Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gosh, is the Weekend Over Already?!?!

I must confess, this weekend quite got away with me. I spent pretty much the whole weekend in the room you see pictured here... well - with brief forays into other rooms in my condo... I have something I need to confess.  My name is Peggy and I am a geek and a gadget person.

Fate conspired to deliver unto me not one but two new computer gadgets and in addition, several issues with the other technology that surrounds me and I spent the entire weekend attending to these "tools of my trade"  (ok, toys, if you like LOL).

 I have written in this blog before about my home office.  Last spring my daughter Laura moved out of the nest and I was able to reclaim her bedroom and convert it to a guest bedroom/office.   I blogged at that time about my weekend "screwdriver" project to put together all the Ikea furniture.  Since then, I have kitted it out more fully and it is very comfortable now.  In the last few weeks it has been a guest bedroom as my son Eric had been staying with me whilst he got himself re-organized after his return from several years living in Phoeniz AZ.  He moved into his apartment on Saturday, so I got my work space back.  A few things had piled up and so I dove right in after he left. 

It is a very nice place to work, with a view of the CN Tower and the downtown skyline which is quite spectacular - even on a cold and cloudy day.  There is a comfy couch to recline on if I want to read or watch TED talks, a great view when deep in thought and a tidy workspace when I need to be productive.  I had lots of work on my list for this weekend and also for the coming weeks, I might add. Being - 12 Celcius (-18 with wind chill), it was quite alright that Bella and I just had brief walks to keep on top of the necessities.

One of the things on my to do list was to get proficient with the two new tools which I received this week.  I am so excited about each of them - a Livescribe Pulse "smartpen" and a Bamboo writing tablet.  I am not going to do a review of either of them today.  This is just a teaser, because while I am very confident that both these items will be a wonderful productivity aids, I am still working out the wrinkles with the best uses to put them to and so will need to save the main details for another blog.  I will give you a Reader's Digest preview though.

Livescribe Smartpen
The most useful (work wise) of the two devices is the smart pen.  It really is a computer on a pen!   The pen has a camera at the ink end which records what you write in the proprietary stationary which has these tiny dots which enable the software to digitize what you are writing and reconstruct it when uploaded onto the computer.  With the add-in to convert the images to text you can instantly take notes in a meeting and upload them to printed form with ease.

If that were not enough, there is a very sophisticated audio recording system in the pen which can  create a surprisingly good recording of a conference, meeting or lecture you are attending.  But the real deal about the pen is the way the software indexes the audio to the written words, allowing you to play back the recording relating to a phrase simply by pointing the pen at those words written on the page.

The Vendor provides a web based app for uploading the "pencast" and producing a You Tube like movie you can share with collegues.  Wonderful for design or planning sessions. Oh ya, and also the vendor provides an open platform for developers to create new and interesting applications which can be installed on the phone.   

It came with a couple sample applications.  The first, a Spanish translator, translates the written English word into Spanish and then pronounces the word.  The word is spelled out in Spanish and flashed on the tiny pen screen.  I didn't mention another great feature - that the pen has a display and also a little man inside that talks to you and tells you what is up.  It will be perfect for taking notes in Spanish Class (when I get that organized!).  The other demo application included was "Guitar Chords"  you can look up a chord and it shows you the fingering and plays it for you!  Before you ask, no I am not going to take up guitar.  Hmmm, but maybe I might one day try to learn to play a Ukelele - no really, I am serious!  LOL  I sure hope I live another 40 or 50 years, I will need them to do everything  on my life list!

Anyway, that was one thing I was "playing" with over the weekend.  I intend on using it at work and needed to ensure that I don't look foolish not being able to operate it.

For more detail, if you can't wait a few weeks for the proper review, you can go here and get the skinny from the horses mouth.

