Speed Notes (automated iPhone text files on Dropbox)

Screen Shot 2011-12-07 at 8.45.10 PMI tried out this app called Speed Notes the other day (thanks to a mention on MetaFilter Projects). It's pretty simple, you tie the app to your Dropbox account, it creates a Notes directory, and then you can quickly create a new note by giving it a name. You get a blank document to fill with information at that point, which is pretty much exactly like the way the default iPhone notes application works.

The great thing about Speed Notes vs. Apple's Notes is that everything is on Dropbox and they are simple text files. This means they are instantly mirrored on every other computer you own. This also means you can make changes and additions to those text files from any other computer, and the information will be reflected on your iPhone.

I've found that in the last month or two of using Speed Notes I'm frequently starting notes and to-do lists as new items in the app while I'm out, and when I get back to my desktop computer, I end up modifying and fleshing out the files there, and I'm often looking back over the notes days later on my phone when I need them. 

It's useful for grocery lists, to-do lists, travel information you need for a trip, etc. You can even share your notes directory with others to let them make modifications to the files too.

Overall, a great little app I didn't know I needed until I had it, and it's only $1.99. Totally worth every penny if you're a Dropbox user and fan.

Three phone tips for antisocial people like me that hate phones

In no particular order:

1. A friend recently got a new phone & number on Verizon, and neglected to set up his electronic voicemail account for the first few weeks. When you call, after 4-5 rings it goes to voicemail but the message is simply "This user has not set up their voicemail yet. Goodbye."

Now, this won't work for everyone, but if you spend a minimal amount of time being interrupted by phone calls and you have a stable job and relationships and don't need to get every single call that comes in, this no-voicemail thing is kind of awesome because it is one less inbox for this friend's life. I know when I get that message I'll either text, call back later, or just send an email. I'm envious and may not set up voicemail for future new phones I get.

2. In the spirit of Last Year's Model, my home landline is connected to a 11 year-old cordless phone we have no reason to replace. It works for the hour or so total talk time we use it each week, but since the phone sits in the cradle charging constantly, the batteries tend to go bad after a few years. The batteries are currently dying so the phone has to stay on the charger all the time, and when you do get a call, you get about 10 minutes of talk time before the batteries are dead and the call drops. 

Instead of replacing the rechargable battery pack, I've been enjoying this feature for a few months now. I know it's kind of asshole-ish, but it's really nice to be able to keep things short and sweet with everyone that calls my house. It's really handy and I don't spend hours on the phone chit-chatting because the phone simply can't do it, and I have no guilt about cutting a call short. I can always have a long conversation on my cell phone if need be.

3. There are several web services out there to answer the question "Who owns that unlisted number that just hit my mobile phone?" but my favorite is WhoCalled.Us. It's an awesome free service where people report details of who called them and what they wanted when they called, think of it as crowd-sourced telemarketer reporting. It's handy because you can safely ignore most calls to your phone after looking up the numbers at this site.

If a weird unknown number comes into my iPhone, I ignore it and look up the number later. 9 times out of 10, it was a sales call from a bank, a timeshare company, or a bullshit work-at-home offer. I wish it was integrated in my phone, so I could just hit a button to do auto lookups from the missed calls page on my phone, or if an incoming call had known records at whocalled.us, it could display the top three rated comments on my screen before I hit accept or reject.

(this post was also translated into the Czech language)

How to fly with an empty seat next to you

Lifehacker just posted a travel tip on picking seats most likely to stay empty at the time you buy your ticket, but I’ve found I only keep an empty seat next to me about a quarter of the time using that method. There’s a much more successful way to get what you want and I find it works about three quarters of the time.

When you arrive at the airport, make a beeline for the electronic check-in kiosk and skip the humans if you have a choice. When checking in via kiosk, be sure to hit the Change Seats option. Then do what the lifehacker post says, which is select an aisle or row seat with an empty middle next to it.

The chances that someone buys the middle seat after you reserved your ticket weeks ago is much higher than the chances that someone selects that middle seat in the last hour or two before your flight. Of course, this works only on non-full flights that don’t happen during holiday season. I’d say on average weekday flights I almost always get an empty seat next to me and it’s only on end-of-weekend return flights with tons of standby passengers that I don’t get the extra space.