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Goodbye Amazon Cloud (for us--it's not going away)

When Amazon Cloud first came out, I was happy to sign up for $60 a year for unlimited storage.

I knew there had been many unlimited cloud offers that later became limited (I'm looking at you Microsoft! among others), but I thought if anyone would keep their commitment it would be Amazon. After all, with AWS and their other services, they are as much a cloud services company as they are a retailer.  And they offer a lot of add-on benefits to Prime members like us.  I thought they stood the best chance of being truly unlimited. Or, if they did one day limit storage,to do so at a higher value than Microsoft or others.  That is, more than a terabyte.

My primary responsibility as the Director of Family IT in my opinion is to make sure there is effective backup for our various computers.  Amazon Cloud would play nicely for that.

I purchased licenses of ARQBackup and had it setup so my laptop and my wife's backed up to Amazon.  It worked wonderfully. I was even able to log into Cloud…

Delta to allow inflight texting

Now this is an idea I can get behind.

The idea of the person next to me talking on their cell phone during a flight is repulsive.  They likely have to yell to be heard,

and the coverage is likely to be spotty and frustrating (more yelling).

But texting?  That would be awesome. No yelling. Buffering of messages should coverage be momentarily lost, and people can stay in touch.

Heck, I text more than I call now, and I'm a boomer.  X-Gen and Millennials will likely have no issue with this.

Delta announced they will offer free in flight texting!

RIP Jerry Pournelle

The writer that may have influenced me the most, is one whose books I have never read.

Jerry Pournelle has passed away at age 84.  He authored countless sci-fi books.  He is known for writing the first book using a computer; a computer that is now in the Smithsonian.

It was his column for Byte Magazine in the 80s that caught my interest.

In his monthly Chaos Manor column, he told his tales of woe for that month getting the computers in his home to work properly.  He struggled with early networking, balky printers, buggy software and all the struggles those of us from that era knew all too well.

I recall some computer publication wag as saying Apple should send a copy of Chaos Manor to every one in the country.  It showed just how much easier those early Macs were to the PCs of the day running Windows.

I still remember Pournelle's Law : check the cables first.  Too often they are the culprit, but often the last thing we check.  My cable tester is my best used tool.

When I wrote my …

Please help me make a list of note taking apps with phone & web and/or PC/Mac clients?

Regular readers know I use and write about Evernote and Keep. In fact, I am enchanted  with all notetaking apps. I'm constantly adding them to my phone to play with for a bit.

In my mind,there are three tiers of notetaking apps


Tier 1 : smart phone apps for iphone and/or Android coupled with both a web app and a client for PC and/or MacTier 2 : smart phone apps for iphone and/or Android with a web appTier 3 : smart phone apps only 

The apps store list the Tier 3 apps. And if you explore each one, you can determine which are really tier 2 or 1 apps.

My question to you then, is do you know of  tier 1 or 2 note taking app I am not yet aware?

I know about :

Dropbox Paper Evernote Keep OneNote Trello Simplenote Audionote Also Zoho Notebook because apparently a web app is coming soon Which ones am I missing?
You can comment here, or use this Google Form to tell me.
Once I have a good list, I'll review each in the coming months.
Thank you.

Do you use your cell phone for business? You need a filter between your business & personal communications.

If you use your cell phone for business calls, you will want to set up a “filter” between your phone and your business contacts i.e. clients, customers, co-workers, supervisors.
Google Voice is that filter.


How does Google Voice work?You receive a unique telephone number.  When someone calls that number, it seamlessly forwards to your cell phone.  When you place a call, your Google Voice number shows up on caller ID.
Likewise, when someone sends a text to your GV number, it shows up on your phone. And when you text, it shows up as having come from your GV number.
And the best thing:  it is free.
What does Google Voice do?As mentioned above,when someone dials your GV number, it can ring your cell phone. It can also ring your landline too, if you have one.
If your phone is lost or damaged, you can borrow someone else’s phone, or buy a cheap pay-as-you go phone and simply tell GV to forward calls to that phone until  you find or replace your phone.
Without GV, any business (or personal) calls t…

My Pixel started playing the Morning Briefing podcasts at 50% speed

Every morning I wish my phone good morning.  Well, sort of.  After my shower, as I dress, I say "OK Google, good morning."

It then wishes me a good day, tells me the time, temperature, weather forecast and information about my commute.  It then plays the BBS Minute newscast, and an NPR news summary.

A couple months ago, the BBC came up very slow speaking. I thought it was just a case of wacky Brits. Maybe there wasn't enough news copy for a minute so they were being silly.

Then NPR's came up, also slow.

This has persisted through two monthly security updates and multiple restarts of the phone.  So today I'm putting in feedback to Google Assistant, and wanted this blog post to point at with more details then they might want in a feedback.

