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Entries in Moleskine (34)


My long-lost PDA was Found: do I really want it back?

Zire72s.jpgWell, will wonders never cease.

Today I found my lost Zire 72 in an obscure place — under the cushion of our living room chair! I was looking for my dad's lost mobile phone, which I found behind the back cushion. So, naturally, I lifted the seat cushion, and lo and behold, there was my Zire 72 in its pretty Vaja case.

I lost my Zire almost one year ago, which eventually led me to ditch electronic PDAs altogether in favor of a custom Moleskine planner I created myself.

I laughed hard when I saw the Zire sitting there dead after 11 months under a seat cushion. I don't know why we never checked there, since it's a popular place to rest things when leaving through the front door.

I charged and restored from the SD card backup within minutes and there were all of my apps, files and documents captured in early 2006. Question is: what to do with my Zire, now that my life centers around the Moleskine planner?

Care & Feeding Kicking In Quick
I was amazed how quickly I was sucked into fiddling with and and tweaking the Zire. I started considering how I might use my new-found PDA for reading blogs, e-books, the Bible, managing passwords and maybe handling my contacts.

This evening, I spent 30 minutes trying to get the Zire Syncing, then trying to sort out a Bluetooth sync connection with the PowerMac with no luck on either attempt.

Then it hit me — the discovery of my long-lost gadget carried with it a subtle demand on my time and energy to care for and feed it. I remembered the reasons why my PDA had become a burden last March — the demands of my time to charge, tune, sync, backup and generally care for it every day.

I began to recall the complexities of the applications I'd setup, and how some required manual tweaking, how if I wanted to integrate the Zire into my life again, I'd need to work out just what I'd want to use it for.

Would I need the WiFi drivers again? Syncing iSilo or AvantGo, or would I sync my contacts too? What state was the Mac sync package Missing Sync in? Where was my sync cable? On and on it goes — the list of requirements and things to think about seemed to compound and expand the more I thought about them!

ARRRGGGG! I don't need this right now.

I'm Enjoying Simplicity, Why Complicate Things?
Now I'm fully reminded of why I so appreciate the simplicity of a customized Moleskine planner and a small gel pen in my pocket. It has minimal requirements: spend a little time setting up the dates and task pages to cover 6 months, which oddly enough is relaxing and enjoyable to do, even though it is tedious work.

Each day I add a little more with my pen, throw in notes or tasks as I think of them. No worries about charging or syncing, what apps I need or how to solve the lack of sync, since it's not required. In fact, syncing is not even an option.

What to do with the Zire?
I'm not sure exactly what I will do. I should probably sell the Zire to someone who would love and enjoy this nice little PDA. I may use it for e-books and some blogs away from the Mac after all, to keep it as a focused reading device that frees me from the computer for a while in the evenings.

I think I need to leave it sit on my desk and brew on what to do with it for a while. I want to make sure I'm not so easily sucked back into the care and feeding trap without contemplation on the ultimate purposes of a PDA in my life.

It's funny how much my mind and heart has changed about a PDA. Just one year ago I was distressed by the loss of my device. Now I'm almost feeling this PDA, which was so important to me in 2006, has invaded my tranquility.

Funny how things change.


Moleskine Fans: Support Moleskinerie!

abfpixx.jpgMy friend, Armand Frasco, who is the founder and editor of the wonderful fan site Moleskinerie, is in need of support from those who love Moleskines and the features appearing on the site.

Moleskinerie is not run by a team of bloggers. Moleskinerie is kept alive by one man: Armand Frasco. It's Armand who scours the net for high quality articles on the Moleskine and all things related. It's Armand who foots the bills for hosting and bandwidth, who pays the monthly TypePad bills. It's Armand who manages the comments and incoming feedback.

Today, Armand posted a request to readers to support him in maintaining Moleskinerie:

I thought I could do it without asking for help this year but it has come to a point where I really need your assistance. As you may already know, is a personal project and essentially a one-man operation (with help from Joy and our other friends). With traffic averaging 17,000/ week from notebook aficionados all over the world what used to be a hobby now takes a practically all of my personal time. Beside website maintenance, responding to email, press queries and community housekeeping (on FLICKR and GoogleGroups) has become part of my daily routine.

With a modest budget I need your support to keep Moleskinerie online.

Moleskinerie is one of those places I visit daily because I always find an interesting post there. The posts Armand cooks up always intrigue me, make me think or inspire me. Let me tell you, that's no small feat.

So, today I made a small donation to Armand and to Moleskinerie. I felt it was the least I could do. If you're a Moleskine fan and enjoy Moleskinerie, I encourage you to drop by the request page today and donate:

Moleskinerie needs your support

Let's show Armand how much we appreciate all he does for us Moleskine fans!


