Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Evernote reaches two million

This is a big deal.  Evernote has reached two million users.

Congratulations.  My only question is, why isn't everyone using it?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Three New Family Tech Columns Online

Today's Family Tech column is about organizing your technology for a better New Year.

And my two pre-Christmas columns, published in the paper, are now also on-line.  Technology Gifts, and Gifts that can be delivered on-line (good year around when you almost forget someone's birthday).

Links mentioned in columns are available here.

Friday, December 25, 2009

If you received a computer for Christmas...

If you received a new computer for Christmas, here are a few tips on setting it up to be productive from a recent blog post.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

iPhone users get Christmas Present from Evernote

A new version of the iPhone Evernote client was released yesterday.  The new version sports off line caching for all users, and offline notebooks for Premium Users and a host of other features.    Just a bit ago, Evernote released their Android client.

Too bad I have neither, but joy to those of you that have one or the other.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Why isn't there a high tech solution to shoveling driveways?

I grew up east of Lake Erie, in a town that received awesome amounts of lake effect snow.  Awesome at least to a six year old when you struggle through chest high snow.

The one place you could walk safely on recently snowed upon side walks was in front of one storefront down town.  Its sidewalks were at most wet, never icy, and never with snow.  And no one ever shoveled them.

The storefront was the corporate headquarters for a small local Natural Gas company.  When you can pass your energy costs to your customers, you can afford to have hot water pipes right below your sidewalk.  The warm sidewalks melted snow on contact.

So many years later, I'm living in an area forecasted to received as much as 24 inches of snow tomorrow.  Today I was in Lowe's and people were snagging up shovels, salt and snow blowers.

Why do we have the same snow removal solutions in my son's teen years we had in mine?  Think about it.  He has access to communications (i.e smart phones), research, fun, socializing (i.e. the internet) we didn't even dream of during the 70's.

So why isn't there a high tech way to remove snow, or better yet, as the gas company did, avoid its accumulation?

If Silicon Valley was in the Hudson Valley instead of where it is, we would.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Merry Christmas Android Users - from Evernote

Evernote has released their client for Android phones.  TechCrunch in a post today first had the news.  It is available for download now.

I so want an Android phone.  And Evernote's blog now has word of it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Preparing a Computer to Give as a Gift

Getting a new computer for Christmas or anytime, gift or not, is like buying a car with some assembly required.

You really can't just fire it up, and take off.  There are a host of irritating little jobs you need to do before that new computer is truly useful

About once a year it seems, someone here gets a new computer.  Since there are three of us, that's about right.  Rotating your computer every three to four years isn't extravagant, especially for the two here who carry laptops out into the world--that's rough on a machine.

My son and wife truly want the power up and go experience from a new computer, so I've gotten rather used to prepping a new computer.  If you are giving a new computer as a gift, perhaps my little workflow can help you.

Note : This is going to assume a Windows 7 laptop with wi-fi as an example PC.

Take Notes

Before you even take it out of the box, open up either a paper notebook, or if you have another computer close by, open up a Notepad or whatever your note taking software is.  For me, I start of page in Evernote to capture info.

I log the Brand name , model number, serial number etc.  If a Dell, I get the Service Tag number and the Express Service Code number.  I copy over the specs i.e. processor, memory, hard drive size, how much hard drive is free after I first power it up, the URL to the support pages etc.  I download any manuals in PDF available on their makers support pages.  Scan in any receipts and maintenance agreements.

As you go through each step below, log what you do.  Log any oddities or error messages you see, and the steps you take as a result of them.

Open a Physical File

Hopefully you have some sort of physical storage, be it files in a file drawer or project boxes stacked on shelves.  Whatever you have, start one for this new computer.  This is where you'll keep the CD's and DVD's that come with it, the owners manuals, and the other misc. things that come with a new computer that you may desperately need later.

Initial Power Up

You may have to run through some setup routines for a new Windows or Activation routines.  Do it.

Check Internet Connectivity and login to your home network.

Security Software

Safety first.  I go to Microsoft Security Essentials and install it.  Even if the computer came with security software, it is often limited time only, and then wants to charge you a subscription.  Security Essentials, or AVG or Avast are free and good enough.

Windows Update

Run Windows Update and make your computer up to date.  This adds any upgrades that came out between the time your computer was built and when you got it.  That time period can be months long.


Manufacturers sell space on "your" new computer to anyone who coughs up some dough.  The comupters often come with limited time offers of software.  Most of which, you can get free programs that do the smae thing often better or at least good enough as the limited time software.

Dell's have so much crap on them, that a guy has actually made quite a name for himself building routines that de-crapify Dells/  Visit to download the latest version if you are prepping a Dell.

If you are prepping something other then a Dell, you can either go to the Control Panel, Programs section and delete unwanted programs, or you can just make them hard to find.

Since hard drives are so big these days, deleting applications is less important.  I tend now to create a folder on the Desktop called "Favorite Programs" and in that folder another called "Former Desktop"  and move any shortcuts that are on the Desktop into that folder.

I long ago abandoned using the Start menu on my PC's.  Instead I create the "Favorite Programs" folder I mentioned above.  In it are folders like "Office", "Video", "Audio", "Utilities" etc.  Then as I install new applications, I move the startup shortcut they usually put on my desktop to the appropriate folder.  Thus, I have all my Video applications grouped together and so forth.

The Start menu acts as my master list of all applications.  I got frustrated with the Start Menu due to the inconsistent naming software companies used.  Six months after installing, I had no memory of what a program did if it was listed by the makers name.  Now, I can group like software together.

I often have a folder within "Favorite Programs" called "Information".  In it are shortcuts to often used spreadsheets and so on.

