Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dropbox and PortableApps

As I have started relying more and more on Dropbox, I was able to stop using my USB drive to carry around documents.  For months, I'd even misplaced my USB drive and not felt its loss.

When I recently found it, I added a bunch of apps from PortableApps.com to it.  They are mostly things I need when helping someone with their computer: file managers, anti-virus, that sort of thing.

And while I usually have my USB drive on me, I don't always.  Yesterday the thought jumped into my mind that applications set to work from your USB drive are not tied to any PC.  They require no entries in the computers registry, and no installation.  It's like the first days of the original Mac where you could ran the application.

I copied my entire Portable Apps folder and the StartPortableApps.exe to my Dropbox, and viola, it appeared on my other PC's I have connected to the same Dropbox.

I keep files I want always available in Dropbox, now I can do it with applications too.  Sweet.

And as is often the case with such hacks as this, I'm not the first one to discover this.  After thinking of it, and trying it, I Googled and found others who had also thought of this.

Disclosure: The links to Dropbox here will get me 255 meg of addtional space should you signup for a Free or Paid Dropbox account via this link.  I'd appreciate it if you do.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Family Tech : Leet Speak (aka text speak)

In this week's Family Tech column I try to introduce text speak to parents & grandparents, while grappling with its seeping into academic and business writing.  I even end up embracing it a bit.

Heck, I even slipped in an  S. I. Hayakawa quote.  

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mike Elgan thinks the iPad will be a monumental hit

A year from now, Mike Elgan's post in ComputerWorld could well be included in the dictionary as an example of hyperbole.  It's a brave prediction to make.

Something in my gut says he may just be right.  Not, about solely the iPad, but the concept of tablets.

He says:


Everyone from engineers to neo-luddites will buy iPads. It will be the first device in recent years to match the technical-enthusiasm range of the cell phone market.
Gamers, readers, TV watchers, movie enthusiasts will get one.
Schools, churches, libraries, small businesses, restaurants, nightclubs, malls and other organizations will put them to use.
Pilots, teachers, public speakers, artists, contractors, writers, and other professionals will enhance their careers with iPads. The Pentagon will go nuts for this thing.

All software should be as easy as Netflix on the Wii

1. Turn on Wii, put in Disc
2.  Select Netflix from Wii's menu
3.  Netflix app loads and tells you to go to http://Netflix.com/Wii and enter in the four character code Netflix is displaying on your Wii.

The web page says your Wii will be registered within three minutes of entering the code.  It was already registered by the time I walked from my home office back into the living room.

We watched a movie for 30 minutes with absolute perfection; no stuttering or any issues at all.  We have a standard def TV.

I think I'll order the disc now for my son's PS3.

It will be interesting to see what this does to our internet consumption.  Comcast just enabled their meter so we can monitor our 250 gig limit to the "unlimited" broadband they sold us.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Netflix streaming to my Wii

I received an e-mail yesterday from Netflix.  The Wii application to allow Netflix to stream via my Wii should be here today.  Watch for the review either later today or tomorrow.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's Called Mindset


This has probably been around for many years, but I just saw it now.  A good lesson. Click the photo to see it larger.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Future Darwin Award Winner?

How soon until someone is ticketed for having an iPad vecroed to their steering wheel?

It occurred to me the other day it would fit well on my steering wheel.  Near your line of sight you could have navigation or be watching a video.

I'd never do it, but you gotta know someone will.  I just hope they are not on the same highway as me.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Twitter Fame

Have you followed the story of LisaTickledPink?

In his podcast "This Week in Technology" on March 7, Leo LaPorte told the story of how Conan O'Brian chose one Twitter user with three followers and asked all his followers to do the same.  Getting a bit silly, Leo and his panel for the show decided it would be a great idea to do the same.

