This blog is my storehouse for a good deal of miscellany, since combined with Google's search capabilities, it's a good way to find things at some future time when I've forgotten them, despite assurances to myself that of course I wouldn't forget that.
Smart Lock is a feature on the Galaxy S9 (and other phones too, I'm sure, but this is the one I know about) that allows me to lock my phone yet not have to deal with the inconvenience of unlocking it every time I pick it up. You tell the phone that certain places are trusted, such as home, and it won't require unlocking when you're in that place. Yay! It worked like a charm—for the first few days.
Then, as charms are wont to do, it became fickle. I found myself having to unlock my phone all the time. It was driving me up the wall. I tried this, that, and the other thing, all to no avail. Finally, I took the problem to Dr. Google. There I found a suggestion that the poster said was crazy, but effective:
I, like most people, had accepted the phone's suggestion of my home address for a trusted site. I don't know if it's Google's fault or something else, but people have found that to stop working after a few days, as it did for me. Who knows why? The secret, they said, was to edit the home location and move the marker a bit to reset it.
That didn't work for me. Perhaps I didn't move it enough, but since Google warned that doing so would affect the location of my home in several other of its applications, I didn't want to move it too much.
Instead, I took a different approach. I set up a second trusted site that was in the correct location, but not associated with my address—it's known to the system by its latitude and longitude. That worked perfectly.
Until it didn't, and I was back to having to unlock my phone every time.
I opened the SmartLock settings again, and added yet another trusted location—the place that my phone apparently thought it was, right then.
And that worked, until it didn't. The pattern seems to be this: For a day, my phone would stay unlocked. Sometimes I'd get more than one day out of it, but generally the next morning I'd wake up back at Square One.
Actually, not quite back to the beginning—I'm gradually accumulating a collection of trusted places around our house. Despite the fact that SmartLock claims to be trusting a fairly large circle around a given location, that's not they way it's acting. The trusted places on my list show differences by 0.1" in either latitude or longitude. I hoped that eventually I'd have all the bases covered....
I'm still hoping that, but it seems to be a very slow process. Apparently the latitude and longitude measurements have a finer granularity than what is displayed. The process I have settled into is this:
When I first open my phone in the morning, I must unlock it. That's what I would expect after a long pause in use. But then the next time I try to use it, the phone is locked again. So I go into the SmartLock settings and add a new trusted place—wherever the phone thinks it is. After that, the phone is good for the rest of the day. I must do this every day.
It's a pain, and it shouldn't be that way, but it works for me. For now. I'll update this if I ever figure out something better.
UPDATE 2/7/19 There is hope that my phone will eventually learn that our home is a safe place. Today began with the usual problem: I opened the phone and needed to unlock it. The same thing happened the second time, but I was too lazy to go through the process of adding a new Trusted Location. Somewhere along the line—third or fourth time, maybe?—the phone opened with no need for unlocking. Was that because I was at that point in a different room of the house, one the phone recognized? Who knows, but it gives me hope to keep observing and experimenting.
The infamous Blue Screen of Death is all too familiar to my generation of Windows users. It may be that blue screens are now causing death in a different way.
This Popular Science article reports that prolonged exposure to blue light can cause irreversible damage to the cells that allow us to see. (And truly, I thought of the Blue Screen of Death analogy before I noticed that the article's author did, too.) That would be light from our televisions, computers, phones, e-readers, and even increasingly popular LED illumination.
Catastrophic damage to your vision is hardly guaranteed. But the experiment shows that blue light can kill photoreceptor cells. Murdering enough of them can lead to macular degeneration, an incurable disease that blurs or even eliminates vision.
Blue light occurs naturally in sunlight, which also contains other forms of visible light and ultraviolet and infrared rays. But ... we don’t spend that much time staring at the sun. As kids, most of us were taught it would fry our eyes. Digital devices, however, pose a bigger threat. The average American spends almost 11 hours a day in front of some type of screen, according to a 2016 Nielsen poll. Right now, reading this, you’re probably mainlining blue light.