The Bamboo Fun Tablet

 The other device I got to play with is a Bamboo Tablet, which is marketed by a well established maker of professional quality tablets used by artists, animators and designers - a company by the name of  Wacom.   As you can see from the picture to the left, it is a sleek and professional looking device.  There is a stylus which is used to write on the tablet and it feels very much like a pen on paper.  You can also use your fingers on the tablet, much like you would on an iPhone - and of course as we will do on the iPAD when it comes out. 

Of course, an artist would be able to make much better use of this device than I can.  It came with Corel Painter Essentials which is a dynamo software product.  I was blown away by the painter's brushes (they pop out of a drawer on the GUI LOL) and the paint mixing pallet and that the paint had seemingly real depth on the screen... but I am no artist, perhaps a real one would poo poo this product, I don't know.  I shall have to ask around.

You might be wondering what I would be doing with it, particularly if you know me well you know I have very little in artistic skill.  It is an experiment I am doing with alternate input devices and because the device was really not that expensive, I justified its purchase based on two of its functions.  Firstly, it can replace my mouse.  I have been having an issue with (don't laugh) my "mousing finger" lately and since this device also performs the functions of the mouse, either with your fingers, like an iphone, or with the pen, I wanted to try using it as a mouse alternative.  It also has a great handwriting to text interface, so I can use it with another tool I use, Evernote.  It will be perfect for jotting notes and more importantly drawing scribbled "idea association" or mind mapping charts which I use in planning and in writing.  Also, who says I cannot get some enjoyment from working a bit more with my left brain? So this device is mostly (for me) a hobby purchase.  You can find out more about the Bamboo Fun Tablet here.

Evernote for the Compulsive Organizer
Another thing which took up a pile of time this weekend was a review of my Evernote "notes" and setting up a tagging system for them and a GTD system for work, for which I had previously used a paper book. Now I want to record these in my smartpen book and upload them into Evernote, which is just the most spectacular productivity product I have ever used.   I have well used up my quota of words for this blog - if you have not heard of Evernote, go here and prepare to be amazed at what this free product does.

I have been collecting Evernote notes for all sorts of stuff for about 6 months and have finally decided that it is going to be given a permanent place in my "toolbox" and I want to move it up a notch in terms of things I do with it.  So, I was sorting and organizing all of the research materials I need for my novel 2nd draft (which is rising fast on my to do list) and at the same time getting all the other stuff in order.  You might say I was cleaning up my "computer house".

iPhone Troubles

The last thing which ate up my weekend was a fight with my iPhone.  Somehow a gremlin had stolen into the damn thing and had eaten up all the free space!  When I checked it had 8 of the 16 GB of space devoted to something called "Other" - which should be less than 1 GB since "Other" is really just the Operating System.

I fritzed around for quite a few hours reading through the support forum and trying the things they suggested before I gave in and scheduled a support call with an Apple Techie.  29 dollars and 3 hours later I was on the phone with a guy who was enjoying the warm weather in California.  The long and the short of it was that something had gone kafuey and I had to put the phone back to factory settings and reload everything from scratch.  There was a dire warning that it might have been a corrupt app or which caused it, so I may not be out of the water yet.

I only installed the "must have" apps on my phone cuz I ran out of time to fiddle around, so I am hoping that none of those are causing the issue. I lost all my settings and application data I had stored in my iPhone, but of course I was able to re-install all the pictures, music and applications themselves.  It will take me a bit of time to get everything in order.  It took until 7:30 p.m. before I had my phone back in business and I still have to fix up all the settings.

Next weekend I will need to limit my time in geeky persuits and get out and about a bit - after all the Toronto Winterlicious and Wintercity celebration started this week and will run for the next 2 weeks.


  1. In your opening paragraph, where you wrote that you spent your entire weekend in your home office, I was imagining that you were catching up on bills and such. But, no, you were having FUN! the Toronto Winterlicious and Wintercity celebration sounds like a good time too.

  2. Wow! You are definitely a technology geek... but at least you are a funny gadget geek! You are the best reference I know to find if something is usful or not. Keep up the good work! :)


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