Friday, April 28, 2006

Interesting blog for travelers

Most missionaries end up being fairly savey travelers.  They are accustomed to flying as absolutely as cheaply as possible, packing lightly and being inconvenienced regularly at small, not-quite-modern airports.  InFlightHQ is subtitled, “Tools, Tips and Techniques for being productive at 30,000 feet.  It’s full of news and information for the fequent traveler.  Recent posts include:

Flying While Sick

Standing Room Only?

Personal Aroma Zone

Luggage That Weighs Itself

Getting over Jetlag

This is pretty good stuff if you end up in airports very often. 

via JKOnTheRun

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Secrets of a Great Handshake

Everyone has to shake hands with people occasionally.  Some people do it more than others.  Pastors and missionaries do it a lot.  As with any other “profession,” you only have once chance to make a first impression.  While it may sound really nerdy, few of us have ever had any instruction on how to give a proper handshake.  Seriously.  This was never taught in seminary and I’m convinced that the result is a long tradition of limp-wristed, flacid, fishy hand-shaking pastors.

Manager Tools is a great website dedicated to offering management advice that is behavior-oriented, actionable and practical.  Why does a missionary give a rip about manager tools?  In the last few months they’ve had some great podcasts on everything from presentations, to managing email, communicating effectively with a boss and working on a team.  Way back in February, Manager Tools featured a great podcast on the handshake.  If you work with people and especially if you meet new people regularly, I’d recommend you give it a listen. 


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Financial Times on Getting Things Done

Linton Chiswick, of the Financial Times has just written a great summary of Getting Things Done, a book and methodology that keeps my boat floating.  In the article, Chiswick gives an brief but thorough overview of the system for achieving “stress free productivity.”  The article will only be available for a couple of days before it disappears behind FT’s pay-only firewall.

I’ve been practicing GTD for nearly two years now and, while I’m not sure I have “stress-free productivity” it’s really helped me get things done.  If you’re not familiar with the book or system, check out the article.

via Office Evolution

Friday, April 21, 2006

Is Skype a secure way of communicating?

I’ve written before that Skype is saving our mission thousands of dollars each year in telcom costs.  But is it secure?  We have personnel in some fairly hairy places…are they being listened in on?

Probably not, expert testers say.  It turns out that plucking a Skype call out of net traffic is pretty difficult.  Check out the article here.

ExtremeVoIP gave Art Reisman this weighty Sherlock Holmesian assignment- try to get under the hood of Skype and see how easy it is to detect and block. Or not.

Chief Technical Officer of  APConnections, (known for thier NetEqualizer packet-shaper products) Reisman came more than qualified for the assignment. 

But guess what. He came away with the sense that Skype traffic is more difficult to block and detect than Skype's many detractors think it is.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Unintentional Cross-posts

Over the last week I’ve been trying out Blogjet, a fantastic tool for writing and managing blog posts.  I started trying to use this product about a year ago, but earlier versions could never handle the proxy server that I use…or something.  Anyway, it never quite worked until I downloaded the latest version a couple of weeks ago.  It’s awesome!  Unfortunately, I’ve unintentionally posted missionary stuff to my geek blog and vice-versa.  For those of you who read my blogs directly from the web you may never have noticed.  For those of you who use a feed-reader, you’re probably getting irritated or wondering why I’m posted stuff to both blogs I write.  The answer my friend, is sheer carelessness.  I’ll try to do better in the future.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Ten things every Microsoft Word user should know

Learning how to really use the software we’ve already bought is one of the best ways to save money and increase productivity.  General Disarray recently posted “Ten things every Microsoft Word user should know.”  You’ll find some great times-savers here.  In the introduction they write:

Most people use word processors like MS Word like they would use a typewriter — manually making section headers bold and centered, inserting hard breaks between paragraphs, etc. This formatting method is fine for short documents, but for long documents that include multiple sections, figures, tables and other elements that need to be styled consistently throughout the text, it pays to learn Word's advanced features.

I think they are right.  Here is their list of the top ten things you should know about Word.

