Some Key Lessons Learned in 2020

Last year (end of 2019) I started the practice of an end of year personal review and noticing how good it is for self reflection, decided to make it a staple of every New Year cycle, part as an improvement exercise and part of a rite of passage as well.

This is a summarized and aggregated reflection taken out of some of the notes jotted down throughout 2020 during my journaling practice, where I summarize my monthly and quartertly experiences and learning. Reflection and self understanding are such key parts of everyone personal growth and sharing is also part of that cycle to get perspective

Without any further ado, these are the most important things I learned in 2020

Reading books is the most effective way to change your perspective about things

The Kindle Oasis that I got on October 17, 2020 has changed my reading habits forever. I was in the Kobo ecosystem for 10 years and decided to try Kindle this year, and found a much needed and renewed passion for books and text consumption. Like everything, the newness factor will wear out in time but for now I am enjoying reading at least one or two books a week. And this has put so many new ideas and concepts in my head. Not every book is worth reading, not everything in a book is worth reading but the only way to find out is … by reading them! I was looking for this kind of insights for years and my final attempt was by binging YouTube videos. Only to find out that coming back to books was the answer I already knew from the beginning.

Journaling is Key for Self Reflection

Once I started to see the benefits that come with the disciplined practice of Journaling, there is no way to go back. This journey of exploration into different methods started in July 2019 first with the Best Self Journal. Further in 2019 I got to experiment more with the Bullet Journal Method in a regular notebook and also got to customize some of it. Throughout 2020 I journaled regularly on paper and in the final quarter also got to experiment a bit more by journaling digitally on OneNote with an iPad and Apple Pencil. Although still not sure which method is the best, doing it in any shape or form has tremendous benefits. Because you get to see the power of having “photographs” of your thoughts and brain that you can go back to in the weeks or months and even years after, re-read and reflect on; you will see your growth going from linear to exponential.

A Digital Productivity System is Key for High Perfomance Results

During some of the initial slow down during the first weeks of the pandemic, I decided to look inside and focus on understanding how to improve my personal productivity and organizational methods. And I found the P.A.R.A method from Tiago Forte, which has been a godsend to tame all the digital information most of us require to process, consume or discard every day. That paired with a refined approach to the Bullet Journal and a Digital note capturing and organizational system in OneNote have saved me and allowed me to keep my focus and mental sanity. All these has been also married with some of my own obsessions on self-quantification and self-metrics tracking and also provided me with numbers I can go back to and understand where have I spent most of the time in 2020 and with whom.

Consistency is always the key to not lose your Focus

Also to be fair, 2020 was not the best year to stay focused on any single thing with all the events that happened. But the main lesson learned here is that if you don’t have a system that allows you to register, remind and log your goals and habits (your memory doesn’t count as such system), the day-to-day will always eat up all the time available in your life. Having a constant reminder of what is your path, what you want and have to do, why you have to do it helps us staying consistent in the path that we set for ourselves in the times where we were clear and not overwhelmed by the daily grind.

Anything and everything can change in an instant

I think we have all experienced this in 2020, it was such a disruptive change of way of life that no one can ignore. On the first weeks of March I was on planes to Montreal, NY and Detroit, and 1 week later… I found myself locked down at home, and have not been able to go back to the previous rythm of life, ever againg (not yet at least). Nothing could have prepared us for what we have been through and also the speed of change.  We all somehow adapted, changed and survived to the single largest simultaneous global event in the history of Humanity.

Leadership to solve a problem requires having a different perspective

If you try to lead from the trenches, by rolling up your sleeves and working with your team like I did during some of 2020, you lose avery much needed strategic perspective. And it is also not fair to your team as you are not playing the role they need. The closer you are to a problem or to the tasks on a project, the more difficult it is to lead it with the tools and mindset required to look at it from a different viewpoint.

Coaching is about the Questions you ask and not about the People or the Problem

Similar to the perspective required for leadership, the only way to help others is to help them find their own solutions and not to provide solutions for them. The best way for this is coaching. Questions are the most important thing we can have to help others find their own professional or personal life. By asking some key questions, we can help others gain the perspective they sometimes cannot find within themselves and find the answers they need for the challenges they are facing. And there is nothing more fullfiling than connecting with others and to see them grow in the path that makes them fulfilled.

Dell XPS 13 2015 Review

I’ve just got a new Dell XPS 13 2015, and all I can say it good things about it. I’ve been a faithful Mac convert since 2004, but after 10 years, I feel its the right time to come back to the PC and Windows.

Even through all these years, I always kept working on Windows, MacOS seemed a more stable and uniform environment, but with Windows 8.1 and the coming Windows 10, I think Microsoft is really coming back. Besides, the quality of Ultrabooks in general now matches (if not surpasses) the ones from Apple.

Image taken from The Verge’s Dell XPS 13 review

Are there other Ultrabook options to consider?

