Running a company with (almost) no rules

Ricardo Semler, of the massive Brazilian company Semco, gave a TED Talk last October about what it’s like to run a company with radical openness, and nearly non-existant rules and structure.

Much of this is not that far from what we do at Automattic, and is definitely an interesting watch:

Six days with the new retina MacBook

In 2013, as I was lugging my 15″ MacBook Pro around WordCamp Providence, I noticed that WordPress celebrities Andy Nacin and John James Jacoby were sporting new, tiny 11″ MacBook Airs.  Intrigued, I asked them about it, and the both raved about the diminutive laptops.

Always up for a new gadget, I ordered one as soon as I got home, and fell in love. My MacBook Pro never left my desk again.

Using an 11″ MacBook Air as my primary machine for the last year and a half, I’ve had plenty of incredulous feedback.  “That’s your computer?”, “You do work on that?”, etc.

Yep, it is.  And, while I enjoy my 3-monitor setup at my desk and it’s expansive space, I can do anything on my Lilliputian laptop that I can at my desk.  Photoshop, Illustrator, Aperture, and PHPStorm all worked just fine.  As fast as on an iMac or MacBook Pro?  Obviously not.  But the trade-off of having a computer the size of a small notepad and barely heavier than my first cell phone was totally worth it to me.

So, as you can imagine, I was really excited about the new MacBook.  In a smaller footprint than the 11″ Air, I could get a thinner laptop with a bigger, retina screen, which is pretty exciting.  I ordered one as soon as they were available, and it arrived this past Tuesday.

This thing is fan-friggin-tastic.

The screen is absolutely the killer feature of this laptop.  On a 12″ display, I have the equivalent of a 1440×900 screen.  This means that I have the same amount of screen real estate on this minuscule computer as I had on my 15″ MacBook Pro (which was twice as expensive and weighed three times as much) just over two years ago.

The only downside of this computer? The Keyboard.
I understand that things needed to change in order to get it into this form factor, but the new keyboard feels mushy, and contrary to Apple’s advertising, keypresses are occasionally missed. My accuracy and speed has improved, and, I assume that it will continue to do so, but I definitely prefer the key action on my air. On the flip side, the new key lighting is fantastic.

Have any questions? Got a new MacBook already? If so, what do you think of it?

Getting a Prepaid Data SIM in India (with Vodaphone)

Last year, Jon Brown turned me on to getting local data SIM cards while traveling internationally.  We’re in Mumbai now, on our first international adventure of the year, so I dug in to figure out how to get a data SIM in India.

Receiving some mixed information from both people and the internets, we set out this morning to get Indian data SIMs for my Samsung Note 4 and Becky’s iPhone 6 (both from Verizon).

We asked about the requirements at 4 different shops, and they were all the same.  You need:

  1. A photocopy of the photo page of your passport
  2. A photocopy of the visa page of your passport
  3. A passport-sized photo (we saw a number of places that will take these for you– we got ours done for 50 — about $0.80 — and received 8 passport photos)
  4. The address for your hotel

Not super fast, but it’ll work!

We elected to go with Vodaphone because they reportedly have the best data speeds, they have a store just down the block from our hotel, and we’re not going to be leaving Mumbai.  If we were going to be touring in the countryside, we would probably get Airtel.  There is currently no 4G LTE cellular in Mumbai (as of March 2015), but Airtel seems to be putting 4G into more and more Indian cities, so hopefully it will be here before too long…

Once you get set up with an account in the store, expect the process to take about 3-4 hours before your phone is ready to use.

You’ll need to:

  1. Complete the paperwork in store (takes 10-15 minutes)
  2. Put the SIM card in your phone
  3. Wait until you start showing bars of service– this took 30-45 minutes.  During this time you can set your APN to either “www” or “internet” — both seem to work
  4. Once you’re seeing bars of service, call “117”, press “2” for English.  Note that, after pressing “2”, you may hear a message in Hindi, but you WILL be connected to an English-speaking operator
  5. Wait.  You’ll receive a couple of text messages immediately, then you’ll receive a couple after a while– the final one will say “Your Internet pack is valid now”.  Ours arrived two hours after the first text message came through.
  6. Restart your phone

We paid about ₹1400 for 5gb of data.  Had I realized the speeds and that it’s not able to be used as a mobile hotspot, we probably would have opted for less data– there’s no way we’ll use this much in a week.  But still, we now have essentially unlimited data for less than Verizon charges for 100mb.