Obviously, more research is needed before we panic about this. But maybe it's time I stopped putting myself to sleep by reading on my Kindle, or playing a move or two in Word Chums, or praying through our church's Prayer Chain list. They say you should turn off "devices" an hour before bedtime, because the blue light can keep you from falling asleep. That's never been an issue for me. But damaging my eyes? That's a much bigger issue.
I opened up Facebook this morning to be greeted by the following "Suggested Post."
Some of my readers will immediately recognize the "Castle in Arquenay" as Château de la Motte Henry, where 10 years ago we celebrated Janet's birthday. We chose that fairy tale castle not because Janet is a romantic and highly imaginative person, although she is, but because the château happens to be the home of some dear friends, whose daughter would later be the flower girl in Janet's wedding. They are the most amazing hosts, and the experience was sublime.
The wonderful thing, as Facebook so cheerily told me, is that you, too, can have the Château de la Motte Henry experience! Well, not the friends-and-family perks, but let me tell you, these people know how to host an experience for their paying guests as well! Don't let the price tag put you off—share the cost with friends; it's a huge place! (No, I don't get a commission; I just love sharing something so special.)
If nothing else, take the time to go to the booking site, browse, and dream. Check out the amenities, marvel at the photos. I quote from the overview:
*JUST LISTED AS ONE OF "THE TIMES' TOP 20 CHATEAUX IN FRANCE" FOR HOLIDAY RENTALS!* -- (If you are a group larger than 14, please inquire about additional space & rates.) Live a fairytale dream in this romantic 19th century castle with its own private lake, swimming pool & cinema. Your senses will be dazzled with stunning views, gentle sounds of birds and rippling water, and the rich scents of roses and lavender. You will luxuriate in the privacy of 29 secluded acres, but only travel 2 km to reach all amenities. Whether you are a family, corporate group, or reunion of friends, the château offers pampering, fun and relaxation in a sublime setting for groups both large and small.
The château is an historically listed property, once open to the public, and now privately owned and operated. Featuring a motte (mound) from the time of Henry II surrounded by a moat, spectacular parkland, ancient trees, a private spring-fed fishing lake, and a Renaissance-inspired swimming pool within a secluded walled rose garden, the château is a haven of peace and tranquillity.
Here one can bask in the glorious French countryside, or discover the riches of the surrounding areas of the Loire Valley, Brittany & Normandy from this central location. Children & adults alike will delight in visits to the famous Loire châteaux, Mont St. Michel, D-Day Beaches, the fabulous Puy de Fou theme park and Zoo de la Fleche, all within a 1.5 hour drive. Within 15 minutes drive, one can experience beautiful gardens, golf, riding, nature-activity parks, river cruises, museums, stately homes & more. Or, you may simply never wish to leave the grounds of your very own château...
The château offers extremely spacious bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms; reception rooms comfortably yet elegantly renovated in keeping with the romantic style; & wonderful facilities for self-catering, such as a recently renovated designer kitchen with granite and marble-mosaic finishes, as well as three outdoor BBQs.
Special amenities include: Nespresso Machine, Bathrobes, Slippers, Large Welcome Basket, Champagne Reception on Arrival, Toiletry Kits in Bathrooms
Here's another view, Janet's own picture from a decade ago. Can you imagine walking through the woods and suddenly seeing this through a break in the trees?
Facebook is scarily good at surprising me with relevant ads, but this one was the most amazing yet.
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My phone was fine when I woke up this morning. But my Peel Remote app had put a floating widget on my screen ever since the last update, and today I clicked on it to get in and try to remove the annoying thing. I didn't get very far because my touch screen immediately became unresponsive. The phone wasn't frozen, but I couldn't do anything from the screen.
My go-to solution for problems of quirky machine behavior—as it has been since my PDP-12 days—is a reboot. So I pressed the power switch. Samsung users will immediately see the problem here: doing a reboot that way requires confirmation from the touch screen. Which wasn't working. I tried holding the power button down for several seconds, which works for many devices, but that had no effect.
One obvious solution would have been to remove the battery, but I didn't really want to do that with the machine powered on and (mostly) working. So I turned to Dr. Google—definitely not a solution from my PDP-12 days. I found several suggestions, and a number of people who had had the same problem with Peel Remote, even a year ago.
The easiest and most reliable solution seemed to be to press the volume-down and power buttons simultaneously for several seconds (variously suggested from 7 to 15). I'm skittish about such things, and did not want to find my phone suddenly in safe or download mode or worse, but what else was there to do? Call customer service? I've done that before, and have been leery every since, because they recommended a hard reset (which would have wiped out all my data) for a problem Dr. Google solved with no pain at all.
So I pushed the buttons.
The happy ending is, it worked. The phone rebooted. The touch screen began working again. I then turned the phone off and back on again, because ... well, because I learned a long time ago that that's a good policy after computer troubles.
I'm telling you here because I'm really telling myself here—I know from experience there's likely to be a time in the future when I'll say, "Wait, I know I had that problem before ... what did I do to fix it?"
I don't hate Microsoft, nor Google, nor Apple, nor any other business that I know about. There's just too much hatred—not to mention too many ill-founded accusations of hatred—going around these days, and in any case I try to limit such a destructive emotion to actions rather then entities.
But I'm very close to hating Microsoft's actions.
It's nearly inevitable that I will eventually become a Windows 10 user, and if I knew my current computer would last forever I'd probably 10 now while it's free, despite serious misgivings about it "going all Google on me" and collecting 'way more data than I want it to have. As it is, I'd much rather get a new operating system only when I must buy a new computer. I like Windows 7, but when I was forced away from XP I lost the use of my fully-functional scanner and printer. To use those devices now, I have to bring up a virtual XP window running under Windows 7, and I have little hope that I'll be able to make that work under 10—plus I'm pretty sure I'll lose access to still more of my existing peripherals.
Having finally made that decision, I'm finding Microsoft's pop-up ads for upgrading more annoying than usual. Especially since they've become more frequent (many times each day), and most especially because Microsoft has sunk to a malware trick of changing the behavior when you click on the pop-up's upper-right-hand X from just closing the window (which everyone expects) to closing the window and consenting to the upgrade at some future time determined by Microsoft. With that, users who have long ago gotten into the habit of simply closing the ad one day find that Windows 10 has been installed willy-nilly. Ditto for those multitudes who have Windows Update configured to install Recommended updates automatically.
That's just wrong.
I know people who are okay with Windows 10. I know people who love it. I know people (computer-savvy people) who chose to update only to find that 10 made their computers unworkable, tried to exercise the "you have one month to roll back to 7" option only to have it fail, and had to reinstall their whole system.
But the issue is not Windows 10 itself. It's the deceptive, strong-arm tactics Microsoft has stooped to.
Because clicking the X to close the Windows 10 ad is no longer an option, the first thing I now do when I boot my computer is bring up the Task Manager, so that I can kill the task whenever it appears. I'm glad I still have that option. But it's more than a pain, because I'm getting more and more afraid that Microsoft will defeat my precautions in the end. I only have to last till the end of July, since I'm pretty certain Microsoft won't automatically install Windows 10 once they start charging for it.
On the other hand, maybe I'll make RegEdit my friend once more, and follow the advice that worked for my sister. I'd rather not, but I've done it before.
I don't hate Microsoft. But I do hate being so dependent and vulnerable. Not enough to switch to Linux, however. Not yet. And Apple's even less attractive.
The challenge is to take advantage of a technology's substantial benefits while minimizing dependency, and it's not an easy one. It's not a new one, either. We're already dependent on systems over which we have no control for electricity, water, and other basic services. Short of living off the land and shutting ourselves off from most of what the modern world has to offer, it will always be a difficult balance.
I know people who are fond of saying, as if it were original with them and somehow encouraging to others, that we should never ask for what we deserve, because what we all deserve is Hell. As unhelpful as this aphorism is, there are times when everyday life points to a kernel of truth there. We remember vividly the times when we've done something stupid and paid the price, or done something stupid and managed somehow to escape disaster, but we may not even be aware of how many, many times we've been equally stupid, or more so, and escaped scot free. How often have we taken a foolish chance while driving, or set a can of soda near the computer, or carried a large stack of breakable objects? How many times have we thought, "I knew that was going to happen" when a foolish risk has ended badly? Truly, when we know what we should do and act otherwise, do we deserve to escape the consequences? No—but surprising often, grace abounds anyway.
