Monday, December 27, 2010

Family Tech: Oranizing new gadgets

Make your new gadgets feel at home.  Get to know them well before you actually need them.  Why this is a good idea, and tips on how to best do it are in this week's Family Tech column.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Android App Inventor

The only advantage of getting older (until I qualify for the Seniors' discount at Denny's anyway), is being able to see trends repeat themselves.

I wrote previously that what is happening with the iPhone/iPad running Apple' iOS operating system versus tablets and phones running the Android operating system, is very reminiscent of the battle in the 1990's between the Macintosh an Windows.  The Mac was clearly better at first over Windows, but Windows was cheaper and more open.  Windows won.

The same I think, is happening in the iOS versus Android world.  Only Apple products can use iOS, while anyone at all can make products using the Android system.  That's why we are seeing Android phones for each carrier, the excellent Galaxy Tab tablet, and K-Mart carrying a $149 Android tablet.  In the US, the iPhone is on one carrier, and the only tablets are the iPad and iPod Touch.

The plethora of PC's running Windows in the 90's was one reason for Windows ultimate triumph in numbers over Apple.   The other was the ability for users to create their own apps for fun, profit and to meet their own needs.

Microsoft's Visual Basic made creating Windows Apps easy for even hobbyist programmers.  And it was affordable, with Visual Basic starting at just $99.

Corporate IT shops liked VB too since they could then make company specific apps cheap and fast.  A company could afford to whip up a little app to meet the needs of a specific department and not have to buy some large, commercial app and then modify their processes to meet the software's expectation.  They could create their own software tailored to their existing business processes.

To be fair, Apple had Hypercard, sort of a pre-intenet hyperlinked information system.  Hobbyists did some amazing things with it as they built and distributed their own "stacks".

There was also a book that came out after the Mac came out, showing a fantastically powerful BASIC that was coming for the Mac.  The language never appeared, rumored killed by Apple at Microsoft's behest.  So the Mac never had the easy-to-use app production ability Visual Basic gave Windows.

In the last couple days I've been fooling with Google's App Inventor.  It is a free app that is to Android as Visual Basic was to the PC.

It's free.  It uses building blocks to let you assemble your own apps.  It has tutorials and a growing user community offering their own tutorials and help.  In that way, it is very reminiscent of Visual Basic.

I've just gotten it installed, and built the trial app.  I am very excited to get going with it.

I don't see myself creating apps to submit to the Marketplace (you can't yet put App Inventor apps there),.  My wife though, needs some very specific data gathering capabilities for her job.  I see a app that can do that for her.

Microsoft too remembers their roots, although hazily.  Users can create their own apps for the new Windows Phone 7 using the latest version of Visual Basic.  The problem is that long about version 6, Visual Basic got as complicated to use for hobbyist programmers as Java or C++.  And you can only develop phone apps using Visual Studio 2010 Professional, Premium or Ultimate editions.  They cost about $700 and more, a far cry from the accessible $99 Visual Basic once was.

Update : I am saving App Inventor resources I find to my Public Bookmarks.

Optimus S and Google App Inventor

If anyone else out there is trying to use the LG Optimus S with Google's App Inventor, you can find the needed USB Drivers here.  Be sure to use the model number of the Optimus S.  It is LS670.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Family Tech Support

November of 2009, I wrote in a Family Tech column about how to be the family tech support person.  When adult children visit their parents this time of year, they spend a lot of time helping the seniors get their computers tuned up.

Google has a wonderful new resource for helping your parentals and others with their tech support.  Check it out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Quick Start Sheet for Android

Kevin Purdy who put out the wonderful Complete Guide to Android, now has a single page Quick Reference Guide for new Android users.

Family Tech: Accessories for your Gadgets

In this week's Family Tech, I advocate buying accessories to get more from your gadgets.  Stores push so hard for us to buy accessories, we have may resist their hard sell without considering the value accessories can offer.

I point out the worst offensives, like selling a $2200 HDMI cable that works as well as ones costing under $10.  And of course, a plug for the great

Friday, December 17, 2010

Uses for Evernote

I added "Students" to my list of blog posts about ways to use Evernote by specific groups of people.  The rest are listed in my blog post  "The Many Uses of Evernote".

Thank you Evernote

Evernote just gave their users a nice present.  Monthly uploads for free users went to 60 megabytes (up from 40), and for Premium they doubled from 500 meg to a full gigabyte.

Mobile Format

Cool, when I logged in to tonight to do the previous post, it told me they now had Mobile Templates.  I turned them on.

The blog now looks much better on phones.  What do you think?


I amassed something like 4000 bookmarks in Delicious before I moved them to Evernote.  I was saddened yesterday to hear what turned out to be rumor only, that Yahoo was shutting down the service.

Today, the Delicious Blog suggests they will seek a buyer for the service.

Meanwhile, Evernote, having previously disabled the Delicious import I used when I transitioned, published a new method for importing from Delicious.

My only regret about not using Delicious was that I was no longer participating in a community.  There was a social aspect of sharing your bookmarks in public.  When you searched Delicious, you could tell how many others had posted the same bookmark--effectively a recommendation.

When you found someone who bookmarked on a topic you liked, you could see all their bookmarks on that topic.  I found a lot of gems doing that.

Of course I could still get that information after moving my bookmarks, but was no longer participating in building that group wisdom.  I felt a little guilty about it.

Of course, I was always mindful any bookmark I posted to Delicious was accessible to anyone.  People could learn a lot about my interests, politics, concerns and other details about my life.

I hope they find a buyer.  I hope that buyer finds a way to integrate and perhaps sync my bookmarks in Evernote that I don't mind being public, to their database so I can again participate.

Phil Libin?  Something you might be interested in?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

First weekend with an Android phone

We've had the phones for a few days now.  Having used an iPad, and a iPod Touch extensively, I think I'm in a pretty good place to compare and contrast.

The geek in me loves the Android phone.  I can see into the phone easily.  When I hook it to my PC, I can see the entire file structure.  It is easy then to move movies, photos and such on and off the phone.

The internal memory is not so big, but I can put up to a 32 gig SD card into the phone.  It comes with a 2 gig card which I filled in the first two days.  I put in the 8 gig card I had bought from my old Instinct, and it works fine.  But still, the internal memory is 70% full.  Many apps, some major ones in fact, do not yet allow you to move the app to the SD card.  One such app happened to update today to a version that did prermit copying to the SD card, so I guess that will likely improve in time.

Meanwhile, all the capabilities I had on the iPod Touch are there with two exceptions.  I cannot stream video from Netflix, nor can I play Words with Friends.  I do a not of Words with my wife and mother, so I have to go find the iPod when I need to play.

Something else I an do with the Android I cannot easily or affordably do with the iPhone, is develop for it.  I'm not sure I will, but I'll be playing with that capability in the next few weeks and see how it goes.

I'm not a music lover, so I don't really miss iTunes.  I use Google Listen to subscribe to my podcasts.  If I were a iTunes user, I could use DoubleTwist to get my iTunes music onto the phone.

So far, the only pet peeve I've developed is I can't find a way to set a default ring sound for the included alarm clock.  I'll have to poke around the Marketplace some.

Family Tech: eBook Readers

Seems like everyone is asking me about eBook readers these last few weeks.  A lot of people I know are getting Kindle or Nooks for Christmas I'll bet.

So I decided to explore the topic in this week's Family Tech column.  In 600 words, I could just cover the basics.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Smartphones for the Family, again

When this blog was about a month old, I documented my thinking when choosing our family's first Smartphone.  Its been two years so our contract is finally up.  My wife thrilled me with the announcement that a new phone for me, and also for her and my son, were to be my birthday present.

I have literally been shopping for this phone for over two years.  Even when I bought the Instincts in December of 2008, I knew I ultimately wanted an Android phone.  Then, only the G1 was out, and solely on T-Mobile.  I knew our street didn't get good coverage on T-Mobile.  I didn't want to stay with Verizon; the only company that could reach our street.  Sprint had affordable service, and a Femtocell, the Airave.  That would give me excellent coverage in the house.

Note:  I spoke before the County Planning Council two weeks ago in support of a T-Mobile cell tower that will give us more options during the next contract renewal.

Having chosen Sprint back in 2008, I then looked at their Smartphones.  There were not many, but the Instinct was then about six months old and affordable at $100 each.

You would think my exposure to the iPad, and to an iPod Touch this year would make me want an iPhone now.  Being a gadget lover, I want to try something different.  Also, I like the idea that I can develop for the Android much easier and affordably then for the iPhone.  I might never do it, but I want the option.  I am an old Visual Basic 3.0 and PHP programmer although I've lapsed somewhat in the last couple of years.

I decided to stay with Sprint.  I love the idea of their EVO, but the $10 a month 4g tax would have come to $720 for our three phones over the life of the contract.   When I chose the Instinct, the option was to go with the iPhone.  When it comes to technology, I know that "best" and "pretty good" in quality are usually closer together than their costs.  In other words, "pretty good" is usually a better value.  That is true today with Sprint's selection of Android phones.  I went with the LG Optimus S.  At $49 per phone, all the reviews I have read indicate it is a good value.

I have gathered a few notes on Android together on a separate Android page on this blog.  It will be a dynamic page, so if you are interested in Android, be sure to check it out periodically.

I just got off the phone with Sprint.  The phones should be here next week.\

Cancelled the Sprint order.  Best Buy has them for free with 2 year contract.  I have them now.

Google docs on the iPad

I've been using Google Docs as my primary word processor for the last year.  I write my weekly column on it for example.

I'm, pleased to see that you can now use the full Google Docs word processor on the iPad.  I have owned Documents to Go  for those times when I needed this capability.  I used it briefly this morning, but will test it more fully soon.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Family Tech - Gift Recommendation Engines

This week's Family Tech column is about ways to discover gifts based on the recipients interests.

I mention in passing that it is always good to be thinking about gift giving all year long.  I've used a few techniques over the years to remember gifts I see online that I think would be good for people I love.

The simplest is to bookmark them into a folder called "Gifts".  The problem with that anyone using your computer can easily discover them.  And unless you use folders for each person, you may forget later who you meant the gift for.

Since I have made Evernote a critical part of my life, I simply capture the links of good gifts to Evernote.  I can tag the item with "gift" and the persons name.  People who use my computer do not poke through my Evernote, but if I was paranoid, I can encrypt individual notes.

The other advantage Evernote has for gifting over simple bookmarks is I can capture a note of an item without having to have a web link.  If I see a commercial for an item, and think it is good product for my wife, I can create a note for it now, and research it online later.

As I start shopping for an gift later, I can use the note I originally made for it to record the results of my research (i.e. best stores, best prices etc.)

Now, I just need to way to find more money for gifts.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

XMarks to Survive

Good news.  XMarks has found a buyer.  They had said they needed to shut down, but LastPass, a password service has purchased them.  I love X-Marks as a way to have all my bookmarks available on the various gadgets I have.