Install Software

It's really easy to install useful free programs for Windows 7 or XP.  Just go to and you can check off the apps you want.  It downloads an installer to you and when you run it, it installs all the software for you in one shot.

Microsoft free apps that may not come on already installed can be found at :

I usually add Chrome and Firefox to supplement Internet Explorer 8.  If I were doing it today, I'd make it Chrome's Dev version since it is fairly stable and supports extensions.

I prefer Chrome these days.  It is fast and light on memory use.  Before, I preferred Firefox.  I still have some useful extensions in Firefox I occasionally need, so I keep Firefox around when I am doing something that needs those extensions.  For me, it is JavaScript programming.  Firebug makes that easier, and so far, that extension is only available on Firefox.  Sadly, I see the day coming when I won't need Firefox any more then I need Internet Explorer (which is very rarely).  I tend to avoid IE as much as I can.  Many exploits are written for it, so I can avoid a lot of trouble by avoiding IE altogether.  Sadly, I still use it one time a week to visit a particular bank website that seems only to work with IE.  #fail.

I put Xmarks to each of the browsers.  This synchronizes bookmarks in all three of these browsers.  I have to install extensions from Xmarks in all three browsers.

I usually add Skype for Voice over IP use.  And Gizmo to work with Google Voice.  Audacity for basic audio editing, Paint for photo editing, Picasa for photo organization.  Fox it Reader to read PDF files.  It tends to be faster than Adobe Reader (also free).  And I add CutePDF which installs as a printer driver and lets you create PDF files from any appliation that prints.

Everyone gets Dropbox and Evernote in my family.  I have written about them both many times before.   Dropbox lets you sync files between your computers, share selected files with users, and backup your key files.  I wrote about needing it here.

Evernote captures all the information you want.  Notes, bookmarks, clips from web pages, scans of bills and othe rdocuments, photos, photos of school white boards.  And it is all searchable.  You can even search on words found in a photo.  It has a million (almost anyway) uses.  (Family Tech article on Evernote)

If you do install Evernote, my post "Your First Day with Evernote" is very useful.  For a new computer, I am sure to install the web clippers for the three browsers and setup the "Print/Copy" to Evernote folders I mention in that post.

Update 12-25-2009:  If you don't own Microsoft Office or want to spend the money for it, you can do almost everything Office does with the free OpenOffice.  You can install it from Ninite above, or from OpenOffice's website.

Windows 7 comes with a DVD builder, but I usually add ImgBurn to give the user some extra capabilities to make CD's and DVD's.

When I was done doing all that installing, I copied the Shortcuts off the desktop into the appropriate folder inside of the "Favorite Programs" folder.  That leaves just the Recycle and Favorite Programs shortcusts on the desktop.

Finally, I copy shortcuts fround in the Start Menu, Programs to the appropriate folders inside "Favorite Programs" so that all like programs are grouped together.

Make Recovery CD's

If you system does not come with Recovery CD's it probably has that as an option somewhere in the Start Menu.  Be sure to do it now.  When you need them, you'll need them desperately.


I tend to leave this up to the computers owner.  On my system, I added gadgets for time, weather calendasr and CPU usage.  Right click the desktop, and choose Gadgets to get started.

You can also add Themes or make your own.  Themes are background images that cycle through and different sound schemes.

I'll also add useful bookmarks to one browser, like lists of Google services, Dropbox and Evernote web versions, support pages, etc.  Xmarks synchronizes them so adding them to one browser adds them to the other two.

Lifehacker has a great summary of Windows 7 tips and tricks useful to all users. . I bookmark that too.

Plan and Execute a Backup Procedure

Encourage the user to have both an external drive for local backup, and to subscribe to Carbonite, Mozy or to buy more space on their Dropbox account.  I talked about the need for backup in a Family Tech column.

File Everything

Take those notes you made and dump them into your Evernote for your own records, and to the computer owners Evernote for their future reference.  Put all CD's, DVD's, manuals etc. into the file folder and file it away (or send it with the computer).

Now, that new computer is ready to go.

Why Geeks are Sex Symbols

An oldie but a goodie. Why Geeks are sex symbols (or should be). 

From 1995 and the ever great Scott Adams, cartoonist of Dilbert.

Avery Design Pro

Avery, the people who make all sorts of labels you can print with your PC, have a a great free PC program.  Avery DesignPro lets you design and print to all sorts of Avery media.  Business cards, CD labels, shipping labels, name tags and more.

It can be downloaded for free.  It can be used even with non-Avery labels, if they show their equivalent Avery number and most do.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Evernote, Chrome and Add-ons

Yesterday, Google announced extensions for their Chrome web browser.  I've been using Chrome as my primary browser for the last several months.  It is fast and much better on memory management then Firefox.

There are a few Firefox extensions I missed.  Xmarks for coordinating bookmarks was a big one.   About the only time I think I'd need to go to Firefox now was if I was dong some Ajax/Javascript development. Firebug is pretty handy.

Ironically, I stopped my only real javascript app.  It was my own tool to store the snippets of information I needed.  Evernote did what it did and a thousand times more, so I was glad to stop having to re-invent that wheel.

In Chrome, I could use an bookmarklet for grabbing content to Evernote.  However with the release of add-ons for Chrome, there is now a legitimate Evernote Web Clipper.  Evernote's blog today details it.

Right now, Chrome extensions only work with the developers version.  You can get it here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Evernote Beta for Nokia N97

Not sure how I missed this, but there is now an Evernote Beta out for the Nokia N97.  It was first introduced on their forums on November 30.

It gave me a good reason to update my "Common Evernote Questions" post.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Yet another reason I want an Android Phone

I think Google will be to phones, as Microsoft was to PC's.

