Taking note 104 - Game changer?

 

I follow a few prolific bloggers. Occasionally one comes up with pure gold. David Sparks posted about a free app for the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. It converts hand writing to text.

Myscript Stylus lets you hand write with the Apple Pencil and convert to text. Best of all it lets you do that anywhere on the iPad that you would have had to type. So it works with mail, Word, Evernote and every other app for the iPad. Game changer. Free game changer. Go watch the short video. Then go try it. Did I mention it's free?

http://macsparky.com/blog/2016/4/myscript-stylus-write-anywhere-on-ipad-pro

Taking note - 103

Obviously there are a lot of apps (programs) that hold notes for you. If you search the App store under iPad apps, you will find dozens of them. And there are plenty available elsewhere for Windows or OS X computers too. The biggies are Evernote and Microsoft OneNote. But the top 10 list also includes; Google Keep, Simple Note, Notational Velocity, Apple Notes and four others, which I won’t name because I forgot them already.

Things to consider;

Availability - does the app work on your phone, tablet, PC, Mac and other devices? It’s hard to capture everything into a notes system if it doesn’t accompany you where ever you go.

Capture methods - Does the app let you use email, the camera, microphone, screen, keyboard, stylus, your fingers, voice (and any and every other method) to capture information? If you’re at a restaurant and you taste a nice wine, do you want to type in all the details or just snap a photo of the label on the bottle? If you’re driving, do you want to pull over and break out the keyboard or would you rather just talk? The app needs to be able to record voice, video, etc. It also needs to be able to store all types of files and media.

Sync - Does the app quickly and reliably synchronise all your notes across all your devices? What’s the point of recording a voice note while driving if it isn’t waiting on your desktop computer when you get back to the office?

Stability - Is the app fool proof? Does it backup?

Security - Will all your most personal and privates notes be the subject of the next major leak?

Portability - Can you get your notes back out?

Collaboration - Can you share your notes with the people?

Search - Can you find your notes inside the system? Is that process easy, but sophistiocated? Can you search by date, time, location?

 

There are plenty of note taking app show downs and in depth reviews. You know how to Google, go look them up. But basically, if you want an app that does it all across all devices, well then you’re looking at Evernote vs OneNote. The rest fall away for one reason or another.

As you know, I’m probably not qualified to review OneNote given it's a Microsoft product and I’m all Mac. But I have to say OneNote is quite capable. My biggest gripe is that it’s Microsoft design and so the user interface is very Microsoft - stuck in the 1980’s. If I’m being me, I would say it’s butt-ugly. All butts aside, it works and does the job. I personally feel the capture methods are not as widespread as Evernote, but I didn’t actually use OneNote for any period of time so I may have missed all the ways it gathers data. I did see the web clipper and I tried the stylus. It converts hand writing to text which Evernote does not. (You need to use the desktop version to do the conversion, it won’t do it on the iPad alone)

If you are a heavy user of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook) then OneNote is a great choice. And it runs on the iPad, Mac and Windows. You are probably used to the Microsoft look and feel and you’re wondering what John is ranting on about. Go use OneNote, you’ll be fine, it really is good.

And if you want the best all rounder go try Evernote. I’ve written numerous articles on it. It really is good too.

Taking note 102 - Livescribe

My second method of taking notes is the Livescribe pen. I did a review of it if you go back in the blog a few articles. Here is a photo of the page I hand wrote.

And here is a photo of the actual pen and notebook. Notice that the App runs on your iPad so you have to use it as a pair. The iPad needs to be in bluetooth range so you can place it in the middle of a meeting table, meeting room etc for best sound pick up.

And here is the text that Livescribe translated;

"Taking Note 102-Livescribe This

Livescribe 3 smart pen system. It's an unusual situation as

You wouldn't norma

at a meeting is saying, you Would make summary notes, rather than a word for word transcript. And it's even harder to read the notes at the same time as I write

them with the pen in the book."

 

I recorded audio of me saying the exact words (as per my hand writing) at the same time as I wrote with the pen. (I felt like I was juggling or performing a circus trick.) That simulates a meeting where you want to record the audio and take written notes at the same time. My voice is a bit scratchy so I won't bother to share the audio with you. But the recording quality is as good as you can get with the iPad microphone, more than good enough for meetings.

The recognised text is certainly good enough to search on. So, for example, if you are looking for the staff meeting about xyz then you can search for that and probably find it. But an exact 100% accurate transcription it is not. My biggest complaint is that it is so variable, one day great 100%, next day crap. But then that description also describes my handwriting.

Everyone is taking notes, why aren’t you?

One of the few things productivity experts agree on is that writing things down is a good idea. It doesn’t matter if you write with an ink pen on paper or with some sort of computer-like device, keeping a record of your ideas has benefits. In a work situation, I think we’re all Ok with the idea of taking notes at a meeting. In other situations, it would seem keeping a journal or taking notes is just as beneficial. Even if you never read them, the act of writing something down helps your brain remember.

 

The Evernote blog recently carried an article on the notebooks (journals) of Thomas Edison, the famous inventor. Cool stuff! The guy made daily entries and kept track of the status of his many and varied projects, all on paper notebooks. And the museum has them and you can read them today long after Mr Edison is gone.

 

https://blog.evernote.com/blog/2016/03/18/taking-note-lessons-in-collaboration-creativity-from-thomas-edison/

 

I first came across the idea of a journal when I met my friend the late S Kenneth Stoke. S kept a journal and faithfully recorded every visitor to his house, every medicine he took and what he had for lunch. He also made notes of conversations we had and ideas we tossed around. I was fascinated and inspired. I started with a large bound journal which evolved into a scrap book of my life as a teenager and young adult.

 

In my working life I met Jack Pindell, a talented computer technician. Jack was my first employee to retire. He had also been my manager at Dick Smith Electronics many years before. But the reason I mention him now is that he kept a record of every computer repair he ever did. Lab notes if you like.

