SIUED: Delicious Bookmarks

In the latest installment of Shit I Use Every Day, I give you the bookmarking service Delicious. Delicious is simply a website that allows you to save your internet bookmarks to it’s website. The main thing this does for you, is that it makes your bookmarks available from any web browser. It also serves as a backup for your bookmarks. I’m sure you know people, or have been one of those people, that have all of their bookmarks on a computer, and once that computer crashes they lose them all. Delicious prevents that by storing everything in the cloud.

The thing that makes it special for me is though is the Firefox Bookmarks add-on. Firefox is the web browser I use, and this add-on integrates Delicious into the browser itself. I personally ‘tag’ all of my bookmarks according to their function. So, I have tags such as webmail, travel, social, weather, photography etc. With the add-on I can add a toolbar that shows these tags. So now, if I click the tag for Photography, then I get a drop-down of all of the photography bookmarks I have. This add-on syncs with the website, so every time I add a new site, it shows up on the website and the toolbar.

The nice thing about this, is that I can add the toolbar to any web browser and log in. So the home PC, the home Mac, and the work Mac all have the add-on installed into Firefox. The bookmarks are consistent across each browser, and adding a site on any one of them adds the site everywhere. I use my bookmarks every day, so having them available and backed up at all times is pretty wonderful.

Delicious is free, and can integrate with Chrome and more. Check it out.

Wishes CAN come true

About a year or so ago. The Make-A-Wish foundation granted the wish of a seven year old little girl. This little girl wanted her and her family to go to Disney. Now for those of you that don’t know, Make-A-Wish is a wonderful organization that grants wishes to children who are very sick, many of whom are probably not going to live much longer due to their illness. Well this little girl was stricken with cancer, and she wanted, just for a little while, to enjoy a vacation with her family. She got her wish.

I personally cannot fathom how that was for her parents. They had the joy of seeing their daughter having fun at Disney, but with the knowledge that the trip may be her last, and that they may lose their little girl. It destroys me to even think what that must be like.

Flash forward to last Saturday. My own daughter had her first gymnastics meet ever. She’s been training hard for months, and this was huge for her. She’s just turned seven, and is currently a Level 4 USA Gymnast. Alongside her was one of her her teammates. She looked like any other little girl, ready to compete yet a little nervous.

The difference was that she was now cancer-free.

My daughter’s teammate was also competing in her first-ever gymnastics meet. But for her and her parents, it was a just a little more special. Just a year earlier, she was fighting cancer. Now she simply had to fight to do the perfect round-off flip flop. That’s the way it should be. She did an awesome job, and I could see the joy in her parents eyes. They were emotional, and rightly so, because I’m sure that it was their wish that was granted that day.

My daughter and her teammate did wonderfully, won many medals and their team won first place overall. It was only fitting that it happened at the Make-A-Wish Classic.

Hug your kids today, and realize, that sometimes, wishes can come true.

Well Thank You!

Tomorrow in the US, we celebrate Thanksgiving. A time punctuated by NFL football, family and tons of food. You are also supposed to reflect on what you are thankful for. I’m feeling particularly thankful this year, so I wanted to jot down a couple of reasons why.

  • The health of my family – I’m so glad that myself and my family are healthy. I’ve seen too much bad shit in recent years happen to friends of mine. So not having to deal with sickness is a true blessing.
  • Having a job I love – It sounds cliche, but I really love what I do for a living. Even though the stress levels can get high sometimes, I still really enjoy everything about my job. It doesn’t hurt that I have the best staff on the planet working for me either. I am so thankful that those folks make me look good on a daily basis.
  • Having a job, period – Right now the economy sucks for so many people, so to actually be employed and not looking for work is something I do not take for granted.
  • Having a great family – I have an awesome wife and two incredibly outgoing, sweet, fun children. My wife and I both love our in-laws and don’t dread getting together at times like Thanksgiving. Not everyone has that luxury.
  • Having great friends – I have some truly great friends, both in real life and virtually. Being able to stay in touch, hang out, and be there for each other is a gift.

You know, that’s really what it’s all about. I have my health, my family and friends, and a good job. I don’t really have any right to bitch, and I need to remember that more often.

