My “Alexa” Time Machine…

Well, let me start by saying my wonderful Son gifted me a Bose Soundlink Revolve for my birthday. A wonderful Bluetooth cylinder type speaker that pumps out GREAT sounds with volume, bass, and tones that rival any standard music system.

BoseRevolve

So we have phones that can play our selections (that I’ve burned from CDs or bought as Digital) but then I realized that I have Amazon Prime which comes with its version of free music (to a degree) that I had only been able to listen to via my desktop PC (we use Windows Phone 10, no app…)

So I bought an Amazon Echo Dot at a great price. Now I can listen to Amazon Prime Music through my Bose Soundlink Revolve! I was so impressed with the Dot I bought my Son one.

EchoDot

Time Machine? Yes, Time Machine… because I can remember a band, singer, tune from my childhood or my youth and it plays it for me. Bringing back floods of memories… “Alexa, play Boz Scaggs,” “Play Seals & Croft,” Play Taco,” “Play Pablo Cruise…” “Weather Report is interesting because you have to say, Play music from the BAND Weather Report… 😀 other wise you just get a real weather report!

Just takes me back, there are a few that you can only get via Amazon Prime Music “Unlimited” (e.g., Three Dog Night, and some others) which for a Dot owner is only an additional $3.99 a month. I may pop for that.

But my memory is jogged by:

  • Average White Band
  • Michael Franks
  • Kenny Rankin
  • Al Jarreau
  • The Manhattan Transfer
  • Spyro Gyra
  • Grover Washington Jr.
  • Dave Grusin
  • The Crusaders
  • Chuck Mangione
  • Chick Corea (my youthful dream was to create an album cover for him when I was deep into calligraphy)
  • Herbie Mann
  • Herbie Hancock (his music was my wake up call in college every morning…)
  • Gato Barbieri
  • Stanley Turrentine
  • Stanley Jordan
  • Weather Report with Jaco Pastorius!!!

But all-in-all, it makes listening to music very EASY and makes your memory work to remember your past, I love it! Thank you, Alexander, thank you, Alexa!

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Nerd Nirvana… Mailbird maze solved!

So… quite a few weeks ago I had made a comment on Windows Central asking about a software app for Windows 10. My request was to find out if anyone knew of an app that could act as a dashboard for the few collective apps I wanted to view all at once. So picture this… I wanted my various mailboxes (Outlook 2016), Todoist, Skype (SMS messaging), and maybe Word to all come up in the same window, or at the very least the same time with “one” launch.

There was only one suggestion for an app called “Rocket Dock,” but that didn’t quite solve my dilemma after having looked at it. Then I remembered from the “olden days,” using “Batch Files,” a small script you can write that will perform a group of actions with one click. I delved into that for a while realizing this wasn’t the answer in today’s world either. Could have worked if I stayed with it, just too damn archaic.

Well, I’ve found the closest damn thing to perfect I can. I was on one of my favorite websites “TheAwesomer.com” and saw an ad for the app “Mailbird” I checked it out because the discount was quite deep for a “Lifetime Pro” account. So I played with it quite a bit before deciding a day later it would be worth it.

So what does this ONE application Mailbird do for me? It displays all of what I need in one window!

  1. eMail – multiple accounts – in my case five
  2. A “Unified” account to see all
  3. All and any of my existing folders for email organization are all there as well
  4. Attachments
  5. Contacts imported from any of those mail accounts
  6. Google Calendar (GC)– (NO Office 365 Outlook integration)
  7. Slack
  8. Todoist
  9. Twitter
  10. WhatsApp – (NO Skype integration)
  11. And a LOT, lot more!

Now, in order to get this application to near perfection, it took a lot of trial and tribulation on my part. Mostly because I don’t do much of anything in Google at all. I have Gmail and Google Voice, but never really used any of the other functions of Google e.g., Calendar, Tasks, etc. So there’s a bit of tweaking to get things where they need to be. Spent a good part of the whole day blowing crap up to turn around to later fix or make right. But that’s ONLY because I’m a bit anal.

