Andrew Canion

Thoughts on technology, business and productivity.

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Podcast Addiction

I listen to a lot of podcasts. I’ve been listening to podcasts for more than 10 years, way before they were mainstream. I used to load podcasts onto my work-supplied IBM ThinkPad1 and drive to work with it open on the passenger seat, playing podcasts. This was before I owned an iPod, let alone an iPhone. I think I may have been listening to Adam Curry at the time – there weren’t that many podcasts out there, and his was one of the first.

Since that time, I’ve never given up my podcasts habit. In fact, it’s gotten worse. Overcast, my current podcast player of choice says that I’ve saved 197 hours with Smart Speed (a setting that eliminates small pauses within normal speech). That’s 8.2 days saved via a very small tweak. So how many days worth of my life have I dedicated to podcast listening? I am glad I can’t find out!

My podcast listening trends have changed over the years. I had a multi-year phase with Leo Laporte’s network, listening to MacBreak Weekly, The Daily Giz Wiz and This Week in Tech. Now I don’t listen to any of them. The ‘indi’ podcasts I replaced the Laporte shows with have now themselves grown to be pretty big businesses in their own right.

Listening to podcasts is really a continuation of something I have done since I was little. Since I was about 5 years old I have fallen asleep listening to spoken word. Initially it was books on tape. Then I spent years listening to Graham Mayberry’s show on Perth local radio. Then I graduated to falling asleep to BBC World Service. Listening to speech has been a huge part of my life, and now podcasts provide an awesome delivery method far better than radio or cassette tape!

My subscriptions today

My podcast subscriptions today are a straight representation of my interests. I have a lot of technology subscriptions, a few basketball ones, politics and world news and some light entertainment. Looking at the overall list, I’m not sure how I manage to listen to them all. But I carve out time. Mainly it’s when I’m driving or doing some menial task around the house.

On micro.blog I saw recently that others had shared their podcast lists, including:

In the spirit of participation, these are my current podcast subscriptions, broken down into genre:

Technology

  • Accidental Tech Podcast – The best podcast for Apple news and speculation.
  • Cortex – I listen just because I enjoy the banter and wonderful voices of CGP Gray and Myke Hurley.
  • Fundamentally Broken – a couple of dudes talk about tech and American life.
  • In Depth – Trialling this one, a couple of dudes talking Apple technology.
  • Mac Power Users – Not quite sure why I still persist with this; I never learn anything new and Katie Floyd’s really strong US accent is a struggle to listen to, but I haven’t unsubscribed yet.
  • Nerds on Draft – I skip the bit where they talk American beer, but I stay for the interesting take on technology. Is it just me who thinks that Gabe Weatherhead sounds like Kermit the Frog (no offence intended!)?
  • The Omni Show – Not sure this will stick around, as it is a podcast talking to employees at The Omni Group.
  • Release Notes – Two software developers talk about the business of software.
  • The Talk Show – John Gruber talks about Apple and other things.
  • Welcome to Macintosh – a produced podcast that details interesting historical facts about the Apple ecosystem.

News & Politics

  • From Our Own Correspondent – BBC journalists tell human stories of things they see while on assignment.
  • The Party Room – The best podcast about Australian politics.
  • Trace – much like Serial, this is delving into an unsolved murder in Australia.
  • The World of Business – Just not the same since Peter Day left/retired(?). I only stay subscribed in the hope of hearing his voice again.

Arts & Entertainment

  • 99% Invisible – Roman Mars has the greatest voice, and this show’s research into design and culture is amazing.
  • Back to Work – Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin dispense ‘wisdom’.
  • Hello Internet – Hilarious show that is hard to pigeonhole, but it’s the best ‘two dudes talking’ podcast out there.
  • Planet Money – Sometimes interesting takes on the world of finance and economics.
  • Reconcilable Differences – a couple of nerdy dudes have a general conversation.
  • Reply All – Some great journalism occurs here, covering the world of internet culture.
  • Revisionist History – Malcolm Gladwell delves into historical episodes and challenges assumptions.
  • The Unmade Podcast – A funny show featuring crazy ideas for podcasts that never get made.
  • You Need A Budget – A short one to keep me abreast of what’s going on the world of the SaaS app, You Need a Budget.

Sports

  • Aussie Hoopla – Features interviews with Australian basketballers.
  • The Bill Simmons Podcast – Not as good as it was years ago, as it has become too ‘Hollywood’ focused for my liking. I used to love it for the sports coverage.
  • The Dribble Podcast – My local news outlet has a weekly show with Greg Hire, a player for my team, the Perth Wildcats.
  • Ozhoops Radio – a rundown of results in the National Basketball League.
  • The Ringer NBA Show – A very annoying show with annoying hosts, but there is the occasional bit of good coverage.

  1. Yes, an IBM Thinkpad – even before Lenovo bought the brand and IBM got out of the hardware game. It was a long time ago. 

