A Farewell to Evernote

After a solid year of disappointment and frustration with Evernote, I have finally replaced it with Google Drive.

One of the last things that was keeping me using Evernote was the web clipper. The recent, nearly month-long outage with the web clipper pushed me to find an alternative. Oddly enough, the alternative was there all the time within Chrome in the form of the Share->Print->Save to (Google) Drive option which renders the current page as a PDF and saves the PDF to GDrive.

I had been a Evernote user since 2009, having moved from del.icio.us and diigo. Evernote added some good features (like the web clipper, PDF upload, OCR, multi-device sync) and things were great. Then they lost the plot. I mean, this was supposed to be a note taking app, but someone decided it needed to have chat built into it (bad idea). Next they messed up the sharing options by polluting the URLs to point at evernote.com instead of the original source. Then the convoluted sharing model that made trying to share anything extremely cumbersome and time consuming. The last straw was the announced plan to add ‘machine learning’ to Evernote which would require user to consent to having people ‘inspect’ their content if you wanted to keep using the service. My question was ‘who needs this?’ It just sounded like they are trying to data mine my content while adding this me-to AI-ish sounding feature.

Along with these missteps, it seemed the Mac OS X client just got slower and slower as more and more irrelevant features where added. For reference, I just started the Mac Evernote client – 4 minutes and 48 seconds later I could finally click on a menu and have it drop down. In comparison, I can open Google Drive and begin using it within seconds.

Dealing with Legacy Evernote Notes
Last August, I started using CloudHQ to migrate my tens of thousands of Evernote notes to Google Drive. After a few hiccups, the (one way) sync process was working flawlessly (I think at the time, I was the largest migration that CloudHQ had ever done, at least with Evernote). It took several months to move all of the notes to Google Drive because Evernote would ‘throttle’ access to CloudHQ, forcing me to re-authorize CloudHQ’s access to my Evernote content.

In September, I downgraded my Evernote account from Premium to Plus. In December, I downgraded to Free. As of January 2017, I am going to upgrade my Evernote subscription to ‘Delete my Account’.

Creating a Document: Google Docs vs Microsoft Office for Mac

Google Docs:

  1. Type docs.google.com into browser
  2. Select template (optional)
  3. Start creating doc

Elapsed time: 5 seconds to productivity

Microsoft office for Mac

  1. Click on Word app icon
  2. Watch icon bounce in doc for 60-90 seconds (4core system with 16GB of RAM)
  3. Click to allow access to Microsoft Identity on keychain (x8)
  4. Wait for Auto Update to run
  5. Install 2MB update
  6. Wait for Auto Update to re-run
  7. Office now wants to download 2.6 GB of updates before continuing.
  8. Wait for downloads and updates to finish
  9. Open Google Docs and start typing so you are productive for the next 30 minutes
  10. Wait for downloads to finally finish
  11. Grant Admin access so install can continue
  12. Wait for install(s) to complete
  13. Close Word so install can complete
  14. Wait for Auto Update to re-run
  15. Dismiss Auto Update
  16. Click on Word App icon
  17. Watch icon bounce in the doc for 90-120 seconds
  18. repeat step #3
  19. repeat step #4
  20. Create new doc
  21. Paste info from Google Docs into Word
  22. Continue editing document created in Google Docs

Elapsed time: 35 minutes to productivity

Tell me again why/how using MS Office docs are so much more productive (or even preferable)…

Amazon AutoRip Is A Joke

I finally had a chance this weekend to take a look at what Amazon’s much touted ‘AutoRip’ offering is all about. Turns out, not a lot. Of the several thousand CDs I have bought from them in the last 7-8 years, a little over four hundred of them are available via AutoRip – sort of. When I drill into the details some of the ‘CD’s that are available are really just one or two tracks from the CD, not the entire CD. How they managed this, I don’t know. And these aren’t compilation CDs where there might be understandable variations in licensing based on artist, label etc. Nope, these are single artist CDs.

So when Amazon claims that they are offering you CDs that you have purchased online – what they mean is some of the tracks from some of your CDs sometimes. Not all of them, not most of them, some of them. Is renaming it Amazon AutoGip too real?

Internet Footprint Maintenance

Found a little time to clean up my Internet Footprint – that is all the sites that I have tinkered around with in the past and for whatever reason, never really found any value in them to keep me coming back. So I have gone back and delete my accounts; though I am sure the info will live on in Google for quite some time to come. Here is this weekend’s harvest:

BrightKite – first location-based service I tried out. They’ve gotten out of that (crowded) space.
43Places – I found that I got a lot of people asking for advice about places I’d been but no one answering questions about places I wanted to go.
43People – This was an interesting thought experiment – for about a week.
GetGlueHunch-wannabe without the correlations and meaningful recommendations. No thanks, I don’t need any more virtual stickers.
SCVNGR – Another twist on location-based services swizzled with a sort of treasure hunt vibe. Not really enough going on with this to try out or keep me coming back. Also, no option to delete your account. Abandoned.
Box.net – this was kind of cool when it first came out; especially being able to access files from my mobile phone. Now Dropbox and Google Docs have taken over for this.
Ning – they kind of shot themselves in the head when they switched to a all pay model – that made jumping ship an easy decision.
check.in – promised to provide unified ‘check ins’ for all location-based services. Never really worked that well and probably won’t make it out of beta.
twine – crashed and burned on its own; morphed into evri which doesn’t seem to have a point with all of the twitter search engines out there
plancast – recommends all sorts of interesting sounding events – in Austin, Paris, and NYC. Not terribly useful if you aren’t in those places.
task.fm – reminders; except you need to remember to do to that site to get them – easily replaced this with google calendar and as a bonus automatically gets synced to my mobile phone.

And as previously mentioned – Gowalla is gone and FourSquare is now an entropy exercise.

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Alternatives To Mozy’s Crash And Burn

What a disaster Mozy’s recent decision has been. They are switching away from unlimited storage and charging rapacious rates for the new capped plans that replace them. 3 times the cost for infinitely less service – brilliant! First of all, I am not sure they can just change the terms of service and not honor the terms of the previous legally binding contracts. I suspect at some point there will be a class action lawsuit against Mozy from existing customers. If that comes to pass, I will happily join it.

In my case, in December of 2010 I created a new Mozy account for my wife’s Mac and committed to a 2 year unlimited storage contract. Mozy is now telling me that on October of 2011 that 2 year unlimited commitment converts to the capped storage scheme – not even 11 months into a 24 month agreement! Further, I was paying less than $300USD for unlimited backup on three computers for a 2 year contract. Mozy now wants to force re-up me for nearly $1000USD per year.

No thanks.

Right now, Crashplan is looking like the best alternative – they offer unlimited backup, a much more efficient and feature-rich client and I can get a household plan that covers backing-up up to 10 computers for four years for less than what I am paying now for three computers under Mozy. Crashplan is even offering a 15% discount to users switching from Mozy. Here is the URL for the Crashplan discount: http://www.crashplan.com/mozyonover .

My initial testing of the CrashPlan Mac client shows it transferring data at about 5x faster than the Mozy client (that is uploading to CrashPlan Central over my crappy DSL). I also have the option of backing up data to a folder on a local (or external drive), to another computer on my LAN or even a friend’s computer across the Interwebs.

It is probably going to take a few weeks to get my base data uploaded to CrashPlan so I can then go back to smaller incremental backups, but there is no way on this earth that I am staying with Mozy and their insane pricing. If you are a current Mozy customer, give CrashPlan a look (and even a free 30 day trial). If you are considering Mozy: don’t – run away from that train wreck and spend your money with a less greedy and ethically challenged business.

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Location Based Entropy

I decided that in 2011 I am going to conduct an experiment in location-based entropy. That is, I am no longer going to update my Gowalla and Foursquare accounts and have already removed the apps from my phone.

I currently have 15 Foursquare mayorships (several of them in other countries!) – let’s see how long it takes for someone to ‘oust’ me from all of those locations. I didn’t use Gowalla as much, largely due to its clunky interface and lack of any real incentives so I have no ground to give there.

Foursquare is growing rapidly, but I have not found any real value in continuing to participate. I have also noticed that with Foursquare becoming more popular, a lot of locations have employees as the ‘mayor’ – not exactly what was intended, I am sure. In fact, Foursquare recently provided the means for owners of locations to kick employee ‘mayors’ out so that actual customers have a shot.

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Google Location History – Go Track Yourself!

Google is now providing a dashboard to allow you to view and review location data from you mobile device (if you have Google Maps installed and enabled Google Latitude for location reporting).

Whenever this topic comes up, privacy is usually one of the first things that leaps to mind. Google are careful to address this explicitly:

We’re really excited to make Latitude and your location more useful to you, but we definitely understand that your privacy is important. Just as before, Google Location History is entirely opt-in only and your location history is available privately to you and nobody else. Additionally, you may be asked to periodically re-enter your password when opening any Location History page, even if you’re signed in to your Google Account already (just to make sure you’re really you). Of course, you may always delete any or all of your location history in the Manage History tab or disable Location History at any time.

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Evernote for Symbian S60 Beta Available

Finally! An Evernote client app (beta anyway) that I can use with my Nokia N97. Unfortunately, Evernote chose to develop the client as a widget rather than a native Symbian S60 application so performance suffers (as does the number of handsets that it can be deployed to).

It is a good start but has a ways to go with regard to the UI and general functionality (huge issue with the current beta is no local notes database). Hopefully we will see steady improvement in the coming releases.

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Google Wave Guide

If you have received a Google Wave invite only to login and stare blankly at the screen and say ‘ok, what now’ get yourself over to view the excellent online Google Wave guide. This is the most comprehensive guide to gWave that I have seen so far.

