Saturday, December 31, 2011

Use Cases for the tablet, phone, PC ecosystem

I have to realize that instead of just having only a computer anymore, as I did from 1979 to 2008 when I bought my first smart phone, I now have a computing ecosystem.  I use my phone, tablet and PC together.  Some are better then others for particular tasks, while each can step up and do most of the tasks of the others if need be.

My Family Tech column for January 1, 2012 (Facebook comments about column) is thoughts for the many people who received their first tablets on Christmas Day.  I promised a blog post talking about how you can use your tablet, and phone for that matter, to go beyond the basic tablet functionality of reading, watching videos and surfing the net.

The same holds true for phones.  A smart phone is really just a small tablet, connected to the 3g network (while some tablets are too, mine is wifi only).

Since April of 2010 I have used an iPad, since November of 2011, a Xoom Android tablet running Honeycomb.

By adding apps, usually free apps, I have added functionality in these areas :

  • Productivity
  • Travel
  • Communications
  • Entertainment
  • Games
  • Location
  • Social
  • News
  • Utilities

Productivity

There is no reason to rush to your PC just do few productive tasks.

 Evernote is the first app that goes into this folder.  I have written here about extensively.  Having Evernote on all your computing platforms let you easily grab and save any information you come across, and recall it wherever you are.

Also handy are any of the apps that let you view Office Documents like Documents to Go, OfficeSuite or others.  On my phone you really only need the free read-only version, while on the tablet I did opt for the version that lets me update documents.

Dropbox goes on all devices.  It is the easiest way to share files across all platforms.

I also have the Google Docs app, a free calculator, a free voice recorder, and Google Goggles in this folder.

I find a PC is still the best writing tool, but adding a wireless keyboard to a tablet makes it easier to enter in text for later formatting and editing on a PC.  Even after I have edited on the PC, a tablet makes a good platform to give it another once over, and is sufficient for small edits like correcting typos etc.

Fire users cannot use an external keyboard.  The Fire does not support Bluetooth currently.

Travel

Here I keep my preferred airline booking app, in my case Kayak, and also Tripit for managing all your travel plans, and FlightView.  Flight View saved me just yesterday.  I arrived on a flight, and needed to meet a friend's daughter on a flight coming in 45 minutes later and give her a ride home.  When I arrived, I could not find her flight number on the board for some reason, but FlightView told me she was arriving at the gate across from mine.

Communications


In this folder is Skype, my email clients, my IM apps, Google Voice app, and browsers.

Entertainment

Studies are showing a lot of people watch TV with the tablets nearby.  I have a folder containing the IMDB app, so I can easily look up actors and their past roles.  I also use an interesting app called IntoNow that listens to a program, and identifies not only the program, but the episode.

Also here are my photo gallery, video player, Netflix app, TV listing app, pod cast player, music programs like Pandora and Spotify, and ebook readers.

Location

Google Maps, Navigator (if you have it), and other location aware apps go here.

Social

Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus apps all go in this folder.  I actually prefer reading Twitter feeds on my phone, although it is a pain to then read any web links mentioned.  A tablet is a good Twitter consumer.

News

Apps like Google Connect on Android, or Flipboard on IOS that show news in magazine like format go here.

Also RSS readers like Google Reader.  The Weather Channel app etc.

Utilities

In this folder I put my devices App Store.  On my Xoom I also have the Amazon App Store.

If you have a Fire, you have the Amazon app store, but cannot easily get the Google App Store.

On the iPad, you have the Apple App Store only.

I also have on my Android phone and tablet a file manager, wifi speed test, and wifi analyzer.  The latter app makes it easy to find wifi dead spots in my home I need to fix.

A really geeky type app that is turned out to be quite useful is a VNC app.  This app lets me see what is displayed on my PC on my tablet or phone, and even control my PC.  Recently I uploaded 20 home videos to my PC, and cut DVDs of them.  With my tablet I could see the progress of each action so I did not have to keep running down to my office.

You also have to install a small server app on your PC to use these.


Most of the apps I have spoken about are free, and available for both IOS and Android.  If I am wrong about one, there is likely a similar app on your platform.

As you can see, tablets can be used for much more then reading, videos and web.  And phones too.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Capturing VHS with your Digital Camcorder

Sometimes I want to document a process so that when others search for a solution, they can find it.

I am converting nearly 20 home videos on VHS for someone we know to DVDs.  I have a Dazzle 90 for this, but unfortunately they do not have drivers for Windows 7.

I looked at buying a new capture device, but was put off by the many negative reviews many had on Amazon.

Then I hit on an idea.  I knew I could run the video from VHS into my Sony digital camcorder, and record to tape, then transfer those tapes via fire wire to my PC.  Was there a way to skip the recording and send the capture the signal the fire wire sends to the PC?

I re-discovered WinDV.    WinDV is a free app for the PC that captures videos coming in from fire wire devices.

Using it, I can play a VHS tape and the video flows out of the VHS to the input on my camcorder, then via fire wire to my PC.  WinDV captures it as .avi files.  Then I use a DVD program to make the DVD.

I hope this helps someone else with the same issue.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Family Tech: Get your own oompa loompa

This week's Family Tech column is talks about virtual assistants.  Wouldn't you like a little affordable help?  You can have your how "virtual" staff.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Would Nordstrom's sell the Macys catalog?

Can you imagine walking into Nordstrom's department store and find they sell a Macys catalog?  Wouldn't you be shocked to find a display featuring the benefits of Ford cars, in a Chevy dealer?

Yet, go into a Best Buy or Walmart and that is what you'll find--them actually selling a competitors catalog.

Both these companies are actively selling the Amazon Fire tablet this Christmas.  Haven't they used a Fire themselves?

The Fire is basically an Amazon catalog with tablet capability.  Amazon is selling it near cost; they are likely losing money on it.  The tablet is designed to show you products from Amazon, both electronic goods like streaming and downloadable music, movies, tv shows, and books, and real goods, that ship to you for free via 2 day Fedex the first month.  That is because the Fire comes with a month free of Amazon Prime.  Normally $79 a year, Prime gives you a year of 2 day shipping with no more cost on tens of thousands of the products Amazon sells.  

Search for an item in the Amazon app, on not only the Fire, but also on your Android or IOS device, and you can choose to see only Prime eligible products.

So, get in a car and rive to a store, or just pick up your Fire that Best Buy and Walmart so helpfully sold you and buy a product, probably for equal or even lesser amount then from the brick and mortar stores.

The Fire is not going to put Best Buy or Walmart out of business by itself, but as Amazon hopes the Fire has a razor blades approach of making money for them going forward, Best Buy and Walmart and any other store selling the Fire will make money now, and have the Fire take small amounts away from them forever after.

Family Tech: Affordable Android Tablets

Are under $300 tablets like the Amazon Fire and Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet worthwhile?  I think so, and this was the topic of this week's Family Tech column.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Family Tech: Cool Tech Toys

Cool tech toys for kids of all ages was the topic of Sunday's Family Tech column.