That will be a good thing if they can avoid the feeling they need to control everything.  And so far, I think they are doing a credible balancing act.

Effective Home Video Techniques

This week's Family Tech column is about home video.  In my small way, I hope to make the multitude of Christmas Videos about to be made, and videos of Christmas plays a bit more watchable.

Friday, December 4, 2009

As TV, Newspapers and Magazines Converge

How different will newspapers, televisions news, and news magazines be from one another in 10 years?

That might sound ludicrious to ask.  But think about it.  What's the one thing each of those news outlets have now?

Web sites.

The television web sites of course have written stores, just like the newspaper web sites do.

And the newspaper web sites increasingly have videos

I got to thinking about this from Time Magazine's demo of their new technology for bringing magazines into the 21st Century.  Take three minutes and watch it.

Wouldn't a newspaper be able to package its own news in a similar fashion? And TV stations too?

TV sets are rapidly becoming computer like. I suspect in the near future, we'll have touch pad remote controls that let us control our TV's just as we do our computers. Instead of moving a mouse to move a pointer around as we do on computers now, or touching the screen as we do on our smart phones, we'll move the pointer on the TV around by stroking a remote just as we do our phones. Actually, instead of a separate remote, your phone will run a remote control app that will talk to the TV via wi-fi. Such apps exist now that mimic a TV remote as it works today.

So then content on TV will look just like Web 3.0 newspaper or news magazine sites.

So will we bother drawing a distinction between newspapers, magazines and TV stations? Will the New York Times, Time Magazine and CNN all be pretty much equal in our view?

Will the loss of Time Magazines news distance be lost?

With the upcoming generation consuming their news on screens be it phone, computer or TV screens, how will the print media adapt? How will the current electronic media handle the new competition?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What to do if your Evernote quota is gone?

I did something stupid earlier this week.  I imported a bunch of big image files into Evernote.  I intended to put them into their own local, non-sync'd notebook.  I failed to designate the notebook as local when I created it.

In one act, my Evernote quota nearly maxed out with a week to go before rolling over.  I had maybe 200K left.

My first advice to anyone in the same predicament, is go Premium.  In fact, you can invoke Premium for $5 a month, and then cancel it after the first month.  Phil Libin, the Evernote CEO said as much in one of their podcasts.  Premium would have given me 500 megabytes a month right then and there, instead of the 40 megabytes a month the free account does.

I didn't for a variety of reasons.  The thought occurred to me the week would be a good opportunity to find strategies and blog about them.  Use them only if you can't go Premium.  Premium is a great value, and Evernote richly deserves their only income from users.

First off, I made a new local notebook and called it "Inbox - Local".  I changed my Import Folder settings so that my "watched" folder imported into that un-sync'd notebook.  You can see how I use a watched folder on my PC for scanning and printing to Evernote in my "First Day with Evernote" post, specifically the "Copy or Print to Evernote" section.

I use the bookmarklet in my browsers to capture bookmarks of web pages and full copies of web pages.  I do not think that talks directly to my local client, but instead sends it to Evernote and then it ends up in my local client in the next sync.

So instead of using the clipper, I manually entered the web page I wanted to remember.  It wasn't as gruesome as it sounds. I would go to the address bar of the browser, By default, all of the URL was selected.  I would control-C to copy then tab to my Evernote client.  Making sure I was in the "Inbox-Local" notebook, I would click on New note.  In my Windows 3.5 beta, the Title field was selected.  I would enter a title and tab to tags and enter in one or two and then tab to URL and control-V to paste.

That was generally it.  I could type a description if I wanted.  I was astonished to find it was faster to enter in the new  bookmark that way then to invoke the clipper.

My paltry remaining 200K of space will still enough for 100 notes according to Evernote, so my favored technique of texting reminders to Evernote still worked (that too is described in the First Day post).

Well, I made it.  This morning my Evernote month rolled over and I had 40 megabytes of new space.  I changed my Import settings back to my standard folder.  I copied the contents of "Inbox - Local" to the appropriate Notebooks.  It didn't take that much of my quota for this month.  I should be okay if I do not do something stupid again.

And as soon as I'm working again and not having to watch the cents, I'm going Premium.  You should too.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Great Danes and small children do mix. Both the 13 month old boy, and the seven year old Dane seemed to enjoy one another. Even when the boy crawled through the legs of Sol from one side to the other.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Uh oh!

Only 3 days to go though.  Can I muddle through without going Premium right now?

I am addicted to Evernote.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Delicious or Evernote?

Update same day as publish (11-20-2009 6:51 PM EST) : The Delicious import was forever on the Web Client's Settings page.  I see now Evernote has redone that page, and now has a separate Import page.  However that page only lists import from Google Notes.  It does not have Delicious anymore.  I'll leave a message on one of the forums asking about it and will update here when I get an answer.

Update 11-22-2009 - Evernote says "The delicious API changed its behavior enough that it failed more often than it worked for our users. We disabled it until we have someone who can sort out whether there's a better solution."  Let's hope it isn't too long.  When I see the import ability is back, I'll create a new post here.  

Some men collect cars, or golf clubs, or coins.  I collect bookmarks.
As I surf the web, I am forever finding things that I either want to be able to find again, or find interesting but do not have the time just then to read.

My early bookmark files became huge data bases in their own right.  I spent a lot of time organizing bookmarks into folders.  I also worried about backing them up, and keeping them synchronized across multiple browsers and PC's.

When first appeared, it was a godsend.  I could bookmark right to it and not worry about the multiple computer and synchronization issues.

