Changing my password manager: how to make it “just work”

Earlier this year I’ve decided to change my password manager. I’ve been using 1Password for my Apple products for many years now, but I have a job with a Windows pc now, and no way to install 1Password myself.

I dabbled with LastPass and looked into Dashlane, but ideally I’d wanted a free solution that didn’t sync via yet another cloud service I had to sign up for. One of these days I’ll get rid of my Dropbox (and I finally get rid of those annoying upgrade notices) too. For now I’m stuck in Apple’s iCloud (the only one for which I pay a monthly fee) and Google, mostly for Google Docs purposes and Gmail.

But as much as these big companies make excellent products for free (in exchange for your data), I figured I’d try to go independent. My 1Password (6) manager automatically synced my password vault via my Dropbox and/or iCloud. It still does, since I haven’t completely said goodbye to it yet. Ideally, my new password manager does the same. “It just works”, like the company that made my phone used to say.

In the end I decided to settle on KeePass, an open source solution to password management. I found a client for the Mac in no-time, and found different solutions for Windows as well (though admittedly I haven’t actually tried those yet). On my iPhone I use MiniKeePass, but unlike 1Password, I have to manually import the database (which is okay), and export it again if I added or changed items (which is more of a hassle). I can’t say “it just works” just yet, but it works.

Ideally I’d find an app that actually syncs to the database file on my NAS, or via a cloud service / local sync over WiFi without manually exporting and importing it every single time I change something.

For now, I’m kind of stuck using two password managers. I can’t deny the slick performance and sync of 1Password just yet, yet I also know I’m able to get this working if I find the right open source tools and eventually my credentials will be much safer for it. So I’m trying to use KeePass, but I find myself going back to 1Password on some occasions if I know it’s a password that’s still in that version of the database. Plus, I can’t get KeePass to work yet in Safari. The extension that’s available now, doesn’t work for me. So still some stuff to work out. But the nerd in me will be celebrating when I have made it all work. 🙂

Or I’ll just throw money at the problem and cave for a paid service…

iPad Pro instead of a laptop: my first months

Inspired by this blog by Charles Arthur, I want to do my own write-up. After all, I bought my iPad Pro instead of buying a new laptop. So does it work for me?

Working so far

As I work in a public institution of education four days of my working week, those four days I’m confined to a Windows 10 laptop with a mediocre screen and crappy apps at best. Compared to that (and to be honest also to my good old iMac, which still serves me well after baking the graphic card in the oven last Autumn), my iPad Pro is a joy to use. It’s blazing fast, it responds well, the screen is amazing and the speakers sounds pretty good too.

Using the iPad Pro has been contained to experimenting with work setups. I’ve been a bit lazy in finding out clever ways to use it to its fullest. In the above link, the writer talks about using Workflow (which I’ve dabbled in a little), bookmarks and Python scripts (ehm, okay, you lost me there, I need to learn that stuff) to compile blog posts etc. I’ve been a bit bad when it comes to blogging so far in 2018, even on my Turin Brakes fansite. But I’ve blogged a lot on my iPad Pro, using the Logitech Slim Combo, which is great apart from the fact that sometimes it prevents my iPad from charging. This is clearly an annoying bug that needs to be fixed in iOS. Unless it’s the keyboard, which would be very annoying. I haven’t contacted Logitech support yet.

Besides blogging, I’ve been experimenting with Apple Pencil, but any experiment looks ridiculous compared to the stuff my girlfriend has been drawing in Procreate. The battery does need charging quite a lot though with such heavy use. I’ve also did some potential podcast recording with the new USB-C-Lightning-Adapter, my USB-microphone and Ferrite. I want to do this more in the coming months, and see whether I can cook up an actual podcast on this tablet. Recording guests might require additional input support which iOS lacks right now, but who knows, there might be an audio interface out there I can hook up the USB-adapter and then channel into Ferrite? It isn’t the most magical solution, but I’ll look into it.

Also, I love, love, love the camera and taking pictures of things in my house with the iPad Pro. I, in fact, love the camera with the huge screen that shows a preview sooo much that I would almost not mind the social shaming of taking pictures with a tablet. Since the camera in my iPad is, in fact, better than the one in my iPhone, it would almost make sense to do it. Almost, I’m just not ready to be a tourist with a 12.9 inch tablet in his bag. Yet.

Favourite apps

  • Writing: I quite like Bear Notes for, uhm, notes and lists. For longer form I’ve tried Ulysses, which was nice, but haven’t purchased it yet. Word feels a bit useless, at least when someone sends you an Office 365 document link, it will not open in Word, even when you try to edit it. And in the browser I got an error that it was too big to be edited.
  • Mail: Apple Mail app is clean, but also a bit useless for advanced users. Alternating between Airmail and Gmail app. Not sure yet which I prefer. I really enjoy using Airmail on macOS though.
  • Recording: Ferrite is nice so far, Garageband too but feels too focused on music.
  • Twitter: Tweetbot’s iPad interface feel so much more “pro” than Twitter’s native app. I’ve grown quite used to Twitter’s non-chronological view, which Tweetbot’s app doesn’t use. But Tweetbot on iPad makes much better use of the screen.
  • Other: Procreate for creative stuff. 1Password is ideal to use alongside Safari, as well as any note taking apps.

