Sunday, December 28, 2008


Having discovered Evernote, I have now abandoned all of my Microsoft Office 2007 applications, with the sole exception of Excel.

The Calendar function was taken over by Google Calendar (so much better, and it allows me to maintain multiple calendars).

I never liked Word in the first place, and still use Wordperfect (which I realize is not to everyone's taste, but I love the control it gives me with respect to formatting).

Outlook email and contacts also went over to Google. Outlook never had a good sync function, and it was to put it bluntly, a pain in the ass trying to keep multiple computers synced up.

Now, OneNote is history for me. I have found Evernote, and I am happy (happy, happy, HAPPY!).

Evernote does one thing, amazingly well. It allows you to organize and refer to your notes (including typed noted, handwritten notes, web links, images, files) across any number of computers and even your smart phone, effortlessly.

I started with the free account which, while somewhat limited, still allows the user to get addicted. Oh, so very addicted. As of this writing, I have purchased a "premium" account, allowing me to attached any type of file (under 25MB) to a note, and to upload 500MB of data each month (with a new 500MB allowed the next month, and the next).

My Livescribe pen (discussed in an earlier post) works with Evernote, not natively, but all I have to do is print to PDF and then drag the PDF file into a new note. Bingo. Done. A single page of Livescribe notes is only 120KB, so I could easily print 20 pages of notes into a single Evernote note. Is that not great?? Clearly, I must think so, or I would not be writing any of this.

Even better, using my iPhone (or any email enabled smart phone) I can bring up the mobile version of Evernote and email any note (including those 20 pages of notes, or that PDF document), to someone who needs it .... from .... my .... phone!!

At $45 a year, Evernote is very reasonably priced, especially when you consider that OneNote costs about that much, and you'll have to pay for an upgrade eventually, and it doesn't have half the features or any of the mobile functionality.

Oh, and did I mention, you can very easily import all of your old OneNote notes into Evernote?? But, I bet you had already figured that out. So, witness the birth of an Evernote Evangelist!!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Understanding the Misleading Review

I read a review of the MiBook by Peter Svensson of the Associated Press. I don't think I have ever read a review that so completely missed the point of the thing the reviewer was reviewing.

You can read his review here: Svensson Review of MiBook. I will only be quoting bits and pieces.

Starting at the beginning (where I sometimes like to start), Mr. Svensson states that the company that is producing the MiBook is taking an approach to the ebook reader that is "so different that it brings into question the definition of 'book'". Really? Now I can hardly wait until he tells me about how they do that.

He moves on to say that the "books" are "memory chips with instructional videos." I see, so the new definition of a "book" is a "video." I guess that makes the local movie theater a "library." You know, I tried that approach with my mother when I was a kid. It didn't work then, it doesn't work now. Watching a video is not the same as reading a book.

Further, it seems the MiBook has "books" (videos) on cooking, home projects, gardening and child care. Hey, that's a really big selection of "books" they have there. But, where is the great literature, where are the best sellers?? (Understanding that from time to time the two are the same thing.)

Ah, Svensson goes on to say that "it's quite possible to consider it a book if it does what a book used to do." Now, I would have phrased that differently, since books still do what they were always intended to do, which is to allow a reader to read a book. The current e-ink readers still do that, and amazingly well.

Mr. Svensson notes that the MiBook is "considerably cheaper than's Kindle or Sony's Reader, "which sell (usually) in the $300-$400 range. The list price for the MiBook is $120, and you can get it on e-Bay for $75. Wow .... big difference in price there. But, wait ... there's more!!

While it comes with two books (what "books" they are, he doesn't say .... oh, I hope they are on child care!!), "[e]xtra books are $20 each." Ouch!! Thousands of books are available for both the Kindle and the Reader for FREE!! Great literature, sometimes even best sellers. Yes, you heard me right .... FREE. And, the online store prices for best sellers for the Kindle are generally $9.99, and go down in price from there. I don't have a Sony Reader, so I haven't priced their books, but I doubt that many of them run as high as $20.

So, the MiBook is cheaper up front, but then they screw you into the ground on the cost of their "books" ... which are not really books at all. Nice. By the time you've spent $300 on "books" for your MiBook, you'll have a nice little collection of instructional videos on cooking and child care, no books, and you will have spent more money that you would have for a Kindle or a Reader and thousands of books. Eeek!!