So to bring everything into this one portal I employed a few tools;

  1. IFTTT – (If This Than That) to have certain Todoist tasks populate Google Calendar (remember I don’t use GC)
  2. gSyncit – So that events created in my Outlook Calendar (OC) can synch 2-ways with Google Calendar – meaning the IFTTT Todoist applets can populate GC with my todo’s and those get picked up into my OC

Now the only thing is, this is on my desktop at home, so no mobile app version of Mailbird and of course no installing this great tool at work. But all-in-all… that’s O.K. because the home office is where the bulk of my work is done anyway. Took a bit of work, but overall I’m quite happy with this setup as it brings just about everything I wanted together under one roof… er… window!

TwitterMailbird MultiMailbird_Accounts MailbirdSnooze

Wunderlist | project Cheshire | Todoist | 2Day & More!

Let’s start with Outlook Tasks… because this is where it all started for me.

I love Microsoft Outlook (OL) each and every iteration. I love the “Tasks” that I was able to generate within Outlook and a very long, long time ago… Windows Mobile version of Outlook stopped supporting OL Tasks. What? you heard me right, Microsoft stopped supporting (cross platform) the best feature (in my opinion) in OL.

So since that time I have always been looking for the “Silver Bullet” that would put my task woes away for good.

I’ve tried OL “Add-Ins,” “OneNote “Add-Ins,” you name it… I’ve tried it. I tried standalone apps as well, Wunderlist seemed OK, but had issues on the different platforms that just never made the grade for me. At one time you couldn’t even “delete” a task from the Windows Phone client, I kid you not! So I’m not terribly surprised that Microsoft eventually gave up on the standalone product Wunderlist and has moved to turn Project Cheshire into what they call today, Todo.

So “very long story short,” I ended up trying and loving the 2Day app from Vercors Studio (Twitter – @2dayteam). The great app was written by one guy “Jeremy Alles” (Twitter – @jalpf) in his spare time which might become even sparser due to the fact Jeremy is a NEW Dad! Congrats my Friend! You can sync with the 2Day Cloud, Office 365, Outlook.com, Exchange, or ToodleDo. This is really a very beautiful app in regard to GUI and the developer has gone above and beyond with added features, bug fixes, and updates. You really can’t get much better than this app.

Unfortunately, there is just one thing that still made me long for a better solution, and that is the ability to get to my tasks/todos via the internet. 2Day doesn’t have this YET, but trust me it will be coming and when it does, I hope I’m the first “paid subscriber.”

So for the past two months, I have delved into Todoist. Tried it, then became a Premium subscriber. This app is very solid, yet visually I miss my 2Day. Todoist has everything I need so far… (with the exception of start and end dates e.g., like a project timeline that 2Day does have). I see a lot of Todoist users have been requesting the “start date/timeline” feature, so I have to think it’s in the pipeline for future builds.

I can synch the To-do’s with my Exchange calendar via “Internet” calendar and “overlay” that in my Outlook 2016 app so everything is on hand (that sync is one-way though, “currently”). Does a great job with notifications to my phone as reminders as well. I have it on my 950XL, Desktop, and is available on the internet. There are a plethora of templates you can create and also download from other Todist’s authors.

All of your projects, labels, and filters are there as well. I have three important filters which work well for me @Morning, @Afternoon, and @Evening. So I can pin those filters to my start screen on the phone or desktop to see what I’ve designated as to-dos for my three portions of a day. Kinda’ cool!

The “Karma” rating system is kind of cool in that you set you goals e.g., how many tasks per day, per week to accomplish and you get points when completed. The other nice feature (because of the Karma rating) is the ability to turn off Karma when you’re on vacation so the missed to do’s don’t count.

Of course, this tool is available via Win10 devices, Android, and iOS devices as well. The app is growing on me and I’ve only scratched the surface. BTW… I use Pocket (Poki on my WP10) and I can share an article I find to Pocket with the label #MustRead and it populates my Todoist in the category I’ve set up, nice way to remind me to go back and read an important article.

So yeah, I haven’t found my “Silver Bullet” yet, for me that would be 2Day getting “internet access” along with a Premium subscription for that service or Todoist getting start dates.

