Category Archives: Productivity

Google+ – 1st Thoughts

Thanks to a friend I was able to grab a coveted Google+ invite before they apparently shut down the invitations. I jumped right into it this morning, and these are my very initial thoughts.

First, for those who are out of the loop Google+ is basically Google’s most recent attempt at getting into the social networking game. Buzz, et.al has not panned out so well, but this seems like it may be a formidable entrant to the social networking scene. Do I believe there’s going to be a mass exodus from Facebook? No. Will it appeal to people who don’t like Facebook? Yes. Will it appeal to people who like Facebook? Maybe, but I’m not sure.

Main Thought:

Google+ actually mimics real life unlike Facebook. Facebook makes everyone on equal footing from the Best Man at your wedding to the person you met once at a party. They’re all friends. Google+ allows you to create circles and then share accordingly. So, for example I have a family circle, a friends circle, and an acquaintances circle. If I want to share something with just family Google+ allows me to do that. If I want everyone in all my circles to know something I can do that as well. This is called the way we communicate in real life. This makes Google+ attractive.

Secondary Thoughts:

1) On a scale of 1-10 of user friendliness I give it a 6. It’s not the most intuitive thing I’ve ever used, but it’s not the worst either. It takes a little time to get up to speed, and I’m not there yet.

2) Google knows a lot about us already. When I signed in for the 1st time it had already pre-populated my info with information I didn’t know they had.

If you have had a chance to use it, what do you think of it? Like it? Would it replace Facebook for you? Comment below.

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My Kindle, My Kindle, My Kindle & Me

Shout out to the old My Buddy commercial for the blog title today.

Very few products in life have lived up to my expectations of their greatness. In recent memory I can think of 2: my iPhone and my Kindle. I’ll save you a write up on the iPhone because the way technology moves, my iPhone 3GS is almost a dinosaur. But, it’s a productive dinosaur, and that’s what matters.

I will pen a short ode to the Kindle though. I’ve had it now for a little over 5 months thanks to my wife’s generosity at Christmas. Honestly I had dreams of an iPad, but I just couldn’t see it being worth the money from the benefit I would gain from it. So, I thought a Kindle would be a nice consolation prize. I liked the idea of being able to carry multiple books around in 1 slick device. I had tried to read from the Kindle app on my iPhone, but flipping the page every 3 seconds got annoying quickly. So, a bigger screen was a necessity if I was going to consistently use an electronic platform to read from. Enter the Kindle, a device that should slap me for referring to it as a consolation prize.

Here are some things that I love about the Kindle*:

1) Size – It’s a perfect size. Screen is large enough that I’m not annoyed at the rate I have to turn the page. Body is small enough that it’s very easy to carry anywhere, including the gym.

2) Resolution – It is very easy to read from the Kindle. I have a case with a built in light that I use in low light situations, but that is a rare occurrence. In fact, what prompted me to write this post was the ease of being able to read from it at the beach. There is no glare whatsoever. The screen is designed to mimic what you would see on paper. In fact the brighter the sunlight, the better I am able to read from the device. This is unfortunately the opposite on even my beloved iPhone.

3) Deals – E-books go on sale often, either from Amazon or other retailers. It’s rare that I’ll pay more than $2.99 for an e-book with many of them being free. I follow @gospelebooks on Twitter which notifies me of books that are free or otherwise deeply discounted. I’m sure there are similar sites, Twitter feeds, etc. for whatever genre of book you’re interested in.

4) Notes – The biggest concern I had with going to an e-reader was being able to take notes. I liked being able to highlight in a book or jot a quick note. The Kindle allows me to do the same thing in an electronic format. I can access these notes or highlights from the device or from Amazon’s website. Instead of aimlessly flipping through a book trying to find what I’m looking for I can pull up all the notes and highlights I’ve made in a simple format. This comes in handy especially after I’ve read a book. I can look back on my highlights and my personal notes to try to synthesize what I’ve read.

