Running on Air: Michael Evans

This weeks interview is from my friend Michael Evans of Macfilos.  Michael is one of the first bloggers who reached out to me with a common interest in technology that lead to a great friendship.  Michael is a huge proponent of the MacBook Air and influenced me heavily as I gradually moved from a 15”, to a 13” Air and finally an 11” Air.  Michael is also an avid photographer and traveler.  Spending time in both London and Greece.

1. Who are you? What type of business are you in, what do you do?

First, Austin, let me thank you for inviting me to contribute to this excellent series. I wish I’d thought of it!

I run the best business in the world. It’s called retirement. Seriously, though, I owned a communications company for most of my working life. I founded it when I was 26 after a successful career in technical journalism. After over 30 years at the helm I was able to sell out to an international communications company so I could take early retirement.

Among my many interests, which include languages, is writing. It’s something I have always enjoyed, and the MacFilos site is a great outlet. I’m not in it for money and don’t think about making it commercial. I’m just happy to write and, if I amuse or entertain a few people along the way, it’s enough for me. Of course, if I were 26 again I’d be looking for a viable way of turning an interest into profit, so I well understand why other writers are looking to possibilities of income.

2. Which model MacBook Air are you using?

I bought the first 13” Air when it was announced in February 2008 and loved it from the start. It was a hot (literally) little beast with some idiosyncrasies, including the flimsy flap for the ports and, of course the single USB port. Still, I managed quite well with the 64GB SSD.

So I was a ready buyer for the second generation. The 11in version seemed more practical than the 13” and I haven’t regretted the decision. Now I have just acquired the latest specced-out 11” Air with 2.0GHz i7 processor, 8GB of memory and the 256GB disk. It feels like we’ve come a long way in four years.

3. Why did you select the MacBook Air over other Mac models?

As I get older I become more minamalist by the year. I can’t stand clutter and unnecessary weight. I am constantly amazed at the leviathans I see being hefted on to various Starbucks tables. For me, I want the most bang for the least pound and that means the smallest MacBook Air.

As you know, I did waver when the 15” retina MBP was announced. I really did want to fit it in to my system. Ultimately, though, it was a case of want over need and I felt I would be giving up so much in terms of convenience and portability.

People are often sceptical about the abilities of such a small, toy” computer. But they underestimate it at their peril.

11 MBS at Coffeeshop

4. How are you using your MacBook Air to run your business ?

Well, as I’ve said, it isn’t a business if you definite business as a way of making money. But I do treat MacFilos as a little business in terms of discipline and project planning. Like you, I use Squarespace as the host after experimenting over the past four years with Typepad and then, for a brief time, with Wordpress. I like Squarespace because it gives me complete control over the site’s features without my needing to know a thing about HTML or CSS coding. It’s a bit like painting by numbers for those who have no coding experience.

Since most of my writing is in plain text, I am no longer a fan of complicated word-processing systems such as Word or Pages. I use Byword and enjoy its clean interface, the seamless synchronisation with all my devices over iCloud, and the ability to use Markdown tools to achieve the right finished results on MacFilos. I have used MarsEdit for a long time but am gradually getting used to doing everything in Byword.

I get most of my information from RSS feeds and use Reeder as my Mac application of choice. On the iPad I prefer Mr. Reader which is unfortunately not yet available for Mac or iPhone. I am also a great fan of Zite on the iPhone and iPad. This is a feed magazine that learns from your interests and ferrets around the internet to discover information that you wouldn’t normally see. Often, I discover a story on Zite from an obscure site and get ahead of the blogging pack.

In common with most of us, I use Marco Arment’s wonderful Instapaper as the collection bucket for stories that interest me. On the Air I use Read Later to access my Instapaper account so I can work through news and get inspiration.

I won’t give a catalogue of all the programs I find invaluable, but I love Evernote and Dropbox, Hazel and Launchbar. Little Snapper, which I won in a Shawn Blanc raffle, comes in handy for screen shots to send to the web site. But a mainstay of my life is OmniFocus which maintains all my to-do lists and projects and is first port of call every morning, whether on the Air, the iPad or the iPhone. I’m a great fan of GTD (getting things done) and I have always been fascinated by efficient management of life.

Over the past twelve months I’ve become a convert to Day One, which has just been improved updated brilliantly. For a personal journal it is unsurpassed. You can tell that by the fact that I’m now on Day 419; in the past, with other software, I seldom progressed beyond day 30. In common with all my favourite apps, it syncs over my devices.

I’ve become paperless in my old age and am religious in my scan-shred routine. Everything is sent to Devonthink Pro by my trusty Fujitsu Scansnap and is shredded before it has time to gather dust.

Since my DevonPro database contains sensitive information, such as bank and credit card statements, I locate it within an encrypted sparsebundle which sits in Dropbox to prevent loss. To create sparsebundles I use Knox, now part of the 1Password family. And shame on me for not mentioning 1Password sooner. This is the world-beating app that contains all my deepest secrets. It works like a synchronised dream across all devices.

Finally, to deal with all the non-income I receive from MacFilos, I am addicted to Moneydance. Pietro Montalcino of Macography is another Moneydance fanatic. It isn’t the prettiest accounts application in the world, but it is rock solid and has sufficient depth to interest the trained accountant while presenting a simple face to the novice. I enter transactions into the iPhone/iPad MD app and they are instantly synced with my main Moneydance datafile in Dropbox.

5. Which has been the best thing about using your air to run your business?

Without a doubt it is portability and convenience. The Air frees me from the confines of an office. Most of my writing is done in cafés and pubs around London, or in similar venues in Greece where I spend a good part of the year. I also travel worldwide and I cannot imagine having to lug around even one unnecessary ounce of computer. With the benefits of Dropbox and iCloud, everything I want or need is right there in the Air. A cappucino, a handy powerpoint and a friendly wifi hotspot is all that’s necessary to get the creative juices running.

Website: www.macfilos.com Twitter: @macfilos

Thank you Michael for taking the time to send me this great interview ! If you know someone who is running a business or using an Air to do something cool please have them send me an email or contact me on twitter.

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