Tuesday, January 31, 2006

New ebook/dead-tree combo offer...portant of things to come?

Eric Mack points to one new publisher who appears to be an innovative, or at least new, approach to book publishing.  Publisher, Pragmatic Publishing is giving customers the ability to purchase books in three different ways:
1. Books in print, for this who want the physical book
2. eBooks in unrestricted PDF format with free lifetime updates
3. Combo Book + PDF* for people like me who want to enjoy the book in both formats

If you follow the comments you'll see people asking when mainstream publishers are going this route; Pragmatic is a fairly small publisher.  I would buy books like this in a minute.


Monday, January 30, 2006

Sharpening the axe...in ministry

Brad Isaac writes about Abe Lincoln's productivity secret today. It's reflected in this famous quote:
"Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."

I've been pondering this from the context of productivity in ministrysince I read it . What does my axe-sharpening look like?
1. This one didn't come first, but it should have. Giving attention to your inner life. You cannot be on the outside what you are not on the inside. That is, I cannot be externally (in reality, not just superficially) godly, disciplined, focused, etc., when I am not so internally. This is the beginning place of "productivity." Ultimately, I don't want me quest for productivity to result in making widgets faster and with less effort. I want to be productive so that more people can hear the life-changing Gospel.
2. Building quality, strategic, transformational relationships. This may seem strange in a post about axe-sharpening, but people are the only things that are going to be around 10,000 years from now. People are the vehicles for God's grace, not laptops, phones and PDA's. At the same time, some relationships have more "leverage" than others. My relationship with my wife and kids has both the greatest long-term benefit and the most long-term risk. Blow it with them and most of your other relationships will suffer too.
3. Learn to use your tools. It doesn't matter whether your tools are mechanical, electronic or natural. Since I'm a lttle geeky, I'll mention a couple of a couple computer related things. I am stunned with how much time people spend with computers and how poorly they know how to use them. I know one person who regularly struggles for hours with a web-based email account because they are too busy to set something up in Outlook, Thunderbird, etc. They waste hours waiting for pages to load, attachments to upload, etc. Others have never learned how to type, or never learned a keyboard shortcut. Take some time to learn a new feature about a tool you already use regularly. Doing so saves time, lowers frustration and will help you get things done quicker with better results.
It's been good to reflect on this a little bit this evening. I don't know about you, but all too often I find myself happily banging away on some stupid tree without taking any time to stop and do a little self-reflection. Hmm, I'm off to do a little axe-sharpening.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Who needs electricity...ya, sure

The electricity has been terrible this week!  It’s been going on and off randomly…and staying off for long periods.  Back when we first got here it went off and on like clockwork…mostly.  You could rely on carefully scheduled power outages to screw up your day.  Now, however, you never know when it’s going to go out…or come back on.  I got up about 6:20 today to find the power out and the house cold.  Heating water for coffee on the stove isn’t a big deal, but it’s not as convenient as our ubiquitous hot water heater.  That baby goes from stone cold to boiling in about 30 seconds…when you have power.  Fortunately our wood stove still had hot coals in it.  It went from hot to blazing furnace in about five minutes…a relief when the temps are FAR below zero like they have been this week.

It’s not really a big deal, but its’ a little annoying.  What’s funny is that KEK, the Kosova Electrik Korporation siad that this week all of Kosova would have power rationing of only one hour off, five hours on…during the time of mourning for Rugova.  Watch out, whenever KEK makes a promise of more power you can forget about it.

We’re pretty accustomed to power outages at this point. They’re a daily occurrence.  A guy just has to keep his laptop batteries charged up and he’s in business.  But it is tough when your internet is down, and you can’t read the morning papers with your instant coffee!  It’s such a tough life ;)

Flagging outgoing mail -- More Outlook 12 goodness!

Melissa MacBeth fills us in on more Outlook 12 goodness today.  She’s been blogging a lot about making Outlook, not just an email client, but a productivity center.  I am really, really liking what I’m seeing so far.  For example, all of us get and send email…duh.  But many times we send email about a particular project and can’t take the next step until we receive a particular response.  For example, maybe I’m working on a budget and need Joe’s input before I can finish that budget section.  I send Joe and email, asking for the information and then BCC myself with a dummy address I use for just this purpose, something like JeffsWaitingFor@abc.com.  When I get this email back, I copy it over into a folder called “waiting for.”  Then once a week, or more regularly, I review that list of “waiting for” emails so I’m reminded to check for Joe’s information.  If you work on a small number of projects this isn’t really necessary, but as the amount of email and number of projects grow, it’s important to know always know what are the next actions.  This is all right out of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” which I’ve been working on implimenting for nearly two years.