I tend to use Evernote to keep bookmarks falling in the "Hey, this is cool, I might need this again someday" category.  I keep frequently visited bookmarks in my browser, and XMarks lets me sync them between supported browsers.  And if I am using a gadget without a supported browser, I can still go to the XMarks website on that gadget and see my bookmarks.

I mentioned XMarks before.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Family Tech : Online shopping

Our family has bought online for years, so it was a surprise to me to realize there are many still leery of shopping online.  This week's Family Tech column hopes to put some of their fears to rest.

A bit of excitement last night

Instead of just being a columnist, I participated in covering some breaking news last night.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Edit Google Docs on your iPad, iPhone and Android

Google announced today you can edit your Google Docs on your iPad.  This is very exciting.  We bought Documents 2 Go to be able to do that, but being able to do it natively is appealing.

It hasn't apparently rolled out to my account yet.  I just tried it on my iPod Touch and didn't see it.  The family iPad is at work now (it has a job, I'm still looking), so I'll have to wait until at least tonight to try it out on the iPad.

The video shows them editing on an Android phone and the iPad.  If you edit on the Android you can add text with your voice.

So far it looks like only documents, not spreadsheets or presentations.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Family Tech : Strong passwords

Too often we consider passwords a pain and a hindrance to our online life.  in reality, they are the keys and locks protecting our lives in the twenty-first century.  This is the topic of this week's Family Tech column.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hat Trick for Evernote

I actually feel bad this and the last two posts are all about Evernote.  But they are on a roll.  First they release version 2.0 of their Android client, and they hit 5 million users.

Now today, I awoke to find a new version of Evernote for my iPod and my iPad in the Apple App Store.

And the next issue of their podcast is out.

The best tool keeps getting better.

I plan another major post about Evernote once Due Dates are added, akin to recently updated "Your First Day with Evernote".

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Evernote hits 5 million users

Awesome.  And Fast, just 83 days from 4 million.  I predict 60 days until 6 million.  Maybe 50 considering Christmas when a bunch of new SmartPhones and computers will be in users hands.

Monday, November 8, 2010

New Evernote Android Client

As if I didn't want an Android phone bad enough, Evernote goes and releases the 2.0 version of their Android client.

Family Tech: Net Neutrality

When I first was offered Family Tech, a column on Net Neutrality was one of my first ideas.  I've pondered it for over a year how to distill the concept to 600 words.  I just wish more people understand how important this is to them as consumers.  A mighty battle is raging in the halls of power that will effect us, and many do not even know.

Family Tech: Net Neutrality.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Family Tech : Tech for Halloween

Boy, if I had the budget and time, I'd love to do a high tech haunted house.  I explored some tech tools for frightening people in this week's Family Tech column.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Evernote 4 for Windows Released

The #1 wish of most of us using Evernote on Windows, is a desire for a faster interface.  Our wish has been granted.  Evernote 4 is awesomely fast.  I've been using a Beta for the past couple weeks and love how fast it is at jumping to new notes when you switch Notebooks, and when searching.

Check out all the details on their blog and download it here.

Evernote's goal for this release was to recreate the features of 3.5 in a faster client, and a cleaner interface.  On their forum they say they will soon " start work on the list of long awaited feature that include sharing, due dates, templates, note links and more."

I'm real jazzed about Due Dates.  I've use Evernote now as my personal task program, so Due Dates will be a big plus.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Family Tech: Music Downloading

This week's column is about something everyone under 30 already knows.  For the rest of us, I discuss legal ways of getting music online in this week's Family Tech column.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Evernote is not an Everything Bucket, but a Miscellaneous Bucket

If you have read this blog even a few times, you know my favorite app of all time is Evernote.  And you know I also like the web site  They have driven some awesome traffic my way in the past.

I must take exception though to a recent post.  Adam Pash in "Avoid Everything Buckets, AKA Why I can't get into apps like Evernote", says he dislikes programs like Evernote because one mindlessly dumps data into it, without any thoughts of organizing it.

Pash says "Any of the "everything buckets" I've ever tried do many things poorly rather than one thing well ".  He does admit "That doesn't mean that you can't or don't use Evernote or some other universal capture application to great effect. (You may be a wizard at making Evernote do exactly what you want.) "

And right there, he has the essence.  How we think of information, and how we want to be able to go back to information we have encountered, is immensely personal.  Our personality types, our working practices dictate the approach we take, and the type of application we want.

Pash cites a post by Alex Payne, a former Twitter developer now doing his own startup.  as the genesis for his own opinion. Payne's piece  advocates organizing information via the filesystem, specifically the Mac file system.  He says the search capability of Spotlight replaces the search in an Evernote type app.  

Payne misses the point the most of us encounter information that merely makes a twitch a bit, "Hey this is interesting" but do not want to take a moment to think how we might use it, or how we should organize.  We just want to be able to grab it so we can deal with it later, or not deal with it, but be able to find it if we want.

Payne's solution is also Mac oriented.  The search on my Windows 7 platform is not nearly as fast as Evernote.  

And Payne's solution does not consider syncing to multiple platforms.  I love that I can enter something into Evernote while surfing the net on my iPad, and then later pull it up on my PC with no action on my part.  Or pull it up on my two year old smart phone to tell the doctor what prescriptions I am taking.

I suspect Alex Payne is a very smart guy, but he and I are coming from different places.  I previously disagreed with his criticism of the iPad when he said that he would not have become a programmer had he only had an iPad growing up.  He failed then to understand all those older programmers he works with, had tinkered with something other than computers in their youth, and then went on to build the personal computers industry he is thriving in.

