Tuesday, March 31, 2015

RabbitTxt Text Messages is My First App

I’ve been working with a friend of mine on a simple iOS app called RabbitTxt—you can grab it for free right now from the Apple iOS App Store. The idea is to enable quick, one handed, pre-canned text messages to people or groups. Basically, tap, tap, send. Or if you’re sending the same thing to the same person, just… tap.


The app will remember the last person (or group) you sent a message to and also which message you sent, so you don’t have to select them again.

Unfortunately, my grand idea of the fastest text/SMS messages possible ran into an iOS restriction. Once you tap “Send Text” in RabbitTxt, you’ll need to press send again when the iOS messenger app opens. Sadly, there’s nothing we can do about that. The fastest possible text message interface on iOS is… tap… tap… Shrug.

It was Pat’s idea to add the “Jazzify” feature and it’s pretty snazzy. This feature converts your text message into a flashing image. Perfect to get someone’s attention.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fairchild TV Interview about the Vancouver Tech Scene

I was recently interviewed by Fairchild TV (a national Chinese language station) for a segment about the Vancouver tech scene.


If you’re interested in the story, here are links to the video. Note that it’s a Cantonese language station.

(You can download the video if you find it's playing too slowly on the site.)
Part 1:
Part 2:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Interview for Elements Academy of Martial Arts

I was recently interviewed for this blog post about the Elements Academy of Martial Arts Brazilian Jiu-jitsu program: Martial Arts in Your 40s and Why Jiu-Jitsu is Right for You








We train with instructor Todd Smith, who is the only black belt under Royce Gracie in Canada. Great club, great people. Check it out. Gracie Jiu-jitsu is amazing--even for us old folks :)

Monday, December 08, 2014

Chromebook 2 Feedback and Review

Now that I've had my Chromebook 2 for a reasonable amount of time, I thought I'd post some more details about my experience.

In general, I'm still thrilled with the machine. It's an inexpensive computer with a full laptop typing experience. The audio and video are good, the battery life and charge times are fantastic, and so much is available via web apps these days that I can almost use it for everything. I also like that the operating system is simpler than a traditional desktop O/S. For all the reasons I mentioned in my previous post (Why I Just Bought a Chromebook), I think it's a fantastic device and I'm recommending it to people.

My issues pretty much stem from the fact that Chrome OS has a tiny web app store at this point. There are two ways to fix these issues, either more web apps in the Chrome Web Store or enabling Android (Google Play) apps on Chromebooks. There are rumours of Google Play capability coming to Chromebooks, but I'm not optimistic that will happen on my Chromebook 2. However, I sincerely hope my pessimism is poorly placed.

Here are the main issues I've encountered:

1. GoToMeeting doesn't work (even the web version only allows you to listen--you can't share your video or talk). This is a deal breaker for using my Chromebook as my only computer. Whether it's GoToMeeting or WebEx, I have to be able to participate in meeting using the technology that my employer and customers are using. Yes, Google Hangouts and Sqwiggle work--that's great--but it doesn't solve the problem. (As I pointed out in my last post, I'm not trying to replace my phone with my laptop and I can actually use WebEx or GoToMeeting on my phone, so that mitigates this problem.)

2. Skype doesn't work. This isn't a work problem for me, so I'm putting it in a different point. I use Skype with family, so I want it on my laptop. (Again, I can use this on my phone.)

3. Torrent files. I'm working on this one, but I have yet to find a good solution for downloading files via torrents. There are apps in the Chrome Web Store, but I tried one and it just didn't work. I'll have to try another. There's one that costs a few dollars--I might have to resort to actually paying for an app.

4. Heat. I'm not actually using a thermometer, but the Chromebook feels hot to me when I'm using it on my lap. By comparison, my wife's MacBook Air doesn't seem to get as warm, but my old Acer laptop is actually hotter than the Chromebook.

5. Google Cloud Print. I was pleased to learn about the Google Cloud Print option. It allows me to print to a printer connected to another machine (because you can't install print drivers on Chrome OS). However, it simply doesn't work very well. My printer isn't that old (it's wireless), but printing with Google Cloud Print results in such bad results that it's almost useless. For example, it's common for my documents to print with the last few characters of every line cut off.