 

I’ve now got a few different ways of taking notes. Paper journals, electronic systems, applications and a good collection of what Queen Ebay calls “stationery porn”. Pens, markers, pencils, Moleskins and more. My next series of articles will explain each one and how they work so that you can decide what works for you. But bloody start taking notes will you?

Livescribe 3 smartpen review

When it’s charged, connected via Bluetooth and working properly, this pen (and the accompanying app for IOS) does pretty much all the advertising claims it will.

When you write on the special paper, it will recognise your hand writing and capture it as a picture and also convert it to text. The pen has an onboard camera which looks at the paper and your hand writing, making the text recognition fairly accurate. I have atrocious hand writing and the pen still does a brilliant job of recognising it. But the biggest feature is that it also allows you to use your IOS device to capture audio at the same time. The finished “pencast” document can then be viewed and you can play back the audio from any point in the document. The upshot is you can point to a particular bullet in your written notes and hear the conversation from that point. Best of both worlds when it comes to meeting notes.

I had high hopes of this product for my wife, a newly appointed CEO. She takes a lot of meeting notes.

The down side is that this pen doesn’t always work when you want it to. Several times in the months since I bought it, the pen was flat when I turned it on. And more than once, I had charged it the night before so it was ready for the big meeting. Then there is the Bluetooth connectivity. I had read lots of people online complaining that they had to pair it to their device more than once. I have not had that problem, it paired properly first go, but when I turn it on and the iPad is sitting next to it, often it just doesn’t connect. Turn it off and back on and usually second or third go it will connect. If I had been hasty and assumed it was ready to go, I would have been upset at the lack of results later.

There’s a bug with the date and time of recordings. All my pencast documents and pdf’s sent from Livescribe+ on the iPad have a date in 2019, a little ahead of time perhaps?

And I think the biggest disappointment with this pen is that you can’t rely on it. It just doesn’t work first time, every time. It’s dodgy. But once it starts working, it runs nicely, until it runs out of battery charge.

The use of special paper doesn’t worry me at all. I bought notebooks from Moleskine and they look as good as the other Moleskine notebooks that I have. The paper is slightly thinner, but I got over that. The extra printed icons on the pages of the notebook allow for recording start and stop and a few other tricks. You can also buy notebooks of the special paper from Livescribe, although theirs are thinner paper than the Moleskine product and the covers are not as well presented, in my opinion. I’m a bit of a stationery nerd.

The IOS app isn’t too bad. The basic setup and get going process is pretty good. The app has 3 tabs or views; Page, Feed and Pencast.

In Page, you see the page as you write and your hand writing appears on it as an almost perfect copy of the paper page. On my iPad Air, the writing is slightly delayed, but not too slow.

In Feed, you can see paragraphs of writing (almost the same as the previous page) but you can swipe them left to delete or right to reveal the recognised plain text. That’s pretty cool the first few times you do it, but gets boring when you have to swipe every paragraph on the page to convert it to text, although there is a Select mode where you can select multiple paragraphs and then swipe them all together.

In Pencast, you get access to the audio. You can point to any part of the handwriting (you don’t see recognised text in Pencast view) and play the audio from that point. This is very cool. Remember the audio is recorded with your IOS device, not the pen, so make sure the iPad is in a good spot to hear everyone who is speaking. I’m occasionally blonde and put the iPad with the microphone facing away from my teleconference phone!

The App features the obvious Share, Send, Tags, Open in, Delete, Copy, Edit and Create Reminder functions. There’s a menu with nearly all the options on it or dedicated icons for Share and Tag. A bit of a duplication. The user interface isn’t awful, but I wouldn’t say it was beautiful or incredibly well thought out. It could use more work. The send to Evernote is what attracted me to this product. You seem to have the option of sending a PDF to Evernote or a PDF with attached audio.  There is a desktop App available and that plays the audio in sync with the text. You can select a place in the written notes and the audio jumps to that point in the recording. Cool. Or you can just play the audio from your PDF viewer, but that won't sync up with the text.

And I note that it claims to work with Android and Windows too. I didn’t try that.

Update March 2016;

I ended up contacting Livescribe and they decided my pen was defective. They replaced it, I didn't need to send the old one back, a new one just turned up quickly from an Australian warehouse, by overnight freight.

The new pen holds a charge well. And it connects first time every time. So those technical glitches that I had are solved. If you have a Livescribe pen that doesn't connect reliably, I would suggest you contact them. The Support email works well in my experience.

I now use the Livescribe as it was intended. I take meeting notes with it. I record the audio at the same time as I am writing in the Livescribe journal and when I fill the sample notebook that came with it, I have a Moleskine branded notebook that works with the pen. You need special paper so the camera in the pen can track your writing. Plain paper won't cut it.

I find the Livescribe is pretty good. I think the only thing that stops it recognising my handwriting 100% of the time is - my handwriting. It's pretty messy. That said, it gets what I wrote probably 95% of the time. It's usually just the odd word that I wrote badly that trips it up. If I take the recognised text into Word and run the spelling and grammar check, it catches the other 5% for me.

After lots of use, I've kinda changed my mind on the Livescribe. I like it. I'm not sure if its ready for prime time, non-technical people. I still have the slightest reservation there. But probably that's the technician in me not wanting you all to bother me with your issues if I recommend it and you can't get it to go. I should let go of that fear as their technical support staff were pretty good.

Cautiously recommended

 

 

Evernote Tagging

This is a much more detailed look at this topic than my previous blog post Paperless re-visited. (http://www.uprun.com/blog/2014/12/27/paperless-re-visited-part-four)

 

I mentioned casually in that article that I was using Evernote quite badly. Lots of people have said this and blogged about it, although not about me personally. I got into a rat hole about using Evernote as a GTD (getting things done) system rather than a records management system. And of course you can use Evernote as both if you wish. It’s a very versatile product and can be many things. Anyway, I wasted about 2 months on that issue so I thought I should mention it here. This article is all about using Evernote as a records management system (digital filing system), I promise.

