Mac

The Day One App Goes Premium

I've written about the iOS app Day One before. It is a very powerful yet simple and elegant digital journaling app and I have been using it daily now for almost 5 years now (it will be 5 years in September). With 3 kids and a very busy life I have really enjoyed writing in my journal on a daily basis. Plus, it really helps me keep track of things I have done, places I have been and people I have met and interacted with. As I get older my memory fails me more and more so any help I can get is a win.

The folks at Day One have recently announced a new "premium" subscription service. Actually, saying they have introduced a new service isn't the best way to describe the change. Day One's revenue model has changed. Day One used to get their revenue from the sale of their apps (iOS and Mac) as well as their optional physical book printing service. But like many developers these days they have been struggling to make enough money to keep developing the application and to take it where they want to go with it. I have actually been worried about this for a while now. Since this is an app I use daily I really didn't want to see it go away and just the other day I was wondering how much longer the app would be around. Now, hopefully, I won't have to worry so much. Maybe...

The Day One ratings on the iOS and Mac app stores have taken a bit of a beating. There are obviously a vocal group of users out there that feel that an app like Day One should not be going down the subscription service path. I couldn't disagree more. Today's app landscape makes it very difficult for developers to create and continue to develop quality apps and at the same time afford to feed themselves. There have been way too many apps over the years that I have come to depend on that just vanish because their revenue dries up and they have to move on.

The Day One Premium subscription for me makes sense. In fact, right before I starting writing this article I subscribed to the service. I have nearly 5 years of memories locked away inside my Day One app I want to continue using the app for many years to come. I also currently use the app at work as well to keep track of accomplishments throughout the year so I have a record when it comes time for my annual performance reviews and I use the Mac app for that purpose. However, when version 2 of Day One came out I really didn't need to upgrade the Mac app. The Mac app is a bit more expensive and at the time I wasn't using enough features on the Mac at work to justify the expense. But now that I am a premium subscriber I get the $50 Mac app for free. And I have another future use for the Day One app as well. I intend to start using it as a beer tasting journal. I love trying new craft beers and I had originally been using Tap Cellar for that, but Tap Cellar couldn't bring in enough revenue in today's app environment and it stopped being developed. So I moved over to Untapped, but I have never been all that happy with the app/service. So I plan to start logging my beer tastings in a dedicated Day One journal. So between my daily personal journal, my work accomplishments journal and my soon to be beer tasting journal it is well worth it for me to subscribe to the premium service.

So how does this new revenue model for Day One work? Day One has a great FAQ page that explains all the details, but in summary here are the 3 main options for using Day One going forward:

Basic: This is for anyone that downloads the Day One after June 29, 2017. They are limited to a single journal, one photo per entry, no cloud services and no access to future app features. So this is essentially a demo or trial app.

Plus: This is for anyone who had already purchased the newer version 2.0 of the Day One app (back before it went free on June 29, 2017). Those users will continue to have access to all of the features in the existing Day One app. The app will also continue to get maintenance updates but you won't have access to new features as they are rolled out in the future.

Day One Premium: This is their new subscription service and is the main focus for the company going forward. With the monthly or yearly subscription service you get the following:

  • Unlimited number of journals
  • Unlimited photo storage
  • 25% off all physical book orders
  • The Mac app (a $50 value) for free
  • All future app/service updates like the ability to add video to your journal, audio clips and eventually Day One Web which gives you a web-based access to all of your journals.
  • If you are already a version 2.0 Day One owner you get a discount on the Premium Service (it is only $24.99 a year)

This new premium service won't be for everyone, but I think there are enough users out there like me that truly appreciate a full-featured and well polished app like Day One that they will get enough subscribers to keep the lights on for a long time to come. At least I certainly hope so.

I Just Did Something Really Stupid

This is probably one of the longest posts I have ever written, but it is also one of the most important. Please take a few minutes to read it...it could save you from losing all of your data.