I bought a Yoga 3 Pro earlier this year and ended up returning it after less than a week, because of its lousy performance. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the chassis and design in general, also the 2-in-1 factor seemed cool at the beginning. But honestly, couldn’t justify the machine being slow after just opening two or three tabs on IE, unacceptable.

Now, straight to the Dell XPS 13: this is the Ultrabook to have in 2015. I’ve been following the XPS 13 for a couple of weeks now, and it was nowhere to be found: neither Dell, Microsoft, BestBuy or any other online retailer had it in stock.

Screen: Touch screen or matte?

The first option you have to deal with is the screen: if you want a touch screen is around $100 more, but also the resolution is awesome: 3200×1800 (even higher than a MacBook Pro Retina Display). The only drawback is the glossiness… I love matte screens, I’m sure I will find a matte screen protector for this.

The brightness at its maximum is really good, also has an auto-brightness setting that works pretty well and saves you battery.

Final comment: Just go for the non-touch if you must, the real deal is the 3200×1800 QHD touch screen. The resolution is excellent.

i3, i5 or i7?

The processor is the second big decision to make: i3 is not an option for me (having discarded the Yoga 3 Pro for having a Core M, which is even better than the i3). The only real options are i5 vs i7. This was a tough call, as I found the i5 reduced $100, so the gap between these two was $300. Too much of a price difference just for a couple more GHz and cache. Honestly, don’t think the i7 is worth it, unless you plan to keep your computer for a long time.

SSD Space: 128GB, 256GB or 512GB

128GB is out of the question: you either get 256 or 512. If I would have found the 512 n stock I’d buy it, but 256GB was the only thing I could get. Besides, the good news is that (apparently) you can upgrade the storage. If not, you can add more storage via an SD card.

Where to buy? At the Microsoft Store of course!

There are lots of retailers that can sell you this, but your best bet is still the Microsoft Store. Their service is superb, comparable experience to what you get at an Apple Store. When I was at the store an still undecided between the i5 and i7, they didn’t try to upsell me straight to the i7, but walked me through the considerations they would have, and ended up recommending the i5. That’s really honest!

Other advantages are:

Signature Edition PCs: Your Windows is pre-installed by Microsoft and with no manufacturer adware, malware or bloatware. This is excellent, now that we’ve heard what just happened to Lenovo and its infamous Superfish.

Microsoft Complete for PCs: Kind of an extended-warranty, but at $129 it definitely makes sense! Apple charges around $300 for the same on their Macs. Whatever problem you have, you can go to the Microsoft store and they’ll fix it for you. It covers up to two damage incidents during the two year warranty, and they will give you a new PC for just $49. Really hope I don’t have to use it, but you never know..

Overall comments

I’m very happy with the Dell XPS 13, the non-bezel display is gorgeous, the keyboard is very comfortable and the performance of the i5 model is excellent. The portability is very similar to a MacBook Air 11 (and that is not a typo).

Overall, a very minimalistic machine with excellent performance and at a reasonable price.

About the iPad (and why I love it)

Today I got my iPad. I’m really excited about it. I know this launch has received a lot of coverage on the media, but for me this is not just about a product. This is about a platform.
Many of you would think that “the iPad is just a large iPod Touch”, that’s nothing revolutionary about it. But when you think about the device and the platform as a whole new thing, you will see it all differently.
It is true that touch interfaces aren’t new: the iPod exists now for almost four years in the market. But one thing is a touch interface in a mobile phone, and something totally different is when you think about a mobile computing device. The things that you can do with this are tremendous! Think about just some applications to come: sales force automation, mobile technical support, e-learning, business intelligence. All are just like brand new in the light of a touch interface. All of those applications that are just normal on a PC are totally transformed by the touch interface.
Maybe it is because the “surprise” about touch interfaces was spoiled a few years ago with the iPhone, but I do think that this is completely new, and is going to change things in a lot of ways yet to imagine. So here I am, starting to compile my first projects on the iPad and trying to see how things work on it.
Is not that I enjoy products from a company (let this be Microsoft or Apple or whatever), I enjoy technology itself, and for the things that enables me to do. Just thinking about the years to come makes me so excited, and I can’t wait to be a part of it.

Uh oh, Apple released new MacBook Pros!

Following the story about my new notebook, that I bought just five days ago, it seems I should have waited! Apple just released new specs for all MacBook Pros, and they’re upgrading pretty much everything!

The processor is faster (2.4 GHz compared to 2.26 GHz), they have more RAM (4 GB compared to 2 GB, that’s twice the memory!), the hard drive is larger (250 GB compared to 160 GB) and the video chip is better (NVidia GeForce 320M compared to the NVidia GeForce 9400M). It seems to me this is the machine it should get!

