Monday, December 31, 2012

Family Tech: Looking Forward

For the final column for the News & Messenger, we look at some upcoming technology that might just change our world.

Future columns will be appearing in Prince William Today newspaper on January 10th, and still on (now owned by PWC Today).

Visit my new website, for more information.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Family Tech to continue

With the closing of the New & Messenger newspaper on December 30, Family Tech found a new home at the new newspaper for Prince William County (subscribe here). It will also appear on the website where it has always been when the new paper takes over the site on December 31.

 The first column should appear on or about January 10, 2013.

Thank you again to Kari Pugh.  She was the Community Editor at the News and Messenger who first brought me on, and now is the Editor for Prince William Today.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Family Tech: Automatically Upload your Camera's Photos

Is your phone full of great photos?  Want an easy way to move them to the cloud and your PC so you have them backed up, and also to share them?

This week's Family Tech describes how.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Family Tech to Continue

The newspaper home for my Family Tech column, Manassas' News & Messenger, is going out of business December 30th.  It is a sad day when a community loses its newspaper, especially a 142 year old one.

And I feel bad for the many fine people there that are looking now for new opportunities.

There are a number of paths open to Family Tech in the future.

Look for an announcement about its future at Family Tech's own new. website :

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Family Tech: Tablets for Kids

What?  You don't want to give you $500 iPad to your 18 month old, even if they have taken to it like a duck to water, and are learning tons when they use it?

This week's Family Tech column discusses some ways to tablet enable our kids.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

Family Tech: Facebook Privacy

Just assume all your Facebook posts & photos are public.  Because they probably are more than not, and might one day be public.

This week's Family Tech.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Family Tech: Take Your Phone to Boot Camp

Spend a little time with your phone now, so when you need it badly in a stressful situation  you'll know how to operate it.

This week's Family Tech column.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Family Tech: Microsoft Reboots Itself

Microsoft has a new Windows 8, has its own tablets and has a phone OS too.  Lots of great things coming from a rebooted Microsoft.  Will it work out for them?

This week's Family Tech column.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Capturing Predictions for Monday Morning Quarterbacking on Wednesday

I'm bookmarking Electoral College predictions from various media outlets.  Always fun to compare after the election.

By the way, this is not a political posting, but rather one discussing math, more than politics.

One interesting site is the New York Times 512 Paths to the White House.  It looks at the various swing states, and what remaining paths there are for a candidate when certain ones go into their column, or their opponents.  I'm not going to be able to stay up tomorrow night, but if I could, this would be a fascinating site to use.

Given that each candidate has states that almost 100% will win, with only nine states that are toss ups, the numbers say there are 512 combinations of winning or losing those nine states.

Obama has 431 paths to victory, while Romney has 76.  There are five paths leading to a tie.

A lot of people have demonized Nate Silver of for his polling aggregation and statistical analysis, it is interesting to note that 431 is 84% of 512.  That is very close to the 86% chance of winning Silver says Obama has of winning.

Of course, that still leaves Romney a 16% chance of winning.  I wouldn't make a sizable bet of any kind with a 16% chance of loss.  A Romney win would not vindicate Silver's critics.  For Romney, its like rolling a die and winning if a five comes up, but losing if any other number came up.  It can happen.  So Obama supporters shouldn't think it is in the bag, nor should Romney supporters think all is lost.  Vote!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

HMS Bounty Abandoned off Cape Hatteras

I expected all sorts of headlines because of Hurricane Sandy, but here is one I did not expect to wake up to : "HMS Bounty Abandoned".

No, the Bounty did not miraculously rise out of Bounty Bay on Pitcairn Island where Fletcher Christian and other mutineers burned and sank it in 1790.  The HMS Bounty now apparently lost off Hatteras is a replica built for the 1962 movie "Mutiny on the Bounty" starring Marlon Brando.

According to its website it was on its way from Connecticut to St. Petersburg, Florida.

I always wanted to visit this ship since I have enjoyed reading about the mutiny.  Even though I have traveled to Florida often, where it was based for many years, I never did.  Ironically, I did cruise Sydney Harbor on the replica built for the Mel Gibson version of the movie when I visited down under in 1996.  That replica is now based in Hong Kong I believe.

Note: In finding links for this post, I discovered one I did not know about: a digitized version of the original Bounty's log from the fateful voyage.

