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?