Thursday, April 30, 2009

It's been a good geek year so far

The past few months have been quite satisfying from a geeky standpoint. I've integrated a number of new capabilities into my life that are changing the way I work and do personal business.

I'm never really been an early adopter--for financial reasons--so my new capabilities are mostly new to me. There is nothing wrong though in moving cautiously and acquiring technology when its usefulness is established.

First, I was a late comer into smart phones. I chose the Instinct because Sprint made it affordable for three people. I read the posts of people on the Sprint Forum who were early Instinct buyers and profoundly disappointed (and mad) that it hadn't become the iPhone killer they'd hoped. By the time I chose it, I knew it wasn't going to be an iPhone, but it would be a good value and useful. It has turned out to be just that.

And I've gone on way to much about the other game changer, Google Voice. Suffice to say, I like making free calls and having some control over how people reach me by phone.

Normally I come to resent impulsive buys. I've long coveted Fujitsu's $500 sheet fed scanner. I have a flat bed scanner, and often scan documents. But doing each one meant getting the scanner out, hooking it up, placing the document etc. etc. I have found I can't leave a flat bed scanner on my desk--I hate the dedicated space it required and I tended to pile things on it. Storing it in a drawer was a better solution.

I couldn't afford the Fujitsu, but Costco had the Neat Scanner on sale for $149. It is a small, unobtrusive scanner you can feed a single sheet through. It would be nice to put in a stack of documents and walk away, but I suspect even if I had a sheet fed scanner, most of the scans would be single sheet anyway.

The true value of the Neat is its software. It automatically orients the scan--you never see an upside down document. And it can recognize a receipt or business card from a standard document. For a receipt it OCR's out the amount, payee, date etc. and puts into fields in a database. For business cards it extracts the name, title, company etc.

I don't use it yet for receipts and business cards. I use it for regular document storage. All scanned documents go into an inbox. You can then tag them and fill in other fields. It stores the whole thing in a SQL Server database that comes with it. Searching is fairly fast. It's a clever little device. I must admit, I've seen them for sale in airports and thought it sounded sort of gimmicky, but I'm glad for my impetuous purchase.

The final item I've only been using for a couple of days. It has been around for a while and already extolled by many. I'd signed up about a year ago, but didn't see its value immediately and only recently took a second look.

It is Evernote. I didn't realize there was a Windows application that went with it when I looked at it before. I thought it was just a web app only. The Windows app makes it much more useful.

Evernotes lets you store PDF's, notes, photos etc. in it. With the Windows app, you can just drag your items to it, or it can import them from your PC. The beauty is you then can search within the PDF. It can even search within photos, and find text in the photo.

Both Neat and Evernote deserve their own own posts, and will get them soon.

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