Monthly Archives: May 2010

Work and Home – Pulling the two apart

It all sounds good until you can’t see the lines in the sand anymore.

If you’re like me, and lots of others, you have the ability to work from home or for that matter any place you can get a signal or Wi-Fi network and when you first embrace that it feels good. The short commute, more time with the family, no boss looking over your shoulder trying to figure out what you’re up too – but then it happens, you never stop working and everything else starts to suffer.

How do I know that? I’m living proof, the mobile worker who never stops working. The chirp of the phone when the email, text, or voice mail comes in. The need to answer everything within minutes, even on the weekends become almost an addiction and before you know it you’re a 24×7 workaholic who takes “vacations” complete with the family, email, phone and conference calls.

I decided this week enough was enough and it was time to separate the two from each other (at least as much as possible).

Looking back I realize that I had already started this transition when I installed Ubuntu via Wubi on my laptop and started the practice of only working in that environment. I’ve installed Chrome (dev version) and as most of the work I do is cloud based anyway the transition was relatively easy. I still have to pop over to Windows for a few items still but I should be able to eliminate even those items over the next few weeks. So work will be in Windows and Linux for home.

Continuing on the theme of creating separate environments and given that I just received an upgrade at work, my iPhone is now personal only and my new Droid is for work only. I now have to carry two phones but I can now have each adapted to how they should be focused. Of course an additional benefit is that I now get to play with applications from the Android marketplace as well.

At this point the next decision for me to make is task management. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you’ll know that I’m a fan of reQall which is a web based solution. With it’s recent updates you can easily create lists for specific locations and tag for context which means I could use it to cover both personal and work items, which I have done in the past. Now being web based I could use it for either side of the house but since my workplace is Microsoft centric I’ve decided to move my task management for work over to Outlook which is also the application I use for work email and both, with the help of the Android application Touchdown by Nitrodesk, sync up nicely with my Droid. This leaves reQall for personal use.

So now the basic tools are in place and I can start to separate work from home. The biggest challenge now is changing the work habits I’ve developed over the years that caused such a blurring of the line.

Do you have a work/home balance issue? Did you have one and managed to overcome it? Take a minute and share in the comments.

Drag and drop comes to Evernote Web Client

Evernote just released a really cool feature to their web interface – the ability to drag and drop to it. There is one catch, you have to be running Chrome or Safari for your browser.

There are two options, drag and drop onto a notebook which will then create a new note or you can attach it to an existing note. You can read about it over on the Evernote blog here.

Or, view this quick tutorial:



Wubi is the way to go

So here’s the situation, you’re running a MS Windows based machine and you really want to work in Linux – maybe you just want to check out the environment, maybe you want to test software in Linux as well as Windows or maybe, like me, it gives you a clean break from you daytime work environment and allows you to keep your skills up.

So why Wubi? Here’s my reasoning, your mileage may vary.

1. Build a new machine and load Linux as the primary operating system

The ideal – a separate machine with Linux installed as the default operating system. Unfortunately for me that while I can definitely create this I don’t really have the room to set up a desktop machine for the minimum amount of time I would be using it. Yes, I could install it on a laptop but that would entail actually buying something and I prefer to use what I have on hand. So for now, this option is out.

2. Setup a second partition and dual boot

Another good option and like the one above one taken by many people. The issue I have is that the primary machine I’m using (a laptop) is owned by the company I work for during the day and they really discourage this type of “customization.” So while I could probably do this and have it working, should I need the support of the IT department and they may balk at supporting this configuration. So again, I have to pass.

3. Setup a virtual machine

Truth be told I have done this a number of times with the likes of VMWare, Virtual Box, as well as Portable Ubuntu and Cygwin. All of them are good options if you want to dabble with a Linux based system with minimal impact to the system you’re on. The drawback as I saw it, based on what I’m looking to do, is that you’re still in Windows. If you run into an issue you can just load up something you’re intimately familiar with and get the task done. So while a really solid option I’ll pass for this run.

4. Use Wubi to install Ubuntu

This is the option I finally settled on and so far (I’m only a few days into using it) I’m pleased with the decision. Wubi, for those of you who don’t know what it is, allows you to install Ubuntu in a manner that makes it appear as an application to Windows. This is a nice feature as it makes removal from the system a snap (just remove the program). Once you’ve installed it and rebooted your system you should see a menu screen allowing you to pick the operating system to boot to – pick Ubuntu (the default load for Wubi) and it boots into Ubuntu – slick.

There is one small snag – if you’re running XP you might not get the boot screen, an issue I ran into, but there is a simple fix.

