Saturday, August 22, 2009


Image representing Evernote as depicted in Cru...

My number one software recommendation right now is Evernote. As stated on their website:
Evernote allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at any time, from anywhere. Did we mention that it's free?
My use case is that through my day I read a lots of various information that is useful but not directly applicable. Evernote helps me capture and organize that information for a later date. Have you ever seen something online and thought "wow, that's cool" or "that will be useful to remember", but then haven't none what to do? Bookmarking helps, but there are deficiencies with that (e.g., you can't easily search the content of bookmarks, bookmarks are usually local to one computer, the content of the bookmark could change by the time you go back to). In addition, not all information is gathered online. There are emails received, or books and articles that are read. Capturing the useful info from those sources are important to.

How do you get information into Evernote?
Getting information into Evernote is easy as there are many ways:
  • Download the software application (for Mac or Windows) and use one of the shortcuts to create a new note and store the info.
  • Install one of the browser plugins that will allow you to select text, hit a button, and have the info imported into Evernote.
  • Download the iPhone/Blackberry app for entering info or taking pictures that get put into your Evernote account.
  • Send test/pictures to your Evernote provided email address. These emails will automatically show up in your account.
  • When you print, choose the "Evernote" printer, and instead of getting sent to a physical printer, it will show up in your Evernote account as a PDF.

What you can do once the information is in Evernote?
  • My favorite thing is that you can apply tags to information. You can say that this note concerns "church", "money", and "prayer" for example. Tagging is way better than traditional heirarchal folder structures because it more flexible.
  • All images that are stored in Evernote have optical character recognition (OCR) applied so that you can search the text within the image. I think this feature is huge for people with portable cameras of decent quality (e.g., iPhone users). This means you can take a photo of a menu, some hand written notes, or a whiteboard, and then be able to search for the content within it.
What else is awesome about Evernote?
  • As stated above, Evernote is free. In the free version you see a tiny ad in the bottom-left hand corner for things like Skype or backup solutions. They are what I would call reputable ads. The free version also limits you to putting 40MB of information into Evernote per month. If you're primarily putting in text (which is my case), that's more than enough. If you're putting lots of images, you could hit this barrier, but then there is the premum service for $5 or $45 per year that removes all these restrictions.
  • Evernote is cross platform. It works on Mac, Windows, iPhone, Blackberry, and any web browser. As much as I love my Mac, I always try to have flexibility.
  • Evernote syncs between any computer/device that you have configured. This is absolutely huge for me. This means I can put information into Evernote on my work computer and come home to find it on our personal computer. In addition, Evernote has a web-interface that one can use to put information in or get information out from any computer. I just used this functionality heavily when planning a surprise weekend for Kara to celebrate our anniversary. Things would come to me while I was at work, and so I would quickly enter them into my "3rd Year Anniversary" note in Evernote, and they would be there as soon as I logged into my account at home.
  • Evernote is not just sombody's cool software project. It's part of a larger mission by the company to help with staying organized and being productive. Evernote is the primary tool they help do that. Reading Evernote's blog reveals all kinds of helpful hints.
I'm 99% certain that Evernote can help you in one way another, and that it's flexible enough to work within your environment. Let me know if you have any questions or need any help.


Do you find yourself moving files around between computers often, or needing to send files to someone else to quickly review? If so, you really should checkout Dropbox at As stated on their website, Dropbox replaces:
  • Emailing file attachments to yourself and other people
  • Using USB drives to move files between computers
  • Renaming files to keep a history of previous versions
  • Complicated backup software
  • FTP servers, system-specific sharing methods, Network Attached Storage (NAS)
You simply copy files to your "dropbox" folder (a folder you set up anywhere on your computer), and anytime a file is added to it, it will automatically be synced to other computers that you have Dropbox set up. In addition, the files will be saved (and encrypted) on Dropbox's servers so that you can access any of your "dropbox" folder files through the web browser as well.

