as advertised. Hell, you have to have the iPad version just to do a proper GTD weekly review; the iPhone version lacks that feature. And neither allow you to create perspectives, meaning switching “head spaces” is an arduous process where you have to set your view settings all over again every time you move on to something else.

I’ve asked OmniGroup about this and generally gotten the brush-off. They have no intention of fixing this feature gap between the same product on different platforms, and they tend to seem baffled as to why I don’t just use the Mac version.

And for as much as OmniFocus does well, so much better than the competition, I think I have to accept that they don’t write software for me, or others like me. They make iOS software, but they don’t really understand post-PC computing. I don’t want a Mac. I want to use my iPhone, or iPad, whichever seems better for the job at hand, without compromises if I choose the smaller, more portable screen.

Are developers out there listening?

No Outlet Required

For years— and years— my life has been plagued by power outlets. Or, more specifically, the lack of them. Even for my AAA battery-based Hanspring Visor I carried a spare pair of NiMH batteries in my pocket, but once I transitioned to color Pocket PCs that had to be recharged over USB, I’ve spent the first second or two in every new room I entered looking for the power outlets just in case I needed to recharge. My laptop-toting friends have specific places they have to sit so that they’re in range of an outlet. We even tend towards places with crappy WiFi (talking to you, Panera) because outlets are easily accessible.

Well, no more. Not for me. Aside from overnight charging at home while I sleep, I’m cutting the cord.

In my pockets, I have:

  • iPhone 5S, silver, in a…
  • Mophie Juice Pack Helium, silver
  • Plantronics M55 Bluetooth earpiece

This is my bare minimum gear. As you’ll see below, the Helium augments the 5S just enough to get me through most days without plugging in.

If I’m expecting to be out longer than a quick errand or two, I’ve got my tiny backback (a CamelBak MULE with the water bladder pocket used for iPad storage) packed with:

  • iPad 2 (WiFi only, hence the need for the MiFi below)
  • Logitech K810 “Kate” keyboard (yes, I named my keyboard)
  • Kindle Paperwhite (also WiFi only)
  • Verizon Jetpack MiFi 5510L
  • Reserve Mophie Juice Pack Air for my iPhone 5S
  • Reserve Apple blue leather case for my iPhone 5S
  • Apple EarPods
  • Apple Dock Connector cable for charging the iPad
  • Amazon Kindle microUSB cable for charging literally everything else
  • Anker 18W 2-port Turbo USB AC adapter
  • Anker Astro3 12,000 mAh external battery charger

The iPhone 5S is my primary device, and it sits in the Mophie Helium by default. I let the battery run down, and then when I get the 20% warning I turn on the Helium and that charges it back up to somewhere in the 70s. Most days, it never gets back to 20%. If it does, I can switch to the Juice Pack Air in my bag, or just charge it from the Astro3. I’m taking the whole kit with me to MileHiCon here in Denver next weekend, where I expect to have the extra drain of really crappy cellular signal, keeping the radio searching constantly.

The real key to this is the massive 12 Amp/hour battery on the Astro3. That’s nearly eight times the capacity of my iPhone. I can charge every piece of gear I have at least twice over from the Astro3, and when/if I need to charge it, I can charge it and the iPad (or anything else) simultaneously from the Anker AC adapter in an emergency. So there’s really no need for me to even look around for AC outlets when I walk into somewhere new. It doesn’t matter. It’s effectively impossible for me to use more power than I’m carrying with me in a 24 hour period. No more plugging in gear just in case I find myself without power later. All battery, all the time. At least until the Astro3 gets down to about a quarter charge, at which point I’ll plug it in and let it charge back up while I sleep.

And ironically, since I no longer have any incentive to keep my devices “topped off” all the time, spending most of their time between 80% and 100% charged, their batteries should have longer lifetimes. Lithium batteries get their best overall longevity from being between 20 and 80 percent charged most of the time. This way they’ll wear down naturally over time rather than the quick burn of trying to stay constantly ready to be used but not actually used.