Evernote! Capture Websites, Send yourself notes by phone…

1 06 2008


Evernote is spectacular. It has a “clip to evernote” button you can drag into your bookmarks bar and allows you to capture a webpage or just a highlighted part of it to your account. From there you can tag it for easy location later. Even if the websites should change or disappear, I’ll still have my copies. (That makes it great for saving news stories, too.)

For example. I’ve been obsessed with travel lately though it looks like we’ll only take a car trip to the beach for one week this year. I’ve captured lots of great packing, scuba diving with whale sharks and having fun on vacation tips as well as some camping related sites and tips from Lifehacker.com (great for all sorts of reasons) and tagged them all “travel.” Now, I can enter travel on my Evernote page and all of those come up at once. They can have multiple tags of course, so the camping tips are also labeled “camping” in case I want just that info.

It’s hard to explain fully but also hard to imagine going without. There’s a short waiting period for an invite while its in beta (and free) but I have a few invites as of this writing if you want one. I think its one of the best tools to show up since Google Reader. Have a look, why don’t you?
Evernote’s Home Page

Oh, and you can also send yourself notes to evernote over the phone by using the free and also wonderful Jott.com. Jott will send you or anyone else in your address book an email transcribed from your voice. I tag my jotts the same way as the related media I’ve snagged for a particular project.

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Reading – The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby

10 02 2008

People who read

Reading is done by a person with a book.

Reading on the internet is not reading it is consuming information that happens to be formatted as text. And, God bless Bartelby and Googlezon for attempting to make the library of Alexandria reappear bigger, better and less flammable in digital form with backups in data centers around the globe but I cannot read more than a few screens on a given subject online. Skimming is not reading and skimming is what the internet is for. Web surfing does not imply keeping a board in contact with the surface of the water but indicates flying from wave top to wave top often leaping from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean (the body of water containing all tech support documents) with no thought for the constraints of time and space.

Reading is not done with an audiobook. Listening to an audiobook should be called auditing and should never be referred to as reading. Auditing is fine for listening to murder mysteries and very light fiction but it is an insult to an important book to merely have it float around in the air around our heads and think that we are reading it. You might hear the high points but you won’t retain very much.

I was taught to read by my Aunt Louise who gave a teenaged boy Mencken, Salinger, Huxley’s Island and the New Yorker to read on a Summer’s visit in 1968. These gentle nudges in the right direction were the beginning of my college education and I feel the effects to this day.

The Nick Hornby of The Polysyllabic Spree is certainly not your fun but light handed novelist of About a Boy or High Fidelity (I mean these as books not movie star vehicles.) The book is about the books he bought and the books he actually read each month over the course of a year.

Hornby was writing a series of column for “The Believer” a UK literary publication but his collected work holds together as a sort of instruction manual for the reader who continues an education far past the time of study carrels and mortar boards.

The book’s form is a gimmick for tricking people into reading literary criticism in the same way that lyrics are often to make listeners pay attention to music. “Biographies should be a certain length…” he says, there should be a governmental board with the incontestable power to decide the maximum length of a certain person’s biography. This is a charming idea but, taken to its logical conclusion, there might be many multi volumes to the Neville Chamberlain history, writers might very well not be allowed to write so much as a paragraph on the lives of the several young ladies who intentionally forget their panties in search of publicity. While this latter decision might be just and fair and correct in every way, my ACLU/Greenpeace/PETA training makes me say that it smacks of censorship and must be stricken down.

He indicates that our reading has an appetite, it tells us when we need chocolate and when we need meat or a green salad. Couple this with his realization that he has forgotten everything he has read (which certainly rings true to me at age 55) and you have a sort of Omnivore’s Dilemma idea that books are not just consumed but also eliminated leaving us with the basis for some connective tissue but not the whole enchilada as we were lead to believe in the days when reading was an assignment rather than a choice.

He reads about sport. He wrestles with Wilkie Collins. He picks up stop smoking books and threatens to drop the habit simply to avoid having to read them again. All in all, his reading diary is worth a look even if only to find a comrade in arms in a world where bookstores are disappearing at an alarming rate and Steve Jobs is quoted as saying that no one will by Amazon’s Kindle digital book reader because no one read books anymore. (At this writing Amazon has been unable to meet demand for the Kindle since the initial run sold out in just a couple of days.)

A lifehack.com article about how to get more reading done includes the advice to read a book from start to finish without beginning another one. This seems more than a little OCD-like to me. I will refer to it as the Adrian Monk reading method if I do ever refer to it again which I doubt I will. This forsakes the life of the mind for the calisthenics of the mind. It must be employed by all who hope to survive the dreaded university “British Novel” course, but that is training and not real life. Assigned reading in school is preparation for the beginning of the life of the mind. That is the learning to walk before the learning to run while juggling, singing and talking on the cell that is real life.

Reading is one of my favorite pastimes. It is one I have in common with my wife and dearest friend, Terri. We share a small percentage of the same books, mostly the newest work of favorite writers. But each enjoys the benefit of the other’s accumulated knowledge. We respect each others’ minds and reading is the stuff that feeds our thoughts.

If the mind is like a muscle which atrophies with disuse, reading is its anabolic steroid.
Anyone who has bemoaned the movie version of a favorite book may agree that we are poorer when we let alternative media pretend to replace the real thing.

Here is a link to the interesting post about reading more books I mentioned above from Lifehacker.com. In addition to recommending that you not read more than one book at a time they encourage you to take a book wherever you go (check) and to set aside an early morning reading period each day.