Dealing with Illness

A few months ago I was unfortunate enough to contract Glandular fever and I am still suffering the effects of it now. The virus started out as what appeared to be the flu, but after I couldn’t shake the feeling of fatigue and general malaise for weeks after the flu symptoms ended I decided to go the doctor. Subsequent blood tests confirmed the glandular fever diagnosis. Normally this is a virus associated more with teenagers, so I am surprised to have contracted it at the ripe old age of 40.

The impact this illness has had on my ability to work effectively has been significant. Beyond the physical problems it has been a struggle to establish mental focus and remain concentrated on a task. I have had periods of forgetfulness and an incoherent mind. Making this worse from a working perspective is that there are not any external symptoms of the problem. This can make it hard for others to appreciate the truth that I am struggling to function. In a consulting environment, it becomes hard to step away from work when there aren’t any visible health problems.

Managing customer expectations

The client-focused consulting work that I do is not particularly conducive to long periods of leave linked to sickness. My work is a conduit for the success of other people’s goals and I need to fit in with their operational timelines. I engage with companies on the premise that our work will be done in a timely fashion. Often I am fitting my work around other projects they have on the go so any delays I create can have other knock-on effects. To suddenly need to take a lengthy break because of an illness that is not visibly apparent – but is impacting my mental state considerably – is a difficult thing.

Managing expectations in these circumstances is a challenge, because I don’t even know what I can promise in terms of timelines. The best I have found I can do is to be upfront and honest about the situation, and trust there will be a level of empathy from the client I am working with.

Managing self-imposed pressures

Even harder than managing the expectations of others are managing the expectations I place on myself. I’m self-motivated and I structure my projects and set deadlines to ensure I stay on track and maintain momentum. Having an illness that impacts my ability to meet these deadlines is a frustration that can tend to eat away at me.

I worry that I’m letting others down, and the feeling of ‘falling behind’ is not one I like. I have to take time to remind myself that I can’t always work with maximum efficiency; that I’m a living being who will have ups and downs. I need to let go, give myself time to recover and be assured that I will be able to catch up at a later point.

Ultimately, I just need to accept that stuff will just have to wait, and sometimes there is nothing that can be done about that.

Phone messages

Finally, a note on voicemail. They are the bane of my existence even in normal circumstances. When I’m sick, and a number of them bank up, it’s even worse. Seriously, voicemail is terrible, and it should be banished. With so many other options for communication, why is voicemail still a thing?

Home Network Architecture


Tonight I’ve sketched out my basic IT storage system and the cloud services I use on a regular basis.

Ensuring that my storage network all hangs together with everything accessible from multiple devices and platforms while also maintaining redundancy through an appropriate backup strategy is not easy. I think I have my bases covered but it’s not particularly simple.

Despite the complexity it remains a problem worth worrying about. I don’t ever want to stress about losing data. Photos especially are memories that cannot be recreated so I really want to make sure I’ve got them secured in multiple locations, while also ensuring that an accidental deletion in one location will not replicate that deletion across the entire network.

Cloud sync services

My cloud sync services; iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive, all provide mechanisms to make data available across multiple devices. iCloud of course also offers additional photo sync services, and sync of device settings.

My work lives in OneDrive because corporations and Microsoft.

None of these should be considered a true backup because deletions replicate and there is limited version management. I see these as a sync platform only, and never rely on them as a backup.

I am annoyed by the number of cloud services I am having to use. It would be great to have a single sync service to rule them all. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to be happening anytime soon.

Other cloud services

OmniPresence is a service that keeps documents made by OmniGroup synced between macOS and iOS. I wish I could ditch it, but I’m not entirely confident that moving these files to iCloud will work, so I continue to have it running.

Adobe Creative Cloud is a service I’m not taking full advantage of because I still prefer the Lightroom Classic and managing photos from local storage.

Local storage

I have a Network Attached Storage for mass storage of data, which is primarily photos and video. This is necessary because my local Mac hard drive is a relatively tiny SSD which almost always seems on the verge of filling up.

Local backups

I maintain a few local backups:

  • a Time Machine backup that is stored on my NAS.
  • a SuperDuper! clone of my MacBook’s drive. If something goes wrong I can boot from this clone and run from that external drive, or recover files as necessary.
  • a USB hard drive that connects to my Mac, and with the help of Chronosync, ensures that photos are copied from my NAS to this storage that is seen as a drive locally connected to my Mac1.

The last resort

Backblaze is my backup of last resort. If anything goes horribly wrong, I should be able to retrieve data from this location. Backblaze operates to ensure that my MacBook, and any locally attached drives, are backed up to their cloud storage, which includes all the data that is also stored across the cloud services such as Dropbox and OneDrive.

All this might seem like overkill but there is no way that I want to risk losing data that I can’t get back. The little bit of effort, and the little bit of money to pay for the software and services I consider a worthwhile exchange for peace of mind.


