Evernote is good, but it’s not everything…

Well, my setup for my mobile life is slowly coming together.  Firstly, I have a Blackberry for when I am out and about – full integration into Exchange server hosted by WebCentral.  It’s an expensive approach by the time Telstra and Webcentral have their cut, but it works well and is my primary mobile device.  Then I have two laptops – a Dell Vostro 1500 (the luggable for power-computing) and an HP Mini-Note 2300 for mobile computing (it’s small, light, and light-powered but does what’s necessary – mostly).  I have an HP Media drive that I use to synch files between the luggable and the HP – I’m currently using SyncToy from evil Microsoft to synchronise the files, although I did try SyncBack as well.  SyncToy is generally easier to use but its reputation is not as solid as SyncBack’s – my trouble with SyncBack is its complete lack of feedback as to what it’s actually synced and what it hasn’t.  I use GMail for my personal email, and it runs on my mobile based upon the Google Apps hosted solution. 

I also use Office Document Imaging to convert all my filenotes to PDF, so that they become part of my backup routine.  Ironically, the only thing I don’t keep electronically like this is my accounting records, as one day I may actually hand them over to an accountant.  And much to my annoyance I continue to use Office 2007 after a run-in with Open Office – it completely lost a major spreadsheet on me by overwriting a filename and annoying me somewhat – also Open Office files (native) don’t seem to be indexed by Copernic, my desktop searching engine.  I use ThinkingRock to manage my tasks and projects and todo lists (I did revert to Outlook tasks, which was good for mobility, but bad for trying to manage projects and generally implement GTD).  The new version of ThinkingRock 2 is much more polished so I am coming back to the TR fold (I was silly for going away, even if I did get mobility out of Outlook tasks). 

Finally, I use Evernote for little snippets of information that I collect and need to refer to, or that I stumble across while I’m researching stuff for papers I’m presenting and so on.  What is fantastic about Evernote is it’s ability to bring a lot of material together in one place, treat it the same, tag it, and bring it back, and do it from multiple vectors (PC, Mac, Internet, mobile phone) and keep it all in synch, for a reasonable price.  If used well, it can be very good.  A major difference from version 2 is the lack of version control.  I also originally came across Evernote while searching for a personal wiki approach, and EverNote doesn’t really support that type of functionality, it keeps it simple stupid.  I now use WikidPad to do that sort of thing.

Overall, Evernote is a great repository for keeping research together, and keeping things in synch between multiple devices (as you can see above, a fair chunk of my setup is devoted to synching stuff between machines.So it’s a great tool for doing what says it does.  Unfortunately it means I no have Yet Another Place with information stored – files (which I index with Copernic), some websites and now Evernote.  I wonder if my stuff in Evernote will convert over in a few years time – hopefully it’s successful and continues to operate, otherwise I will have a lot of information contained in Evernote that can’t be migrated to anything else.

I suppose in some ways it’s not unlike Lotus Notes, ironically, in its original syncing format, although it’s not collaborative I guess.  It is personally focussed.  Still it’s worth my $A47 for a premium subscription, and I’ll think about where it goes from here.  It’s a good tool to add to my suite of stuff I use, but it’s probably not going to be my nirvana for file and information management any time soon. 

Maybe one day I’ll get there.

HP 2133 Mininote Update

Still a good machine to work on.  Showed it to my physio who was very happy with the way the screen folds back – don’t have to hold your neck at an unnatural angle as much as some bigger notebooks he’s seen. 

Used it on my recent trip to Townsville – I think though that if you have neck and back problems (like I do) you have to be careful not to hurt your back with poor posture (although, it’s great for laying back in an armchair while you type away, that’s not something that clients tend to like!). 

The machine was great to work on and fine for giving a Powerpoint presentation.  Don’t expect to play Age of Conan on it – a graphically demanding game.  In fact, don’t expect to pay pretty much any game out in the past three years, particularly if you stick with Vista (as I have done so far). 