So Happy Thanksgiving to you, no matter whether you are celebrating this holiday or not. It’s always good to take stock on how good life really is. And remember, just “Let Go” of all the inconsequential bullshit that drags you down, and focus on what lifts you up. You’ll be much happier that way, I know I am.

SIUED: 1Password

The second installment in Shit I Use Every Day is a password management program called 1Password. I first installed 1Password as part of a bundle of Mac software I had purchased, and then it quickly became essential in my day-to-day world.

1Password is simply a vault for storing all the passwords you use on various websites. You protect it with your master password, and it remembers all the rest. It can also generate random passwords for you with more security than something you might use yourself. This program makes it really easy to use random passwords on every website you frequent, and you as the user never have to remember any of them. If I come to a webpage that requires a login, I do a quick keyboard shortcut, enter the master password, and 1Password fills in the details for that particular website and it logs me in.

That’s not all, 1Password can store software keys, credit card info, notes and even things about your identity that you fill in on forms all the time. Then you can access any of that information quickly.

Now for those of you who are concerned about security, the encryption is 128-bit AES encryption. Which Agile software says “would take millions of years for a criminal to decrypt your data using a brute force attack.” So it’s VERY secure, and wont be getting hacked any time soon. The other thought is what happens if your computer crashes and you lose all your passwords? Well, they have that covered too via syncing with Dropbox.

If you have Dropbox (my first SIUED post) installed, 1Password can use it to store your data files. That means it’s automatically backed up to your Dropbox account. This also means that your password information can replicate to all of your Mac or Windows machines using Dropbox as well as all of your iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch.) If you install 1Password on any of those devices, and they have Dropbox, then all of your data is automatically available on any of those. Add a password to your iPhone’s version of 1Password, and it syncs to everything else. Edit and change a password on your Mac, and it automatically replicates that change around. So that means your passwords are available on any of those devices at any time. It’s convenience and backup rolled into one.

So save yourself having to remember all of those passwords, and get more secure in the process. Trust me, this is much better than writing your passwords on post-it notes, and worth every penny.

Shit I Use Every Day (SIUED) : Dropbox

I often get asked by people what software I utilize a lot, so I thought that I would start writing articles letting people know the software I find useful and use nearly every day. The first installment is Dropbox.

Dropbox is a nifty little utility that does one thing, and one thing perfectly. It synchronizes your files between computers, the web and mobile devices. You install a small piece of software wherever you want access to your files, and anytime you add a new file to your Dropbox folder, it get’s synchronized to all of your other devices.

For example, I have Dropbox installed on the following:

  • my work desktop (Windows XP)
  • my work laptop (Mac OSX)
  • the home family iMac (Mac OSX)
  • the home server/biz machine (Windows 7)
  • my iPad (iOS)
  • my iPhone (iOS)

So, each one of those devices has Dropbox installed and they all talk to the Dropbox website. If I change or add a file on ANY of those devices, the change gets replicated to ALL of the devices. It’s great for making things available everywhere, and even as a cheater backup solution. I also utilize several Dropbox ‘aware’ programs that store their data IN Dropbox, so you can utilize those programs on multiple devices as well. I’ll get into that more in a future installment of SIUED. In addition, you can use the service to share files with others. So load them up in your Dropbox, and then invite others to share that folder.

So if you are interested in Dropbox, you can sign up for the free service here. It’s become indispensable in my day-to-day routine.

Oh No, Four Oh.

This Friday, Oct. 22nd, I turn 40 years old. 40. It’s actually kind of hard to comprehend hitting this milestone. It doesn’t seem so far away that I was a punk high school kid working in fast food and chasing tail. Or a college student working as a local radio DJ to pay the bills. Or living in a van down by the river with my future wife.

None of those things seem that long ago, and I have vivid memories of them, but each were a minimum of a decade and a half ago.

Overall, birthdays have always been kinda “meh” for me. I’ve never dreaded them, and I’ve never felt old… until now.