I know it is 50% because this morning I recorded to Audiology on my PC the full two minutes of the BBC Minute playing through Google Assistant, and then again through Pocket Casts.  And yes, Pocket Casts is set to normal speed.

We wouldn't let our Fedex driver get away with it...

Imagine you order a critical drug from an online pharmacy.  Overnight shipping is free because it it built into the price.  And your local pharmacy can't get your specialized drug to you sooner.

The next day comes a knock on your door.  It is your Fedex driver.  He says he has your package on his truck.  "Great!", you say, "bring it in."

He then asks for $25.  "But the shipping is already paid for!" you protest using bad grammar.

"Yes," he explains, "you paid your online pharmacy and they paid Fedex, but I feel entitled to a bonus for giving it to you.  You can pay me $25 and get it tomorrow, or I'll bring it to you for no extra cost, but in five days."

Or worse, he tells you he has a private deal with a competitor of your online pharmacy and if you order from them he'll bring you the order as soon as he gets it.

That's Net Neutrality in a nutshell.

When we go to a website, we expect that website to come up on our scree…

Evernote Search

Evernote revisited a topic recently all Evernote users should periodically review :  the Evernote Search Syntax.

If you don't know about how to search Evernote using their powerful grammar, take a few minutes to read the post and play a bit with what you have learned.

It will increase the value you get from Evernote.  I'm a big advocate of putting almost everything in Evernote, but the value of the tool is getting back the notes you need.  The tips in their blog post will help you do that.

The full search grammar for Evernote is documented in their Developers pages.

I remember how thrilled I was to discover the predecessor to that page.  I wrote about it starting back in 2009.

Scripting Evernote in Windows (an updated look)

Below is a re-post of an entry from August 1, 2009.  My first ever re-post, but in my defense, still relevant.

And I've updated it slightly.

I am working on another project using Autoit and Evernote's Windows scripting engine, ENSCRIPT so have been looking at this script again, and fixing some broken links.

So, onto the old post ...



Evernote is one of those applications with a lot more power then is immediately evident. For example, Podcast #9(June 2017 note - no longer available) debuted yesterday, and they talk about Saved Searches. As part of that, they talk about their rich search vocabulary and how they have hidden that ability in the API documentation.

Another wonderful ability not obvious until you search around on their website, is Evernote's scripting capabilities. They have one for Windows they built called ENScript(June 2017 note: link updated) , and another for the Macintosh(June 2017 note: link updated). Of course, they have their full fledged API (Link added…

Why I use Autoit 3 for many of my projects

My next post appearing in a couple of minutes is a programming project I first did in 2009 about using Excel to create notes in Evernote.

I wrote the tool in a scripting language called AutoIt.  Autoit is not generally thought of as a tool for developing applications.  I started to explain in the post why I chose Autoit, but the explanation was getting lengthy, so I decided to have just a brief statement in that post, and then link to a longer explanation.

This post is that longer explanation, and also a recommendation of Autoit for certain users and tasks.

Let's take a look at what is Autoit and why I chose it.

Look for a future, far more ambitious project being done in Autoit coming in several weeks (to a couple months--you know programming projects!)


Getting your note count in Google Keep

I've always wondered how many Notes I have in Google Keep.  Since I use it mostly on my phone, I missed this trick pointed out by Colin Bowen in a post on the Google Keep Community at Google+.

Colin wrote :
On Windows, select one note (click top-left of the note) and on keyboard use Ctrl-a (select all). With all selected there's a note count top-left of the screen. I since realized this does not include Archived, bit you can to the same with archived notes too.
 And he's right about Archives. You can find out the number of current Notes and Archived Notes.

I was pleased to find out I have fewer than I thought.

I've been a little leery about going all in on Keep, fearful I'd get so many notes the system would bog down.  Now I know how to keep a handle on my notes.

I'll have some projects built around Keep, and other tools in the works.  For sure, I'll share them here.


Automagic: Flashlight-A global variable project

With my new phone, I've been automating some repetitive things I need it to do.  Future blog posts will talk about settings I've made for different times of the day.  And a post I've already done talks about using Automagic to get around an Android Auto bug (feature?).

My Google Pixel running Nougat has a nice flashlight feature. It can be turned on my pulling down the setting menu and touching a small icon. That's not always convenient.

I was surprised there was no widget.

I discovered one of the Actions in Automagic was turning on and off the flashlight.

But how to do that without having two of Automagic's widgets, one for on, and another for off?

Then I discovered one of Automagic's Triggers can be a change in a Global Variable. When ever the value of a Global Variable changes, a flow is begun.  And depending on the value of the variable, the path of the flow can be altered.