Monday, October 22, 2012

iPhone or Android

In part two of the series on choosing a new cellphone, I wade into the dangerous territory of what is better, the iPhone or an Android phone.

This week's Family Tech column.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Facebook saddens me during election season

Everyone's Facebook stream in the US is now littered with friend's political posts. 

I do not mind original, thoughtful, researched, fair, and coherent political posts even if they are for the party I do not lean towards.  In fact I'd welcome original, thoughtful, researched, fair, and coherent posts about the opposing point-of-view.  How else can I learn, and maybe even shift my position?

Instead, what I mostly see are regurgitation from the propaganda machines on each side.  Posts are too often not sourced at all, or sourced from such a highly partisan site as to be utterly worthless.

Too many political arguments can be blown out of the water with ten seconds of Googling.  That does not make me feel warm and fuzzy about the merits of that person's views.

It saddens me to constantly be reminded to for too many Americans, they regard themselves as Patriots for supporting their party before their country.  And regard those in the other party as traitors, not merely those with an opposing view.

I probably have friends ticked off too by my political posts.

So it occurred to me, we already can choose who sees a Facebook past:  Public, Friends, Friends but not Acquaintances, Custom or a List.

What if we could also tag our Posts: 

  • Major Life Announcement  (marriages, new babies, new jobs)
  • Minor Life Announcement  (Good grades, new car, visitors)
  • Daily Life (what I had for breakfast)
  • Political Rant
  • General Rant
  • I need a Hug

Then for each friend you can chose to see all posts, or hide certain types of posts from your stream.

It might make reading your News Steam a little more enjoyable.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday, October 8, 2012

Family Tech: Video Surveillance

There are spy cams everywhere.  Would they help in your home?  Are you being recorded in meetings?

All this in this week's Family Tech column.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A solution to the Twitter problem

Twitter is making a lot of people mad these days, including me.

I think I have a solution.

First, they urged third parties to build clients to help their platform grow.  Now, they have changed their API rules and cut many of those innovators off at the knees.

They finally got my goat this week when announced they were having to delete recipes due to the API change.  I had several recipes but the one I'll miss most copied any tweet I Favorited to Evernote for later reading.

Most of my time to scan social sites is during bits of downtime during the day, and I'd do it on my phone.
Many times I'd be reading tweets on my phone, see a tweet with a link I wanted to read later when I could give it more attention.

I could favorite a tweet on Tweetdeck with three touches. would see the Favorite and copy it to Evernote.

I can share to Evernote on my Android phone, but it takes five touches.  Not a big deal, but it takes longer because I have to wait while screens come up.

Meanwhile, my other first world problem was I was not using Google+ as much because I didn't have the time to interact with it as much as posts there seem to deserve.  I would like to read Google+ on my phone, and mark posts I want to review later, at home on a tablet or PC.

I know there is a serious attempt to replace Twitter with a pay model with  I worry though that the $50 cost will keep it from reaching critical mass.

But there is a solution to the Twitter problem, and at the same time create something akin to Twitter that allows conversations.

All that needs to be done, is add a headline field to Google+ posts.

It can be a 140 character's if desired.

When you create a Google+ post, you write a 140 character summary, or headline.  If you fail to create a headline, Google+ can simply use the first 140 characters of your post.

Mobile users can opt to just see the headline, as they now see Tweets.  Then can then drill down to the full post if they want and even to comments, or mark it for review later on a larger screen.

What do you think?  Am I on to something?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

Family Tech: Be a 1984 Big Brother to your child

This week's Family Tech column is specific to parents with children in the Virginia's Prince William County Schools, but your district may have similar capabilities.

It describes the county system for checking up on your child's grades, attendance and assignments.  And also on how to use their phone to track their location.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Still no Bluetooth in Kindle Fires?

I am a little surprised that Amazon's new 8.9 inch Kindle Fire HD and updated 7 inch Kindle Fire HD still do not have Bluetooth.  Or am I missing something in the specs?  I know the original Kindle Fire did not have Bluetooth.

I know they are meant as media consumption devices.  While they probably have good speakers, if you want bigger speakers or good headphones, they invariably hook up via Bluetooth.