I don’t think I’m feeling old for the typical reasons either. First, I don’t believe in regret. It’s a stupid emotion. If you have a spine, own up to your choices and realize you made them for a reason. I’m not looking back on the past 40 years and wishing I had made different choices. Do I wonder sometimes what different choices would have meant? Certainly. I have that curiosity as everyone does. But that doesn’t mean I regret making the choices I have. Like I said, I made them for a reason, and I am where I am today because of them. So, I’m not upset about 40 because of regret.

Well, a lot of times people look at 40 and take stock of their life and realize that they are not happy in their job, or their relationship, or their financial standing, or they don’t feel attractive or talented in some way anymore. That’s not me either.

Make no mistake, I’m fucking awesome.

So why is this awesome guy with no regrets and a great life not liking 40? Well, it boils down to this. For the first time in my life, I no longer feel invincible.

At 16, 26 and maybe even at 36, I felt like nothing in the world could touch me or get to me. I was bulletproof. Not anymore. I’ve seen too many of my idols, my peers and my friends succumb to things like cancer and stroke. I’ve seen good businessmen lose almost everything. I’ve seen friends and family walk away from upside-down mortgages. I’ve seen some friends unexpectedly divorce, and yet others living in loveless marriages filled with baseless accusations.

All of these things help me realize how lucky I personally am, yet how fragile it all is. It can come tumbling down in an instant. In getting to 40, I’ve felt it always was an uphill climb and I’m now at the peak of the mountain. I’m looking down the other side, and I realize that if I fall now, going downhill makes the wreckage worse.

I guess I’ll just have to do my best not to tumble and enjoy the trek back down the mountain as much as I can.

So hello 40. It’s officially time to be old. Now get off my lawn.

Letting Go

New InkOver the past year or so, I’ve been trying really hard to not let little things bother me. Part of that whole mentality came about with my epiphany post after a rather tumultuous summer.

Since then, life has been much better. That said, that doesn’t mean everything is roses all the time, far from it. I’ve had some really trying weeks where it became increasingly more difficult to just “let go” of the small stuff. Add to that the fact that I’m ending my thirties at the end of this week, and I’ve been a little more grumpy than I need to be. So I decided to remind myself to let go by getting it inked into my body.

The picture you see at the upper right translates to “Let Go” or to some folks as “Forget it.” This is what I need to continue to do. I need to let go of all of the crap I cannot change, and forget about the poison people and things that just bring you down. Getting rid of those bad influences make me a much happier person, and make my life a much better thing to live. It’s hard to do sometimes, but now I have a little reminder for when I need it. I’m really looking forward to letting go more often.

I turn 40 later this week, and it’s hit me a lot harder than I imagined it would. That said, one thing that it IS spurring in me, is to get a bunch of meaningful ink. “Let go” was the first of what I hope will be many to come.

IBM LotusLive wants to Vondle and Tungle you

Please excuse the sex-ay title, but the 13 year old me had to chuckle at it, and with the all the other “LotusLive” posts you are going to see letting us know about the new feature announcements, I figured I’d have some fun with my post.

Yesterday I had the privilege of joining a blogger conference call in which Sean Poulley, Brendan Crotty and Ed Brill went over some new announcements for LotusLive. First off if you couldn’t tell by my rapier wit with the title, LotusLive announced support for Tungle calendaring integration, as well as integration with Vondle Live. Vondle is an online doc viewer that supports over 70 formats and allows you to annotate them from within the browser. So those two integration points were very nice, all configurable from within the admin side of things, and I think will add a lot to the experience.

For those unaware, LotusLive Notes can be had for $5 a month, and can be accessed via the web client, or a Lotus Notes client itself. It allows for a 25GB mailbox as well. In addition, if you want Traveler mobile email support, that will be an additional $2 a user per month. So for a total of $7 a month, you can have a pretty kick ass email solution you can access via web, mobile device or Notes client. Right now the Traveler support only is for iOS devices, Windows Mobile and Symbian. Blackberry support is supposedly coming soon, and I don’t see any mention of Android support yet. I imagine that once the beta of Android is done on the Domino side, that it will make it’s way into LotusLive.

Lotus also announced a new $10 a month offering called the LotusLive Collaboration Suite that includes the LotusLive Notes above as well as IM, file sharing, social networking and web conferencing. It’s a pretty full offering for only $10 a month.