I do not think of Evernote and their ilk as Everything Buckets but rather as Miscellaneous Buckets.  I still put contact information in my contact manager and appointments and events into my calendar.  Evernote gets everything else:  seldom needed bookmarks, copies of receipts I might need to have again, manuals, warranties, research information etc.

Help with comment to "Recording your own notes with Google Voice"

Some people trying to follow the instructions in my post "Recording your own notes with Google Voice" do not see an "Show advanced Settings" link that I mention.  This is where it is on my Google Voice.  I am posting the screen shot here, since you cannot post a photo to comments in Blogger.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Family Tech : Hey, I produced a video

The church up the street we belong too is celebrating its 160th year.  The original church building remains, although our congregation built a new building in the 70's.

I've long wanted to do a documentary on the Historical Church, as we now call it.  Prompted by a birthday dinner held a week ago, I put together a 15 minute documentary in a couple of months.  I want to do more with it, eventually producing something about 30 minutes in length exploring the history of the surrounding area a bit more than this shortened version does.

For those not from these parts, our community is just south of Mount Vernon, also on the Potomac.  This little church is located about a mile or two from the river in what was a very rural area as recently as the 1970's.

The lessons I learned, and how you can take the hours of home videos you shoot in a year of your kids, and cut them together into a 10 or 15 minute production, was the topic of this week's Family Tech column.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Your $2000 toddler toy

My brother sent this link today.  The toddler in his life is just like this.

An autism teacher I know says her students are enthralled with the iPad.  They will gladly do work if it means a few minutes on the iPad.

Oh, and I got the $2000 figure here, as the cost of ownership of an iPhone 4 for 2 years.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Your First Day with Evernote - updated

One of the top two posts ever on this blog is "Your First Day with Evernote" that I created a year ago.  I have kept it updated, but today went through and added a bunch of new things.  Check it out here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Family Tech : Networked Games

I've never been much of a game player on computers.  There is just too many other interesting things to do.  Lately my extended family has been waging battles via an iPhone/iPod/iPad game called Words with Friends.

The concept made me pay attention to some of the other networked games out there for computers and game platforms.  Like many things on the net, they have a dark side to go with the fun, and social aspects.  Predators go where the kids are, and online gaming is one of those places.

These all are the topics of this week's Family Tech.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

iPad goes to college

I mused during this summer in a column, "Was the iPad good enough for college?"

Leo Laporte mentioned in aone of his podcasts, a student who is trying to use an iPad for much of school as he can, and blogging the results.

I read "The Experiment Journal" with great interest.

Whole lotta stuff to talk about

When I first started blogging, I read advice somewhere to never, ever apologize for failing to blog--that it was just boring.

I agree, yet I am breaking that rule.  I am afraid if I do not say something, readers will this this blog has become just a mechanism for promoting my weekly newspaper column, Family Tech.

That is not so.  The blog predates the column, and likely will go on should I ever stop writing the column.  The intent is to have the blog cover those issues more technical then the column would need, or those things not oriented to technology for the family.

Of course, looking for a job takes up a lot of my time.  And too, I've have been busy with a special project, a video documentary.  More about that in the coming weeks, ironically in a Family Tech column.

So many things have been tagged in my Evernote for blogging.  Let's touch base on Evernote itself first.

They have posted their twenty-second podcast.  Their twenty-first excited me when CEO Phil Libin mentioned that Due Dates would soon appear in Evernote.

They have added Site Memory, letting bloggers add a button letting readers capture content directly to Evernote.  I just took a look at it, and adding it to the Blogger platform I use is not straight forward.   They promise integration soon with major blog platforms, so when it comes to Blogger, or I have more time to fiddle, it will appear here.

And the Evernote Windows client gets better and better.  I am using 3.5.7 now, and finally you can easily tag multiple notes, and move multiples to new notebooks etc.  Not sure how long this ability has been there; I just know it wasn't earlier and is appreciated.

And their Chrome add-on now shows you relevant Evernote notes when you search Google.  That is way cool.

Thanks for sticking with me during the month and half this blog was mostly links to my column.  More things for my fellow Evernote, Dropbox, cloud, iPad, and gadget fans here soon.

Dropbox Add ons

More and more I am seeing people take advantage of Dropbox to add new functionality to the PC environment. The most recent I have signed up for is AirDropper.  It lets you send someone a slink they can use to upload files to you directly into your Dropbox account.

I just sent my first request and am waiting for the person to send me files.  Seems like a good way for people to be able to send me multiple and large files.

I haven't tried this one yet, but there is another email to Dropbox service, from Habilis.  I've been using that I first talked about in July.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Family Tech : Personal Finance

When I bought my first computer, a Radio Shack Model I with a cassette recorder for data storage, I was sure I could finally get the definitive handle on my personal finances.  Many computers and decades later, I am still seeking that holy grail.

This week's Family Tech reviews the state of managing your finances by computer.  And until writing this, I had forgotten I had beta tested the first online banking service, Bank of America (when they really were B of A, not Nations of NC).  That was back in 1983 and it was all text/command line driven.  Kind of nice; I could write scripts in my terminal software to get the data for me automatically.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Family Tech : Its's the 80's Again

For those of us who saw the beginnings of the Apple vs. Microsoft battle in the 1980's, what we are seeing with the nascent tablet market seems awfully familiar.  Except this time, Microsoft is played by Google.   This is the topic of this week's Family Tech column.

