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Finally, a todo list I can live with...

Posted by james on Aug. 20, 2011

Todo lists are incredibly important for me. At any time I have a huge amount of stuff waiting to get done, and not having it on the list means I'll never remember to do it. I've tried tons of programs, websites, services, etc, and have been on the verge of purchasing programs or subscriptions to help. At this point, it's easy to justify the cost of a program or service (even a yearly-subscription one) assuming it does what I need. Which until this point, I've never found.

My requirements:
-Must be really easy & fast to use (ie. keyboard friendly)
-Accessible on my desktop, laptop, and phone (and not just a mobile-friendly website here)
-And I absolutely *must* be able to manually order the items on the list

There are a lot of other nice-to-haves (like setting due dates, automatic email reminders, etc). But if they don't hit those top 3, it's really not worth it. Here are some things I've tried:

Great website-based list. Very keyboard friendly, and allows manual ordering (!!!). Has an android app available. This is probably the closest I've come to a pre-made list that I'd like.

Website, has a ton of options (setting priority, dates, email reminders, integrated with calendars). Has mobile apps available. No manual ordering. I realized I kept throwing everything in priority 1, since I wanted them on top of the others, and then had to struggle with fake-date sorting or living with out of order items. So annoying.

Google Tasks
Website, built into gmail. Awful UI, incredibly limited. A "toy" app, not worth using unless your needs are very limited. No manual ordering (last I tried), no mobile-specific app (that I know of).

Of all these, RememberTheMilk had the nicest UI & mobile apps, and if it allowed manual ordering I may have stayed with it. I did have to struggle quite a lot with it always taking my dates and # numbers and turning them into dates & tags unexpectedly. No thanks, I'll do that myself.

Todoist seemed on paper to fit the bill, but I really wasn't a fan of the UI for reordering. It worked, but was completely mouse based & annoying.

So what did I end up with? A text-based list on my SimpleNote account. I initially shunned this, thinking it was too low-level. But it has the benefits of:
-being inherently keyboard friendly, since it's just a text-based list
-having incredibly easy sync, since that's the whole nature of a SimpleNote account (online & offline access)
-support manual ordering - just copy & paste lines at will
-has an awesomely simple & usable PC app (ResophNotes)

And the best part - the Flick Note app for Android syncs with simplenotes, and has a "todo list" style view. I just select my todo list note, tell Flick Note to treat it as a list, and I can now check off items, add more line by line, and drag them to reorder. The UI needs some work, but it's still very helpful. And best of all - it has a widget available (in the paid version) to show my todo list on my Android home screen. Now I can always see the top few items on my todo list, and that's amazingly helpful.

So after all this time, I'm using a simple text file that's synced across my devices, and it's working great so far. There's even some neat things you can do like indent items to show dependence (which Todoist also does). But overall, at least I now have something I can live with.


Posted by james on Aug. 16, 2011

(post.rating: 5)

IMDB   Apple Trailers

Lauren wanted to see this, I didn't really. I think Russell Brand is really amusing in talk shows that I've seen, but the previews made this look like just another marrying-the-wrong-woman comedy. Which it was, plot-wise, but there's so much more to this one.

The movie was really funny for almost the entire first 2/3 solid, quirky jokes from Russell's witty and strange mutterings. He's a bit easier to understand, and I'm guessing he was coached not to speak at a normal lightning British-pace for us Americans. It helps a lot, since there's gold throughout that would otherwise be lost.

And Hellen Mirren... wow. She was good in Red, but amazing here. Now that I think about it, while Russell's craziness and humor sold the funny movie part, Mirren sold the heart. Almost all of this genre's movies try to have a tear-jerking meaningful interlude to elevate the movie and give it a bit of weight. But this time it actually worked.

I didn't think I would enjoy a couple hours of Brand, as funny as he is, but this movie was solid. Even though you've seen this all before, and you know what's happening every step along the way, this one was well-worth recycling the story.

USPS.com print shipping label is broken

Posted by james on Aug. 9, 2011

I've been using the USPS.com Print Shipping Label feature for a while, and it's great. I can pay for and print postage from home. I wish they did first class mail, but still being able to do priority is nice to have.

However, the USPS just did a whole website refresh. It looks a little nicer, as their old site was a bit dated. I just went through the site, and now the print shipping label part is broken. Thanks a lot USPS.

-I can't pay with one of my cards because I need to enter a "Valid Security Code". It's the same I've been using here for a while, it has not expired or changed, and I can use it on other sites. USPS may be choking on the fact that AMEX uses a different security code format than Visa.

-Speaking of card info, their form for credit card info conveniently omits the autocomplete="off" attribute, so my card's security code is cached by my browser, as it should be for any form that doesn't include this attribute. Huge security risk there. Lots of sites do this, and shouldn't. Looks like the USPS is one of them (and has been for a long time).

-UPDATE: This part might be due to Chrome taking over PDF printing with a neat but awkward and very poorly designed print preview window. Not sure if there is still a USPS bug here, since it did print out the wrong thing:
They changed the part where it prints. It used to pop up a normal windows print dialog, so you can choose the printer, the # of copies, print preferences, etc. Now it's a window that shows you a preview, but does not allow you to change print preferences. So now I can't print to the rear tray of my printer, so the prints happen on the wrong paper.

-For the above problem, you can choose "Advanced printing". What does that do? It shows the old print dialog. Ironic. Even worse, when you go ahead and print using this old method, it PRINTS THE WRONG PAGE! How in the world could they screw up the *old* site?? That's special.

-For all the above, I actually can't print my shipping label right now... I've tried a couple times. And the kicker - they have a new "Live Chat technical support" button right on that page. I click on it, enter my name/email/reason for chatting, and then... blank window. They chat window is broken.

Ok, I get that they wanted to update their site. Bravo. But seriously - couldn't an organization as large as the USPS hire a competent set of web programmers? Or just spend a little more and test their site prior to deployment? I guess not. It's too bad I can't leave them these comments via their live chat.

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