Highland High School Choir & Orchestra Concert

This Tuesday, March 1st, the Highland High School Orchestra, which my wife, Rachel, directs, will be holding a concert along with the HHS Choir, directed by Mr. Chris Ilg. The concert begins at 7 PM. The concert is free and is a great chance to hear some great music by great young performers. If you’re interested, here’s where to go on Tuesday night:

Map to Highland High School

Hope to see you there!

App Review: Evernote (iOS/Android)

In the past, when I focused on iOS apps which added Outlook functionality to my iPhone, the one area I neglected to cover was that of note taking. The iPhone and iPod Touch both are able to sync with your notes in Outlook when you plug the device into your PC and perform an iTunes sync. My overarching goal, however, is to cut the cable, regardless of what device I’m using. While using the iPhone, I came across a free service called Evernote which fulfilled this goal while also adding functionality which Outlook notes just don’t do. Now that I’m working with both iOS and Android devices, it is definitely time to take a close look at the Evernote service and the corresponding mobile apps which sync with Evernote.

First, let’s look at the Evernote website, which can be found at http://www.evernote.com/. The site serves as a central repository for information. The premise is simple – Anytime you need to make note of something, whether it be text, audio, or visual, you create a note in your Evernote account and put the information there. With these notes stored in the cloud, you can access them from any computer with a web browser and an Internet connection, which is pretty much any computer on the planet you’ll touch. The free account has a set amount of monthly usage, based on the size of your notes, but I’ve yet to get anywhere near the maximum data cap for a month. You can also download and install a desktop app for your PC which gives you instant access to your notes as well as the ability to format them much like you would a Word doc. Continue reading “App Review: Evernote (iOS/Android)”

Interesting Job Posting

A friend of mine sent me this job posting. If you are interested, contact Kimberly Symonds at ksymonds@momcorps.com.

Job Description:

If you have the desire to be a part of a rapidly growing company, this is the place for you. Our client has an immediate need for a .NET Web Application Developer in the Akron, Ohio area. Our company specializes in the design, development, and manufacturing of next generation arcade kiosks and revolutionary self-automated vending machines. We are currently seeking an experienced .NET developer to maintain and enhance our existing remote management/reporting system.

The ideal candidate combines strong expertise and experience in the relevant technologies, the passion to continuously enhance and improve the products we service, and the desire to be part of a dynamic, fast-paced, cohesive team. This would be a six month contract with possibility of a full-time career.

Basic Skills and Experience Required:

-Strong command of Microsoft technologies (e.g. Windows Server 2008, IIS 7, ASP.NET, C#, SQL Server 2008)

-Strong database design skills and/or web service development experience is a must.

-Strong web design skills and a familiarity with web technologies such as JavaScript, XML, CSS are required.

-Working knowledge of Linux systems and programming in C or C++ is helpful.

-Demonstrated experience designing and implementing enterprise class systems is a plus.

-Motivated, resourceful, team player with excellent communication skills.

-Capable of working independently.

-Sensitivity to delivering on tight deadlines and the ability to remain cool under pressure, along with the ability to adapt to situational demands of work on a moment’s notice.

-Passion for the latest devices, apps, and product design solutions across various industries.

App Review: Got To Do (Android)

Got To DoLike the iPhone, Android phones do not have a built in task management system. If you are a power Outlook user or a proponent of the Getting Things Done (GTD) system, a task manager is important. I have been using both Outlook and the web-based Toodledo service to track my tasks, which is a big reason why I’m able to keep track of what I need to take care of, both at home and at work. On the iPhone, I’ve been using Toodledo’s app, which syncs with their service and gives me the same functionality as the site, but they do not make an Android version. There are a number of Toodledo-compatible apps for Android, some of which are free. One I’ve found which gives me many of the same options as Toodledo’s website is Got To Do (note the initials), an app available in both free (ad supported) and paid versions. Continue reading “App Review: Got To Do (Android)”

Book Review: The Art of Community

My first exposure to Jono Bacon was when he was the host of the FLOSS Weekly podcast on the TWiT podcast network. I really enjoyed his personality and British wit, but, outside of having used the Ubuntu Linux operating system on occasion, I knew little about Jono’s role as Community Administrator at Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, much less why such a position would be useful, for Ubuntu our for any organization. After reading Jono’s book, The Art of Community, I have a much clearer understanding of not only how important it is to support a strong community, but also what it takes to build and fortify a community to be strong.

As I mentioned before, Jono Bacon is the Community Manager for Ubuntu. As a prominent and successful open source operating system, Ubuntu has a large community of proponents, made up of a diverse population of users, developers, documentation experts, and many other areas of expertise and interest. Keeping a community of this size happy, actively involved, and organized is no small task. Jono has taken his experience with the Ubuntu community, as well as with other communities he has been involved with, and passed that knowledge to us. Continue reading “Book Review: The Art of Community”

App Review: AppBrain Android App Marketplace

AppBrain LogoThere’s nothing wrong with Android’s own app marketplace, especially now that Google’s updated the marketplace, making it much more user friendly and accessible on the web. What’s missing, however, is a community which you can access to get great recommendations for apps based on the apps you use, as well as reviews from users which you can use to compare various apps which perform similar functions. The AppBrain Marketplace is here to fill that void.

AppBrain is a free install for your Android phone as well as a website. One of the beauties of AppBrain is that you can sync your installed apps list to your profile on the AppBrain website. By doing this, the AppBrain website can look at your app list, compare it to other users’ lists, and make recommendations for apps which you may find interesting and/or useful. As you install more apps and sync your list on AppBrain, the recommendations become better and better. You can also post your own app reviews, helping other users find apps for their Android phones. Since AppBrain links with your Google account, you don’t need to create an account to participate in the AppBrain community. Continue reading “App Review: AppBrain Android App Marketplace”

Geeks To Peeps: Setting Up My Android Phone, Part Two

Now that we have gone through our Android phone’s settings, it’s time to set up the apps which come with the phone. Many of these are Google related (surprise, surprise), but the functionality they add to the phone, especially when you’re a Google product nutcase like me, give you a device which expands well beyond its functions as a phone and even beyond those of a computer. Imagine a device which handles all of your communication, navigation, entertainment, and work needs, yet is small enough to fit in your pocket. If you own an Android phone, you don’t need to imagine it.

The first thing you need to do is check out the Android Marketplace app. While we are not adding any new apps to our phone at this point, this is where you need to go and make sure all of your current apps are up to date. When you first open the Market app, you will need to accept the Android Market Terms of Service. If you want to read through them all, go right ahead. I’m not going anywhere. Once you accept the agreement, you’ll arrive on the main page of the Marketplace. Almost immediately, the phone may begin downloading updates for all the installed apps. Depending on your connection speed to the Internet, this may happen pretty fast, possibly before you finish reading this paragraph. One of the apps which updates is the Marketplace itself, thanks to a recent overhaul by Google, which makes it much easier to find, install, and update apps on your phone. Once your updates are done, go to the My Apps section in the Marketplace and check to see if there are any apps which did not update automatically. You do have the option to turn on automatic updates for these apps. Just tap on the app in question and check the box for automatic updates.

Now that our apps are up-to-date, let’s start configuring them to our liking. I’m going to focus on apps which are best for productivity (Gmail, Calendar, Contacts) in the next few articles, but there are many other apps which will keep you entertained/distracted/in touch for hours before downloading a single new app onto the phone. If there’s an app which I don’t talk about and you’ d like me to cover, feel free to post it in the comments section and I will talk about it in a later article.

Gmail:
I am focusing on Gmail as opposed to the general Email app as I use Gmail for just about everything, including reading and responding to my work email. As a result, I don’t need to configure anything on the phone to do both personal and work email – the Gmail app covers all of my needs. If you’re a Gmail user, you’re already familiar with using labels, stars, and many of the other functions Gmail offers. What’s impressive is that almost all of those functions are available in the Android app, including the Priority Inbox, which allows you to sort your email by importance, and the ability to send email using another address, such as a work address. Looking at the settings for Gmail, in fact, you can even set your Priority Inbox as your default inbox when you open the app. You also have the option to set up a signature for your email. This will be a different signature from what you have set up on the website and will be the same no matter which address you use to reply, so you may want to make it generic enough to fit both personal and work communications.

If you’d like to avoid accidentally sending or deleting an email, you also have the option to turn on a confirmation message for these and other actions in Gmail. Since it’s easy to accidentally tap the screen and send out that bitchy email you were writing to your friend to the person you were bitching about, you may want to at least turn on this function for the short term and see how you like it. If you tend to use the Reply All option on a regular basis, you can set that as the default when responding to messages so you don’t have to select it every time you reply. Once you’re done with a message and either archive or delete it, you can set Gmail to either go to the next message in your inbox, back to the previous message, or go back to the inbox view. You can also set which labels (folders for you non-Gmail users) you sync with the app, which comes in handy if you’re short on space and only look at your inbox and starred items when using Gmail on your phone.

The final settings we will look at involve notifications. One of the beautiful design choices Android made is how a user receives notifications. With an iOS device, a notification pops up on the screen, regardless of what you’re doing, and won’t go away until you respond to it. If you have more than one notification, they pop up, one at a time, until you’ve cleared them all out. This is annoying as there are some alerts you may want to hold off on responding to until a later time, plus they prevent you from doing anything with the device until they are all cleared. With Android, notifications appear in the top bar of the screen as an icon related to the particular app which needs your attention. When you want to look at the alerts, you just pull down on that top bar much like you would pull down on a window shade. You can then look at all of the alerts, choose which ones to respond to, and leave the rest alone until you’re ready to work with them. When it comes to Gmail notification, you can turn notifications on or off, depending on whether or not you actually want to know every time an email arrives. You can also set a ringtone for email alerts, turn vibrating alerts on or off, and set the alerts to come up for every new message or just when new email in general arrives in the inbox. This kind of notification control is light years ahead of how iOS handles alerts and makes it much easier to deal with the notifications that come into your phone.

As you can see, there is a ton of options which both Android itself and the individual apps offer for customization purposes. While this can be intimidating for a first time user, note that you don’t have to go through all of these settings and change them at the same time, plus you may find the default settings give you the functionality you want right out of the box. Android is a very robust operating system which offers something for every user, and I, for one, find it very exciting to work with. There’s plenty to learn about Android, but I’ll help you out every step of the way until we are all Android gurus.

Geeks To Peeps: Setting Up My Android Phone, Part One

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I’ve purchased an Android smartphone. I’ve been interesting in Android for some time, especially now that I have clients which use various Android handsets. With Virgin Mobile offering the LG Optimus V phone for just $150 out the door, I made a foolish purchase and now have two cell phones in my possession: My iPhone 4 and the Optimus V.

The iPhone is still my cell phone and, for all intents and purposes, the only phone I use thanks to Google Voice. I don’t intend to start using the Optimus V in place of my iPhone…yet. My first goal is to learn Android inside and out, starting with the built-in apps which come with Android and the Optimus V. It is entirely possible, however, that, through Google Voice and Skype, I could set this phone up to make AND receive calls on, and that leads to my second goal: To completely remove the iPhone from my life and see if the Optimus V can fill the void. First things first, however… Continue reading “Geeks To Peeps: Setting Up My Android Phone, Part One”