Remote control toys are certainly cooler and more affordable then when I worked at Loreski's Hobby Shop back in the 70s.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Family Tech: Give the gift of video telephony

So many of us enjoy calling by Skype.  Chances are, your parents don't know about it, yet may have the equipment they need to do it.

Help your parents grow close to far flung family with video phone calls via Skype and others.

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I just called my Congressman


I just contacted my congressman to express my strong opposition to pending SOPA legislation.  Briefly it would setup a firewall for the Internet greatly curtailing yours and my freedom of speech, neuter the power of the Internet to be a strong tool for economic growth and personal communication all in order to protect the interests of large corporations.

I urge everyone to learn more about SOPA and then contact their representative to let them know your feelings.

Time Magazine says "SOPA Won’t Stop Online Piracy, Would Censor Everyone Else"

Protect the greatest equalizer to ever come to people.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

HAL, the talking computer of 2001 fame, is appearing on a phone or computer near you.

Computers you can talk to, and can talk to you, are the topic of this week's Family Tech column.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Triangulations

Like many people, I spend a lot of time in the car.  Unlike many, I do not find music soothing while driving--I'm missing the music gene I guess.

Anyway, I enjoy the time in the car to catch up on Podcasts.  There are many out there, but I tend to favor the ones done by Leo Laporte's Twit.tv.   Leo is a professional broadcaster of many year's experience.  He has started an awesome online tech news network.  His professionalism makes for great programs.

I tend to listen to two shows primarily.  "This Week in Google", broadcast live on Wednesdays, with podcasts available for download on Wednesday nights.  And "This Week in Tech", broadcast Sundays with podcasts available later that night.

However, I spend more time in the car then the duration of those two shows.  Twit's other shows are excellent, but not as compelling to me as those two are.

However, they do have one show I hadn't paid much attention to until recently.  Triangulations is a one hour interview with significant people in tech.  They are either those that have been around a while, with an interesting history, or a compelling take on technology.

Each is a fascinating story.  If anything, an hour is never long enough with these wonderful folks.  I'm about half way through the backlog of 32 episodes.  I'll hate it when I am caught up and can enjoy only one a week instead of the two or three a week I'm now consuming.






Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Family Tech: Internet Public Policy

Concerns about efforts to shape Internet Policy that might limit the freedom and power of the net, was the topic of this week's Family Tech column.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Best Thing since Sliced Bread

I think it was from my father I got the saying, "That's the best thing since sliced bread."  When I think that about a product or service, it is truly a complement.

I felt that way the first time I obtained a word processor program, Sciptsit, on my  old Radio Shack Model I.  I was just two years out of college and I was giddy with joy, and wished I could go back and do college all over.  Word processing would have made it so much easier.

Other products that fall into the sliced bread category are Visicalc (and all the spreadsheets I've used since), email, the web, and of course Evernote.

Now a new service has my attention.  IFTTT.com, or If Then This Then That.

With IFTTT I can build a Task that watches my Google Reader, and when I Star an entry, it copies the item into my Evernote account.

Why would I want that?  When I remember seeing something on the web, I don't have to first search Evernote to see if it is a link I captured with the Evernote Web Clipper, then if I do not find it, search my Google Reader starred items.  They are all in one place.

I also have a Task to copy all my Favorited Tweets to Evernote for the same reason I want Google Reader items in Evernote.

Users can share the tasks they have created with other users by creating Recipes.  There are many Recipes at IFTTT you can use to get started doing this for yourself.  I am not bothering sharing mine, since all of mine are simply taken from existing recipes.

Unfortunately there is not yet a way to take the thousand items I already have Starred in Google Reader and using IFTTT move them to Evernote.  IFTTT only works on current, new events.

And I must say, their support emails are written by adults to adults, and are the best I have ever received.  Kudos to their support people.

Thanks to Mike Elgan's Google + post leading me to his Computerworld article about IFTTT!




Monday, October 10, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs 1955-2011

A lot is being written about him tonight.  I want to wait until I have more perspective.

Meanwhile, a story I wrote in January 2009 about almost meeting him.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Family Tech: Small Video Cameras

Small, inexpensive video cameras bring the surveillance society right into our homes with Nanny Cams, home security and cameras for fun and adventure.  This is the topic of this week's Family Tech column.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

First Impressions of the Amazon Fire

Amazon gave the tablet world a good shaking up this week with the announcement of their $199 Fire tablet.

My cousin Dani has asked me via Facebook for my thoughts, and I wanted to share those with a wider audience.

The most impressive thing of course is the price.  The only other tablet that compares with this price is Barnes and Noble's Nook at $250.  The Fire is faster and has more memory, so the comparison breaks down fast.

Those who know component pricing suggest Amazon is selling this unit at very near cost; maybe even taking a slight loss on each unit   They can do so because they are banking on the razor blade theory of marketing.

The Fire is setup to only buy books, apps, streaming video and music from Amazon.  And the biggest advantage is their tie in to the physical products Amazon sells.  Expect UPS business to grow too.

There is a huge market out there of people who will see the value of a tablet in the  $200 neighborhood who do not see it in a $500 iPad.  I am tempted to get a Fire just for web surfing.  Almost 100% of what I do on our iPad is surf the net.  I do it so much my hand actually numbs up holding it.  I have always been able to multi-task.  I'll surf the net while watching TV.  I've been known to read while watching TV.

The Fire is a better financial value if all you want to do is surf the net, and it is lighter then the iPad since it has only a 7 inch screen.

The Fire does not ship until mid-November.  So far, I haven't seen anyone review one that they have had more then a few minutes with.  I am need to to see an independent review before committing.

Some have been concerned about the browser on the Fire channeling all the requests through Amazon servers as part of its Silk browser's Split browser capability (described on the lower half of Amazon's page about the Fire).  Amazon will be able to know every page you see, and that has raised privacy issues.

In truth, where you go on the web is hardly a secret anymore.  If this concerns you with the Fire though, you can apparently turn off the Split Browser and go direct, avoiding Amazon servers.

My biggest issue is I am a Google fanatic.  Fire uses Android as its operating system, but you can't tell that from their information.  No where do they mention Google or Android.  Android is Open Source, meaning Google is ok with anyone downloading it and putting it on their devices.

Because Amazon did not choose to use an official Android version, but the open source one, Fire users do not have access to the Android App store from Google, only the Amazon one.

And you cannot get Google Android apps from the Amazon app store, like Maps, Gmail, Voice etc.  I use a lot of those services, and would miss them.

The $250 Nook is as tied in to Barnes and Noble as the Fire is to Amazon.  One reason it has been popular is there are ways to "Root" the Nook and install a standard Android to it, with the Google Apps.  It is unknown how locked down Amazon has the Fire and whether tech savvy users will be able to do this with the Fire.