Thanks to my brother Jim for his memories of this time.  This column started as a conversation with him at my parents home.  And thanks as usual to Mom for her grammar and punctuation suggestions!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Family Tech : Hard to be a packrat anymore

I got to think about how much clutter I could have avoided if only today's technology had been available to me all my life.  This week's Family Tech column talks about how I wouldn't be burdened with shelves full of books, boxes of old video tapes, and how I wouldn't have needed to throw out my old college notebooks somewhere along the line.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Family Tech : Grocery Lists go High Tech

Avoiding grocery shopping while hungry is one way to keep a handle on your food costs.  The other is to make a list, and stick to it.

Gadgets make grocery lists easier.  If grocery chains were smart, they'd come up with their own shopping Apps.

This is the topic of this week's Family Tech column.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Family Tech : Swimming in a Sea of Data

The concepts in this week's Family Tech are likely already known to readers of this blog.  If family members though ask how do you keep up with all the news you do, you might refer them to this column.  It is all about using Google Alerts, RSS feeds and Twitter to find the information we need for our business and personal lives.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Entering a lot of events into Google Calendar

Do you ever need to enter a lot of dates into Google Calendar?  The Google Student Blog shows a way for students to easily enter in all the various dates in a course syllabus into Gcal.  The same technique can be used by anyone who needs to enter a lot of dates at the same time, say from a new project for example.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Family Tech: Online Bullying

Even writing this week's column made me angry and made my heart go out to the kids who now have school yard bullying following them into their home and keeping them up all hours of the night

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Update and Bookmarks reminder

I added a small update to my post on the best size for a tablet.

And if you enjoy the same topics I write about here, then be sure to check out my Public Bookmarks.  I often bookmark interesting things without writing about them here.

Phone Calls come to Gmail

Earlier this week, Google rolled out telephone calls within Gmail.

Basically what they did was to allow phone calls to be made from within Google Chat.  If you already have a Google Voice (GV) account, then the call is made with your Google Voice number as the Caller ID.

When I first tried it, it required I download and install the voice and video chat plug-in.  No problem.

Unlike Google Voice, it dos not make a call to one of your phones before connecting you to the caller, but rather connects you directly to the microphone and speakers (or headset) on your PC.

To make a call, just click "Call Phone" that appears on the left hand column, underneath Chat.

A dialpad appears.  You can either type the number using the keypad, type in a number in the search box, or search your contacts by typing into the search box.

Without Google Voice, you cannot receive calls from the phone system.  If you do have GV, you can click Settings,  Voice Settings, phones and you'll see an option for turning on Google Chat.

The calls are free in the US and Canada.  Overseas calling is pretty cheap too.  It's ony two cents a minute to the UK.  Our beloved AT&T nicked me $2.48 a minute a few years ago.  

Phone calls in Gmail are nice, but not yet the be all end all.

It doesn't replace the need to go to the GV homepage.  GV still offers text messaging.  I suspect that will be added here soon.

And while it works on PC's and Macs, don't look for it soon on your iPad.  “We do not offer this feature on mobile browsers, and right now we have no plans to do so,”  according to Googler Randall Sarafa, quoted in BusinessWeek.

Those of us who had Gizmo5 accounts before Google bought Google could have Google Voice calls come to our Gizmo5 client.  Once nice ability there was to record calls.  GV lets you record incoming calls, but not out going calls.

There are some issues.  VoipWatch says there is some problems keeping the Gmail and Google Voice windows all in sync.

There are some nice things though.  

Gadling reports you can even use Gmail to make phone calls from planes.

Since you can create as many Google Accounts as you need, talks about using a GV account as a special Emergency Contact mechanism.  I have to think about that one some more.

Back in July there was a rumor Google had an updated Gizmo5 client ready to work with GV, but higher ups wanted a web based only solution, not a PC client.  Apparently this Gmail ability is that web based client.  I do hope though Google comes up with a smaller web window to act as a floating client.  I have placed calls, and then clicked away from my Gmail window to look up something whle on the call, and have to go back to the Gmail window to end  the call.  Having a little floating web app would be nice.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Little things, big help

A journalism professor of mine threatened once to randomly stop you on campus, and if you did not have a pen or pencil on you, to flunk you for the semester.  His contention was you never knew when you'd encounter a story, and should be prepared always to write.  To this day, most of the time, I have a pen in my pocket.

October of 1989, I was without power in my apartment for two days after Loma Prieta earthquake struck San Francisco.  Only a few days before I'd spent almost $20 for then new Maglite AAA flashlight; the smallest, most powerful flashlight I'd ever seen.  It was my sole light for two nights.  Since then I have spent a small fortune on powerful pocket flashlights.  The most recent is the brightest yet, and only $3 at my auto parts store.  

And what self respecting geek like me does not have a USB drive on them at all times with common software tools?

Its easy to get carried away.  Small tools don't take up much room in your pocket and can be a big aid. A few small items stack up, so I always carry less than I want, and more than I should.

Not as bad as a guy named Eric who carries 1300 items in his jacket.  As he says, "I simply saw that there are many problematic situations that could be avoided if you had some usual objects."

I do enjoy keeping my travel kit lean and mean, with every item being useful on just about every business trip, and rarely running into a need on the road I have not anticipated.

Eric's inventory is useful in choosing items to have. Another person who never leaves the house without everything he might need is Batman.  One enterprising fan has compiled a list over every item Batman has pulled from his utility belt in comics, cartoons and movies.  

