Category Archives: Tech

Evening Reading: 4/22/14


Here’s a great read on the life and abandonment of AIM.  Here’s my take on instant messaging, from the day before Google Talk was released, in 2005.

Apple (or someone) really needs to come up with a reverse-lookup phone book.  The majority of calls I get at home are from suspicious numbers.  Google used to do it with a simple phone number search, but some Chicken Littles whined about privacy so Google removed most of the functionality.  Maybe Truecaller is the answer.  Maybe.  The taking a screenshot thing seems burdensome.

The Atlantic (love it) is streaming the new Old 97′s record, which will be out at the end of this month.  Here’s the title track.

Who Originally Said “I’m Not A Doctor, But I Play One on TV“?  I watched the show back then, and still didn’t remember.

The reason people hate airlines, and especially United, is because the gate attendants simply aren’t always nice.  I was on my way to Dallas last week and got to the airport early.  I walked up to the departure gate as an earlier flight was leaving and asked if I could get on that fight.  Not one of the three ladies behind the (not at all busy) desk looked at me or acknowledged my inquiry.  I thought maybe they didn’t hear me, so in a minute or so I asked again, nicely.  Nothing.  Eventually, one of them started typing away on her computer.  A few minutes later, she finally looked at me and said she’d put me on standby.  All I needed was a glance and some sort of response (yes, no, maybe) to be satisfied.  What I got was the sense that I was bothering them.

I was relatively late to the Oxford comma.  But I generally follow that approach now.

Fortran, FTW.  Fortran was the first programming language I (sort of) learned.  I thought it was a lot of work for a small reward.  Sort of like blogging.

This is exactly why I have never acted on my recurring urge to switch to a standing desk.

Yeah, I’m thinking Facebook’s Paper app is on the Google+ trajectory of use adoption.  I tried it.  I deleted it.

Not recommended:  Three times I have tried to use an Eye-Fi card.  Three times I have tossed them in the trashcan, irritated by the user-unfriendly, non-intuitive interface.  There is no way I am going to go through that sort of hell again just to create more cloud space, when Google and Amazon( AWS) are almost giving it away.

They aren’t that hard to swat.  If you have a fly swatter.

Sounds of Tech, Episode 3: All About the iPad

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Here’s Episode 3 of the Sounds of Tech (SOT) podcast.  Tech talk for grownups, with some fantastic music thrown in for good measure.  Let’s see how we can use tech to improve our lives, save us money and make us more productive.

Today’s show will help you figure out what apps to put front and center on your iPad and how to arrange them for maximum efficiency.

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Great songs played

One from Fever Tree’s 1968 record Another Time, Another Place.  Purchase links:  I can’t find any, if you know one, let me know and I’ll add it.

One from Fred Eaglesmith’s 1980 self-titled record.  Purchase links:  Amazon, iTunes.

More in a week.

Here’s the RSS feed.  Here’s the iTunes link.

Evening Reading: 4/10/14


It seems inevitable that the world is moving away from desktop computers, through laptops to tablets.  I guess I am an iMac loving dinosaur, but I find it much harder to create anything on a tablet.  Read?  Sure.  Work?  Nah.

This would be the best thing that ever happened to every Apple TV competitor, which is why Apple won’t do it.  There are pennies in putting geeky headsets on nerds.  There are bags of gold in helping non-geeks to cut the cord and get elegant, on demand content.

Let me say it again.  No redesign on earth is going to save iTunes.  I love almost everything Apple, but I abhor iTunes.  It needs to be tossed and a new media application redesigned from the ground up.  I’m not the only Mac devotee who feels that way.

10 Most Unnecessary Movie Sequels Of All Time.  I’ve never seen any of them.  But I eagerly await Sharknado 2.  No, I’m not kidding.

This is good advice.  I do OK on humble and kind, as long as I trust the intention of those who would seek kindness (e.g., don’t knock on my door at 10:00 at night in some sketchy outfit and offer to sell me magazines).  I struggle sometimes with the calm part.

College costs are out of control.  I make way more than my parents and I’m not even considering my alma mater (Wake Forest) for my kids because it’s too expensive.  Yeah, it’s a great school, but not great enough to warrant the price.

Speaking of too expensive, Feedly, which I love and happily pay for, is really hawking Zapier.  I’d never heard of Zapier before, and there is no way I’m paying this much to use it.  Word of advice kids.  If IFTTT can be free (and I’d happily pay for it)….

OK, about this Heartbleed business.  Here’s the source you should trust.  If you use LastPass (and you should), they have made it very easy for you.  Click the LastPass icon then Tools>Security Check.

I don’t have much of a spam problem in my Facebook news feed.  What I do have is a lot of humblebrag.  I’m starting to dump folks who use Facebook primarily to humblebrag.  It’s tiresome.

Evening Reading: 4/8/14


So, the Weather Channel fought DirecTV and DirecTV won.

Here are some interesting tidbits about the upcoming iOS 8 ands OSX 10.10.

