The Unplanned Hiatus

beach-394503_1280For those that follow me here and on the various social media platforms I use I’m sure you’ve noticed the drastic drop-off of interaction and posting – it was unplanned.

I’ve often said that this is my personal blog and while I don’t typically share much about the family directly I decided to break that rule (ok, it’s more of a guideline) and break my silence with a peek inside that world.

Some weeks back, shortly after my the post about picking up a Chromebook, my family’s world was tipped upside down and shaken (definitely not stirred) with the news that my wife of nearly 22 years had breast cancer. There’s the initial shock that overcomes you when news like this is delivered, followed by the “why me?” question. My wife took the news pretty hard and as you can probably guess I went into support mode.

I not only shifted my thought process to cover what she needed but I needed to take on all the roles she filled with my three teenage kids and continue to fill the requirements of my day job. It’s been and continues to be a struggle to keep all of that in balance but it is getting easier (at least until school gets out!)

She’s been through the needed surgery and we received a bit of good news there as the cancer was contained and we got to it early enough that she’s dodging the radiation and chemotherapy bullets (at least for now). We are still dealing with the emotional issues of not only the cancer but also the initial surgery and the work we are now doing with the plastic surgeon.

All I can say about my wife is that she has a heart of gold and the inner strength that many of us would die to have. She calls me her rock but I have to admit that seeing her handle this with the grace and sense of humor she has shown is inspiring – so we’ll both take something away from this experience that will make us better individually, as a couple, and I believe as a family.

So what does this all mean for my blogs and social media? Just that while there’s been a hiatus and a general lack of focus on them, they aren’t going anywhere. In fact the time off has also given me a chance to think about what I’m doing here and elsewhere.

So going forward the focal point of everything I do online is right here, at this blog. It’s one of the things that I’ve found in dealing with everything going with my wife and the family, it’s better to have focus than be scattershot. This doesn’t mean I’m abandoning my social media presence, it just means that rather than spending my time trying to build an audience everywhere else I’m going to focus that time here.

Everything I share here will be pushed out through my various social media accounts and I will respond to questions, comments and general pings that come in through those avenues but I’m not going to spend time actively seeking followers out there.

There’s also going to be a shift around here too. During my hiatus I came across a blog post, Stop Listening to Blogging Advice and Do This Instead, and as so often in life you hear a piece of advice over and over and until you’re ready to hear it, it just doesn’t sink in.

For some reason this time it did.

I’ve spent a great deal of time reading about blogging, blog design, developing a following, how to promote things on social media, the list goes on and on but there was something missing from all of that . . .

I wasn’t actually blogging.

So I’m going to try really hard going forward to stop trying to find the “magic bullet” that will take this blog to the level I would like and just write. As I said above, this is a personal blog so the topics will likely cross many things as I have many interests and let’s face it, if you want read about one particular topic I’m sure there’s a place you can read about it. I will also be honest, over time a focus may develop for the blog and the topics may dwindle, but that will be because that’s where this journey has taken me, not something I arbitrarily decided and forced myself to write about.

You’ll also start to see some changes to the design and advertising as I figure out what I want and not necessarily what the “experts” are saying we should do. I do understand that on some level I need to be concerned about my personal brand but should be about who I am and what I feel I can give back to the community as a whole, not some pigeon hole I’ve picked for myself.

I’m also going to be looking at the organization of things, so don’t be surprised if things get placed in new categories or if categories and tags vanish or new ones get added.

Finally, I’ve decided that I’m going to post when I want and when I have something I want to share. So many of the “experts” out there have an answer for when you should post along with how often and quite frankly I’m not totally sold on that line of thought. Yes, I may start to favor a particular day or time frame but that will just because I’ve found a natural rhythm and not because I’m conforming to some formula.

They say that when your family is hit by cancer it is a life changing event and I can definitely agree with that statement. My offline world has already started showing those changes, not just in the way that my wife and I are dealing with it but also in the ways that everyone is interacting and working to beat it. My online world has benefited as it’s finally caused me to really give it some thought as to what I should be doing and get off my backside and start actually doing something instead of just reading about it.

I appreciate all of you that are reading the blog and are following me on the various social media platforms, it is because of you that I do this. I could write a daily journal on my home machine if I just wanted to write, but I feel it’s important to give back and I honestly enjoy the conversations.

I hope that you’ll continue to follow along and let me know your thoughts on what you like and what you’d like to see more of – be sure to share those in the comments below (don’t worry, I won’t bite).

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.

2. Select the community you wish to leave.

3. Click on the gear icon and select ‘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


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.