So I created the flow shown here. A Global Variable named global_flashlight, a bina…

A blog returns to its roots...my adventures in tech - starting with my new cell phone

When I began this blog back in 2008, it was a log of my adventures in tech.  The idea was not so much that others would  be interested in every one of the entries, but instead, if I solved a problem that solution might be discovered by someone else searching for a solution to the same problem.

And then I let it lapse into mostly posts pointing to my most recent column.  Recently, I withdrew the column from InsideNova.  There may be a future column for another outlet; details as they develop.

My latest post was more in the old vein. I had a problem with Android Auto, investigated it and found others had reported it.  I also came up with a work around.

I just bought my next smartphone; my fourth.  It made me think about the path to here.  I just re-read some of my posts about my first smart phone.  It was a Samsung Instinct back in 2008.

I replaced it with a Samsung S3 in 2012, my first Android phone, and then a LG G3 in 2014.  I kept the G3 longer than any phone; almost 30 months.  T…

Using Automagic to get around a bug in Android Auto

I recently purchased a Google Pixel XL 32g phone. It is by far the best phone I've owned.

It is great company on my daily commute. The Android Auto app warns me of traffic, plays my podcasts for me, and lets me dictate text messages.  I've combined it with ReadItToMe so that my incoming text messages are read aloud.

I noticed on my first afternoon commute though the Do Not Disturb icon was turned on on my Android watch. At the next traffic light I discovered that Do Not Disturb was on on the phone as well.

A Google search at home found I was not alone in noticing/suffering this.  The Android Product Forum had mention of it.

People first reported this back in November 2016, so hopefully a fix will be coming.

Meanwhile, I worked out a workaround using AutoMagic.

The flow below detects the launch of Android Auto and then turns off Do Not Disturb by setting the Ringer on, and turning the audio volume up. I have tested it briefly here at home, but not yet on a commute.



Update: 3/10/…

"Hidden Figures" is a must see movie.

I lived and breathed the space race when I was a kid. I was four when the first Mercury went up, and twelve when they landed on the moon. One memory I have of First Grade is all of us trooping all the way across the street to the teacher's house and crowding into her living room to watch a Mercury launch (either Cooper or Schirra).

I can't imagine a boyhood without a space race.

For all my adoration and study (I gave away a huge box of books, magazines, newspapers, mission patches etc. in late high school), I never came across the story of the black women who served as "computers" for NASA right here in Virginia.

Today, a bit late, we saw "Hidden Figures". It is an awesome movie. It is appropriate for all ages. Take your kids to see it. They can learn so much about the battle for racial and sexual equality, STEM, and yes, the space race.

Finally, Google Voice Updated!

After five years,Google has updated their Google Voice web site and apps.

I haven't seen it yet; these things roll out over weeks.  My Google Voice number is the ONLY number I give out, I'm thrilled to see their renewed commitment to Voice.

Voice is one of my corner stone apps; I would have to greatly rethink how I work if I didn't have it.

Family Tech: "CES 2017 shows off possible gifts for this year" - January 13, 2017

No sooner does the holiday gift giving season end then the consumer technology manufacturers meet in Las Vegas to try and sell what they think we will want this coming December.
Yes, CES, formerly called the Consumer Electronic Show, was held last weekend.
This is an annual column, and reading past ones just underlines that we can’t expect everything we love at CES to appear. Or the products may appear and not find favor with the buying public. A couple of years ago 3D TVs were the rage.  Did you ever buy one?
Last year I wrote about the Code-a-Pillar, a toy caterpillar from Fisher-Price that taught elements of programming.  We know one family that bought one, and we may buy one soon as a gift.
Fisher-Price again this year has an intriguing device-- an upgrade actually to their Smart-Cycle exercise bike for kids. It has a holder for a tablet; previous versions required a TV. It comes with an adventure game with literary value, with others available for only $5.  Kids can play a game,…

Family Tech : "Life can become much easier with online services" - January 6, 2016

If you are over 40, you must have a we-live-in-the-future moment every time you Skype video with someone.  It is amazing how quickly this kind of phone call has become commonplace. My 90-year-old mother regularly video calls with her great-granddaughter, and she is hardly unique. In my experience, even the most tech resistant senior makes the effort to learn how to video call.

Now there are some innovative ways to bring valuable services via the same technology. Professionals can efficiently reach their customers/patients via online video services.

Primary among these is video psychological counseling.  Instead of driving to an office, a patient simply Skypes in and has a conversation with a therapist.  Some really like the casualness of it.  There is no sitting in a waiting room where you might feel like others there are judging you. Instead, in the comfort and safety of your own home, you are having a session with someone who wants to help you. And some studies have apparently shown o…