I bought an Amazon Fire TV, and my initial impressions are positive.  Shows seem to load faster, which is a plus at the farm, where our broadband is not all that broad.  Consumerist has a good write-up.  Google TV was one of- and maybe the- worst designed train-wrecks I’ve ever experienced.  I threw mine away (I didn’t want to donate it and ruin someone else’s day).  So my expectations for Android TV are low.

Here’s a good read on parenting, routines and Michael Phelps.  All I can say is I didn’t do any of that stuff, and it shows at my house.

While we’re thinking about things to do differently, Confront These 10 Inconvenient Truths Today for a Better Life.

I don’t know how I missed this, but I did.  Amazing work.  Much, much better than typical “fan fiction.”

This does not surprise me at all.  And, of course, our broadband connection went out last night.  So we get to dive into customer service hell with the winner.

Adobe Lightroom comes to the iPad.  Photoshop is the only software application I rent, and only because I need it more than I need to prove how much I hate renting software.  Everyone loves Lightroom, so I need to check it out.  Cult of Mac loves it.

RIP, Archie.  I’ve never been a big comic book reader, but I read a few of these back in the day.

I meant to share this on 4/6/14, but I forgot.  Here‘s a site that shows your first tweet.  Here’s mine.  Follow me on Twitter for daily pointers to interesting stories that don’t make it into Evening Reading.


Looks like I need to rethink my correspondence valediction.  Or maybe not.


Sounds of Tech, Episode 2

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Here’s Episode 2 of the Sounds of Tech (SOT) podcast.  Tech talk for grownups, with some fantastic music thrown in for good measure.  Let’s see how we can use tech to improve our lives, save us money and make us more productive.

This episode covers how to easily dip your toe into the wonderful pool of home automation products.  In less than a half hour you’ll be well on your way to an automated, more secure- and cooler- home.

Tech topics covered

Dropcam, the easiest and most useful entry point into home automation.  Purchase at Amazon.

[Update: For some reason, when I insert videos in the show notes, the iTunes feed thinks this is a video podcast and only shows one of them.  I removed the sample Dropcam videos, but trust me, they were high quality.]

WeMo, easy remote control for lamps, lights and other appliances.  Purchase at Amazon.

App of the week: the best choice for cheap, automated computer backup.

Great songs played

One from Mercury Dime’s 1997 record Baffled Ghosts.  Purchase links:  Amazon.

One from Country Coalition’s self-titled 1970 record.  I can’t find any purchase links.  If you know one, send it to me and I’ll add it.

One from Quinaimes Band’s self-titled 1971 record.  Purchase links:  Amazon, iTunes.

More in a week.

Here’s the RSS feed.  Here’s the iTunes link.

Evening Reading: 4/4/14


Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be Wake fans.  A profoundly uninspired hire by the most frustrating Athletic Director in the history of college sports.

David Sparks writes about  Dictate+Connect.  It looks very promising.  I also need a mobile solution that will let me send dictation to my secretary and/or Dragon Dictation.  Sounds like this app may do the trick.  On the other hand, David loves him some Omnifocus.  I think Omnifocus is about as fun as digging ditches.  Here’s my rule on apps: if I can’t immediately see at least the potential of an app, it’s either not useful or poorly implemented.  You shouldn’t need to watch a degree worth of screen casts to use a workflow application.

Everybody’s crowing about the 12 million downloads of Microsoft Office.  What matters is the number of people that will stick with it.  What matters more is the number of new subscribers to Office 365.  I remain gymnastically unimpressed with it.

Hey Macworld, how can you not know how completely LAME it is to auto-play videos on your web page?  What’s next, flashing text?  Should we all move back to Geocities?

10 Bigfoot-Type Cryptids You May Not Know About.  Honey Island Swamp Monster, FTW.

All you whippersnappers have no idea how much Netscape Navigator dominated the web back in the day.  I went from Navigator to Firefox to Chrome.  Even though I’m a Mac guy, I don’t use Safari much on the desktop.



Automation: FileThis May Be the First Step to Paperless Wonderland


One of the things I have been interested in for a long time is creating an efficient paperless workflow, that will allow me to easily obtain, process, file and access virtually all of my important documents, in digital paperless format.  I’ve been doing this a long time, and most of my documents, from bills to bank statements to press clippings to user manuals, all reside in a specified folder on my Mac, and in redundant, secure backup locations.

I’m going to do a series on the podcast on how to set up and manage a paperless workflow, but generally speaking my documents find their way into a dedicated Document Inbox folder on my Mac, where they are converted to readable pdf format, named pursuant to a logical and consistent naming convention and moved into the appropriate folder in my digital file cabinet (e.g., the “Scanned Documents” folder and subfolders on my Mac).  Then they are backed up, once locally via Time Capsule and once to Amazon Glacier, Amazon’s unbelievably cheap cloud storage.

The biggest hurdle to getting started with a paperless program is getting your historical documents in place.  There are three ways to do it.  Download them from the applicable website (e.g., go online to your bank, find the Statements tab and download them all one at a time); scan hard copies you may already have (this is amazingly quick and easy with a ScanSnap scanner); or figure out a way to have much of this done for you, automatically.  That’s where FileThis comes in.

