The latest weapon in my arsenal – the Acer Chromebook

Acer Chromebook

Acer Chromebook

In my last post I mentioned that I had lost my battle with Google, and last week I took the next step in my walk down Google Way and purchased the Acer Chromebook 11 CB3-111-C670 (11.6-inch HD, 2GB, 16GB) through Amazon.

While I could go on and write a review for it I’m not going to as there are plenty of others that have reviewed it and they were a factor in my decision to go ahead and purchase it.

I will say this, know what you are buying. I frequently saw this chromebook called a laptop and while that may be an accurate statement for some it forms a certain expectation for the buyer if they take it at face value. I saw a number of negative comments out there but when I read things like, “doesn’t run windows,” or, “can’t run Office,” to things like, “there was no DVD drive,” I ignored them. I wasn’t buying this to replace a Windows laptop, I was buying it because I’m moving more and more into the arms of the cloud (ok, mostly Google, but not entirely).

For me the transition to using the chromebook has been pretty easy, but then again I knew why and for what tasks I was buying it. I’m using is as a supplement for my other tools and while it has mostly replaced my laptop for nightly tasks it isn’t the best tool for everything. For example my day-time employer is a Microsoft shop and I’m expected to use those products and the provided hardware so I do.

Having the chromebook is making it that much easier to separate my day job from the rest of my life – mobile wise I have a Moto X for my use and carry an iPhone 5s for work.

I will say I have hit a few bumps with offline access, but I feel that’s more from a lack of experience than a flaw with the system. Once I figured out how to make sure things were synced up when I went offline everything smoothed itself out. I have my offline Gmail chrome app and I’ve managed to create some longer form documents without much of a hit to my normal productivity and I suspect things will only get better as I become more accustom to working this way.

Will I go back into the arms of my Windows 8.1 laptop? For some things I’m sure I will, at least in the short term, but as I find the needed tools and resource that I can leverage with my new weapon I’m sure my reliance on it will dwindle down to nearly nothing (there will always be something).

So I wonder, how many out there are using a chromebook as their primary computing device? Are you thinking about getting one? Do you think I’m nuts for picking one up? Let me know in the comments.

Ok Google, you win!

Google Magnifying GlassAfter months of working on options to pull myself away from my reliance of Google products I’ve thrown in the towel – my apologies to all those out there who were hoping I’d reach escape velocity.

Folks that have wandered around the site know that I’ve always been big on Google products and the fact that I couldn’t just drop them all and walk away shouldn’t be a cause for alarm, but there are a few things I’ve observed.

  1. The world loves Chrome. There are some other great browsers out there (firefox comes to mind) but, they don’t really seem to get the love when it comes to add-ins. Yes, I have a few that are specific to Google services but there are others that I can’t seem to find an equivalent for, and since I don’t want to give my the functionality – Chrome it is.
  2. Gmail just rocks. I realize that might not sound professional but it’s the best way to describe it. I rarely have an issue accessing it and the spam filtering is fantastic – hard to give those up. I’m also on an apps domain which I share with others so I can just summarily take it down without impact them so that’s also a blocker for me as well. (By the way, the new inbox app for Android is pretty solid as well.)
  3. Google Voice. I’ve been using a number through their system since before it was their system (anyone remember GrandCentral?) and while it hasn’t gotten as much love as it could have over the years the voicemail system works well for what I need it to do.
  4. Mobile. Other than Apple there aren’t a lot of choices beyond Android and while I carry an iPhone for work (and everyone else but me at home does as well) I didn’t want one for my personal phone. I opted for the 2nd generation Moto X and, to be honest, have been very happy with it to date.

I could go one by I really don’t want this to turn into a Google fanboy post (it might already be there anyway).

Am I all in with Google? No, there are a few areas where the giant G taken over.

  1. Notetaking. As I mentioned previously I’ve moved to OneNote for my notetaking setup. These are the notes that I want to have for the long haul such as projects I’m working on.
  2. Social media. Yes, I’m still on Google+ and post things there from time to time and belong to a number of communities but my focus of late has been twitter and I’ve recently setup a facebook page for those that would like to use that platform to follow me (please be sure to like it as I’m just getting it rolling).
  3. Photos. While there is plenty of love for pictures inside of Google, I’m setup with flickr and don’t see that changing. It does make it easier to share over with family who primarily use facebook.

