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.

The best camera product demo ever


Canon has a new whiz-bang $20,000 camera coming out that is designed to change the film industry (much like the $20,000 camera by Red), and typically whenever a new camera (especially one with stellar video capabilities) comes out, there is a demo reel done by a famous director showing off what the camera can do.

This video does what every other camera demo video does, but then goes way further by making it entertaining and downright hilarious. It's extra funny if you've seen lots of demo videos or know people in the film industry, but even without any insider knowledge, the jokes come through. 

It's awesome that Canon let this happen and it makes me want the camera so much more for having seen it.

Downton Abbey promo idea

Now that Downton Abbey will see a third season, before it goes live next year, I'd like to see the studio behind the series record a promotional video for the show, and this is my idea: The full cast on show locations, in full costume, performing a lip dub of George Harrison's 80s song "Got My Mind Set On You". 

Bonus points if it features all the cast members paired up that tend to get paired up on screen, Matthew & Mary, Mr. Bates & Anna, Maggie Smith & Matthew's mom, Thomas & Sarah, Mrs. Patmore & Daisy, etc.

It'd be cheap to make, simple to do (probably a one-day shoot), and would almost certainly go viral, bringing the show to millions of potential viewers.

Two year tumor update/Good bye to mom

Today marks the two year anniversary since I had the whole tumor scare. I'm feeling great and almost back to full health but the anniversary is bittersweet since by some strange coincidence, today also marked the date of my mother's funeral, which I've talked about a bit on Twitter, but I don't think I've mentioned here.

My Mom

(Flagstaff, Arizona xmas time 1986 (I think). My brother, me, mom, and dad)

Back in July/August, my mom had a mammogram and they discovered a growth that was deemed stage 1, highly treatable breast cancer. In late August they operated and the surgeons were surprised to find extended growth of the cancer into her lymph nodes, but removed it all and gave a good bill of health. Chemotherapy was set to begin soon after but further tests showed complications with her liver (also showing cancer) and ultimately it seemed her cancer was stage 4 and beyond, and her liver functions soon started to break down. By October she was having trouble walking, eating, and talking, ending up in the hosptial in the last week of that month. Last Wednesday November 9th around 8:35am, she passed away with me, my brother, and my aunt by her bedside. Today's funeral was attended by about 60 people and I got to hear lots of great stories about her from friends and family.

At the funeral I shared some memories of my mom working very hard her whole life, never really knowing how or when to relax. I meant to tell a great story of a vacation we once took as a family. It was done in our typical style of waking up one weekend at around 4am, piling in a car in half-sleep while my dad drove hours and hours north towards our destination. We'd arrive in late morning and start hitting museums, state parks, zoos, one after the other until it was quickly dinner time. I recall running into some family friends that also vacationed in a coastal town we visited and my mom asking them how their day had gone. They said they just plopped down on the beach sand and relaxed all day, doing nothing. 

I remember my mom was livid back in the car. She couldn't believe this family of friends simply sat around all day instead of doing all the activities we did. She thought they wasted their vacation but after feeling exhausted by the breakneck pace of our trip I wished we had a bit more downtime like that other family got to enjoy.

Mom at Pacific City

I spent a lot of time with my mom over the last three months (thanks JetBlue Bluepass for all those flights to Long Beach) and I finally got her to accept a ticket to fly up to Oregon and spend some time with my family. We saw the coast, we saw the falls, we ate like kings at all the finest restaurants. I took her out to see Moneyball in a theater which she enjoyed (she was a huge baseball fan) and afterwards she admitted the last movie she saw in a theater was Dances With Wolves. I like to think despite her failing health I taught her how to relax the last few months of her life and enjoy some quiet time to herself.

Today's funeral helps close a chapter in my life but also reminded me of all the good times I had with my mom, and sets the stage for moving on in my life without forgetting her. So long mom, I'll miss you greatly.



In tumor news, there isn't much to tell. My tumor stabilized nearly a year ago to about 1/3 of the original size. My medications have been reduced (but not yet eliminated) and all my vital signs and energy levels are back to near normal. I can't believe it's only been two years since the diagnosis, I feel like I've lived another ten years since and it helped me re-evaluate many things in my life. I feel like the tumor scare has taught me to appreciate all the people, experiences, and things in my life and I've done my best to live a fuller life while I can. In 2012 I'm going to be doing a lot of things I've always wanted to do, and they will mostly involve travel to places all over the world (planning on Hawaii, New Zealand, Belgium, Yosemite, Italy, all in the first six months). A tumor taught me that life can be brutal and short and to relish our time here. Dreams are good to have but even better to live up to and there's no reason to put them off any longer.

How to port your AT&T iPhone number to a new Verizon iPhone quickly

I'm going to write up all the steps to move off a AT&T phone onto a new Verizon phone because I had to assemble all this info from disparate sources and figure others might save time if they knew about all the steps to do it yourself.

Before you call you will need a lot of info that might take some digging. It requires:

  1. Your AT&T account number (mine was 12 digits, all numbers)
  2. Your AT&T account secret PIN (mine was all numbers, 6 digits)
  3. The last 4 digits of either your Social Security number for a personal account or the business EIN for a business account
  4. Your new (temporary) Verizon phone number
  5. Your old AT&T number you'd like to port over.