Needs improvement

  • I don’t like the WordPress app editor, and using the WordPress.org writing screen in Safari will get you frustrated in no-time with the cursor jumping all over when editing text. This definitely needs work. For now I prefer to write in other apps, then publish in WordPress. Putting the screenshots above next to each other proves to be impossible for me.
  • Twitter iPad app could use some extra tricks.
  • Some gestures still feel a bit weird for me. This might just mean I need more time with them. Love swiping up for the app switcher and control panel though.
  • As mentioned above, using the smart connector with a Logitech Slim Combo stops my iPad Pro from charging. This is, quite clearly, annoying and needs a fix.
  • If I ever want to get a really complex podcast show on the road, the iPad Pro in its current state might not suffice. But right now, for experimenting it definitely works.

Needs research

  • Website work – apart from the odd WordPress edit… Mostly I’ve done this on the good old iMac, it’s so far more convenient. But this is mainly habit and getting used to different ways of working. I’m open to researching this more in the future.

Conclusion

Using the iPad Pro makes me happy. It has a lot of potential that I have not explored yet, and hope to explore in the near future. I’ll report back here in a while again.

Why I bought an iPad Pro

I’ve never been a real tablet user. I’ve had iPads around the house for years, mostly borrowed ones or ones from work, but I’ve never really used them properly. I tried magazine reading – but ended up with a backlog of Wired magazines, I tried watching things, but found I preferred a tv and my old iMac instead. But with no laptop and a desire to be able to write, consume and create on the go, I’ve decided to invest in an iPad anyway. An iPad Pro that is, with a proper keyboard case and a pencil. Because yes: it’s a tablet and not a real laptop with real software instead of simplified apps, but I don’t think I need those that often…

The only thing where my iPad Pro might be lacking is in the podcasting department. I’m still experimenting with how to make those properly on the device. And I’m still sort of figuring out the tricks when it comes to editing website code. But besides that, I can do most of the things I want to on the iPad. Any new Windows PC or Mac comes with a lot crap slowing you down. I mean, I like OS X but it has so many tools and bells and whistles I never use. I like the idea of a modern computer being light, and being focused on what you need. So I decide the apps I want to buy and use and there’s hardly any bloatware or crap on it.

So with my old iMac still running relatively smoothly I’ve decided to set it all up like this: intensive website work and editing I’ll do on my iMac, everything else I’ll try to do on the iPad. So far, so good, although I’ve gotten so used to a touch screen now, that I find myself pushing non-touchscreens as well before realising that it won’t work. But besides that minor inconvenience, I find this setup to work pretty well for me, a joy to use at times even. And that’s what expensive things should be: a joy to use. I could have shelled out twice as much for a sleek MacBook Pro, but instead the iPad Pro will be my companion at home and on the road.

Here’s to a productive 2018.

Apple being Apple

  • Wireless EarPods: never ever have my earbuds / headphones stopped working due to anything other than the cable breaking. Wires will have to go at some point. Magic also means an effortless experience of using them and trying them for a few days will tell whether the whole charging thing is manageable. And whether the stereo speakers are good enough to use instead of your headphones in some situations.
    For its price, however, they’d better be pretty decent sound quality too. But at least Apple is trying something new. And you can still buy a 6s if you really want a headphone jack. I don’t really see a problem. You can always buy Android if you truly want to boycot Apple. It will be interesting to see if sales slow down for this model.
  • Mario to iOS. Nintendo realizes how to quickly make cash. If this becomes only 50% of the Go-hype, it means a whole lot of money for them. Shame it’s an endless scroller, but hopefully it captures some of the magic of old-school Mario.
  • iPhone: new camera looks fun to try. Not fun enough to upgrade from a 6s though. Let’s see whether there’ll be any nice new Macs later this year.
  • Still not gonna buy an Apple Watch, even though I really like the fact that I could swim with it. I really want a cheaper fitness tracker though. Currently waiting for the TomTom Touch.

 

Apple tax

Letter from Tim Cook / Apple:

The Commission’s move is unprecedented and it has serious, wide-reaching implications. It is effectively proposing to replace Irish tax laws with a view of what the Commission thinks the law should have been. This would strike a devastating blow to the sovereignty of EU member states over their own tax matters, and to the principle of certainty of law in Europe.

As much as I would like tax laws to properly tax companies (something The Dutch can do better too!), right now tax laws aren’t doing that. And if you make Apple pay for that, you have to make thousands of other companies do the same really. More importantly, this goes to show yet again that the EU isn’t perfect. Either we go all in and let the EU dictate all economic decisions for Europe as a whole (which, mind you, would be very difficult considering all the different countries with different levels of wealth…), or we don’t (which is probably what many people would prefer).

I think it’s weird to retroactively change the tax rules, if that’s what’s happening now. We could make different rules for the future. But is the EU the right body to do that? Do we agree with that?

The thing is, even if we in Europe change the rules, the companies would just move to countries where the rules are better. Companies will always try to find ways to maximize earnings and avoid giving too much of them away. You can’t take that out of companies. What we could try is rebuild our tax system so companies can’t avoid them or pay them in other countries where you can pay less.

Tax reform doesn’t seem to be a particular hot topic yet. Lower taxes, yes. So to be honest, I see world peace happening sooner.

TNW: We Need Smarter Push Notifications

I wrote a new blog for TheNextWeb. Click on the image to read it. Or don’t.

Push notifications are one of the key features of today’s smartphones. They constantly feed you information from a variety of services. From Twitter mentions to Facebook replies to e-mails to system notifications: they’re the daily dose for information addicts. And now they’re coming to the land of PC with Windows 8 and OS X Mountain Lion– which is a little worrying. While they’re designed to keep you updated and thus increase your productivity, they’re flurrying nature often does the opposite.

Read the rest >>