Wednesday, July 12, 2017

We wouldn't let our Fedex driver get away with it...

Imagine you order a critical drug from an online pharmacy.  Overnight shipping is free because it it built into the price.  And your local pharmacy can't get your specialized drug to you sooner.

The next day comes a knock on your door.  It is your Fedex driver.  He says he has your package on his truck.  "Great!", you say, "bring it in."

He then asks for $25.  "But the shipping is already paid for!" you protest using bad grammar.

"Yes," he explains, "you paid your online pharmacy and they paid Fedex, but I feel entitled to a bonus for giving it to you.  You can pay me $25 and get it tomorrow, or I'll bring it to you for no extra cost, but in five days."

Or worse, he tells you he has a private deal with a competitor of your online pharmacy and if you order from them he'll bring you the order as soon as he gets it.

That's Net Neutrality in a nutshell.

When we go to a website, we expect that website to come up on our screens as fast as the Internet and our local Internet Service Provider (think Comcast, Verizon, Frontier etc.) can bring it to us.

The website or service (Netflix, Hulu, Soundcloud, Spotify etc.) pay millions in bandwidth costs to access the internet and send it to us. That cost covers getting the content from their places of business to within a few miles of our homes.

And we pay our ISP's perhaps hundreds of dollars a month to deliver the content that last couple of miles. (higher than many other countries).  Overall, our ISPs are responsible for a minuscule portion of the trip.

But the Comcasts,Verizons, Frontiers and their ilk want the right to not only charge us for the content we want, but also charge the websites and services.

They want to be able to tell Netflix "Pay us and we'll deliver your content efficiently. Don't pay us, and we'll slow it down and your customers will experience buffering and delays that'll make your competitor, who does pay us, look better by comparison."

Even more draconian, they might not even offer a website an opportunity to pay, slowing down a website they don't like to the point of uselessness.  A website has a political view contrary to the CEO of the ISP?  Too bad, you'll never see it.  While that's unlikely, it is feasible without Net Neutrality protections.

And it's not as if we can tell a company with those bad practices "Screw you--we'll go to your competition!"  For many of us there is no competition.  Many homes in the US have only one broadband provider in their communities. Those of us with two, find they offer startlingly similar levels of service at nearly identical prices. And neither seem ready to embrace Net Neutrality as a marketing ploy; they both oppose it.

The current administration and its head of the FCC, former Verizon attorney Ajit Pai, are moving to do away with Net Neutrality protections currently in place. The changes sought by Pai have no tangible benefits for citizens and consumers, but enormous opportunities for his former employer and other ISPs (ironically some of the most hated companies by consumers in America -- you'd think we would not want to reward their bad behavior!).

How can you oppose this? How can you make your feelings known?  The FCC is taking comments up until July 17.  You can read how to best make your feelings known from this article at Mashable.

Cross posted to may Facebook account if you want to share it online.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Evernote Search

Evernote revisited a topic recently all Evernote users should periodically review :  the Evernote Search Syntax.

If you don't know about how to search Evernote using their powerful grammar, take a few minutes to read the post and play a bit with what you have learned.

It will increase the value you get from Evernote.  I'm a big advocate of putting almost everything in Evernote, but the value of the tool is getting back the notes you need.  The tips in their blog post will help you do that.

The full search grammar for Evernote is documented in their Developers pages.

I remember how thrilled I was to discover the predecessor to that page.  I wrote about it starting back in 2009.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Scripting Evernote in Windows (an updated look)

Below is a re-post of an entry from August 1, 2009.  My first ever re-post, but in my defense, still relevant.

And I've updated it slightly.

I am working on another project using Autoit and Evernote's Windows scripting engine, ENSCRIPT so have been looking at this script again, and fixing some broken links.

So, onto the old post ...



Evernote is one of those applications with a lot more power then is immediately evident. For example, Podcast #9 (June 2017 note - no longer available) debuted yesterday, and they talk about Saved Searches. As part of that, they talk about their rich search vocabulary and how they have hidden that ability in the API documentation.

Another wonderful ability not obvious until you search around on their website, is Evernote's scripting capabilities. They have one for Windows they built called ENScript (June 2017 note: link updated) , and another for the Macintosh (June 2017 note: link updated). Of course, they have their full fledged API (Link added June 2017) as well, but for a hobbyist programmer like myself, the scripting was intriguing.

Why I use Autoit 3 for many of my projects

My next post appearing in a couple of minutes is a programming project I first did in 2009 about using Excel to create notes in Evernote.

I wrote the tool in a scripting language called AutoIt.  Autoit is not generally thought of as a tool for developing applications.  I started to explain in the post why I chose Autoit, but the explanation was getting lengthy, so I decided to have just a brief statement in that post, and then link to a longer explanation.

This post is that longer explanation, and also a recommendation of Autoit for certain users and tasks.

Let's take a look at what is Autoit and why I chose it.

Look for a future, far more ambitious project being done in Autoit coming in several weeks (to a couple months--you know programming projects!)


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Getting your note count in Google Keep

I've always wondered how many Notes I have in Google Keep.  Since I use it mostly on my phone, I missed this trick pointed out by Colin Bowen in a post on the Google Keep Community at Google+.