Delicious, if you aren't familiar with it, is one of the original bookmark storage sites.  It was created by Joshua Schachter in 2002 and acquired later by Yahoo in 2005.

According to Wikipedia, Delicious has five million uses and over 150 million bookmarks!

When I started really using Evernote back in the Spring of this year, I noted Evernote's ability to import bookmarks from Delicious.  I did it primarily as a test.  Before I got too deep into Evernote, I wanted to see how well Evernote performed with thousands of notes.  Each of my Delicious bookmarks came into Evernote as a single note.  So it one fell swoop I had almost 4000 notes in Evernote.  And performance was fine.

I couldn't see giving up my Delicious bookmarking though and I didn't want to have to synchronize between Delicious and Evernote (especially since there was no way to do it).  Nor did I want to bookmark in two places, so I deleted the bookmarks from Evernote, and for a few weeks captured notes to Evernote, and bookmarks to delicious.

However, I found I couldn't mindlessly bookmark anymore.  Each time I found a site to bookmark, I had to ask myself  "Do I need this bookmark for a project I already have other notes on in Evernote?".  If yes, I'd store to Evernote, if not, then to Delicious.

I was getting bookmarks in two locations.

So I gave up and imported my Delicious bookmarks again into Evernote and now all new bookmarks go to Evernote using one of Evernote's excellent web clippers.

It is nice too to have all my bookmarks in a desktop client.  I can sort on URL and see other pages in the same site I have bookmarked.

This solution works best for me, but it does deny to me the biggest advantage of using Delicious.  Delicious is more then a bookmark storage site, it is a social bookmark site.

What that means, is when I tag a bookmark with say "evernote" I can also find all bookmarks other users have tagged with "evernote".  So I can discover information I had not found myself.  There are over 18,000 Evernote tagged bookmarks on Delicious for example.

Also, I can get the gratifying sense of how many people have found things on this blog worthy of bookmarking.

I can still get that information if I go to Delicious, but the bookmarks I'm capturing are not ending up in Delicious to aid other users (if they are unique) or adding to the popularity count for a given bookmark.  By storing my bookmarks where it is most convenient for me, I am being anti-social.

Also, Delicious warns me when I bookmark a site I've previously bookmarked.  Evernote does not, so I suspect I have duplicate URL's in Evernote.

I really wish in addition to importing my Delicious bookmarks into Evernote, I could synchronize my bookmarks between the two.  

Evernote says many have requested API keys to build their own applications.  I hope this is one application someone is building.  I recently got an API key.  I have two apps I need first, but this is on my list.  I'm not likely to get to it anytime soon (if at all).  So if you are a developer,a nd you want to create a Delicious/Evernote sync app, I think others in the community would appreciate it too.  And could you make it find duplicates too?  

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Is Dropbox the coolest software of the decade?

Dave Winer thinks so.  I think he's sort of right.  Dropbox & Evernote are tied in my mind.  And complementary.

On another topic, I got a nice link in this post today.  Thanks.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How has your Smartphone changed your life?

I'm writing a piece on Smartphones as Christmas gifts.  By Smartphone, I mean a phone that can surf the web and maybe run apps that help you out.  Not only do I mean iPhone and Android phones, but Instincts, Palm Pre's, Blackberry etc.

I am looking for feedback to quote.  Please leave in comments any things you have on the questions, "Has your Smartphone changed your life?  How?"  Please mention your Smartphone's name.

All comments are assumed to be free to print as quotes with attribution to you.

Thanks for any help.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Are you your family's geek?

If over Thanksgiving, you are likely to hear "While you are here, can you take a look at my computer.  You know so much more about those things then I do." then you are your family's geek.

You may not think of yourself as especially knowledgeable but to those around you, in comparison to themselves, you seem like a whiz kid.

This week's Family Tech column at is a few things to help you maintain your miracle worker status.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Confirmed!: Google buys Gizmo5

TechCrunch is reporting Google has snapped up Gizmo5.  If true, this could mean fascinating things for Google Voice.

Day 2 : Nov. 10, 2009 :  Still unconfirmed.  Andy Abramson has some insights.

Day 4 : Nov. 12, 2009 : Confirmed by Google Voice Blog.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

Let's give the traffic reporters some 21st century tools

I've always been a big fan of traffic reports on news radio stations.  When I lived in San Francisco, KGO freely promoted their phone number to call with traffic news. I was surprised when you did call, it was the on air reporter who took the call.  You'd think they'd be busy gathering info from all the resources they had to compile traffic information from.

I called so much, Lyn Durling in the morning used my full name while using everyone else's first name only, prompting my boss to ask if I was moonlighting for them.  Lyn asked me to call every morning when I passed over the 680 grade so he could get an accurate read on conditions.

It was surprising when I moved to DC that WTOP never says their phone number on air during the weekday.  I've caught it a couple times on weekends.  When I've called, they have been nice, and again it was the on air person who answers.

Stuck in really bad traffic the other day, I started to think how all the people stuck in the traffic didn't know they could call in with information.  And I thought of how inundated the traffic folks would be if people did call in.

I know there is technology now that looks at the GPS data of phones, and notes their location and speed.  From that, it can build a map of how fast various traffic arteries are flowing.

And more and more roads are covered with cameras.  But all those people in the traffic could be reporters.  They can see things when cameras can't.  They might be able to say, "The right late is blocked, but they are moving the car off the road now.   The road should be open in 5 minutes."

With all this high tech communication gear in our pockets, how can traffic reporters get this data, and assimilate what would be a mountain of data.

Twitter would be perfect in one sense.  The reporter could have Tweetdeck open and have a column searching for any tweet with tags like #dctraffic.

But there's that nagging issue of typing while driving being unsafe.

Maybe Google Voice would be a good tool.  The news station could freely promote their number.  People can call and leave a short voice mail.   While the transcriptions are not perfect, the transcription should be informative enough that the reporter watching them scroll by on a screen would get a gist of the trends people were reporting.  They could listen to a voice mail--even call a person back -- for more details.

I'm not sure how fast transcriptions reach you from Google Voice.  It may vary through the day.

Maybe this could be a custom service created by one of the traffic services that provide traffic reports to most of the radio stations.  Designed for a limited number of phone numbers, they could have expedited transcriptions and a TweetDeck type interface on the reporter's PC's.

And maybe the phone could even give out its GPS coordinates and vehicle speed.  The reporter could zoom in and see the recent reports for a given segment of highway.

That fire hose of data could be useful to commuters, reporters, law enforcement, traffic planners and infrastructure designers.

Update 11/6/2009 3:13 PM EST : Update via Twitter from @openczum, an iPhone app that does some of this.
Unfortunately, not everyone has an iPhone (like me).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Family Tech column - Windows 7

My latest column is up.  In talking about Wndows 7, I wonder if perhaps it will be the last great PC only operating system.  More and more, I suspect future OSs will be designed alongside siblings for various platforms:  PC, slates, phones, TV's etc.

That's why I'm getting very intrigued with Android.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

An Evernote Twitter List

I have created a public Twitter list of Evernote users.  If you would like to be on it, please leave me a comment here and I'll add you.

It would be ideal if Evernote created such a list.  I'm dong one myself because a lot of people that follow me, and that I follow, do so because of our common appreciation of Evernote.  Hence the list.

If I added you and you are not an Evernote user or interested in Evernote, also let me know.

Aside : Twitter Lists is great, but Twitter needs a few things :

  • Show you a list of people you follow or follow you that are not yet on one of your lists
  • Have a way for you to record for yourself why you followed them in the first place
  • The ability to send a Tweet to juse those on a given list

Not knowing the latter is why I suspect I've added some people to the list who are not Evernote users.

One Million Users of Google Voice

It is always gratifying to see a service you like gaining popularity.  A recent Business Week article says Google Voice has over a million users now.  And there are hints they are going to roll out to some other countries besides the United States.

As I've said many times before, it is an awesome service.  If you haven't requested an invite, do so.  It's free.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Special Anniversary Today

On this date in 1969, Arpanet went live.  Arpanet later became known by different names, the Internet and the Web.

Three months earlier, man walked on the moon for the first time.  That received a ton of publicity world wide.

Did the hooking together of four computers around the country warrant even a single newspaper mention?  I doubt it.

Yet look at which event triggered the most change in the world, and the most benefit.

I feel like I should send flowers, but where?

One interesting trivia tidbit I found in the Wikipedia entry for Arpanet.  The first time the internet was mentioned in popular TV show was in 1985, on an episode of Benson.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Family Tech: Google Voice

In this week's column for the Potomac News & Messenger, I introduced Google Voice to a new audience.

Number Porting into Google Not Yet There

Google Voice gives you a new phone number to hand out.  Many people have wanted instead to have Google Voice features on their current phone number that their friends and customers already know.

Google has said that capability is coming.  It will take, I think, negotiation with the telcoms, and I'm not sure the telcoms will want to give up the customer control inherent in controlling the phone numbers.  Google may surprise me, but I don't expect to see comprehensive number porting anytime soon.

Today, Google announced an almost number porting ability.  In a nutshell, they tell you how to auto-forward your cell phone calls that would normally go to your cell's voicemail, to Google Voice.

Their help system shows that a lot of advantages of Google Voice are lost when you do this. If you already have a Google Voice number, you can choose to have your cell phone routed to Google Voice.  When I tried to do this, they warned me Sprint might charge me for each voice mail until Sprint finishes rolling out the call forwarding abilities.

I think for now, I won't make use of this.  Having a unique number I can use is my preferable way of using Google Voice anyway.

Update 10-28-2009:  Tech Crunch reports Sprint does charge 20 cents a minute for forwarded calls, but are going to make it free in mid-November.  Then I can use this feature.

Update 10-31-2009:  New York Time is calling this Google Voice Lite.  You get to use your current cell phone number with a sub-set of Google Voice features.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

When I was a kid

When I was a kid I was fascinated with fingerprint kits.  I wrote Hoover's FBI asking if I could buy one.  I received a nice letter saying no.

If I were a kid today, this kit would be cool.  It has a fingerprint kit and other tools for a young CSI.

The list of cool toys they did not have when I was a kid grows longer.

This is for all the future Grissoms and Abbys out there.

Read about the CSI kit

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Your First Day with Evernote

I've written many times before about Evernote.  I love this program.  It is my brain's memory on steroids.  I have over 6000 notes in it now.  And I keep finding ever more uses for it.

While originally written in 2009, this post has been frequently updated.

New January 2012:  If you like what I write about Evernote, check out my 136 page e-book,
 "Get Productive Fast with Evernote".  Just $10.

Sunday October 11, 2009 I wrote about Evernote in my print column, Family Tech. If you are wondering what is Evernote, and why would I want to use it, start with the column.

I promised in that column this post to help new users get efficient fast with Evernote.

I thought I'd write a quick plan for someone's first day with Evernote. This is really meant for after you've installed the client to your computer, so this picks up after you've gone to  Evernote's Get Started Page and created an account and downloaded and installed a client for your primary computer.

And I'm not trying to write step-by-step directions.  I'll rely on Evernote's Help to aid you.  If you get stuck anywhere, comment here and I'll either try and answer, or add an update this post if appropriate.