So I just did something a few days ago that made me feel really stupid, so naturally I need to tell the world about my stupidity. I've been sick for a week now with a really nasty case of the flu that I caught while attending CES in Las Vegas. A few night ago I was in the kitchen cooking dinner and my daughter asked me to come over to the computer. She needed me to type in the administrator password so she could install a program on the Mac. Normally this would set off my "spidey sense", but between still being sick, being in the middle of cooking dinner and because in this case I knew exactly what my daughter was doing...I typed in the admin password so she could install the program. Except when I did this a program called "Mac Purifier" was installed on my Mac and started scanning my computer. I literally ripped the power cord out of the wall and just left the computer where it was in its unpowered state so I could go back to my half-cooked dinner before it burned.

So what happened? My daughter is really into Minecraft (and I mean REALLY into Minecraft). She wanted to install a mod to Minecraft and that required that she first install a program called "Forge" to help with that process. Her and I had been talking about what she was doing for a while now and that was why I really didn't think twice about approving the install. She went to official website for Forge and attempted to download Forge. This is where everything went wrong. From what I can tell, instead of downloading Forge she clicked on one of the ads on the Forge website (an ad made to look like an install button) and that ad downloaded the installation package for Mac Purifier. So I instead of installing Forge like we both thought, I gave my Mac permission to install a piece of (shit...ok I'll be nice and call it malware). Mac Purifier is actually designed to do something good and that is it scans your Mac and notifies you about anything that shouldn't be there like viruses or malware (ironic isn't it). The reason I call Mac Purifier malware is because in order for Mac Purifier to do anything useful you are prompted to purchase the "full" version of the program. So it is essentially a useless shell of a program designed to scare you into buying the full version. Mac Purifier is one of those programs that has also been bundled with "free" software you can download on not so trustworthy websites out there as a way to pump money out of unsuspecting people. Because of this I had no idea whether the version of Mac Purifier that was just installed on my Mac had any other kind of malware embedded in it or if was just truly the useless money sucking program that it was designed to be. I had no choice but to wipe my Mac (nuke it from orbit, it's the only way to be sure).

There are two reasons I am writing this post:

  • To stress the importance of having computer backups
  • To wage war against online ads

The Importance of Computer Backups

The only reason this really stupid thing I did didn't cost me a ton of time (and possibly all my data) is because I have a rock solid backup strategy for ALL of my data. Instead of having to go into my Mac and performing extensive surgery to remove the malicious program I just installed (seriously, take a look at this article and read how much is involved with manually removing this crap), it took me less than 5 minutes of my time to completely nuke my entire computer and re-install everything to exactly how it was before Mac Purifier was installed (it took overnight for all the data to be restored but only took 5 minutes of my time to enact). The reason I was able to do this so easily is because one of the backup methods I use clones the entire hard drive of my Mac (I use a program called Carbon Copy Cloner but there are others like it for both Mac and PC). So all I had to do was plug my Mac back into power and boot off of my cloned backup drive and run a restore from my cloned drive over to the hard drive of my Mac). This essentially put my Mac back into the exact configuration it was in when I last performed a clone of my hard drive (in this case it happened to be the night before).

So what do I recommend for computer backups? You need a minimum of two backups of all of your data and one of those backups absolutely must be an offsite backup. If all of your backups are either attached to your computer or reside in the same location then theft or fire could still destroy all of your data. So here is what I do:

  • Backup method 1 is Time Machine. I have an Apple Time Capsule router that has a hard drive built into it so every Mac in my house is continuously and wirelessly backed up with Time Machine.
  • Backup method 2 is my offsite backup. Instead of using Time Machine for this backup (which I could do) I use Carbon Copy Cloner and clone the entire computer's hard drive to a portable USB hard drive. I take that hard drive into work and leave it there. Every 2-weeks I have a reminder to take that hard drive home and perform a new clone of my computer hard drives, but I make sure that drive never stays in the house any more than overnight.