Today Melissa posts that this isn’t necessary any more.  Now Outlook as a feature that lets you tag email that you’re writing.  This is too cool.  That is, when I write to Joe for budget information, I click “follow-up” which allows me to set a reminder on when to follow up with Joe about his budget information.  The this flagged email message shows up on my task list at the appropriate time.  This is awesome if you like to track your mail this way.

The folks at MS are doing really, really good work on Outlook 12.  Check out her blog for more details.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sony Reader...to ebooks like iPod is to music?

The Wall Street Journal has an article on Sony's new Reader device. It is the first device to use the new digital ink technology that is supposed to be super good for batteries and super easy on the eyes. If memory serves, it uses the battery only to flip the little pixels from black to write...that it, only when you turn your page.
I love digital books. I probably read more books electronically now than in paper. Do I miss paper books? Sure I do. Do I like having real, genuine paper books on my book shelf? You betcha. BUT, they're horribly inconvenient. Since I always have either my laptop or my Sony CLIE in my pocket, I always have an ebook with me. Maybe it's a novel, maybe it's a free classic or something new from Amazon.
Some time ago I cross-posted Michael Hyatts posts here, here and here. Michael is the CEO or Thomas Nelson and is all eyes on the electronic book market. In some ways this new Sony device has all the makings of a great device. Michael wrote about the necessity of making the product iPod-like...that is, a simple process from purchase to download to grab-and-do. According to the WSJ, several publishers have made arrangements with Sony to do just this...provide an iTunes type experience.
I still don't know what I think about a dedicated ebook reader. I can't envision buying one myself. Why bother when I can buy what I want and read it on my laptop or Palm? the new device boasts 7,500 page turns per charge. But good grief, as bad as the electricity is here in Kosovo, I can still charge my gadets. I don't know, I'm not convinced, but I'm happy to see them try!

Performancing 1.1 released

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Tabletology and Office 12

The ladies at Tabletology are blogging about Office 12.  They've said they haven't violated the non-disclosure agreement that we all have to sign.  I've been using this for the last month and can agree with their conclusions.  I love this version of Office!  I think you're going to too.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Acrobat and Naked Conversations

I’ve been reading ebooks for a long time.  But last night I downloaded my first Adobe Acrobat formatted ebook, Naked Conversations, by Robert Scoble and Shel Isreal.  I had been eye-balling this book since I first started “hearing” Robert talk about it in the beginning.  When it was finally published, I definitely wanted to read it.  But how to get it?   I assumed I would order it from Amazon and have someone “mule” it over for me from the US in the spring.    I was very surprised, therefore, to find a digital edition on Amazon.  Until now, all the ebooks I’ve purchased have been through Fictionwise or E-reader.  I had never really considered Amazon as an ebook retailer!  I don’t know how I missed that.


I started reading and immediately found things I wanted to underline, highlight or remember.  Acrobat does’t handle annotations all that well, nothing like “PDF Annotator.”  But I learned that it does do some things PDF Annotator doesn’t.  I had a vague memory of Tracy at StudentTabletPC talking about using Acrobat to annotate.  I went back to search on her site and found this post.


Oh my word.  When you underline or highlight in Acrobat it actually keeps a reference of all those things you’ve marked up.  You can’t mark up in ink, but you can underline and highlight.  One of my good friends is working on his doctoral dissertation on leadership development dynamics in the Balkans and I immediately thought of him.  Can you imagine doing serious research and marking up your ebooks as you go?  When you’re done working through a book you can generate an abstract of all the comments you made, complete with page number!


I’m not sure I’m converted to Acrobat as an ebook reader yet, but it sure has a lot of potential.  If Adobe would just get on the bus and support ink, we’d they’d have a pretty killer app.  Okay, now I’m going to get back to my reading.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Loren says: Can software lure you away from the keyboard?

Loren, the creator if InkGestures says:

Marc Orchant: "Ink Gestures has increased my 'Tablet Time' significantly. I've remarked on any number of occasions that I continue to favor the convertible form factor for Tablet PCs because of the amount of writing and editing I do every day. In the short time I've had to experiment with Ink Gestures, I've found that I can now spend a much greater amount of time in slate mode using the pen than has ever been possible before."

My experience is similar. Case in point: I used to never use the built-in ink features in Word. I don't know why. I just never did. Then I stared using InkGestures while working in Word. And my mindset started changing. Word's built-in ink support didn't seem so far removed from how I was working. So I started using it more. I can't imagine going back and only typing in Word.

Yep, one application or one feature can change the way you use another.

InkGestures beta available for download

I’ve been following Loren Heiny’s work on this for some time now.  It looks like a killer use for anyone with a tablet that does a lot of editing in word.  Using the blow gestures you can insert new text, change formatting, change line spacing, etc., all without ever tromping through a nested menu.  Very sweet.  Download a copy of InkGestures and try it out.  Here is a sample of the gestures.  It’s still in beta, so more are likely.  The tablet just keeps extending its usefulness on so many levels!