You get much better battery life if you turn off the wireless – about an hour and a half I felt.  You can get better battery life too if you switch it to the ‘power saver’ mode – but if you do that, expect to feel jealous of people with an abacus nearby.  It is probably a good idea if you load up your required program, and then turn on power saver.  Seriously – I was copying about 100MB to my USB stick and it was scheduled for 15 minutes.  I upped the power to high performance – et voila, 3 minutes. 

A seriously good machine that I can use, with a decent hard drive on it and a great little screen.  I need to be better with posture though when using it (incidentally, I think the 6-cell battery would be bad for ergonomics, not good, since it raises it up at the back which will throw your neck out something shocking). 

Screen is still no good in daylight. 

As for problems – still none after several weeks use.  It was good to work on on the plane (brilliant in fact) and plenty of grunt for doing work (unless you’re into graphically intensive stuff, who needs that kind of power – maybe if you had a large spreadsheet it would be a problem). It’s great to type on.  I did five hours of interviews using it and it was very usable (again, watch the posture, probably my main beef so far).  I even installed it on my 22" monitor and the speed was perfectly adequate.

I just won’t try to play Age of Conan on it,

Where I work – my office

The CPA Australia Information Technology and Management Centre of Excellence is currently sponsoring research into Telework – which is essentially telecommuting.  One of the things that people frequently don’t realise is that, as an employer, when they have staff working from home there is some element of responsibility for the environment of work in which that person is working.

As a little bit of fun, Jan Barned (the CoE’s policy advisor) and I swapped photos of offices.  Although I won’t publish Jan’s photo here, she essentially has a purpose-built arrangement for the office, and it looks very usable.

I’ve also invested some time (and expense) into setting my office up to be comfortable for when I work from home. Although it is a converted bedroom, it’s functional, spacious, light and airy, and has mostly everything I need (in particular, I can make a coffee pretty darn quickly, which is paramount).

I give you, the avid reader, my office in all its glory:

Please note that I am not saying that this is best practice for someone setting up their office.  Those cd racks look like they could fall any minute, and my boomerang on the top of the bookshelf constantly threatens to do its job and brain me (that’s a memento from an international conference I attended for Horwath in 2001 – and of course it was held in of all places, Sydney!).

See my qualifications on the wall? Someone should – CPA Australia qualification and my degree, and it the other wall I set a mural wallpaper I got online so the office can look  beautiful as well.  The President’s award, though, is not being treated well – after four years it is still in the toast-rack on top of my desk.

Out to the pool – I did say it was light and airy.  The pool filter can turn on at inopportune times though.

It looks even more spacious from the pool.

That Hewlett Packard L7500 printer sure uses a lot of ink.  Expensive ink.

Everything at my fingertips in my office/manroom.

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The HP2133 Mini-Note – unboxed

Well, the netbook arrived.  Harris Technologies were true to their word, and it actually arrived on the day they said it would.  What follows are the traditional unboxing photos.

Immediately prior to the magnificent unboxing.  All environmentally-friendly cardboard too.  Notice the judicious use of the Kylie Chan book – the box is barely bigger than the book.  

And again…

Yep – that’s a box all right.

Having opened the box, removed the tray and looked inside – it’s all kind of sparse, isn’t it?


Everything that’s in the box – except of course for the work of literature that is Kylie Chan’s White Tiger – a good read by the way if you like to read about supernatural kung fu queens of the sea.

It is small.  Really quite small.  The screen here is of course the cleanest it will ever be. 

Ta-da – the mini-beast. 

A comparison between the Vostro 1500 and the HP 2133 mini-note. 

Oh look, my Vostro wanted to hold the baby while it was booting up for the first time (which by the way takes an inordinate amount of time).      

As for first impressions, it’s a good little machine. The keyboard is an absolute delight and the weight is pretty good.  Battery life is abysmal – I only got the three-cell because weight is the primary concern here.  Although the store says I should get 2.5 hours out of it, I’m getting about an hour and a half. That is with wifi turned on, I suppose.  It would be better if I didn’t use the internet on battery – but… that’s kinda the point.  

