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I’ve always been a great fan of dual displays, having used the setup since the demise of my old desktop; that situation afforded me an extra monitor. What do I use it for? Primarily when I’m preparing my lessons for teaching: I’d have my Word document (lesson plan) on my main screen (in front of me) and the PowerPoint lecture slides on another monitor to my side. This setup allowed me to work on both documents simultaneously instead of one after the other. How about split screen or alt-tabbing, you might ask. For me, the former is too cramped even on my 15″ MacBook Pro screen, and the latter too tedious and mentally draining.

I haven’t been using it for a while now, because I gave away my external monitor and I’m working on either my 11″ MacBook Air or 21.5″ iMac. Nonetheless, I’ve always thought of myself as a huge fan of the setup.

Ben Brooks recently wrote about how he switched from a dual display setup to a single, large monitor setup since 2008-9[1] and I quote:

At some point in 2008-9 I started just using one display — this only after I measured my use of the second display finding that I rarely used it.

Since that time I have held the opinion that one, large, monitor is the best action to take in the name of productivity.

Now I am even questioning just how large of a monitor you need.

It triggered two things in me: first being the use of a dual display, and the second about the size of a screen.

Let’s look at the first one.

Technically, my 21.5″ iMac has a screen that’s almost four times the size of my 11″ MBA, so I should logically be able to see four times the things right? No. What happens is that I usually have the same number of apps open on my iMac as compared to my MBA, just that their windows are bigger; and since the font sizes on both machines are similar, I end up with a lot of white space on my iMac.

What I can do is to arrange my app windows such that I fit in four apps/windows on screen instead[2]. However, I don’t do that because it’s tedious and repetitive, and somehow, it makes my screen/desktop look cluttered — like some security surveillance monitor.

That’s where the beauty of a dual display comes in.

I used to hate the borders of individual monitors and wished that they were non-existent so I can put together two screens and make it look like one big screen. On hindsight, the division caused by the borders created different physical spaces: in essence, I am told by my setup that I am working on two screens, and how each one has a specific purpose (like how one handles my Word documents and the other PowerPoints). That specificity of purpose gives me more cognitive coherence and flow than the extra space on my 21.5″ iMac.

Weird, but it works for me.

Having said that, I don’t use a dual display setup often, nor wished for it all the time; but when I do need to view multiple things at the same time, a dual display setup works like a charm for me. As an aside, I don’t have my extra monitor now but instead use my iPad as a secondary monitor via Air Display[3].

So what does it mean for you?

If you have never tried a dual display before, give it a shot for the following situations: 1) when you need to edit two (or more) things simultaneously like me with my Word and PowerPoint documents, or 2) when you need to see real-time reviews, like when you are working on coding, graphics or web design (one screen for code and the other for output).

In this sense, Krishna M. Sadasivam from PC Weenies[4] echoes my thoughts:

Most of my work involves working with multiple applications at a time; applications that have tool palettes scattered around my screen. A typical scenario for me involves working with references when digitally illustrating. A dual display setup lets me use the main (larger) LCD for palette blossoming applications like Photoshop, Sketchbook Pro, or Manga Studio Pro while the secondary (smaller) LCD is used for displaying reference photos or a creative brief. A dual display eliminates the need for me to shuffle back and forth between apps, thereby improving my productivity.

So how can you get to try the setup without buying an extra monitor? Use the projector in your office to act as a dual display. Yes I know it’s crazily out of proportion but hey, it’s just for a try-out right? Or if you have nice friends with desktops and standalone displays, go over their house with a pint of ice cream and borrow the monitor while they enjoy your bribe.

Let’s now look at the second point about the size of a monitor.

My first laptop had (I think) a 14″ screen or thereabouts. Moving forward, I have worked on screens at least 13″ and bigger. So you can imagine my hesitation when I was considering the 11″ MBA (which has a resolution of a 13″), but after using it for half a year, I can safely say that size is not an issue. Then again, I need to qualify that I have my iMac if I really do need the screen space, and I don’t do Photoshop on my MBA.

So what does this mean? Basically, the screen on my MBA is suitable for over 90% of my computer usage, and that justifies its cost. In other words, I can’t see myself spending more money just for the additional 10%. Furthermore, I actually enjoy looking at my MBA screen; my iMac just feels too large.