Colin wrote :
On Windows, select one note (click top-left of the note) and on keyboard use Ctrl-a (select all). With all selected there's a note count top-left of the screen. I since realized this does not include Archived, bit you can to the same with archived notes too.

 And he's right about Archives. You can find out the number of current Notes and Archived Notes.

I was pleased to find out I have fewer than I thought.

I've been a little leery about going all in on Keep, fearful I'd get so many notes the system would bog down.  Now I know how to keep a handle on my notes.

I'll have some projects built around Keep, and other tools in the works.  For sure, I'll share them here.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Automagic: Flashlight-A global variable project

With my new phone, I've been automating some repetitive things I need it to do.  Future blog posts will talk about settings I've made for different times of the day.  And a post I've already done talks about using Automagic to get around an Android Auto bug (feature?).

My Google Pixel running Nougat has a nice flashlight feature. It can be turned on my pulling down the setting menu and touching a small icon. That's not always convenient.

I was surprised there was no widget.

I discovered one of the Actions in Automagic was turning on and off the flashlight.

But how to do that without having two of Automagic's widgets, one for on, and another for off?

Then I discovered one of Automagic's Triggers can be a change in a Global Variable. When ever the value of a Global Variable changes, a flow is begun.  And depending on the value of the variable, the path of the flow can be altered.

So I created the flow shown here. A Global Variable named global_flashlight, a binary variable, is the trigger to two other Actions: Flashlight On, and Flashlight Off.

On the main screen of my phone is an Automagic Toggle Widget. When pressed it toggles the value of global_flashlight, thus triggering the flow and turning the light on or off.

Global Variables can be found in the menu on the main screen under Manage.

Download Flow

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A blog returns to its roots...my adventures in tech - starting with my new cell phone

When I began this blog back in 2008, it was a log of my adventures in tech.  The idea was not so much that others would  be interested in every one of the entries, but instead, if I solved a problem that solution might be discovered by someone else searching for a solution to the same problem.

And then I let it lapse into mostly posts pointing to my most recent column.  Recently, I withdrew the column from InsideNova.  There may be a future column for another outlet; details as they develop.

My latest post was more in the old vein. I had a problem with Android Auto, investigated it and found others had reported it.  I also came up with a work around.

I just bought my next smartphone; my fourth.  It made me think about the path to here.  I just re-read some of my posts about my first smart phone.  It was a Samsung Instinct back in 2008.

I replaced it with a Samsung S3 in 2012, my first Android phone, and then a LG G3 in 2014.  I kept the G3 longer than any phone; almost 30 months.  That is longer than most people it seems, but is in keeping with a trend of people keeping their phones longer, as Business Insider explained recently.

The LG G3 served me well. As a geek though, and a columnist, I want the latest version of Android to play with. My wife's iPhone and Watch keep me up to speed on that end of the equation.

Sprint, my provider, turned out to be the only carrier to not upgrade the G3 to Marshmallow.  What's worse, is they lied to me about their intentions to do so.

So it was with bated breath to see what Google would bring out to replace their aging Nexus phones. Phone's from Google do not rely on the manufacturer to modify the latest Android for the phone, and then the carrier to further test and modify it and push it out.

That can take a long time, if it happens at all.  If one were cynical, you'd think carriers do not want phones over a year old to have the latest version. It might keep people holding on to their phones a bit longer and not buying an upgrade.

The Google Pixel phones seemed awesome but expensive. I soldiered on with my G3.  I had a small fleet of batteries and two chargers that would charge the battery out of the phone. That was the phone's downfall.  I swapped batteries almost daily. Finally, one battery contact started to go bad.  At the end I could get a battery to make contact if I fiddled long enough. I knew I had to leave that battery in place. The phone also shutdown at random due to that bad contact. And the Bluetooth went out, something others had seen in aging G3s.

I was waiting for the Pixel XL 128 gigabyte to be available, but the LG was dying fast, so I pulled the trigger on a Pixel XL with 32 gigabytes. I'm not sorry. The 128 is still not available.  And I have 100 apps on the phone (that I actually use) and have only about half filled the phone.

What do people do with 128 gigabytes?  I don't listen to a lot of music. And my photos and videos upload to Google Photo, so other than apps and my current podcasts there is little else on my phone.  That's how I work; others might need more space.

The Pixels have a built in battery.  The phone came with two type-C USB cables and I immediately bought two more. I have the rapid charger in my home office, a cable hooked to a standard Android charger next to the bed, another in my car and the final one at my desk at work.

Turns out I didn't really need those two extra cables.  The battery is awesome!  I commute 45 minutes each way with Android Auto on, Google Maps navigating and podcasts playing. At work, I don't use the phone that much, but  on the way home I'm also calling and texting by dictating via Google Assistant. By the time I go to bed, I still have several hours left on the battery.  And I use the phone a lot for surfing.

My battery status right now.

And the rapid charger can charge the phone in 15 minutes for seven hours of use.

And the beauty of this phone most of all -- I'll get the next Android version--probably the next several.

I can't wait for Google IO in May now more than ever.