That does kind of break your social contract with Amazon since they are selling the Fire with the expectation it will drive traffic to themselves.  I would be OK with that, because I am already an Amazon customer and would likely still use them more then anyone.  If they were giving away the Fire, or loaning it as long as you continued to buy a certain level yearly from them, I'd feel differently ; it would still be their device, just used by me.  Instead they are selling it me, so I can do what I want with it.  We just have to wait to see if it technically will be able to be rooted.

Maybe after I read some reviews or actually get to play with one, it will go my Wish List.

Update 10-01-2011 : This appears to be a cousin driven blog post!  Nothing wrong with that.  My cousin Linda just asked on Facebook chat whether the Fire would support a keyboard for use with emails.  It apparently has an onscreen keyboard, but I missed where it does not have Bluetooth.  That pretty much eliminates a wireless keyboard.  Our iPad is very handy for taking notes at conferences.  I wouldn't use it for final product production, but for raw text it is fine. Too bad you can't use the Fire in the same way.

Finding Shared Circles in Google Plus

A great tip from "This Week in Google #114" (TWIG) from the TWIT network : to find shared Google Circles, just search in Google Plus for "Shared a circle with you" (use the quotes).  You can refine it by adding a word after the quote, like Photographer, or a state name, or city etc.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Family Tech: TV Websites

A roommate once laughed at me because he noticed I read TV Guide cover to cover each week.  I haven't taken TV Guide in many years, but I still follow TV pretty closely.  This week's Family Tech column tells you how I keep up on missed episodes when I don't have the time to watch, see what others caught in an episode I did see, but may have missed some details, or even follow shows I never watch.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Family Tech : Digital Stories

Back in the olden days of my youth, amid my hobby in photography, I wanted nothing more than to own two projectors and a sync box so I could do quality slide shows with dissolves between slides.

Now anyone can do more with a PC then I could have then with my dream setup.  This week's Family Tech is about creating digital stories with photos, using software like Photo Story 3.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Google Plus now open to All

The competition in social software is boiling as hot as the spread sheet wars ever did in the 90's.  (Back in those olden days, Visicalc, Lotus 123 and upstart Excel brought out new features at a fevered pitch).

Google opened Plus yesterday to everyone.  It also added some new features to Hangout that will make it very useful to business.  You can now broadcast a hangout to the public if you want.  And you can share a screen , a Google document, make notes and do sketches.  Webex and their ilk should be worried.

Check out the new features.  And if you join Google Plus, I hope you'll follow me and let me know you are on Google Plus and also read this blog.

Couple interesting coincidences.  Facebook has released a bunch of new features it seems many of my Facebook friends do not appreciate, and Facebook's annual conference is about to begin.  The two are throwing darts at one another, but we are all getting new features, good and bad.

More Evernote Upgrades

Hard to keep up with the fast paced Evernote.  They recently upgraded their Chrome Web Extension.  If you are not using Chrome & Evernote's web extension together, you should think hard about doing so.

The updated extension lets you easily select the portion of the web page you want to capture.

I almost wish I was back in college dong research papers, when I see this.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Gingerbread on my Optimus S

A nice treat.  Gingerbread just showed up on my "free" Optimus S phone I received from Sprint when I signed up for a new two year agreement last December.

So until Ice Cream Sandwich comes out, I have the latest phone version of Android.  I'm content, for now. In one year, I'm eligible for another phone.

Oddly, the other two Optimus S phones we have, have not yet upgraded.

I am blogging this mainly so if other Optimus S users are searching for information on Gingerbread updates, they will find this and see that the upgrades have begun.

I purchased the phone assuming the worst; that I'd never be upgraded.  So I am happy today.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Two Updated Evernote Clients

Busy day yesterday, so just now getting around to mention two great updates to the Evernote clients for Mac and for IOS (iPad/iPhone).

The Mac 3.0 version now supports the new Lion Operating System.

Features include a full screen mode, and a Favorite Bar.  Follow the link above to their blog post about the upgrade.

The upgrade is available in the Mac App Store or from Evernote directly.


And, the newest version for the iPhone and iPad now has Rich Text Editing, the ability to view shared notebooks, search within a note, and more.  The link takes you to their blog describing it more.

The upgrade is in the App Store.

Earthquakes are stalking me

I have to admit, as someone who lived in California for 20 years and had a front row seat to the 7.2 Loma Prieta Quake in 1989, I didn't take yesterdays 5.8 here in Virginia too seriously. However, turns out that quakes here travel a lot further because the Earth's crust here is older, and much harder.

There is also more damage here with a 5.8 then there would be with a quake of that size in San Francisco. There is a lot of masonry construction here, something unheard of in California. Schools are mostly make of concrete bricks. Schools in the epicenter community of Mineral VA had already opened for the year but now will be closed until after Labor Day.

And worrisome news, inspectors in a helicopter saw cracks in the upper reaches of the Washington Monument.

On another note, yesterday's Northern Virginia quake was the fourth strongest I'd experienced. While one scared the crap out of me, the others were just interesting.

And one was amusing; the 6.2 on April 24, 1984. I was at work in the stand alone computer store then in Macys San Francisco when it struck. I was talking to two business men visiting from Utah when it hit. We all stopped talking for a moment while it went through and I remember thinking, "I need to stay calm to keep them calm." Soon it was over, and they asked if it was a big one. I assured it was no big deal.

A couple minutes later, a salesperson from small electronics walked in the doorway of the department and was waited to get my attention. When I could, I asked if he needed me. "Sorry to interrupt, but we are having a pool."

I handed him a dollar, and said "Put me down for a 5.7.".

The Utah business men were astonished. "This really is a common thing for you!"



Update :  Funny related story on Google Plus this morning by the author of the XKCD comic:

Relevant comic

Google Plus link

Randal Munroe wrote :

I once heard a story (originally told by Kevin Young) about Gerson Goldhaber, who was a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. He was talking on the phone with another physicist at SLAC near Stanford University near the end of the day on Tuesday, October 17, 1989. The SLAC physicist suddenly interrupted with, "Gerson, I have to go! There's a very big earthquake happening!" and then hung up. So Gerson stepped out into a group of people in the hall, made a big show of yawning and checking his watch, then said, "Aren't we about due for an earthquake?" Before anyone could respond, the Loma Prieta earthquake reached Berkeley, and he became a legend.
My best friend from college is from Mineral, VA, a town of a few hundred people and one stoplight, which was at the epicenter of yesterday's quake. A few years ago, he moved to Sendai, Japan, where he got an apartment just a few miles from the coast. Fortunately, he survived the March earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown. Last I heard from him, he was moving back home. He really can't catch a break.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Family Tech: Building a bridge over the digital divide

As kids head back to school, some are at a major disadvantage before they even enter the classroom.  Kids on the far side of the digital divide live in homes unable to afford $45 a month for broadband.

