Mastering Micro-Learning for Exceptional Technical Writing

Mastering Micro-Learning for Exceptional Technical Writing

Micro-learning has been gaining popularity in recent years as a way to effectively deliver content in short, easily digestible formats. This type of learning is especially well-suited for technical writing, which often covers complex topics that can be difficult to master. In this blog post, we’ll explore how micro-learning can be used to improve technical writing skills and help writers effectively communicate with their audience.

What is Micro-Learning?

Micro-learning is a term used to describe a learning approach that delivers small, bite-sized pieces of information in a manner that is easily digestible and remembered. This approach is designed to help learners focus on one specific topic at a time and retain information more effectively. micro-learning is also well suited for busy professionals who may not have the time to commit to traditional forms of learning, such as attending a live workshop or taking an online course.

Why Use Micro-Learning for Technical Writing?

Technical writing can be a complex skill to master. Writers must be able to effectively communicate complicated information in a way that is easy for their audience to understand. Using micro-learning can help technical writers hone their skills by breaking down complex topics into small, manageable pieces. Additionally, micro-learning is an effective way to deliver training remotely, which can be especially helpful for writers who work remotely or in different locations.

There are four main elements to micro-learning: short duration, focused content, specific learning objectives, and immediate application. When creating micro-learning content for your documentation, it’s important to keep these elements in mind in order to create an effective and memorable learning experience.

Short Duration: The average attention span of an adult human is eight seconds—that’s shorter than the attention span of a goldfish! So when creating micro-learning content for technical writing, it’s important to keep videos, articles, etc., short and sweet

Focused Content: In addition to being short, micro-learning content should be focused on one specific topic or concept. Trying to cover too much ground in one go is a surefire recipe for confusing your audience and achieving nothing in the end.

Specific Learning Objectives: Every piece of micro-learning content should have a specific goal or objective. What do you want your audience to learn from this particular piece of content? Make sure your answer is clear and concise before moving forward.

Immediate Application: The best way to ensure that your audience remembers what they’ve learned is to provide them with an opportunity to immediately apply what they’ve learned. This could be in the form of a quiz at the end of a video or article, or an interactive element built into the content itself.

By breaking down big concepts into manageable chunks, micro-learning can help make technical writing more accessible and less daunting. When applied correctly, micro-learning can help writers master even the most complex subject matter. And because micro-learning content is typically short and focused, it’s easy for busy professionals to fit into their already packed schedules. If you’re looking for a way to improve your technical writing skills, consider incorporating micro-learning into your professional development plan.

WIT: The Dangers of Keeping Women Out of Tech

 

 

By Mallory Pickett of WIRED.com

IN 1978 A young woman named Maria Klawe arrived at the University of Toronto to pursue a doctorate in computer science. She had never used a computer—much less written a line of code—but she had a PhD in math and a drive to succeed in a male-dominated field. She was so good that, nine months later, the university asked her to be a professor.

Today, however, computer science is one of the few STEM fields in which the number of women has been steadily decreasing since the ’80s. In the tech industry, women hold only around one-fifth of technical roles. In light of these stats, the prevailing view in Silicon Valley these days is “This is terrible, let’s fix it.”

In Southern California, Klawe has done what tech has not. For the past 11 years, she has served as the president of Harvey Mudd College­—a small liberal arts school in Claremont, California, known for its intensive STEM focus—where the number of women in its computer science program has grown from 10 percent to 40 percent. On the subject, she’s optimistic: Change is possible. Now it’s the industry’s turn—and it could take a lesson from Klawe.

When you meet with men in the tech industry, can you tell that some of them doubt women can succeed in technical work?
That they don’t think women are suited for this? Oh, yeah.

People say that?
I was yelled at by one CEO who said his company was bringing women into technical roles but that if he saw it get to 30 percent, he’d know their hiring process was really screwed up. So I asked if he knew that we’re graduating women in computer science at more than 40 percent. He just blew me off. And when I asked him why there are so few women on his leadership team, he just said, “Gender isn’t an issue for us.”

So what about those screwed-up hiring practices? How do they work?
Look at the interview process. If I’m interviewing somebody, I would probably say, “Oh, it’s so nice to see you, welcome to Harvey Mudd, we’re really delighted to have you here with us.” But it would be quite common for a tech company to start an interview without even saying good morning or good afternoon, just: “I want to know what you know about pointers in C++, so show me how to do that.” Very adversarial, bragging, trying to show how much smarter they are. There are some women who feel perfectly comfortable in those environments, but I would say for the most part they don’t. Also, that kind of environment is just obnoxious.

But that’s how so many companies conduct interviews. Google comes to mind.
Google has studied their interview process, and I’ve heard that it overpredicts success for men and underpredicts success for women. [Google disputes this.] They just haven’t changed much.

