Simplifying your double (calendar) life

2017-07-21  |   |  productivity  

If like me you live a double life (pro and personal) and like me you want to share your availability via calendars, you probably have created clones of the same event into multiple calendars. There is a better way.

Double life

I live double calendar lives.

A shared calendar tells where I am (travel, conferences, face to face meetings, holidays etc) to the team I work with. Except that I am in more than one team, so there are several of these shared calendars. Likewise, my spouse likes to know when I am out of town (or rather does not like to know). And I end up creating one event in my main calendar and one event per shared calendar.

There are many occasions where an event is duplicated for one reason or another.

Invite instead of duplicate

Max shared a pretty useful tip with me the other day. Instead of duplicating an event in each calendar, you can invite shared calendars to a single event.

Google assigns email addresses to each shared calendar. You can find this email by selecting Calendar settings on the right menu of a given calendar (down arrow). Under Calendar address, you will find an email that looks like this Also make sure that the calendar setting Auto-accept invitations is set to Automatically add all invitations to this calendar. After all it will need to accept invites to your parties :)

Add to your contacts an entry with the email address (it's easier to remember than this opaque email address). And next time you need to put an event into multiple calendars, simply invite this/these contact(s) to the event. And voilà!

I love what my Kindle did to my life

2014-08-29  |   |  book   productivity  

I have been a rather early adopter of ebook readers. The Sony PRS-505. But I gave it to my wife and moved on to read on my iPad instead: The whole buying books and moving them to the device was quite cumbersome and the iPad was good enough especially with the awesome Kindle app.

I physically met my colleagues a few month ago - no it does not happen very often - and two of them told me how they loved their physical Kindle device. I've been pondering the usefulness of yet another device in my life and finally decided to give it a go.

I bought the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. Why? Well the price was not prohibitive. Why the Paperwhite? I'm a nocturnal beast, more than my wife an any rate. Why a Kindle? Now that gets interesting.

The reason this ebook reader changed my life can be summed up by:

  • I can read and only read on that thing
  • I can get my books instantly and wirelessly
  • I can read my books on multiple devices and they sync with each other
  • I can push non book content to the device wirelessly

Reading without interruption

That's a huge deal and that did bring back my pleasure of reading. An iPad is awesome but you get notified of tweets, facebook zombi parties, emails and all this chatter breaks your reading flow. I know you can disable notifications and put the device in Do Not Disturb.

But it is still oh so easy to jump in your emails for a quick check... and come back to reading 30 mins later having wasted your time. Same for twitter or the internet temptations. Now with the Kindle, you can go to the web but the experience is horrible enough to be a deterrent.

Frictionless book reading

I love DRM free formats. And I make a point of honor to free my encumbered digital assets if I can. And you can on Amazon books.

Still, it is undeniable that Amazon's experience with the Kindle devices, Kindle apps and Kindle shop ecosystem is just too good. No need to plug your device to a computer to get your books. And more importantly, I can stop reading a book on my Kindle, resume it on my iPhone while in the subway and go back to the Kindle in the evening. And the devices put me right where I stopped.

But wait there is more.

Selecting vs consuming

While I browse your twitter feed or whereever, I often see an interesting article that I want to read. But reading it now and stopping what I do long enough to read the article is extremely disruptive.

What I do instead is send to Instapaper articles I want to read. And ask Instapaper to send me a compiled list of unread articles to my Kindle device every day at 19:00 (that's 7:00 PM to our imperial friends). Instapaper integrates with a lot of apps including Twitter and you can use a Bookmarklet to push a page when browsing the web.

Tadaaaa! I have separated the selection process from the consumption process and I can be 100% into what I am doing and not sidetracked by the latest awesomeness the internet produces daily. I have this 20-30 mins of time in the evening (or most evenings at anyrate) when I read my pre-selected articles. The nice thing is that Instapaper inserts links you can use to mark an article as read (they call it archived). If you have not read all articles, they will simply come back the next day in the next compilation.

I'm super happy with my experience and can't recommend it enough. Even the basic WiFi-only will do you good. I had a defect on mine: the lighting was casting visible shadows (1cm by 1.5cm). That is not normal, just ask for a replacement, they are friendly about it.

By the way, I don't need to, but I do pay for the Instapaper service. They are both cheap and awesome.