Personally, I sometimes use a Bluetooth keyboard with my Xoom tablet to write.  I don't do it often, but when I do I find the ability of value.  I couldn't get that with a Fire.

I'm afraid the Nexus 7 is still the better tablet.  Even if I don't get affiliate commission as I would if you buy a Fire with one of the above links.

Get Productive Fast: New Sharing Abilities in Windows & Mac Clients

from Get Productive Fast: New Sharing Abilities in Windows & Mac Clients:

Released today are updated versions to the Mac and Windows Evernote clients giving users more options for sharing.

From their blog :
You can now easily update sharing permissions for individuals, and, if you’re a Premium user, you can allow others to re-share your notebooks. In addition, the whole sharing interface got a nice redesign.
Check it out at the Evernote blog.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Evernote : Updated Trunk

If you haven't checked out the update to Evernote's Trunk do so now.

They do a wonderful job of highlighting products and services to augment your already awesome Evernote experience.

Not having an awesome experience? My book my help you find the awesomeness.

(Cross posted with Get Productive Fast website)

Family Tech: Some Odds and Ends

A few ideas not worthy of a full column for each, but I wanted to share, are in this week's Family Tech column.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong

Do you ever wonder if anyone will know your name after your last grandchild dies?  

How many names do we know from a five hundred years ago?  From a thousand?

Is there anyone who lived in our time whose name will be known in five hundred or a thousand years?

I think the only one I can say with certainty who will be still known is Neil Armstrong, who died today at 82 years old.

It won't be because he was the first on the moon, but the first human to stand on any body other than Earth.  

Certainly he did not do it alone.  It took the efforts of tens of thousands engineers, builders, and other astronauts, plus the political will and taxes of a nation.
Hopefully, Armstrong's achievement will seem quaint in the light of explorations that will occur in the next thousand years.  But just as every intercontinental airline passenger owes a debt to Magellan, who did not even survive the voyage he is acclaimed for, Armstrong will represent the first step for all who travel away from Earth in the future.

Armstrong is our Magellan, our Columbus, our Cook.  I proudly bask in the unearned glow from simply having lived at the same time as him, and understanding some of what he represents.  

I have heard only one bad thing about him.  Apparently in early mission plans, it was Aldrin that was supposed to be first out the door.  Armstrong, as Mission Commander, reportedly pulled rank.  The lesson there though is that you do not get to be the best of the best at what you do, as Aldrin was, and Armstrong was just a tiny bit more (he was after all, named Mission Commander) without advocating for yourself.

He did a job, with extreme competency (do you know how little fuel was left at touchdown?), bravery, and resolve.  Then he went home.  He never lived on his fame; something almost in congruent in today's media/celebrity obsessed world.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

Two Evernote Announcements

Evernote has made two announcements so far at their big developer's conference going on now.

I summarize them and link to them over on the Get Productive Fast blog.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Family Tech: Back to School II & III: Software and Safety

The last two of my annual back to school columns have posted.

Software students needed was the topic on August 12th.

And keeping your student's technology safe, and planning for inevitable failure was on the 19th.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Family Tech: Back to School I - Hardware/Tablets

Every year at this time I do one or more columns on technology for new college students.  This week's is on the hardware needs.  Our tablets yet ready to replace the laptop?

This week's Family Tech.

Remember, all Family Tech columns are listed on their own page 

Changed My Twitter Handle

For those following me on Twitter, I have changed my handle from the long MarkAndrewStout to the shorter @MarkAStout.  Now I have five more spaces for text when I am tweeting something I hope will be retweeted.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Book Review: 1491

 Having read Charles Mann's 1493 (and reviewed here) I was eager to read his first book in this series, 1491 [Amazon Affiliate Link].

1491 is the study of the Americas in the time before Columbus.

He is rightfully dismissive of how school textbooks cover the topic.  Despite many new discoveries since I was in elementary school, textbooks for both elementary and high school today, as they did in my day, tend to gloss over the accomplishments of those here before the Europeans.

In school in the 60s and 70s, I learned that people came to the Americas from Siberia via a land bridge over the Bering Strait.

New discoveries made in Chile have man there about the time the first land bridge was open.  It is not possible for man to have crossed the land bridge when it first opened and make it all the way to the south part of South America by the time man has been proven to be there.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Day in San Francisco

Sorry this post keeps showing up in different places, and in RSS feeds more then once.  I had some formatting issues with my blog, and deleted this post thinking it was the cause.