Should they change? Judging from how well these companies are doing, it seems like those methods work. I mean, Steve Jobs was apparently an asshole—
He was an asshole. I met him.

—and Amazon reportedly has a terrible work environment, yet these are successful companies.
Yep.

So why change just to be friendlier to women?
Google, Facebook, Microsoft—all these companies were successful because they figured out a new way to make money. Google monetized search through advertising, Facebook became an advertising platform, Microsoft created a dominant software platform. But it’s probably an error to associate their success with their managerial style or their culture.

Some would say those managerial styles and cultures are crucial, not coincidental.
Let’s go back to the first big tech companies, like IBM and HP. Both were highly inclusive, really worked on hiring and promoting women and people of color. In fact, virtually every woman or person of color who’s a leader in the tech industry today—who’s roughly my age, 66—came up through IBM or HP. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and all the people in that generation came along in the ’80s or late ’70s. This happened to be a time when girls and young women were being turned away from computers. Computers became a boys’ domain almost overnight.

How?
Women were once about a third, maybe 35 percent, of the computer science majors in this country. Part of that was—I mean, this sounds so ridiculous—but part of that was because women had better typing skills and were thought of as being more careful. In the ’70s women were majoring in computer science because it was something they were expected to be good at. Then we had personal computers entering homes and schools.
There are two kinds of things you can do on a PC as a child. One is word processing. Bo-ring! The other is playing games like Pong and Space Invaders—computational power at that time couldn’t do graphics more sophisticated than that. And who likes to play those kinds of games? Boys. So it’s not particularly surprising that very quickly boys took over.

Is there a business reason for getting back to a culture in which computers aren’t seen as a boy thing?
The reality is, if tech companies can’t persuade more women and people of color to major in computer science, they are not going to be able to fill the positions that they have. Everybody’s looking at the same talent. They absolutely know what it costs to recruit a single person, and they know that if their churn for employees is, say, every 13 months, that’s not a good business case for them.

 

So when you actually start to increase the enrollment of women in computer science programs, what happens?
Well, at pretty much every place—not just Mudd but Carnegie Mellon, MIT, University of Washington, UBC, Princeton—that has made a significant effort to recruit women into engineering and computer science, not only do the female students do as well, they also take on most of the leadership roles.

With that in mind, have you noticed a change on campus?
Huge. It’s more social, people are happier—it’s just a different vibe. Before, there was a very particular culture, which is fairly common, where computer science is the central focus in the lives of most of the students. They read Reddit and GitHub, they play a lot of videogames, they do hacking projects. There are still students like that, but there are also people who care more about ballroom dancing.

What’s so important about having ballroom dancers be computer scientists?
If computer science is going to affect every aspect of society—and it is—you really would like to have some dancers, and some artists, and some doctors able to work at the interface of computer science in their field. That’s where the demand will be. Having that breadth of knowledge means you have better teams working on projects.

Sure, but is teamwork as important as your ability to write good code?
These days, agile software development often relies on pair programming, where you have two people—a driver and a navigator. The driver codes, the navigator looks over their shoulder and asks questions, and they flip roles about once every half hour. The result is much higher quality software. There are fewer faults.

Yet women still feel unwelcome. What changes at Mudd addressed that?
One was to make the introductory computer science course less intimidating. If you emphasize needing a special kind of brain, students who are underrepresented will do much worse. But if you say this is a discipline that rewards hard work and persistence, everyone does better.

We also started emphasizing more practical applications in introductory classes. In the past we presented computer science as interesting just for its own structure. That was very effective at attracting white and Asian men to the discipline, but only a subset of them, and it was generally not effective for women or people of color. When you start to make the argument that computer science is worth studying because of the things you can do with it, you attract not only more women but also a lot of men who wouldn’t have been interested in the usual approaches.

If everyone knows it’s a good idea to be more inclusive, and everyone wants to support their female employees, why aren’t more companies doing it?
Because changing culture is hard. Every company has somewhat different attributes that make recruiting people and keeping people difficult. Apple is one company that I don’t think is particularly trying. They hired their first VP of diversity and inclusion, and that person stayed for less than a year.

Are some companies succeeding?
Etsy convinced people who weren’t in software development jobs to be trained for technical roles, and they managed to get to almost 30 percent female in their engineering population relatively quickly. Accenture is doing extremely well and came in at roughly 40 percent female in their hires last year.

How did they do that?
The executive in charge of hiring came to me for help. I said, first of all, change your job descriptions. Don’t just list the technical skills you’re looking for. List communication skills, creativity, and people skills, so women will know it’s a workplace that values those things and because those are traits women tend to have more confidence about.

Gender isn’t the only concern, of course. If the percentage of female technical employees is in the teens at many companies, black and brown employees are—
In the single digits! Like, one-handed digits.

What is Harvey Mudd doing about that?
The truth is we made very little progress on race until about five years ago.