If you have a Mac, backup is incredibly simple, free, and built right into the computer's operating system. Just go out and buy an external hard drive that has at least twice the capacity of the hard drive you are trying to backup, plug it onto your Mac and turn on Time Machine. That is your on-site backup. You can get a 2nd external hard drive and so the same thing except take that drive offsite (either take it to work or store it at the house of a family member or friend). The other option for offsite backup is to pay for a cloud backup service like Backblaze or Crashplan. For just a few bucks a months and the flip of a software switch you will ensure you will never lose a piece of your data. I've used both of these services before and they are both excellent. I don't use either now because our house is located in a place we like to call "the place the internet goes to die"...we don't get fast reliable internet data so pushing a lot of data through our home internet just isn't feasible. What ever you decide to do just make sure you take the 2 method approach I describe above. Don't let the voice in the back of your head tell you that this is too expensive. The "stupid thing I just did" could have just as easily installed a piece of software that encrypted my entire hard drive and held it for ransom until I paid the developer an enormous sum of money to give me the key (yes, this type of thing really does happen). A simple virus could also just as easily wipe out your entire computer. How much is it worth to you to secure you data to make sure you don't lose everything? Can you really compare that value to the cost of a few external hard drives or a few bucks a month for a cloud backup service? I think not.

I'm Done With Online Ads

This stupid thing I did was the last straw, there will be no more website ads in my house. The Forge website is a site that gets a lot of traffic from kids, but the ads on that site are designed to prey on those kids...posing as buttons to install Forge but instead installing something entirely different (something that makes that company money at the expense of the kids and their parents). The ads on this site are targeting kids. There is a special level of hell for people that prey on kids and online predators are no exception (yes, I am classifying online advertisers a child predators). If you stalk and take advantage of a child you are a predator (granted there are various levels of severity when you classify it this way).

So I'm no longer going to tolerate online ads. I have installed ad blocking software on all of my home Macs and iOS devices. I chose to go with 1Blocker because it has both a Mac and an iOS version and the preferences and setting can be synched, but there are a lot of other options out there both free (like Ghostery) and not so free (like Roadblock for Mac and Roadblock for iOS, free to download but requires In-App-Purchase to fully unlock). Look, I understand that online ads are the way most website afford to be in existence. Heck, I write for one of those websites (GeekDad.com, and ads are part of what pays our bills) and I totally understand that not all ads are evil. We actually spend quite a bit of time behind the scenes debating just how many and what types of ads to allow on the GeekDad site because we don't want to just drown our readers with ads (after all that is not why they come to the site, they come for our content). But most websites don't spend that kind of time making sure the ads they serve don't abuse the people that visit their site. So this latest abuse by advertisers was the last straw...I'm just nuking all ads in my house going forward. If you are a website I visit often and you haven't abused me with the ads you serve up then you will be whitelisted by my ad blocking software. If you want to have nightmares I suggest you install one of these ad blocking programs on your computer and pay attention to just how many trackers and pieces of code are kicked off on each website you visit...it is absolutely terrifying.

I pulled this report using 1Blocker. You read that right, CNN.com has 29 ads and 23 trackers just from the home page. Sleep tight...

I pulled this report using 1Blocker. You read that right, CNN.com has 29 ads and 23 trackers just from the home page. Sleep tight...

Summary

I just did something incredibly stupid, something that could have destroyed all of the data on my computer and I am relatively tech savy (I do write for two tech blogs after all). If I can do something this stupid then people that don't follow and keep up with tech like I do are even more vulnerable. That is what truly scared me when I did this. I thought I was immune, but in reality we all just one bad move away from inflicting some serious harm on our computers. Luckily I had already been protecting myself with a rock solid backup strategy and now I'm taking one additional step by eliminating online ads. You will notice that my blog here at 1Wayswim doesn't have any ads and it never will. Readers have the options to drop me a few bucks via my donate page and I've been toying with the idea of setting up a Patreon account for 1Wayswim, but rest assured I will never serve up ads on this website. I can't stand advertising..never have. I guess I view advertising as a theft of my time and attention and I like to know what something costs up front. I also put my money where my mouth is and pay for several online news sources and support small content providers via their Patreon pages and will continue to do so. Like I said, I will whitelist website that don't abuse me with the ads they serve up but that will be an exception to the rule that must be earned. After what happened a few days ago I decided to skip right over the whole "waging war on online ads" and ended the war before it even began by just nuking them from orbit to begin with. I suggest you all consider doing the same, but when you do, just make sure you either whitelist the "good guys" or find another way to toss them a few bucks on a regular basis. Otherwise, we will all be stuck with a bunch of garbage out there on the internet (and its bad enough now as it is).