A friend asked what she and her husband should do with one day in San Francisco, before driving down the coast to L.A.  Unlike most visitors to San Francisco, they will have a car.

I lived in the Bay Area from 1980 to 1999, with 1986 to 1998 in San Francisco proper, near the Marina district.

First thing I would advise her is to schedule more time.  A day is not enough.

Some of my information is a bit old; it has been 13 years since I lived in SF. 

If I had only a day, this is what I would do.

First thing, people think California and think hot.  Most will be, but not San Francisco.  Be prepared to dress in layers.  It might be 50's or 60's in the city while you are there, and maybe 70's and 80's too, all in the same day.

Skip Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf, Lombard St. etc. for such a short visit.  They are tourist traps and about as relevant to the nature of the Bay Area as Disney World is to Southern California.

Begin with a drive up Market Street.  The entire history of San Francisco happened near this street.  To your left a block away is the Mission District, to the right is the Financial District.  Before you go, watch this film shot along this route a few days before the earthquake in 1906.

As you get up to Fifth Street, the Emporium and Nordstroms department store are to your left.  To the right a couple blocks away is Macys two big department stores.

When you get to Van Ness turn right on Van Ness and take it to Lombard St. and turn left onto Lombard. You won't see the curly part of Lombard (it is to the right several blocks away), but you will avoid the long lines to go down it. 

In two blocks, turn right off of Lombard onto Gough Street (pronounced Golf).  It dead ends at Bay St.  Turn Left.  On your Right is Fort Mason.  Now a park and arts center, it was once a major Army Base and last active in WWII and Korea.  I understand the former commanders read like a Who's Who in history : Pershing, MacArthur, Patton.

Follow the traffic flow and go right at Laguna, left at Beach, and the left at Marina Blvd.

To your right soon will be San Francisco Bay and Marina Green.  On the left some outrageously expensive homes in a city renowned for expensive real estate.

As you get to about Fillmore Street, you are on the site of the 1915 World Exposition.

Keep going until you get to the Golden Gate Bridge.  You will pass through the Presidio of San Francisco.  It used to be a major West Coast Army Base and has been a fortified position since 1776.  And we are told it will be the future home of Star Fleet Academy.

View Larger Map

Cross the Bridge.  Don't worry now about tolls, they only charge them when you come back.

As you cross the bridge, keep in mind it just celebrated its 75th anniversary.  If you look to the right you will see Alcatraz.  Don't worry you do not have time this time to visit.  It is a decaying prison.  It looks cooler then it is.

At about Two O'Clock in your view, is Angel Island.  Now a park, it was once the Ellis Island of the West Coast, processing millions of Chinese Immigrants.

Ahead and to the left is the Marin Headlands.

As you get off the bridge, there is a vista area to the right if you want to stop.

You are now in Marin County.  It is home to San Quentin Prison, Skywalker Ranch, and is the fifth richest county in the US. 

There are so many wonderful things to see here:  Muir Woods redwood forest, the Marin HeadlandsStinson BeachPoint Reyes National Seashore, and Mount Tamalpais.

My friends are journalists so they especially be interested in knowing the tiny, two person Point Reyes Light newspaper won a Pulitzer in 1979.  (My friend also worked in a Republican White House, so we won't tell her about Marin's rabid Liberal leaning)

Northern Marin still has a couple thriving one room school houses educating K to 8 grades.

After you get off the bridge, exit at Alexander Avenue and follow it down until it becomes South Street.  Take a right on 2nd Street then right on Bridgeway.

This takes you along the Sausalito Waterfront and ultimately  Sausalito's famous house boats.

Rejoin the highway I-101 at the end of Sausalito.

Exit I-101 again at 131 Tiburon Blvd. and follow 131 into Tiburon.

When you get into downtown Tiburon, find parking and have drinks and/or lunch on the deck at Sam's Anchor Cafe.

As you enjoy the nice day, imagine how nice it would be to arrive on your own boat to their private docks.

On your way back to the city, after you come off the bridge (warning, you will have to pay tolls coming in) exit to Route 1 South (Veterans Blvd.).  That will take you through the Presidio into the city.