What happened?
We had been running a program where we would bring in 35 to 40 high school students for a weekend, and it was primarily aimed at students of color and women. Five years ago, we doubled the program and did two cohorts instead of one. And I started reaching out to African American leaders across the country. We also did research on how to recruit more Hispanic students, and we learned Hispanic families want their kids to stay close to home. So we needed to focus on admitting students from schools in Southern California.

What would you say to schools that are not making these changes?
What’s facing us is a very, very different future. The haves will be the people who have the skills that are needed, and the have-nots will be the people whose skills are no longer needed—because of automation, because of AI, because of robotics. We don’t know how fast certain kinds of routine jobs will go away, but we do know it will put a further income gap between people who have that kind of education and knowledge and people who don’t. If there are not many women, or people of color, or older people, or low­-income people getting that technical education and those technical jobs, it’s going to further polarize the situation in the country. It’s a question of transforming our society so a large enough fraction of people have opportunities for productive work.

So the stakes are high.
We want the Earth to survive. It’s pretty straightforward.


Do you have a woman in tech you admire? Tell us about her in the comments below!

How to: create a full system backup in Windows 10.

It’s an oldie but goodie: Creating a system image of your Windows 10 PC in case your hard drive goes belly up and you need to recover your files, settings and apps.

BY Matt Elliott of CNet

It’s been around since Windows 7 ($22.95 at Amazon.com), and Microsoft hasn’t touched it since. You won’t find it in the Settings app where you likely first turn when you need to perform a bit of system maintenance on your PC. Instead, it’s hiding out in the the old Windows Control Panel. What it is is the ability to create a full system backup, which you can use to restore your PC should it fail, become corrupted or otherwise stop operating smoothly.

Because the tool to create a system image is somewhat buried in Windows 10 ($149.00 at Amazon.com), let’s shine a light on where it’s located and how to use it.

Steps to create a backup system image

1. Open the Control Panel (easiest way is to search for it or ask Cortana).
2. Click System and Security
3. Click Backup and Restore (Windows 7)

4. Click Create a system image in the left panel
5. You have options for where you want to save the backup image: external hard drive or DVDs. I suggest the former, even if your computer has a DVD-RW drive, so connect your external drive to your PC, select On a hard disk and click Next.

 

 

6. Click the Start backup button.

 

After the system image is created, you’ll be asked if you want to create a system repair disc. This puts your image on a CD or DVD, which you can use to access the system image you created if your PC won’t boot. Don’t worry if your laptop doesn’t have a CD or DVD drive; you can skip this step and boot the system from the system image on your external hard drive.


How do you back up your computer(s)? Tell us about it in the comments below!

App of the Week: Firefox

 

 

3 awesome features coming to Firefox that you can get right now

By Matt Ellliot of CNet

The upcoming Firefox 59 will help you stop sites from asking for permission to send you notifications and know your location, but you can stop these right now in the current build of Firefox with a little digging.

When Firefox 59 is released in March, it will add controls for setting permissions for how the browser accesses your location along with your computer’s camera and microphone. It will also include a global setting for blocking sites from asking to be allowed to send you notifications.
These settings will be most welcomed — particularly the ability to shut off those annoying requests that sites pop up asking if it’s OK to send you notifications — but you can access those if you are willing to dip into Firefox’s advanced settings in about:config.

1. Disable notification requests

Have you ever answered “Allow” when a site asks if it can send you notifications? I have not. If you have grown tired of repeatedly answering “Block” to this question, there is a way to prevent sites from even asking.
Enter about:config in Firefox’s address bar and click the I accept the risk button. Search for dom.push.enabled and double-click it to switch its value from true to false.

 

2. Disable location requests

Many sites also ask for your location, which might be helpful for some types of sites (weather, mapping and so on) but certainly not for all that ask. If you want to disable all sites from requesting to know your location, go to about:config, search for geo.enabled and set its value to false.

3. Disable camera and microphone requests

You probably get fewer requests from sites asking to use your computer’s webcam and microphone, but you can shut off these requests in about:config, too. Find media.navigator.enabled and media.peerconnection.enabled and set the values to both to false.

What are your favorite Firefox features? Tell us about it in the comments below!

How to: Master Microsoft Word

 

 

By Thorin Klosowski of Lifehacker

Microsoft Word is easily the biggest, most popular word processing program available, but it does a lot more than just edit text and TPS reports. If you’ve been telling yourself that you’ll finally learn Word’s ins and outs, now’s the time to actually learn how to edit styles, add a table of contents, and more.

Get Up and Running with Word Quickly

 

Of all of the Microsoft Office programs, Microsoft Word is probably the simplest from a user interface perspective. If you’ve ever used a word processing program in your life, you’ll recognize the menus for opening and creating files in the top left corner. The larger menu that runs across the top of the document Microsoft refers to as the “ribbon.” The ribbon has all the formatting tools you’ll need, as well as a few contextual commands that change depending on which tab you’re on.