I’ve known about FileThis for a long time, but for a while I was resistant to giving a third-party service some of my passwords.  That was, in part, because I used one of a small set of common passwords for many different sites.  That’s not a good plan for many reasons.  Last year I finally set up LastPass (you should too; it makes password management very simple and much more secure).  In addition to better password management, LastPass also results in a different password for every site.  This has the added benefit of making it less scary to give out some of them to FileThis, which in turn creates some time-saving internet magic.


In a nutshell, FileThis collects your user names and passwords for any number of sites (you pick the ones you want to add, from a long and growing list of sites that work with the service) and automatically downloads your statements and bills to the location of your choice: your computer, the cloud or Evernote.  I have mine sent to Google Documents, where I have a script to move them into the aforementioned Document Inbox.  More on that later, but the important thing is it automates the process.  For example, I have not been good at keeping my Amazon receipts.  FileThis accessed and downloaded 231 of them when I set it up.  Awesome.


There are free and paid plans, so you can start with the free plan to see how it goes.  I went from the free plan (limited to 6 “connections,” or bills to manage) to the intermediate paid plan ($20 a year for 12 connections) within 24 hours.  I was that impressed.


Now, I don’t use FileThis for my super-sensitive stuff, like bank statements, credit card statements and investment accounts, but I do use it for utility bills, insurance notices, and lots of other less sensitive things.  And so far, I’m very impressed.  I suspect I will rely on FileThis more and more as time passes.

At the end of the process, you have folders, in your designated location, of as many historical statements as your utility company, etc. permits you to access online.  For some, that’s only the past 12 months’ worth.  For some, it’s more.  So you may still have some scanning to do, but FileThis will put a dent in it.  And of course it makes obtaining and filing current and future statements a breeze.

I’ll have more on the ideal paperless workflow later.  But if you want to dip your toe in the pool, FileThis is a great place to start.

Evening Reading: 4/2/14


Here is a very interesting read about the rise and fall of professional bowling.  I remember watching professional bowling on TV as a kid.  I also remember watching- and really enjoying- professional putt-putt.  Crazy.

I like to assemble photos into a slide show with music.  If I can find an acceptable way to do that on an iPhone, without having to use iMovie or another desktop application, it will save me some time.  PicFlow is another potential solution.

10 simple things you’ve been doing wrong your whole life.  There are some good tips and hacks in there.

Every time I think Real Player and its kin have been scrubbed from the internet, they come back, like a bad penny.  This made me long for the days of their demise.

iWork for iCloud has some nice updates today.   As someone who loves AppleScript and hacking up ways to improve my work flow, I am very interested in this.

I’ve mentioned it before, but David Gewirtz’s Ultimate Google Voice How-to Guide, which has recently been updated, is internet gold.

I’ve wondered how much time speeding really saves you, and my quick math led me to believe not too much.  Here’s a handy chart that confirms it.  So why is there such a compelling desire to do it?

I love Game of Thrones, but this is equal parts hilarious and accurate.


Sounds of Tech, Episode 1

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Here’s Episode 1 of the Sounds of Tech (SOT) podcast.  Tech talk for grownups, with some fantastic music thrown in for good measure.  Let’s see how we can use tech to improve our lives, save us money and make us more productive.

Tech topics covered

Microsoft Office apps have been released for the iPad.  Why it’s too little, too late and not as big of a deal as it should be.

Why I use Macs, and what I miss about Windows.

App of the week: a productivity boosting journal app.

Hardware mentioned

ScanSnap scanners.

Great songs played

One from Whiskey & Co.’s  excellent 2005 self-titled record.  Purchase links:  Amazon, iTunes.

One from Magnolia Electric Company’s 2009 record, Josephine.  Purchase links:  Amazon, iTunes.

One from The Connell’s 1993 record, Ring.  Purchase links:  Amazon, iTunes.

More in a week.

Here’s the RSS feed.  Here’s the iTunes link.

Evening Reading: 3/28/14


Here’s some free advice to non-Apple executives.  When you crap on Apple products, people view it as an admission that yours is inferior.  Just make a great product and it will speak for itself.  I’d love for someone to perfect what Apple TV is trying to do.  But time spent criticizing their product should be used perfecting yours.

I’ll say it again.  Bitcoin is the stupidest thing since Y2K.  If you want a new currency, why not Brandar Tiles.  Or any other one of these.  There’s nothing worse than a horde of nerds (and I consider myself a nerd) getting carried away with something that literally no one else in the world cares a whit about.

EverDock is my favorite Kickstarter project so far.  I have 4 of them (office, home office, farm and bedside table) and use them all.  As soon as their new automobile solution project goes live, I will back it.

If you see this and don’t smile, you might just take things a bit too seriously.  I can’t wait.

I lost interest in American Horror Story somewhere in season two, but by golly if Mackey is going to be in season 4 then you can be sure I’ll watch it.

I never could decide if I was an extrovert or an introvert.  I’m not shy, I can talk to anyone, but I could also happily be a hermit.  Today I learned, via Reddit, about ambiverts.  Is there a word for someone who likes people until (they screw with him and) he don’t?

So, I was thinking about this song today.  My favorite music video of all-time.  Facebook should use this in a Super Bowl ad.  It’s that good.