Mac App Store Refunds

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This past weekend I did a nuke and pave of my Mac, which means I totally wiped the computer and did a fresh install of the operating system. As I was re-installing applications I made a couple of really stupid mistakes. I ended up accidentally purchasing $50 worth of apps from the Mac App Store. One app I had previously purchased from the Mac App Store, but the store didn't recognize this because family sharing wasn't properly configured on the Mac yet. The other app I purchased was an app that I thought I had previously purchased from the Mac App Store but I had actually purchased directly from the company's website. I figured I had just made a couple of stupid mistakes that cost me $50.

So I contacted Apple via email and told them what I had done and asked them if there was anything they could do. I got an email back within 24 hours saying they were processing a full refund for me...no questions asked. I'm guessing they were able to look at my account and see that I had indeed purchased both of these app in the past, one using my correct Apple ID and the other app I had purchased previous versions of through the App Store. But I was expected Apple to ask for some kind of proof from me rather than do it themselves. Who knows, maybe they didn't do any checking at all. Either way I was pleasantly surprised that they just took care of it.

Say what you will about the Mac App Store (trust me I have plenty of complaints), but being able to get your money back after making some accidental purchases is really nice. If you find yourself in a similar situation with either the Mac App Store or the iOS App Store don't hesitate to contact Apple and ask for a refund...you just might get it.

Replacing Circus Ponies Notebook

replacing circus ponies notebook.jpg

I am way over due in writing this post, as I promised to do so back in my January 2016 article "Saying Goodbye to Circus Ponies Notebook." The Circus Ponies App for Mac and iOS is no more...quoting the developer that "Circus Ponies has gone to that great Alphabet company in the sky." So now what?

I could turn this article into its own book, but instead I am going to keep this as short as possible (which is still going to be relatively long) and tell you what I have done and mention some of the really great options there are out there. Here are the steps I recommend you take:

  1. Export all of your existing Circus Ponies Notebooks into formats that are a bit more future-proof
  2. Examine your specific needs and based on those needs choose an app or several apps that best fit those needs
  3. Stop using Circus Ponies Notebook and move on

Exporting Your Circus Ponies Notebooks

Freeing your precious data from the crumbling prison of the Circus Ponies Notebook app should be your top priority. Using the term "crumbling prison" is probably a little harsh as the Notebook app has several really simple and powerful ways to exports all your data from a given notebook with just a few clicks. But even so, it is VERY important that you do so quickly. While the Circus Ponies Notebook apps will continue to work on iOS and macOS for at least for a little while, you still need to sever the tie to this dead platform. Here are the export actions I took:

Export to a webpage:

This is all done through the Circus Ponies for Mac app from the "Export" menu option. This creates an "index.html" file that you can open in any web browser and then interact with your Circus Ponies Notebook just like you could with the app, at least from a reading and browsing perspective (you can't search or edit). This was a really key thing for me because I had a ton of embedded images in my notebooks and exporting out to OPML or to Word just didn't help because they don't retain the embedded images. So if you know approximately where in your notebook you are looking for data this export option is by far the best way to get to your data.

Export to Word:

As I mentioned above, exporting out a complete notebook to Word doesn't retain the embedded images but it does nicely take the entire text content and structure and stick it into a Word document. Images and files that were attached or embedded to the Notebook are still listed in the Word document so can still eventually get to those files (more on that later). Because Word is such a powerhouse app it is unlikely to completely disappear from the Earth any time soon, so this is a good long term format for your data. Just like the export to a web page option above, this is done through the Circus Ponies for Mac app from the "Export" menu option.

Extract All Images and Attachments:

This is a very important step because the only way to ensure you get absolutely ALL of your content out of the Circus Ponies Notebook format you need to grab all the "non-text" content that you added into each notebook (things like document and images) and this is done manually. Here is how you do it...

  1. Find the Notebook on your Mac you want to grab all the data from. It will have a ".nb" file extension.
  2. Control Click the file and choose "Show Package Contents" from the menu that pops up. Circus Ponies Notebook files use the Mac OS package file format, so the attachments and files that are embedded in a Notebook are all stored within the folder structure of that Package file.
  3. Now you will see a bunch of folders, but the one you are really looking for here is "attachments." This folder contains everything from your Notebook that was added in as an image or attachment.
  4. Copy and paste all of the files from this "attachments" folder into a folder on your computer so you can search and find these documents later.