For this series, we’ll assume you know the basics, but if you want a refresher, Microsoft’s quick start guide for Word gets you through the basics.

How to Do the Most Common, Essential Tasks in Microsoft Word

Of course, everyone’s needs are a little different, but considering most people use Office in an office setting, we’re willing to bet you’ll need to do things like edit styles, compare two documents, prepare a table of contents, and more.Let’s go ahead and cover some of those common tasks.

How to Apply and Edit Styles

A style in Word is a preset formatting for your document. This is what the document looks like, so it includes the font, font size, paragraph style, and so on. Creating or changing a style makes it possible to alter the look of a document all at once so you don’t need to go through and highlight individual sections and make specific changes. You can do things like set a universal heading style,or change what the default bulleted list looks like.

For example, if you’re working on a book, you might get a list of style guidelines from a publisher. Or if you’re working on weekly interoffice memos, a style is an easy to way to create a format guideline so every one you make looks the same way every time. Plus, you get the flexibility to change styles at any time, so if one department likes their memos one way, but your boss prefers a different style, you don’t have to change a bunch of formatting every time you open a new document.

To apply a style, make sure you’re on the Home tab, select a block of text in a document that you want to alter, and then click the Style menu in the ribbon. For example, if you want to make a heading in the middle of a block of text, you’d select the text you want as a heading, then click Styles > Heading 1. It’s as easy as that.

Making your own specific styles is pretty easy too. This is useful when you’re writing something consistently, like a newsletter or a book, and want a specific set of rules you can easily apply to a document as a whole. For example, you might want to change the font size of the default heading option, or change how creating a list works. Here’s how to do it:
From the Home tab, click on Styles Pane.
Click New Style or select the style you’d like to edit.
You’ll get a pop up window to edit a number of parameters here
including type, basis, and formatting.
Click through the options you want to change.

If you’re confused about what each term means, don’t worry, it’s pretty straightforward. Paragraph styles determine the look of the text on a paragraph level.

When you apply this style, it’ll change the whole paragraph. Character styles determine the look on a character level, so you can make one word stand out. Table styles alter the look of tables, like the header row or how the grid lines work. Finally, list styles alter the look of a list, such as bulleted lists or a number scheme.

How to Add a Table of Contents to the Beginning of a Document

 

If you’re working with a big document, a table of contents adds quick navigation. Thankfully, creating a table of contents in Word is easy and it’ll update itself automatically as you add more to the document.

Word’s automatic table of contents generator takes each heading you add to a document, and then creates the table of contents based on that. If you plan on creating a table of contents, make sure you style each of your section titles with a heading.
Click an empty paragraph where you want to insert the table of contents.
Click the References tab.
Click Table of Contents and then select the appearance you want to use.

That’s it. Word automatically updates that table of contents any time you add or alter a header.

How to Compare and Merge Two Documents

If you have two versions of a document, whether it’s because someone did edits in their own copy, a cloud backup failed, or if you’re just trying to hash out what exactly changed between two versions of the same thing, you’ll need to use the compare and combine functions.

If you just want to see what changes exist between two documents, you can compare them. Here’s how to compare two documents:

Open one of the two documents you want to compare.
Click Tools > Track Changes > Compare Documents.
Pick your original document and revised document files.

Type in a name under “Label changes with” text field so you can tell the difference between the two documents. This way, Word will add a note telling you where each change comes from.

Combining a document works the same way, but the end result is a single document that merges the contents of both documents together so everything that’s the same is overwritten:

Open one of the two documents you want to combine.
Click Tools > Merge Documents.
Pick your original document and revised document files.

When the documents are merged, the differences between the two are highlighted. From here, you can go in and pick what you want to keep in the final version.

How to Format a Document Properly with Tab Stops and Indents

If you’re the type who formats a document by pressing spacebar or tab a bunch of times, it’s time to learn how to do it the right way: Using indents and tab stops. The video above shows off how tabs and indents work so it’s easy to understand, but let’s just sum up what the two terms actually mean.

Tab stops: A tab stop is the location a cursor stops after the tab key is pressed. In Word, it’s a way to easily align text. When you click the ruler in Word, a tab stop appears as a little curved arrow. When you tap the tab key, the cursor and text will jump to that arrow. If you add in multiple tab stops, you can make it so you can format text by simply tapping the tab key a couple of times to get it in place and perfectly lined up.

Indents:
As the name suggests, indents determine the distance of the paragraph from the left or right margin. On the ruler, you’ll see two triangles that adjust the indentation. You can click either triangle and move it to change the indentation. The top triangle adjusts the indentation of the first line of a paragraph. The bottom triangle adjusts the indentation for subsequent lines (aka the hanging indent) in the paragraph. You can also click on the square below them to move both at the same time.
Learning how to use these indents and tab stops can make creating a document like a resume or academic paper a lot easier.