Small note: when I was younger and fitter, this was my weekly bicycle ride.  From Union & Fillmore Streets across the bridge to Tiburon and back.

Turn right on Geary Blvd. and follow it out to the end, site of the famous Sutro Baths (now ruins) and the Cliff House restaurant.

There is so much more you could do.  For now, I've left my visitors out at the Western edge of the continent.  I suggest at this point they take Geary back downtown to their hotel and enjoy a nice dinner in the city.  On their way back in, they might want to swing through Sea Cliff neighborhood where home owners like Robin Williams and Cheech Marin live.

Or they could swing past Danielle Steele's home (formerly that of Hawaii Sugar baron Adolph Spreckels) to see how the wealthy lived a hundred years ago.

This is one day meant to wow someone.  I could suggest so much more if they had a week.

Note:  If anyone familiar with San Francisco spots an error or has a suggestion, please leave it in comments.

Friday, July 20, 2012

What does McHale's Navy and the Spruce Goose have in common?

When Ernest Borgnine passed recently it lead me to read the Wikipedia entry for McHale's Navy.  In it I was intrigued to see that the actual patrol boat used for some scenes had previously been owned by Howard Hughs and had been a chase boat during the one and only flight of the Spruce Goose.

Today I happened across a web page about the Spruce Goose with this photo.  I suspect that is what was to become, PT-73 with the Spruce Goose.

I really need to get to Portland, Oregon's Evergreen Museum and see this plane.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Family Tech: Stream Every Olympic Event

Follow an obscure sport?  Know an Olympian likely to be wiped out in the first heat?  From a country US television ignores in its Olympic coverage?

Now you can see every Olympic Event, if not on your TV, then on your computer. (Warning: Must be a cable subscriber anyway).

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

Remember, all Family Tech columns are listed on their own page

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

First Time for me: Evernote Server Issue

For the first time in my four years using Evernote (that I recall), I am unable to Sync to Evernote due to an issue on their end.  I'm sure it will be fixed soon.

You can always check on their status at Evernote's status page.

Cross posted between my personal blog and Get Productive Fast.

Dropbox Drops its Price for Storage

The only thing I could ever say bad about Dropbox was that if you needed to purchase additional storage space from them, it was expensive.

When Google Drive came out, that became even more apparent.

Tonight, Dropbox announced lower prices for storage, and the option to buy more then 100 gigabytes.

They dropped the price of 100 gigabytes to what 50 cost, $9.95 a month.

Two hundred gigabytes is now $19.95 a month.  It was 100 gigabytes was earlier.

And now you can buy 500 gigabytes for $49.95 a month.

While much improved, it is still higher then Google.  

Google gives you twice as much for the same price :  $9.99 for 200 gigabytes, $19.99 for 400 gigabytes, and a full terabyte (1000 gigabytes) for $49.95.

It must be hard for Dropbox to compete with someone like Google who buys its datacenters by the square mile  (perhaps a slight exaggeration).  Even so, I love Dropbox and now feel like if I needed to buy more space on it, it would be a reasonable value.  Kudos Dropbox.

Of course, one of the best things about Dropbox is if you use this link to signup, you get extra space over their 2 gigabytes of free space, and I get a bit more too for you signing up with my link.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Family Tech: Backup Power for your home

Northern Virginia had more then its fair share of power outages the last couple of weeks.  This week's Family Tech column discusses some ways to plan for the next outage.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Family Tech: Google IO Announcements

A new Android OS, an exciting new Events capability for Google+ allowing for a central pool of photos everyone takes at a wedding reception and other events, and skydiving gadget freaks.  What more could you want from a business conference?

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

Remember, all Family Tech columns are listed on their own page.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Family Tech: Put a Cell Tower in your Home

Don't like the reception you get on your cell phone in your house?  If you are with Sprint, Verizon or AT&T, you can add a cell tower to your home.  A femtocell is small device channels your cell calls to your carrier via the internet.  I have one, and it works wonderfully.

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

Remember, all Family Tech columns are listed on their own page.

Bluetooth Earpiece Replacement Parts

I recently lost the ear hook from my Samsung Bluetooth ear piece.  I can't be in the car, or even at times walking around the house without my ear piece.  I use it most for listening to podcasts, and of course, for phone calls.