  1. This enables me to essentially achieve a backup of my NAS to Backblaze, a hack made necessary as they don’t support the backup of network attached storage. 

A Place for Everything

Over the past five years I’ve spent a lot of time learning the fundamental philosophies of a production system known as lean. I’ve read books and articles, I’ve taken a study tour to see lean in action in Japan. I’ve developed lean guides for business, and coached companies in the theory and implementation. Yet despite all of this, I still consider myself a beginner1.

Most of my lean work has been in relation to the manufacturing sector but the principles can also be applied to healthcare, food preparation, administration, and software development, to name a few. IT has even created further derivations such as kanban and agile.

Lean origins

Toyota is the company that can be credited for originally demonstrating the value of lean through their own Toyota Production System. Implemented with the help of Edward Deming after World War II, the company has embraced the lean philosophy of continuous improvement ever since. The company is now the gold standard with respect to lean implementation.

The theory of lean is much like an onion: there are many layers to it (and implementing it might sometimes make you cry!) Trying to emulate the Toyota Production System at the outset is an effort not worth taking, but any company can do implement some simple elements without too much trouble if they commit.

The best way to start

To get started I recommend following the exact same advice my Grandma used to give:

“a place for everything and everything in its place”

Yes, it’s as easy as that.

This concept represents one of the basic tenets of 5S. 5S is all about keeping things neat and orderly within the context of a lean workplace. Make sure if you take something, use something, or move something, that it gets put back once it has served its purpose. This approach will make it easier for your future self or somebody else to find a thing in the future. It will prevent the need to buy another thing because you couldn’t find the original thing. It will reduce stress and anger when you can’t find the thing you need at the time you need it.

Simply make sure everything has a home and that it always lives at home when not in use. Good tip, Grandma.


  1. In lean of course, maintaining a ‘beginner’s mind’ is a good thing as it keeps you open to new ideas and opportunities for improvement. 

Micro Blogging

Twitter continues to descend into a morass of bad behaviour while simultaneously floundering in search of a viable business model that might deliver a return for the billions in capital it has consumed1. The future of Twitter does not look bright, either socially or financially. As a result, I am experimenting with other platforms for expressing my random and (inconsequential?) thoughts.

Facebook, while having a more profitable and successful business model, is still yucky for a bunch of other reasons. These are predominantly centred around the fact that all of the content is just grist for their sales model. Facebook is a classic walled garden, and the business depends on keeping you active and contained within their domain.

One of the things that got me interested in the internet in the early-to-mid 1990’s was the open-ness of it all. Anybody could publish anything, and it was all equally accessible. The Internet removed the barriers created by Bulletin Board Systems and Compuserve and delivered an open, level playing field. Since then, we have gone full circle, and now we are providing our content free of charge, directly to private companies like Twitter and Facebook (including Instagram) which they are then able to monetise for their own benefit.

Micro.blog

Manton Reece has built an interesting alternative to these closed systems. With the help of Kickstarter funding, he created micro.blog. This is a system designed to allow the publishing of short posts, in the same style as tweets, but built upon a foundation of open access. In my instance, I can post an entry at micro.blog. Through the magic of RSS, micro.blog makes available a content feed but the material is actually being published and hosted via my own WordPress blog. For the time being, I have set up a separate page from this blog to display my micro.blog entries.

Of course, this is far from a mainstream approach. It’s not nearly as easy as setting up a new Twitter account. There is only a relatively small, pretty nerdy community using micro.blog at the moment. Of course, that’s also how Twitter started, back when it was good.

Cross-posting

Discoverability of content becomes the challenge when working outside the established networks. For the moment, I still have my micro-blog entries cross-posting to Facebook and Twitter. If I didn’t do that, it’s likely that nobody 2 would be able to enjoy my witty repartee. While cross-posting is not ideal, at least I’m only providing those sites with links that track back to my own content – I’m not just feeding their machines. If I quit the service, or if they fail, I will still have my content in my possession, at my own hosted site.

The Open Web

This concept of my content being mine, and to have it accessible outside the walled gardens created by the Internet behemoths that are private companies with their duty to act in the interests of shareholders – not users, is the essence of the open web.

Being able to link to content with direct URLs, and to have that content able to be indexed by search engines, is part of the open web also.

Of course there are still financial transactions and business relationships involved but they are apparent. I pay a hosting company money. In exchange they provide me with storage space, access to a web server and a connection to the Internet. There is no middle-man, no other services are trying to monetise or advertise against my content. It’s pure and straightforward. The content remains mine, to do with as I wish.

Finally, of course, noodling around with all of this is also a really great hobby.


  1. On 26 December 2013, Twitter was valued at US$39.9 billion. On 20 October 2017, it’s valued at US$13.2 billion. 
  2. As opposed to a tiny few. 

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