Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Delta to allow inflight texting

Now this is an idea I can get behind.

The idea of the person next to me talking on their cell phone during a flight is repulsive.  They likely have to yell to be heard,

and the coverage is likely to be spotty and frustrating (more yelling).

But texting?  That would be awesome. No yelling. Buffering of messages should coverage be momentarily lost, and people can stay in touch.

Heck, I text more than I call now, and I'm a boomer.  X-Gen and Millennials will likely have no issue with this.

Delta announced they will offer free in flight texting!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

RIP Jerry Pournelle

The writer that may have influenced me the most, is one whose books I have never read.

Jerry Pournelle has passed away at age 84.  He authored countless sci-fi books.  He is known for writing the first book using a computer; a computer that is now in the Smithsonian.

It was his column for Byte Magazine in the 80s that caught my interest.

In his monthly Chaos Manor column, he told his tales of woe for that month getting the computers in his home to work properly.  He struggled with early networking, balky printers, buggy software and all the struggles those of us from that era knew all too well.

I recall some computer publication wag as saying Apple should send a copy of Chaos Manor to every one in the country.  It showed just how much easier those early Macs were to the PCs of the day running Windows.

I still remember Pournelle's Law : check the cables first.  Too often they are the culprit, but often the last thing we check.  My cable tester is my best used tool.

When I wrote my own tech column for the newspapers of Prince William County, I strived to be like Jerry and tell stories of my own adventures but to try and make what I learned benefit the reader.

For more information about Jerry, see his website, Wikipedia and a list of his books on Amazon.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Please help me make a list of note taking apps with phone & web and/or PC/Mac clients?


Regular readers know I use and write about Evernote and Keep. In fact, I am enchanted  with all notetaking apps. I'm constantly adding them to my phone to play with for a bit.

In my mind,there are three tiers of notetaking apps


  • Tier 1 : smart phone apps for iphone and/or Android coupled with both a web app and a client for PC and/or Mac
  • Tier 2 : smart phone apps for iphone and/or Android with a web app
  • Tier 3 : smart phone apps only 


The apps store list the Tier 3 apps. And if you explore each one, you can determine which are really tier 2 or 1 apps.

My question to you then, is do you know of  tier 1 or 2 note taking app I am not yet aware?

I know about :

  • Dropbox 
  • Paper 
  • Evernote 
  • Keep 
  • OneNote 
  • Trello 
  • Simplenote 
  • Audionote 
  • Also Zoho Notebook because apparently a web app is coming soon
Which ones am I missing?

You can comment here, or use this Google Form to tell me.

Once I have a good list, I'll review each in the coming months.

Thank you.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Do you use your cell phone for business? You need a filter between your business & personal communications.

If you use your cell phone for business calls, you will want to set up a “filter” between your phone and your business contacts i.e. clients, customers, co-workers, supervisors.

Google Voice is that filter.

 

How does Google Voice work?

You receive a unique telephone number.  When someone calls that number, it seamlessly forwards to your cell phone.  When you place a call, your Google Voice number shows up on caller ID.

Likewise, when someone sends a text to your GV number, it shows up on your phone. And when you text, it shows up as having come from your GV number.

And the best thing:  it is free.

What does Google Voice do?

As mentioned above,when someone dials your GV number, it can ring your cell phone. It can also ring your landline too, if you have one.

If your phone is lost or damaged, you can borrow someone else’s phone, or buy a cheap pay-as-you go phone and simply tell GV to forward calls to that phone until  you find or replace your phone.

Without GV, any business (or personal) calls to your lost or broken phone would go to voicemail you would have to pick up periodically from another phone. Not good customer service.

GV gives you a lot of power to control when your receive calls.  There is a Do Not Disturb function you can set from the mobile apps. When you go into a meeting, you can set the phone to send all phone calls to voicemail, and not notify you of text messages until you turn Do Not Disturb off.

You can set up GV so any calls from numbers you do not know, are answered with an announcement asking the caller’s name. GV then plays you the name, and lets you decide whether to take the call or not.

Voice mails are transcribed by Artificial Intelligence and text and/or emailed to you. While not perfect, it gives you the gist of what the message is about.

Voice mails and text messages are stored forever; giving you an audit trail of your business  communications.

Calls placed from GV in the US are free, and low cost for international calls.

Unfortunately, GV is only available for US customers.

What if a former client insists on contacting you?

You can make a custom voicemail announcement for a specific phone number. That client calling it, would get a message reminding them that someone else is working with their account, and giving out that phone number.

What if I leave the company?

You can simply have all of the calls go to an announcement advising your business contacts you have moved on.  And then you can create a new Google Voice number for your new job.

How do I get a Google Voice number?

In an Incognito Mode window of your desktop or laptop web browser go to accounts.google.com
That window may be called InPrivate, or some other name depending on your browser.

Click More Options


And then Create Account

Go through the prompts to create a Google Account. You can have as many free Google accounts as you want.  So if your personal account is JohnDoe@gmail.com, you can make the one you are using while at IBM as JohnDoeIBM@gmail.com.

It really does not matter what the name is; you are not going to use that email address.  You just need to have a Google Account to get a new Google Voice Account.

Next, go to voice.google.com



Click the blue button, and follow the prompts.



Choose Web for now.

Follow the rest of the prompts to create and setup a Google Voice number.

Finally, search the Google Play Store, or Apple App Store as appropriate, to find the Google Voice app for your phone and install it.

You can manage your Google Voice at : https://voice.google.com/messages

Some settings are still on the legacy Google voice at : https://www.google.com/voice#phones

This is not meant to be a comprehensive user's guide for Google Voice.  There is a ton of help information and articles about Google Voice online to help you be productive.

I've been using Google Voice since it was Grand Central; before Google bought them in 2009. Since about 2006, my Grand Central/Google Voice number has been the only one I have handed out.

This might sound like an ad. It isn't. I'm just a fan.



My Pixel started playing the Morning Briefing podcasts at 50% speed

Every morning I wish my phone good morning.  Well, sort of.  After my shower, as I dress, I say "OK Google, good morning."

It then wishes me a good day, tells me the time, temperature, weather forecast and information about my commute.  It then plays the BBS Minute newscast, and an NPR news summary.

A couple months ago, the BBC came up very slow speaking. I thought it was just a case of wacky Brits. Maybe there wasn't enough news copy for a minute so they were being silly.

Then NPR's came up, also slow.

This has persisted through two monthly security updates and multiple restarts of the phone.  So today I'm putting in feedback to Google Assistant, and wanted this blog post to point at with more details then they might want in a feedback.

I know it is 50% because this morning I recorded to Audiology on my PC the full two minutes of the BBC Minute playing through Google Assistant, and then again through Pocket Casts.  And yes, Pocket Casts is set to normal speed.

If their is a speed setting for Google Assistance's playback, I can't find it. Nor can I find any other reports of this online.

Here is a 10 second sample of the BBC minute running at slow speed.

If I hear back from Google, I'll post here.

Update 8/26/2017 : The problem persisted after upgrading to Android 8.0 "Oreo". That prompted me to call Google through the support option in the Pixel settings.

The agent and tried several things,but what finally worked was uninstalling the Google apps updates (you cannot uninstall the entire app).  I then updated the app; downloading and installing the updates again, and it worked. Google Now was running, but he had me go through some steps to make Google Assistant come up. I do not recall those steps exactly and cannot find them online this morning.


Terms to improve searching for this post : Android Assistant morning briefing podcast slow slugggist half speed.


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.