It's an old, sad story, and out of respect for those who, like me, are not fond of suspense, I'll say up front that this one has a happy ending.
I'm usually a bit compulsive when it comes to doing backups. I have general backups, and specific backups. Whole and incremental backups. Backups divided over several years and different external drives. But I'm not perfect about it, and this was one of those times.
Mostly I find a once-a-week backup sufficient for my needs, but recently I've been working pedal-to-the-metal on processing our photos and videos from the Gambia, so I got into the habit of backing up my work every night. See, I know the right thing to do! But one night the backup system gave me trouble. Instead of spending the next day sorting it out, I carried on feverishly with my work. I was making such good progress! Who could be bothered with a problem that was, I knew, going to be frustrating and time-consuming to sort out? So for a few days—highly productive days—that nightly backup didn't happen.
I'm a big fan of the recycle bin. I love that a deleted file doesn't really disappear right away, so that accidents and mistakes are reversible. However, some files, such as video files, are too big for such treatment. For those I use the shift-delete function, which bypasses the recycle bin and erases the file directly.
One morning I was working with a number of video files, and got a little too careless with my quick response to the "Are you sure you want to permanently delete this file?" question. I was certain I had highlighted the video I was done with, but Windows Explorer had other ideas. You want to delete the entire directory? The entire directory with your final processed photos? The directory that represents 60+ hours' worth of work? Fine, no problem, I can do that for you in under a second.
I stared at the computer. I didn't believe what appeared to have happened. I turned my computer inside out, searched from top to bottom. Finally I let myself admit that the files were gone. Completely. Gone.
I was surprisingly calm. Sometimes big events leave you too overwhelmed to be upset. Besides, I did have some backups, though they were, as I said, a few days old, and the most recent one had been corrupted by the above-mentioned problem. But as I also said, I'm usually compulsive about backups, and if I didn't have my work in final form, I did have it in next-to-final form, and the form before that, and the form before that. What had been done once could be done again, and though the magnitude of effort lost was mind-boggling, I took comfort in a comment reader-friend Eric once made here about work being done better the second time around.
As it turned out, we'll never know how much better I would have done the second time, and that's more than fine with me.
When files are deleted from a drive, even by shift-delete, they're not really erased. They're no longer visible to the user, but the data's there until it's overwritten. I knew that, but had no idea how to take advantage of it. Then a little Internet research led me to a data-recovery program called Recuva.
Had my files been on the C drive, I may have been in trouble, because I did quite a bit of work before finding that program, and the more time that elapses, the more likely the data is to be overwritten. But because of space considerations, my data was on an external drive that I had been careful not to write to since the loss. The operating system, or some other program not under my control, probably did something, but—to shorten the story—with the help of Recuva I was able to recover all but about half a dozen files. The few that had been damaged I easily recreated from the next-to-final layer. I'm very grateful I did not accidentally delete a higher-level directory!
Curious as to what an overwritten file looks like? Here are an original and its corrupted version. You can still see some of the basic structure. (Click to enlarge.)
Once I had the program downloaded and unzipped to a flash drive, using Recuva to restore the files was quick and easy. The long and tedious part of the job came in checking the integrity of the recovered files, but that only took five or six hours, and by the next day I was back to where I'd been 24 hours earlier.
With one important exception: I now have Recuva on that flash drive, available should I need it again. It's especially important to have it handy in case I ever need to recover files from the C drive, where overwriting can happen quickly. Which I sincerely hope never happens!
It's amazing how easy it is to accept the loss of a day's work—which normally would have had me tearing my hair—when faced with the realization that the loss could have been many times greater.
Truly, grace abounds.
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I've noticed a strange error in the time stamp when I take videos with my phone. A Google search has not led me to others experiencing the same problem, so I'm posting it here so that the problem will be "out there" in case someone comes along.