In this sense, I agree whole heartedly with Ben:

For about a month I have been debating and failing to pull the trigger on a monitor for my home. Monetary concerns are certainly a factor, but the bigger factor is that I quite like just having the small screen.

So as I stare at this 24″ Apple LED Cinema Display as I am typing this post, I can’t help but wonder: what if I ditched it for just my MacBook Air screen?

How about for those who only have one laptop as their primary machine? Two options: 1) Switch to the 13″ MBA (which has a resolution of a 15″, or any other laptops with bigger screen), or 2) add a dual display when necessary.

In conclusion, forget the concepts of productivity or efficiency. Try out different setups and see which allows you to produce better.

It might not be faster, but it can be better.

Or even more comfortable or happier.

———-

[1] Ben Brook’s take on why he’s not using a dual display anymore.

[2] I use the app Cinch to manage the windows in my Mac and I love how easy it is. There’s another more powerful windows management app for the Mac called Moom but it just didn’t grow on me.

[3] Air Display as a extended display works really well and it’s selling for US$9.99 now as a Universal iOS app; much cheaper than getting an extra monitor. However, do note that it runs over Wi-Fi and hence not as responsive as a display plugged into your computer: meaning video streaming and gaming is not recommended for it.

[4] Krishna’s take on why a dual display setup works for him, and if I may add, myself.

Here’s the third and last part to this installment, and here’s the list of recommended sites that I subscribe to (well, almost all — this is the curated list). The ones with an * are highly recommended.

For technology news

For reviews

Other technology blogs*

  • Daring Fireball by John Gruber. This is one of the most definitive technology blogs out there, with a slight skew towards Apple stuff.
  • Fraser Speirs is best known as the guy who rolled out a 1:1 iPad deployment in a school. His blog is a great resource for schools and educators looking at tablet deployment and other technologies in education.
  • Paris Lemon by MG Siegler. Hailed as a über Apple fanboy by some, Siegler writes with force and clarity that few rival.
  • Shawn Blanc is a (relatively new) full-time writer and his blog is clean and a joy to read. His reviews on the HP TouchPad and OS X Lion were some of the best I’ve seen.
  • SimplicityIsBliss by Sven Fechner is a great resource for Getting Things Done (GTD) systems, or just productivity in general.
  • The Brooks Review by Ben Brooks has been a great resource to me in my own writings and learning of technology. Has a slight skew towards Apple stuff.
  • Macalope. The Macalope is a mythical creature that is totally crazy when it comes to defending the (you guessed it) Mac (meaning Apple stuff), and while it’s easy to dismiss it as yet another fanboy writing, the Macalope is witty and full of fun. Doesn’t hurt that the specific people he poke fun of are really rather bad, at least in terms of factual information and writing. So suspend your judgement for a while and enjoy some laughs checking out his writings.

Funnies

  • The Oatmeal. Be warned: it is über crude, but otherwise entirely true and witty.
  • XKCD is a unique webcomic using stick figures. Brilliant stuff.

What do I do with all these links?

All you need to do is to click on them, and you’d be redirected to the feed page. If you have a RSS reader app installed, and has chosen it to be the default reader, the feed will open in the app and you can choose to subscribe to it.

Or you could sign up with Google Reader (recommended, if you haven’t done so), and add the subscriptions by copying in the link. A simplified tutorial on how to do so can be found in Part 1 (link at the end of post).

———-

Well, that marks the end of the this series of three posts. Hope you’ve enjoyed it, and are able to navigate better in the new information explosion! If you have any questions, just drop a comment, mail or tweet. Do that too for any feeds that you’d like to recommend to the readers!

———-

Part 1 on Google Reader and a primer on RSS can be found here.

Part 2 on reading RSS, and read-it-later services can be found here.

Alright, here’s the very first (though brief) hardware review on TOOZE, and the new shiny baby that I’m looking at here is the new Razer Blackwidow Ultimate Stealth Edition Gaming Keyboard (now that is really a mouthful!) that was released on 30 August 2011.

Updated: See Update section at the bottom.