    1. Styles
    2. Header styles and the Table of Contents
    3. Table styles
    4. Character styles
    5. Line and page breaks
    6. Captions and cross references
    7. Turn off auto formatting
    8. Character-based formatting
    9. Continue previous list
    10. Keyboard shortcuts

Though I’ve used most of these from time to time, number 9 & 10 have personally saved me the most time.  Keyboard shortcuts are one of the simplest and most powerful ways to save time.  Every time you take your hands off the keyboard and reach for the mouse you’re wasting time.  It’s not that “wasting time” is the greatest evil, but wouldn’t you rather get the work done and do something more fun? 

Via Lifehacker - TabletKiosk eo Video Review

We’re finally seeing our first, real, live Origami Ultra Mobile PC in the hands of normal reviewers.  A company called TabletKiosk has been circulating the first production Origami or UMPC computers to some of my favorite bloggers recently.   Named the “eo,” this class of computer may just be the PDA killer I first wrote about in this post back in March. 

Rob Bushway just posted his initial comments about it here and his video review here .  A couple of weeks ago James Kendrik also reviewed this unit and has written about it here and here  and done a video review here.

I’m excited to see these, though the price point is higher and the battery life shorter than I would have liked.  This is a product line that has some real possibilities.

  • Visit the TabletKiosk website
  • Visit
  • Tuesday, April 18, 2006

    On guys secrets of success

    Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, recently wrote about one of the secrets of his success.  His answer may surprise you! 

    I'm not sure I could boil it down to one thing. Life isn’t usually that simple. But if I really, really had to boil it down to one thing, I would say this: responsiveness. So many people I meet are unresponsive. They don’t return their phone calls promptly. They don’t answer their emails quickly. They don’t complete their assignments on time. They promise to do something and never follow through. They have to be reminded, prodded, and nagged. This behavior creates work for everyone else and eats into their own productivity. Sadly, they seem oblivious to it.

    Read the whole post, it is worth your while.  This quote really struck a cord with me because it’s one thing I’m striving for.  I want to be the kind of person my peers and superiors can count on.  If I say I’m going to do X by Y, I want to nail it every time.  Mostly I don’t.


    On the other hand, responsiveness has a less positive side.  Face it, people have different sets of expectations for different people.  Responsive people create higher expectations for themselves and other people, responsive or not, hold them to those high, self-created  expectations.   If you answer every email within twenty-hours, people may be irritated with you if you fail to answer theirs within 48 hours…regardless of how long it they take to answer email.  Oh well, that’s life.

    Online spell checking in 28 languages

    Here is just the thing for the internet connected, multi-lingual missionary.  I regularly have to spell-check documents in the Albanian language.  Fortunately, I have an Albanian language dictionary for Microsoft Word.  There instances though, when I need an online spell checker for a blog entry, a forum, technical support request, or something else. 

    Orangoo provides online spell-checking in 28 langauges.  Simply type in your text, or copy and past it in, and Orangoo does the checking for you.Organgoo

    Languages include: Bahasa Indonesia, Ceština, Dansk, Deutsch, e???????, English, Español, Eesti keel, Français, ????????, ?????, Hrvatski, Italiano, Latviešu, Lietuviu, kalba, Magyar, Nederlands, Norsk, Polski, Português, Româna, Slovenšcina, Slovencina, Suomi, Svenska, Türkçe and ???????!

    via Lifehacker

    Friday, April 14, 2006

    Personal Productivity: Getting rid of junk

    This summer my family will enter into many missionaries’ quadrennial adventure…home assignment.  This will be our first opportunity, but I’m already learning how much junk even a lowly missionary can accumulate in four years time.  That’s why Rick Brenner’s article, “How not to accumulate junk” struck both my fancy and my funny bone.  Check out his article, it applies equally to folks in the US and expats like myself.