How to Add Citations and References

 

Academic papers are a beast to write, but Word makes creating bibliographies and citations super easy. Once you’ve created a new document and you’re writing that paper, you can add a citation with just a few clicks.

Click the Reference tab.
Click the Dropdown arrow next to Bibliography style and select the style
you’re using for that paper.
Click the end of a sentence or phrase where you want to add the citation.
Click Insert Citation. In the Create New Source box, enter in all the info you
need.

Once you enter a citation once, you can add additional citations from the same text by selecting a sentence, then clicking the Citations box and selecting the reference you want to insert. When you’re all done, click the Bibliography button and select either Bibliography or Works Cited to automatically generate the reference page for your paper.

The Best Features in Word 2016

Word 2016 is a word processor—that means it doesn’t have to make giant, revolutionary leaps over its previous versions. However, Word 2016 does have a few improvements worth noting:

You can search the ribbon: In Windows, above the ribbon, you’ll see a “Tell me what you want to do” box. Here, you can type in any question you have and Word will tell you how to do it. For example, you can ask it how to insert a picture, how to format text in a specific way, or how to create lists. It’s basically a boring version of Clippy for the 21st century. For whatever reason, this isn’t included in the Mac version.
You can see collaborators edits in real time like in Google Docs: You’ve been able to work on Word documents as a team for a while, but Word 2016 adds in live edits, so you’ll see other people’s notes and updates instantly.
– Smart lookup makes research a little easier: Word is now a little more connected to the web than it used to be. In Word 2016, you can right-click a word, then select “Smart Lookup” from the menu to look up a word’s definition, the related Wikipedia article, and top search results from Bing.

Other than those minor improvements, if you’ve used older versions of Word you’ll be right at home in Word 2016 within minutes.

Work Faster in Word with These Keyboard Shortcuts

Microsoft has full lists of every keyboard shortcut in Word for Windows and Word for Mac that are worth bookmarking,, but let’srun through some of the big ones you’re likely to use every day, and a few specific to word that are really useful:

CTRL+N/CTRL+O/CTRL+S: Create, Open, and Save a document.
CTRL+X/CTRL+C/CTRL+V: Cut, Copy, Paste
CTRL+B/CTRL+I: Bold, Italic
CTRL+A: Select All
CTRL+Z: Undo
CTRL+K: Insert a hyperlink
CTRL+P: Print a document
CTRL+H: Open Find and Replace
Shift+F3: Toggle Capitalization options
CTRL+SHIFT+C: Copies the formatting for selected text so you can apply
it to another set of text with CTRL+Shift+V
CTRL+Shift+N: Applies the normal style to the selected text

Beyond that, Word supports universal text editing keyboard shortcuts like Shift+CTRL+Up/Down arrows to select whole paragraphs. These can make navigating and highlighting text a lot easier, and we’ve got a list of all of them here. If you use Word heavily, get to know these shortcuts, they will make your life better.

Additional Reading for Power Users

Word’s a big program and we can’t cover everything here. Here are a few more guides to help you push the boundaries of what Word’s capable of.

Six tips for better formatting: Formatting is a big deal in MS Word, and if you want to get better at skills like showing hidden characters, dealing with sections, and more, this post should help.
Select all text with the same formatting: This hidden little menu in the ribbon lets you select blocks of text based on its formatting.
Everything you need to know about collaboration: Collaboration is a big part of Word. From tracking changes to learning how to use markup, this post covers everything you need to know about working on documents as a group.
Create your own keyboard shortcuts: Word has a ton of keyboard shortcuts as it is, but if you want more, you can make your own.

Word might just look like a boring old text editor at a glance, but as you can see, it’s a lot more complex than most people give it credit for. Mastering it can take a long time, but once you have the basics and understand what’s possible in Word, you’ll be well on your way to being a Microsoft Word ninja.

What are your best practices for Microsoft Word? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Weekly Round Up 1/12/18

 

 

Again?! Steve Jobs may have been a tyrant when it came to the details but, this sh*t rarely happened on his watch.

Yet another macOS High Sierra bug: Unlock App Store system preferences with any password.


With all the Technology surrounding these guys, you’d think they’d pay better attention to the world around them. I mean, I know they live in a bubble, but c’mon!
Data Sheet—Darkness Hits CES Amid the Tech Backlash.

 

And my hometown made the list! Charlotte NC for the win!
Tech’s New Hotbeds: Cities With Fastest Growth In STEM Jobs Are Far From Silicon Valley.

Wait, does this mean no more Jitterbug?!
Tech for the elderly is a growing area, but founders should think more about whether their gadget will be used.