 

Things to consider (if you didn’t read any of my previous blog posts on Evernote)

A Note is the minimum amount of data saved to Evernote. It’s the simplest, single unit of measure.

A Note can have multiple documents attached to it and they can be of any type. (pdf, jpg, doc etc)

A group of Notes is called a Notebook.

A group of Notebooks is called a Stack.

You can’t stack Stacks. The levels of depth stop there.

A tag is a descriptive label you can attach to a note.

Any number of Tags can be attached to a Note to describe it.

The Tags section in Evernote is like a search page.

You can also save search terms for re-use later.

Metadata is descriptive information about the Note, used to categorise the data so it can be searched more easily.

Searches can be based on Tags, metadata or the content of Notes or their attachments, pretty much everything.

Events are Notes that represent a point in time

Milestones are a special class of Events

 

If you want the definitive guide to Evernote, get Brett Kelly’s Evernote Essentials (https://brettkelly.org/evernote-essentials/

 

There are two main ways to organise the filing of your data in Evernote; you can file notes into notebooks and you can attach tags to notes. The exact best way to file data in Evernote has yet to be established and when it is, the skies will open and four horses will circle the moon. Or so it is said. But seriously, everyone is searching for the best system and the simple truth is there isn't one. Whatever works for you is best.

 

So why use tags instead of Notebooks?

The general thrust of the argument is that tags are better than notebooks for organising and finding things in Evernote. You should have only a few notebooks (oh crap, I have hundreds) and use tags to find everything. Notebooks can only be stacked one level deep, whereas tags can go several layers. So tags are more flexible than notebooks. It's about being able to find your data by searching for it rather than knowing where you put the data. These are two very different mindsets; Hunters vs Gatherers. The Gatherers file their data away in specific Notebooks and know that everything related to a particular topic is in that Notebook. The Hunters go looking for their data every time they need it. They use search to find what they want. The Hunters come un-stuck if their data isn’t searchable. The Gatherers problem is when one piece of data fits in two Notebooks.

 

There is nothing stopping you from using both tags and notebooks to organise your data. The tag purists would have you live with no more than 6 notebooks and I'm sure that works form them and they have nice enjoyable lives. But for me, I need a bet each way. I have notebooks and stacks where I group notes based on what they are about and I also tag everything as much as possible to make searching easier. 

 

 

Tagging System

I discovered that I am naturally a gatherer. But I want to change. People will tell you that you need a tagging system that is consistent, simple and easy. But none of them actually tell you what to do. I got very frustrated by this because I could quickly see why they were saying it, but they didn’t give an actual solution. Some gave brief examples of their system but never enough detail that you could actually use their system and get something meaningful out of it. So I got all obsessive and invented a system based on all the good bits. Steal like an artist they say, but first you need some rules.

 

Rules

Tags can’t use #, ! or @ as these are reserved symbols, Evernote uses them so you can not.

 

Use hyphens not spaces (e.g. “to-do”) When you use a space, it becomes two words and gets confusing.

 

Tags should be singular not plural (e.g. “tax” not “taxes”)

 

Descriptive tag folders or containers (of tags) need to start with a dot. (e.g. ".descriptors”) You don’t actually use the container as a tag itself, you use the tags contained in the container. It’s like a folder for tags. This is the whole thrust of the tags vs Notebooks argument I mentioned before, the ability to have multiple layers of tags. This is the meat in my article. The fact that you can make multiple layers of tags, like folders within folders. The only gottcha is that you have to use the desktop version of Evernote to do that. You create the tag folder just like a tag and then you drag them on top of one another. Once you have created your tags and nested them using the desktop  application, you are then free to use these tags in any Evernote version; web, IPad, iPhone, etc. It's just the initial creation of the nested tags that can only be done on the desktop (Mac or Windows)

 

Tags need to be lower case except for proper names in the .entities folder. (e.g. “tax", “^John”) Use of a starting or leading character (e.g. "^") allows you to jump to the set of tags (names in this case) easily by typing the lead character.

 

Names start with a carat “^” (e.g. “^John”) It helps if you pronounce ^ as “name"

 

Projects start with a “%” (e.g. “%deck”) It helps if you pronounce % as “project"

 

 

Metadata

Metadata means “data about data” or descriptive information about your data.

There is a metadata page for each Note in Evernote. Just hit the “i” with a circle around it;

 

 

In order to correctly tag or categorise a Note, you need to answer the 6 W’s; What, Where, When, Why, Who, How (Ok that last one doesn’t start with W, get over it)

 

What, Why, How, Who

The sentence you need to complete when tagging is;

 

"This is a  [.what] about [.why] for/by [^who] about [%project]."

 

e.g.;

This is a tax invoice for ^Beatties about %digitising

This is a dental invoice for ^John

This is a tax receipt for ^Katrena about %deck

 

So the yellow bits indicate the tags you would use. For that last bit, you don’t need to specify a project if you don’t want to; it’s an optional extra. The ^who is the person or thing that the Note relates to.

 

There is a difference between the type of Note (the what) and the why of the data and the who it relates to or was written by. You might need to study my examples in the list below to really understand this. It isn’t obvious or easy, I’m sorry.

 

My tags;

 

As you can see, I have what, document types, who and projects with a number of tags under each one. The numbers next to each tag indicate how many times you have used that particular tag. You can use that number to thin down your tags if you have too many.

 

When

You're going to need some dates;

Reminder - you can set Reminders in Evernote, this causes an alert which can even by emailed to you. Use the alarm clock icon on the Note;

 

Created - date the note was created. could be the date it was scanned. See metadata above.