Now, Comcast is offering $10 a month internet to children eligible for the National Free Lunch program.

That, and other free tools to help bridge the Digital Divide is the topic of this week's Family Tech column.

Trying to make sense of HP

I never really thought the HP Touchpad had much of a chance.  Too little, too late.  With any kind of platform, it is all about apps.  Developers can handle developing for at most two platforms.

In fact, I suspect most want to develop for two.  Having all your apps on just one platform is putting all your eggs in one basket.  As Amazon found with Apple, a platform can pull the rug out from under a developer pretty quick by suddenly demanding, as Apple did, a 30% cut of the action that they had not previously.  Amazon recovered nicely with their HTML5 app that bypasses Apple's AppStore.  The mere existence of Android as competition should keep some of Apple's avarice at bay, at least to some degree.

Back to the Touchpad.  A third platform needs apps, and thus developers to make them.  Getting the hardware out there was part of the battle,  Courting the developers takes time.  Which is why HP's impatience with the platform seemed odd.

Today, Daring Fireball has a possible explanation that makes so much sense, I suspect it is right.

In a nutshell, Palm was purchased by the previous CEO.  The new CEO is the former CEO of SAP.  He does not know, nor care about, the PC or Tablet world.  He is an Enterprise guy.  His acquisition is Autonomy, an SAP like company.

So he has been planning to transform HP into an SAP like company.  The hardware business has to go.

Might have been nice to pickup an Touchpad for $99.  Or five.  As my brother said early in the life of the iPad, he wants them cheap enough to have in every room of the house.  But on the other hand, with Android tablets coming in now under $400, having an unsupported tablet makes little sense.  Maybe hackers will get Android running on it, but how well?  I had a period in my life when I tried to get also rans to behave like the big guys.   I actually owned a PCJr. at one time, and had a floppy drive for my Radio Shack Model 100.  Never as satisfying as a "real" solution.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Google Stuns the Mobile World

As an Android devotee, I was a bit worried about Android's exposure to patent law suits.  Today, Google went a long way to solving that problem by buying Motorola Mobility.

As the photo shows, Motorola has been around the mobile communication business a while.  Their patent trove should give pause to anyone wanting to challenge Google.

Google pledges to run Motorola as a separate business.  They are trying to balance their need to own a company like Motorola without ticking off the other manufacturers that support Android.

Hopefully, they will use Motorola though to come out with some awesome phones and tablets to serve as reference designs for other manufacturers, sort of what they have done with the Nexus phones produced to their specs by various manufacturers.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wonder if Apple sees the Irony?

When the iPhone was released, Steve Jobs was asked if outside developers were going to be able to produce apps for it.  He replied that there was no need, that developers could produce HTML5 web apps and not need to access the phone.

Primarily as I recall, he attributed it to the cell phone networks worrying about their networks security if outside apps could interact with their networks.

Was he speaking the truth, or vamping until they could finish the developer tools and open the App Store?  He has a history of saying Apple had no intention of entering a market because it was not good for the customer, only to do so later.

Now, the Apple App store and development tools are good money earners for Apple.  And they want to sweeten the deal for themselves by demanding apps can only have in-app-store purchasing where Apple then lays claim to 30% of the revenue.

Not a big deal for game makers selling virtual weapons, but for Amazon and others selling books, the book sellers do not have 30% of margin to give away.  They would have to raise the prices to cover Apple's tax.  Meanwhile, Amazon could sell a book for less on Android tablets since Google does not charge that kind of premium.

Now Amazon has gotten around the program by, wait for it, building a Kindle Reader in HTML5 that seems at first blush to be as good as the IOS Kindle app.  Readers can even save their books to the local machine and read them when not connected to the web.

Amazon took Apple's advice from 2007 and nipped Apple's greed painfully.


Friday, August 12, 2011

This could be revolutionary

The next version of Chrome will be able to execute C++ and other code directly inside of the browser.

If I understand this correctly, this basically makes the browser real close to an operating system, and makes web only devices like the Chromebook even more functional.

One criticism of the the all-web-apps approach taken by the Chromebook is there are certain apps that do lend themselves to being a web app.  Video editing is one, it takes way too much processing power, and you can not have the editing on a server, and then the display downstream via the web.  Latency would be an issue; the video would be slow and jumpy.

By being able to execute code inside the browser, a browser only PC can do serious apps, like video editing.

This is going to lead to a new generation of web apps.

This article by TechCrunch says this is a long time coming, and refers to a talk in 2010 when Google first mentioned this.

In reality, this is what Microsoft feared starting at the dawn of the internet and why they fought hard to preempt other browsers or "choke off Netscape's air supply" as a Microsoft executive was quoted as once saying.

A browser back then able to execute code would have threatened the Windows OS dynasty.  And it would have let any upstart write a word processing program, host it on their server and entice users to visit the site and use their app.  Someone once said that it was easier to start a new airline then to get a word processor into the market to challenge Word.  This would have made it possible.

As well as apps like Google Docs does confronting Word using just Javascript, it will be much snappier and fully featured if redone in C++.

My next compute may be a Chromebook after all.

One huge fly in this ointment.  Using a Chromebook exclusively requires a net connection.  Not problem, we have a reliable one at home, and where I would want to do computer work when outside my home usually have good wifi connections.

It's the download caps my ISP, Comcast, has in place that's an issue.   Their 250 gig a month limit is ostensibly to protect my neighbors from users from me hogging all the bandwidth on the street.  In truth, many feel, and I agree, it is to limit our ability to enjoy video via streaming.  They want to protect their market in video.

My family has come much closer to hitting that limit the last couple months then ever before as my son is home and enjoying a lot of net video.

And it is not as if they simply charge more when we hit 250, but rather they cut off users for up to a year for violating the 250 gig if you do it two months in a row, as I understand it.

This alone may make me switch to FIOS which does not have the limit.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Evernote for Windows Upgraded

My favorite tool, Evernote, offered up a new version of their Windows client today.  The new version offers the ability to do audio notes.

Personally, I do not see much use for that, but one thing I've learned about Evernote is that no two people use it exactly the same way.  Audio notes might just be what some users desperately need.

Also, Evernote added the ability to customize the layout of the toolbar.

To get the upgrade, in your Windows Evernote client, go to the Help menu, Check for updates.

Dang it Google : App Inventor to be discontinued

I've written before about a Google Labs jewel called App Inventor.  It allows non-programmers, or hobbyist programmers like myself, to create programs for Android phones and tablets.

Now news that as part of Google's elimination of many of their Labs ( their source of not fully realized products and add-ons), App Inventor will be discontinued.

Per Google :
With the winding down of Google Labs, Google will discontinue App Inventor as a Google product and will open source the code. Additionally, because of App Inventor’s success in the education space, we are exploring opportunities to support the educational use of App Inventor on an open source platform.
As a result of these changes App Inventor will be available through the end of the year but users should expect the current App Inventor URL, to change sometime in the next 90 days. Please subscribe to the App Inventor Announcement forum for future updates.
And then, almost cruelly, the post goes on to talk about how great App Inventor is.