Tasking Kevin Rose of Digg, a panelist that day, to find someone, Kevin searched Twitter for "I hate technology" and discovered Lisa Etheridge of Auckland, New Zealand.  Lisa had only two users and three twits, one being "I hate technology".  Leo said come April 3 he would chose one of Lisa's followers and give them an iPad and within minutes she had over 2000 followers.  She now has over 26,000.

Almost immediately, Leo started feeling unease at what they'd done.  It also occurred to them that the default setting a new Twitter user like Lisa probably had still turned on was to receive a new e-mail for each time they received  a new follower.  She'd wake up the next morning (it then being 1 AM in New Zealand) to find her inbox buried in a mysterious avalanche of new followers.  He decided to give Lisa an iPad as well to make up for her being thrust into unasked for digital fame.

I am one of Lisa's followers.  Not only to maybe win an iPad, but also to see how she takes to her new found fame.

And I'm happy to say she's handled it with grace and a sense of fun.  She has twittered that she loves the instant tech support she gets whenever she asks a question.  I saw one almost plaintive twit that had come in the the middle of US night, saying "I want to play but you are all asleep."  And Lisa is appearing on local TV and international media.  And according to Leo, she has some projects coming up she'd wondered how she might publicize.



Monday, March 22, 2010

Dropbox saved me today

I had finished editing an audio file in Audacity, and was saving it as an MP3 back over itself (I know, that's not good), when I lost power.

The original file had been placed into a shared Dropbox folder for me.  I had moved it from that folder, thereby deleting it on Dropbox, so that the one I was writing over top of was my only copy.

When power came back, I simply went to Dropbox's web site and undeleted the deleted file.  I then copied (not moved) to a new folder, edited it and saved it again.  Problem solved.

In related news, Dropbox announced an upcoming Android version coming in a few months, and released screenshots.  There is an Android in my future, so this is good news.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Great Google Apps Summary

Gina Trapani has a great summary of Google's Applications in the current Maximum PC in her "The Power Users Guide to Google Apps".

Gina is also a panelist on "This Week in Google", a video podcast from Leo LaPorte's Twit TV.

Family Tech - Internet Scams

The irony is that an hour or so after submitting this week's Family Tech column on internet scams, I received a scamming e-mail.

Most readers of this blog will know better then to fall for one of these, but this is a good article to send to family & friends who are not.  If nothing else, the column introduces them to Snopes.com.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Create Websites with Evernote

Yet another function I use Evernote for is as a simple CMS, or Content Management System.  Simply by adding a note in Evernote, I can update a Web site.

A CMS system can be a large, proprietary and expensive system capable of supporting giant web sites.  And they can also be free, open source but still complex products.

And there are free, easy to use CMS systems, like the Blogger.com I use to maintain this blog.

Evernote though can also be used as a quick and dirty way to move and update data to the web by exploiting Evernote's Public Folder ability.

I first started using this when I replaced Delicious with Evernote (something you can't do anymore since the Evernote import from Delicious is off Evernote's Web site).  It occurred to me as I started bookmarking sites that some of the links were on topics I often blog about here (Evernote, Dropbox, etc.).  I created a public notebook called "Public Bookmarks" and any link I save to that Notebook appears on the web after the next Evernote sync.

When I began writing my weekly column for the News & Messenger newspaper, I needed a Web site with links from the column.  I could have used Blogger to do it I now realize, but back then I was a new Evernote user totally enthralled with Evernote and looking for more and more ways to use it (I guess I still am enthralled).  Since I use Evernote to capture research I do for each column, it seemed natural to copy the pertinent links to one note, format it a bit, and then move it to a Public Notebook. And voila, the links page for that week was created.

Evernote's blog post describes how to set this up.  It is cheap, easy, convenient CMS.

Self Updating Contacts

Yahoo today announced a cool new feature.  If you have a contact in your Yahoo contact list, and that person is also a Yahoo user, and moves, when they update their contact information, the data you have for them in your contact item for them, is updated automatically.  Of course, they have to choose to share that information for you.