Updated - last date the note was updated or modified. See metadata above.

Event or effective - the date the attachment refers to, such as the invoice date. See the metadata above and you will notice it does not exist - bugger! I would suggest the only way to handle the Event or effective date, is to change the Creation date on the Note info page. There isn’t a spare field to store this, you can’t add fields and the other date field (Updated) is liable to change at any time. Really this will only be a problem for invoices and other scanned financial documents that were not scanned on the day they were printed. (99% of them are like this, sorry) But it’s easy to change the Creation date to more accurately reflect the creation date of the original attached document and not that of the Note containing the scanned version of it. You need to remember the Note is the container for the attachments. If that makes sense?


Where

Location - where the device (that created the Note) was when the Note was created. You can change this, to make it more useful. See metadata above.

URL - the web address for the source of the Note. Again, you can change this. See metadata above.



My system in action


Once you've got all your Notes stored away with tags and metadata, the payback begins. Actually finding what you need. This is where the search function in Evernote comes into play. Basically you can type a few words into the search box like you would with Google. That works well, but you can kick your search up a notch by using keywords to help with the search process. Tell the search engine more about what you want and it'll give you better answers. (see Brett Kelly: Evernote Essentials)


If you just type a few words in the search box, you will get Notes that contain ALL of the words you specified;

pink green yellow

Will give you notes that contain ALL of those words.

But you wont get Notes that only have pink without also having green and yellow. This is an AND type of search. You get only Notes that have pink AND green AND yellow; all or nothing. The other type of search is an OR type search. Evernote calls this an ANY search;

any: pink green yellow

This gives you Notes with ANY of those three words.


There is also "-" (minus) which gives you the opposite, or what we boolean lovers call NOT;

-green

This gives you only Notes that do NOT contain the word green.


The wildcard ("*") option lets you be half right. So "right *" for example would match to "right now" "right on" and "right wing", useful if you only know the first half of the answer. You can only use the wildcard at the end of a word.


Once you have the wildcard, AND, OR and NOT, you have the basics of logic. Combine those with keywords and you get search super powers;


Notes created in the last week;

created:day-7


Notes created on your mobile devices;

source:mobile.*


Tagged red but not blue;

tag:red -tag:blue


Not tagged at all;

-tag:*


The full search grammar is explained here (https://dev.evernote.com/doc/articles/search_grammar.php).


Saved searches

Once you have found a neat way to search for something in particular, you can save the search term and use it again later. Think about creating saved searches for "Created this week", "Has action items" or "To read".


Linking Notes

I just discovered that you can link to a Note from within another Note, just like web pages. Right click on a Note, hit "Copy Note Link" and paste this link into the other Note. This gives you a web style link to the other Note. Kind of cool if you're needing to reference an older Note in a new Note you are writing. You can use this to create a "table of contents" Note at the top of each Notebook. This table of contents can link to all the other Notes in that Notebook and you can arrange the links however makes sense to you.


Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 5.53.20 pm.png

 

 

Note Templates

And while I'm giving other misc Evernote tips, you can create a Notebook called "Templates" and save blank template Notes for re-use. The often talked about example is the meeting agenda template. But you could have phone call template, fax cover sheet template or whatever other templates for Note types you create often. To use the template, right click and copy it to where ever you want the new blank form to be.

 

Smart Work flow

By default, things go into the Inbox in Evernote, you should move them into other Notebooks, only after they are tagged correctly. That’s your manual work flow; you being disciplined enough to tag before you move. To process your inbox.

 

Evernote has a few extra ways to get information into Evernote. These can be automated to Tag and file Notes for you. Makes life easier. There are stickers you can put onto paper pages in your Moleskine notebook, photograph them with the camera in Evernote for IOS and they automatically file themselves away according to the Camera section in Evernote settings for IOS (see the 3 screens below). There are rules about the work flow according to the colour of a Post-It note. Again, the Camera settings page is your friend. You can make blue coloured Post-It’s do one thing and Yellow coloured ones do something else. And business cards have their own work flow. Some things go in automatically. Like emails go into the Inbox. Travel tagged things go into Travel. To-do and Reminders. All of these need the tagging and move rules to be set up.

 

Summary

I have borrowed (or artistically stolen) a lot of raw material from many Evernote champions. The Hunters vs Gatherers is from Katie Floyd for example. "My" tagging system has its roots in several articles that have appeared on Lifehacker, Jamie Rubin, Michael Hyatt, Medium and many other good sites. They freely gave this information to the world and I freely stole it and made my own kind of sense of it all. I wouldn't want you to think this was all my own work, because it's not. And to develop your own tagging system you are free to steal as many of my ideas as you see fit.

 

I have no relationship with Evernote except that I pay them money for the Premium service and use their product.

REIT - Retire

I'm not teaching for the REIT anymore. With the change in policy to align the Tasmanian course to the National ciriculum, I got cut. 15 years but no more. Hey, stuff happens.

One thing I did do was record the last session so I can do a transcript of the course in its "final" form. It evolves every time I teach it, never the same twice. It gets things added and examples changed and I was always trying to keep it up to date. Very hard in the field of technology. 

Anyway, so I have this 2 hour recording of me blabbing on. I wanted to type it up but I can't type for squat. My wife does an excellent job but she's a little busy right now. So I thought I'd try outsourcing the job. I used Rev.com and they charge $1 per minute and they are very good. The accuracy was high, very high. I had visions of them using a cheap voice to text recognition engine and me getting a very mediocre job that I'd have to work on a lot to get something I could use. But what I got back was bloody brilliant. I would recommend them. You just upload your audio file (I recorded an MP3 using only my iPhone 6 sitting on the desk, it was a pretty rough audio) and pay the prescribed fee (they time your file as it uploads) and a day or so later they email you a link to a Word file.