Is the iPhone legitimizing iPods for adults?

2 11 2007

Sometimes, adults feel dumb carrying iPods or other music players. We smuggle them into the gym where everyone else is using one. We may use them in the car but not for a walk in the neighborhood.

I’ve had them for years but always felt like a awful doofus in public.

But now, I notice that a lot of grown folks who have iPhones are enjoying the iPod function more than anything else. After all, since you can take calls with the earbuds that come with your phone, no one really knows that you’re not being a grownup.





The rebirth of Brand Loyalty

12 08 2007

As a kid in the 50’s I heard people refer to facial tissue as Kleenex and refrigerators as Frigidaires. These days no one refers to a GPS by it’s brand name. Even if a product is referred to by a specific name, it is more likely to be a model name than a company name. I don’t say that I drive a Toyota but a Prius and even with that fairly recognizable model, people often ask, ‘That’s a hybrid, isn’t it?”

So is brand dominance a big deal today? Well, we have been referring to computers as PC’s for a while now, indicating not a brand but certainly referring to a machine with a Microsoft operating system. And, even though we rarely mentioned that we were using a Dell, the fact was that a large percentage of us were if only because that company was leading a pricing race to the bottom where now they along with other manufacturers are failing to make money on computer sales. It is often less expensive and quicker to buy an HP or a Compaq (same company, you don’t need to choose one to be loyal to) locally and to put up with the junk software they pile on the hard drives and their rebate headaches than to have Dell force you through15 computer screens full of potential add-ons before they allow you to check out.

Still, some companies have been winning the public over even in the computer business. Two giants in this area who dazzle us with quality, and innovation are Google and Apple.

Google gives us new toys to play with almost monthly at no charge other than being exposed to a tasteful bit of advertising (their real business.) They have quietly built an online version of a Microsoft Office-like suite. (Office is the biggest money maker for MS who are planning to post a free version of Office’s significantly poorer cousin, Works, on line with only ad support. Never mind that Works was bundled for free with PCs for years and most of us ignored it.)

Google has given us loads of online functionality. Many people, use Google’s gmail, calendar, news reader and maps everyday. In fact each of those applications opens up each time I run Firefox, a web browser to which I have brand loyalty. Never mind the fact that, although there was a huge and competitive search engine business before they arrived, searching itself is often referred to as Googling.

Apple and it’s Macs and iPods and now iPhones have gained more brand loyalty traction than any high tech products I can think of. There was a time not too long ago when Apple enthusiasts were a small but vocal minority who were denigrated in the workplace and often not even allowed to join corporate networks. Now, Macs are the fastest growing type of computers by a significant margin, the iPod is the most successful music player in history and the iPhone has had a terrific launch and is poised to change the entire cellphone industry.

So what would it take for other companies to move from the commodity arena into the realm of a beloved household word? A dedication to the needs of the end-user, innovation and quality would be a great start. The minute a business begins to spend more time locking down their product with digital rights management or forcing customers to pay for technical support to make up for poorly written or absent product manuals or spending more money on lobbying the government for protections and favors than on R&D; they are starting down a slope on oblivion. After all if your brand is one the public associates with windfall profits, pollution and graft, is it a brand you really even want any more?

In the interest of full disclosure, this blog is provided free for me to write and for you to read by Google.





Know anyone who is heading for college?

11 08 2007

Wired magazine has an article on jobs that will be important in the future and how to prepare for them.

If you know a high school student who is trying to decide what to do with her life you might want to send them this pointer.

Among other things, the article suggests trying to finish college early (less debt, an earlier dive into the workforce) and becoming an entrepreneur as soon as possible. The story is well documented and a fun read.





iPhone Works Great, Just the Beginning

1 07 2007


Almost everything about the new iPhone works better than any other cell phone I’ve ever used. I’ve set up two of them one on Windows and one on a Mac and I’ve never had a better computer experience that accomplished so much. Address books synch, music and (beautiful) video upload to the phone, the internet works fine over the phone network or over any open wi-fi signal (or one I have the encryption code for like the one in my home.)

My wife is smiling about the syncing with her Outlook mail, calendar and contacts as well as her favorite music and podcasts. I used to do this for her on the old T-mobile Sidekick and on the old iPod. Now all she has to do is set the phone in the cradle to recharge and everything synchs up.

There is an interesting You Tube video about how the phone is not prone to scratches and is hard to damage by dropping.

Another post on the Apple Insider indicate that lots of updates are on the way to make the iPhone even more usable
. Many of these updates are due before the release of Apple’s new operating system Leapord which is coming in October of this year.

Oh and for folks who already have an iPhone, Apple has put up a website specifically for the phone that streams beautiful hi def movie trailers.

Here is a wonderful examination of why the Apple phone is striking a happy chord with users by the always fascinating man/beast blogger, the Macalope.

Personally, I can’t say enough about how right this all feels. I only hope that AT&T; will continue to let Apple guide it to the land of decent mobile phone service. It can only get better, right?





Jaiku: Replacing Personal Web Pages?

5 05 2007

Jaiku is a communication tool that combines an IM-like short posting tool with a method of agregating your blog posts, del.icio.us bookmarks and flickr photos.
You can post messages from a cell phone or from the jaiku site.
My Jaiku link is below, have a look and make a page for yourself to see what Jaiku can do.

http://decaturcomp.jaiku.com/