And if you are too impatient to read through the wealth of information there, here is a quick tip: In the search box in the upper left replace the text ‘in:inbox’ with ‘with:public’. This will show you a listing of all of the current waves that are marked as public. You can further search by including additional tags after public (for example: ‘with:public cincinnati’ for cincinnati related public waves).

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Google Wave Sandbox

From Read/Write Web:

Google just opened the Google Wave developer sandbox for federation. Developers can now begin prototyping tools against WaveSandbox.com. Google tested earlier versions of Wave with a small number of developers on the Wave sandbox and this server will now become the platform for testing interoperability between different Wave servers. Google also released a how-to document that explains how to set up a Java-based Wave server over the weekend. More details about how to implement the Wave Federation Protocol can be found here.

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Twitter Ache Continues

Looks like twitter is still either actively being hammered by a DDOS attack or is suffering a hangover from the same. Direct access to twitter.com is reasonably fast, but API access seems to still be wonky. For example, Twitterfox is updating my tweet counts, but I can’t actually get to the postings via Twitterfox.

Update: for whatever reason, I can’t post or reply on twitter at all this morning. Others seems to be getting through. Oh, well…

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WordPress 2.8.3 Upgrade

Yet another effortless upgrade from WordPress 2.8 to 2.8.3 (yes, I have been lazy about upgrading) courtesy of dreamhost‘s one click installer/updater. If you are interested in establishing your own blog or site on dreamhost, use my promo code of MREC50 and save $50 off your first year of hosting (or just follow this link and the discount will be applied without the promo code).

All I can say is that I am into my third year of hosting with dreamhost and have no complaints.

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The SOA Social web site fails at the most fundamental level — it’s RSS feeds don’t actually take you to the item they reference. Rather they take you to a truncated entry on the soa social site itself (presumably to drive up ad revenue; otherwise, just to be incompetent). Annoying and missing the point of having a feed. More FAIL from IBM.

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A Step Toward Ubiquitous Data

I have previously stated a desire to have what I term ubiquitous data; that is my data available wherever I need it. Having tried various tools, it was starting to look like Google Notebook was shaping up to be the best option at freeing up my data as I could capture and view info in a desktop and mobile browser. Well, unfortunately, Google have recently chosen to stop development on Notebook.

By chance, I had recently come across Evernote and my first impressions of it is that it is a strong contender to finally deliver on my desire for ubiquitous data. Evernote provides a full featured desktop app (goodbye SOHO Notes), a slightly less featured browser-based interface and (at least for now) a rather minimal mobile interface that is also browser-based (at least on the Nokia N95 — Evernote does not yet have a native S60 mobile client).

Evernote also goes beyond simple web clipping, tagging and categorization with features that allow you to upload photos/scans and do OCR on them. This is pretty cool — you can take an iSight image of a plane ticket or itinerary, place it in Evernote and it will not only be available through all the channels, but you will be able to search for information that is in the image (flight number, airline, arrival/departure city).

Evernote also addresses the link-rot concern by making a copy of the web content in addition to noting the URL. So if the original site goes away, you still have the data you were interested in. One consequence of this is that the page you capture doesn’t always look like the original because some styling information may be lost. I have also found that it doesn’t do a great job if you clip something out of Google Reader or Gmail — the resulting clip tends to lose most all of it’s formatting and just run together into one long ugly string.

Evernote is not without it’s pitfalls though. I rather quickly discovered that the sync mechanism needs some work. For example, if I clip something from the browser it goes into the default notebook. If I then create a new folder via the desktop client and move the recently uploaded note into it, the new notebook shows up in the browser but the new note still shows up in the default notebook. No amount of forced syncs or logging in/out seem to fix this. I have noticed that after a day or so, the notebooks seem to somehow get back in sync. An extremely useful addition to the browser clipping bookmarklet would be to allow the user to create a new notebook at the time that they are submitting the clipping.

The lack of a native S60 client really limits the usefulness of the mobile client for me as there are plenty of opportunities to snap an image of something I want to note and upload it rather than peck out a note manually. Instead I have to download the image to the Mac and upload it via the desktop client. I see there is an opportunity to use MMS to send an image via email from the phone. I’ll give this a shot and see how it goes. Otherwise, I would be happy to help Evernote alpha/beta test an S60 client when they develop one.

Overall, I am hugely encouraged by Evernote and will continue to explore it’s features and functionality. If only Evernote would create an easy migration tool for Google Notebook (and perhaps even SOHO Notes) users that would be a huge adoption aid.

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Finally, Some Browser Innovation

I has been an interesting week for some much needed innovation in the web browsing space. First up was the introduction of Ubiquity from Mozilla Labs. This is a very interesting idea and surprisingly functional considering it is a .1 release. Sort of reminds me of QuickSliver on OSX, except targeted for Firefox.

Today comes word of Google’s Chrome browser that among other things, gives each tab its own process so that an errant tab can’t take the entire browser down (I’m looking at you gratuitous, Flash-encrusted sites).

I hold out more hope for these that the Titanicly overhyped and ultimately underwhelming Flock collection of plugins browser from a few years ago.

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