With Android tablets now reaching sub-$300 price points, I'd anticipated more and more students getting access to tablets.  I know of an Autism teacher using an iPad very successfully with her students.  Many parents look on and wish they could afford an iPad.  The less expensive Android tablets are getting into their reach.


I could see special apps being designed for individual student's needs using App Inventor.


Let's hope App Inventor stays available for those of us not in a University setting.


And hopefully, maybe..., some company will take the App Inventor code and enhance it further and make it more usable   Right now, it is a useful toy, but with a little development effort, that it won't be getting from Google now, it could be a great tool.


I've written about App Inventor before.

Via: Jason Howell on Google+

Monday, August 8, 2011

$10 Broadband to Families that need it most

There seems to be more and more every day that can only be done online.  Finding out what your kid is doing at school, emailing your boss, emailing your kids teacher, finding a better job, finding work at all, and so much more.

Thankfully libraries offer free internet access to those that do not have access to the net otherwise.  However, that time is limited and for someone in a bad place in life, finding the time maybe while working two jobs to take a bus or two to the library to get online for an hour is daunting.

In exchange for approval of the acquisition of NBC by Comcast, Comcast agreed to make broadband available for $10 a month to low income families.

Comcast has a website now explaining the program.  If a family has even one child in the free lunch program, they are entitled to inexpensive internet.

Some are saying those of us all ready overpaying for broadband are subsidizing this program.  True.  But, our costs wouldn't go down if this program is eliminated, and it is not going up because of it.  More access to the net by all is a good thing for society.  Finland thinks this so strongly it considered broadband access to be a basic human right.

Until we can figure out a way to make the duopoly that controls our broadband to provide higher speed access for the great rates often seen in other countries (PDF link). this $10 a month internet for needy families is the best we can do.

iPad for College Revisited

A year ago in a Family Tech column I concluded the iPad was not yet ready to be a student's sole machine at college.  I revisited that topic in this week's Family Tech column.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Special to Readers of this Blog

I am going to try to avoid the words that will let non-readers find out about this through a web search, so if the wording seems odd, that is why.

If you would like to join a certain huge web search companies new social site, you know, the product that starts with a G and has the opposite of a minus sign as part of the name, then click this link.  I have 150 of the opportunities available.

If you do join and you add me to a circle, email me and let me know you have so I can put you in a circle back.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Setting up a new Android Phone

Alas, it will be another 17 months before my contract expires and I get to setup a new Android phone, but if you are facing the task, Lifehacker.com just published an excellent guide for those new to Android.  Besides today's "How to Setup your New Android Phone", don't forget Keven Purdy's excellent ebook "The Complete Guide to Android".

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Affordable Charging Solutions

I finally got around and ordered the four port USB charging device I mentioned a couple posts back.  My first impression is good.  It is small, about the size of my cell phone.  It worked fine for my phone and an iPod touch at the same time.

It's only rated at 500mah, and the packaging does not say it works for the iPad.  When I hooked up my iPad when it was at 10% if could not keep up with my using the iPad.  I went down to about 4% while I worked.

I then left it hooked up while not using it, but with the iPad on with screen off, and it went up to 16% in an hour.

I then hooked the iPad up to its normal charger it and it gained about 30% in the first hour it was hooked up.  I haven't solely charged the iPad on the device yet overnight, but I think as long as it is hooked up for nine hours or so it will charge.  Test yourself to be sure.

Overall for just shy of $7 US, its a pretty handy device.  It definitely goes into my travel pack.

There is a unit on Amazon claiming iPad compatibility with only 2 ports and for $18.

Thanks go the European Union for mandating a few years ago that all cell phones had to use a standard charger.  That is why we now see cell phones all using the same charger; manufacturers do not want to have different models for the US and another for Europe so we benefit too. Remember when you could only order the charger from your cell provider for like $40 and then it was obsolete when you bought a new phone?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Family Tech : Apps for Students

College is project management. It is full of tasks, deadlines, etc. just like project management. I found a few smart phone apps that help students track all their tasks, deadlines, exams, professions and schedules. This is the topic of this week's Family Tech column.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Multi USB Strip

A friend recently installed those electrical outlets that also have two USB power jacks.  I think that is a great idea, but for me, the outlets are not where my gadgets are.  I like the idea of this better.  It is a power strip that can handle up to four USB devices.  It only has 500mah per port, so while the comments say it does charge the iPad, it does it slowly.




Your Email Address Says A Lot About You

When I was in high tech sales, I would commonly receive emails from consultants wanting me to donate a copy of my $1000 software for them to evaluate permanently with the idea, they told me in emails, that they would then influence the sales of thousands of copies.  They would go on and on about how they were leaders in their industry, etc.

Then I would look at the email address it came from, and I'd see it was from a Hot Mail account.

Someone I follow on Twitter Jonathan Arehart reminded me of this when he tweeted a link to this funny graphic.

Family Tech : Civil War Era Family Tech

The Manassas area was all about honoring the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas in Sunday's paper, so for my column I intended to talk about the tech in the home in the 1860s.  Alas, there was not much, so my thoughts instead went to the awesome changes in technology veterans of the Civil War might have seen in their lifetimes.

Family Tech for July 24, 2011

And if this is a topic you enjoy, I also wrote a piece on the technology used during the war.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Welcome back Byte!

What is old is new again.  Just took a look over the website for the reborn Byte.

Byte magazine was one of the first computer magazines.  If you were in to computers in the 80's and 90's, you read Byte.

One of the highlights back then was Jerry Pournelle's column.  Jerry is a science fiction author.  Back in those days he had the money to have more gadgets then most of us and a tinker's delight at getting them all working.

I believe he wrote one of the first books ever written on a computer, and that computer is now in the Smithsonian.

His Chaos Manor columns talking about his never ending tribulations of getting 20th century home computing to work were always entertaining.  I learned a valuable lesson from him, Pournelle's Law, to check cables first when there is a problem.

He always struggled to to get things working, that a wag once suggested Apple sponsor his columns and send them by mail to every Windows PC owner.

Started this in G+, and realized partway through I want it on my blog.  This becomes my first cross post.  I know I want to keep my blog, but G+ is a good medium for publishing too.  How do I solve that conundrum?

Technology of the Civil War

Prince William County Virginia is remembering the First Battle of Manassas next week.  The paper that carries my column published an article today I did on the technology of the Civil War.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Family Tech : Skills for Students

I forgot to blog about my Family Tech column for last week on skills all students should know.

If you are a Google Plus user and a Family Tech reader, please let me know so I can put you in my Readers Circle.