So… my trusty old Copperhead’s scrollwheel was dying and I was looking to order a new mouse when I saw this new baby on Razer Asia Pacific’s website. Seeing that there was not much info on this new product, I decided to order it after testing out its predecessor, the Blackwidow Ultimate at Comex over the last weekend.

Marketing fluff

Here’s the obligatory poster and marketing fluff.

Razer Blackwidow Ultimate Stealth EditionImage Source: Razerzone

“Where the first Razer BlackWidow can be likened to a barbarian ploughing through enemies with ease, the Stealth Edition of this mechanical keyboard is the ninja who sneaks up on opponents unexpectedly to take them down in a quick blur,” said Robert “RazerGuy” Krakoff, President, Razer USA. “Quieter feedback on the keys, lighter actuation force, extreme anti-ghosting on the Ultimate version, and a new matte black finish make the Stealth Edition of the Razer BlackWidow keyboards the best choice for the unassuming but extremely deadly gamer.”

Here are the specs and features of the keyboard.

Product Features:

  • Full mechanical keys with 45g actuation force
  • Extreme anti-ghosting
  • Individually backlit keys with 5 levels of lighting
  • 1000Hz Ultrapolling/1ms response time
  • Programmable keys with on-the-fly macro recording
  • Gaming mode option for deactivation of the Windows key
  • 10 customizable software profiles with on-the-fly switching
  • 5 additional macro keys
  • Multi-media control keys
  • Braided cable
  • Audio-Out/Mic-In jack
  • USB-passthrough
  • Approx size (mm): 475(l) x 171(w) x 30(h)
  • Weight: 1.5kg

Took only 2 days for it to be shipped out of Razer’s warehouse straight to my home.

Razer goodie bag

Shot of the box

The box packaging comes with the text in black to highlight the “Stealth” image, with a cutout for people to press on the keys in the case of a display unit on store shelves. The first impression is that this is really a hefty keyboard. It could probably allow you to win a fight in a LAN shop by simply bashing the unit against the other opponent’s head.

Package contents

The contents were packed neatly in typical Razer style and inside you will find (from left to right), a user guide, complimentary Razer stickers, and a certificate of authenticity.

Cable connectors

Braided cable

The keyboard cable consists of a heavy braided cable which contains 2 gold plated USB cables (one for the actual keyboard and the other which acts as a pass-through for the USB port by the side), and audio and mic pass-through cables for the mic-in and audio out ports.

Individually backlit keys with 5 levels of lighting

Upon plugging in, the unit’s keys came alive with the blue LEDs, which are actually individually backlit (for a total of 100+ LEDs).

Shiny lights

The above shot is with the keyboard on the dimmest level, which is actually pretty glaring in even in light, and more so in the dark.

5 additional macro keys

As you can see in the above shot, there is a vertical column of 5 keys to the left which are the programmable macro keys.

Multi-media control keys / Gaming mode option for deactivation of the Windows key

Keys

The right windows key is replaced by a Fn key, and this allows control of the special functions over the F-keys for volume, cycling of backlight, and the gaming mode, which disables the windows key to prevent accidental tabbing out of games at a crucial moment. Personally I’d prefer dedicated keys for my media control, instead of Razer’s approach of hitting the Fn Key and then hunting for the media keys on the other parts of the keyboard — much like how a normal Fn key works on a normal laptop. Then again, I guess this is a matter of preference and of getting used to the keyboard.

Audio-Out/Mic-In jack and USB pass-throughs

USB and Audio/Mic

The USB and Audio/Mic pass-throughs are located to the right side of the keyboard. It’s not immediately visible from the shot but the there is sort of a recess by the side so your cable connectors do not stick out as much. I question the inputs being on the right side, seeing that the additional cables may interfere with mousing (though lefties may differ). Then again, I believe this is a cost-saving measure as the circuit board is probably located above the numpad. However, it does help plugging a mouse here if yours has a short cable, or if you detach your mouse often.

Programmable keys with on-the-fly macro recording / 10 customizable software profiles with on-the-fly switching

Razer

The software that comes with the keyboard has an easy-to-use layout that allows you to map a single key to anything you want, and the keys could be saved to different profiles. Macros which can be anything from a single keypress to a long combination of keys and mouse clicks (including specific timed delays) can also be saved. So you could have one profile for Photoshop where each individual keyboard key is mapped to a different shortcut, and one for Microsoft Word where only the macro keys are bound to common functions like copy and paste.