1. Right click on your ‘My Computer’ icon on the desktop or Windows’ Start menu
2. Select ‘Properties’
3. Select the Advanced tab
4. Select Startup and Recovery (Edit settings)

On the screen that comes up there will be a button to click that will allow you to edit the boot.ini file which will look something like:

[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(4)WINDOWS=”Windows XP Media Center Edition” /noexecute=optin /fastdetect
[boot loader]
timeout=5
default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(4)WINDOW S

To which Wubi should add the line: c:wubildr.mbr=”Ubuntu”

The issue is that the line can’t be appended to the end and have it work, you need to insert that line before the [boot loader] line so that the system knows about the Ubuntu system. Put the line in the correct space and it works just fine.

So, I’m happy now, I can reboot my system when I get home and load up Ubuntu without issue. It’s a nice change of pace and keep my Linux skills up.

Do you dual boot? Virtual machine it? Could care less about the world beyond Windows? Why not share in the comments?

Oh yeah, I’m entering this post from a Firefox installation on my Wubi installed Ubuntu 10.04.

reQall goes Android and gets a facelift

reQall has always been a favorite of mine when it comes to managing a to-do list, so much so that it is one of the few programs I’ve paid the upgrade on.

What’s not to like, you can dictate your items to the service, they transcribe them and it can be configured to communicate with your Google or Outlook calendar (a Pro feature). Where it fell down is that it did not have an Android based client – that is until yesterday. On May 13, reQall released the beta version of its Android client. Unfortunately I do not have an Android based phone but I did get a peak at it over the shoulder of another and it looks nice, it’s responsive and functions as expected.

The release of the Android application was nice but they also updated their web interface and it is a huge improvement over the previous version. Along with cleaning up the user interface they have also introduced a number of features including categories and a much requested feature by those that follow the “getting things done” or GTD teachings of David Allen, tagging. For those not familiar with the GTD the system relies heavily on using contexts to group your tasks and up until now reQall has not been able to to that as you were limited to work arounds – now you can tag a item, with more than one tag if need be, and afterwards use those tags for search criteria.

All in all a nice application and a nice upgrade – if you don’t use reQall now’s a good time to check it out.

For a full rundown of the new features just released check out the reQall website at: http://help.reqall.com/whats-new.html

To grab the Android beta application, on your phone goto: http://www.reqall.com/android and download it.

I just need to be, well, me

This above all: to thine own self be true
- Polonius

Another morning dawned, another morning routine, another day at the office and it finally dawned on me . . . .

I’m doing what everyone else tells me I should do, not just with my job or my daily routine but also with my writing and blog. I’m using the same tools, programs and processes everyone is using, I keep thinking what I should be writing to form that “cornerstone content” that I should have on my blog, what social media avenues I should be using, the list goes on and on and what is the result?

A rut, with no growth and since the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth I best make some changes.

The 365 Day Project is over

Back in January I thought this would be a great idea, a daily post with a photo, nope just a gimmick. Looking back on this I saw a great opportunity to have a steady stream of posts but it wasn’t my idea, I thought I could make it work for me. Nope, it isn’t me. I don’t walk around all day thinking what will make a good picture and quite honestly many of the photos I posted were taken very near the end and posted to Flickr quickly to make the deadline.

Doesn’t fit me so it goes.

Blog Extensions, Plugins and so forth

While I do enjoy toying with numerous extensions, plugins and all manner of customization I’ve come to the realization that in most cases the additions were based on what I saw on another site and thought since it’s working for them I need to have it on my site too. Big mistake – copying an idea is not a bad thing but doing it on an assumption that it will pay off for you too is just nuts. So I’ll be changing things up a bit, removing things and adding others – based on what I think will work for me and the site.

Post, post, and post some more

A lot of great bloggers out there say you need to post a certain number of times a day, week, month, or whatever to gain audience, or traffic, or the necessary ad impressions based on what they see as a successful blog. Well, I’m going to break the mold and post when I want and not keep a “schedule” like so many feel you need to. Why? Simple, life happens and quite frankly while I would like to have my blog make money for me it’s not going to be at the expense of spending time with my family and friends.

My goal is find a balance and keep it. I may go weeks between posts (it’s been two weeks since my last post) or I might post more than once in a given day, that’s just the way I’m going to roll with it.

Social Media

Yes, I use it. Yes, I would like more followers. No, I will not allow it to run my life, so feel free to follow me as you never know when I’m going to pass along an interesting website, quote or note – just don’t expect me to follow you back (see My Twitter Policy).

So what’s up with the quote?

Polonius was referring to the very real need to be true to yourself. Do what is best for you so that you can be in a position to do for others and as light dawned on marbled head that quote came to me. I’ve spent so much energy doing what others feel is right, I stopped doing what is right for me.

So, no more trying to find the right niche or article. No more trying to imitate what others have done before “just because.” It’s time I go back to what I enjoy, finding solutions and exploring options and writing about them as I go. No more rules, just writing and we’ll see what comes out on the other end.

Hopefully you’ll come along for the ride, and if not . . . .

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand