Thursday, July 31, 2014


I've mentioned in previous posts that I have a 10 year old laptop that I have kept running using Linux and other open source options. You can get versions of Linux that look a lot like Windows, but Linux allows you to do much more than Windows or a Mac could ever come close to allowing. Moreover, Linux is everywhere. Most supercomputers use it, most servers, all Android phones, and countless other devices. So knowing at least a little bit about it would be useful.

For those interested in learning, edX is offering a free course that is an introduction to Linux. The only prerequisite is that you have at least some computer experience.

So sign up and learn something new. I know I can't wait for it to start.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


I have two kids: a three year old and a 6 months old. I love picking them up and playing with them. And when I do, it is inevitable that they are going to start poking at my Samsung Gear Live watch. When they do, bad things start happening.

I should say that they did happen until I downloaded Baby Time. Baby Time simply locks the watch screen, and the only way to unlock it is to swipe up twice and then down twice. Something neither of my kids are likely to do by accident, though I'm confident my oldest, if he watches me do it once, will figure it out.

Baby Time keeps the kiddos from accidentally starting Google Now or any of the other apps on the watch. It's free, and it requires no permissions.

Is this an app I'm probably going to need at the office? No. Instead, consider this a PSA: if you have little kids, then you need Baby Time.

Monday, July 28, 2014


I have an older Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 that I have been trying to incorporate into my practice more. One of the things I have wanted to be able to do with it is use it to take handwritten notes and store them in my case management system.

The benefit: anywhere I am, my notes are available, even if I don't have my tablet with me since my case management system can be accessed remotely.

I have been using an app called Papyrus (free and upgrade available) to do this recently, and I have to say that I am pleased with the results.

Papyrus offers a very simple method for note taking in that it can show you various types of paper. For me, I choose the wide ruled, letter sized paper, so that I have lines to help my writing stay straight. I have such terrible handwriting to begin with that the wide ruled is actually helpful to me.

The results of the handwriting in Papyrus are not exactly as smooth as using pen and ink, but it isn't bad by any stretch. Again, some of the sloppiness could just be a result of my bad handwriting, though.

It allows the use of various colored inks as well as pen styles and widths. An undo button makes clearing mistakes quick and easy, and an eraser is available for more extensive errors.

What I like best about it is that you can quickly email a copy of all of the notes you have taken in .PDF format. And the printed out results are easy to read.

If you're looking for a note-taking app to try to become more paperless, I would give Papyrus a try.

Friday, July 18, 2014


I've had my Samsung Gear Live smartwatch running Android Wear for about a week now. To be honest, I absolutely love it; however, you have to understand what it is and not what you might want it to be.

It is not a second phone. Don't think of it as such. You don't make or take phone calls from it. You aren't going to be surfing the internet on it. You aren't going to get as much out of it unless it is connected to your phone.

What it is is an extension of your phone and a second, more convenient screen. With the exception of a few apps, what the phone does is provide information that would be available on your phone if you wanted to take it out of your pocket. That might sound like the ultimate in laziness; what, am I too lazy to get my phone out? However, it's not like that at all.

If you're running, you can see your pace, time, and distance by glancing at your phone.

If you're cooking, you can follow your recipe without having to constantly unlock your phone.

You can control your music from your wrist.

And new apps are coming out regularly, which I'll talk about in the future.

I think this is still really best only for early adopters. However, I think that we are going to see wearable devices increase in popularity and usefulness in the not too distant future.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


I've been busy with the kiddos lately, and as a result, haven't' had as much time to play around with new toys as I have in the past. Hence, my posts have been a bit slow. That's about to change as there are simply too many things backed up to post about. Let's get at it.

One of the apps that I've seen both LifeHacker and DroidLawyer mention recently is Commandr. The concept is simple: you use google now to control more of your phone. Turn on your flashlight, your wifi, GPS, control your music, read text messages. And you can expand the built-in options with Tasker. And, it's a free app.

What's not to like? It sounds great. I love talking to my phone. I love Google Now. But, I'm more interested in the concept of Commandr than I am in its actual use so far.

To work, Commandr makes use of the note taking function of Google Now. So to turn on the flashlight, you say "Ok Google, take a note turn on flashlight", then Google Now waits a few seconds to let you change your mind about what you've asked, and then your flashlight turns on. For me, the alternative, is simply firing up the phone and hitting the flashlight widget on the home screen (I use it as a flashlight a lot). It's simply quicker.

And the built in list of commands is relatively small, though the developer let's you vote for which commands should be added in future releases.

The real power seems to come from the use of Tasker. Tasker is an app that let's you control most aspects of your phone when certain events occur or whenever you want them to occur. Perhaps when you are connected to your home wi-fi, you want the volume settings adjusted and car mode turned off. Tasker can automate that.

This seems to make Commandr infinitely more useful; however, Tasker is not for the faint of heart. It opens up your phone to you, but you have to know how to use it. And it isn't the easiest app to learn. In fact, a number of the negative reviews discuss that you need a programmers mind to use it. I'm not sure I fully agree with that, but I can't say I disagree with it. Tasker really takes time to understand.

In short, I really, really, really want to like Commandr. I'm anxious to see how it develops. But out of the box, I'm not convinced it is going to change how I use my phone, because I'm not convinced I'm going to use it regularly.