PDA 24/7's Shaun McGill Goes Back to Paper

It was nearly 5 months ago I gave up my Palm PDA for a custom Moleskine planner, and shared the experience and my approach on this blog.

shauns-moleskine.jpgSo, it was a nice surprise to hear from my friend Davy McDonald, that PDA 24/7 founder Shaun McGill just traded his PDA for a paper planner. Shaun embarked on a week-long experiment using only a paper calendar and a mobile phone, while intentionally avoiding his PDA.

It all began with he post The pen is mightier than the stylus, where Shaun shared his move from a Nokia E61 to a Moleskine planner for his calendar:

Over the past two years I have at times suffered from stress which is not due to work or family and it is still something I have not worked out but I am 100% convinced that my obsessive reliance on PDAs is a part of the problem. It is not the devices issue, it is mine but a longing to carry so much data and have every appointment and task noted and alarmed has not been healthy for me.

Shaun extended his experiment and began to see how things changed when using paper in The experiment (part one):

All bills continue to be paid on time, all tasks completed as needed and strangely no stresses with regard to remembering things. What has really surprised me is how much more time I have without using a PDA.

It has become apparent that I spend ages tweaking it and checking records when I don't need to, I play games on it if I am sat at home rather than just relaxing in front of the TV to watch a good film and I keep referring to it for no real reason.

The amount of time I have spent in the past freeing up memory and recovering from resets is just silly and took away any efficiencies the PDA gives. For a man who lives and dies by his PDA this is a truly strange experience but a good one.

In The experiment (part two), Shaun writes:

The experiment is going well and avoiding my PDA has become surprisingly easy. As the days have passed I am starting to realise just how much my life seems to revolve around my PDA rather than how it should be- my PDA should be helping me manage my life.

So well said! I always like to say you should choose the right tool for your needs, and this falls into place in Shaun's situation. He's found that the PDA had become his "hammer" and that every situation began to look like a nail.

In his third post, The experiment (part three) Shaun writes:

I was going to make this a series of five articles looking at life without a PDA but this will be the final part. I will revisit this subject at a later date but safe to say that at this time I am going to try living without the majority of PDA functions for a while to come.

Wow. I think it's safe to say Shaun has gone analog.

Shaun's conclusions after a week without his PDA:

• I do not miss it at all

• I have a lot more free time (due to not recovering from errors and tweaking it constantly)

• I appear to have more control- writing things down makes the information stay in my head and I remember what needs to be done. After so long just typing away and forgetting the entry until the alarm pops up I had lost that ability

• I am surprisingly a lot more relaxed about things. I do not try to do too much and just refer to my notebook on occasion to check some details

• Paper does as good a job for personal information management as a PDA

Excellent observations — I agree! After almost 5 months of using a paper planner for my personal schedule, I'm much more relaxed. I capture more of my ideas. Now my schedule lays on the desk before me, always on and ready for viewing or additions.

I don't feel compelled to "keep up" with the latest mobile technology. Emails for the "latest and greatest" software for the Palm doesn't entice me. In moving to paper I no longer need to maintain my PDA knowledge edge.

When my wife's Zire 72 battery konked out and I had to try and restore from backups, I was reminded just how much I DO NOT MISS fixing, restoring, tweaking, caring for and feeding a PDA.

I want to end on this final insightful comment by Shaun, which has had me thinking ever since:

The PDA made sure I forgot nothing and subsequently turned me into an organic version of itself. That may sound ridiculous but it is how I feel and for the moment at least I will do my best to avoid mine.

Oh how often we allow our tools, toys and gadgets to rule us. it's often subtle, but quite real. I felt the same way about the "care and feeding" needed to maintain a my PDA. When I was in the PDA "care and feeding" mode I didn't realize how much mental energy I expended just keeping up. But when I stepped away from maintaining a PDA, I immediately saw how much energy I was saving.

I hope that if anything is passed on from our switches from PDAs to analog tools, it would be to now and then, step away from your treasured tools and see what life is like without them.

You may switch away — or you may find that your treasured tool is treasured for good reason — because it really suits your needs better than anything else.

Related Links:
Another Analog Convert (satorimedia)
PDA 24/7's Shaun McGill Goes Back to Paper (Moleskinerie)


Boston Globe: PDA buffs go back to basics

Custom Moleskine PlannerThis Sunday, the Rohdesign Weblog was featured in the business section of the Boston Globe, in the story PDA buffs go back to basics. The Globe piece discusses back to paper movement Douglas Johnston wrote about in 2005.