Now, Apple has a 14-day return policy, but they have this little nasty thing they called “return fee”, if you opened the box, you get like 120 dollars less when returning the hardware. I guess that help them cover the cost of testing the machine and maybe repacking it to be sold as refurbished. The thing is, if I would have know that they were to release new machines, I wouldn’t have opened it! But having just called to the Apple Store, they told me (and I remember I read something about it somewhere…) that being the case that they made the change in their hardware specs, they won’t charge me with the return fee, and that I will get a new machine, no cost!

This is why I like Apple so much: they really have reasonable policies when dealing with this kind of incidents. So I have to keep calling the Apple Store to see when they will have the new models in stock, and get it exchanged.

If you have the case of being trapped in such a situation sometime (having just bought a new machine, and knowing about a new release two or three weeks after your purchase) don’t hesitate to call or visit your Apple Store and talk to them so you can get your new hardware

New MacBook: Pro it is!

I finally got my new notebook, is a MacBook Pro. It’s a 13.3 inch display, 2.26 GHz Core2Duo, with 2 GB of RAM and 160 GB hard drive. It doesn’t seem too much of an upgrade from my previous notebook, but I feel it more responsive, maybe not using it in an external display makes the difference. The older one had a Nvidia video board, and this has GeForce 9400M and also WiFi is ‘n’ (which means it can go faster than 802.11g).

One of the first things I want to do is buy a larger hard drive. I absolutely know for sure that 160GB is not enough. Although I have an external 500GB MyBook hard drive, is not the same as having all of your stuff inside your notebook, and not having to carry around more gadgets, cables and power adaptors. Everybody would want to avoid that!

So I’m off to BestBuy to get a 500GB internal hard drive and make the switch. I should probably get an external case for the 160GB that I would be left with, so I can use it as an external HD. I hope they have those at BestBuy too.

New MacBook: Pro or not?

I’m looking for a new notebook, and it has to be a Mac notebook. I had a MacBook Pro for almost three years now, but I sold it to a friend in Buenos Aires before coming to Canada. I had a 2.16 Core2Duo (64bit) with 4GB of RAM and a 120GB HD, but I’m looking for the new model of the MBP. The thing is, I’m still not decided if the MacBook would be enough or if I should get the Pro.
Both are pretty much the same (if you’re considering the lower MBP, as I am) but there’s still a difference: not just in cost but in performance. One of the worst experiences I had with my old MBP was with its video board. I used it with a 30 inch Dell monitor, and although it had enough power to run trivial tasks on such big monitor (lots of pixels to drive!) when you wanted to see HD video, there were some performance problems.
I guess one of the things I like more about the MacBook is its simple look. But when you think about the difference in price and features you get with the Pro… I’m gonna give it a few more days thought and tell you about my decission.

Seis meses despues…

Es historia frecuente en (algunos) weblogs que pasan meses y no hay nuevos posts. Bueno, aqui también pasó. Aunque no hubiera querido que asi fuera, siempre surgen otros temas, lo urgente tapa lo importante, llámenlo como quieran. Espero poder volver a seguir con mis publicaciones relacionadas con .NET, sobre todo ahora que hay muchas (muchas) novedades con el nuevo Visual Studio 2005.


Despues de varios meses de escuchar hablar todo el tiempo de los podcasts, y con la cada vez mayor cantidad de publico hispano-parlante que reclama por contenidos en nuestro idioma nativo… decidí comenzar con mi primer transmisión radial digital hacia el ciber espacio!!!

Ya comenté varias veces en este weblog, es increíble la falta de contenido técnico relacionado con la tecnología y el desarrollo, que existe en América Latina (un caso aparte es España, pero ellos de alguna manera también manejan “su“ idioma particular). Asi que la idea de “El Primer PodCast Inteligente“ es tener un lugar para difundir noticias y contenidos en español que tengan que ver con la tecnología, y el desarrollo de sistemas. Tendremos entrevistas con personajes del mundillo de los developers, todas las noticias (las interesantes, las curiosas, las bizarras), y un poco de buena música.

Debo reconocer que no es fácil la tarea de pararse (o sentarse) frente a un micrófono y hablar, deshinibidamente, asi como asi… los nervios me hicieron repetir varias veces la grabación, pero al final, quedó algo aceptable, que espero poder mejorar en las próximas emisiones.

Siempre me atrajo el mundo de la radio, hace años que tengo la idea de tener un programa de radio (aquí en Buenos Aires) orientado hacia la informática, es realmente tan poco lo que existe en medios de difusión masivos (TV y Radio) por estas latitudes, que tenga que ver con este tema, que me parece un proyecto muy interesante. Asi que voy a utilizar mi podcast no sólo para difundir todo aquello que está relacionado con la tecnología (y ya saben que me apasiona) sino para ir probando y experimentando formatos radiales diversos.

Espero contar con sus comentarios, críticas, ideas, etc. …

El primer programa esta disponible aquí para bajar en formato MP3, y este es el RSS Feed del podcast.