The photo and video time stamps seem to be consistent and accurate, until I change time zones. When I do, my phone automatically updates its time to reflect local time, which is exactly what I want it to do. Whatever time stamps my photos apparently grabs the system time, because they show the correct local time. However, the videos do not.
When I shot videos in St. Louis, Missouri, which is on Central Time, their time stamp was still on Eastern Time—one hour ahead. When I took videos in Switzerland, the time stamp acted as if I were still back in the U.S., on Eastern Time: it was six hours behind.
As long as I am aware of the problem, I can easily correct the time because my file naming convention includes the date and time. I just have to remember to add or subtract for the videos, and that's usually easy enough because otherwise they appear out of sequence. That's how the problem came to my attention in the first place.
But what I'm really curious about is why the photos have the correct time and the videos don't. It's the same camera that takes them both. The only logical place for the software to get the time is from the phone's system time. But obviously whatever stamps the videos is doing something altogether different. Well, not altogether: the minutes and seconds are correct. It's just the hour that's wrong, and it's clearly a time zone effect.
If anyone comes by here looking for answers, I don't have them. But at least you'll know that someone else has had the problem. And if anyone comes by with solutions, thanks in advance!
Okay, Faithful Readers. I'm listening to an instructional video on using PaintShop Pro, and the instructor interrupts his teaching to give a lecture on how important it is NOT to geotag any photos in or near your home, because "you don't want other people to be able to find out where you live. It's not safe." Huh? Has he never heard of a telephone book? And now with the Internet it's ridiculously easy to find out that kind of information. Where you live. What taxes you pay. What you paid for your house. Your birthday. Your family members. Your political donations. If you're lucky enough to be a state employee in Florida, your salary. Google will even show you the flowers in my front yard—at least what they looked like at some point in the past. So what if someone can tell from my photograph where it was taken? If anyone wants to do something nefarious, they have plenty of other resources.
I find the feature on my camera that detects and saves location data to be extremely useful. I'm undertaking the incredibly, ridiculously challenging project of organizing many years' worth of photographs, and the only thing that annoys me about embedded GPS data is that it's not available on most of my photos. Even my phone camera, which is the first I've had with GPS information, only began recording that data once I found and enabled the feature.
Privacy has always been very important to me. This may seem odd coming from someone who writes a blog that is shared with the world, but I still consider myself a private person. "Private" doesn't mean I don't share, any more than "introvert" means I don't like people. To me, it means (1) I choose what I share and with whom, and (2) I accept that some things are going to be available to others whether I choose to share them or not. In facing the latter case, I have come to realize that I can either shrink back in fear, or I can accept the small additional risk for the sake of the benefits that have come with new technology and new situations.
My blog audience my not be large, but I know it's diverse, with people everywhere on the privacy spectrum. So I'll ask: What's your take on geocoded photos? Do you use that feature? If you don't, is it because you don't find a need for it, or because, like my photo software instructor, you think it's dangerous? If you are worried about safety, what advantage do you think it gives criminals that they couldn't easily get elsewhere?
This is my 100th blog post for this year, and I think it fitting to dedicate it to promoting another blog, just five months old but very promising: Blue Ocean Families.
Inspired by the business concept of Blue Ocean Strategy, the Blue Ocean Families team seeks to answer the question, How can we leave this frantic modern life and carve out a peaceful blue ocean for our families?
Blue Ocean Strategy: Don’t beat the competition, make it irrelevant.
The creators of Blue Ocean Strategy illustrate their idea by envisioning traditional markets as a bloody red ocean of cut-throat competition. They propose that businesses should leave this deadly environment and carve out untapped market space (i.e. a customer base nobody else is reaching). They call this unique market space a blue ocean and explain how to create one in any industry.
Blue Ocean Families: Turn the competition into community.
The red ocean is where we try to keep up with the Joneses and fight the mommy wars. A blue ocean family doesn’t follow the status quo, but celebrates and develops its uniqueness while living in community with other families.
Here are five of my favorite posts:
(It was hard to pick just five, but then I am biased. I suppose that in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that the founder and primary author of Blue Ocean Families is my daughter. But that would be bragging.)