The software also allows you to set it in such a way that those profiles automatically launch when the associated program is run, or when you tab into it. Macros can be set to repeat once; repeat while pressed; or repeated for n times.

If you are unsure of what commands to bind, there is also the option of “on-the-fly” macro recording. Simply press the Fn+right Alt key and the keyboard enters macro recording mode. From here, just execute the commands normally, then hit Fn+right Alt again and then another key to bind those commands to that key. This can be particularly useful where you realize the need to record certain complicated commands while working on a project, but don’t want to exit the program.

1000Hz Ultrapolling/1ms response time and Extreme anti-ghosting

1000Hz Ultrapolling here means that the USB port the keyboard is plugged into is scanned 1000 times per second for any key press so that you can instant response. Not something I can readily test, but it’s probably good to have. No complains here.

Extreme anti-ghosting is just a Razer-speak to mean that it has 6-Key Rollover (or 6KRO) over the entire keyboard which is the limit of USB. What this means is that you can have a combination of up to 6 keys on the keyboard pressed down without jamming up the keys, with a combination of modifier keys like Ctrl, Shift, Alt or Win. So this is effectively 6+4KRO.

To get full n-key roll over (NKRO) would require the connection to be via the legacy PS/2 connector, but we would lose some of USB’s benefits such as for drivers and such.

I find this is kind of enough since I don’t really find the need to strafe run (W+A), cast a spell (another key), hit my PTT to talk in Ventrilo, open up my map and jump, and more.

Do note that only the stealth edition (for now) offers 6KRO while the previous Blackwidow only has 6KRO around the gaming clusters of WSAD.

Here is a small link to test your keyboard’s roll-over. Hit a combination of keys all at once and it should report the number of keys detected.

http://rollover.geekhack.org/

So, how does the keyboard feel?

For starters, the difference between the Stealth edition and the previous non-Stealth edition is that the Stealth edition uses the Cherry MX Brown keys as opposed to the Cherry MX Blue keys in its predecessor.

For the un-initiated, the Blackwidow is a mechanical keyboard which uses the Cherry MX switches. Where normal keyboards have a rubber membrane below the keys, a mechanical keyboard has an actual switch below each individual key. There are various designs of mechanical keyboard switches and this particular keyboard uses the Brown keys from the Cherry Corporation of Germany.

Most mass market keyboards nowadays uses a dome-switch. They bring two circuit board traces together under a rubber “dome” or bubble. The inside of the top of the bubble is coated in some conductive substance. When a key is pressed, it collapses the dome, which shorts out the two circuit traces and completes the connection to enter the character. The figure below shows how this circuit would look like. You can actually see a dome when you remove a key on the keyboard, which looks like a circular rubber ring. The springiness of the rubber dome then forces the key back up to its default position after it is released.

Dome switch keyboard layers

Image Source: Wikipedia

While these rubber domes are cheap to produce, a disadvantage is that the keys often feel mushy as you need to depress them over a rubber dome. You would also need to fully “bottom-out” the full travel distance of the key (typically 3.5 – 4.0mm) for it to activate and register a keystroke. In addition, the rubber does wear down over time and that leads to the keys either being harder to press down or becoming sticky and not as bouncy as before.

Source: Overclock.net

The above image shows the Cherry MX Brown key used in this keyboard. The advantage of this is that it provides a combination of low actuation force (of 45g) and tactility. This means that you require less force to actually activate the key, which leads to lower fatigue and less stress on our fingers. The plastic piece which clicks as the key is depressed also allows you to feel a tactile “bump” when each key is actuated (which is roughly at the halfway point). This allows you to actually feel when a key is registered without requiring to “bottom-out” the key. While the keys have the same travel distance of 4mm, the actual actuation position is at the halfway mark.

In addition, the slight clicks when the key actuates does has the sound of a muted typewriiter. While the keyboard says its “Stealth”, there is still the sound of the mechanical keys actually springing back up and if you hit too hard, the sound of the key hitting the base plate of the keyboard. However, it is an improvement against the Cherry MX Blue key which is designed to provide an additional “click” each time a key is actuated. As such, the Brown keys used in this keyboard provide a nice compromise between tactility and sound.

