Home Warranty Fail!

Unfortunate series of events:

  1. July 16th: Arrive back from Michigan to realize the condensation drain on our AC was blocked causing a leak into the overflow drain. Called home warranty to have fixed, only to find out we were not on automatic renewal and they dropped us 2 months earlier. Also were informed that they have put us on a list and cannot have HVAC covered again until an HVAC company comes out and certifies the system as good.
  2. July 17th: With help from my awesome brother Bryan I fix the issue myself… “thank goodness I just saved like $200 bucks!”
  3. August 4th: Pick and sign up with new home warranty company.
  4. August 11th: AC goes out – “thank goodness we have a home warranty company” – while looking for the phone number to call on the paper work that arrived this week notice that the policy doesn’t go into effect until 9/4 – one month after signing up. “oh man!”
  5. Current status: HVAC tech is on the way to the house…. can’t wait to see what this will cost.


I love FaceTime…

I was recently traveling to California on business and had a chance to use Apple’s “Facetime” application for the iPhone 4…. It’s fantastic! The calls work seamlessly as long as you have a good wifi connection. In the example pictures below I’m on a very low bandwidth free hotel wifi connection but can still video chat with my wife and son much more easily than if I were on skype with both of us on our computers. It’s amazing how much of a grin this put on my face (as you can see from my flattering pictures below) as well as my son’s face. That’s Kal… he’s about 4 months old and really enjoyed seeing my on his mom’s computer screen. As you can see from the pictures he was all smiles and happiness to be seeing me when I wasn’t there. I’ll be taking a trip to the UK in the next few months and I’m hoping I can use this from there as seamlessly w/out having to pay for the international call as well…. will let you know what I figure out there!


View all the photos here.


Technology you can leverage as a student


I promised I’d write a post with more details on key technology that I thought you could leverage within the MSIM program. Well, it took me a little bit longer than what I thought it would and this post isn’t as refined as I would like it to be… but here is (please forgive me if there are some grammatical errors here… I used Macspeech Dictate to write this post). Enjoy!

MICROSOFT OFFICE ONENOTE

Microsoft office OneNote is a fantastic application that is part of the office suite of applications. OneNote really is a note taking tool it was designed to be either used with your traditional keyboard and mouse input or used with the applet type application where you can draw and scribble notes like you would on a white board or piece of paper. OneNote has some key features that I love and use them everyday work. In no particular order here are my favorite features:

1. Audio Recording: Microsoft OneNote allows you to record audio through your laptops built in microphone. This in and of itself is not a real compelling feature, what makes it compelling is that as you’re recording audio and typing at the same time OneNote is indexing the audio synchronized to the notes that your typing at the time. So what that means is that if you were to go back later on after you’re done recording your audio and taking notes and you had a question about some note that you took the word very detailed with what you type you could hover your mouse over that particular word and it would pull up audio controls (meaning play, pause, stop etc.) and allow you to click play in the audio would start just a few seconds prior to when you type that word in your notes. It’s difficult to describe here in words so I’ve included a link to a YouTube video that describes what I’m saying.

o General Feature overview including search: http://bit.ly/doCnl9

o Audio Recording Linked to your Notes: http://bit.ly/bKQjWm

o Terrible Video but if you jump to 2:10 you can see the audio being played back the text note that was taken at that time in the recording: http://bit.ly/a9WuNS

2. Search: Microsoft office OneNote has a fantastic search feature that allows you to search text throughout all your notebooks tabs and pages. In addition to searching the text that you typed in OneNote the searches you perform will also search for text in any screenshots that he pasted in as well as, if you have the option turned on, words in any audio recording that you have recorded.

3. Collaboration: This is a great feature when you’re on the same network. OneNote allows you to share a notebook or a particular page of a notebook with colleagues on the same network. When you’re sharing you can see near real-time updates as both you and your colleagues are simultaneously entering text into one document (actually inserting anything including drawings and images). This is another feature that somewhat hard to describe in words but the link listed above as general feature overview describes this well with video.

Evernote

Evernote is another great note taking tool. It’s not nearly as robust as Microsoft one note but it’s an Internet connected platform or the storage for your notes is actually in the cloud. What this means is that the notes that you take with Evernote will be accessible to you via your mobile device, your work computer, your home computer, and pretty much anywhere else you’ll need to get access to notes. It also has a fantastic search feature the searches are actually performed on the server on your local client laptop or desktop. The benefit of this is that Evernote has some serious software running in the background that can convert handwritten notes and pictures of things like business cards into searchable text. It also works really really well. Evernote has a free version that is very usable for your everyday note taking needs they also have a paid version that is more robust and give you more CPU cycles more quickly to perform the algorithms that convert those handwritten notes into searchable text than the free user. Evernote also has some pretty useful extensions for all the major Internet browsers that actually allows you to clip text and images from a webpage directly into Evernote and make all that searchable.