Multiple email aliases in iOS

2013-03-24  |   |  apple   productivity  

I have tons of email identities. Depending on which hat I am wearing, I use one alias or another. Most are behind my GMail address. It is easy enough to create and use multiple aliases in the GMail web client or even in Mac OS X's Mail app. But until recently I thought it was impossible with iOS Mail app.

It turns out it is possible but requires a bit of cheating. First off, instead of setting up your GMail account as GMail, set it up as IMAP. I already do that as I never give my GMail address (in case I change provider). Once setup, go in Note or any other editor and type the list of comma separated email aliases (including your primary address) and copy this line. For example:,,

Then go to Setting -> Mail, Contacts, Calendars and select the email account you are interested in. In the Email field, remove the address and paste the list of comma separated email addresses. This whole gymnastic is necessary because iOS does not let you add commas in an email field.

Now you are good to go, when you create an email, you can change the email address with any of the aliases. Note that the last email in the list will be the default email (experienced on iOS 6.1.3).

I found the tip on iMore, they describe a more step-by-step explanation with some screen shot if you get lost.

In search for a 2560x1600 display

2012-02-13  |   |  apple   productivity   tool  

I have been using a Samsung SyncMaster 305T+ 30" monitor for 4.5 years now and have been very very happy with the screen real estate. Yes two monitors are nice but a big massive one wins for me. Anyways, it's failing me. The screen blinks more and more - luckily I'm epileptic - often and a few straps that used to display true back now are dark green. It won't last long. I am looking for a replacement.

I have a MacBook Pro with a mini DisplayPort but pre thunderbolt (by a couple of month...). I am quite interested in the Apple Thunderbolt Display:

  • it has the resolution I'm looking for,
  • great ports (USB, Firewire, Ethernet)
  • it's a breathe to dock a MacBook Pro
  • good reviews

There is one catch, it won't work on my current MacBook Pro - i tried. And that sucks big time. I can't justify buying a new MacBook Pro to secure a future proof screen and I could not find a way to make this Thunderbolt monitor work on a mini DisplayPort computer (no adapter, no nothing). Which means Apple will force me in the past :(

The alternatives I have are:

  • the Dell U3011 (30", 2560x1600, DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI)
  • the HP ZR30w (30", 2560x1600, DisplayPort, DVI)
  • the Apple LED Cinema Display (27", 2560x1600,mini DisplayPort, MagSafe power adaptor)

It seems to me the best option is the Apple Cinema Display. Despite the smaller screen, it's the same resolution, it's cheaper (by 200 to 400 euros) and I will have less cable to plug my laptop to. The sad thing is I'm not sure it will work on future Thunderbolt MacbookPro, let alone if I need to plug other Thunderbolt accessories in between, and for sure it will be inconvenient compared to a nice and well connected Apple Thunderbolt Display. And spending that much money on previous generation when the next gen is the same price really pisses me off.

Do I have any other alternatives? I looked for refurbished or second hand Apple Cinema Display (27", mini DisplayPort) but could not find any around Paris.

By the way, 4.5 years ago for a 30" 2560x1600 monitor, I paid the same price or less than what these beasts sell for today. Granted, these are new technology and new panels (IPS) but at constant size and resolution, price has not drop a penny. Where the hell have Moore's law corollaries gone? Oh and is 4.5 years old for a screen?

How to install an Apple Keynote theme

2011-08-19  |   |  apple   productivity  

It is surprisingly hard to find on da internet how to install an Apple Keynote theme (and make it work).

Follow this procedure:

  • retrieve the .kth file (that's the keynote extension for templates)
  • alternatively open the .key file containing the theme you are interested in
  • double click on it or open the file in Keynote
  • In the File menu, click on Save Theme...

The file will be stored in ~/Library/Application Support/iWork/Keynote/Themes.

This technique is known to work for Keynote '09 (5.1) on Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard).

"No meeting" always beats "Meeting"

2010-05-04  |   |  productivity  

I was chatting with a colleague on a feature that is loooooooong overdue and proposed to kill a meeting and use the time saved to write the damn thing.

He replied to me

Believe me, I would like to drop a meeting, not sure which one.

To which I replied

That's easy, anyone of them :)

and gave my thoughts on meetings.

If there is a need for bi-weekly meetings to integrate XXX and XXX, we've got a problem that meetings can't solve.

