Friday, July 24, 2015

Gmail as your task management tool (TODO) - Yes, I said Gmail! Sticking to basics is the solution.

I've tried at least a dozen of well-respected task management apps and none of them give me a complete solution.
Then I realized that a solution is in front of me every day. Don't look further than Gmail as your task management tool on your smartphone or desktop browser. Gmail app on iPhone is not like the regular email app that only keeps your emails for X number of weeks. All the emails are there and the searching is so easy. Labels/Folders are easy to use and it is easy move things around or apply different labels.

Don't get me wrong. I like my OneNote for all the work related items, but for simple tracking of my to-do personal items, I have been using Gmail app on my iPhone and Gmail in the web browser.

For example, I created two labels:
- TODO_Current
- TODO_Backlog

Before the beginning of the week, I review my backlog and put it under Current if I plan to work on it that week.

Then throughout the week, I review the Current list and I work on the items.

For regular bills I set up reoccurring meetings in Google Calendar and I set up reminders to get emails when I have to pay bills. Those would go under my Current list for the week. 

The two features that I really like are:
  • How conversations (email threads) work encourages you to easily use that the email thread and keep replying to yourself on tasks that take longer. Then you can just scroll through the email thread and see what you have done so far and continue working on it.
  • Copy and paste from other websites into Gmail keeps the HTML format perfectly. This is crucial when I read computer/coding article and I want to revisit it, I typically save the URL and also copy and paste contents of that page into Gmail for easy reference. 

With this system, I feel so organized. 

Yes, there are very good tools that I tried that do this much better on the mobile device, but I could not find one that does it great on both desktop and mobile. For example, I love OmniFocus app for iPhone, but I don't have anything for my PC at home or at work. I paid premium to to play around their iPhone app, but I decided that Gmail is the best all-around solution for me.



Friday, July 17, 2015

Are Tools ruining the Agility in “Agile” teams?

Manifesto and the role of tools within the world of Agile Software Development?

Part 1 of the manifesto: “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Are the tools we use to support our Agile Software Development ruining the actual agility on day-to-day basis? Are these tools affecting the chemistry of the team?
Are the companies that sell these tools feeling the pressure to innovate and to keep owners and stockholders happy? Then the innovation turns out to be tipping the manifesto statements to the right side (contradicting the manifesto) because the decision makers in companies who buy these tools want the tools that are all about tracking, measurements, and reporting.
I am putting a lot of questions in this post and I am not going to necessarily give you answers to these questions. This post is more about having you think about these things and realizing whether you as a software developer are already impacted by these tools or specific features of these tools. Are you asked to use certain features of these tools and you think that these features cross the line and tip the weight to the right side of the manifesto which really means contradict the manifesto itself?

Over the years I used many different tools that supported waterfall and agile development. Some of the more recent tools for agile development have been:
  • Rally
  • PivotalTracker
  • Trello
  • Jira (some exposure)
  • Asana (not necessirily build for agile but for overall task management)
  • OneNote (yes, I said OneNote)
I am not going to praise or criticize specifically any of these tools. Some of them are simple and get the job done without forcing you to do it certain way. Some of them are more complex because they have all kinds of features for measuring and reporting and this generally looks attractive to managers who see this as an opportunity to closely track the work that the team is performing.
The question becomes, who is supposed to pick the tool? Are the members of the development team supposed to recommend a tool that helps them get the job done the best way, or is the management team supposed pick the tool that works better for them?
What did we do before the age of tools? Yes, we used Post-it notes !
A simple board with Post-it notes divided in a few columns did the job for a team in one location. It was a very simple approach. The tools should also keep things simple. They should just take it one step further without negatively impacting the progress, the creativity and agility of the team. On the other hand, if you go one step too far with the tools, the team will know if their agility is impacted and if the fun-factor is gone. We all know that if you take the fun-factor and agility out of the team, then the team members are not operating on their own terms any more; the authenticity slowly goes away.
Almir M. (
#agile #AgileMethodology #scrum #team #teamwork #softwaredevelopment #programming #coding #tools #manifesto

Friday, July 3, 2015

Why I switched from ChromeOS to Mac OS !

This is about your household computers and which type of computer is used 90–95% of the time. I am a software engineer and I still need to use a Windows laptop if I want to do some development at home after a long day at work.
As for most used household computers, we switched from Windows to ChromeOS when the original Chromebook Samsung 11" came out in 2011. Then we switched to HP Chromebook 14" and that made the experience even more consistent and enjoyable.
All this time we were using LastPass for password management. I like how LastPass approaches their security but recent hacks scared me a bit and I started thinking about one basket with all the eggs in it and all of this being in the cloud with LastPass (no offense LastPass). Then I decided that my wife and I should switch to a total opposite approach for password management and use 1Password desktop software without keeping any password management data in the cloud. That resulted in getting a Macbook Air 13" as I wanted a full OS with less maintenance. We have been enjoying the Macbook Air, but I am still appreciating the consistency of any Chromebook and 100% productivity. Mac OS is very consistent and it just works but when I compare it directly to ChromeOS, it still has some unexpected performance behaviors which are not worth mentioning if I compare it to Windows.
If ChromeOS had a built-in way of zipping and unzipping AES 256bit files or something built-in along a lighter version of TrueCrypt, then I would use ChromeOS again anytime. Maybe LastPass and Google can work together to produce a truly native LastPass app for ChromeOS. That would allow me to occasionally take that encrypted file from one Chromebook to another and still have access to my password management information. As for everything else, I have nothing to hide and I embrace the cloud as much as possible.
I am excited to see where ChromeOS team at Google will take ChromeOS over next few years.
Let me know if you are facing similar dilemmas with your household computers and if you have any recommendations for me on ChromeOS could solve my problems at this time.
Until next post,
Almir Mustafic (

#Chromebook #ChromeOS #MacOS #Macbook #MacbookAir #Windows #PasswordManagement #LastPass #1Password #Encryption #security #Cloud #CloudComputing