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OuterVentures and travel Apps

As I wrote in my last post, the importance of getting out into nature cannot be exaggerated. Fresh off a week on the West Highland Way in Scotland I can definitely verify the benefits. Whilst on the walk I made use of several travel Apps. This post covers two of the most useful.

So first a little about the trip.

At left are just a few of the pics I shared on Instagram.

This trip doesn’t have to be covered in the time we took, a 7 day trek covering 160km’s, more or less.

The full journey is generally broken down into 7 stages but you can break the stages down further and you could opt to do just a few of the stages – no need to do the full walk.

We (four men) did it in 7 stages and used a tour company to organise everything.

I am so glad we did 🙌 They were excellent – find out more about them here: https://www.macsadventure.com/

We arranged to have our luggage transported to each days overnight stop (hotels and BnB’s) and we walked every day with just a light daypack.

Many we saw and met on the walk were camping and carried full kit – definitely more for the fit, brave and young 😉

Komoot

Not long ago I paid for access to Komoot Maps, a onetime payment option (there are subscription-based offers too) that comes in three flavours: world pack, region bundle and single region. I paid a discounted, special offer price on the world pack which provides reliable navigation where and when you need it – it allows you to access routes offline. More on all offers here: https://www.komoot.com/shop

Komoot App

Here is a little demo from the Komoot App.

You can see that I select from an entire route map that was provided by Komoot and I added to my collection.

It’s broken down in the stages I mentioned earlier.

Every day at the start of a new stage, I would start the navigation for that stage and it guides you in case needed (mostly not as the trail is so well marked). But what is useful are the route progress stats you get like mileage done, still to do, speed, etc.

There are a lot more options in each stage as you can see, I went through the elevation function and you should be able to see the added info you get in each stage to help inform you about the points of interest in that stage. It also covers community input.

I’ve been using Komoot for several months now and loving it. Another nifty feature which I haven’t shown is how you can plan trips and Komoot steers you based on validated paths that are frequently trodden. You can make the trip as far or short as you want. I often plan circular walks close to home.

Trail Wallet

Trail Wallet App

This is very handy when you want to collect expenses over the entire duration of a trip and especially when you are in a group and sharing costs. More on the App here.

As you can see in the demo video, I have several trips in there already that I used the App for. In the first few trips (family trips I wanted to manage a budget for, since I was paying) I was not sharing costs, just capturing them for myself.

On this trip, we all agreed to take turns paying for group costs as they arose and keep track of them and then make sure they were all equally distributed at the end.

You can see how you get a total to date and then in the bar chart what the distribution of expenses is amongst the group. I tweaked the original categories that are available out of the box (by type of expense), by adding new ones for each member. Thats the way the pie chart works, per category.

You can see that a further breakdown is possible by tag in the All Trip data view, which you see at the end and it’s also possible to filter expenses by tag so you can dive deeper.

Once the trip was complete, I exported a CSV file (done from Settings) with all trip data and then did a simple calculation to see who owed what to whom after first determining what the average cost for the entire trip was.

All in all, a marvellous hike aided by some very nifty technology.

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Features that delight and distress when switching tech tools

Normally I talk about the former, features that delight, when I review any new use of technology or features I’ve come across. But there is most definitely times when distress is the case. And so in this post I have examples of both.

Spike in delight

First up is a new email app I tried on my PC called Spike. I’m absolutely loving it. They talk about “The power of email. The simplicity of chat.” Therein lies the first surprise, the way they convert email threads into a chat-like look and feel.

But it’s way more than that.

It’s also a very credible note taker. I have tried and use tons of note taking tools from Evernote (now replaced by OneNote) to Outlook Notes, Apple Notes and IA Writer, to name but a few. This is one of the finer alternatives. Most of the simple gif above shows the note functions.

I also love the way it integrates the many email addresses I have into one simple unified feed. And setting them up was no problem at all. I normally use Outlook Web App (in the browser) for work but I have lots of different email accounts on the Microsoft and Google platforms and Spike made short work of bringing them in. Since I do so much work in the browser, I didn’t want to have to open new Tabs for each of my email accounts. I was using the Windows Mail App but that was causing lots of problems with my many accounts.

All in all, email needs disrupting and this tool comes the closest I’ve seen to doing just that. Spike also does a great job of setting you up for success from the get-go with super simple in product guides and communicated instructions.