Closing Comments

After typing for a couple of minutes on the Blackwidow, I can safely say that it is really a joy to type on, and the lighter keytouch does increase typing speed and minimizes errors as you are sure that a key has been registered.

Upgrading to a mechanical keyboard from a normal one is like upgrading from a normal sedan to a luxury sports car. While it might seem an overkill or frivolous, I personally feel that a good keyboard is really a great investment for both our personal typing pleasure and gaming goodness.

After all, the keyboard and mouse are the primary ways in which we interact with our computers. Why cripple your experience with a $10 keyboard after spending $1,000-$2,000 on our systems?

The Razer Blackwidow Ultimate Stealth Edition is currently available only exclusively on Razer’s website for US$139.99. Those who find it too expensive but would still like to have one can opt for the regular non-Ultimate version for US$79.99. What you miss out are only the LED lighting and the USB and audio/mic pass-thoughs. Also, as a reader Garrett pointed out, the regular one is similar to the predecessor Blackwidows in that it only has the anti-ghosting on the WASD gaming cluster. So if the full 6KRO is a consideration for you, the Ultimate Stealth Edition would be your only choice.

Shipping for Razer Asia-Pacific is US$6.95 per shipment (regardless of number of items).

For more information on mechanical keyboards and the various types of switches, head over to The Mechanical Keyboard Guide over at Overclock.net.

Update

Noticed that this post got much more views than I originally expected. Here are some of the common questions that I had received.

Firstly, there were some issues with the old Blackwidow where the space key would activate the alt keys beside it due to some improperly cut plastic. I’m not sure if this was fixed in the Stealth but I did not encounter this.

Second, the keycaps for the ultimate are coated in some sort of rubber like material similar to its mice. In fact the whole keyboard seems to be coated in the same material. It does feel nice to the touch, but I’m not sure how well it will stand up to humidity and sweat over a prolonged time. I know I had my old Razer mouse’s coating on the mouse buttons peel off and it was not pleasant. Only time will tell.

Third, was tinkering around with the profiles. In addition to the auto and manual profile switching via the software, you are also able to switch profiles on the fly just by pressing the Fn+number keys. E.g. presseng Fn+1 would switch to Profile 1 and Fn+2 would switch to Profile 2. The on screen display would pop up with the Profile’s name which you have saved.

Finally, I got an email that you get a free Razer Beanie for orders above US$50 now. Too bad I got mine earlier and am not eligible for it. Anyway, I managed to get a hold of some discount coupons for US$5 off for any return purchase. Since I won’t be buying anything anytime soon. I’ll share these codes with our readers.

North America: RZH1GHF1V3
Europe: RZEUH1GHF1V3
Asia-Pacific: RZAPH1GHF1V3
Australia: RZAUH1GHF1V3

It’s no secret that I love Apple, to the point that my friend called me an ‘Apple slut’. I know that I like (or even love) Apple, but for some reason couldn’t really explain why. I mean, I love the designs of the products, the way the products worked — be it software or hardware — the innovative marketing and all that, but those reasons didn’t seem to be completely justifiable.

Then I bought the Smart Cover for my iPad, and made the comment that any company who bothered to etch a sentence (and not just any sentence, but a coherent marketing sentence that reads: Designed by Apple in California) is a company that will win millions.

At that point in time, it was the near-fanatical attention to details that made me truly impressed with Apple.

Then, Adrian Slywotzky gave me yet another reason to love Apple.

In his article, Steve Jobs and the Eureka Myth*, Slywotzky attempted to dispel the myth that Apple’s products were creations of magic; the truth is they are, except that the magic takes a discipline and effort that rivals most of any company’s attempts.

I quote:

Because Apple knows the more you compete inside, the less you’ll have to compete outside.

And yet another (emphasis mine):

Under Jobs’ leadership, Apple has done 10 times the amount of relevant homework of most companies — internal competitions, supply chain training, endless deal-making, endless recruiting, training, and generating and sustaining employee excitement that you just can’t fake.