Mr. Svensson then tells us that the Kindle and Reader are "limited by their 'electronic ink' screen technology" which does not show colors and does a marginal job of showing photos, while video is out of the question. Ummm .... Mr. Svennson?? The Kindle and the Reader are for reading. The product you are reviewing is for watching videos. I realize you don't understand this, but there is a distinct difference between the two.

The MiBook is designed to be used at home and connected to a power supply (apparently the battery life is only about 2 hours at best), versus close to 20 hours for the e-ink devices, how is the MiBook supposed to "double as a . . . regular e-book reader."?? I guess it isn't supposed to, since, as Mr. Svennson notes, "the MiBook fails to fulfill its potential here, because its screen is of poor quality. Nothing looks really sharp, and it flickers. This doesn't matter so much when showing video - the screen is certainly no worse than an old tube TV set - but the idea of reading a novel or even a short story on it is unappealing."

So, in other words, the MiBook is a video viewer that makes a piss-poor excuse for an electronic book reader. Got it. He then states that it is "the most interesting e-book reader to come out since the Kindle ...." I'm sorry, really?? You still want to call this device an e-book reader??

Mr. Svensson then states that "[w]ith a better screen and some attention to the battery issue, the MiBook could have a better shot." However, he apparently also wants WiFi added to the mix. Gee, I hope he's aware that WiFi drains the bloody hell out of a battery. And, I can't help but wonder how much a better screen, better battery, and WiFi would add to the price of the product?? I see .... he wants them to "keep the price under $100."

People, this is an example of what I call the "misleading review." Just because the reviewer keeps calling this thing an e-book reader doesn't make it so. It is not intended to be an e-book reader, and I believe you would be wasting your money if you bought it as an e-book reader. If you want something better than this for less money, then purchase an old tablet PC on eBay, plug it into your wall, and download all the videos you want from YouTube. I'm sure they've got something there on cooking and child care.

If you want to read books, then either buy some books, buy a good dedicated e-book reader from any of a number of good companies, or read them on your computer or pda.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The ScanSnap by Fujitsu

Part of getting really organized, both at home and at the office, is eliminating clutter and being able to find anything you need very quickly. That can be harder than it sounds, but I have found a product that makes it really (really) easy.

Meet the Fujitsu ScanSnap S510.

This little beauty has a small footprint, but works like a champ! It's as simple as putting your document (or business card, or receipt) into the feeder and pushing the green button. Since the scanner scans both sides of each page in a single pass, it is remarkably fast, a matter of a few seconds for a single page.

I was also impressed with the ScanSnap Organizer software. It makes keeping all of your scanned documents organized, well ... a snap. The idea behind the software is rather simple. It consists of a set of filing cabinets (you create and name them), and folders which go in the cabinets. You can also create folders within folders. Once you scan a document, it's just drag and drop the thumbnail image into the correct folder.

I was much less impressed with something called Rack2Filer, a trial version came with the scanner. Unfortunately, whoever created this software didn't give much thought into how people actually organize documents.

Rack2Filer is based on a library, with shelves and notebooks on those shelves. Sadly, the user is limited to the number of libraries they can create, and the number of notebooks that can be on the shelves. Where they don't place as much of a limit is on the number of pages that can go into a notebook. However, with even 200 pages in a notebook, turning the page (a cute animation, but not really useful), slows even a beefy computer to a crawl.

Further, the number of libraries and notebooks on the shelves do not relate to any sensible system. As I recall (it has been a few weeks since I uninstalled the program and tossed the CD), the user is allowed 7 notebooks per shelf, and three shelves in a library. So, 21 notebooks ... try breaking your client files into 21 notebooks, or .... 63 notebooks if you use all three libraries. You say you have hundreds of clients? Yes, me too.

If there had been six notebooks on six shelves, at least that could be broken up into A-Z and 0-9, although the idea of mixing all of my "A" clients into one notebook doesn't fly in my comfort zone. Add that to the time that Rack2Filer takes to turn each document into searchable text, and the time it take to turn the page as the pages increase in number. It was a nightmare.

On the other hand, the ScanSnap Organizer software was an absolute joy to use. I'm honestly not even sure why they would have included the Rack2Filer software at all. Adobe Acrobat version 8.0 was also included.