Migration hell

This is not so much about a feature or tool but more about a technology (platform) selection. For many years I’ve run email with my own domain on G Suite with Google for free. Now that the freeloading has been stopped, as part of a revamp and renaming exercise (to Google Workspace), I’ve had to consider my options.

And it’s how the companies facilitate the consideration of options that has been a bit of a nightmare and distressing to say the least.

Some of the challenges I’ve faced:

  1. Do I stay or do I go. If I want to stay on Google Workspace, do you think they make it easy to establish the cost of the alternatives – short answer, no. You have to go into your account as an administrator and go through the upgrade process and after only a few steps do you find out. The free alternative that I did have insight into does not include email with your own domain which is why I started exploring.
  2. Migrating to M365. I pay for Microsoft 365 already and use email from that subscription with another domain already. My first thought was, can I add a domain to the account after using the handy migration tool Microsoft set up: Perform a Google Workspace migration to Microsoft 365 or Office 365. I had known about the migration tool and thought the automated option would be pretty straightforward.
    1. A question of domains. However, on the questions of domains, although you can add as many as 900 domains to an M365 subscription without paying extra, what I could not find an answer for was whether I could send and receive email from the added domain.
    2. Using domains in email. I use that domain address for many accounts so it was imperative I could communicate with it exactly as it was. Firstly I could find no formal Microsoft documentation that verified I could. And then I found lots of forum topics that said it was only possible to send and receive email from the default domain which I was already using.
    3. Documentation distress. Also in the forum threads, I read that an alternative was to create a shared mailbox and set up the shared mailbox address with the newly added domain – this would allow one to send and receive with that domain email address.
    4. Support heaven. It sounded complicated so I decided to create a support ticket from my Microsoft 365 admin interface. Here was one bright spot – the response was almost immediate and I received a call. It was verified that a shared mailbox was the best way to set things up if I wanted the email address to show to the receiver in its original form (otherwise it will show as being sent from the default address). We tested this on the call and it worked. Here is some detail on how.
  3. In conclusion. Now that I had established I could use my domain, I went back to the migration process. It seems not to be so straightforward and I will likely have issues and spend more time on it than I care to. Not anyone’s fault, it must be complicated. For now I’ve decided to pay for one year of Google Workspace (Business Starter edition) which was discounted for me. I will try and migrate all the accounts with which I use the address with and then stop using that domain for email since its not my primary email.
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Features that delight – reminders in context – Microsoft Teams

One of the big bets on Microsoft Teams that the CEO himself has articulated (see this post) is that it becomes a “platform as significant as the internet browser, or a computer operating system”. One key outcome of this is that if Teams does become as pervasive as this suggests and the tool where all work is done as Microsoft positions it (disclosure), then it also aids in reducing context switching.

Context switching in relation to the use of Apps is when you use multiple Apps and have to jump between them and in the process you lose context and productivity. With Teams as a platform where you can incorporate multiple Apps into it and moreover collaborate around the Apps, there is less need to switch. As Microsoft positions it: Stay in the flow of work with new collaborative apps for Microsoft Teams.

All of which is to say this theory does hold water for me in the form of a reminder App I use in Teams where I spend most of my working day. There are several Apps for this in the Teams store and I tested them all, this one is the simplest I found: Reminders for Microsoft Teams (teamsreminder.app). Here’s how it works in Teams chat.

Super simple and the only improvement I would have liked would be not to have to use the inverted commas, just natural language like some of the others. But this is minor and the added possibilities more than make up for that. Those stem from the ability to use the App in Team Channels and to involve others, as in the example below.

There are more functions, check them out on the site, e.g. reminding yourself to follow up on a message or thread. I love the simplicity of the pricing too and the low cost. These kinds of things make all the difference.

Most of all, it works seamlessly alongside all of the conversations and collaboration I conduct on Teams and really embeds itself into my flow of work.

The concept refers to far bigger and more complex Apps but it’s with these that you often find the most value.

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Headspace review and other meditative musings

Another story amongst a series, this one based on my experience with Headspace after being given access to a free trial through work. Also a few added thoughts around the role of meditation in mental health and when it will not replace well placed psychiatric or psychotherapeutic treatment.

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Features that delight – congratulations Outlook

I’m not normally one to getting too caught up in features as I have written about many times before. But sometimes they are so delightful and unexpected that, not because they have any intrinsic value, but purely because of the delight they create, they should be celebrated. This is one such feature. Details below.

Continue reading Features that delight – congratulations Outlook