Local setup Hardware best practices

I haven’t seen a community document on this topic. Here’s a start if these things aren’t obvious.

A Everdo instance running in server mode on a machine (Linux, Windows) that communicates and syncs with many other Everdo client mode instances on different devices (Linux, Windows but also Android, iOS). The clients sync their data with the server. A change on client A is synched with the server, then the server syncs with client B.

Required features for my needs:

  1. Large screen: A large screen Everdo with full physical keyboard for Clarify, Organize, Reflect, Engage (heavy processing and keyboard entry)
  2. Portability: At least 1 portable Everdo for mobile use (Capture(voice task entry mostly) and Engage (looking at task lists, marking tasks done, very little processing)
  3. Real time backup: Backup ASAP to at least 1 other Everdo instance whenever a task change is made.
  4. Distributed backup: Backup such that if multiple Everdo devices are lost or destroyed syncing still continues
  5. Offsite backup: An easy offsite data backup option
  6. Backup synergy: Having the same setup enable other non-Everdo solutions
  7. Quiet workspace: Quiet operation of devices around people.
  8. Voice dictation
  9. (Optional) Low power usage
  10. (Optional) Low cost

Features not needed

  1. Cloud sync (ESS)

My solution:

  1. Large screen
    Old Macbook Pro as an Everdo client on Linux for heavy processing and keyboard entry due to large screen. It’s board is dying so sometimes crashes, uses a lot of power, gets hot and fans run continually. As time permits I try Linux flavors to try to drop the CPU usage. But, as such, it’s not appropriate to be used as a server as it’ll crash, use lots of power, burnout sooner and be noisy to work around.

  2. Portability
    Several Android phones.
    a) Everyday phone. The thing you I do all my phone things on. What most people spend a fair bit on. I usually carry it with me everywhere including outside my home network. Does the bulk of Capturing as it’s what I have at hand and it supports Google typing which allows a 4 step process to dictate a task into Everdo.
    b) Cheap phones. These allow portable Everdo use if the main phone is tied up with a call, video game or other app. Can be gotten for the price of a cup of coffee and still run Everdo perfectly well. My favorite is the LG Journey.

  3. Real time backup
    Getting your changes backup ASAP helps keep the mind at ease that your system is a “trusted system” talked about in GTD. It’s also key in case something happens and for voice dictation in section 8 belowe.

A wireless network with my own router. Everdo requires that the Everdo server have a fixed IP address, so this generally means you need to have a lot of control over your networking. Your own wifi network allows the phones to connect and you can do whatever network setup you want without worries about configurations getting messed up by others.

Real time backup requires devices connected to an always on wifi and a server that’s always on. Wifi routers are cheap and reliable these days. I have been using an old Lenovo laptop with Linux as a server. It doesn’t work well as it draws a lot of power, gets hot and is noisy. I have to turn it off most of the time. I found a Nexus 7 tablet for the price of 2 cups of coffee and am looking to install Linux and turn it into a server. This is a workaround to this question.

Because the Nexus is a mobile device, it’ll be quiet, use low power and be comfortable being always on.

  1. Distributed backup
    In case a number of devices are destroyed through fire, theft, loss, flood etc. I want the latest changes preserved on at least 1 device. By having a server, client laptop and a number of client phones it gets hard to destroy them all. The server is the weak point since its destruction means the devices no longer keep each other up to date. But they should be up to date until the server destruction, so it’s decent distribution.

  2. Offsite backup
    Basic security theory requires a backup in an environment that’s distinct from your everyday environment. Having a backup in another room isn’t good because your house can burn down. Having a backup on the same network in another country isn’t good because the common network allows for common malware threats. My cheap solution is to have 2 of the cheap LG phones swap in and out of a safe on a regular basis. The safe is a significantly different environment than the working environment, and the device is turned off in the safe protecting it from malware attack. If everything goes wrong, the most you lose is a week’s worth of work.

I previously used an Everdo competitor that came with cloud sync. When the company’s servers messed up, my local devices were rendered useless. It’s an example of physically well done backup, but common environment allowing complete failure.

  1. Backup synergy
    Everdo data is just data. It comes wrapped in software that already does backup . Other non-Everdo data like files, photos etc. has roughly the same backup requirements. I use the free, open source Syncthing to synchronize the other data to the same devices that run Everdo. Syncthing is actually peer to peer rather than server based, so it really sure that your data is current across all devices. The same backup features: real time, distributed, offsite synergize so I don’t do a whole lot more to get all that stuff backed up. Swapping in and out of the safe is concurrent with Everdo swapping.

  2. Quiet workspace
    Generally the more power usage, the more fans needed and the noisier. Old machines on Linux can make for an unpleasant work environment unless you can sequester them in another room. i do my best to use modern fanless machines when working directly where possible. Working on a Nexus 7 tablet getting Linux and becoming the server. Working on getting the Macbook to run quietly as it’s my main Processing machine.

  3. Voice dictation
    As of this posting Android voice Capture in Everdo is on the roadmap, but not released. Being able to dictate voice tasks whether at a desk or mobile is crucial as it greatly reduces the friction of GTD’s “getting it out of your head”. At least Android 10 and 11 with LG and Samsung skins allow Google Voice Typing. This is an offline feature (no internet connectivity needed). It works quite well (at least for my accent). You natively can dictate tasks in Android. But, because the syncing of Everdo is so fast, you can dictate a task on an Android device and within 1 second it shows up on your desktop device even when the path is client Everdo (phone) → server Everdo → desktop Everdo. When at the desktop, I keep the phone on a stand constantly open with a new task pulled up ready for voice text entry. It’s less friction than typing when you have a task described by more than a few words, and definitely less friction when you’re have lots of information for the Notes section.

  4. Low power usage
    If you run off of battery power, using modern portable devices is preferable. Phones and tablets use so much less power than old laptops which use much less power than old servers. One can make a cheap RaspberryPi server, but installing Linux on an old tablet or phone can be cheaper and less work. I use Android phones a lot and am working on a Nexus 7 tablet as a server to replace a Lenovo X61 laptop.

  5. Low cost
    Throwing money at this can help, but it’s really not very complicated, Everdo doesn’t use many resources that shiny new things are needed. Buying cheap phones and tablets with 1 good laptop and your existing good phone is enough.

n.b. Everdo is one of the best GTD apps for reducing friction: good layout, workflow, keyboard shortcuts etc. One of the best keyboards I’ve found for this is the ThinkPad layout with TrackPoint originally designed by IBM. This is why I have the IBM/Lenovo X61 laptop in the mix. The Trackpoint allows pointer movement and scrolling without ever taking your hands off the keyboard home keys or needing to look away from what you’re doing.

In the recent past, Lenovo has released a wireless version of this keyboard. Not only do you get the efficiency of Capture and Processing with the TrackPoint, but the keyboard can be at an ergonomic height while the monitor/laptop can be raised to eye height. Wrecking your posture, neck and shoulders while working on GTD probably isn’t intended by David Allen :wink:

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