Are you traveling to India?  I hope this is helpful!  If your experience varies from mine, please drop a comment below.  You can also find a wealth of useful information on plans and prices here.

Adding Sonos to an antique console record player

A few months ago, Becky had the brilliant idea of getting an old tube-amp console record player. I protested, arguing that we don’t have any vinyl and probably wouldn’t use it, since we have Sonos speakers all over our house, but she doth persist, and she was so right.

After looking around, we found this beauty in an antique store for the whopping sum of $275…



Not only did it look awesome, but it sounds amazing, and it has an RCA input for a tape player.  Perfect!

So, not wanting a bunch of wires and boxes, I took it apart:

So I just traced the RCA cord from the back of the unit to where it connects inside (why connect a wire to the back when you can hide it all), unplugged it and plugged in my own RCA cable, and placed a Sonos Connect inside the cabinet, ran the power cord alongside the system power, and Bob’s your uncle!



It sounds beautiful, it plays in sync with our other Sonos speakers (we’re up to 8 now), and adds a soul to our living room, especially when we’re streaming Bluesville on SiriusXM to it.

Old is new again!

What’s In My Bag?

I’ve always really enjoyed looking at what others carry around with them day in and day out, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying different things and distilling what works best for me.  Hopefully this is helpful!

After picking up my camera, I switched my bag over to a Lowepro Fastpack 250, which is a great everyday bag because it will carry my camera gear plus my travel/tech gear. For a while now I’ve spent at least 150 days on the road every year, which means I really prize the ability to have everything that I need ready to go without having to think about it.

After struggling with solutions like Gridit for a while, I stumbled upon the Amazon Universal Travel Case, which is amazing. This box has everything I need to support my devices anywhere in the world.

Without any further ado, here’s what I carry around every day:


Items 1-14 all go in my Amazon case (#15), 16-18 go in my pockets, everything else goes straight in the bag.

  1. Mini DisplayPort => VGA Adapter
  2. Lightning => HDMI Adapter
  3. Mini DisplayPort => HDMI Adapter
  4. Native Union JUMP Cable with Micro USB Connector
  5. Travel surge protector
  6. Targus Presentation Remote
  7. Kikkerland UL03-A Universal Travel Adapter
  8. Spare Euro plug adapter
  9. Square Reader
  10. AA Batteries
  11. Mini USB Cable
  12. Micro USB Cables
  13. 45W Apple Power Adapter with PlugBug
  14. HDMI Cable
  15. Amazon Universal Travel Case
  16. Car key
  17. Kershaw Cryo
  18. “Dance Floor” micro flap wallet from OneStarLeatherGoods. It looks like he doesn’t make this model any more, but all of his stuff is quality.
  19. ExOfficio Boxers, because nobody has ever said “I’m so glad I don’t have a spare pair of underwear with me”
  20. AAA Batteries
  21. CR123A Batteries
  22. Some $5 bills. I try to keep 10 fivers in my pack all the time, because they’re always useful for tipping while traveling.
  23. Streamlight Tactical Flashlight – SO BRIGHT, although I’m thinking about switching to a flashlight with both red and white bulbs like this guy
  24. Maui Jim sunglasses
  25. Business cards from Moo
  26. Jetpack Battery Pack – This is the best battery pack I’ve ever used.
  27. Shout Wipes, because I like love to spill on myself
  28. Pens
  29. 11″ MacBook Air – So tiny and light, so powerful
  30. Bose QC20i Headphones – Good sound, great noise canceling, but my ears get sore after having these in for more than 3-4 hours at a time, so on longer trips I also carry
  31. Bose QC15 Headphones (now discontinued)
  32. 3.5mm Audio Cable – for tunes in rental cars
  33. Fujifilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Lens
  34. Fujinon XF 35mm F1.4 Prime Lens
  35. Wide Angle and Macro lens adapter – Recommended to me by Jeff Golenski, it’s a fun and useful lens adapter for under $30
  36. Lens cloth
  37. Fuji Flash
  38. Focus Rapid Shoulder Sling
  39. Extra camera batteries
  40. Camera battery charger
  41. Camera Remote Control

Also, I forgot to take this out of its special pocket, but I also carry a pill box with Advil, Tylenol, Zantac, Immodium, and Pepto Bismol. Because sometimes life hurts. Also, whenever I travel, I also throw my Kindle Paperwhite in there, but it’s sitting on my nightstand right now.

Is there something I’m missing? A better version of something I’m carrying? Chime in!

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