Last week I was able to talk at length with Kim-Mai Cutler about my Custom Moleskine Hack, using a Palm, the Palm Tipsheet, the analog movement, and more. It seems I've made the first several paragraphs of the piece:

Web designer Mike Rohde was a certifiable Palm fanatic. He had the original PalmPilot 1000, then a Sony Clié, then a Tungsten E, and several more all the way up to the Zire 72. His monthly newsletter vetting the newest models went out to 10,000 subscribers. But when his PDA turned up missing two months ago, Rohde's quick fix wasn't the latest Treo.

He picked up a notebook and drew a calendar.

"The Palm started to become a creature. It demanded things from me. It demanded me to recharge it every couple days or I'd have to make back ups," he said. "I wanted to see what it would be like if I went to paper."

That sums up my thoughts pretty well. It's compressed from what Kim and I discussed over the phone, as reporters are very limited in the space they have. However, it's quite nice to be featured in the opening with that much copy.

The story also features analog fans Chad Adams of PocketMod, Armand Frasco of Moleskinerie, Merlin Mann of 43 Folders, Douglas Johnston of DIYPlanner. I'm honored to be in such great company.

The only unfortunate detail was the lack of link to my weblog , which I'm working on having added. We'll see how many readers Google and find me from the article.

I'd like to mention for the record that I'm not anti-technology. I use technology every day as a designer with MakaluMedia, who works remotely with international colleagues and clients and I see its value and power.

Neither am I anti-Palm or anti-PDA. I've used a Palm handheld for almost 10 years, and believe these devices are excellent tools. However, In my own life I've found paper made more sense for my personal schedule (work stuff is handled on the Mac).

I hope article challenges readers to consider their tools, whether digital or analog. For me it's less about which tool you choose and much more about making sure that tool suits your needs.

Update 2006-06-26: Thanks to reader Ryan Wolf of Variance Art, who nabbed a copy of the Globe for me!

I've also learned from reader Maureen, that the article appeared on the front page of the Boston Globe (bottom center) of at least some editions... how cool is that?! Here's a black and white scan:


Update 2006-07-01: Looks like the article remained in 5th position on the Globe's Most Emailed Articles with 479 emailings one week after it was featured on



The Uniball Signo RT Gel mini Hack

In my creating a custom Moleskine planner post, I mentioned a Uniball Signo RT Gel 0.38mm pen, for both creating the planner and writing agenda and task items.

Initially I'd purchased a 4-pack of Pilot G2 mini 0.5mm pens for pocket-ability, but found the ink bled a bit too much through the thin Moleskine pages, so I picked up a 4 pack of Uniball Signo RT Gel 0.38mm pens. The thinner 0.38mm gel pens work well with Moleskine paper because the line is thin and quick drying.

This weekend I was looking at the Uniball Signo and G2 Mini, when I wondered if I could hack the Uniball 0.38mm refill to work in a G2 mini pen body. When I took the two pens apart, I realized it could be done, with a flick of a utility knife to trim the Signo's cartridge down to size.

In the spirit of DIY, I gave it a try. The G2 mini to Uniball Signo mini conversion worked so well, I've decided to to share the easy conversion process with other Uniball Signo fans out there, complete with photos:

Uniball vs G2 mini

1. Here you can see how the G2 mini and Uniballl Signo compare side by side. The G2 mini is about 4.5 inches long, compared to 5.5 inches for the Uniball Signo. For pocket-ability, that reduction of an inch means quite a bit — making the G2 mini well-suited for pockets.

Uniball vs G2 mini - Exploded

2. Next, I opened up the two pens to compare the length of the cartridges, and as you can see, the Uniball Signo is about 1 inch longer, but has room for trimming. I've noticed that new Uniball Signo cartridges have ink at or above the location you need to cut them down without creating a mess. The easiest way to remedy this is by drawing with the cartridge until the ink level drops enough that a slice is reasonable.


3. Using a utility knife , x-acto knife or other sharp instrument, trim the Uniball cartridge down to the same length as the G2 mini cartridge as shown in the photo above (see the dotted line). I've that the Uniball Signo cartridge uses a much thicker outer wall compared to the G2 mini, so the G2 may actually have close to the same volume of ink even though it looks like less.

Chopped Uniball Cartridge

4. Here you see the nicely sliced Uniball cartridge, ready for insertion into the G2 mini pen body. If you want to be non-wasteful, you can keep the G2 mini cartridges for backups, or use clear tape to adhere the chunk of Uniball cartridge you've sliced off to the top of the G2 mini cartridge, and use this in a standard G2 pen. The G2 plus clipped cartridge combo doesn't work in empty Uniball Signo pen bodies, because of the G2's nib.

The Uniball Signo RT Gel 0.38mm mini

5. Use your new Uniball Signo RT Gel 0.38mm mini pen, and enjoy! :-)

Related Links:
Moleskinerie by Armand Frasco
Recording Thoughts by Steve Duncan