Category Archives: Productivity

Well Produced “Future Piece” from Microsoft

This is a really nicely produced piece MSFT did about what they believe the future will look like, conveniently including the use of  future software and haptic technologies.

What’s funny about this video is that all the UIs in the video imply that in the future, Microsoft will have had some pretty serious changes of thought about the emphasis on great design. I would venture a guess that most of the concept UIs in this piece were created by designers not engineers.

I look forward a future when good design has a more strategic role in burying complexity to make our lives mote productive.

Lessig is right. The US needs a CTO.

Scoble posted a very interesting piece regarding Larry Lessig’s belief for the need the nation has for a CTO-like position. I agree that this is a necessary position as we continue to evolve into a nation of knowledge workers that rely on and create new technology that makes us and the rest of the world more productive.

Unifying (or attempting to) public policy regarding the understanding and shaping of issues like traffic shaping, data portability, data privacy, and net neutrality are all very important to maintaining our position as an innovative nation where access and distribution of information and knowledge is an assumed characteristic of being a citizen of this great nation.

Perhaps selfishly, I think the person for this position should have the ability to market theses issues to the public in simple to understand concepts that do not obfuscate the truth of the issue so that the people, not the companies can shape policy.

Your thoughts on the issue?

Quick App Review: Evernote

I have officially solved my digital notebook issue.

The need for the notebook comes from the need for a repository for the myriad of details that collect each day that don’t warrant a separate doc, but still have value to later projects or later recall.

I was looking for a solution that would sync among all my devices, provide backup, and to leverage search and tagging so finding the information in the piles of notes was easier.

Prior to trying Evernote, I used a great and flexible app called Mori. Mori is a great app but it lacks the backup and sync functions and has no application for the iPhone. I made the switch because I got tired of syncing up the latest notebook to my other machines.

I have been using Evernote for a few months and it delivers on its promise to help out your short term memory. With the complexities of a small and growing business and a recent marriage, there is a lot of non-document information that needs to be captured, stored and classified for later retrieval. Evernote allows me to do this and access this information intuitively and from any device.

The UI is very simple and intuitive and it allows for simple capture of notes via email, web clipping or photos. The app also allows you to search images for words so that you can identify search returns in your images. An example use case is taking a photo of a wine label, sending it to Evernote, then searching your notebook to have it call up a picture ot the label for a later purchase.

So far the app is a winner with me and I highly recommend registering for the beta and giving it a try. Its fast, flexible and works well on Mac, PC, iPhone and Winmo.

Any other Evernote users out there with some thoughts?

Wifi in the air… Good or Bad?

aawifi

aawifi

My first thought about this article about American Airllines wifi-enabled planes was: “Cool”

But now I have second thoughts.

I usually go cross country once or twice a quarter and I get A LOT done in a cramped, quiet environment. What I believe makes me productive on these trips is the lack of distractions and the resulting ability to focus on pressing matters without IM, emails or phones interrupting my thought processes.

While wifi will be very convenient, it will add the same quick fix to the “connectivity addiction” that I have here on earth. “Just saying no” is an option, but like anything other human proclivity, if its there, you buy it because you can.

I will say from the perspective of the airlines this is the first real product that they can charge for without looking like greedy bastards. But the funny thing this wifi thing has other adjacent revenue streams… once  wifi is enabled, there will be high demand for the power outlets which I am sure they will start charging for as well.

Time will tell how much it ends up costing us in dollars and productivity.

What do you all think? Is this a good or bad thing?

Why the iPhone won’t dominate in business email…yet

short answer: The keyboard and lack of push email.

long answer: While on the road recently, I was forced to use the email functions in the iphone more than I had in the past. The vertical mail keyboard is too narrow for my big hands and often the predictive software slows down the process of writing a quick email. The lack of feedback from the screen hurts here. I also get really annoyed by the constant delays in response do to client server communications. The “typewriter” effect seems to jam up like the very machines they are emulating!
solution: as a temporary fix, they need to let the keyboard go horizontal in the mail app. This will lessen mistakes and speed up the use of the keyboard and lower reliance on the predictive software.

The long term fix is to use a slider with a real keyboard like the latest sony device or some of the LG units.

Sonyslider

Knowing how Ive and Jobs solve problems, my thought is that the next gen of the hardware may have some sort of integrated (well designed!) keyboard that makes interacting with text more intuitive. When the speeds promised in the 3G handsets reaches ubiquity a solid input interface will be critical to the iPhones market penetration. Apple will have to eat humble pie (or come up with a phenomenal voice entry solution!)

Most of you that have had the device for a while now and are heavy users have probably found these same issues. Let us know what you think.

Microsoft Office 2008 quick review

Entourage: Big omision in the lack of ability to subscribe to RSS calendar feeds. Most mac users use iCal because of the ease of maintaining separate calendars and the ease in subscribing to other ical or RSS calendar feeds. Entourage dropped the ball here. I would use the app if I could pipe in feeds from basecamp and google calendar. Right now the “better” exchange mail support is suspect because of my lack of my ability to link to a hosted exchange account. Still using Mail.app.

Word: nice UI, but I still find pages a more intuiive way to create nice looking docs

Excel: Still the champ here, but I have to say Numbers is winning me over when it comes to visualizing data and simply creating nice graphics

PPT: not interested. Keynote is by far the most useful presentation tool I have ever used.

If you need Office, it performs better natively, but I don’t think the $$ is justified until Entourage is the clear winner for mail and calendar. Also, I have noticed I cannot have Mail and Entourage open at the same tie without crashing Mail!

Smartphone Mashup Update 4 — B2B (Back to Blackberry)

8703e_landing.jpg

I have come full circle back to what works. I just bought the Blackberry 8703e on the Verizon network. The reason for the purchase is this: the Palm 700p is half-baked. While I love the tethering feature (the 8703e has it, too), it wasn’t enough to get past the cludgy Palm OS. There are simply too many clicks to get around the device to do the basic things. Also, the battery life on the phone when you use the VZW push is MISERABLE. In the absence of a true push solution for non-enterprise user, this phone doesnt cut it fif you are a heavy email user.

It is worth noting that I have yet to find anything that compares to the Blackberry in terms of battery life and the ability to deliver true push mail. While I was initially suckered in by Palms pretty colors and multiple (and as I learned superfluous) media applications, the usabilty was too counter-intuitive. Even though many knock the BB for its utilitarian UI, you’ll miss them when you move to another OS.

One caveat to this switch is the current lack of support for Mac sync. I have been working with the folks at Pocketmac to try and get the issues worked out. It seems that either RIM or VZW have installed something fishy that prevents the 8703e from being mounted and read on a Mac desktop. I’ll keep you up to date on progress. Despite the current lack of Mac sync (I had to sync with my windows machine), the 8703e surpasses anything I have used to date. You get the call quality of VZW and the rock-solid Blackberry email and ease of use.

See other entries on this issue:

Fifth in series 

Third in series

Second in series 

First in series