I found a great vendor for replacement ear hooks.  GadgetBrat sells primarily ear hooks and ear buds.  When they sent me a set that did not fit properly, they responded with an hour to my message and sent me a replacement set that did.

Excellent service, and it kept me from buying a new ear piece.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Evernote hits 34 million users and some surprising stats's recent post reports Evernote now has 34 million users.  A surprising 75% of new users discover Evernote by using it on a mobile device.  Several interesting statistics like this in the post.

Cross posted between my personal blog and Get Productive Fast blog.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Family Tech: High Tech BBQ

Light your charcoal faster, heat faster with infrared, and more high tech innovations to the traditional outside grilling.  This week's Family Tech column.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Shared Notebook and Web Clipper improvements in Windows Client

If you use Evernote Shared Notebooks to collaborate with others, the latest update to Windows client automatically shows you when changes have been made to the Notebook.

Not only is Evernote a fantastic tool for keeping track of all your information, but also for managing the common knowledge a team needs.

Also, the Web Clipper for Chrome has been upgraded.  Now when you save a web page to Evernote, it will show you related web pages, and other web pages you have saved before from that web domain.

Whenever you clip a Web page, in addition to saving the content to your account, you’ll see a redesigned popup appear in the top right of the browser window. In this popup are two tabs. One shows Related Notes and the other shows every item that you’ve ever clipped from the domain that you’re visiting.

Cross posted between my personal blog and Get Productive Fast blog.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Family Tech: Office Apps for Tablets

Tablets were meant to be media consumption device, but with the right app, they are a nifty tool for document creation and editing.

This week's Family Tech Column.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Friday, June 1, 2012

I pulled a doozy (correction)

I totally misunderstood Google Voice's new Anonymous feature.  See this post for the correction and for the horrifying original post.

Sorry about that.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Google Voice adds Anonymous caller handling

Boy, did I misunderstand this feature!

The correct take is : Google Voice now lets you specify different rules for callers whose numbers are not in your contact list.  That's  a good thing.

The original post is below so you can see what I thought it was.  By the way, it would not be bad if they had this feature too.

 Don't you just love callers who want your attention, but respect you so little they block their caller id?  What a wonderful way of telling you that they know better then you how you should spend your time.

It is of my pet peeves.  It happens most on my home phone, but now at least I can control it when someone calls my Google Voice number.  Almost no one has my real cell number.  The number I give out is my GV number.

Now, if someone calls my GV number, GV lets me route that call direct to voice mail if I want.  I can even make a unique voice mail message for them.  Mine now says "Since you Call to me is anonymous, it has been automatically routed to voice mail.  Please leave me a message."

The first one I recorded said "Since your call is anonymous by blanking out your Caller ID, I have routed it to voice mail.  You may leave me a message which will receive the same respect as you have given me by deciding I didn't need to know who is calling."  It felt good to record, but I decided it sounded a bit harsh for the few people who might have screwed up Caller ID through no fault of their own.

We are at war with telemarketers.  Thank you Google for giving us some weapons.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Review: 1493

Two things looking back I wish I had always done.  One is to keep a daily journal, and the other would be to make a few notes about books I have read.

I'll likely never do the former as regularly as I like, but I'll start now with the book reports.

I just completed Charles C. Mann's  1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created [affiliate link].

It is the story of the ecological, or maybe more accurately,biological impact of the Old and New World connecting.

I am not one usually entranced by plants.  Unlike my father, I cannot identify a tree by its leaves, or nurture a garden.  Yet I found myself astonished at almost every turn.  For example, before the potato, indigenous to the New World (the Andes specifically), became part of the European diet, famine was an all too frequent event for common man in the Old World;  wheat failed about every six years.

I never knew rubber plants were a New World item.  Mann talks about how modern inventions need three things : energy, iron and rubber.  Think of a car.  It cannot run without iron for the engine, gasoline for fuel and rubber for all the hoses and gaskets.  Artificial rubber can do a lot, but not completely replace natural rubber.

That means one of the cornerstones of modern society could be susceptible to a blight.  That is a little frightening.

Why were African slaves imported, when indentured Englishmen common, willing to come to America, already knew the language, and were already educated on our system of farming?  Mann answers that, and it is not what you think.