6. SD Card. This is a minor annoyance, but every time I open my Chromebook, I'm told to safely remove my SD card--not on reboot mind you, but literally every time I login. I don't want to remove the card and I shouldn't get that error all the time. I just ignore it, but I'm not the only one seeing this issue and I hope it gets resolved in an update.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Why I Just Bought a Chromebook

I’m sure some people would see the title of this post and say, “Why wouldn't you buy a Chromebook? They’re a steal!” Ultimately, I agreed with this view and bought one. However, I went through a period of uncertainty when I looked to replace my current laptop. Here are the main factors that swayed me in favour of the Chromebook 2.

toshiba chromebook 2 geeklit cawood blog

But before I get to that, I think it’s important to mention that I took my time with this decision. What else did I consider? I weighed the pros and cons of many different options: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Windows laptop, Ubuntu laptop, Microsoft Surface, Windows tablet, Android tablet, and iPad. We already have a MacBook Air, Windows desktop and iPad in the house, so that also played into my decision.

1. Affordability -- Chromebooks are remarkably affordable. Unlike a MacBook Air, or a Surface 3, they're cheap. I bought my new Toshiba CB35-B3340 Chromebook 2 for $329.99. That's about a third of what I would have paid for the others. Even if it turns out that I don't like the Chromebook, I've made a small investment to find that out.

2. Getting my work done -- I don't care about brands very much and I'm not a zealot when it comes to technology. I just want to get my work done and spend more time with my wife and daughter. If I can do everything I need to do on the Chromebook, I'm happy. These days, I spend most of my time either in email and Word documents. I can use web versions of Outlook, Gmail and Word to do all that. If I need something else, I can remote into my Windows Server at home or my Windows desktop at work, or just use my Wife's MacBook Air. An obvious example is Visual Studio for coding. However, these is a web version that I can try even for that. I'm very curious what the dev experience will be like on a Chromebook.

3. I’m not replacing my phone -- While it's true the Chrome App Store doesn't offer the millions of apps in the iOS Store, or the Google Play store, or even the Windows App Store, that's not what I need in a laptop. I have my phone with me at all times and I don't need to send text messages or play Flappy Bird on my laptop. (BTW -- Angry birds is in the Chrome App Store)

4. ‘Traditional’ operating systems are too much work -- I was already thinking this way, but a few weeks ago, I picked up a Windows 8 tablet I use at work and found that it was running Windows Update. I just wanted to write a note in OneNote, and I couldn't because the operating system is huge and powerful and therefore takes time to update. This is just one example of the ways that large traditional operating systems (Windows, MacOS, Linux) are just too much work for my use case (see "Getting my work done" above). Chrome O/S is simple and I like the sound of that.

Update: Now that I have my Chromebook (I'm writing this update on it), I can say that I'm impressed. I ran into a minor issue during set up (Chromebook setup freezes at Determining Device Configuarion) but restarting was enough to quickly resolve the issue. Since then I haven't hit any hurdles and I'm really enjoying the experience.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Chromebook setup freezes at "Determining Device Configuration"

Just a quick note about this setup problem that a few new Chromebook users have encountered. During the initial setup phase, the message "Determining Device Configuration" appears and the setup process stalls.

Apparently, one person waited four hours in this state. I guess I don't have that kind of patience. I simply shut down the computer (after about 15 mins), restarted it a few seconds later and the setup process completely immediately. If this doesn't work for you, you can search for info about hard reseting your Chromebook.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Leaving the Microsoft MVP Program

In a few days, my time as a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) will come to a close. Sad, yes I know… OK, not really so much sad as the natural evolution of things. I first received the MVP award a mere four days before my daughter was born. Even back then, I knew that I would have to eventually bow out of the program. Of course, there are people in the program who successfully juggle their job, home life, and somehow still manage to be excellent MVPs, but I don’t feel I’m one of them, so I’ve asked not to be renewed this year.

The MVP program is excellent and I’ve enjoyed being a part of it. Most of all, I’ll miss going to the MVP Summit and hanging out with the other MVPs. There are other benefits of course—access to early information, free software—but those don’t match the amount of effort it takes to get the award. As I describe in the post mentioned below, you really have to doing community work because you love doing community work—otherwise the time investment just doesn’t make sense.

I already sent the obligatory “so long and thanks for all the fish” message to my fellow MVPs. I wish you all well and keep up the excellent work!

Microsoft MVP Banner geeklit cawood

BTW -- If you don’t know what the  Microsoft MVP award is, here’s some content from a post I wrote called How do I Become a Microsoft MVP?

First of all, if there is only one thing to remember about the MVP award, it’s this: the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award isn’t a certification. There are no set criteria or steps that someone can take to become an MVP. As the name implies, it’s an award.

“This award is given to exceptional technical community leaders who actively share their high quality, real world expertise with others. We appreciate your outstanding contributions in SharePoint Services technical communities during the past year.”

In practical terms, this means helping with community-focused resources such as contributing to newsgroups, speaking at conferences, writing/blogging about your subject (e.g., SharePoint) and contributing code to CodePlex (an open source site).

Microsoft MVP Logo geeklit cawood