My Google Plus Profile : https://plus.google.com/u/0/117338459615845813797/about

Family Tech : Google Plus

I introduced my readers to Google Plus this week, and offered invites. Its been a popular column.  This week's Family Tech column.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Google Voice Blocks Spam Calls Globally

One of the satisfying experiences with Google Voice, is receiving a unsolicited call.  Why is that a good thing?  Because of the pleasure I get when I then go into GV and flag that number as Spam.  I have the option then of making future calls from that number sound to them like they have reached a disconnected number.

Or, if I wanted to be really mean, I could record a long message just for calls like that, and make future calls from that number go to that message.  I have never done that, but in certain moments relish the idea that I could.

Such is the power of Google Voice.

Now, Google Voice takes the signals they get from all their users about what numbers are Spam and shares that information with their other users.  In their Google Voice Blog yesterday the GV team they announced :

Thanks to the help of the thousands of Google Voice users who mark calls as spam everyday—and our own spam identification tools—it is now possible to automatically redirect calls, texts, and voicemails from any of the numbers in our database directly into your spam folder.
You can enable this feature on the Calls tab of Google Voice settings by checking the box next to Global SPAM filtering. And if a number ends up incorrectly marked as spam, you can easily unblock it by selecting the message and clicking the “Not Spam” button in your spam folder.

Glad to see GV improving their incredible tool even more.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Evernote releases Android Tablet Version, phone client update

Evernote today released a new version for Android, which supports tablets as well.  Check it out at their blog.  Wish I had an Android tablet now!

Evernote Affliate

I am now an Evernote affiliate.  If you decide to Go Premium with Evernote, please use this link to get to their website to purchase Premium.  It won't cost you anything more, and gives me a few dollars.  If you have appreciated all that I have written here, especially my popular post "Your First Day with Evernote" I hope you will do this.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Google Plus and Evernote

I received my invite to Google Plus a couple days ago and have not had much time to play with it or consider the implications.

One thing I'm sure I would have wondered was how to store something I found on Google Plus to Evernote.  Almost every tool I encounter, I think, "How can I move good content from here to Evernote?"

Brian Caldwell is way ahead of me.  He figured out a way to share Google Plus content with Evernote.  It is really easy, and uses your unique Evernote email address.

Here is Brian's procedure, displayed in an Evernote shared web note of course.

Meanwhile if you are on Google Plus, here is my Google Plus profile if you want to add me to a circle.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Time to Monetize

Along with the major project I alluded to a few days ago (leave your email here to learn more later), I am also going to try and increase the value this blog has to readers.

One way to motivate myself to do things readers will like, and want to come here to see, is to monetize the blog more than I have.

By that, I mean things that hopefully will serve the reader, not cost them any money, and put a few cents in my pocket.  I've reinstated Google Adwords advertising again.  And I have just signed up to be an Amazon Affiliate.

If you click an affiliate link, it won't cost you any money, but will take you to an Amazon page for that item.  If you buy it, I get a small commission.

Many of the sites you go to now have affiliate programs.  I want to be 100% open about this, so I've created a page listing the companies I have relationships with.  And I pledge, to never recommend a product I benefit from you buying, if I do not believe in it.

If you go to that page now, you will see some products I use and recommend.

If this all buys me one Lo Mein lunch a week, I'll be thrilled.

Camera Simulator

Here's something pretty cool if you want to learn enough about photography to switch off the Auto setting on your digital camera.

The Camera Simulator lets you play with changing settings to shuttle speed, lens focal length, aperture, distance, lighting and other variables and see the results right away.

I burned black and white film by the foot, and hours in the darkroom back in the '70's for the education this gives in a few minutes.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Google + frustration

Long, torturous weekend of watching everyone playing with their Google+.  I didn't get an a Google+ invite.  Watching Leo Laporte playing with it now on Twit.TV.  That's live TV stream, so it will only be on for a bit.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Something major coming regarding Evernote from me

I am planning on getting a major Evernote related project out the door by the end of summer.  Would you like to hear about it when I can say more?

If so, please give me your e-mail address using this form.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

Amazing Graphic

This is pretty cool.  A graphic to help orient ourselves to the highest mountains, to the bottom of the ocean.

Family Tech: Old geek is new again

Family Tech: Old geek is new again: "Before there were computer geeks, there were ham radio geeks."

Family Tech: Finding a job means online

Family Tech: Finding a job means online: "Job searching has gone high tech. Woe to the job seeker who is not computer literate, or worse, has no access to a computer and the net."

Family tech: Match the job to the gadget

Family tech: Match the job to the gadget: "It used to be the gadget choice was laptop or desktop.  Now the list is long: desktop, laptop, netbook, ebook reader, tablet, MP3 player and smart phone."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Family Tech : the camera in your pocket

Thoughts about using the camera in your cellphone was the topic of last Sunday's Family Tech.

I may have to delay my breakup with Microsoft

I was thinking real hard about diving into a Google Chromebook when they come out.  I like the idea of doing all I can on the web.  I'd still keep my Windows 7 PC running as long as I could, primarily for editing video.  Other than than, I could do everything I wanted on a Chromebook.

Ideally, I'd like a tablet that could work well for creating documents, slide shows and spreadsheet.  The iPad is not quite there yet.  Mainly because when you are creating those type of documents, you want another document along side -- maybe a web browser with the material you are writing about, etc.

Who, I thought, would be the first one to create a tablet that would be good for serious work, and combined with a keyboard and a flat work surface, meet my needs for serious work as effectively as a laptop?

Who thunk it might be Microsoft?

Not me, until I listened to Windows Weekly this week.  Co-host Paul Thurrott said it best about 37 minutes in when he said "Microsoft gets this.  I think what they are doing makes a lot of sense."  Then he paused and said in a voice of awe, "I never get to say that Leo."

He was talking about Windows 8 shown in the video below.  It is a new operating system that runs on both desktops, laptops, and tablets.

Will it succeed in bring the charm and the desirable form factor aspects of an iPad to a tablet capable of serious work?

Or to put it another way, is Microsoft about to stop its slide into irrelevance?

Update 06/04/2011 :Mike Elgan says it well.


It should be out mid-2012.  We'll see then.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Google Tasks full Screen

If you use Google Tasks as I do in Gmail or Google Calendar, do you wish for a full screen version?  I just discovered there has been such an animal around.  Not sure whey they don't promote it more.

https://mail.google.com/tasks/canvas

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Family Tech : Television in Changing

TV is changing again.  Users have more choices, including doing away with cable.  This is the topic of last Sunday's Family Tech column.

Family Tech : Chomebooks

Google Chrome OS is shipping t his summer on two new netbooks.  For some users, I think they might mayke a lot of sense.  I talk about it in a Family Tech column.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Family Tech : Hackers in your house

A friends teens love to find their Mom's Facebook account open, so they can do some mischief.  They are good kids.  But others could do you real harm.  This is the topic of last Sunday's Family Tech column.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Google Voice Sprint Integration

If you are a Google Voice lover as I clearly am, and a Sprint customer, then you may share my interest in the new integration between Sprint and Google Voice.