Lifehacker: 11 minutes before the next interruption

Here are some stunning studies on productivity of the American worker.  Can you believe this?  The average office worker can focus for only 11 minutes before they’re interrupted.  I work from my home with a six year old and a four year old and I thought I was interrupted a lot!!
 Constantly-distracted workers in busy offices are able to focus on a task for an average of 11 minutes before they're interrupted, a new University of California study shows.

Once they were interrupted, it took on average of 25 minutes to return to the original task, if they managed to do so at all that day. Workers in the study were juggling an average of 12 projects each, a situation one subject described as "constant, multi-tasking craziness".

This is the same study cited by the TIME magazine article we pointed out yesterday. While the results aren't hard for me to believe, the study used a random sample of 36 office workers to get this data. I'm no researcher, but that seems like a small group to me. What do you think, lifehackers? About how long are you able to focus on a task before you get interrupted at the office?



Saturday, January 07, 2006

Productivity-Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Great post from 'a million monkeys typing.' I don't know about you, but I regularly tweak with my productivity system. I've pretty much settled down to Outlook, Onenote and a Moleskine journal (plus my Sony Clie for mobile work. But the relationship between Outlook and Onenote has huge potential that can always be massaged. Plus, in Outlook you can always change the screen fonts, filters, categories to get things just "right." The moleskine I use regularly when I'm out visiting with people in villages, or homes here in town, or drinking coffee in a café. It doesn't pay to be too highly visible as a gear hound.

I think I'm a confirmed Tinker/Spy. What about you?

a million monkeys typing » Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Posted January 4th, 2006 at 12:35pm

I’ve lately been coming to grips about why so many people (myself included) spend so much time constantly tweaking their productivity systems. This is an evolving thought, so bear with me while I let my brain leak for a bit.

While the most apparent reason, of course, is procrastination –tweaking our systems makes us feel like we’re somehow accomplishing something while simultaneously avoiding any real work– I’ve noticed that there are four chief archetypes of people that obsess about their systems (although I doubt that anyone of us is wholly one or the other). I’m calling them Tinker, Tailor, Soldier and Spy.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Skype 2.0 official released

For all you missionaries using Skype, version 2.0 is out.  I’ve been running the beta for the last several days and it has some nice features.  It’s more customizable and has some nice new options.  For example, you can now group contacts.  I have all my missionary colleagues in one group for example, family in another.  It also supports video.  Most of us probably aren’t going to have the bandwidth for this, it’s nice to know it’s available. 


The Skype website also says:

  • Enjoy our best ever call quality.
  • Easily sort your contacts into groups like ‘colleagues’, ‘friends’ and ‘family’.
  • Change your mood message and show your local time, so people know where you are and how you’re feeling.



Hat tip to Mark Orchant


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Answering Tablet Questions

Trevor has been writing some high-quality posts lately. His latest is on typical tablet questions. You've definitely got to check this out if you're interetsed in tablets. I don't usually get the kinds of questions other tablet users get. I can't really take my tablet out around town in Kosovo. It's just not appropriate in a place like this. In a country with seventy percent unemployment I try to keep a low profile technologically. My tablet didn't cost any more money than the average high-quality laptop, but it sure looks like it did. Anyway, I second all of Trevor's points here. Plain-old laptop users, we are among you and we are growing stronger. ;)

The Student Tablet PC: Answering Common Tablet Questions
Answering Common Tablet Questions

Owning a tablet makes us a bit more unique than other students (or people in general). Tablets still aren't mainstream, and until they are we tableteers inevitably face all sorts of questions, comments, and criticism about our amazing devices. From the "hey that's a giant palm pilot!" to the "Where's the keyboard?" to the "OMG, you just broke your laptop!!"

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Office 12 Screen Shots

If you're curious what the next version of Microsoft Office might look like, head over to Paul Thurrott's site for a peak. Several people are point to this, so I'm not sure who to hat-tip.

Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows: Office 12 Beta 1 Screenshot Galleries

Review of Active Words

Trevor Claiborne over at The Student Tablet PC site has written the review of ActiveWords that I've always wanted to write. He does a great job of explaining the program that really does "make your computer smarter" or "puts the personal back in personal computer". I've been using AW for about a year now and couldn't live without it.
ActiveWords saves me huge amounts of time by automating things I do every day. Check out Trevor's review and see if this wouldn't make your life easier.

The Student Tablet PC: ActiveWords Overview
ActiveWords Overview

Now that Buzz has essentially made activewords free to all tablet users (link)[Correction: The free ActiveWords offer expired on 12/31/05. ActiveWords does offer a generous 60-day trial, and the program is WELL worth the money], now's the time to check it out. I also figured that there would be a lot of new activeword users, and I wanted to help get them up to speed and introduce them to some of the more powerful functions of activewords. More after the jump...