Maybe this compulsion is why I like Smartphones and Tablets.  Think of all the tools they compile into one item.  Map books, GPS, flashlight, stop watch, alarm clock, TV guide, Weather radio, TV, radio ad infinitum.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Evernote continues to grow

Evernote announced on their blog they have reached over four million users.  At the rate they are growing, they should be safely over five million by years end.

Glad to see so many people are deriving the many benefits and uses of Evernote.  I hope I've driven a few users there way, and with my "Your First Day with Evernote" post made it easier for some to start off productively.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Neat Scanner on sale for $149

The NeatReceipts mobile scanner I like is on sale until 8/29/2010 for $149.00.

Strongly recommended.

I don't make any money if you buy one, but I wanted to pass along this deal.

Due Dates coming to Evernote

Phil Libin, Evernote's CEO just mentioned in their Podcast #21 that they will soon be adding "Due Dates" as a field in Evernote notes.

That will lead to many new abilities to do calendar/event management within Evernote.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The 1983 iPad

It was 1983, and I was in gadget lust like I've never known.
No matter it cost about 1/20th of my annual salary then, and I had no real need, I had to have it.

It was the lightest computer around.  It weighed about 1/8th of the other hot, portable computer at the time did.  That's a better ratio than an iPad to a laptop!

It had a state of the art non-CRT display, like the iPad.

It had connectivity.

It ran for a long time on batteries.  Unlike the iPad, the batteries were easily replaceable AA batteries.  And it could get 20 hours to a set of batteries, not the iPad's paltry-by-comparison 10 hours.

It had a real keyboard, not an on-screen one.

It could print.  Try that on your iPad.

It had arrow keys.  You won't find those on your iPad.

It had the iPad's cool factor.  I'd use it on BART and draw a crowd.

Reporters loved it.  It was the first PC they could carry with them on stories.  Globe trotting journalists were submitting stories via it in no time.

I'm talking about the Radio Shack Model 100, made by Kyocera.  I still have it.  Probably always will.  Its cool to look at still.

What's the best size for a tablet?

It is no secret I'm enamored with the iPad.  My love affair isn't really with the iPad so much as it is with the tablet/touchscreen form factor.  It is clear to me that it is going to a major impact on technology going forward.

That we will take to the tablet shouldn't be a surprise.  As the photo with this post shows, we've been anticipating the touch tablet for some time and fully expected it to be in our future.

And what is the iPhone, the iPod touch and Android Smartphones but tablets albeit small tablets?

The iPad is simply the first touch screen tablet for the masses.  It is the vanguard of a wave to come.  Already Apple is rumored to have a 7 inch model ready to hit stores before Christmas.  A host of manufacturers are set to release Android versions and some are already out.

One concern I'd had was that while Apple re-engineered the iPhone operating system (now named iOS) for larger displays, I'd not seen any rumors of Google dong the same for Android.

I knew they had to be.  Google is smart--smarter than Apple I think.  Last night I saw a post by Jolie O'Dell of Mashable indicating the Honeycomb code named upgrade of Android OS will be for tablets.  I have no way of knowing if this is true, but it feels right; highly logical.

I worry about the control Apple exerts on their platforms. While that control might be ok for many non-techy users, I want something less controlled.  I want to be able to easily make apps myself.  Apple will never allow I believe, something as enabling as Visual Basic or even Hypercard were for the PC and Mac respectively for the iPad.  And that's a shame.

So, I'm hoping an Android phone and/or tablet are in my future.

"So what size?" is my next question.

We have both an iPod Touch and an iPad.  I never really used the iPod Touch much before we got the iPad.  I moved it my nightstand as an alarm clock.  Then eventually, while my wife was using the iPad, I picked it up.

In come ways that small form factor is more useful than the larger iPad.  A quick check of e-mail is fine.  Checking Twitter is actually easier.  The iPad requires two hands, one to hold, and one to touch/control.  I can hold the iPod Touch in one hand and control it with my thumb.

I think there will always be a place in my life for two screen sizes.  When I upgrade my phone next, I'll probably get an Android phone so the things I can do on the iPod Touch can be done on the phone.

So, will I continue to use the iPad, or want an Android tablet?

Probably yes.  Instead of netbook, I can see myself with a tablet.  For the few times I need to create content away from my home PC, the iPad has been more than suitable.  An Android tablet will likely be geared more to creation than the iPad is.

I do think I'll find myself leaning towards a 7 inch tablet.  The current iPad is a bit large, and a bit heavy.  I think a 7 inch device could be the right weight, and somewhat useful for one handed use in some, but by no means all, cases.

There will be some interesting releases before Christmas.  And I can't wait until January's CES to get a glimpse of what may come in 2011.

Update 08-28-2010:  PCMag disagrees.  I still want to try out a 7 inch, but it has occurred to me that a case for a 7 inch will exacerbate the man-purse issue the iPad has already created.  Any small case for a tablet, does not look like a computer case but more like a man-purse.  Maybe the answer for that is for we men to got over it as far as carrying a bag.  It's a new world.

Family Tech : The things we need to know

Don't wash reds with whites,.  Don't answer roommate ads saying "liberal roommates wanted" (no one is that liberal).  How to change a tire.

These are all things we need to know in the modern world. This week's Family Tech is about the things technology demands we all know about as well. Good thoughts for your kids, and for yourself.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hardware for the College Student

This week's Family Tech column talked about what hardware a college student needs.  We got into the laptop/netbook debate and talked about some other hardware useful to a college student.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Is the iPad good enough for college?