Basically, you can make your GV number your Sprint number for vice versa.

I'm not really sold on why I'd want to do this.  A huge benefit of GV for me is if I hand out that number, and have all calls sent to my cell phone, if I later lose or break my cell phone any calls can be forwarded to another phone for me.

I was in a cell store one day when a plumber who listed only his cell phone as his business number found out it would take three days to replace his broken phone.  That was three days without customers being able to reach him.  Needless to say, he was not happy.  A Google Voice number would make that a non-issue.

I guess you can still do this, but when I went to make the switch, I was told my phone was not eligible.  I had to contact Sprint to find out why.  I will when I have some time.

Family Tech: Home Automation

The first column for May asks how can you tell if your garage door is open while you are in bed?  How do you know if someone comes into your driveway, or if the mail has arrived to your street side box?  I touch on Home Automation and its increasing power in the first Family Tech column of May.

Family Tech : Free Software

I am always amazed at how productive I can be using just free software.  For the last column in April I shared some of my best finds.  Be sure to see the Links page for that column for links to all the great software.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hangar One is being dismantled

For most people their sole knowledge of giant, rigid airships is the Hindenberg and the fire that destroyed it.

How many know that the US Navy once had a small fleet of these giant cruisers of the air?  They are all gone now.

The one tie we have had to this unique facet of aviation history is a few former hangers.  I had the pleasure a dozen years ago to go inside Moffett Field's Hangar One.  Before that I loved driving by on 101 and seeing it standing open.

Now sad news that it is being torn down.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Family Tech: Your car is a gadget

Ford Touch, GM''s OnStar...  Cars are turning into high tech gadgets.  Even Ford now attends CES.

This week's Family Tech column.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Family Tech: Backing up your photos

With digital photography, all of our photos are in digital form.  Do you have a more important digital asset than your photos?

Are you backing them up regularly?  If the worst happens, are you going to lose all those memories?

This week's Family Tech column is about backing them up.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Thoughts on Organizing Evernote Notes

In Evernote Podcast #26, their CTO Dave Engberg answers a question about organizing notes in Evernote using Notebooks and Tags.  If you listen to the podcasts, it starts at 31:03.

He makes the point there are really two ways to organize notes.  One is to be scrupulous about segregating like notes into notebooks, and religiously using a a tag system.  The other is to dump everything into one notebook and use no tags, and just search for data.

To this long time user, his remarks harkened back to the days when Yahoo was the first, best search engine.  The two methods compare the Yahoo of then, with the Google of now.

Back in the day, Yahoo had a staff of people who would look at a web page and categorize it.  They maintained  a list of topics, not unlike a Dewey Decimal breakdown, and the associated web pages.  When web pages were numbered in the thousands instead of billions, this was a great system.  Of course the explosion of web pages doomed that model.

Then Google appeared which worked on indexing the words in a website and using their Page Rank system to determine which were the more relevant web page for a given search.

I tend to use the Google system in my Evernote use, but that is just what works for me.  Unless I am sharing a note with the public, as I do with my Public Bookmarks, everything goes into a Default Folder.  Then I use search to find items.

Now, if I were a college student I could see using it differently.  All notes, web pages, document scans etc. pertaining to a current class I would put into a notebook specific to that class.  That way I could easily see all the material when I was preparing for a Final Test.  If I kept current on my scanning etc. I could study for a intermediate test by sorting that notebook by Date Created.  The limit of 99 notebooks should give me enough notebooks for a four year degree.

When my college degree was completed, I might want to reclaim my Notebooks for future use.  I could tag all the notes in a given Notebook to show that it was a college class, another for the name of the course, and perhaps a third for the overall subject matter.  Then I would move those Notes to a Default Notebook and then reclaim those 48 notebooks or so I'd used for classes.

For the way I use Evernote now, capturing random data off the web I might use in a blog post or column, I do tag with tags regarding the subject matter and intent to use, (i.e. column idea or blog post).  For capturing the documents of my everyday life, I just dump them in and am able to find them with searches.  For example searching on the name of my bank pulls up relevant data, or searching on the name of my insurance company gives me all the information I need on that topic.

How do you organize your Evernote data?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Family Tech : The New Curation

What single concept is behind most of the disruptive influence of the web?  How are we gong to find the best new books, musicians and restaurants for that matter?

It's all about the new curation, and it is the topic of this week's Family Tech column.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New Evernote Web Interface

On their blog today, Evernote announced a shiny new web interface.  It is still a work in progress and missing a few features, but it is more like the Windows client then the old web interface was.

Why would you use the web interface?  Maybe you are at the library or somewhere else you are working on some one else's computer.

The big reason I think Evernote is putting the effort here is so Evernote will have a good presence on the Chrome OS.  Sixty thousand laptop were given away with Chrome OS on it, and the reviews seem good.  This summer, inexpensive laptops (I hear like $200) will be coming out with Chrome OS.

I think a lot of non-geek users will love Chrome OS.  No antivirus programs needed.  Lots of good, free software (like Evernote and Google Docs).  And very little self maintenance needed to maintain the environment.  I think it could be a big winner for family users.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dropbox - one of the best tools I use

My Family Tech column this week is about Dropbox.  My wife and I consider it be one of the best tools we use, if not the best.

See the column for a description of the value of Dropbox.  Links mentioned in the column are here.

Dropbox is so widely used, many have built little utilities to make it even more useful.

I mention in the column one of its best uses is to unify the eco system between your PCs and your phone.  I can save a file to Dropbox on my PC, and  view it on my phone.

Note: I have't used most of these tools except where noted.

What if you get an email on your phone with an attachment you want to store in your Dropbox?  iOS on Apple products (iPad, iPhone etc.) won't let a user save a file to Dropbox.  My GMail app on my Android phone won't let me either.  Enter sendtodropbox.com.  This free service links to your Dropbox and gives you an email address.  Any email you send to that address with an attachment, automatically puts the attachment into your Dropbox.  This service, I have used.

To make it easy for people to upload a file to your Dropbox, you can embed a form from JotForm that does the trick.

Another one I have yet to try is DropPages.  It lets you host a simple website with Dropbox.

There are Dropbox apps for both iOS and Android.

If you are an iPad user, Apple's own Pages and Numbers word processing and spreadsheet apps do not save to Dropbox.  This website shows a way to make them do it.

There are apps that will let your directly edit files on Dropbox on your iPad, like PlainText.  PlainText is free and works with simple text files.  Apps like Documents to Go and QuickOffice let you edit Office documents in Dropbox.  There are other apps in the Apple App Store.  Just search for Dropbox to find them.

GoodReader and iAnnotate let you read PDF files from Dropbox and even annotate them.

On Android, there is QuickOffice and Documents to Go as well.  I use MyNotes to edit text files from Dropbox on my Android phone.