 

I think Steve would be more worried about the lack of leadership in his company right now, actually.
The ‘father of the iPod’ says tech addiction would worry Steve Jobs if he were alive today.

 

What, bribes don’t work on Congress anymore? Since when?!
Tech executives join more than 100 business leaders calling on Congress to move quickly on DACA.

 

You know, when I was a kid, I remember my parents writing to Captain Kangaroo and asking him to cut his programming in half so I’d watch less. SMH
Kids and Smartphones: Should Tech Companies or Parents Set the Limits?

How to: Monitor Your iPhone Battery Health from your iPhone

 

By Jeff Gamet of The Mac Observer

Now that we know Apple controls device performance on older iPhones to avoid battery-related issues, maybe it’s time to pay closer attention to your battery’s health. You can do that easily from your iPhone or your Mac. Read on to learn how.
IPhones with older batteries were shutting off without warning, so Apple addressed the problem by essentially slowing down the processor. The issue was that the occasional peak power spike the processor needed over taxed batteries that couldn’t hold a full charge any longer. By spreading the processor requests over more cycles the battery strain was reduced and the phones stopped randomly shutting off.

If you want to track your battery’s overall health so you know what to expect from your iPhone’s performance you can do that from your phone or your Mac, and it doesn’t have to cost any money.

Checking Your iPhone Battery Health on Your Phone

If you want to monitor your iPhone’s overall battery health from your phone check out Battery Life. The app shows your current charge, wear level, and run time. You can see your charge history, too. If you don’t want to see adds and think additional data in the Today widget and Apple Watch app would be handy, that’s a US$1.99 in-app purchase.

 

 

Checking Your iPhone Battery Health on Your Mac

You can monitor your iPhone’s battery health from your Mac with coconutBattery. The app is popular staying on top of your Mac’s battery and it’s also great for seeing how your iPhone and iPad battery is holding up. You’ll need to connect your iPhone to your Mac’s USB port to see your phone’s charge and overall capacity, plus you can see details like model number, serial number, and manufacture date. coconutBattery is free and you can upgrade to coconutBattery Plus with additional device data for $9.95.

Apple isn’t saying what it’s threshold is for reducing performance for weak batteries, but anecdotally it looks like when your battery won’t charge beyond 80% of original capacity you’ll see the change. That number comes from several Reddit users saying that’s when they noticed their iPhone got slower, so if nothing else it’s a nice marker point for watching to see if your performance degrades.

What’s your best practices for monitoring your devices battery life? Tell ua about it in the comments below!

App of the Week: WALTR2

This wireless app helps avoid the mess of transferring data with iTunes.

 

 

By Cult of Mac Deals

Usually when want to move a file from your computer to your iPhone, you’ve got to deal with iTunes. That means dealing with its often unintuitive interface and sync settings. Let’s be honest, iTunes isn’t exactly user friendly.

That makes WALTR 2 a welcome alternative. It’s a app that lets you to wirelessly transfer content between devices, skipping iTunes, converters and other headaches. And right now, you can get WALTR 2 for just $19.95 at Cult of Mac Deals.

Basically, WALTR 2 is a straightforward file manager that spans between devices. Once your device is connected, just drag and drop music, ringtones, videos, PDFs, ePUBs, and more into any Apple device. That includes the entire lineup of Apple iPods, all the way back to 2001’s original iPod Classic. Additionally, WALTR automatically converts audio and video formats as needed, retaining metadata, removing a key stress point from the process of moving content. Plus, the whole process works over WiFi. So forgetting your USB cable isn’t a problem.

Buy now: Get WALTR 2 for $19.95. That’s half off the usual price.

 

What do you use to manage music on your iPhone? Tell us about it in the comments below!

WIT: Ellen Ullman’s New Book Tackles Tech’s Woman Problem

 

 

 

By J. D. BIERSDORFER of NYTimes

LIFE IN CODE
A Personal History of Technology
By Ellen Ullman

As milestone years go, 1997 was a pretty good one. The computers may have been mostly beige and balky, but certain developments were destined to pay off down the road. Steve Jobs returned to a floundering Apple after years of corporate exile, IBM’s Deep Blue computer finally nailed the world-champion chess master Garry Kasparov with a checkmate, and a couple of Stanford students registered the domain name for a new website called google.com. Nineteen ninety-seven also happened to be the year that the software engineer Ellen Ullman published “Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its
Discontents,” her first book about working as a programmer in a massively male-dominated field.

That slender volume became a classic of 20th-century digital culture literature and was critically praised for its sharp look at the industry, presented in a literary voice that ignored the biz-whiz braggadocio of the early dot-com era. The book had obvious appeal to technically inclined women — desktop-support people like myself then, computer-science majors, admirers of Donna J. Haraway’s feminist cyborg manifesto, those finding work in the newish world of website building — and served as a reminder that someone had already been through it all and took notes for the future.

