Tag Archives: Smartphone

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.

 

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.

 

Thanks Google, but I’ll Keep my Evernote

Yesterday Google officially announced what has been swirling around as a rumor for days, their note taking application – Keep (read the announcement).

The service is very similar to Springpad and my personal choice, Evernote. It allows you to input your notes, take pictures, and create lists. Currently you can use it from your Android phone (running 4.0 and above) or from the web – Google Drive integration is coming.

If you had asked me about this service a few months ago you might have gotten me to take more than just a look at – I might have even jumped to it, but not now for a variety of reasons.

The shutdown of Google Notebook

There are still a few of us out there that remember Google Notebook, Google’s original note taking app. We also still remember when they decided to shut it down and everyone went scrambling for a way to save off their notes (this was before takeout). The folks at Evernote, among others, stepped up and offered a solution and in some cases tools to import your notes.

The shutdown of Google Reader

This was just announced (read about it here) and like Google Notebook it hits home for many of us. I’ve been a fairly regular user of either Reader or a service that depends on it for some time and have been now forced to find an alternative (I’ll post about it when I decide). I won’t sit here and “rage against the machine” that Google is for taking away this service as it is their right and they have given us plenty of time to migrate to something else. It does go to show though, that once again we were beholden to the almighty Google.

My decision to diversify

I mentioned a few months back, I’m diversifying my tool set. As many who know me would tell you, if it was a Google product, Scot would be “all in,” but that has changed. While the prospect of having my notes available right there in Google next to other items of mine I cannot bring myself to contradict my earlier decision. Will Google Keep be better than Evernote? There’s no way of knowing at this point but given that Evernote is working to be a 100 year startup, have clients for all the major platforms (Linux the notable exception) and have a profitable business model (yes, I pay for it) it’s hard to argue against them.

So, I know where I stand, how about you? Will you take to the walled Google Keep or use a different tool for your note taking and web gathering? Take a minute and share your thoughts.

Building your own knowledge base

How many times have you been in a position and said to yourself, “where did I see that article?” Given the great expanse of the Internet more than once I’d wager. Of course that’s only the online world, what about all those books and magazines (you do remember paper right?) you have piled up? How about the all the interesting sites and sounds you’ve come across when you’re out and about?

We’re exposed to thousands of data points everyday and the question becomes how to take that information again when we need it. To do that you need a personal knowledge base.

I’m not talking about just a collection of information, nearly everyone has the ability to do that. With the advent of the modern browser we can bookmark articles, save emails forever (or just about), review articles from hundred of websites if we choose. With the phone you have you can take snapshots of anything you wish, short videos, record your voice and even send a text message or make of phone call.

Then you have all the social media you’re reading and creating.

So you have all that information but that’s not a knowledge base.

A knowledge base is that collection of data overlaid with your own comments, observations and what you learned from the experience. When you read a book or an article you take something away from it – make a note of it. You took a snapshot of your kids playing in the snow, you’ll get the time, date, and place recorded automatically if you took it with a smartphone but not the why – add it to your notes.

Of course the other part of the challenge is finding a way to make it all available to you when you what it – no matter where you are. A place that you can continue to add items as well as pull from that stock of knowledge.

For me that tool is Evernote. Every device I own and use as it loaded on it. It’s become an integral part of what I do and who I am. It’s not just receipes and receipt photos – it’s also where I’ve stored photos of my kids, articles I wanted to read and any observations I had about them. I keep meeting minutes, newsletters, even voice mails – it’s a treasure trove of data.

As I’ve used Evernote I’ve come to learn more about how these pieces of data are connected – I even connect them using note links so I can move easily between them. I tag things, use keywords in titles and date code them (date codes is an upcoming post) all so I can find things easier and draw conclusions from that information.

I’ll be coming back to this topic often but my question for now is, do you have a personal knowledge base?

Also, be sure to check out the Wikipedia article bout Personal Knowledge Management.

Follow up to “Can a Smartphone be your main computing device?”

In my last post I spoke about taking on the challenge of using my recently acquired Motorola Razr as my main computing device for seven days.

I lasted four.

No experiment should ever be considered a failure if you learn something along the way and the fact is I learned several things.

1. The Smartphone is, well, a cell phone

This often gets lost in the myriad of phone apps and access to the Internet, we often forget that we can still make a phone call from them or send a quick text message instead of typing out a lengthy email. I made a few more calls than I usually do during the experiment and I definitely sent more text messages.

2. The screen is just “too damn small”

For reading it might be fine but for typing out anything longer than a dozen sentences or so it just doesn’t seem to work for me. I gave it a try on more than one occasion and found the need to constantly scroll back to read what I had typed to be a bit annoying. You do have to type in portrait mode as in landscape the keyboard takes up most of the screen.

3. Voice dictation is nice but can also be awkward

I have to say that one of the things that I’m taking away from this experiment is a new found respect for voice dictation. I have found that I’m using it more frequently for things but have also discovered that it can also be awkward. When dictating responses keep in mind that those around you are not aware of the other end of the conversation, similar to when you speak on the phone – I got more than a few raised eyebrows sending messages this way.

4. Swype is a fantastic tool

I’ve used Swype before on other Android phones and found it easy to use and responsive. On my Razr Maxx with Ice Cream Sandwich it is a fantastic keyboard replacement and I frequently wish I had it when I’m on another device.

5. The Smartphone is not a computer

Somethings you just need a computer for, not because you can’t find an app to do the work (like photo editing) but you just sometimes need a bit more horsepower or screen real estate. In my case things really started to get difficult when I wanted to started editing files in my dropbox – if it isn’t small and text based you’re better off going to the desktop.

I do have to admit, while I only lasted four days into the experiment the desire to push the limits of my phone never really diminished.  I’m still toying with different applications trying to find the right balance of tools for what I do and once that’s done I might even track down a game or two.

Have you tried to use your Smartphone the same way? How far do you push it? Why not share your experiences in the comments below.