And you may want to check out Evernote's own Getting Started page.  (Update 12-3-2010: Evernote added "Getting Started with Evernote" to their website.)  And be sure to read their manuals too.  They are available for your Mac or Windows clients (PDF files).

Notes: I used the Beta of Windows 3.5 for my screenshots.  The Mac version looks very similar.  

Windows users are currently in flux now (October 2009).  While version 3.1 is the current stable product, there is a beta out now for 3.5.  That is what I am using.  It's safe to start with 3.1 now if you want, and convert later to 3.5 when it is released in final form.

Readers of this blog will have seen many of these ideas in previous posts--I just thought it might be useful to gather them all together in one post.  The ideas here are a compilation of the ideas in Evernote's website, blog post, documentation and the ideas and insights of many users including myself.

And this may seem like a long post, but only about a third of it are things you really should do. The rest are just some ideas to help you be more productive with Evernote.

Major Steps

Make your First Note

Now that you have your Evernote application open in front of you, click the New Note button and type in a quick note.  Mine was "My First note in evernote" and it is still there so I know when I first played with Evernote.

Find a PDF file on your computer and drag it into Evernote.  Now you have two notes.

Find a photo with some words in it (like on  a sign) and drag that into Evernote.

Switch to another application, and press your keyboard's Print Screen button twice.  Evernote will capture a shot of the current screen.

You now have four notes in Evernote.


Type in text you know to be in one or more notes and explore how search works.  You may not be able to search on words that are in the photograph you added, because the image processing takes place on Evernote's servers.  For that, you need to Sync.

Do your first Sync

Every so often, Evernote's application clients synchronize with their servers.  This transfers your notes up their own database.  This allows you to access the information via the web, as well as have other clients running on other PC's but have them have the same information.  It also give you some backup comfort.  If your local hard drive dies, your data is still on the web (except for local notebooks, we'll discuss next).

To do your first Sync, click the Sync button.  Or, on the Windows client, press F9.

Create Notebooks

When you first installed Evernote, it prompted for the name of a default Notebook.  Right now, that is the only notebook you have.

I recommend creating at least one other.  Go to File menu, New Notebook.  Give your new notebook the name, Inbox and make it the default notebook.  Later, we will have notes coming in from various sources (e-mails, Twitter etc.) and they will all land here first.  You will be able to see them here, and then move them to another notebook.

If you want to store information that is never uploaded to Evernote servers, when you create a new notebook, you can  designate the new notebook as local only.

Hold off creating more notebooks until later when you figure out how you want to use Evernote.  Of course, you can always delete notebooks later if you want.  There is a limit of 100 notebooks.

 Create a Tag

In the header of your note is an area that says "Not Tagged".  Click in it and you type in the name of a tag or tags you want to use to categorize your note.

As you built your collection of notes, and amass tags, a list forms on the left of your screen with all your tags and the number of notes they are used in. 

There is a limit of 10,000 tags.

Familiarize Yourself with the Web Version

Fire up your web browser and go to and sign-in.

You'll now see the web version of Evernote.  If ever you are on another computer and need something in Evernote, you can get it through this web site.

Play around in this a bit while you are here.  When you are done, leave it open on your computer.

Setup Web Clippers

Evernote Web Clippers let you grab the URL's of web pages your are viewing, or the entire web page itself, and copy it into Evernote.

There are versions that will work with the major browsers.  They let you assign the web page to a Notebook and assign tags as well.

You can download them from here.

Updated : October 14, 2010 : The Chrome clipper now shows you items in Evernote when you search Google.

Figure out uses

Take a look at this list of things people are doing with Evernote.  Which ones would be useful to you?

Just Use It

Commit to using Evernote for the next few weeks as you go about your normal activities..   Capture web pages to it, make notes of phone calls, record the little details of your life as you go through your day.

Eventually, you'll need one of those pieces of data and find it in Evernote.  After that first "Ah Ha!" moment, you'll be hooked on Evernote.

Optional but Useful Steps

There are a lot of ways to get data into Evernote.  The more data you grab, the more useful Evernote will be.  These next few ideas are other ways to get information into Evernote.

Import Files

Before I began using Evernote, each day I would start a new file in Notepad, and keep notes as the day went on of things I needed to do do, or things I did, and notes on phone calls etc.

I also had a huge folder of documents I'd scanned in with my flatbed scanner going back several years.

So one of the first things I did in Evernote was to go to the Tool menu, Folder Import.  This lets you designate a folder and import all the files in it, and even all the files in that folders sub-folder.  Soon I had all my daily text files and years worth of important documents in Evernote.  Since my scanner produced a searchable PDF, my important documents were searchable.


I've had a flat bed scanner for years but as more and more of my scanning was of documents more then photos, I started coveting a sheet fed scanner.  Evernote's partner Fujitsu has their Scansnap scanners.  A similar but cheaper little alternative I stumbled into at Costco one day, is the Neat Company scanners.

I'd seen their kiosks at airports but never stopped to look closely at them.  Reading the package at Costco, I realized it was a pretty good value.  Their little portable one didn't have a hopper; you have to feed in a document one at a time, but it is powered off the USB port and came with a little case.  And it only cost $150.  Seasrch around online for the NeatReceipts printer.  There are versions for both the Mac and PC.

Neat's own software is pretty good, but I prefer to scan the documents into PDF and into Evernote.  See Copy to Evernote Folder heading below to see how I get the PDF into Evernote.  For other scanners, you can usually choose the software to send scans to.  The link earlier shows how to link a Fujitsu scanner to Evernote, but the concept is the same for some other scanners too.

Whether you use a sheet fed scanner or a flat bed scanner, having a scanner with Evernote lets you put all your phicial documents into Evernote and make them searchable.  You can get a handle on all those bills, statements, and important documents that arrive by mail.