The other thing the mini-note gets pinged for is the placement of the mouse buttons to the left and right of the glidepad.  Frankly I think it’s a storm in a keycup – you’re going to need to be flexible if you’re going to switch between your main machine and a second machine, and I haven’t found it to be really a problem as a user. 

The screen marks easily with fingerprints but that’s hardly an issue. 

It does get really, really hot on your lap – it won’t perch readily on your knobbly knees without burning a hole through the cartilage in your kneecap. 

There’s no software on cd or dvd, which is a slight annoyance for me, and neither is there any attempt at a carry case – for some reason I thought there would be such a thing.  It doesn’t matter, it tucks away handily into a folio. 

I’ve got the 1.6Ghz Via with 2GB RAM running Windows Vista Business (for now).  It is probably a crime against humanity to have Vista Business on such a low-powered machine.  Truly – a crime against humanity.  Although you can turn Aero on, it’s a bit like a blunt dentist’s drill without a powercord – both pointless and useless. I shudder to think how the lower-powered machines (1.2ghz and 1gb RAM) run – I believe you can get them with Vista on them. 

I held out for the 2GB RAM version – and I’m glad I did.  Vista is tolerable with everything turned down, and I get a Windows Experience score of 2.0 – due to the limited processor. 

Video playback on Youtube, I’ve noticed, is a bit choppy, and even when booting up the Windows sound chops up.  Overall – Windows Vista is tolerable but don’t expect to play any huge games on it.

However, out of the box it does exactly what it says it will do.  The weight is very good, the size is even better, the keyboard is not noticeably different to full-size (for power-users – note that the page up, page down, home and end keys are FN-alterative keys rather than getting their own dedicated key – a problem for typists like me).  I doubt it would ever be your main machine, although you could put in an external keyboard, mouse & monitor and work with it generally OK.  That may be an option for someone with no high-end needs. There’s plenty of disk space and a capacity to run software that isn’t games or video-editing. 

Compared to the ASUS eee-pc, which first got me interested in getting a small notebook, the HP2133 is streets ahead.  The Asus wins out on battery life, processor power (I think, anyway) and I also suspect ruggedness (because it’s very plastic, you feel like you can chuck the ASUS in the backpack and move on with your life – I suspect you probably won’t do that with the HP2133).  There is really no comparison though – you can take your files with you on a business trip with the HP2133, and do some real work with the HP’s keyboard – which I consider to be about the most important aspect of using such a small notebook.  If I wanted a fiddly keyboard, I’d tap things out on my Blackberry.  The eee-pc’s keyboard was just unusable. 

No case of buyer’s remorse yet.  For me it will be good on flights, interstate trips, commuting hops and meetings.  I don’t know that I would like to have to work off it all day – that would kill your back and your eyesight, but overall it’s a great machine for the money that does what it says it will do – and what else can you ask for? 

Thinking Rock 2.0 to Outlook Import Code – Provided as is and all disclaimers!

A commenter (Richard Brand) on an earlier post asked for the code I used to import only the active tasks into Outlook from the xml file.  I do believe this is possibly the worst programming code ever written, but it works, mostly, for how I used it at any rate.

I should note though that when I do the import into Outlook, it regularly freezes my Blackberry Task list so that I have to do a hot boot (take out the battery) to reset it (it comes up with a java error).

Code provided as is, without warranty, use it at your own peril and, quite frankly, it probably won’t work for you :).  But you may be desperate enough to try.

Note:  you will need to put this into an Outlook VB code module, and link that to a button the toolbar (which you click to do the import).  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you probably shouldn’t be trying this.  You will also need to provide the path to your TR file (“myFile” is the variable).  All tasks imported from TR have the category “ZZZ Thinking Rock”.  Projects are ignored (Outlook doesn’t want to know about them), but project tasks that are currently active are brought over.  At the end of this process, all active tasks are imported into Outlook.

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