It’s not that I am an Apple slut; or maybe I am. But the point of contention is not why I am a slut, but why I ain’t a HP or a Windows or a RIM slut or any others’ for that matter.

The reason why I love Apple more than any other, is because they don’t give me crap. Sure it’s mass produced, but at least its not mass produced crap.

So if anyone from the tech industry is reading this, let me offer you a piece of advice:

Stop thinking that Apple customers don’t know better. The truth is we do, and you are not showing us anything better than Apple.

Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed, Apple trash-talks the competition after shipping a product (complete with the testing and marketing and what-nots), not before.

————-

*The full article can be found here, and I highly recommend it.

Previously in Part 1* we looked at how RSS and Google Reader might help us put all the new information in a place for quick access. Today, let’s look at how we might be able to access the information on the go.

RSS reader apps and Reeder

I used to just use Google Reader in my browser, but I don’t have my laptop all the time; in fact, I read usually on the go when I only have my phone and iPad with me. Enter the need for a RSS reader app. Basically it’s an app that allows you to log in your Google Reader credentials so all the feeds that you have amassed will be found in the app. A good app should do the following:

  • Syncs with Google Reader (meaning it mirrors the feeds from Google Reader, and if I mark a feed as read in my app, it should be marked in Google Reader as well)
  • Allows for Read It Later/Instapaper integration – more on that later
  • Allows for sharing on FaceBook, Twitter and others
  • Allows me to mark a whole category as read (trust me, it’s useful when you are dealing with over a 100 feeds)
  • Allows me to read from oldest feed, or newest feed.

Previously I used NewsRack and it has worked fine for me. There’s also Pulse and Flipboard, but they work best for a small amount of feeds and leisure browsing (I’d admit they really look good); they are not built for fast skimming of 200+ feeds a day.

Then there’s Feedly, which I have been using for a while, and really loved. Except that there were several things I didn’t like about it, and switched.

I didn’t want to go back to Newsrack because it felt really dated. To be fair to it, it works really well and it actually allows you to manage feeds without logging onto Google Reader, meaning it is not a prerequisite to have a Google Reader account before using it.

Personally, I like to have my feeds managed on a Google Reader account and synced to the app, because when I change a reader app, all my changes stay; this will not be the case if I don’t use Google Reader. Nevertheless, it’s great for those who want an alternative.

So, what am I using now?

Say hello to Reeder.

The thing about Reeder is that beside being one of the prettiest RSS reader app out there, it’s very intuitive in the way it handles feeds: sort feeds by favorites, unread and feed sources; pinch in and out of categories; swipe to mark as read and to perform a special function (which I use to send to Instapaper). It also fulfills all I ask for in a good app.

There’s only one catch, and that is the inability to manage feeds subscriptions within the iOS app itself. Actually there’s two catches, with the second one being more expensive than NewsRack, because the iPad and iPhone apps are different, while the NewsRack app is universal. To overcome this, I bought the iPad app and read on my iPad solely (anyway I have my iPad with me almost all the time). Incidentally, I own the Mac app as well, and it’s equally gorgeous, and it can manage feed subscriptions.

Here’s some shots of how it looks like on the iPad.

IMG 0259

Reeder on the iPad

IMG 0260

List of feeds in Reeder on the iPad

Instapaper and Read It Later

Often we’d come across a great article that we want to keep for future reference, or simply further reading as we are kinda occupied at the moment. This is especially true when I skim through my feeds in the morning on the commute to sieve out things that interest me.

Here’s where Instapaper and Read It Later (RIL) come in. By the way, I was an RIL user but found instapaper to be much better with text, and switched.

As a care in point, here’s an example of how it all works out for me in a day.

As mentioned, I’d scan through my feeds in Reeder in the morning, and send those interesting-looking ones to Instapaper. When I get a reprieve in the day, I’d make a cup of coffee and sit down with Instapaper, reading through the articles that I have saved previously. This pretty much sums up my news reading for the day.

Here’s a primer on some nice touches in Instapaper; note that this is not a full review.

First, saved sites are formatted for reading (though sometimes it screws up because the page renders wrongly, but in that case I can just view the original site in a built-in browser). This is something RIL does as well.

IMG 0265

The original site in the in-built browser in Instapaper

IMG 0264

The same text as above formatted for reading in Instapaper

Second, Instapaper has quite a fair bit of options for customizing the reading experience, including a auto dark-mode (white text on black background) in accordance to your time-zone (it auto-switches at 7)

IMG 0266

Reading options in Instapaper

Also, In the main screen, there’s little dots at the bottom-right of each article to signify the length of the post: more dots, longer post. If I read the post halfway, the dots will be colored accordingly.

IMG 0267

Subtle dots to signify the length of a post in Instapaper

There’s also folders to organize your readings, and a “like” button which you can customize to send to services like Evernote or Twitter (note that if you send to Evernote, the URL will not be the original one but an Instapaper one. If you need the URL, save the article from Reeder or any RSS reader app and not from Instapaper).

Incidentally, Apple’s Reading List in the Safari 5 works pretty much the same (and coming soon to iOS 5), except that it cannot save out to external services yet. Also, unlike Instapaper or RIL which supports offline reading after loading, Reading List requires you to be connected as it’s just a list of sites.

A note about RSS

Recently, Jacqui Cheng wrote an article on Ars Technica about the problem with RSS**, and Marco Arment, the creator of Instapaper chipped in***.  Ben Brooks then responded to both posts****.

All posts are worth a read, but in summary, Cheng’s argument is that RSS creates too much clutter for us, and having to (note the words) keep up is driving us insane. Arment takes a more balanced view, saying that

RSS is a great tool that’s very easy to misuse. And if you’re subscribing to any feeds that post more than about 10 items per day, you’re probably misusing it. I don’t mean that you’re using it in a way it wasn’t intended — rather, you’re using it in a way that’s not good for you.

Then Brooks made what I felt was the most important statement:

If you don’t like RSS don’t use it. If you want to use it but don’t want to have thousands of items, then use it like Marco does. Or use it like I do and check the feeds more often…

But don’t blame RSS.

My personal journey with RSS is somewhat like Cheng’s. Initially, I subscribed to news sites like Channel News Asia, The Straits Times, Reuters, CNN etc, but was quickly overwhelmed with the number of feeds a day (almost a thousand). Then I realized I don’t even read the papers; what makes me think I’d appreciate a boatload of feeds?

Then I killed the news feeds totally (apologies to my teachers who always told me to read the paper), relying on friends and the occasional news on TV to stay updated. One good thing about this is that if it’s a big enough news, sooner or later I’d know it. As a case in point, I knew about Michael Jackson’s death not from the news but from a friend’s Facebook feed.

I then subscribed to major tech news sources like CNET and PCWorld etc as I was well, a geek. Soon, I noticed that there’s a wealth of independent tech writers out there like John Gruber (Daring Fireball) and Ben Brooks (The Brooks Review), and added them to my RSS subscriptions.

Over time, I realized that the major tech news sources were duplicating each others’ news and similarly, when it was a big enough story, all independent writers would be writing about it, so I killed most of my major news feeds, and relied on independent writers more.

To make my skimming better, I created a few folders (you could create a ‘when I am free’ folder to the same effect) where I’d file RSS feeds which I could just mark all as read if I didn’t have the time, and hence focused on those I needed to read to get the best updates.

That’s the state of things for me now. In short, I’m mostly following independent writers with more original writings and regular, but not oppressive post schedules.

What it means for you, our reader

Try out RSS if you haven’t to follow even things like Manga updates. Start with Google Reader that is free, and move to dedicated apps when you are totally sold on RSS and need a more seamless and intuitive platform.

For tech news, follow us on Twitter where we repost curated news items from many major tech news sources (yes I still follow them, but only on Twitter). If you would like to stay updated on our posts, you can either subscribe to our RSS, or like us on Facebook (Tech bOOZE) to get our articles in your news feed.

That’s all for Part 2. In the last part to come soon, I’d post a list of (most of) my RSS subscriptions to get you started on RSS.

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*Part 1 can be found here, and Part 3 here.

**Why keeping up with RSS is poisonous to productivity, sanity

***Sane RSS Usage

****RSS Usage

The Net has been buzzing with Steve Jobs’ resignation, and through this I’ve had the privilege to read many great articles by many great writers centering around a similar topic — their love and respect for Steve Jobs.

Not wanting any of TOOZE’s readers to miss out on them, here’s a rundown of some of the best writings I’ve come across thus far. This list is far from complete, nor exhaustive as I might have just missed out some others.

More than the articles themselves, I hope we can all learn a thing or two from the big guy himself as these writers reflect on their experiences with him. All links to the articles are in the headers.

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Steve Jobs’ resignation letter

Tim Cook’s staff letter to employees after being CEO

Steve Jobs’ timeline at Apple

Agam Shah (PCWorld) ran a great summary of Steve Jobs’ time at Apple, all the way from 1971.

Recalling how Steve Jobs changed Apple

Chris Rawson (TUAW) did an recollection of the products that came out of the doors of Apple, and it’s amazing to see how the products matured and changed over time as Steve Jobs himself and Apple matured and grew.

5 products Steve Jobs killed

Steve Jobs is known to say no, and as a case in point, Casey Johnston (Ars Technica) wrote about 5 products that never saw the light of day under Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs in magazine covers

Ryan Lawler (GigaOM) did a compliation of how Steve Jobs looked through the years as shown in magazine covers. Nice!

Steve Jobs does not make all the decisions

Tom Reestman recounted a conversation Steve Jobs had with Walt Mossberg about decision making in Apple, and it’s really telling how despite popular belief, Steve Jobs do not call the shots there.

It reminds me of how I felt that Apple is Steve Jobs’ greatest gift to the world, not because he controlled it, but because he grew it to be far greater than himself, filled with great people with the simple vision of creating insanely great products.

It’s a fantastic look into his role as CEO, and probably telling of his future role as Chairman of the Board.

Steve Jobs greatest product?

Shawn Blanc calls it culture.

Brilliant tribute to Steve Jobs

Joseph Tame took two iPhones and ran 21 km to create an Apple logo. This has to be the most brilliant and innovative tribute ever.

Steve Jobs’s fierce life and legacy

Galen Gruman (MacWorld) wrote of his experience with Steve Jobs, and covers a little history about the Mac, and Steve Jobs’ exit and return. Once again, the idea that Steve Jobs is solely responsible for every decision in Apple is debunked. I quote:

People typically believe that Jobs does everything at Apple, but that’s not the case. He has had an amazingly strong set of executives, to whom he delegates significant power and responsibility. The two that matter the most are Jonathan Ive, the company’s chief designer, and Tim Cook, the man who makes Apple work like a precision machine in its manufacturing, retail, and online spheres.

A story about Steve Jobs’ fanatical attention to details

Paul Noglows (Business Insider) recounted an experience with Steve Jobs which highlighted his fanatical attention to details. I quote:

… that his attention to detail rivals that of the most focused nuclear engineer, “You usually see the capacity in a chief executive for one or the other–thinking in revolutionary broad strokes or the ability to laser focus on the seemingly most insignificant minutia,” Greg notes. “But Steve is an almost singular example with an amazing capacity to do both.

Why Steve Jobs returned after being dismissed from the company he created

Jonathan Berger was an intern with Apple in 2000, and then he asked Steve Jobs why he came back after being dismissed from the company he created. Jobs’ answer is a must read, and a lesson to us all who profess to care about anything.

Jobsian leadership

When Steve Jobs gave away applause.

PCWorld complies quotes by Steve Jobs

Gizmodo also complied quotes

One more thing…

MG Siegler (TechCrunch) has been one of my favorite writers on all things Apple, and naturally one would expect him to write about Jobs’ resignation. And he did. And it’s a lovely reflective piece with a brilliant title.

As a primer, here’s something I’ve been quoting time and again:

Apple is a testament to the idea that “little things matter”. Users may not consciously notice all the tiny bits of attention to detail they encounter in Apple products throughout a day, but it is what endears them to these products. It’s why when you pick up a competing product, it just doesn’t feel right even though the specs may be the same, and it may even look the same.

It’s also why people who don’t use Apple products don’t understand what all the fuss is about. The fuss is about all of the fuss put into making sure every pixel is exactly where it should be on every screen, in every program, all the time.