Friday, February 29, 2008

Google Calendar + Text Messaging = No more surprise appointments!

I haven't come across any earth-shattering tools or software this week, so today's post will be a nice productivity tip recommendation.

And here it is:

Start using Google Calendar with Mobile Updates.

The Google Calendar itself is quite nice. There really isn't much to explain here that isn't common to any other successful online web calendar. You can quickly and easily add events. You can share your events with other people if you choose. Multiple users can edit one calendar. The real bonus for me is the fact that you can set your calendar to email you and/or send you a text message to remind you of upcoming events. It is very convenient.

I usually have my events set to email me 24 hours before the event and text me 1-3 hours before. This has done wonders for helping me always act like I didn't forget that meeting or that it was my week to bring in milk for the coffee club.

Like most of the Google family of products, it is free and plays nicely with your Gmail address, if you have one. (If not, what are you waiting for?)

Google Calendar

Thursday, February 21, 2008

3d Scanner from Nextengine looks amazing!

I use Gmail. It is great. But that is not what this post is about. This post is about a product from one of the links Gmail serves up based on the topics of your emails. (I remember people being so concerned that Google's software would scan your email to match you with relevant ads. I have actually found some pretty great sites and products that way)

I clicked on an ad recently about a 3d scanner. It is manufactured by a company in California called NextEngine. For $2,500, you can get this scanner which can scan anything smaller than 11 inches wide and 13 inches high. From there you have a 3d picture on your computer suitable for editing or 3d printing.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Then a video is worth 30,000 words per second. Here is some footage from Youtube of the 3d scanner in action. There are more flash demos at the NextEngine site (

You could do some amazing things in schools with such an easy to use scanner. It boggles the mind. If you then coupled it with a 3d scanner ($5,000 and up), you could really create an amazing 3d Design/Prototyping/Engineering class.

Enjoy. (If my dream of owning this ever comes true, I will certainly post here)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Free Remote PC Access...

Do you ever get home and realize you left something on your computer? It happens to the best of us. By now most people are familiar with Remote Access software. has made the phrase fairly ubiquitous. But who wants to pay $20 per month to access your PC? Many of us don't have that extra money to shell out, especially if you would only use it a few times a month or less.

A few months ago I stumbled across a website called Logmein that offers 100% free access to as many remote PCs as you need! I am always skeptical about free services such as this, but I have been pleasantly surprised by how easy and effective it is. In fact, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that it has saved me more than a few times when I forget something on a computer that is many miles away from me.

The process is easy.

  1. Sign up for a free account.
  2. Install the software on every computer you need to access remotely. (Only takes a few minutes and only needs to be done once)
  3. Once you have installed Logmein on your remote computers, they will show up on your "My Computers" list every time you log in. You can see which computers are online and which ones are not. (You cannot access a computer that is not turned on and online)
  4. Click on any computer you need to access. You will be connected in a matter of seconds.
  5. Once you are connected, you can access the contents of your remote computer by clicking the Remote icon.
  6. From there you have full access to the contents of the remote computer. You can view the remote computer in Full Screen, you can cut and paste between machines, you can even print documents from the remote computer.
One of the most common scenarios for me in which I thank my lucky stars I have Logmein is when I realize I forget something on another computer. I log onto the remote computer, open my Gmail account from that computer, and send myself the missing file as an attachment. Within a few seconds, it is waiting for me on my home computer. It is as good as being 2 places at once.

I highly recommend it. It just might save your day.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Microsoft Live Maps put Google to shame...

In the same week that had me questioning my life-long preference of PC over Mac, I have just stumbled across a new technology (new to me at least) that again has me stopping to reevaluate all that I once held dear.

Here it is: Microsoft's Virtual Earth/Live Search Maps blows Google Earth/Maps out of the water.

There, I said it. Now the healing can begin.

I always thought Google Earth would be the last satellite imagery software I would ever buy download. The pictures in Google Earth seemed so clear to me. The ability to zoom down so close to buildings so amazing.

Then today I decided to give Microsoft's Virtual Earth a look just for giggles in a few free minutes I found unexpectedly. It was amazing! The pictures are so much more clear!

The quality of the pictures and the ability to clearly zoom a little bit deeper than Google Earth/Maps would have been enough to convince me that Virtual Earth deserved a second look.
Then I hit the "Bird's Eye View" feature.

Oh snap!

You can view any location from all 4 sides from a height of 25 yards!

Here is a screenshot from Google Maps:

And here is the same location in Bird's Eye View from Virtual Earth/Live Search:

Incredible. First PC's let me down and now Google is bested. I am Lost.

Click here when you are ready to give it a try for yourself.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Add another point for the Mac...

In another shocking development that threatens everything I once believed in, I had a second occurrence this weekend of something that I desperately needed to do, but could not get to work on my PC. And once again, it was my new Macbook to the rescue, solving the problem by simply working the way it is supposed to, something the PC just would not do.

The first example was a few days ago in my hotel room when I desperately needed to connect to the Internet to put some finishing touches on a presentation I was to give in less than 24 hours. The Mac was able to connect time and time again when the PC kept dropping the wireless connection.

That was just the beginning!

Yesterday was another crucial example of the PC letting me down. My wife and I were staying in a different hotel as she was taking a graduate course in the building. After her class, we tried to watch the 6th and final disc of Lost, Season 3. The disc refused to load on the PC. It played immediately on the Mac.

What is going on here? After years of avoiding Macs and calling them an inferior product, my trusty PC has been bested by a Mac twice in one week?! What else could go wrong? My whole belief system is beginning to shake...

Friday, February 1, 2008

Techspo Presentation a Success!

After many weeks of preparation, Techspo and our Moodle presentation have come and gone. And I must say, I think our presentation was a success. We had a pretty full room and there weren't many empty seats by the end. All told, I would guess there were about 50 people in attendance. One of my fears in the hours, days, and weeks leading up to the event was that no one would come and we would be giving our presentation to the guests that came from our own district. That would have been a very sad presentation indeed!

Luckily that did not happen and we had a very interested and enthusiastic crowd. Based on the questions during and after the presentation, I fully anticipate Moodle will be gaining some new users and most likely some new proponents.

I am debating starting a new blog centered entirely around the Moodle software, sample Moodle activities, add-ons, and suggestions for new "Moodlers." More on that as/if it develops.