Examine Your Needs and Choose Replacements Apps

Ok, great. You have rescued all of your precious Notebook contents. Now what? There is no single "one size fits all" answer here. The replacement app for you depends on what features of Circus Ponies Notebook you were using. So start by looking at what you need our of a "Notebook Replacement App." Once you have figure out your "can't live without it" list of features it is time to look at the options.

Microsoft OneNote:

If there was a single app out there that had the best chance of meeting most people's needs for replacing Circus Ponies Notebook this would be it. Best of all, this is a "free" app. Free is in quotes here because Microsoft is pulling in some profit from the app because the app is helping them to drive up their Microsoft 365 subscriptions. Because the app is not paid for upfront, there is a chance that Microsoft will stop supporting it in the future but that can be said of any app. OneNote has been a solid app for quite a few years and I suspect it will continue to be for quite a for more years. Seriously take a look at this app. If it does what you need this a great choice. Unfortunately this doesn't work for me for one very silly and simple reason...syncing. For whatever reason (probably the reason I mention above), Microsoft does not offer local storage as an option on their Mac OneNote app. It is an option on the PC and on mobile devices but not on the Mac. If you use OneNote on the Mac the data must be stored in Microsoft's cloud which is called OneDrive. The reason this doesn't work for me is that one of my biggest use cases for a Notebook is to capture data for work and almost all of that data is sensitive data that can't be stored on a cloud service.

OmniOutliner for Mac and iOS:

This is the solution I have settled on. It is a bit on the pricey side, but you get what you pay for. I spend so much time taking notes and ferreting away information that the solution I choose has to be very powerful and stable and I need to know that it is going to be around for a few years. OmniOutliner hits all of those points for me. I recommend biting the bullet and buying both the iOS version (OmniOutliner 2) and the Mac version if you are like me and need to take notes everywhere you go. For my work purposes I only use the Mac version and keep all the data locally on my machine to get around the sensitive data issue I described earlier. I recommend buying OmniOutliner for Mac directly from the OmniGroup's website rather than the Mac App Store because you will get discounted upgrades when new versions of the app are released (and discounts are not possible through the Mac App Store).

So how does OmniOutliner replace Circus Ponies Notebook? There is an excellent article over at Organizing Creativity that goes into great details about how you can do this. I have no intention of trying to duplicate any of that great work here so just give that article a read. I will warn you that using OmniOutliner for replacing Circus Ponies Notebook is not for the faint of heart. It is going to take a bit of fiddling and you will need to create some templates in order to really do it right, but in my opinion this is the best "power user" solution moving forward and it keeps your data in a format that quite future proof.

Outline by Gorillized:

There are actually quite a few app that have "notebook" features and Outline by Gorillized is just one those app. But there are two things that make this app stand out. The first being that they actually developed a Circus Ponies Notebook importer, so you can directly import all of your old Circus Ponies Notebooks into the Outline app. Here is a link the the support article that explains how to do this. The other reason to take a good look at this app is that they offer a discount for all of us "Circus Ponies Refugees." The discount only works on the Mac version of the app, but all you have to do is go to their website and purchase the Mac app and at checkout enter the discount code "CIRCUSPONIES" for 30% off the purchase price. I will probably end up purchasing this app and using it for two main purposes. One is to have a user friendly version of all my previous Circus Ponies Notebooks and the other is to use the app replace how I used to use Circus Ponies Notebook as a digital notebook while sitting on console for rocket launches.

Notebooks by Alfons Schmid:

I really like the clean look and simplicity of this app. I haven't personally used this app yet, but everything I have heard about it has been positive. Depending on your needs this app might be a good solution for you.

Move On

The last step in the the process of replacing Circus Ponies Notebook is to move on. You must sever all ties to the now dead Circus Ponies app and move forward with the application(s) you have chosen as (a) replacement(s). There is no such thing as a permanent application , at least not in today's fast moving technology world. Don't be afraid to experiment with different apps and use multiple apps for replacing Circus Ponies Notebook...using a single app to replace just one or two key features at a time. It is also important to think about the longevity of your data in these replacement applications. How is the data stored and how easily can you export that data into a format that can be read and used by another application. After all, Circus Ponies Notebook won't be the last app that goes off into that great big gig in the sky...

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