 

Next time you have an audio recording you want typed, give them a try. I couldn't be happier.

Outlook on the iPad

Microsoft have brought Outlook to the iPad. And I’m not going to hate on it.

 

The big deal about having an actual Microsoft Outlook on the iPad is that now there is no excuse not to connect to your company email server. For those of us with Windows centric companies and Exchange Server everywhere, this is a blessing. And the good news is that Microsoft seem to have written Outlook from scratch with the iPad in mind. This new CEO has finally figured out that if you are a software company and make you money from software that maybe, just maybe, you should sell your software for every major hardware product out there. Yippee!!

 

Outlook for iPad is free. No Office 365 subscription required. Free, gratis. Just download it from the App store. The set up is easy. It asked me my email address, password and it figured out the rest itself. Hang on a minute, a Microsoft product that works as advertised? Yes!

 

Now I haven’t used it much because Mail works fine for me. But Outlook does seem to work properly.

 

Maybe some of my Windows readers can try it and report back?

Passwords

I’m writing a long article on Evernote tagging, but it’s not ready yet. So here’s a nice, gentle reminder about passwords.

 

Now on behalf of the IT industry (geeks) I must apologise for passwords. I mean what a stupid system. You couldn’t think of a more geeky, clumsy, silly system if you tried. But we’re stuck with it. Get used to it. Like them or not, your passwords are the only thing holding the bad guys back from your money. They are the keys to the kingdom.

 

The difficult bit is to be aware that every password is valuable, even the ones you think are meaningless or trivial. The way modern crooks work is they leap frog from one system (web site) to another. So they break in to some stupid web site that you only ever used once, you never went back to and probably forgot about it. And maybe that web site did not keep your credit card, but it did store your email. And they use that email and the stolen password and try them on other web sites. And eventually they break into your Facebook, and Ok, that’s not all that important either. But from there they leverage your date of birth or school or something else trivial and they break into your iTunes account or something that really does have your credit card. Or they get your identity. You see how this works?

 

So every password you ever use anywhere is important. And you can’t re-use a password on more than one web site, EVER! You need new strong passwords for EVERY different web site you use. Yurgh!

 

When it comes to passwords, length matters most. Longer is better. As long as it isn’t in the dictionary (that is a single word) any long password is good. And most are way better than stupid complex jumbles of letters, numbers, upper case, lower case, special punctuation characters etc.

 

Good passwords;

BigRedDog

Myfavouritemartian

twasbrilligandtheslithytoves

Talwsatgigasbasth

(The first letters of There’s A Lady Who’s Sure All That Glitters Is Gold And She’s Buying A Stairway To Heaven)

FacebookBigRedDog

TwitterBigRedDog

ItunesBigRedDog

 

 

Bad passwords;

pencil

password

freddy

(or whatever your dog’s name is)

A^to9c@b

(who the heck can remember that one?)

 

A Word document on the desktop with a list of all your passwords so you can copy and paste them is a good idea. A really DUMB idea, but a good one never the less. Do not do this. Get a real password manager program. There are plenty. Mac has one built in to OS X called Keychain. There is 1Password for those on Mac, Windows, IOS or Android. LastPass and lots of others. In this day and age, you pretty much need some sort of password manager to keep track of all these darn passwords.

 

Take passwords seriously. They matter. Sorry.

Evernote Extras

As well as Evernote for all your devices; IOS, Android, Mac OSX, Windows and possibly more, Evernote makes some extra apps. There's Scannable, Penultimate, Skitch and Food to name a few. I thought I'd test drive a few of them. There’s also an Evernote app center where apps by third parties are promoted by Evernote, but I haven’t got too far into those yet.

 

Let's start with the web clipper.

Seems like a whimpy start to my list, but clipping stuff from the web is a very common way to get information into Evernote. It is your universal inbox after all. So any web page you see that has something you might want to read again or refer to or use later, you can clip it. This is a more reliable way to save web pages than saving bookmarks. Evernote gives you the option of saving the link or saving a copy of the page;

 

On a Mac, shift click the Evernote elephant icon in Safari to save a PDF version of the currrent page to your Inbox

Don't forget the web clipper, it's a vital add-on to Evernote.

Scannable. This free IOS app lets you … (wait for it…) ... Scan using your iPhone or iPad. Ta da!

There is a scanner built into Evernote, you don’t need any add-on app. And it's easy to use and has presets for Post-it notes, Moleskine notebooks, documents, business cards and photos. So why do we need a separate scanner app? I'm not sure to be honest. It's supposed to do more accurate scans and line up better. Then the scans sync to Evernote and if you have Evernote Premium, they get text layers added for searching. In practice, I wasn't that impressed. And you still can't cut and paste the text, it just adds the text underneath to allow searching, you can't actually use the text like you could if you scanned it with OCR. I suppose the real benefit is that if you have the Fujitsu Evernote compatible scanner, this app lets you control it and scan over wifi. You drop the paper in the scanner and click the app to scan. I have the non-Evernote Fujitsu scanner (ScanSnap S1500M) and it scans to Evernote just fine. If you want a document scanner, get a Fujitsu scanner. (and my employer doesn’t even sell Fujitsu so I have no axe to grind here)

 

Penultimate is a hand writing capture app for iPad. You write on the screen with your finger or a stylus and the finished document is saved to Evernote with text layer added but the same limitations. They recommend the Jot stylus which has bluetooth to transmit pressure info to the iPad. This is supposed to make the handwriting flow better and more accurately. I'm not impressed; it captures my siganture really well, but anything else comes out crappy. My hand writing is crappy enough at the best of times, but the digital onscreen version is garbage.

 

My failure with Penultimate got me into a dark place, searching for the right hand writing capture app, I was sure it was out there somewhere and I was darn certain I could find it. I wasted a week of my life.