I thought I had read his other book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.  Now I realize I have not.  That's next.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sometimes you have to shake things up

I've fallen behind in a lot of my computing tasks.  My tablet could do 90% of what I needed to do, and that became a bit too seductive.

My computer was in my home office, which was my actual office for eleven years.  Is it any wonder, when that job ended, I was happy to not spend time in that office more then I absolutely had to?

When our dog developed mobility problems, and was sequestered to one floor, I moved the computer to a table next to my easy chair and tried using it there.  That way I could make him understand we were not punishing him.

I got a bit more done, but it was not as comfortable as a desk.

Now I've set up the computer on a table in a room that is not my home office, where I am more in the main flow of my family.  I have been able to get more done in the first two days then I have done in quite a while.

I suspect I'll go back to the home office eventually, especially if I need to start dong Skype video calls or the like, but for now the break is good.

How can you shake up your work environment to make things better?

Evernote News Never Ends

The great thing about a product with millions of users, is everyone is constantly coming up with great new ways to use it.

Elephant Channel blogged about all the ways you can capture notes from IOS devices. has long let you create new notes from triggers on other web services (as I described in my book), but now lets you append that information to an existing Evernote note.

Jamie Todd Rubin blogged his thoughts on what documents are worthy of scanning into Evernote.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Family Tech: Networking and Self Promotion

Ironically, I have been bad about this lately, but I just moved my computer to a productive work surface, so I hope to get better.

Family Tech: May's Columns

I have been bad about posting these. About to get much better.

Google Drive 4/30
Kickstarter  5/6
Linking Web Services      5/13  (Evernote users: More about this in my book)
Google Voice 5/22

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Capture web pages to Evernote easily on Android

I do a lot of web surfing.  When I find a site I may want to revisit, or write about in my blog, or need in some way, I capture it to Evernote.

On my desktop or a laptop, it is easy using Evernote's Web Clipper.

On the iPad, I had not found a better way then emailing the page to my secret Evernote password (you have one too--everyone does.  See "Your First Day with Evernote" for details).  There are bookmarklets for iPad but the one I found never worked well for me.

Android shares much better.  You can choose to Share anything, including a web page and Android gives you a list of applications you can share with.  When Evernote is installed, it is on that list.

Now the makers of my favorite web browser have gone and made it even easier.  Dolphin HD browser has an Evernote Plug in (Google Play aka Android Marketplace links)  Now, I have an Evernote button I can touch on my Android tablet (or phone) and save the page direct to Evernote.  I can choose the Notebook and add tags  if I want before I save.

If you are an Android and Evernote user, I think you will find this useful.

cross post with getproductivefast

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Evernote clients Today

Windows and Android both updated today.  Details at Get Productive Fast.

Family Tech: Your annual tech tuneup

It is the time of year where things are the slowest for families. Now is as good a time as ever to take a look at your tech use and figure out a ways to tune it up.  This is the topic of this week's Family Tech column.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy Birthday Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin was born 306 years ago today, 1706. I am about done with Walter Isaacson's book Benjamin Franklin: An American Life.

Franklin was even more amazing then we learned in school.  When I am done with the book, I want to write a longer review here.  For now, Happy Birthday Ben.  He really was our nation's First Geek.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Family Tech: New products from CES

My "When I win the lottery, I will buy..." list grew longer with these announcements of new products at CES. This week's Family Tech column.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Announcing "Get Productive Fast with Evernote"

I have released my first e-book, Get Productive Fast with Evernote.

It is a 136 page e-book with fourteen chapters, useful for both the new and experienced Evernote user.  It costs $10.

Here is the table of contents :
Chapter 1 - Introduction  
Part I – Evernote Operation
Chapter 2 - Evernote Basics
Chapter 3 - Getting Information Into Evernote
Chapter 4 - Organizational Strategies and Searching
Chapter 5 - Sharing
Chapter 6 - Mobile 
Part II – Evernote Uses
Chapter 7 - Your First Day with Evernote
Chapter 8 : Evernote at Home
Chapter 9 : Using Evernote for Research and School
Chapter 10: Evernote for Work - Paid and Volunteer  
Part III - Advanced Topics
Chapter 11 - Printing, Security and Backup
Chapter 12 :
Chapter 13 - Managing your Task List  
Final Thoughts

Check out more information, at the new Get Productive Fast website.

Buy Now