Skype

Skype is an application that allows you to share your desktop between two users, do videoconferencing, or make voice over IP phone calls over the Internet. My wife and I were the first ones to use this in the MSIM program, calling into the classroom through one of our classmate’s laptops to listen and lecture while we are out-of-state attending a wedding. At that time Skype didn’t have some of the features that it has today that would be very useful in the MSIM program. The first feature that I wish they had was desktop sharing using Skype today you can call another user over the Skype network and allow them to see your desktop or for you to see and control their desktop. The second feature I wish they had is one that I haven’t yet used with Skype but just came out as part of Skype Beta, and that feature is group video chat. This feature allows a number of users to do videoconferencing at once, so you’d be able to see your two other colleagues and they would be able to see you all at once (currently videoconferencing is only enabled in the stable version of Skype on a one-to-one basis).

Google wave

Google wave is super hard to describe so other than saying that it’s a great tool for real-time collaboration amongst team members on a point at the following link:

Enjoy!

Google Docs

Google Docs is another great application for individual document creation, document management, document storage, and team document collaboration. I think Google docs can be used for MSIM students to collaborate on really any document type that is supported by Google docs (text documents, presentations, spreadsheets etc.). We didn’t have Google docs when we look to the program instead we used some free wiki ca
pability to collaborate on our papers and joint assignments for the program. However, if I were going to the program today I think this would be my key application that I would use for collaborating with my teammates on documents.

MindMeister

MindMeister is a tool for mind mapping or interactive brainstorming. There’s a pretty decent free version that MindMeister offers on their website.

DimDim

DimDim is another tool that allows you desktop sharing. They have a free version of the tool that works with up to 20 users or so simultaneously.

Dropbox

Dropbox is online file storage in the cloud. Dropbox would be useful for storing both personal documents that you use throughout the program as well as any file that you want to share with your teammates over the course of the program. This is because Dropbox allows you to create folders right on your desktop for any file type and store those files both locally and in the cloud. All of these files are backed up and revisions are kept so you can rollback to a previous version if you need to. Once your files are placed in the Dropbox folder you can then control access to who can read or edit those files. Dropbox currently offers 2 GB of storage for free. You also get an additional 250mb of storage for each person that you refer that joins dropbox… and just as full disclosure that’s what I’ve done with the link up above.


I love the Fitbit!

So, it’s now been almost 3 weeks since I received my Fitbit. I thought I’d take a minute to do a fitbit review and tell you about my experience using the Fitbit over the last few weeks. So let’s get to it:

UN-BOXING THE FITBIT
The Fitbit came in a sleek plastic case that was very easy to open and get the Fitbit out of. Also included is the packaging was a very prominent label that “to start using your Fitbit, go to www.fitbit.com/start” which made it really easy to get started.

SETTING UP THE FITBIT.
Getting the Fitbit set up was a little challenging. At first Continue reading

Go SunDevils – MSIM Alumni Posting

This week I’ll be headed back to Arizona State University to speak to ASU’s Masters of Science in Information Management (MSIM) Class of 2011. The topic I was asked to discuss was my experience in the program, my keys to success in the program, and life after graduation. As one of two speakers at the event I’ve been asked to represent someone that’s been out of the program for a while (I was in the charter class and graduated in 2006). I’m always excited to head back to the University and speak with students and faculty! It just seems that there is a whole different energy on campus and I feel energized after being their and speaking with so many bright energetic people!

I thought I’d capture my thoughts that I’ll be sharing with the students here in this blog post in case any of them want to come back to as well as a way for me keep track on what I’m up to when I look back at the end of the year. So in no particular order here’s my thoughts on what it takes to be successful & thriving as students go through the program.

  1. Find teammates with similar goals early.- What days can you not meet? – What are you all seeking – Looking to be top in class or satisfied with a passing grade?- Where do you all live in the valley, where will you meet? – Are you all comfortable with technology?
  2. While working in teams be open & direct. Communication is key!
  3. Participate and ask real questions… not just ones to earn points.
  4. Come Prepared.
  5. Help Others
  6. Be humble.
  7. Get some exercise… seriously a Friday night at the gym or a nice long walk will go a long ways towards relieving stress.
  8. Establish a plan with your boss.
  9. Build your network & get to know your classmates personally & professionally.
  10. Leverage Technology (More Details Coming)- Microsoft OneNote, Evernote, Skype, Google Wave, Google Sites (wiki), MindMeister, Google Docs, DimDim, DropBox etc…

On Leveraging Technology
I’ll be writing a follow up blog here very shortly detailing out exactly how I used the above referenced technology or how I wish I had that technology 5 years ago when I went through the program. Be sure to subscribe to the RSS feed here if you are interested in seeing that article when I post it this weekend. Also, please feel free to leave me any comments on your thoughts, questions, or input on the above!


My fitbit is here!

