28 February 2009

Evernote Thanks

It's easy - too easy - to be constantly critical, in the negative sense, of what goes on around us. Therefore when something works as it should, it seems worth saying "Thank you!" And when the something that worked as it should is a small company with a good product, saying "Thank you!" publicly is even more important.

So: Thank you, Evernote!

I have been using Evernote since 2005 to track my notes and ideas, keep clips from web sites and other sources, and generally help manage my life. The early version of the program was easy to use, easy to learn, and free. Eventually, I upgraded to a low-cost paid version, which enabled a synchronization feature, so I could sync my "notes" across different computers using a USB flash drive as the go-between.

Last year, Evernote released version 3.0, an even more sophisticated version - also free - that offers the synchronization feature across Windows, Mac, iPhone, and other platforms, along with a web interface. The premium version, very reasonably priced at $45 per year, turns Evernote into a file server: drop attachments into your notes, and they also synchronize across the entire system. Open those attachments up, edit them, and the changes are saved back to the system.

All this was cool enough, but it was not until I ran into a problem that I really appreciated how great Evernote is. A note I created with multiple attachments got corrupted; first time it has happened, and I don't know what caused it, but it stopped the program from syncing. Within one hour of asking for help, I had a response asking for some more detail; within 12 hours I had an e-mail from Evernote with the solution to the problem. Everything was back to normal after that.

If you're the kind of person who likes to jot down ideas, keep track of receipts, categorize information or to-do lists across different areas of your life, take pictures or audio notes to remind yourself of different things, and more ... Evernote is the program for you. I cannot recommend it highly enough, and they deserve a public thank you for their great product, and for their great customer service.

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23 February 2009


...There will be more content coming shortly...

16 February 2009

Arguably Consummate

I have been surprised lately to notice two words popping up endlessly, each in two very different contexts.

The first appears in news stories of one kind or another. That word is “arguably.” And, arguably, the word is journalism’s mitigator-of-choice these days. Just to make sure I wasn’t kidding myself that I have been seeing the word so often, and to soothe my curiosity, I did a Google News search, which came back with more than 17,000 hits. That’s 17,000 current news articles that use the word in the text or the headline, some examples of which are:

- Tour of California arguably best field assembled in US

- In Gingrich Mold, a New Voice for Solid Republican Resistance (“The Republican Party is arguably weaker today than it was in 1993...”)

- Mortgage Subsidies: Arguably Useless, Likely Expensive

- Students paying more, arguably getting less

- A 40-Year Wish List (“... airports and clean water projects that are arguably worthwhile priorities.”)

Arguably, in a 24/7 news cycle environment, when things keep shifting and a reporter doesn’t have time to nail down whether something might really be what they think it is (or want it to be), it winds up existing in a state of arguability. Actually, I would argue that the preceding sentence is true, without a doubt.

Perhaps using “arguably” is easier than writing a correction for a mistake after the fact, or another seemingly clever way of sidestepping the phrase “I think” as a qualifier for a thought. But it is overused. It is also unhelpful for the reader, especially since the word occurs in many articles purporting to be “analysis.” While analysis should not automatically imply certainty, if one is reading a publication for its expert opinion, and even the experts are constantly hedging on their opinion, well, it devalues the whole construct. After all, opinion is, by definition, arguable.

So it just seems consummately lazy. Which leads me to my next word: consummate.

As in: so-and-so “is a consummate professional,” or a “consummate” networker, etc. The word keeps appearing in the so-called “recommendations” for other people that pass by my eyes on the business networking site LinkedIn.com. I do not object to the word per se; rather, as with “arguably,” it is the overuse of the word that gives me pause, because it simply is not realistic that everyone is the best, an expression of perfection, at what they do. Instead, it feels like a lazy word: a way of offering high praise in what feels like grandiose terms, and avoiding the nitty gritty challenge of choosing one’s words carefully. After all, one can be very professional and still have weaknesses; most of us do.

Indeed, such weaknesses are themselves arguably the consummate expression of our humanity.


08 February 2009

Apple Blinked, Stuttered

Over on the other side today, I once again lavished some praise on Apple for its terrific retail sales and service. But I wouldn't be telling the whole story if I didn't also acknowledge that Apple failed one small test today - something that should have been an easy one.

My wife and I went to the Fifth Avenue store today to take a look at a new machine and, most importantly, get information about running Windows on a Mac. There are, alas, a few programs that my other half uses that work only in Windows ... but she needs another computer and Macs are definitely part of my present and future.

Conceptually, we know that Windows-on-Mac is possible, via Boot Camp or Parallels or other programs. Practically speaking, we wanted to see it in action: what does Windows really look like, how will it work, is there any impact on performance ... ? All obvious questions, most of which can be answered by reading items on Apple's web site - but reading the web site and seeing for one's self, in person, on the computer, is different. Isn't that the whole point of having a retail store, so people can see for themselves, in person?

So, it was a bit of a shame that Apple seems unprepared to address this question in any substantive manner. Not a single computer in the store was running Parallels, and only one - an old laptop - was running Boot Camp. The sales staff was trying hard to be helpful, but their knowledge in this area seemed more limited than we had expected. (Certainly more limited than I expected based on past experience.)

It is probably unrealistic to expect Apple to be able to demonstrate every piece of software it sells, but running Windows isn't every piece of software: it's been a major, if subtle, selling point ever since Macs moved to an Intel-driven computing platform. If someone from Apple ever reads this, I hope they'll take this into account for the future.

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