Author Archives: Kyle Dreger

About Kyle Dreger

I have a passion for clean design, expertly-crafted typefaces and the art of living simply. I strive to create beautiful products, and obsess over making every detail perfect.

Transparency

Transparency

Something that I really enjoy is configuring my devices to be as transparent as possible. A good tool is one that you don’t have to think about using – you just use it. It should fade into the background of your day and let you frictionlessly get things done. For me, the device of choice … Read more

Something that I really enjoy is configuring my devices to be as transparent as possible. A good tool is one that you don’t have to think about using – you just use it. It should fade into the background of your day and let you frictionlessly get things done.

For me, the device of choice is my iPhone. However, aside from actually using my iPhone, I tend to tinker with it. I like to move apps around, much to my girlfriend’s dismay, and frequently change folder names / sorting methods for my home screen. I don’t think I’ve gone more than a couple days without something changing.

Unfortunately, this habit of mine directly contradicts what I want my iPhone to be – transparent. If I’m constantly shuffling apps around and changing things, my mind doesn’t have time to build any sort of time saving habits. Instead of just knowing that Mail is on the bottom right of the first screen, I have to scan for the blue and white envelope every time I switch its location.

At the start of this month, I said enough and started an experiment. Many, many apps were deleted and everything was rearranged one last time. This is now my current homescreen:

app homescreen

That’s it. I have my three most used apps on the Dock, and the next seven most used in the folder; sorted alphabetically. It was hard to get use to, but now I swear by it. I don’t have to think, and my screen gives way for whatever beautiful photo I have as the wallpaper (which does still change from time to time).

There’s a saying that goes “a Japanese garden is finished when there is nothing left to remove.” There is beauty to this system, and the results of this experiment have been astoundingly beneficial to my productivity and sense of peace in general.

When there’s nothing left to tinker with, you tend to stop tinkering.

Goodbye, Facebook

Goodbye, Facebook

I’ve had a longstanding tradition of ditching all social networks when the last two weeks of classes come by. In fact, I’ve gone so far as to install browser extensions that let me block websites completely; so I’m not tempted to try and visit while I’m working. While this may initially seem like something crazy … Read more

bye bye facebook

I’ve had a longstanding tradition of ditching all social networks when the last two weeks of classes come by. In fact, I’ve gone so far as to install browser extensions that let me block websites completely; so I’m not tempted to try and visit while I’m working. While this may initially seem like something crazy to attempt, it actually has helped me to increase focus, study time and energy – at a time that I need it most. If you’re interested in doing something like this, here’s what I do.

Block the sites

Let’s face it, we’re creatures of habit. Writer Grace Boyle puts it succinctly:

We are creatures of habit. We find comfort in regularity. When something out of the ordinary comes along, forces us to dig deep and make a U-Turn instead of keep going straight, it’s jarring.

We don’t like change. Nonetheless, change is what’s required for us to achieve our goals of better focus and better grades. We’re not alone, however, and we have some tools that can help us achieves our goals, in the form of browser extensions. These extensions add functionality or, in our case, remove it. This particular extension, Mindful Browsing lets you block websites with a single click and makes you wait a specified amount of time before allowing you to enter again. I’ve found that the wait, even at just a couple minutes, really helps persuade me back to work.

mindful browsing

Now, Mindful Browsing is just available for Safari on the Mac, but I also highly recommend Temporary Site Blocker for Chrome and Site Blocker for Firefox.

Commit

It should go without saying, but I’m going to say it: you need to really commit to cutting out your social activity if you want to succeed. As someone who has done it several times already, I can promise the results will be good and you don’t really miss as much as you think.

Mobile

But what about when you’re away from your computer? We need to take the battle to your phone as well. During the last two weeks of classes, I delete Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and YouTube apps from my phone. I don’t actually lose any data, all my information is in the cloud, and I’m given a freedom you have to experience to understand. My phone changes from a device that occupies each spare moment I have to one that’s a useful communication and scheduling tool.

Do the work

Now that you’ve cut out the big items competing for your time, you can actually get to work. Even though checking Twitter may have only taken up 10 minutes of your time, you essentially start over your mental process when it’s back to whatever you were doing. By giving yourself the opportunity of uninterrupted time blocks to work, you’ll find you’re much more efficient and get much more done.