I have a radical take on meetings, especially regularly scheduled meetings:

  • assuming n persons in the meeting you waste most of the time n-2 people's time (and if n>10, it's likely n-1 people's time)
  • people tend to not prepare meetings. They instead think about the issue at stake while in the meeting and thus wasting n-1 people's time. Force people to write ideas in a (somewhat short) email, and that will force them to think about the issue more deeply and synthesize.
  • a need for a regular scheduled meeting is a sign of lack of trust, lack of natural communication and/or lack of proper task isolation: in any case, better treat the problem at the source than patching with a meeting.

The key to open source success is multiple but one big component is extreme resource/time stress. This constraint leads to:

  • very focused teams
  • limited need for sync-up style communication (hence the usual small core team)
  • proper separation of tasks to limit waste

I am not against communication, I am against communication wasting time (the asymptotic version being pure noise). I favor 1-1 communication personally as the most efficient brain-picking strategy.

Having problems with Adium and Yahoo IM?

2009-06-22  |   |  productivity  

Yahoo has changed its login protocol, breaking a number of third party IM clients including Adium.

The Adium team has released 1.3.5.rc1 which solves the issue. Check it out. If you use Adium 1.4 beta, upgrade to beta7.

Hope this will save you some time.

Productivity tools

2008-04-24  |   |  productivity  

With my regular job(s), the Hibernate Search book and a life going on at the same time, I had to find ways to boost my productivity.

Here is a list of some tools I am using in no particular order:

  • ThinkingRock (ad the GTD methodology): I am reading Getting Things Done by David Allen and ThinkingRock is the best tool I have found to help you follow the methodology. GTD is all about putting all your thoughts somewhere, organize them and decide what will be the next action on each of them. Some sort of superpower todo list, but one you actually use.
  • FreeMind: it's a software implementing the concept of Mind Mapping. It's a fantastic tool to organize your ideas on a given subject. Despite it's clumsy interface, I use it extensively to organize each chapter of the book. I also use it to build presentations.
  • OmniOutliner: a fantastic outliner tool. It somewhat competes with FreeMind but keep things a bit more organized and the interface is very efficient.
  • OmniGraffle: every diagram in the book is done with OmniGraffle. Fantastic tool, very productive and makes very nice diagrams without effort. Microsoft Visio but done well.
  • IntelliJ IDEA: I switched from Eclipse back in the dark days of annotations. I tried to come abck a couple of times, but I am too much of a happy user to jump back.
  • Keynote: Powerpoint without the useful features and annoying glitches.
  • no email: I try to avoid unread emails, when I open my inbox, I process all emails and put some todos if needed in ThinkingRock. If I read an email and keep it unread, I will process it over and over. annoying
  • KeepassX: Some people keep all your passwords in a text file. This is efficient and cross-platform. I keep mine in KeepassX: it's a bit more secure, it has a search box and open the websites for you. There is a Windows version as well (the original version indeed). The file is readable by both versions AFAIR.
  • Mac OS X: a ton of tiny little details
  • Time Machine + Time Capsule: A software + hardware solution to seamlessly backup your data on a Mac. Not so much a productivity tool as no major catastrophe has happened so far but that's the first time I do backup my data consistently. I don't even have to think about it.
  • XMLEditor XMLMind: my part of the book is written in docbook as I find it more productive and easier to focus on the content rather than the style. XMLMind is the best Wysiwyg editor for Docbook (could be better but the best I've found so far). I use the pro version simply because it has on the fly autocorrect feature. It's expensive for a tiny little feature but it is worth the time it saves me.
  • Hg (Mercurial): I am not using this tool yet but I am very curious about Distributed SCM. I wonder if it would help me integrate patches quicker and make the contributor's life easier (it's for another post I guess)
  • No TV: pretty obvious. I check the news on Google News and Le Monde ; I rent DVDs when I feel like it.
  • Google Reader: I don't run after the tech news, they are waiting for me on Google Reader. so when I have some spare time, I go read a couple of entries.
I hope you will find some interesting gems, feel free to share your favorite productivity tool as well. In a future blog entry, I will talk about how I waste the time I hardly gained :)

Name: Emmanuel Bernard
Bio tags: French, Open Source actor, Hibernate, (No)SQL, JCP, JBoss, Snowboard, Economy
Employer: JBoss by Red Hat
Resume: LinkedIn
Team blog:
Personal blog: No relation to
Microblog: Twitter, Google+
Geoloc: Paris, France