Then Ullman retired as a programmer, logging out to go write two intense character-driven thriller novels and the occasional nonfiction essay. The digital economy bounced back after the Epic Fail of 2000 and two decades later, those techno-seeds planted back in 1997 have bloomed. Just look at all those smartphones, constantly buzzing with news alerts and calendar notifications as we tell the virtual assistant to find us Google Maps directions to the new rice-bowl place.

What would Ullman think of all this? We can now find out, as she’s written a new book, “Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology,” which manages to feel like both a prequel and a sequel to her first book.

Don’t panic, non-nerds. In addition to writing code in multiple computer languages, Ullman has an Ivy League degree in English and knows how to decode her tech-world adventures into accessible narratives for word people: “Time went on; I graduated from Cornell and moved to San Francisco, where, one day in 1979, I walked past a Radio Shack store on Market Street and saw in the window a microcomputer called the TRS-80. Reader, I bought it.”

Her work as an active programmer spanned about 20 years, ending in the 1990s, but some experiences stay with you forever. “The role they assigned to me, translator, is perhaps the most accurate description of everything I have ever done concerning technology,” she writes of one gig. As I’ve found in my own scribbling about tech, language skills and accurate translation are essential to understanding in both human and computer systems. The most useful bit of prep I had for that came from the two years of Attic Greek I once took to fulfill a curriculum requirement for a theater degree. Converting text into plain language for the inquiring masses is vital, whether it be wrestling Xenophon’s “Anabasis” or Linux engineer notes into English.

The first three-fifths of “Life in Code” is primarily composed of essays published elsewhere between 1994 and 2004, while newer material from 2012 to early 2017 fills out the rest. The technology mentioned within those early chapters often recalls quaint discovery, like finding a chunky, clunky Nokia cellphone in the back of the junk drawer. The piece on preparing computers for the Year 2000 has a musty time-capsule feel, but the philosophical questions posed in other chapters — like those on robotics and artificial intelligence — still resonate.

While the electrified economy had yet to complete its first dramatic cycle of boom and bust when her first book came out, a 1998 essay in “Life in Code” shows Ullman, Cassandra-like and ever the pragmatic pessimist, already bracing for the coming storm. “I fear for the world the internet is creating,” she wrote. “Before the advent of the Web, if you wanted to sustain a belief in far-fetched ideas, you had to go out into the desert, or live on a compound in the mountains, or move from one badly furnished room to another in a series of safe houses.” These days, she’s still concerned about the damage the internet is doing to culture, privacy and civility.

What hasn’t changed in the past 20 years is the dominant demographic of the technology industry and its overall lack of diversity. Ullman addresses these topics in the latter part of the book, as she observes online classes for newer programming languages like Python and feels put off by the “underlying assumption of male, white, geeky American culture” with science fiction TV shows woven into the course material. She worries that this approach may alienate people who aren’t familiar with it, and imagines a time when the general public is writing their own code for the world they need.

“What I hope is that those with the knowledge of the humanities break into the closed society where code gets written: invade it,” Ullman writes. But, she warns, be prepared for an environment of “boyish men who bristle at the idea of anyone unlike them invading their territory.”

She has many stories of her own to share on the topic of gender relations in the office and points out that not all of them were bad. In one case, she tolerates frequent comments about her hair from one addled man in order to learn more about various aspects of computing from him. “I did have pretty hair; I went on to become a software engineer.”

As then, not all men today are hostile to women and many are quite accepting, but the misogyny Ullman experienced in her programming days seems to have escalated in some places. Perhaps this is because of the antler-whacking nature of today’s hyper-driven culture, as illustrated in the situations of women like Susan J. Fowler, who set the executive dominoes cascading at Uber earlier this year with a blog post detailing overt and unchecked sexual harassment by her male manager. A recent 10-page internal memo (by a male Google engineer) that lambasted the company’s diversity efforts also shined a light on workplace culture for some. The abuse of women, the L.G.B.T. community and racial, religious and ethnic minorities on social media is also well-documented — and much more vitriolic than flare-ups like the recent bout of androcentric caterwauling over the casting of a woman in the lead role on “Doctor Who.”

As noted by Anna Wiener in an interview with Ullman for The New Republic, Twitter “would look a lot different today if it had been built by people for whom online harassment was a real-life concern.” When reading “Life in Code” later, I thought of Ullman’s musings about interface design in general: “To build such a crash-resistant system, the designer must be able to imagine — and disallow — the dumbest action.” Let’s face it, a queer female gamer of color is going to have a very different idea of “the dumbest action” than a 23-year-old white brogrammer and we need that perspective. (As for Twitter, Ullman considers the service a broadcaster of “thought farts.”)