Could you send a college student off to school with just an iPad?  That burning question is the topic of this week's Family Tech.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The times they are a changing

Usually you don't see two signs of changing times within a few minute of one another, but I did just now.  I looked over my Twitter feed for the past hour and saw Mashable's report that Amazon thinks sales of e-books in their Kindle Store will overtake paperbacks by the end of 2011.  Amazon recently announced that e-books had over taken hardback sales last quarter.  And Amazon expects e-books to overtake paper and hardback combined some time after that.  Jeff Bezo's of Amazon marvels that the Kindle is only 33 months old.

And according to the Digital Future Project from the USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism and reported by Editor and Publisher, 56% Internet users ranked newspapers as  important or very important sources of information while the internet is at 78% and television is at 68%.

The internet continues to rock the world, and disrupt old ways of doing things.  We have to make sure the information continues to flow freely, and as unfettered as possible.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Smart Shopping

An experience last week with a tire salesman who seemed oblivious to the concept his prices were online, prompted me to write this week's Family Tech.  Consumers have a lot of tools now for smarter shopping.  And retailers need to be ready for smarter, better informed consumers and willing to work with them if they want to survive.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Another E-Mail to Dropbox Solution

In May I blogged about a need to e-mail files to Dropbox.  It was a capability I wanted since getting an iPad.  Files would arrive via e-mail attachments and I would want to save them to Dropbox so I could view them or edit them on the iPad using Docs2Go.

The solution I found then, MailDrop, was an application that ran on my PC and watched my Gmail for incoming files and then moved them to Dropbox.

It worked well for a while, then for some reason the app started crashing on startup; probably something I  am doing or could easily fix if I took them time.

Last night I ran across a reference to a new free service, Send-To_Dropbox.  You create an account, link it to your Dropbox account, and it provides a private e-mail address for you.  Anything sent to that address ends up in the Attachments folder of your Dropbox account.

It works very much like Evernote's e-mail capability.

I applaud who ever setup this service.  I hope you don't begin charging for it.  And I suspect Dropbox will add this capability eventually; it just seems logical.  The thought occurred to me that either SendToDropbox is hoping to sell their code to Dropbox, or this is even is Dropbox's beta test of the capability.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Millennials

Having grown up with computers and the web, the young generation today has new ideas about work, citizenship, collaboration, sharing, privacy and life in general.  In this week's Family Tech I delve into that, warning if you are parenting, hiring, selling to, trying to influence, or seeking the votes of this generation,  you need to consider how they are different.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Transfer Google Voice to your Google Apps Account

If you pay for a business oriented Google Apps account, you have not been able to use your Google Voice in it. Now you can.

Gina Trapani of This Week in Google fame, and many other accomplishments, explains how.

Here's an iPhone 4 case that would solve the problem.

I put this on my Facebook page and my friends thought it funny.

If this were a iPhone 4 case, it would solve the antenna/reception issue.

But it would give Steve Jobs and his sense of design an aneurysm.

It's all perspective

A 3.6 earthquake hit Virginia at 5 AM today, waking some and doing absolutely no damage, at least that I can find reported.

It has received a lot of attention.  I slept through it.  I did feel a 4.5 that hit in 2003.   Having watched a building collapse during the 7.1 Loma Prieta quake, it is all a matter of perspective.

To be fair,a 3.6 is a big quake for this part of the country.  The biggest was a 5.8 in 1897.  Just goes to show, no place is immune, even from big ones.  It's just a matter of frequency.

And to balance those getting excited in Virginia, in San Francisco they would get excited about a thunderstorm.  There was only one or two in the twenty years I lived there.  There have been two this week in Virginia.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Transcribe your voice notes and send to Evernote

Evernote announced their new sort-of-an-app store today, calling it The Trunk.  It will be a  good way to keep up-to-date with all the various tools, add-ons, integrations and hardware set to work with Evernote.

One product they featured in the press briefing this morning was Dial2Go's  Dial2Note.  It allows you to dial a phone number, record a message and the first 30 seconds is transcribed and the text put into your Evernote account so it is searchable.

The free service allows five messages a month, while the unlimited service is $30 a year. could get a free Google Voice account and similar capability for free.

First, you have to setup your Google Voice for to record messages when you call it from your own cell phone.  I have covered that before in this post.

Then you have to setup your Google Voice to send the transcriptions to your Evernote e-mail address. Google Voice can be set to email me the transcription or text it to me. I have it do both.

The text alerts me quicker to the existence of the voice mail.

I setup a filter in my Gmail account so that any transcription emails from Google Voice are automatically forwarded to my Evernote acccount.

Think about that for a minute. All transcriptions of my voice mails and dictated notes from myself are now stored in one location and readily searchable by me from my desktop or via the web from my phone or anywhere I can connect to the web.

Of course, I can search the transcripts at the Google Voice site too, but by sending them into Evernote, they become part of my overall collection with my other documents and notes. And in Evernote, I then have a backup copy of the transcripts should anything happen to them while they reside only on Google (unlikely I know).

My single test of Dial2Note had perfect transcription.  Google Voice rarely transcribes perfectly.  And if you pay for the Dial2Note service, you can audio tag your notes by ending them with something like "tag with todo item".  You cannot do that with Google Voice.  If you like this Google Voice/Evernote hack you may want to subscribe to Dial2Note to get better transcription and tagging.

Evernote Trunk is live

Find it here.

Evernote launches Trunk

Evernote Trunk is a app type store for hardware and software usable with Evernote.  It should be going live momentarily, but for now, here is Evernote's Press Release on the Trunk.

Monday, July 12, 2010

My iPad Apps

It seems everyone and their brother are writing posts listing the apps they have on their iPad.  I read everyone one I come across and have found several new programs I didn't know about.