As for the social networking aspect, Lotus added Communities as a feature within LotusLive Engage and LotusLive Connections. So now you can create community areas to share activities, bookmarks, discussion areas and tags. Which means you’ll see that in the collaboration suite as well. Lastly, LotusLive Notes added 21 additional languages, Engage and Connections added 5 languages and Meetings and iNotes added 7 new languages, while Meetings also added app sharing support for the Mac OS.

So in all, LotusLive continues to grow, expand and integrate. They are being pretty nimble in this space, so I’m excited to see how it is received in the marketplace, and to see how much more they’ll unveil in the months to come. Lotusphere should be very interesting.

Review: IBM Lotus Notes 8.5 User Guide by Karen Hooper

Last month, Packt Publishing gave me a free review copy of the IBM Lotus Notes 8.5 User Guide by Karen Hooper. Finally, someone had put out a book for the end user to really utilize to be able to learn how to use the Lotus Notes client. Would it be good enough to really help a user without overwhelming them in detail?

The book starts out with an overview of the Lotus Notes interface, and does a wonderful job pointing out all the nuance in the Lotus Notes client. Clearly labeled screenshots are backed by explanation on how everything works. This chapter is essential for new users or those of you that are upgrading from the older interfaces found in version 7 of the client and earlier. You learn all about the open button, sidebar, and even the more familiar elements like toolbars and tabs. That said, many users tend to miss these details, and this chapter will really fill in the gaps of understanding they might be missing.

Next the book delves into Sametime in Chapter 2, the RSS Feed Reader in Chapter 3, and Widgets in Chapter 4. All of these chapters are very well written and give a lot of detail, but I may have shifted them around myself, as chapters 5 and 6 are really where a user is going to get the most bang for the buck. Chapter 5 goes over mastering the basics of Lotus Notes email, while chapter 6 goes more in-depth with all of the email tools (colors and recipient icons, spell check, message recall, out of office etc.)

That’s really the only misstep the book ever makes in my opinion. Users are really more likely to utilize mail, calendaring and contacts than the Feed reader or Widgets. I mean, the third chapter is devoted to the Feed reader, which no one I know utilizes as it’s functionality is so limited. But by surfacing it in the book prior to email, it seems to give it more prominence than I would have liked to see. Once again, those early chapters are well written and give tons of detail, I’d just like to see them pushed to the back of the book.

Initially I had been disappointed that there wasn’t a chapter dedicated to the vast amount of Preferences you can set in the client, but as I read the book, I found that Karen added preference sections to each of the chapters, detailing each set of preferences along with the section she was explaining. This is actually the best way to go about it, as it doesn’t overwhelm the reader with so many pages in a row dedicated to all of the settings you can configure in the client. Once again, this is perfect for the end user to get the information they need right away.

To wrap up the book, Karen included chapters on working with Notes applications, working remotely, and utilizing Lotus Symphony. Working remotely and utilizing Notes applications are two of the differentiators of Lotus Notes when comparing the client to others on the market. As such, I was thrilled to see these each get their own detailed chapter. As for Symphony, the chapter gives a brief overview how to utilize Symphony from within the Lotus Notes client, but doesn’t try to teach you anything about how a spreadsheet or word processor works. Obviously, each application could have it’s own book written detailing how to use it, so the overview did a good job not trying to cram too much of that information in. The book did include URL links pointing to information at IBM, but that was annoying to me. They should have included shortened URLs instead of something like the following: Are we SURE that link isn’t going to change? Is any user going to type that behemoth in? I don’t really think so, but that’s really a minor annoyance for an otherwise really good book.

That’s the thing, there’s not much to criticize here. For many years, there wasn’t a clear, concise book showing users how to use Lotus Notes. It’s a market that has been completely lacking, and Packt Publishing and Karen Hooper have done a killer job in coming up with a book that’s easy to read, gives the appropriate amount of detail, and touches on the right things. I would have moved the chapters around a bit, and fixed the links, but if that’s all I had to criticize, you know you are in for a good read. If you have users that need some education on the Lotus Notes client, this book is just the thing. Snag your copy today!

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