It may take a generation, but progress to find balance and representation in the tech and tech-driven world is happening. And the invasion is underway, with women-in-tech groups like Girls Who Code, Project Include and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (the latter named for the Navy rear admiral, herself a programming pioneer) striving for diversification on multiple fronts. Because, as Ullman observes, “the world of programmers is not going to change on its own.” One hopes she’ll check back in 20 years to comment on how it’s going.

Any women in the tech field who get your vote of confidence? Tell us about them in the comments below!

App of the Week: Yoink

Yoink is the macOS Shelf Utility I Want on iOS Too

 

 

 

BY JOHN VOORHEES of MacStories

At WWDC, I was disappointed that the iOS 11 announcements didn’t include a shelf where content can be temporarily parked. When Federico and Sam Beckett made an iOS 11 concept video earlier this year they included a shelf, which felt like a natural way to make touch-based drag and drop simpler. I found the omission in the iOS 11 beta somewhat surprising. On the Mac, people use the Desktop as a temporary place to stash items all the time, and without a Desktop on iOS, a shelf that slides in from the edge of the screen seemed like a natural solution. In fact, it’s a solution that has an even more direct analog than the Desktop on macOS that makes a solid case for implementing something similar on iOS: Yoink, from Eternal Storms Software.

Yoink, is one of my favorite macOS utilities that sits just out of sight until I start to drag something. There are many days when I have a bunch of apps open across at least a few different Spaces. If I need to send a file1 to someone in Slack or attach it to an email message, those apps may be buried under several layers of windows, in a different Space, or may not be open at all. Instead of starting a drag and using Alt+Tab to find the app to drop a file into if it’s even open, I can drop it onto Yoink as a temporary resting spot until I find the destination for which I’m looking. This is especially useful when I’m using an email client and haven’t begun composing a new message yet.

As soon as I start dragging a file, Yoink fades into view. I have it docked to the middle of the right edge of my screen, but it can be anchored to the left edge too. You can also customize when Yoink appears. Instead of showing up as soon as a drag starts, you can set Yoink to wait until your drag approaches the side of the screen where it’s docked. You can even have a little Yoink window show up near your cursor as soon as the drag starts to minimize how far you need to move the file. As soon as you drop the file on the Yoink drop point, it re-attaches itself to the side of your screen.

Once a file is sitting on Yoink’s shelf, you can pin it there. I’ve begun doing this with a few files I need throughout the day when I’m working with MacStories and AppStories sponsors. After I pin the file, I can drag it out of Yoink and into an email message as many times as I want, which is faster than digging back through layers of folders in the Finder. If I don’t want to see it sitting there in Yoink on the edge of my screen all day, I press F5, which hides the Yoink window until I toggle it again.

There is a preview button next to each item on Yoink’s shelf that can be used to take a quick look at its contents. You can also share and open items using a variety of apps on your Mac by right clicking on any file stored in Yoink. If you decide you no longer need the files sitting in Yoink, click the ‘x’ button next to individual items or the broom icon to remove all of them at once. Right-clicking on Yoink or clicking its gear icon also gives you the option to bring back the last removed files if you clear out any by accident.

 

 

Multiple items dragged onto Yoink become a separate stack of files. Instead of a preview button, a split icon appears next to a stack, which unpacks the stack into separate items when clicked. Yoink also supports a customizable Force Touch gesture that can be set to select all the files in Yoink, reveal a file in Finder, pin and unpin the file in Yoink, or trigger the preview/stack-split button.

One final trick I like to use with Yoink is an Alfred workflow. It’s a simple workflow that deposits files found via Alfred onto Yoink’s shelf without having to take my hands off the keyboard. After triggering Alfred’s text field, I type a space, which triggers a file search. When I’ve located the file I want, I tap the right arrow key to reveal the available file actions. I pick Yoink, and the file magically appears on its shelf. The workflow is perfect for finding multiple files quickly.

 

Like a lot of utilities, Yoink isn’t something you need, but if you try it, you may find it’s something you want. Everything Yoink can do can also be done another way with the Finder, but it makes working with files on your Mac easier and faster. It’s a shortcut that saves seconds over and over, which adds up to real time over the course of weeks and months.

Yoink is also why I’m disappointed there’s no shelf in iOS 11. Dragging files around iOS 11 is a two-handed operation not unlike grabbing a file on macOS and maintaining the drag until you find the destination you want. As a result, it’s not surprising that iOS drag and drop works the way it does, but iOS 11 is an opportunity for a fresh look at how files are moved across the OS and to improve the way it’s accomplished. It doesn’t look like that will happen this year, but I’d love to see Apple take a cue from Yoink and implement an iOS shelf someday. Until that happens, I’m optimistic that we’ll see third-party developers tackle the problem.

Yoink is available on the Mac App Store. If you want to try the app first, you can download a trial version from Eternal Storms’ website.

Do you have any suggestions for features to add to iOS? Tell us about them in the comments below!

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