Todoist: https://todoist.com $29.00 a year for Premium features

2Day: https://www.2day-app.com – This remains a GREAT app, just tons of features!

Evernote & Price Increase…

With the advent of price increases having hit Evernote, I’m forced to reevaluate the usefulness of this product for me and the manner in which I use it.

BTW, I don’t see mentioned by anyone yet that Evernote did send out a survey quite a few months ago (if I remember correctly) that asked very specific questions about the “future” of services and how much a customer would be willing to pay. I know for a fact that I sure as heck didn’t select prices like this in my survey.

I’ve been using Evernote since 2008, mostly using the “Freemium” version. The last three to four years I’ve been a “Premium” user. The reason why I switched to Premium had nothing to do with features, space, privileges that paying for the Premium brought me. Trust me I never even exceeded 1GB of data a month.

The ONLY reason why I had started to pay for Premium was I thought that Evernote was going above and beyond my expectations in product enhancement and development. I felt they “deserved” and “earned” my support for the product/service… so the best way I could show my support would be to pay for it.

I’ve been a proponent of Evernote for a long time and while not terribly active in the “forums” on Evernote… I’ve always tried to share my passion for the product on Quora. I especially liked the fact I could bring in my Livescribe Smart Pen notes into Evernote.

$45 a year wasn’t so bad. However what people don’t take into consideration when they argue that the new increased price is not bad (then they break it down to how many pennies a day the item may cost you) is that so many more services have month-to-month subscriptions. So for some folks, there is a lot of nickel-and-diming going on between all of the services we may be subscribed to… and they keep adding up. So when you consider all of the services you might subscribe to, e.g., Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Office 365, Plex, Xbox Gold, maybe even a mail server (Exchange) and website host… things start to add up quickly and you have to decide where/which service you will need to cull from the herd. Since I paid for… yet never needed any of the features or benefits of Premium, I need to figure out what’s best for “me.”

I’ve never been a fan of OneNote, the reason being is it was a product originally developed with “pen/inking” in mind. Because of that in combination with the free-for-all “sandbox” approach to constructing a note… the software never really “printed” well for me. In fact, printing wasn’t even on the original radar when the app was developed because back then everyone was still drinking the Kool-Aid of having a “Paperless Office.” We see how that turned out. So those are the reasons why I never adopted OneNote.

Which brings me to today… I subscribe to Office 365 (Home) which runs $99, only $30 more than Evernote Premium alone.

What do I get for that?

  • 1-year subscription
  • For 5 PCs or Macs, 5 tablets including iPad, Android, or Windows, plus 5 phones
  • Fully installed versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, and more e.g., Sway and Docs.com
  • 1TB cloud storage per user for up to 5 users
  • Ongoing access to updates
  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • OneNote
  • Access
  • Publisher
  • Outlook
  • OneDrive
  • Skype

Seems like a no brainer (for me). But what would I lose if anything (just using Premium features as an example compared to Plus at $35 a year)?

  • 10GB versus 1GB (again, not a huge loss as I never exceeded 1GB anyway)
  • Customer support via live chat (not important never used)
  • Search for text in PDFs (only important if you have a lot of PDFs in your notebooks, for me not a feature used)
  • Search for text in Office docs (I go to the source app anyway)
  • Annotate PDFs Scan and digitize business cards (use Xodo for PDF annotation and it’s awesome, use Office Lens for business cards that goes directly to OneNote)
  • Present notes in one click (a really cool feature, I thought they did a great job with it, but with PowerPoint not needed)
  • Browse the history of your notes (Meh…)
  • See related notes and content (Meh…)

Now I will say that an added incentive for me is that I pay $99 a year for my (Microsoft Alumni Network) which includes many other benefits along with Office 365 (Home). So for this reason, I will be letting my Evernote Premium expire at the end of my contract and not renew at any level, and that’s even with the “Valued Subscriber” grandfathering of the next year. Why should I pay for another year after this contract expires… only to prolong the inevitable?

Again… everyone needs to be paid for services and products they deliver. But looking back at the questions and pricing options in the survey… the percentage of increase is exorbitant (for me).

Thank you Evernote for a good product.