You can email me with questions at dregerkq@mountunion.edu

Too Long; Didn’t Read

Too Long; Didn’t Read

photo credit We have a limited amount of time to catch up on the day’s news as a student. Between our classes, the sports schedules and all of our extra curricular activities – our reading time could be limited to just a minute at any given time. I use tools like Instapaper to help keep … Read more

tldr header
photo credit

We have a limited amount of time to catch up on the day’s news as a student. Between our classes, the sports schedules and all of our extra curricular activities – our reading time could be limited to just a minute at any given time. I use tools like Instapaper to help keep track of things I want to read, but that doesn’t create time later to actually read long articles.

TL;DR stands for “Too long; didn’t read.” It’s a message to the author of a given piece that their article was too long, and didn’t warrant the time of the reader. This may seem cruel, but it’s really just a manifestation of our inability to focus on paragraphs longer than three sentences while on the Internet.

So what can you do? You still would like to get caught up on the news, whether it be world, tech, design or sports. Several websites and companies have tried to fix this very problem. By summarizing an article down to just a sentence or two, they provide you with a quick way to browse the news. This lets you get the facts and then, if you have time, click through to the longer piece.

I’ve used several of these websites, and currently have a list of favourites you should check out:

TL;DR

TLDR website

These guys are the best. Short, succinct stories, with a click-through link to the actual piece if you have time to read. Plus, they have topics covering everything from sports to world news.

Summly

summly website

Following a similar pattern as TL:DR (although Summly actually launched first), this service comes in the form of an iPhone app with a unique UI that let’s you swipe between stories. Although I’m not a total fan of the way you interact with the app, it’s summaries are well crafted and efficient.

Evening Edition

evening edition website

The Evening Edition is a website and email newsletter that delivers the top couple world news stories with a paragraph of smart commentary. I’ve subscribed to the EE, and getting an email with the stories + commentary is a great way to go about reading them when you have time.

The Brief

the brief website

Following the steps of the Evening Edition, The Brief focuses more on technology news than world. The articles here are high quality, no link-baiting or garbage articles, and the writing is well done. If you enjoy technology, or are looking to expand your knowledge in that field, I’d recommend you subscribe.

There are plenty of other services that let you get a bite-sized version of the news, but these are some of my favourites right now. We have limited time to actually catch up on important news in the world, but these websites and apps help us keep, what I call, a responsible minimum of awareness.

Meet Google Chrome, a Better Web Browser

Meet Google Chrome, a Better Web Browser

If you’ve never heard of Google Chrome before, now’s the time to check it out. Surf the web faster, safer and have more fun with this Chrome. Read more

google chrome

I’m always curious what web browsers my friends are using. For our generation, the browser is where we spend most of our time when we’re on the computer. Since we use it for everything from email to Facebook, how fast it performs is something important to consider.

For most, few stray from the default Internet Explorer (Windows) and Safari (Mac). Those that have made the jump from a pre-installed browser are usually running Firefox. I’ve used all three. Safari and Firefox are good browsers – but about a year ago I switched to Google Chrome. Chrome’s speed, along with some fancy features, have cemented it as my default browser, and I haven’t looked back.

One of the best features of Chrome, is it gives you the ability to block plug-ins. This allows you to block Flash (including ads) and dramatically decreases page load time. Unfortunately, it also blocks things like YouTube videos, but a simple click will activate it again. The speed gained from using Chrome and disabling plug-ins is unreal.

When I got back to campus in the fall, I was happily surprised to see that IT installed Google Chrome on many of the computers in the labs. Chrome is a fantastic browser, and if you’re currently using Firefox or Internet Explorer as your default, you owe it to yourself to go download it for a test run. You won’t be sorry.

End of soccer, start of blogging

End of soccer, start of blogging

I’m back. A short intro about who I am, what I write about and other comments. Good to be back. Read more

New Apple Keyboard

Now that soccer has come to an end, I’m happy to announce my return to writing for the Mount Union Blog. I’d like to take a second to thank my bosses for letting me take that time off – it really made it easier to focus with less things to worry about.

Now back to writing. For new readers, this post will serve as a little introduction to myself, as well as what I like to write about.