 

I tried a LOT of handwriting apps for iPad. Universally they were crap. Some more so than others. I have tried different styluses and different techniques and come to the conclusion that I am way better off writing in my Moleskine notebook with a real pen and then scanning it to Evernote later. It still becomes searchable and I can actually read it myself, unlike the on-screen handwriting, which I can't read.

 

I tested;

Memo - awful

GoodNotes - frustratingly awful

Notes Plus - God awful

Penultimate - un-useable and awful

 

Skitch is a sketching app for iPad. This one seems useful. It allows you to draw sketches, but more importantly to mark up (draw over) photos, PDFs and other documents. I haven’t used it seriously, but it shows great promise. If you’re looking for a digital whiteboard type app, this might be it. More to follow, I promise.

 

Food is the gourmet's app for Evernote. Food stores recipes, restaraunt info, meals including photos and reviews. I've just started with it, but it looks good. The presentation and correlation of recipes I have to recipes on the Internet looks fascinating. I seems to use the Context feature from Evernote, but take it to the next level. More to follow, I promise, I’m excited about this one.

 

Web Version

On top of these apps, there is the web version of Evernote. That means using Evernote in your web browser rather than running an app on your PC, Mac, tablet or phone. It’s a subtle difference but needs considering. The web version, for example, provides a “distraction free writing” mode, which I like. The web version also gives you more view and control over your Evernote account, amount of data you have moved and related info. And the beauty is you can access your Evernote data from any PC with Internet.

 

PDF Pen Pro

When I said I hadn’t used any of the Evernote app centre apps, I lied. I have used PDF Pen Pro, which by sheer coincidence appears int he app centre. This little number lets you play with PDF files. You can edit them, re-format them, sign them, re-design them and heaps more. Its the swiss army knife for PDF files. Way better than Adobe’s Acrobat and significantly cheaper. It’s what Mac people use for PDF’s. The main reason you might want to use this with Evernote is that it will OCR a PDF and add the text layer so you can edit the text or copy it for use elsewhere. It turns a scanned PDF into an editable document. Very handy.

 

KustomNote

This app lets you create templates that can be used to create Notes that look the same every time. It simplifies the process of standardising your forms. I just started a trial, let you know how it goes, but I haven’t used it since I created the free account, so that isn’t looking good.

 

Stationery

The other Evernote extras are stationery items. There’s the Moleskine notebook. Moleskine is the brand if you didn’t know. They make A5 and smaller notebooks and they are very nice if you’re into stationery porn. They have several notebooks that are designed for Evernote. There’s a sketchbook (blank pages for drawing) and a notebook (lined pages for writing) both come with stickers that Evernote will recognise if you photograph the finished page with the camera in Evernote. The six different types of stickers allow for automatic tagging and filing. Stick the sticker on the page and then photograph it, easy.

 

The other stationery item is the humble Post-it note. If you get the right coloured Post-it notes, these can be recognised by Evernote when you photograph them, again allowing automatic tagging and filing away. Evernote recognises four different colours of Post-it (Electric Yellow, Neon Pink, Electric Blue, Limeade).

 

I found all these stationery items were much easier to use and gave better results than any hand writing recognition app. My writing on paper is legible, just.

 

I had trouble finding the Evernote edition Moleskine notebooks in Hobart. Then I found Artery. Bliss. Stationery porn bliss.

A Mac with a virus?

The other day I got a call from my brother who said his Mac was having a lot of pop-ups and running slow. The last thing I thought was that it had a virus. And technically it didn’t, but you don’t want to hear that.

 

So somehow his Mac had become infected with a piece of malware called MacKeeper. This professes to be a tune up utility vital to maintaining the health of you Mac, but in reality it’s a virus. It displays advertising, stops you visiting web sites that might help you clean up MacKeeper (that is kill it) and generally makes a nuisence of itself. My brother had acquired this by visiting a TV show web site. Not being a computer person, he had said “yes” when MacKeeper offered to install itself for free and help him. It was very convincing. They have to be, these are professional thieves not some jumped up script kiddies.

 

So how do you clean up one of these nasty things? Pretty easy. I used BitDefender from the Apple Mac App store. It was free and actually IS a virus remover, unlike all the so called virus removers for Mac that are themselves really viruses. BitDefender detected and removed about 90% of the infected files. The rest it identified but couldn’t remove. A restart and second scan removed a few more and the remainder that it identified I removed manually with Finder. (click on Go, Folder, and key in “/Library” without the quotes and then navigate to where BitDefender said they were and delete them) Then a secure empty of the trash and they are gone for good. A few restarts and re-scans proved it, all clean.

 

So yes, a Mac can get a virus. Luckily the viruses out there for Mac are pretty benign. They don’t do any real harm. And they are very easy to remove. Just stick to anti-virus programs from the Mac App Store (hit the Apple icon top left, App Store) and then you know they are really what they say they are. Because it seems that it is still the case that the quickest way to GET a virus on a Mac is to try to install an ANTI-virus program.

Twelve South BookBook iPhone 6 case review

I’ve had a few iPhone cases in my time. My last one was the extremely rugged and protective Griffin Survivor. This case has a plastic inner shell and a rubber outer shell. If you drop your phone, it will probably survive in one of those puppies. They are awesome. But this time I wanted something different. When I’m out and about, I need my wallet; drivers licence, cards, cash and my phone. And I’m sick or carrying around large chunky things in my pants making me look like an overweight jockey with built in saddle bags. Many people carry their smartphone naked (no case) for this very reason.

 

Lots of research revealed the answer to my dreams was the Twelve South Book Book. This stylish leather case looks like a miniature leather bound book and contains a phone and wallet. The promise here was that I could condense two things into one carryable.