You can see all the Android apps that mention Dropbox with this link.

People are always coming up with new and interesting uses for Dropbox.  This blog post lists many good ideas.

If you don't have a Dropbpx account and want a free 2 gigabyte account, you can click here to join Dropbox with an extra 256 megabytes (and give me 256 megabytes extra for referring you).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Family Tech: Location Aware apps

Your phone knows where it is.  Your apps can use that information to your benefit and to your peril. This week's Family Tech column.

Family Tech : Saving Digital Memories

Digital is not forever.  Musings on CD longevity and how history will see our times with mostly digital source material to draw from.  Will there be much digital source material to survive?  A Family Tech column.

Family Tech : Non Geeks Love Tablets

I've started what should be an interesting new chapter in my life, and I have yet to adjust my rhythm of getting things done around it.  One of those things, is updating here when a new Family Tech column comes out.

March 6, I wrote about new tablets on the market.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sad news: Gizmo5 is going away

There's no doubt I love Google Voice.  Now sad news from Google.  They are closing down Gizmo5.  The desktop VOIP client usable with Google Voice will be no more.

Google bought Gizmo and integrated its technology into the their Gmail phone service.  Rumor has it that there was once a wonderful Google developed/Gizmo5 based Windows Voip client being tested inside Google, but it will never see the light of day.  They instead want 100% web options.

TechCrunch has all the history and a copy of the email going out to Gizmo users.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Family Tech : Online Wedding Planning

It's the ultimate personal collaborative project.  Wedding planning involves the new couple, and their families.  Anything that can help this new group work together smoothly is a good thing.  Online wedding planning is the topic of this week's Family Tech.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Family Tech: Online Calendars

Have to keep track of doctor appointments for a family of five?  Add to that various recitals, sports practices, meetings, etc.  Families need a good  calendaring system as much as any professional.  That's the topic of this week's Family Tech column.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Huge List of Free Android Apps

Gizmo's Freeware has a pretty comprehensive list of free Android apps today.  It may be a good thing I have very limited app space on my phone, or I'd have them all.  On the other hand, I have to be super efficient about the ones I do choose to keep around and lists like this help.

Best Free Android Apps

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Will greed kill Android tablets?

James Kendrick rants in ZDNET.com that pricing for Android tablets is unrealistic.  I couldn't agree more.

I've keep waiting for a tablet to come out competitive with the low end of the iPad.  We have an iPad and am quite happy with it.  So much so, I would like one or two more.  Tablets are really a personal device.  Sharing one among three people works but we miss out on a lot of the productivity a tablet can bring.

Every tablet that comes out seems to be burdened with "nice-to-have" features that drive up the price.  Videoconferencing?  I wouldn't do it very often, so you can nix the two cameras.  Cell access with a new monthly fee?  My phone has hot spot capability.  Besides, most of the  time I'd need info outside my home or another wi-fi access point, I'd use my phone to get.

You would think the market would take notice of how many people are snapping up Barnes and Nobles Color Nook for $250, really a low end Android tablet, and rooting it for installation of a full Android experience.

Someone needs to come out with a sub $400 wi-fi only Android tablet (sub $300 would be better) and watch the market explode.

As my brother said when the iPad came out "I want one for every room in the house."  They aren't going to be in every room of the house, in cars, and in every school kid's back pack if the market stays greedy.

Give us good-enough at a competitive price, instead of trying to play Apple's game.  They are the best at delivering high end, pricey hardware.  As the PC market shows, the other manufacturers are best at delivering the better overall value.

Words with Friends is out for Android

Now I can carry my shame with me where ever I go.  We've had a spirited round of WWF across my extended family taking in three generations.  We have  a couple superstars and then nubs like me.

I've reported a couple bugs, but I am so happy to have it on the Android, I'll put up with a few bugs if they don't mind me reporting them.

Download it here

Family Tech : High Tech Summer Camps

One of the best experiences my son and I have shared was attending Aviation Challenge together when he was eight.

Aviation Challenge is another summer camp put out by the same people who do Space Camp.  It wasn't all geeky stuff. There were zip lines into a swimming pool (simulating an ejection from a plane), escape from a partially submerged fuselage (simulating a ditched aircraft), and paint ball battles.

On the geeky side, we got to fly flight simulators and sit in an actual B-52 flight simulator and tour Castle Air Force Base's excellent aircraft museum.

Not all summer camps are about hiking, canoeing, and athletics.  There are some for the little geeks in our homes, and for us as parents to sometimes share with them.

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

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Evernote updated on Android

I've been ,meaning to review the various Evernote clients I use (iPod Touch, iPad, Windows, Web and Android).  Today, Evernote updated the Android client.  Looks pretty cool.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

Family Tech : Text Message Alerts of Snow Days

If you are outside my area, your local school district probably has a similar ability to send you text messages alerting you of snow days.  This week's Family Tech column.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

How to send a text message from email

In my Family Tech column for Sunday, January 23, 2011, I talk about how to receive text message alerts for various emergencies.  Some of the services schools use to alert parents, teaches, and students of snow days provide emails for free, but charge for text messages.

I have audible notifications for emails on my phone turned off since I receive so many emails.  I do have audio notications on for text messagres, since I receive them infrequently and they always tend to have information I need to know sooner than later.

It is possible to send an email to a text message :


To send an email and receive it as a text message,  just replace "phonenumber" with your phone number.

For example, to send an email to the text message 703-555-1212 if the cell phone that number uses Sprint, then just address the email to "7035551212@messaging.sprintpcs.com"

You need to change the part that comes after the @ symbol depending on who the carrier is for the phone number you are sending to:

Sprintphonenumber@messaging.sprintpcs.com
Verizonphonenumber@vtext.com
T-Mobilephonenumber@tmomail.net
AT&Tphonenumber@txt.att.net

I tried to simply put my phonenumber@messaging.sprintpcs.com into the noticiation service that alerted me to a school closing when it asked for my email address, but they were too smart for that.

Note:  Prince William County provides free text messaging.  This was for a county other than PWC.

So I had them email to my Gmail account.  Then I created a filter in Gmail to forward the message to my phone as a text message.

Note You'll normally have to wait for the first email before you can do this because you need to know what email account sends you the alert.

In Gmail, click Settings in the upper right hand corner.


When the Settings Page appears, click Filters.  You may have to scroll down to find it if you already have Filters made.



In the From space, enter the email address that sends you the alert. 


You can click then Test Search button to make sure it sees the email you have already received from that company,

Then click the Next Button.

Next, we need to tell it to forward the email to your phone as a text message by choosing the "Forward it to" check box, and entering in the correct email address.  The email address is created by combining your phone number and the email address for your carrier from the list above.

 Finally, click Create Filter.

Next time an email comes in alerting you to a school closing, for example, this filter should forward it as a text message to your phone.

If you do not have Gmail, check your email client for the ability automatically forward selected emails.

The links page for this week's column is here.