My name is Kyle Dreger. I am a third-year computer science and English writing student. I play soccer in the fall, and write for this blog in the winter and spring. I have an app on the App Store, and I love designing websites. I also have a personal website at kyledreger.com and a small blog called dregers on Tumblr as well. If you browse either of those sites, you can get a pretty good feel for who I am, what I do and the topics I enjoy writing on.

I believe writing for a particular type of reader can be beneficial to your writing. With that in mind, here is an excerpt from my colophon over on dregers:

I write, and post links, here for a certain type of reader. This reader will probably enjoy some, or all, of the following:

  • design
  • technology
  • liberal arts
  • quality gear
  • programming

More specifically to this blog, I’ll be writing on the intersection of technology and our daily school lives – including apps, tips and hacks you can use to improve your education. I’ve got some great stuff lined up for you.

It’s good to be back.

Mount Mobile App Preview

Mount Mobile App Preview

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mount app 

Note: This is an unofficial application I am developing as an honors computer science project. The University is planning on releasing its own app this coming summer.

How would you like to carry around Mount Union in your pocket?

I wanted to give you all a little glimpse of my current project. For my computer science CS485 class, I’m developing an iPhone application for Mount Union! That’s right, iPhone lovers, come this April you will be able download the lovely “Mount Mobile” app from the Appstore. I’m not releasing any details right now, but I have quite a few features I know you’ll love at launch.

While not the “official” application for Mount Union, it does give me the chance to experiment with many different technologies in the computer science field. I’ll be spending the next couple months working on this to prepare for (hopefully) a SCHOLAR Day presentation. I’ll keep you updated as I go, but I thought you could use a little teaser. Have a great weekend, everyone.

FourSquared

FourSquared

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Mayor of Mount Union

[Photo credit]

Foursquare, the mobile “game” where you can checkin to various venues around your city to get points, might just be coming to Mount Union in the coming year. While students have long been able to checkin to buildings on campus, an official launch of a Mount Union presence on Foursquare would bring a whole new dimension to this game.

Take the picture above for example. What would it be like if there were “rewards” for the mayor, the person who has the most checkins on a rolling 7-day average, scattered throughout the campus. Maybe the mayor of Mount Union’s University Store gets a 15% off voucher, or there might be a few reserved parking spots as well. The possibilities are endless.

There are some hiccups I foresee if Mount Union chooses to pursue the “rewards” aspect of Foursquare too quickly. For one, I don’t think it would be right to leave out the students who don’t have a smartphone from the fun and someone would have to keep a close eye on certain venues to make sure no one cheats. How would you check to see if someone who didn’t have their phone on them was the actual mayor?

However, these are all problems that arise only if Mount Union tries too hard to get into the Foursquare game. Although details are scarce, I think a good implementation of a Foursquare + Mount Union effort would be a corner of the website (mountunion.edu/foursquare?) or a place on the new media screens we have all around the Hoover-Price Campus Center. For visitors to the campus, they could unlock a “Purple Raider Badge” documenting their trip. Nothing too drastic, but a nice hat-tip to those playing.

Keep an eye out for news in the next year about Mount Union and Foursquare. I hope it shapes up to be another cool way to interact with current and incoming students outside of Facebook and Twitter. And while my dream of students being able to checkin to class for attendance seems very far off, this is a great first step to get people out and exploring our campus.

A template for telling someone you’ve unfollowed them on Twitter

A template for telling someone you’ve unfollowed them on Twitter

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Flying birds

Dear @you,

You may have noticed I unfollowed you on Twitter.

Don’t be mad. Don’t send me an email, text or message on Facebook. It wasn’t personal at all. I unfollowed you on Twitter. It’s that simple, and you don’t have to be upset about it. Let me tell you why:

  1. It’s only Twitter. Read that out loud. Good, now read it again. Odds are, since we’re actually friends, I’m going to communicate with you in real life sometime soon.
  2. Remember that my Twitter account is my Twitter account and I should enjoy using it. Your tweets probably started to infringe on my joy of using the service, so I unfollowed you to make my Twitter stream something enjoyable for me. Please don’t let this insult you. In reality, what should offend you is if I kept following you even though I absolutely despise what you’re saying.
  3. Just because I’m not following on Twitter doesn’t mean I don’t like you as a person. I just may not fully appreciate how you’re tweeting this week. If you really want me to see a specific link, picture or video feel free to text me and I’ll check it out.
  4. I may follow you again. My tastes change all the time. Sometimes, I do get on a I-want-every-quote-Taylor-Swift-ever-said kick and you are the best means to that end.