    Brenner outllines a long series of rules for keeping junk.  His method of getting rid of junk?  First check out his rules on accumulating junk:

    Here are my rules (plus some others) for accumulating junk:

    • I might need it someday
    • I can't remember why I'm saving this, but it might be important
    • I think I can get rid of this, but I'm not 100% sure
    • I know I'll use this eventually, when I get the time (or energy)
    • I don't need this now, but if I ever do need one, it will either be expensive or impossible to find
    • Remember when we used these? Wow — I bet you can't even get them anymore.
    • Maybe I can sell this on eBay — oops, the going price is still too low.
    • I borrowed this, and I should return it, but I'm so embarrassed that I've had it so long...
    • I can't throw this out — maybe it isn't mine
    • Hmm, I wonder where the missing parts of this are — maybe I'll find them
    • I don't actually know what this is, but I'll keep it until I can figure it out
    • Ah, this is that box of stuff I sealed up when I last moved, thinking I would toss it if I didn't open it in a year. Can't remember what's in it. Better not throw it out yet.
    • This was a real bargain. Be a shame to get rid of it.
    • If I lose X pounds, I know I look good in this
    • This is a great book. I should read it. []
    • This was a great book. Maybe I'll read it again.
    • This was a great movie (album). I know I'll want to watch it (listen to it) again if I ever get another VCR (turntable).
    • Who's that standing next to me in this picture? Better keep it until I can scan it.
    • Ah, my first planner — maybe. You never know when you'll need an alibi for 7:30 AM, Tuesday, March 23rd, 1993.
    • That computer has sensitive data on it. I better keep it until I can erase it. [GreenDisk, Tech Soup and the Computer Recycling Center]
    • Look at that, the postal rates for 1987. Neat-o.
    • I wonder how long I have to keep these financial records. Legally, I mean. Better keep 'em. [Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement]
    • Another ballpoint pen. Might come in handy sometime.
    • Wonder what's on this floppy (Zip disk, removable cartridge, mag tape)? Better keep it for now.
    Did any of these strike a cord?  I’ve kept tons of stuff because “I might need it someday.”  Oh, how I laughed.  Maybe that just because yesterday I threw away a bunch of language learning notes I’ll never look at again.

    Okay…the secret to getting rid of the extra junk that’s falling out of you filing cabinet, closet, desk, [insert junk containment construct].  Break one of your rules each day.   Check out his article for yourself.



    Thursday, April 13, 2006

    TechCrunch writes up GCal

    Okay, for a better write up of Google Calendar check out this post.

    30Boxes vs. Google Calendar

    In early February I wrote about coordinating schedules with your team.  I didn’t actually provide much new information, but rather was asking the question how geographically dispersed teams can do centralized scheduling without the benefit of some big computer in the sky (an exchange server) doing the heavy lifting.  I mentioned 30Boxes at the time as a possible solution.  I’ve been playing with it over the last couple of months and see some great possibilities.  TechCrunch just did a good quick review and it’s worth a read.  Today Google released their Calendar webapp.  I’ve used 30boxes a bit more than Gcal, but I wanted to give an early comparison between the two. 

    Let’s look at 30Boxes first.  First, 30b is very simple to use.  You can type “meeting on Thursday at 2 with Jim” and 30Boxes figures out exactly what you mean and adds that to your calendar.  The ability of 30b to parse real world English is pretty amazing.  It’s not perfect, but it’s very, very handy.  You can even add a bookmarklet to FireFox that, when clicked, opens a little box for adding appointments.  Click “new event”, type in your real English language appointment and it automatically gets added to your 30Boxes calendar. 

    Calendar View– Here’s a view of my calendar from April.  It’s pretty straightforward, not overly sexy.  I’d say it’s clean though.



    Sharing – 30b has all kinds of ways to share your calendar.30bSubscript  First, when you’re entering an appontment you can invite another person to that event simply by adding “” to the end of the description.  Beyond that there are many ways for people to subscribe to your calendar or a subset of it.  You can choose to share the entire calendar, a special shared view or even create a custom view.  Then, as you can see in the picture to the right, each view offers a number of ways for people to subscribe that view.  These include sycing to Outlook 2003 (with an add-in) or 2007.

    Importing – In early March, 30b added this feature, but it’s not nearly as clean as GCal’s.  It’s a great start though and will surely be improved.


    Let’s take a look at Google Calendar now.  It just went public today, as far as I can tell but people have been writing about it for a while though, like here and here and countless other places.  Most folks seem to think that GCal would be released in 2005.

    GCal Calendar View – Here’s how April looks in Google.  Not all the appointments are the same as the 30Boxes calendar because I don’t have everything synced up properly.  Google actually represents my Outlook calendar pretty well, since I imported it.  I really like the Google view better, especially for multi-day activities.  They just seems to pop out better.