Picture the Blue Ocean. This peaceful haven is a place where just one family swims and where each family member can thrive. They have room and laughter, and time to explore and expand. They threaten no one because they chose to leave the Red Ocean and carve out space to make their very own Blue Ocean.
How do you create a Blue Ocean – a unique family culture – where each member has the freedom to thrive AND where success helps others rather than threatens them?
That’s the question I want to explore in this blog. It’s little more than a vision now, but if you find the idea intriguing, then please join me on my journey!
Ah, I knew there was a reason I didn't want to have Amazon's "1-Click" purchase button turned on. But when buying Kindle books, there's no choice. Tonight I was browsing their daily deals and, somehow, accidentally clicked on a "Buy now with 1-Click" button. I think the problem was related to the fact that something—my computer, Firefox, Norton, our ISP; I don't know the culprit—has been making the Internet unpredictably slow. For a while it will go just fine, then lag by several seconds. For example, typed the first half of the previous sentence in real time, then the last half took in all my keystrokes before appearing all at once. The mouse has a similar problem, so the computer must have registered a click in the wrong place.
Whatever the reason, I was on the phone to Amazon right away. There really needs to be a "cancel this order" button. I know how to do that with physical orders, but could see no way to do it with the digital order. So I called. Yes, I, even phone-phobic I, picked up the phone. The cost was only $1.99, not a high-risk financial move, but two bucks is two bucks, and it was definitely not the kind of book I wanted cluttering up my Kindle.
Despite language issues, I think the Amazon rep got things straightened out for me. The book disappeared from my Kindle all right, but the refund of my charge should come "within two to three business days." I'm hoping it will be a bit faster than that, just because I don't think it should take so long, but I'm happy to know that such accidental purchases can be undone. Maybe next time I'll find a "cancel" button—but I'm also hoping there won't be a next time.
Now my computer/Internet/browser/whatever really needs a rest. Maybe it will feel better in the morning.
My photo editing experiences are 'way below novice, having made do with Windows (Office) Photo Editor, Picasa, Irfanview, and Paint all these years. However, most of the 90s decade of my 95 by 65 project involves photo work, so it's about time I upgraded to some good photo editing software. In particular, I want to be able to work with my photos without losing data: Picasa, for example, does some nice things, but degrades the image every time I use it.
I am finding the Adobe Photoshop CC (Photoshop/Lightroom) subscription attractive at $10/month. I'm sure I don't need all the fancy stuff, and the cost would really add up over a matter of years, but for getting my feet wet it seems reasonable—and it would be several months before reaching the cost of Photoshop Elements.
I've read reviews of several other programs, but am not convinced they are worth the cost. Except for GIMP, of course, which is always an option, though when I tried it years ago I found it not as user-friendly as I had hoped—i.e. I didn't get anywhere with it. Adobe still seems to be the gold standard.
What do you think, Faithful Readers?
Over the years I have been astonished at the technical prowess of our grandchildren. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised: advancing technology has made it clear that it's physical coordination more than mental ability that has in the past held children back.
In 2006: Jonathan, who just turned three, met me on the stairs with a blue cable in his hand. As I passed, I remarked, "That looks like a Cat 5 cable." "No it's not," he responded, "It's a USB cord." (He was right.)
And in 2010: One day Heather discovered two-year-old Faith sitting at the computer, typing away in their Open Office word processing program. She assumed Jon had set it up for her, but that was not the case. No one knows how Faith did it. This is no consumer-friendly iPhone, nor even Windows, but a Linux-based system only a geek could love.
There were many more examples I did not record, but I thought of these the other day, when it happened again.
Joseph, just shy of his fifth birthday, had been using his mother's GMail program to compose and send me a letter. He then told me he wanted to make a copy. I wasn't sure what he meant, so I showed him how to click on the Sent folder to see the e-mail again. That wasn't what he wanted, but his sister required some immediate assistance, so I said I'd help him when I returned.
