Skip to main content


Showing posts from 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 trium…

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

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 …

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, …

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 Sma…

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 …

Evernote adds "Getting Started with Evernote" to their website

Evernote has added a resource for new users.  "Getting Started with Evernote" is a good, brief introduction to beginning your Evernote experience.

My "Your First Day with Evernote" post is useful. too

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.

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.

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".

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.

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.

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.  …

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 mentione…

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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

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 thevoice 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 t…

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 …

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.

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.

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 abou…

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.

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 pos…

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.

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 w…

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.

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.

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 …

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 s…