Friday, June 27, 2014


I like talking to my phone. A lot. I ask it about the weather, to text the wife that I'm on my way home, to call people, keep track of notes, add appointments, and all sorts of things. It was mildly annoying to do so originally because I had to double click the home button to launch Google's voice search. Then, I got the Google Experience Launcher, which meant I only had to say "Ok, Google" while my phone was unlocked and not in an app.

Now, thanks to the newest update to Google voice search, I can just say "Ok, google" even from the lock screen. Even if I'm in an app. Even if the screen is off but the phone is plugged in. Just say the magic words and I hear that magic binging noise, ready to answer my every question.

Yes, yes, I know that the Moto X has had this capability for a little while now. I'm over that. We're all getting it now, and I hope everyone enjoys it.

To enable, open the "Google" app, which is where you find your Google Now cards. Click on the menu button, go to setting, then voice. Then, click on the "Ok Google" detection where you can adjust the settings.

Now, be warned, enabling this means your phone is going to be listening to you. Most of the time in fact. And it's going to send information to Google about your searches and voice. For the privacy concerned, you should be aware of this. However, Google already knows a lot about me since I use an Android phone, Gmail, and most of their other services. As for me, I enabled it all as soon as possible and have been loving it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


As you may know, I work in a rural legal services office that covers seven counties. Often, I will have domestic relations clients who live in other counties, and we may have troubles finding places to do visitation exchanges. Of course, some of them get very serious that the exchange must be exactly halfway - "Why should I pay extra gas to drive father?" is often asked.

One of the problems with Google Maps is that it doesn't show you the halfway point automatically. So, lately, I've been using MeetWays to help. MeetWays not only shows you the halfway point, but it will also identify nearby shopping and dining areas, which make great location to do exchanges. And the best part: it's free.

Friday, June 20, 2014


I'm guessing I'm a little late to the party on this one, but while driving to a hearing yesterday, I noticed Google maps looked a little different. It now shows which lane you should be getting into.

To be honest, this little change is quiet big for me. I often get frustrated not knowing which lane to be in on the highway when I'm going to unfamiliar places. This takes the guess work out of it. Yet another reason Google maps is the way to go for your navigation needs.

Monday, June 9, 2014


It is very easy to just click "ok" when a dialog box pops up. How many times have you ever actually read the terms of service or end user agreements as opposed to just clicking yes? How often have you been on a website you visit frequently and just click yes or ok without actually reading what the box is saying?

I've seen it happen to colleagues and friends a few times where they think they are on one site and don't realize that the pop up box is actually for malware or bloatware. Of course, that quick click takes much longer to undo after all sorts of toolbars are loaded.

Sometimes it is hard to tell whether an add-on is actually something useful. Here, I take the approach of running a quick search on Google for the name of the add-on. If the first 5 results all are titled something to the effect of "How to remove [add-on] toolbar from you system", run don't walk away from that box. A 30 second Google search can easily save a much greater amount of clean up time if you download something you really don't want on your computer.

Friday, June 6, 2014


Ok, time for me to once again be a Google/Android fan boy. I've been using a Samsung Galaxy for the last year, and for the most part, I've liked it. The Touchwiz system is fine, though I found it a bit sluggish at times.

A few months ago, though, I sideloaded the Google Experience Launcher ("GEL"), and it revolutionized how I use my phone. First, the ability to just say, "Ok, Google" on the home screen and be able to launch a Google voice search was great. After installing GEL, I found myself talking to my phone. A lot. And it has been great.

The second thing that I really appreciated about the GEL was the ability to swipe from the left on the home screen and see all of my Google Now cards. There isn't a widget that gives the full Google Now cards like GEL offers. I found myself constantly swiping from the left.

Then, Nova Launcher had to come along and make things difficult. It offers a free version. It has the KitKat icon set. It is more customizable than GEL in my opinion. As of a couple days ago, it now let's you say "Ok, Google" from the home screen to launch voice search. You no longer have to be rooted to get full use of it. It displays more icons in the app drawer than the GEL.

I've read reports suggesting that Nova Launcher can be tougher on a battery, but it's too soon for me to know about that. The biggest down side so far: no swiping from the right to access Google Now cards. And, when I first installed and started playing with it, this was really almost a deal breaker for me. I really like the look and settings that can be tweaked in Nova Launcher, but the lack of the swiping to Google Now was tough.

Then, I realized that the Galaxy has a menu key still. I was able to set it in the Nova Launcher settings to open the Google Now cards on a long press.

I like the GEL, and I would recommend it to anyone. However, at least for now, I'm going to be using Nova Launcher. The ability to tweak settings, the icons, the app drawer layout, they all make Nova Launcher my launcher of choice for now.

Thursday, June 5, 2014


We might like to think that the life of an attorney cannot be automated, that what we do isn't something a machine can do. And there is a lot of truth in that. However, we end up doing the same thing over and over multiple times a week sometimes. For example, you probably don't always retype the pleading caption for a motion from scratch. You have developed forms, shortcuts, etc.

I look at the world the same way. However, I tend to almost always ask whether I can do even seemingly little tasks quicker, which will thereby save time for everyone in my program. In fact, I keep this chart from XKCD handy to help me figure out how much time to invest in such things.

But how do I start to get these answers? If I'm looking to do something new or unique, where do I come up with it?

That's easy. I Google it. It's very rare that I come up with something that someone else hasn't already thought of and done. My job is then to just tweak the instructions from what someone else has done so it works on our systems. It is astounding the amount of information you can find by just doing a simple search on Google.

Some things to keep in mind when running such a search:

1. Always, always, always include the name of the program you are using in your search terms. If I want to know something about how Word 2010 works, I always include "Microsoft Word 2010" in the search terms.
2. The official documentation from the program's creator often has a tremendous amount of information. Again, referencing Word, I almost always start out at Microsoft's site to see if the answer is in the official documentation.
3. After the official documentation, bloggers tend to have good ideas.
4. Forums are another great source for ideas.

So, if you find yourself wanting to do some new task you don't know how to do with your technology, you can try looking at the help documents in the program. Or, you can probably save time and get a better result by going straight to Google.