    GoogleApril Sharing – Gcal doesn’t offer quite as many sharing options as 30Boxes.Goglecalsubscriptn  Gcal provides you with basically two views and two ways to subcribe, XML or iCal.  I thinks these are solid options, but without the tagging options available in 30boxes, I don’t suppose there are too many choices.

    Importing – GCal hits a home run in this department.  You can import from a variety of sources, including Outlook.  You simply browse to the right file, (CSV or iCal) and away you go.  It’s fast and easy.

    Summary:  For my purposes either of these calendars will work fine.  In 30Boxes favor is the English language appointment parsing and a ravenous user community.  It wasn’t 30Boxes who wrote the Firefox bookmarklet, it was the community.  I don’t think there will be the same kind of adoption for GCal.  While Google gets enormous number of users, I don’t think they inspire the same community of committed developers that other startups (like 30Boxes) do.  Also in 30Boxes’ favor are numerous tagging and subscription options.  There are just all kinds of ways to catagorize, tag and share your information.  30Boxes is really set up to do social calendaring, plugging in well to thinks like chat, Flickr, blogs, etc.

    In GCal’s favor is the ability is the strong user base and the attractive layout.  GCal also offers more calendar views day, month, 4–day, etc.  But it’s primarily a calendaring application that isn’t concerned so much with the social aspects of calendar sharing.  Whether this is a strength or weakness is up to you to decide.

    Tuesday, April 11, 2006

    The year of the tablet? Wrong question...what's most appropriate?

    Rob Bushway wrote a great post on “the year of the tablet” and I think he’s right on the money.  Our emphasis shouldn’t be on the tablet per se, it should be on the experience that ink and a convertible or slate form factor brings.  That experience adds significant productivity and even entertainment value.  Rob writes:

    I believe focusing on "Tablet this" and "Tablet that" is really selling short the future of inking in a multitude of devices. The hardware will happen over time. What we are really interested in is transparency in inking functionality throughout the mobile experience from ultra-mobile device to 17" laptop, from Windows Mail to Outlook, to Search boxes to the Inking on the desktop. Whether that device is a slate, a convertible notebook, touch computer, or an ultra-mobile pc, it doesn't matter. We enjoy the ink experience and see the productivity benefits of it [emphasis added].

    He’s on the button.  I have a passing interest in technology, but I have an abiding interest in what works to help me get stuff done.  Last week I was at our annual field conference in Slovenia.  During one free/meal time I showed up with my Moleskine journal instead of my tablet.  Someone asked me, “Oh, are you giving up on technology?”  “No,” I said, “this is just a better tool for this context.”  Normally, I always have with me either my journal, my Sony CLIE or my tablet PC, depending on the context…depending on what I need to do and where.  Today, for example, I spent the morning in a village looking over some home construction/renovation we’re doing as an organization.  I can’t take my tablet out there, but my Moleskine is perfect.  That’s where the mobile computer trend is heading: more and more appropriate for a given context.

    Check out this chart that Rob included in his post.  It’s from the Moble Platform Division Briefing at Microsoft:

    It’s clear that in the minds of the MPD folks the trend is only getting more “personal” more ubiquitous.  But focus is not on “tablet,” but on usability.  Bring it on. 

    Sunday, April 09, 2006

    The State of Online Feed Readers

    TechCrunch gave a great over view on the state of online Feed Readers or Aggregators.  I think I prefer the term “feed reader” to “aggregator” because it is more clear.  A feed reader lets you “subscribe” to things on the web that you want to read.  It allows you to monitor interesting things without wasting time visiting countless websites.   Feed Readers come in different flavors, web-based, stand alone versions, and plug-ins for Outlook.


    TechCrunch has reviewed nine these web-based readers before, but not in comparison to each other.   The bottom line:

    If you are looking purely for performance, Google Reader and FeedLounge are the fastest in our tests. Bloglines and Rojo are the best choice if you are looking for a feature rich application (and Rojo blows Bloglines away on “web 2.0 type features).   None, however, yet approach the speed and agility of the best desktop based readers like NetNewsWire and FeedDemon.


    Check out the article for details.