In honor of my sister receiving an iPad for her birthday today, I thought I'd do my own list.

Unless otherwise noted, all apps mentioned are free.

E-Mail and Calendar

Oddly, the built-in Calendar and E-mail apps don't do much for me.  Since I share the iPad with my wife, I tend to use the web versions of Gmail and Google Calendar.  I do have my e-mail credentials in the e-mail app so I can e-mail out pages from applications.


The #1 need here is to add Amazon's Kindle app.  Amazon currently has more books available for Kindle then Apple does in the iBook store.  More importantly, the Kindle is cross platform.  You can only read iBooks on the iPad and iPhone.  You can read Kindle on those and Android phones and many other platforms, including of course, the hardware Kindles Amazon sells.

Video and Television

In addition to the built-in Video and Youtube App, I also have Zap2It to give me TV listings, and IMDB to let me look up movies and actors.  I also use Flixster to look up area movies; although I haven't been to one in ages.

The number #1 add on app in this area though is the Netflix app.  With it, I can manage my queue, but more importantly watch streaming videos from Netflix.  Their most basic membership of one DVD a month service lets you stream unlimited videos.  You can start a video on your computer, pause it,m to watch it on on your TV via your Wii or PS3, pause it again, and resume on your iPad.  In each case, the video starts up right where you left off.

I also have the AirVideoFree app.  It lets me stream videos from my PC to my iPad.  I'm still not sure I need it; I have it installed as an experiment.  It works surprisingly well, and if I watched a lot of video I'd opt for the paid version.  So far though I really don't see the need.

Also: ABC Player.


USA Today, AP News and NPR


WeatherBug and TWCMax (The Weather Channel)


The iPad was supposed to be a media consumption device, meaning web pages, books and videos.  It's wonderful portability has made me want to use it for more productive things, and I've found a few apps that do wonderfully.

First off is my favorite tool, Evernote.  I have gushed over Evernote a lot here.  In fact, I have developed various apps since 1980 to keep track of all the bits and pieces of information in my life.  I had a nice little one running when Evernote came along and I gladly moved my data over to it, and have totally stopped working on my app.  I could never match the OCR ability or the indexing they have.

Evernote lets you build a collection of information.  Most commonly they are notes but can also be audio notes, PDF files, photos, web clippings and bookmarks.

If you take a photo, Evernote can decipher the words in the photo so you can search on the words just as easily as you can words in a note.

For example if you take a photo of a historical marker of of the Manassas battlefield, when you search for Manassas, that image pops up along with all your other references to Manassas.

Evernote synchronizes the data in your client to their servers.  If you run multiple clients as I do  you have the same data on all platforms.  There are free clients for iPad, iPhone, PC, Mac, Android and other platforms, as well as a web client.

I have a previous blog posts on the "Many Uses of Evernote" and "Your First Day with Evernote" that are worth checking out.

The beauty of Evernote, is you do not have to use iTunes to move information to your iPad.

Another good way to avoid iTunes from being your gateway to your iPad is to have a free Dropbox account. Clicking that link in the previous line takes you to the Dropbox site where you can sign up for a free twi gigabyte online storage.  And by clicking that link, it should give me an additional 256 megabytes and you also w256 extra.

Dropbox installs a small app on your PC that lets you move any file into a folder in "My Documents/My Dropbox" folder (on a PC) and it automatically syncs to their servers.  Then if you have a free Dropbox client on another PC, a Mac, your iPad, or other platforms, the files are accessible there too.

The best use of this is for moving PDF files from your PC to be readable on your iPad.

To read PDF files, there are a number of good reader apps.  I used GoodReader for a while (99 cents).  It will open PDF files in Dropbox.

When my wife wanted to use the iPad at a professional conference, they e-mailed a bunch of PDF's and she wanted to annotate them.  So we bought iAnnotate ($9.99).  It stores its annotations right back into the PDF file so you can e-mail them back to yourself and read the annotations in Adobe's Reader application on your PC.

While iAnnotate does not open directly from Dropbox, it can download a PDF file from the web.  I just go to the Dropbox website and open the file from there.

I can't imagine owning a platform without at least rudimentary word processing and spreadsheet abilities.  More and more I have stopped using Microsoft Word and Excel in lieu of Google Docs apps.  They may not have as many features as the Microsoft apps, but they have the features I use.

After looking at a variety of tools, I ended up with Docs2Go. It shares data with Google Docs   It also is available on a large number of platforms  If you haven't figured out, with Netflix, Kindle, Evernote, and Dropbox, cross platform flexibility is huge to me.


I love maps.  I used to love waiting for the National Geographic to arrive with its map insert.

The built-in Maps app is great.  I have also downloaded Google Earth, and ARCGIS.


There are many calculator apps out there.  Many are 99 cents, but the "CalculatorXL" app is free and good enough for me. makes a nice dictionary.

QuickVoice will record audio.

Wikipanion is a nice way to access Wikipedia.

Photopad lets you edit photos, a sort of lite weight PhotoShop.

Siri I haven't used much, but probably would if I had a 3G iPad.  You can ask with your voice to find all the Chinese restaurants nearby and it will.  It's turns your iPad into sort of a computer as found on the Starship Enterprise.  It is very cool.  Apple just bought the company, so expect to see it as a built in app in the future.

And finally iDraft for drawing.

And while Skype does not yet have an iPad version, it does have an iPhone version that works ok on the iPad.

I have not bothered with iTunes links to each of the apps.  Simple searches in the app store should let you find each of these apps.