This begins to solve a long standing problem.  A few years ago I discussed doing a gratis programming project for the private school my son was then attending.  We were going to come up with a online page for each Family that had kids at the school.  The parents would be able to keep the information updated on their own.  The school administration would be able to see the information.  Additionally, we were thinking of features so parents could share contact information with other parents to make it easier to build the community aspects of the small school.  Alas, we never went forward with it.  It could have gone a long way to keeping the information accurate and taking a cumbersome burden off the admin support staff.

Our church staff is always struggling to keep contact information up to date.  I was thinking of giving them the same code.

I stopped using Yahoo as my primary platform a while ago and now am firmly in the clenches of Google.  I have always thought Google needs to improve their contact handling, perhaps going so far as buying Salesforce and putting a personal contact handling ability into it.  That way Google could handle contacts for both individuals, small and large businesses tied to all their services.  Google Contacts now is nicely tied to their services like Gmail and Voice.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Is this the deathnell for Exchange?

Running an Exchange server is a costly and complicated affair for businesses.  Why spend the time and money when Google Apps is affordable, easy and available to your employees from anywhere they can get to the web even without Outlook?

Account lock-in is a skill Microsoft learned well from their once partner IBM.   Having all you employees and years of data on Exchange are a strong argument for leaving well enough alone, and staying on Exchange.  Moving to Google was always a manual affair.  Until yesterday when Google announced a migration tool from Exchange to Google Apps.  I bet a lot of companies will seize on this.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Evernote gets even better

Evernote announced today they have added the ability to specify a notebook and tags when you e-mail to your Evernote account.

For example :       Call Dr. for test results @things to do #medical

The resulting note will have as its title "Call Dr. for test results".  The note will be in the notebook "things to do" and tagged as medical.

Full details are in their blog.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Family Tech Column : Small businesses need to monitor their online reputation

Most small businesses do not know that increasing number of their customers are finding them via Google Maps, Google Search, Google Places, Foursquare, Gowalla and the like.  This week's column alerts them to that, and warns them of the need to monitor their online reputation.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

My favorite Evernote Use Case

Earlier this week I had to make a series of phone calls.  It reminded me again of my favorite use of Evernote.

When I have to make a series of calls, I use Google Voice to call out via my Gizmo5 client so I can use my computer headphones and keep my hands free for typing.

As I wait for the call to connect, I create a new Evernote note for the call and open it in its own window.

In the Evernote client, I search Evernote for previous calls I've made to the same vendor.  When I finally get done holding for the next available operator, I have all the information at my finger tips; in fact I have to wait for them to pull up the same information from their computer.

I have found some of the people I talk with to be a bit thrown by the idea that I have all my notes of previous conversations before me.  It makes it harder for them to, well, "handle" me.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Google Voice is one year old

Google Voice turns one today.  I've written a ton about it.  And one post alone about Google Voice is responsible for 20% of the traffic to this blog "Recording your own notes with Google Voice."

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Family Tech - Parenting Tech


This week's Family Tech column was a distasteful to write. After I had the idea though, several parents told me they needed the information. So with apologies to kids everywhere, and with love not malice towards them, I offer advice on using technology to monitor your kids.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Wi-Fi Buses

A school district in Vail, Arizona has equipped some school buses as rolling wi-fi hotspots.  (NY Times story) The students are able to login on their computers on the trip to and from school, and on longer outings to athletic events.

The result seems to be quieter, less rowdy rides, and more productivity for the kids.

What's good enough for the kids, should be good enough for the rest of us.  Mass transit can never seem to collect all the riders it deserves.  We want to encourage mass transit to save the environment, save energy, reduce traffic and a host of other reasons.  Adding wi-fi to our city and regional buses and to commuter trains would draw in more users.

Let's contact our mass transit authorities and advocate this.  The cost is reasonable, about $200 for the router and $60 a month for service per bus.  I have to believe if an entire city's bus service wanted to go wi-fi the costs could be negotiated downward.