Just a couple of minutes later I came back, and he was in the process of removing a page from the printer. He then shut the printer down and put the tray back into its folded position. When he handed the printout to me, I asked him how he knew what to do. "I clicked on the print button," he replied.
I don't use GMail to compose or read my mail, but I logged on to see see if the process was really that simple. It's not. First of all, the print icon is small (though I'll admit his eyes are quite a bit younger than mine, so maybe that doesn't matter much), and once you click on it you have at least one more step before the print actually happens.
Technology is not strange, nor frightening, to those who grow up with it as ubiquitous as air.
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Our friend David, of Mount Sutro fame, introduced me to Trello. I let his invitation languish for several months, and that was a mistake. Trello, a project management and collaboration tool, turns out to be just what I was looking for to organize much of my everyday life.
A Fact: There is no Philosopher's Stone of tools that will substitute for wise action and hard work. We think that if we find just the right diet trick, it will be easy to lose weight. If we discover the best organizational system, we'll start getting things done. We latch onto some expert's ideas of proper childrearing practices in the desperate hope that if we just follow the rules, our children will "turn out all right." Such quests are doomed to failure.
Another Fact: If tools won't do our work for us, they certainly can leverage our efforts to great effect, and finding the right tool for a task is a worthwhile quest. Sometimes the effect of a good tool can, indeed, seem miraculous. It might even be something small and simple, like the Charleston sweetgrass basket that my mother-in-law gave me, years ago. I'm not one for decorative objects, so I put this one on the desk in our front hall, and started tossing my keys into it as I walked through the door. Miracle: no more hunting for lost keys. If they weren't with me, they were in the basket. Period.
I haven't been using Trello long enough to say for certain that it is one of the miracle tools in my life, but it feels so much like one that I can't wait any longer to share it. You can try it yourself by following this link. I don't know if I'll ever use their collaboration features, but it's been great for managing the many lists of my life.
In a nutshell, Trello allows me to create boards. Within each board are lists, and within the lists are cards. Each card can have a title, a description, comments, and more, including checklists. There's more to it, but that's the basics of what I use.
I've tried many ways of organizing, planning, and keeping track of what I do (and want to do), and have found that I work best with some system of to-do lists. I've absorbed a lot of ideas, and Trello doesn't replace any of them, but it helps a lot with implementation. I love making lists, and seeing my work planned out. I love having reminders and inspiration ready to hand. Most especially I love crossing off a completed task. But until Trello I hadn't found a list system that satisfied me.
I've done best with paper lists, but I do many of the same tasks day after day, and get frustrated writing the same things again and again. I've tried making lists on the computer, using Word and Excel, but either I had to accept them as glorified paper lists, or I had to put 'way too much time into trying to automate them as I liked. I wanted checklists, I wanted to drag and drop items—possible with those tools, but I found it too much work trying to reinvent a wheel I was sure should have been invented already. Enter Trello. (More)
Calibre is a free e-book library manager, not that I've done much with that feature yet. There are many elements, including a news feed handler, that I think I might like if I'd take the time to investigage them, but right now I'm very happy just using the feature for which I installed it: Calibre converts all sorts of other e-book formats into something my Kindle Paperwhite can read. Suddenly I'm drooling over Project Gutenberg and the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. What's more, my Kindle was supposed to be able to handle pdf files, but was not doing at all well with them; Calibre quickly and easily solved that problem.
The Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon has its drawbacks. Like size. And price (better with the IBM discount, though). And this review reports poor battery life and some trouble with the touch screen interface. But they still gave it four out of five stars.
I'll admit that my first reaction to a computer that doubles as a placemat was, "Why on earth would you want a screen that lies flat on the table?" It's just itching to have stuff put on it. And it has 'way too big a footprint. Moreover, you'll see in the first video below that small children are using it on the floor. Hasn't anyone at Lenovo seen a house with children? The first thing a toddler would do is step on it. Did I mention this is a $1500 piece of equipment?
Nonetheless, I can see why the folks in the limo ad are excited. Why are we excited? Picture games on the Maggie P. deck without pieces blown over the edge or dropped through cracks! We are not, mind you, excited enough even to think about purchasing such a thing, but the concept has potential.