Does this mean that I’m going to look to the mighty G for a solution to everything and stop exploring other avenues? Absolutely not, if I’ve learned one thing on this journey is that there are never enough solutions to a problem and rarely are they all from the same source.

So the question has to be asked, are you all in with Google? Avoid them likely the plague? Or are you somewhere in the middle? Please share in the comments below.

 

It’s Okay to Leave

One of the great things about Google+ is the ability to join various communities and share with others that are of a similar mindset. Of course, over time, your interests change and you may want to prune your list of communities so that it only includes those you are interested in.

So how do you leave a community?

1. From your computer click on the Home button in the upper left hand corner of your browser and select Communities.

pick-community
2. Select the community you wish to leave.

3. Click on the gear icon and select ‘Leave community’

leave-community
4. Confirm you want to leave the community. Remember you’re only leaving the community the posts you’ve made in the system will still be visible – unless you delete them yourself

leave-community-confirm

Now it is possible to leave a community from a mobile device but I’ve found it’s just much easier and quicker to handle it from the computer.

How often do you prune your communities list?

Cut Down on Email Notifications with Pushbullet and IFTTT

IFTTT recipe with Pushbullet If you’re anything like me you get a ton of email everyday and while there are ones that you want to look at and respond to there are a lot that can wait until later in the day to deal with.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to get notifications just for the ones that you want and not be bothered for those you don’t? I thought so too so I rolled my own notification setup with Pushbullet and If This Than That (IFTTT).

To make this work you need a Gmail account (it’ll work with a Google Apps account as well), a Pushbullet account, and of course an account at IFTTT.

I set things up in my Gmail account first.

  1. Setup a new label to flag those emails you want to be notified of – I used notify (I know, really original)
  2. Create a filter in your Gmail account to add your new label to emails from the specific address you want to be notified of (I also flagged it to never to be sent to SPAM just to be safe),

After that was done I then switched over the the IFTTT website and setup the recipe I needed.

  1. For the trigger I selected any new email that has a specific label, in this case my ‘notify’ label
  2. For the action I choose Pushbullet and then selected, Push a note.

At this point you can select any ingredients you want, in my case I like to know who it came from, the subject of the email, and the body of the email.

Now you might be wondering why I chose to do filtering and labeling instead of just setting up a recipe based on the email address of the sender. To be honest you can do that but then you have to create a new recipe for everyone you want to be in your notification group, by using filtering and labeling I can better control the flow.

If you’d like to use my recipe for this, here’s the link.

For those that have rooted your Android phone, pick up Light Manager and you can setup the notification LED on your phone to flash when your note comes in. With that setup you can then shut off notifications form Gmail so only the important ones trigger the LED.

 

Goodbye Evernote, Hello OneNote

OneNote over EvernoteLong time followers of this blog will know that I have been a huge fan of Evernote, so much so that at one point it was my goto tool for everything. I stored my task list in it, clipped articles to it to read later, I stored photos of receipts in it, I even forwarded voicemail and newsletters to it.

As of today though that’s all changing.

Earlier this year there was a blog post by Jason Kincaid where he called out Evernote on their product and it generated enough of a buzz that Evernote CEO Phil Libin acknowledged it.

In that post he mentioned that they had improved the stability of the product and were going to be working to improve all of the clients. Unfortunately for me, I haven’t had that experience. In fact, tonight I was presented this:

20140731_Evernote_Last_Straw

That’s right, you’re seeing a notebook that says it has two notes in it but the display shows that they are none to show. I triple checked that I didn’t have a filter going and verified that the notes exist in both the web and Android clients.

Did I open a trouble ticket? Nope, and I’ll be upfront as to why. In every case I have opened a ticket the resolution has always been the same – remove the software and install it again. The last time I had an issue not only was this the instruction of tech support but they also directed me to install a beta version of the software with no clear, “this will resolve your issue,” explanation.

When you couple that with the issues I’ve recently had with being unable to remove tags from the Windows client (not see in the Android versions) and an issue where the sync setting on my phone kept turning off – I’ve had enough.

So today I decided to cancel my premium subscription (I was a subscriber for over two years) and move to OneNote.

I know that some will see this as a radical move but when you can’t trust a product for something that’s supposed to be a core function it’s time to change.

I’ve been using OneNote for about six months at work and have not had a single hiccup to date – hopefully it will hold up just as well with everything else I’ll be throwing at it.