Once you have all that written down, follow these steps. 

  • Take out your new iPhone, sync it to your iTunes, probably restore from your other phone's backup
  • call Verizon's number porting system at 866-465-5415 (probably on a home phone, with speaker phone so you can enter lots of digits)
  • Enter the old AT&T phone number, get an error, press 2 to proceed, then press 3 to replace a number with an old one, enter current temp Verizon number, then they will ask for your last four digits of your Social Security Number or EIN business number.
  • Go through the menus, eventually you will need to give the old AT&T phone number again and then your AT&T account number and your PIN on your account.
  • You will get a "port request began" success message at the end.
  • Hang up and go to verizonwireless.com/port to check the status. It should say that porting is in progress. They say this will take 3-24hrs, but I would suggest waiting about 10-15 minutes before going to the next step.
  • Start your new iPhone, dial *228 and follow the prompts to activate your new phone and it should say your new phone is activated.
  • Let your phone sit after hanging up. You will be kicked off the Verizon network and then join back on about a minute later, with your AT&T number.
  • If your phone still has the temp Verizon number, wait another 5-10min and then call *228 and activate your phone again, when it comes back onto the Verizon network, chances are your old number will be attached to it.
  • Wipe/restore your old AT&T phone and sell it to someone else

The number porting process says you will get a text message at some point when it is all complete, but that never happened for me, and if you have all this information handy and you follow these steps, you can get your number ported in about ten minutes without any need for human intervention. Good Luck!

Reddit vs. Metafilter, London pub quiz

It transpired that there was enough of us (about 22?) to make up 3 Metafilter teams and that being a spectator wasn't going to be an option. As I struggled to come to terms with this responsibility, a large group of Redditors arrived.

As I watched them file in, my heart sank. They had the confident air of people who were very good at Pub Quizzes. These were clearly people who knew a lot of trivia.

Their leader, Lowercase_Drawer, came over and introduced himself, and spoke to adrianhon. I didn't really catch what he was saying, but from his poise and deliberateness, it seemed like he was saying the kind of stuff a Bond villain says when they have the upper hand.

via metatalk.metafilter.com

I won't spoil the ending, but after the build up on reddit, I was pleased with the results.

SendTab: a great simple app for managing screens

Sendtab on my iPhone For the last year I've been using my friend Ben's app Sendtab to manage all the different places I find interesting content. He originally built it as a way to send anything from his laptop to a mac mini attached to his home TV (he cut cable and was constantly watching online video). I started using it soon after it was built and it's become a killer app, as I use it every day on at least three devices.

I mostly blame Twitter for this very First World Problem, but I read Twitter each morning on my iPhone when I'm slowly getting out of bed. As Twitter has replaced tools like Delicious for link sharing, I've found friends sharing interesting links, articles, products, etc almost every morning. Whenever I think "wow, I need to check that out later on my Mac after I get up" I use Sendtab. Same goes for viewing Twitter on an iPad (especially if the link leads to some flash content I can't view right then and there).

Sendtab is a pretty simple thing, you just click a bookmarklet or copy a URL to an iOS app and you can save a URL to your pile to view later on other devices (and you can optionally direct it at a specific device). Why is this useful? For me, I can move anything interesting from my iPhone to my desktop computer and view it hours later. I've also got a GoogleTV attached to my living room TV so when someone points out an hour long lecture worth watching or a hilarious YouTube video I want to show my family, I save those to SendTab as well, pulling them up on my TV via GoogleTV's home screen bookmarks.

I know Instapaper is a good app for tracking articles among many devices, and Boxee enables you to "watch later" any video you find online, but I find SendTab is a nice simple silo for tossing everything interesting I want to check out on some other device. It's also handy for "I'm going out the door to the airport and want to keep reading that NYT article I'm halfway through" by letting you send links to specific named devices (the iOS app can fetch these and bounce directly to the URL). 

To date it's been a simple web app. Ben recently put out a real iOS version of it as well for 99 cents. I also use the Sendtab extension for Chrome that adds a nice big Sendtab button to my browser. If you read/watch the internet on a variety of devices throughout your day, check out Sendtab, it's good simple software that does exactly what it was designed for.

Credit scores are bullshit: part 2

So we've had a lively discussion about my previous post on credit scores, and an industry expert on credit scoring showed up to argue with many here. The New York Times noticed and published his side of the story as well. He urged me on Twitter to try out MyFICO.com which is supposed to be more accurate. Well, I ended up trying it tonight and got a whopping 2 point difference on my credit score, with it still below 700 (690 vs. 692).

The best part is when it is being explained to me what my problems are, as this image captures:

Gee, I guess 16 years, 3 months just isn't a very long revolving credit history. Heck it is a few years shy of half of my entire life and "FICO High Achievers" average a whopping 2 years and 9 months more than me, which is such an incredible drastic difference that I can see your justification for docking me points on that one. /sarcasm

Like I said before, I understand the need for credit scores and how they are used, but much of the advice the credit reporting agencies have given me turns out to be conflicting bullshit.

They tell me to get a credit card to increase my score, and it ends up reducing my score (because I didn't know about the unwritten rules on how much of your credit line you are actually allowed to safely use). Now they say it's because I haven't had credit long enough when my oldest account is only 14% less than their suggested stellar achievement rankings. 

In summary: still bullshit.