Specific ways I've been finding this useful:
  • There are two computers I primary use: personal MacBook Pro and work-provided MacBook. I try to do personal stuff on the MBP and work stuff on the MB, but that isn't always the case. Whether it's journaling, writing cards, etc., these activities can often be done on my work-provided laptop. As long as I save the files in my Dropbox, they instantly show up on my home machine as well.
  • Sometimes I need to share files with other people. Emailing the files isn't that bad, but it can clog one's inbox. Instead, I just put the file in my dropbox, and then generate a url to the file that I can email/IM instead. Here's an example file you can access through my Dropbox:
A few other notes:
  • Dropbox works on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux so you aren't locked into one platform.
  • You get 2GB of storage free. If you want more, you pay. 2GB free is still great.
  • Dropbox competes somewhat with Microsoft's Mesh. I have used Mesh, but at least on the Mac side, it felt too heavy-weight and intrusive.
  • All changes to files are saved on Dropbox's servers. You can easily view an older version of a file later.
Let me know if you have any Dropbox questions or issues. We'll see what we can do to help!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Motivations of Lean

Core to Lean is the removal of waste. Anything in your process that doesn't provide value is waste. In talking with my dad, I realized that for the Japanese who have pioneered Lean, the removal of waste is focused on for two main reasons:
  1. Respect for the environment - If you're eliminating waste, whether due over-production, defects, excess transportation, etc., you're inevitably having less impact on the environment.
  2. Respect for people - If 90% of your process is waste, you're not respecting your employees, or you're at least not respecting them near as much as you could. It's like saying that 90% of what you work on provides no value. That doesn't do much for one's self-worth. People are so much more content and productive when they know that the work they're doing provides value.

Lean in Software Development

I was fortunate to be able to take a week off of my usual responsibilities at work and partake in a Kaizen event with the Customer Service team. You can do a lot of reading online about Lean and Kaizen, but in summary, a cross section of employees were gathered together to work on specific problems identified within the company. The expectation is that within the week, tangible solutions have been implemented and the processes under scrutiny are improved.

There is so much that can be said about this, but one thing I wanted to take away was how Lean principles can be applied to software development. It turns out that many have already explored this concept. I'm still going through the resources I found, but wanted to post them in case anyone else is interested.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

When challenged to write a psalm...

The stream is flowing as people are growing,
but I feel it just passes me by.
I was a rocket with moon-bound trajectory,
but now I wonder if I will hit the clouds.

Basics, God, of soaking in your Word or hearing your voice elude me.

I have settled in my relationship with you.
Nothing excites me.
I feel that I am drifting Lord, lacking real purpose.
I wonder if I make you smile anymore.

This seems trivial, but it feels like a tar pit.
Will you show your mercy, and free me from these invisible webs?

When I say, "I surrender",
will you give me the courage to do what that means?
When I say, "I want to put your words into practice",
will your Spirit empower me sufficiently?

You truly are my only hope,
help me not to let go.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

How I call my grandma in Newfoundland for free

My grandma lives on the eastern tip of Canada in Newfoundland. She doesn't have a computer, which means no email, iChat, or Skype-to-Skype. She only has a phone. We live in Costa Rica. We can use Skype to call her (which is still very reasonable), but why pay when you can do it free?


Google Voice muy pronto!

  1. Get a Google Voice account. In order to activate your account, you have to have a US number to link with it. There are many ways around this problem, but I have a Seattle-based work number, so just went that route. Google Voice in turn gives you a real phone number that anyone can call. It also enables you to make free calls anywhere in the US or Canada. When you dial a number with Google Voice, it rings the phone number associated with you account, and when you pick up, it then connects you with the number you dialed. I want to be able to do this at home where I don't have access to my work phone, so we....
  2. Created a Gizmo5 account. Gizmo5 is like Skype in that it provides a software interface on your computer for receiving and making calls. Google Voice can be configured to dial your Gizmo5 software instead of a real phone. You can read more about this solution at:
As a result, I type in my grandma's number into the Google Voice website, it then rings my Gizmo5 software. I accept the call on Gizmo5, and 5 seconds later I am talking with my grandma. We spoke for 30 minutes and there was not a single charge. Awesome.