 

Like many of the consumer items I wish to buy, the Book Book is not available in Australia. Well, I couldn’t find anyone who would sell me one. So I ordered it directly from the manufacturer in the USA. Any Australian retailer who wishes to complain at this point can go screw themselves. But that’s another story. Anyway, USA delivered as advertised and the case arrived the day before the iPhone 6. Perfect timing.

 

The magic of this case is that it has an inner plastic shell to protect your phone and that locks into a leather folder which forms the wallet. And the two parts fold up into one item or you can separate them for those times you want your phone to hand to someone but don’t want to hand your cash over too. Not that my cash is ever worth anything like the cost of my phone. And to quote an old joke, if my cards get stolen, the thief is likely to spend less than I do anyway.

 

So downsides; Aussie money is a too big to fit in so you have to fold your notes in half.

When you close it, these is no catch so it springs open.

Leather is not waterproof so you shouldn’t use it in the rain.

There is never enough room for all your cards. See using Iphone Passbook for loyalty cards...

 

Bottom line - recommended 

Panasonic KX-PRW120 cordless phone Review

So I bought a new cordless phone for the house, on a whim. Well not really, I had done a lot of research. But research will only get you so far if you want to buy it now and you are in Hobart. The full range of whatever it is you have seen will not be in stock. Just get over it. If you want a specific model, order online and stop being silly.

 

I knew we needed a new phone for home. The Telstra T-Pad is the worst home phone imaginable. Pure crap. And I wanted something that would integrate with multiple handsets so we can leave some scattered around, lost in kids rooms. And of course it had to be wi-fi friendly and offer good range and battery life. In short, it had to function as a home phone. I had found a model of Panasonic that met all the criteria and came with two handsets and didn’t cost a fortune. But of course that model was absent from stores. So I read up on the model they did have. And I learned something - you can use a free App on your smart phone or tablet (IOS or Android) and use your mobile as a handset. Even make and receive calls, transfer calls, intercom, etc. All using your own device. So this meant we didn’t need multiple handsets as we already had them. I liked this idea. Also you could use your own contacts list and you didn’t need to type all you contacts in again.

 

So I bought it. I wasn’t expensive. $129 to be precise.

 

And it works. If you have the App on your device (tablet or phone) you can call using the landline rather than your mobile. This is good for us as our all-you-can-eat Telstra plan includes unlimited calls to any Australian phone number, fixed or mobile, untimed. When the home phone rings, all the connected devices ring too. Pretty easy.

 

Call quality is good. Ease of use - very good. In short - recommended.

 

My next mission is to set up a video door bell. Stay tuned.

A new iPhone (part two)

My middle child had one tiny issue in getting her new SIM. She approached Telstra and didn’t have joy, being told her pre-paid SIM was in fact registered to a company. This confused everyone until she discovered that she had copied her mobile number down wrongly. The process of a new SIM went much quicker once this was rectified. Like her father, she’s very good at complex tasks but suffers a bit when doing the blindingly obvious.

 

My SIM change happened within 30 minutes of emailing my boss and requesting the change. Very smooth. Given he’s a bit of a road warrior, no fixed abode etc, even more impressive.

 

But I said I would compare the outcomes of the different methods of iPhone upgrade. So I better do that.

 

My Daughter’s iPhone upgrade (done with the backup and restore method) worked very well. This method gets the thumbs up. No issues at all. All Apps, data, music, photos and 99% of the settings came across. The odd password needed to be re-entered. No big deal. I would recommend this method, especially if you are going to a similar phone and you don’t need to clean out your Apps and remove the 50 fart Apps you bought on a whim.

 

My “new iPhone” setup worked equally well. There was more work and much more thought went into it. And that’s the key to picking a method. If you need a clean out of your Apps or you’re going to a new iPhone with different features (i.e. skipping a generation or two and going from an older iPhone to a much newer one) then the setting up from scratch method will benefit you. At a minimum, it makes you asses each App and justify its continued existence and relevance. So yes, I dropped the fart Apps.

 

I did have to remove the iWork Apps - Pages, Numbers and Keynote from the new iPhone. These come installed by default. I love them on my iPad, just not on the iPhone as the screen is too small for my ancient eyes.

 

I’m also very glad I went with 64Gb of storage. The basic model with 16Gb would have been full. As you go up the models from 3,4,5,6 the storage needs seem to increase mildly too. A 16Gb 6 holds less than a 16Gb iPhone 3, in my opinion. I think the better camera and larger screens mean better data but more storage cost. An 8Mp photo is likely bigger than a 4Mp photo etc etc.

 

So in conclusion, either method is good and works effectively. If you have an older phone and lots of Apps and probably a bit of a mess, then the new iPhone method will force you to clean up. If you have a lean, clean, effective system with just the Apps you need, then the backup and restore method is quicker.

A new iPhone (part one)

The purchase of new technology is always a carefully planned event in our household. Except for the cordless phone I bought Christmas Eve, but that’s another story. So the planned replacement of my beloved iphone 4S was a project management giant of a job. Having selected the iPhone 6 (not the 6 Plus) with 64Gb of memory, the space grey colour and even the Book Book case to put it in, all that remained was for Apple to deliver on time. Which they did.

 

Now, no, this isn’t a "John’s got a new iPhone" story. It’s about the process, I swear.

 

The game plan involves Daughter number 2 getting my old 4S to replace her 3GS (it’s always the middle child that gets the oldest phone, so I’m told) and me getting the 6, doh! But the story here is how I upgraded both of us. For Daughter, I opted for the backup and restore method, which I’ve used before with great success. But for me, I thought I’d try the “New iphone” route. Just give me a minute to explain.

 

So the 3GS was connected via USB cable to my Daughter’s Mac and iTunes opened. Then selecting the iPhone, hit Backup in the manual backup section. Easy. Slow, but easy. Then ejected. Before I handed over my old 4S, I hit Erase from the general settings. This wipes the lot. So when we plugged it into her Mac, it was a new iPhone again, but we selected Restore from backup and chose the backup we had just done. A few minutes later, all good to go. She did have to enter the PIN and the iTunes password and get her SIM replaced, but other than that, all good to go. Then the 3GS got erased and I’m not sure where that is going.

