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.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Gmail Signatures Improve

Google announced today rich text signatures for Gmail.  I know some people hate e-mail signatures.  I think small, easily ignored if you desire, and most importantly useful signatures are ok.  Mine has my name, my Google Voice number, and small links to this blog, my public bookmarks, my Twitter account and a list of my Family Tech columns.

I've used WiseStamp  for years to do this.  I hate to disable them, but I always look to minimize my Chrome extensions when I can, so I disabled them today and will likely remove them once Google Signatures prove their mettle to me.

Wisestamp can still do many things Google signatures cannot, at least as easily.  They have easy links to many popular social networking, and even the ability to have RSS feeds in your signature.  For example, my signature could have the last few items from this blog in it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tech Gadgets of the last 40 years

This is pretty Cool.  TechVert blog has the top gadgets of the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's.

Makes you wonder what the display for the 2010's, 2020's and 2030's will have.

Dropbox for the Enterprise

My friend Todd Carothers has some interesting ideas on what Dropbox should add to better support enterprises.  I tend to think of Dropbox as a USB drive replacement.  Todd makes some good suggestions.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Does your e-mail have Verizon or Comcast in it?

Does your e-mail have Verizon or Comcast in it?  Do you find yourself enticed to move from one provider to another but pass up savings just to keep your e-mail address everyone already knows?

Then this week's Family Tech is for you.  Have one e-mail address, forever!

And as a bonus, how to have one phone number forever, even if you change cell phone carriers, or move, or lose your cell phone.

And all for free.

Read about it now at

Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Evernote Web Clipper helps avoid duplicate URL gathering

Quite a while ago, I imported all my Delicious bookmarks into Evernote.  I loved having all my information in one place, and did not want my bookmarks to be in a different place.

I gave up two things when I imported my bookmarks: Delicious' social aspects and Delicious' ability to warn that I'd already saved that URL.

I'm sure my Evernote now has many duplicate URL's captured in it.

I'd been hoping someone would write an app that would scan my Evernote database and identify duplicate URL's, or that I'd find the time and talent to create one.  I'm still waiting.

Evernote themselves has made things a bit easier going forward.  Their latest Web Clipper for Chrome shows you all the times you've captured URL's from the site you are currently on.  At least if take a moment to review those before committing to the Clip, I can avoid adding duplicates in the future.

Unfortunately, if you haven't imported your Delicious bookmarks into Evernote, you cannot now.  Last November I wrote about doing it, only to find out that Evernote had removed the Delicious import ability from their Settings page.  They promised it would be back quickly, but seven months later, it still is not.

If you use Chrome, get the latest Web Clipper.  If you are not using Chrome exclusively, why not?  It is a great browser.

Easy way to add Bookmarklets to the iPad

I've been meaning to blog about this for a while.

Chris Bray has a wonderful web page making it easy to add common, useful bookmarklets to Safari on your iPad.  I used it to add the Evernote bookmarklet.

There are ones here for Adding to Google Reader, or Instapaper, Digg, Reddit and many others.

Pray for a Google Voice Desktop App

One of Google Voice's many cool features, was its ability to call the Gizmo5 soft phone.  Using Gizmo5 I could take calls on my computer much as you can with Skype.  With the calls originating from Google Voice, there was no cost for incoming or outgoing calls.  Technically, they were all incoming calls since Google Voice called Gizmo5.

When Google bought Gizmo we all started the wait for a Google branded Gizmo soft phone.  TechCurnch reported a while back that Google was testing one internally (Google calls it dogfooding, as in to eat your own dog food).

With it, you can type in the number or choose your contact on the app and it invoked Google Voice to place the call.

TechCrunch also reported that the project was on hold, and maybe even likely to be killed.  Apparently Google Founders do not want them developing software that runs outside the browser.  Hello!  Google distributes Google Earth, Picasa, and SketchUp.  All apps that run outside the browser.

Please Google, go one more and send us Google Voice Desktop.

Today, TechCrunch has a video of the app running.