Digital Workflow: Pocket Carry Edition

The other day, I wrote about my digital workflow and scanning and then I saw an article about putting ATM cards on our smartphones. This isn’t just pie in the sky. JPMorgan Chase already has a pilot program in four cities and Bank of America and Wells Fargo plan to introduce it to all their ATMs by the end of the year.

After reading the article, I realized that, at least for me, the point of having a digital workflow is to simplify my life. Having my ATM card on my iPhone is a great example of this. It’s one less card I have to carry around and usually not have when I need it.

Why wouldn’t I have it? Because I’m trying to simplify my life and that means, among other things, carrying around as little as possible. Here, for example, is my wallet. I usually carry a bit of cash, my drivers license, a credit card, and my insurance card. Instead of a fat, overstuffed wallet bulging in my back pocket, I carry a small lightweight wallet in my front pocket. It’s more secure and doesn’t cause back problems.

What else can we do to reduce our everyday pocket carry? One thing is to get rid of all those keys. I carry a house key and a mailbox key. Really, what else do you use regularly? I’m looking into a keyless entry solution for the house, which would mean I could stop carrying keys except for when I drive. In the U.S., at least, some states are replacing drivers licenses with a smart phone app. If that happens here in Florida and Apple Pay becomes a bit more ubiquitous, I could stop carrying a wallet at all.

Again, none of this is pie in the sky. These things are already happening and will probably be common in a very few years. The end state for me is that I would carry only my smart phone and it would replace all that other junk I’m carrying around now.

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A Security PSA

Who would do this? Even worse is when they ask you to put sudo in front of it.

You can make the case, I guess, that it's really no worse than downloading and running an installer but this method is just asking for trouble. At least with an installer you can usually check a signature.

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Paperless

As I’ve written before, I maintain an almost exclusively digital workflow. About 8 years ago I banished pads, pens, and pencils from my desk and started taking notes and doing other record keeping chores on my computers and iOS devices. I write very few checks and other than signing charge slips—when Apple Pay isn’t available—I hardly ever write anything.

Somewhere along the line, I replaced my slow and tedious flatbed scanner with a snappy Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M scanner and even allowed a pen back on my desk for those rare checks. Almost all our bills are paid online through our bank. Whatever paper we do get is scanned and shredded.

In my post linked above, I point to a post by Steve Losh in which he describes how he deals with his scanned documents. His idea is to run OCR on the documents, throw them all into a single directory and use his system’s search capabilities to find the ones he wants. This is simple and has the advantage that everything but the actual scanning can be automated. My ScanSnap takes care of the OCR for me but I still have to deal with filing the scanned documents. Because a lot of my scanned documents are tax related, I like to keep them filed by tax year. Other than a few other specialized documents the scans are mostly filed in a scanned-documents directory.

The fact that there’s more than one destination for them means that it’s hard to automate the task as Losh did. It turns out there’s a nice Emacs solution for this. Anthony Green has the Paperless app (also available on Melpa) that almost automates the filing process. You dump the scanned documents in a staging directory and paperless gives you a list of documents and target destinations. You can display the document if you need to before choosing a destination.

My only complaint is that all the target destinations have to live in a single hierarchy in which all the files are possible targets. That’s not an insurmountable problem, of course, even for someone like me who has an existing setup. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, take a look at the README on Github to get the details. This is, I think, a really nice solution and moves one more chore into Emacs. What’s not to like?

UPDATE [2017-02-15 Wed 19:49]: Karl Voit, who I think can be fairly characterized as a researcher in digital workflow, has a comment below that contains some links to his solutions to the problems discussed in this post. I’ve read most of these before and can testify that they’re well worth your time.

UPDATE [2017-02-22 Wed 15:01]: you’re → your.

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Another Recommendation for Which-key

A few days ago I wrote about Mike Zamansky’s video on rectangles. Most of my commentary involved ways of dealing with the difficulty of remembering the rectangle commands and their key chords. One of the solutions I discussed was which-key, a good solution requiring only that you remember that the prefix for rectangle shortcuts is Ctrl+x r.

Since there’s a new version of which-key out

this seems like a good time to repeat how much I like it. I’m still using the default configuration and it’s working really well for me. If I pause while typing a shortcut, which-key automatically pops up a buffer showing all the completions. Once I type some more, the popup disappears so it’s pretty unobtrusive.

All this makes which-key ideal for commands like those involving rectangles that you probably don’t use that often. You can, of course, type Ctrl+h after the prefix to see the completions but I like that which-key automatically provides them if I stop to think in the middle of a key sequence. I also like that the which-key popup disappears automatically unlike the buffer you get with Ctrl+h.

If you don’t have which-key installed, give it a try. It pretty much stays out of your way until you need it. Definitely recommended.

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Resetting a defvar Value

Apropos of yesterday’s post, I came across this query on Reddit and learned a new keystroke. One of the counterintuitive peculiarities of Elisp—and Lisps in general—is that a value defined by defvar or defcustom is immutable: once set it can’t be changed without restarting the process.

It turns out, though, that that’s not quite right. If you evaluate an expression such as

(defvar user "Jim")

with Ctrl+Meta+x instead of, say, Ctrl+x Ctrl+e you can change the value. I usually want to do this when I’m in the development phase an need to tweek a parameter. If you’re not an Elisp developer you won’t need to know this and even if you are, you probably won’t use it very often but it’s a really handy thing to know. And further proof that our Emacs education is never complete.

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When Will I Learn All of Emacs?

Never, apparently

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Org 9.0.5

There’s a new (bug fix) version of Org Mode out:

At the time of this post, it’s not yet in Melpa but doubtless will be soon.

UPDATE [2017-02-12 Sun 11:05]: I just refreshed my packages and version 9.0.5 is in Melpa now.

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Zamansky 28: Rectangles

Mike Zamansky has posted number 28 in his Using Emacs video series. This one is about rectangle editing. As Zamansky says, you don’t often need this but when you do it’s really handy.

My problem with it is that because I use it so infrequently, I can never remember the key strokes. There are three solutions to that, one of which the video demonstrates: simply call the command by it’s name. If you’re using something like counsel, ido, or helm, that’s pretty easy because they will help you fill in the entire name correctly even if you don’t remember the exact name. Another possibility is to make a hydra for the rectangle commands. I’m always one day away from doing that. Finally, there’s which-key. Once you have that enabled, you can’t really use the “I can’t remember the proper keys” excuse anymore. If you can remember that Ctrl+x r is the prefix for dealing with rectangles, which-key will tell you what to do next.

The video is only 5 and a half minutes so it’s easy to find time to watch it. If you’re not familiar with editing rectangles, you should definitely spend the time so that when you need to use it, you’ll have an idea of what’s available.

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MobileOrg Web Site

As I wrote a few days ago, there’s a new version of MobileOrg for iOS. If you’re an Org user and have an iOS device, this is a nice way of taking your Org files with you. You don’t get the full Org experience, of course, but you can take notes, search your Org files, and change the status of items.

I just noticed that there’s a nice MobileOrg Web site that explains what the app can do and how to set it up to sync with either Dropbox or WebDAV. The directions for setting things up are step-by-step so it should be easy to get things going.

I’ve still been too lazy to set mine up but these directions make it seem so easy that I will probably do that shortly. George Moutsopoulos notes that if you are an Android user, you should check out Syncorg or Orgzly. I’m not an Android user so I don’t know anything about them except that I have heard good things about Orgzly.

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Emacs 25.2 RC1

Emacs 25.2 is on its way. Nicolas Petton has announced that Emacs 25.2 RC1 is out.

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