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, Lifehacker.com 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.