Copy or Print to Evernote Folder

My NeatRecepts Scanner cannot scan a PDF directly into Evernote (that I've found yet), so instead I scan to a folder on my desktop.  I called mine "a_scan_to_evernote" so it shows up at the top of any folder listing of My Documents folder.

I mentioned above, Evernote's ability to do a Folder Import.  One of the settings there is to designate a folder to be watched.  When anything new appears in a watched folder, Evernote automatically imports it.  I designated my "a_scan_to_evernote" folder as a watched folder, so any new scans go right into Evernote.

Plus I have a copy of the PDF file on my desktop to easy access.

I also added a shortut to my SendTo menu in Windows, so I can point at any file on my PC and Send it to the "a_scan_to_evernote" folder and thus, into Evernote.

If I download a file I want in Evernote, I download it to the "a_scan_to_evernote" folder.

Periodically I free up space by deleting the contents of "a_scan_to_evernote" since the material is already in Evernote.  Or I could back it up, giving myself even a further level of protection in addition to Evernote's wonderful data redundancy, before I delete them off my hard drive.

Update 10/14/09 : If you have the ability to print to a PDF file you can print from any application to PDF and specify this folder for the PDF file.  Then the printout automatically goes into Evernote.  This gives you a "Print to Evernote" capability.  If you need a PDF printer driver, check out CutePDF and their ilk.


Every Evernote account comes with its own e-mail address.  This is not an e-mail address you want to share with anyone; it is for you alone.

Any email you BCC to that e-mail address ends up in Evernote.  So if you get an important e-mail just forward it to Evernote or if you are sending one, BCC Evernote.

Sure, you still have the e-mail in your e-mail program and can search for it there, but it is nice to have just one place to search for all your information.

You an find your e-mail address in your client.  If you cannot, it is also in the web client, on the Settings page.

Make a contact in your e-mail program so you can easily send your Evernote important e-mails.

Setup to Text Message into Evernote

Many mobile phones can send text messages to e-mail addresses.  See if yours can, by creating a contact in your cell phone for Evernote with your Evernote e-mail address.

If you can send a text to Evernote, then it makes it real easy to shoot off a short reminder to yourself, or take down someones phone number or other bit of information.

Link to Twitter

If you are a Twitter user, you can send Tweets to Evernote.  See this Evernote Blog item explaining how to set it up.  Then you can send a Twit to to Evernote simply by including @myEN in your tweet.  You can send confidential messages direct messaging your Evernote account from Twitter.

Link to Google Reader

Keeping with our theme of its best to send all the information you gather to Evernote, there is a way to send blog posts you read in Google Reader directly into Evernote.  Another Evernote blog post tells you how.

Import from Delicious and Google Notebook 

Update 1-3-2010 : I failed to note this.  In November, I discovered you can no longer import from Delicious.  Evernote indicated they had to "temporarily" disable to ability.  I'll update here when I see that it has been re-enabled.

Update 10-14-2010 : The Delicious import still is not on their website.  However, in a Evernote Forum post, I found a link to the old importer.  Apparently it still works, but is not supported by Evernote.

When I first started Evernote, I had over 4000 bookmarks in Delicious.  I used Delicious and Evernote side-by-side for a while, but as I grew into my philosophy that it is best to have all my information in one place, I decided to import the bookmarks from into Evernote.

Fortunately, Evernote makes it easy.  In the Web Client, Settings page, there is an import ability currently letting you import from Delicious or Google Notebook.

Hook in your Webcam

Added : 10-14-2010 : You can add notes via webcam.  Take a webcam shot of a document, and Eernote will find the text in the document and index it.

Import from OneNote

Microsoft makes a product like Evernote called OneNote.  A lot of new Evernote uses are former OneNote users.  If you are one of them, you can import your OneNote information using the Files Menu, Import, Microsoft OneNote 2007 menu item.

Install on other computers

Do you have a home computer and a work computer?  Or a home desktop and a Netbook you carry around?  Or a PC and a Mac?

You can install Evernote clients on each, and it will sync your data from Evernote's servers.  When you add a note on one computer, it will show up on the others.

Not only is this convenient, but it makes your data really safe.  You'll have copies of your data on each of the computers, as well as the Evernote servers.

Install on your phone

This is what makes Evernote really powerful.  There are clients for many of the popular Smart phones.  Even if there isn't one for your phone (like my Samsung Instinct), there is a wonderful mobile web page.

Using the Mobile web browser saved me $120 one of the first times I used it.

Set Evernote up a Task Manager

Evernote was never meant to be a task manager.  That hasn't stopped people from using it as one.  While it lacks the ability to sound alarms or trigger text messages like Google Calendar and others do, it still can be quite useful.

I created a long blog post saying how I'd set up Evernote to manage my tasks.

And if you are an user of Getting Things Done (GTD) from David Allen, there are a couple I've found who have created strategies for using Evernote and GTD.

"Star" favorite notes

I saw a tweet once with an Evernote user wishing there was way to Star items in Evernote like you can in Gmail and other Google products.  I had been thinking along similar lines.

I discovered a way to do something close, and documented it in a blog post.

I've made the Saved Search for starred items my default view in my mobile Evernote view on my phone.  Very useful.

Use Keyboard Shortcuts

There are shortcut keys for creating a new note that makes those tasks quicker and easier.  I found this cheat sheet listing them.  I haven't tried them all, but the Create Note and Paste into Note ones are very useful.

Share your Notebooks

Since you have accumulated all this wonderful information in one place, you may want to share some of it with the entire world, or just a group of your own choosing.