Well folks,
after waiting a VERY long time (I ordered it mid December) my fitbit finally arrived in the mail yesterday! I’ve only been using it since about 11pm last night… which means I was able to track my sleep last night using the device and it appears to have worked pretty well…

I’ll be doing a more in depth review here in about a week… stay tuned!


My Personal Health Tech

So, a huge area of focus for me this year is on health, fitness, and overall wellness. I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in e-mail telling people what tools I’ve been using as well as which books I’ve been reading. So I thought it a perfect opportunity to document the health tech tools, websites, and books I’ve been using.

  1. I bought a Withing Scale from Amazon which lets me track my weight automatically on my computer (sends wirelessly) and through my phone so I can see trending and keep me honest on my diet and exercise!
    I purchased a pro membership with DailyBurn.com –> my withing scale also feeds my profile here and lets me track calories and workouts online and on my phone (while I’m in the gym recording sets and distance walked / run etc…)
  2. I purchased a “FitBit” that lets me track my daily activity and sleep patterns. Sadly my Fitbit has yet to arrive (ordered in December but they are way way backordered because they are so popular).
  3. I purchased and read TRANSCEND a book co-authored by Ray Kurzwell which is just crazy awesome (in the true meaning of the word) with some of the things it makes you think about and I would highly, highly recommend as a read… if nothing else, for the intellectual stimulation and some great conversation material. Just google Ray Kurzwell and you’ll see what I mean!
  4. I’m currently reading “Strength for Life” which so far seems great and is really motivating me!
  5. I’ve gotten a bit into the power of the spoken word and the law of attraction which some people will poo poo (forgive me if you do as well) but I can’t help but feel good when I think about some of the concepts and ideas there. What started me on that kick was a couple of different books / videos that I’ve watched… one that describes all the craziness and quantum physics behind some of that phenomenon called “what the bleep do we know” and another that a friend recommended called “the secret“.


A random act of kindness!

My smile card
This is the card I received.

So, just about an hour ago I was struck by a random act of kindness. After dropping Jamie off at the airport Ethan and I headed off to Wendy’s to pick up some quick lunch before I put him down for his nap. We were in a bit of a hurry, because it was getting to be a little late for nap time, so we went through the drive through. As it turns out the drive-through line was quite long but eventually we made it up and placed our order. I was very surprised when it pulled up to the drive-through window and went to hand the attendant my credit card he refused it. Instead he handed me a card that said “Smile. You’ve just been tagged!” and told me that the person in front of me had just paid for my meal! What a fantastic thing to do for someone! It put a huge smile on my face and motivated me to write this post to let everyone know!

The front of the card also says “experiments in anonymous kindness is the name of the game, and now — you’re it.” What an experiment indeed! The anonymous person that paid for our meal did not ask for anything in return. Instead they simply handed me a card that directed me to a website and asked me to do the same for someone else. This website (www.helpothers.org) is a site that has ideas information and inspirations for you to do the same “anonymous act of kindness” for other folks. I really like it a lot. And I can’t wait the same for someone else!

The other thing that this got me thinking about was how the service could be improved. Since I’m a geek and I like things that involve data I think it would be awesome to put a unique serial number on each one of these cards and give the receiver of the card the ability to go to this website and place on a map where they received the card and jot down a quick note about how they receive the card. This would be cool because it would allow you to see on a map how the cards move from city to city and state to state as well as read all the great things a simple little card was able to do for lots of people.


A great Apple Store Experience [Customer Service Love]

In line with my goal of having a more positive outlook and expressing that positive outlook in 2010 I thought I would write a quick post about a very positive experience I had at the apple store yesterday.

A few weeks ago I noticed that my power adapter for my MacBook Pro had bare metal exposed where the cable connects to the power adapter. It looked like after normally use the cable just split. I walked down the street and into the Apple store and asked them if I could replace it I told them I had bought it about a year ago. I didn’t bring it up to the Genius Bar I just walked up to the first person in Apple uniform that I saw. This person was very responsive, and asked if I had all the parts. After handing over the power supply, the cable, and the outlet adapter he went back to the Genius Bar showed it to them and then brought it back to me letting me know that they would swap it out for me today. He said that normally I would have to book an appointment with the Genius Bar and have them swap it out under warranty but since I was already there and it would only take 2 seconds he would swap it out for me.

I thought it was fantastic that they didn’t give me a big hassle when they very well could have. They also didn’t look at me as if I was trying to pull a fast one or anything like that. So hats off to you Apple store employee for making my experience easy and on and keeping me a happy customer!


New Year, New Look & Feel

I’ve been getting into WordPress lately (well okay, for the last 6 months or so) and thought I would set up my own site as a WordPress.org site. This particular theme I’m using is by one of my favorite WordPress template authors. We are using his stuff over at iTourAZ.com and Walkroc.com. I’m hoping to populate lots of good stuff here from the world of tech as well as my fatherly adventures (that probably don’t belong over on the family site). Yet another creative outlet that I’m trying out here.

Please enjoy the show!
-JC


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