5) It Works – I don’t know what Mr. Kindle would say his purpose is, but my guess is one of those purposes is to encourage reading. After seminary I almost vowed to never read another book that wasn’t the Bible. I’ve never read so much in my life. Thanks to the Kindle, I’m reading almost as much as I did in seminary by my own choosing. One of my biggest challenges now is having the patience to get through 1 or 2 books at a time knowing that I have 5-6 just waiting to be started.

If you have a Kindle, what are your thoughts? If you’ve considered getting one, but haven’t yet, what’s holding you back?

* I have the Kindle 3

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Helpful Chrome Apps & Extensions

I’ve been impressed with Google Chrome ever since it came out primarily because of its speed and its ease of use. Unlike Firefox I can simply type in my search term in the address bar and chrome searches for what I’m looking for. That seems like it would not be a big deal, but for some reason it is.

Recently, I’ve tried to tap into some of the other features of Chrome – apps and extensions. Here’s Google’s explanation of the difference between the two:

Apps and extensions are simply different creatures. Let’s understand apps first. They are just how they sound: applications you can run inside your browser with a dedicated user interface and, typically, rich user interaction. We’ve already had the concept of “web apps” in the browser for a few years, as something more rich and interactive than a website, but less cumbersome and monolithic than a desktop application. Examples include games, photo editors, and video players; all of these categories are viable as tightly focused apps running inside the browser. Google Chrome is just formalizing the web app concept in a way that will be familiar to anyone who’s used apps on a smartphone.

How about extensions? Extensions also provide functionality, but unlike apps, there is little or no UI component. Instead, they extend the functionality of Google Chrome and the websites being viewed in it. For example, they can extend Google Chrome by adding a new button to the address bar, such as an ever-present currency converter. Buttons like this can also apply to the current website being viewed—for example, click the currency converter button to convert all prices on the website you’re viewing. Similarly, you can introduce new items to the context menu, change the behavior of the omnibox (the input field on the address bar), access the user’s browsing history (with consent), and much more. You can alter web pages too—for example, embed a “mail this” button next to every link in every page, or customize the layout of your favorite website.

Compared to apps, extensions cut across websites and web apps; they are usually in effect across all websites (though some are site-specific). Apps don’t combine with other apps in this way; they run standalone, like any regular website. You can get a better idea of what extensions can do by browsing the Extensions Gallery.

Here are my Top 3 Apps:

1) Anesidora – This is Pandora. In fact it was branded as Pandora until a week or so ago. The functionality did not change however as this extension will play your Pandora stations from Chrome without having to have a browser tab open.

2) Instapaper – If you use Instapaper, which I highly recommend, then this extension is a must have. Save any webpage you are on to your Instapaper account with one click.

3) Send To Kindle – Like the name implies, this will send articles to your Kindle. I’ve just begun to use my Kindle to read articles in addition to books, and it’s great!

Here are my Top 3 Extensions:

1) WriteKit – Free writing platform. It provides a distraction free white space that is ideal for writing. I use it mainly to take notes that don’t require formatting. You can save notes, and the app is set to sync with Dropbox as well. For $0 it’s a good deal. If you’re a serious writer looking for an app, you may want to drop some $ on an app that is more robust.

2) NY Times – Beautiful layout of the New York Times. I believe this is similar to the iPad app, but I’ve yet to see that in action. If you have a NY Times account, you can access all of their content. If you’re frugal like me, you can still access the top news articles for free.

3) Listhings – Perhaps my favorite of all, this is a simple notes app that puts sticky notes on a “canvas.” It’s free and perfect for little snippets of information that I don’t want to bother inputting into Evernote. Since I sit in front of a computer a lot, I keep 2 notes that are for Work To Dos and Personal To Dos. The other notes are things like phone numbers or addresses I need to jot down quickly. If you’re on the go a lot, you may prefer something that syncs with your phone, but if you’re in front of a computer a lot, I find this to be more than sufficient.

If you use Chrome, what are your favorite apps and extensions? Comment below and let me know. I am always looking for ways to enhance my web experience.

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