The ScanSnap S510 is selling retail for about $389. I love this baby. It may be the best money I have ever spent. I am finally able to see my desktop, and that's really saying something.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sometimes Civil Disobedience is Absolutely Necessary

A neighbor and I have been feeding two very sweet feral cats. Mother and son, and they are simply darling. Mom purrs and loves to be held, and her son loves to play. Hey, he’s a kitten, what would you expect.

They have been living under an empty and dilapidated old house that is just outside of the development in which my own home is located. The developer has been quite intent on “getting rid of” all of the feral cats in the area. And, by “getting rid of” I mean killing. Although we have a shelter that refers to itself as “no kill” ... they routinely euthanize the feral animals that are brought in there. So, those of us who love cats and dogs make certain that any feral cats or dogs are sent to a local organization that spays, neuters, and finds homes for them.

Yesterday, which was a cold and windy day to say the least, I took Harriet and Winston their lunches (yeah ... that’s what my next door neighbor - a wonderful woman - named them), and I found them in traps, no food or water and exposed to the full brunt of the wind. They were scared and very uncomfortable.

So, I picked up both cages, brought them home, gave them their lunch, and called someone to come get them so they wouldn’t end up getting the death sentence just for being alive.

This morning, as I was out walking my dogs, the foreman who works for the evil developer saw me and asked if I had their traps. I said that I did, and I could either drop them back over at the empty house or he could come pick them up. Which ever was most convenient for him. He said that he’d be by in a half an hour or so to pick them up. So, I stuck them out in my driveway for him.

An hour or more passed, and still the traps sat out in my driveway. The phone rang. It was the Llano County Sheriff’s Department calling to tell me that the evil developer (henceforth referred to as "ED") was “pressing charges against me” for “theft” of his traps. My response as you can imagine was “WTF”?? I explained to the deputy that I was waiting for the foreman to come get the traps and that I had absolutely no intent of stealing ED’s precious cages.

So, the deputy said he’d be coming out in about 5 minutes. I called the foreman to ask why he didn’t come and pick up the stupid things. His reply was that he called his boss (ED) who told him not to bother picking up the cages, that he would do it himself. Of course, he did no such thing ... he just called the sheriff’s department instead. Sure ... that’s the intelligent thing to do. That was three hours ago. No deputy ... no foreman ... no ED.

I walked the cages back over to the empty house and dumped them there. From my perspective I did absolutely nothing wrong. I firmly believe that those sweet cats have the right to live and to be left alone. They were doing nothing more than enjoying life. Since my neighbor and I were feeding them regularly, I doubt they were even doing much hunting. All I did was deprive ED the fun of killing them or turning them over to people who would do the dirty work for him.

Sometimes, I suppose in order to do the “right thing” you have to be willing to go the extra step. While I fundamentally disagree with those who are willing to cross that line even at the expense of human life or massive property damage (and yes, abortion clinic bombers, and ELF activists, I’m talking about you), I apparently have no problem with borrowing a trap just long enough to liberate its unwilling occupants.

I should add that the Llano County Sheriff's Office has been really nice throughout this whole episode. They understood that my intent was only to make certain the cats went to a good and safe home, and not to steal ED's traps. I mean really .... I'd be a pretty awful thief if the first thing I was going to do was tell the first person who asked that ... "yes, I have the traps, would you like to come get them?"

So .... I just got off the phone with one of the deputies. He explained to me that since there was no intent on my part to deprive ED of his property, ED would not be able to press charges against me for theft. Ah, gee .... I was so hoping to get dragged off in handcuffs. However, there will be an incident report about this. Which is a good thing. When I'm found murdered in my home, at least they'll have some idea about who to question first.

Note, originally I had actually named "ED," since what he did to me was a matter of record and my comments about him personally are my opinion. The last time I checked, I am entitled to my opinion. However, I understand that ED's attorney is making noises about taking me to court for telling the truth and voicing my opinion about his client. So, I've redacted ED's real name from this post.

I do hope that when people ask me directly about my personal opinion of ED (and they do ... all the time), that I am at least able to voice it then. People do ask me what I think about living in a development that is essentially controlled by this man, and I will not look them in the face and lie to them. That would be wrong and I won't lie simply because someone is willing to pay an attorney to threaten me.