 

On to mine. Put the SIM in, boot the phone and follow the prompts. Give it the wifi password, the iTunes password, the iCloud password. No USB cable, no iTunes. That’s right, I have not been anywhere near iTunes.

From the App Store, I Installed;

1Password

Evernote

Facebook

Messenger

Speedtest

and Hudsons

(There were a few other apps, but nothing worth mentioning here)

As we had previously bought these apps, they were all free downloads. No money spent.

 

The nasty bit is setting up the email. I have multiple email accounts and each one needed to be set up again. Luckily I have 1Password to remind me of all the dreaded passwords and Bingo! New phone.

 

All the data lives in the cloud, so my photos, music, emails, notes etc all came back automatically. Easy.

 

In part two, I’ll compare the time taken and the effort with the benefits. Stay tuned.

Paperless re-visited (part four)

This article is shamelessly based on https://medium.com/@thomashoneyman/using-evernote-the-right-way-ef61f530d1ad

I think what these helpful people are trying to tell us is that tagging is better than nested folders. So first a quick overview of those two strategies;

 

Tagging is adding a label or tag to something so that you can find it by that tag later. Eg #funny that you might see on a tweet. So if you search for anything with #funny on it, you find all the jokes. And notes can be tagged with multiple tags; #funny #dirty #adult

 

Nested folders are a filing system with folders to put things in based on what they are. And then you put a folder inside a folder to further categorise things. Like it might be in the “writings” folder and then in a folder inside “writings: called “jokes"

 

Literature-

               -Writings

                         -Jokes

                                   (your funny joke)

 

Nested folders are like a filing cabinet with drawers, suspension files and manilla folders.

 

The point that these people are making is that with Evernote, you can nest notes in notebooks and then stacks, which gives you a maximum “depth” of 2 levels only. Whereas you can have as many tags as you like and search for sets of tags. (e.g. #funny AND #dirty) which give you more possible depth.

 

The bottom line is that there are numerous ways to categorise your data and find it later. Evernote supports this. So if you dump something into Evernote, you can be confident that you will be able to find it again. That’s what it is for.

 

See also Katie Floyd; http://katiefloyd.me/blog/my-top-10-evernote-tips?rq=evernote

 

And MacWorld; http://www.macworld.com/article/2029451/how-i-went-paperless-with-hazel-and-evernote.html

 

And http://lifehacker.com/5989980/ive-been-using-evernote-all-wrong-heres-why-its-actually-amazing

 

 

So far, Evernote is working for me. I would recommend it. It will be interesting to see how Queen Ebay takes to it, now all of our recipes and other random notes are in Evernote.

Paperless re-visited (part three point five)

There's yet another source of data that you can feed into Evernote; Kindle book highlights. As you read a Kindle book (which you can also do on an iPad or other device. You don't need an Amazon Kindle to read Kindle books) you can highlight parts that interest you. Just hold down your finger and swipe the area to highlight. You can highlight as many bits as you want. These are backed up to Amazon and you can see them on the Amazon web site. Once you have viewed them, you can use the Evernote web clipper to send them to Evernote. 

This allows you to take clippings from books and add them to Evernote as reference material.

See http://michaelhyatt.com/how-to-get-your-kindle-highlights-into-evernote.html

Paperless re-visited (part three)

Ok, so I think I’ve carried on about my decision to switch to Evernote for long enough. Maybe it’s time to deliver on this blog by telling you something you don’t know - how I actually use Evernote. For there are as many ways to use Evernote as there are people using Evernote. If that makes sense.

 

Notes - These are the smallest element in Evernote. They can be a single piece of text or a multi-page document with attachments, embedded pictures and rich media. You can attach just about anything to a note. If you send a PDF or other file type to Evernote, it will become a note. That’s the smallest container available. And everything else is made up of Notes.

 

Notebooks - Are a collection of Notes. You can call the Notebook anything you like and it can contain any number of  Notes.

 

Stacks - Are collections of Notebooks.

 

Tags - The ancient art of tagging your data so you can find it later. They say there are taggers and hunters in the world. Those that categorise (tag) everything and find it by searching for the tags, and those who just search for the data. You can add as many (including zero) tags as you like to a Note. Just don’t name a tag with a #, Evernote doesn’t like that, it’s all cool, you’ll find out why later.

 

Reminders - Can be added to any Note and trigger alerts at set times.

 

Search - You can search for anything in Evernote. You can search by words, tags or dates and lots of other things like Location. You can even save a search and use it again later.

 

So that’s the basics of what comes with Evernote. I invented a few Note types of my own and I use tags to find them;

 

To-do’s - I moved my to-do list from Omnifocus into Evernote. All my eggs in one basket. So for every to-do, I create a Note and tag it To-do. I also move it to a Notebook called To-do’s. If they are time sensitive, I add a Reminder.

 

Contacts - Evernote can import contact information from business cards. So I created a tag and Notebook called Contacts. Photograph a business card, it moves to Contacts automatically and I get the option to send it to my Contacts on my Mac.

 

Ideas - Stuff occurs to me. A lot. At random. Usually at the worst possible time. Sometimes it’s a good idea, sometimes not so good. But it’s like Bruce said (in Armageddon) “I got a whole team of men sitting around somewhere (in my head) just thinking shit up". So I enter these as Notes and tag them "Ideas". I can write them on a bright pink Post-it note and scan them, or write them in my Moleskine journal and stick a pink house sticker on the page before I snap it with the camera. Or I can go old school and type. Anyway, they end up tagged as Ideas so I can find them again later.

 

Next: why some guy says I'm totally wrong about how I use Evernote and do I give a toss?