Evernote has the ability to share folders as they have documented originally here and then with new abilities here.  And another phase of sharing abilities is coming.

I use Shared Notebooks to share bookmarks on topics I frequently blog about and links relevant to the weekly "Tech Family" column I write for the News & Messenger Newspaper and their web site

Consider Premium 

As powerful as the free Evernote is, for as little as $45 a year, or $5 a month, you can get even more power by buying a Premium subscription to Evernote.

Note: If you do decide to go Premium, could you use this link to get to the signup?  This is an affliate link.  It does not cost you any more money, but does get me a small commission.  - Thanks!

You get the ability to let others edit your shared posts, more uploads per month (from 40 meg to 500 megabytes),  the ability to upload more file types, and better security.

If you are wondering how Evernote can make money while giving away the product to the vast majority of their users, a recent New York Times article addressed just that.

Cool Tip about Premium:  in one of their recent podcasts, the CEO said if you need Premium for a just a month, go ahead and activate it for a month at $5, and cancel at the end of the month.  If you need it again in the future, you can turn it back on.  They don't mind.

There are caveats.  If you store a file type the Free Service does not support while you are a Premium user, when are are again a Free user, you won't be able to update it.

The Trunk

Evernote has many applications that work with it.  In July 2010, Evernote created The Trunk to feature these partners.  Be sure to check it out.

Learn More

Be sure to read Evernote's Getting Started page and the manuals for your Mac or Windows clients (PDF files).  And watch their many informative videos.  And participate in their Forums to ask questions, and maybe even answer a few for others.

Check my shared bookmarks for more Evernote resources.

Or search Google for "Evernote".

Or Google for "Evernote my_profession"  to find links like this for Doctors or this for Journalists and their use of Evernote.

Keep up to Date

Evernote is a very dynamic product.  While it already does a lot, it could do so much more. Thankfully, the Evernote developers seem to be working hard on improving their products.

Evernote makes it easy to keep up to date on what they are doing with a blog, podcasts, more then one Twitter account and a Facebook account.

And of course, you an also subscribe to this blog, and follow me on Twitter.  While I am not with Evernote, I follow them closely and pass along the best of what I learn.

And a good way to keep up on other's "chatter" about Evernote if you are a Twitter user, is to have a Saved Search in Twitter (or a search column in your preferred Twitter client), looking for the hashmark of #evernote or anything directed at @evernote.

Update 10-14-2010 : If you are wondering if Evernote is up, they have a status page.

Tell someone about Evernote

The more users Evernote has (especially Premium users) the more they will be motivated to keep upgrading.  If you find Evernote useful, tell people about it in your own blog, Twitter, Facebook or by screaming it from the corner.

Or you can use their website to Tell a friend.

Add Evernote Elsewhere

Add Evernote to GMail's Sidebar.

In Gmail, go to the settings page, then Labs.  Scroll all the way to the to the bottom and enable "Add any gadget by URL"  Enter in this URL : . That should do it.

Add Evernote to your iGoogle Page

(section added 11/10/2009)

Have Fun

I hope this was useful to you.  Leave your own ideas in comments, or if you find anything I need to change let me know too.

Note:    This is one of my Reference posts.  I'll be updating it over time, and keeping it around for future Evernote new users.

New January 2012:  If you like what I write about Evernote, check out my 136 page e-book,
 "Get Productive Fast with Evernote".  Just $10.

The Many Uses of Evernote

I'm even starting to see some specialized lists for particular professions:

The good list is maintained by Evernote itself.

Update 11/5/2009:  Andrew Maxwell posted 100 Different Evernote Uses.  Great List.

This is a list of what I use Evernote for, and ideas I've garnered from the web.  When anyone asks on Twitter what do you use Evernote for, I'm going to send them here.

Here we go...leave in comments all the ones I've missed. 

  • receipts, both  real and from online payments
  • bills
  • notes from phone calls
  • where did I park my car?
  • What is my hotel room?
  • tasks I need to remember to do
  • bookmarks
  • scans  of bills
  • business cards
  • user guides
  • cartoons I've enjoyed
  • jokes I've heard
  • inspirational notes to myself
  • ideas
  • rough drafts of blog posts, letters, reports etc.
  • things I am waiting on others to do
  • class schedules
  • work schedules
  • user names and passwords to accounts
  • lists of medications and dosages
  • notes on incidents that happen (accidents, inuuries etc.)
  • gift ideas
  • notes on items I'm thinking of buying (comparison shopping details)
  • recipes
  • project information (are you moving, buying a house, building a deck?)
  • contracts
  • rental agreements
  • warranties
  • copies of important documents (vehicle registrations etc.)
  • car repair /service information
  • notes on doctor's visits - what was said, prescriptions given
  • notes on meetings
  • notes on people you met (what they like, favorite drinks, favorite meals, what you committed to do for them)
  • combination lock combination
  • vehicle identification numbers
  • serial #'s of items owned
  • printer cartridge replacement information
  • Magazine subscription expiration dates
  • list of utilities and other accounts, account numbers, websites, phone numbers
  • photos of closing times of stores I use
  • flight itineraries
  • hotel reservations
  • notes on software I use (tips, tricks etc.)
  • newspaper clippings
  • scans of wallet contents (as backup)
  • child's homework
  • child's school handouts
  • vaccination records
  • pet's medical records
  • car maintenance records
  • books read
  • books to read
  • movies to see
  • room dimensions - photos of your homes rooms - makes buying accessories easier
  • car maintenance info : fuses, light bulbs, fluid types, dates replaced etc.
  • restaurant menus
  • genealogical information

This will be one of my Reference posts.  I'll try and keep it updated.