Thank you so much for the tweets while I’ve followed you. Your insight into various things has been very entertaining and I still have plenty of your clever quips favorited. I also sincerely hope that (insert artist, celebrity, professional athlete name) retweets / follows you soon.

Yours in Twitter,

My Name

Back to work

Back to work

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A Tidy Desk

 

We’re back. I hope that you’ve all had excellent breaks, but it’s time to begin again. Instead of telling you all the things that I’ve enjoyed doing over the holiday, and believe me there were a lot of them, I’m going to tell you why I’m glad to be back on campus.

Food
Despite the complaints, I actually enjoy the food here. Maybe it’s the fact that my house can’t keep up on volume when compared to the cafeteria, but there are other things I like too. I like the social aspect of eating in a common area. I love to people watch and around 2 p.m. on Wednesdays makes for a perfect opportunity. As with all mass produced food, there is going to be the occasional meal that isn’t delicious. However, being able to have a fresh salad each meal and plenty of variety is more than enough to be grateful for.

Classes
I love my classes. But I love the second semester classes even more. I think it’s because I feel warmed up, like an athlete who’s been able to stretch and jog a lap before a game. First semester can be hit or miss depending on how feverishly you attack your classes, but second semester won’t bring any surprises; you know the drill by now.

Friends
Part of this “college experience” is being able to see all your friends. This is the one part of our lives where our friends all live very close together. I like being able to send out a text to 10 people for pick-up soccer and have nine of them show up. When we graduate, it’s going to be much harder to throw together spontaneous get-together events like that; we’ll all just have too different schedules.

Routine
I love a good routine. I feel so much more in control of my schedule when I have a sketch of what I need to do and when. I should note that on the weekends, this routine affinity is gone as I thoroughly enjoy sleeping in. A good routine is the backbone to a productive and fun, lifestyle. At home, I find that unstructured time is wasted more often than not. It’s good to be back and have a routine.

Guy Review: Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1

Guy Review: Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1

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51/365

I saw Twilight 4 this weekend. This is my guy review.

For one reason or another, for the past five years, I have found myself sitting in a theatre seat waiting to see Twilight. Popcorn in hand, I sit through the usual trailers and previews, and then the opening credits roll in. For whatever the reason, I have managed to see every theatrical release of Twilight in theaters and the same holds true for the most recent release of the book-gone-movie series – Breaking Dawn.

The "Cullen House", Portland, OR

The movie itself wasn’t too bad. While it revolves around what, I personally consider, a slightly obsessive and annoying girl who desperately wants an immortal boyfriend, the cinematography and soundtrack make the movie slightly less painful. Plus, coming from a family with quite a few architects, the Cullen’s house is downright awesome. Plus, did you know that the actual house is home for Nike executive John Hoke and his family?

I came mentally prepared for an overdramatic love story, however what I wasn’t prepared for were several of the more adult scenes that passed under the PG-13 radar. My understanding is that Breaking Dawn was originally going to be tagged with an R rating, but they cut out some of the more gory / sexual scenes and made it a passing PG-13. Even by cutting out some of the extra scenes, that movie I saw was not something I would ever let my 13-year-old sister go see. Once again, although unsurprised, I am disappointed with the rating given to a popular movie just so tickets can be bought by a broader audience.

The film, following the same two-part adaptation that Harry Potter did, ended with a great cliffhanger, which will undoubtedly set up some great returning numbers when part 2 comes out next year. As for me, I figure I’m deep enough into the Twilight hole that I might as well see it to the finish and watch the last one in theaters as well. While Breaking Dawn part 1 wasn’t anything spectacular, and much too old for the PG-13 rating, it wasn’t unbearable.

My guy verdict: If your girlfriend wants to go see it, go with her and earn major brownie points. I feel you deserve some mental preparation first though: it only takes Taylor Lautner 15 seconds to ditch his Baby GAP shirt and sprint into the rain after the opening title scene. Yea, 15 seconds. Have fun, gents.