Category Archives: Apps + Tools

The Travel Checklist

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I know you’re most likely travelling to a city where they have, you know, stores and stuff. But I hate the feeling that I’ve left something behind at home and now have to purchase a double. I keep a basic travel checklist in “Notes” on my iPhone that I consult as I’m packing for a trip. By biggest problem, however, is overpacking. I don’t need three outfit choices for every event on our itinerary. An overstuffed bag is a painful for my back and – thanks to the fees – my wallet. Take control of your suitcase!

If you’re an app lover, check out Packwhiz packing list generator:

http://www.packwhiz.com/

Lifehacker’s “Geek Travel Checklist”

http://edge-cache.lifehacker.com/lifehacker/lh_travel_checklist.pdf

Lifehacker’s Time-Saving Travel Checklist:

http://edge-cache.lifehacker.com/lifehacker/airportchecklist.pdf

Universal Packing List (hideous interface, but effective)

http://upl.codeq.info/

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Tech Tuesdays: Manilla

Hate this site. The site does not interface with about ½ of our credit providers – including several store cards as well as our utilities and loans. It’s basically just a calendar function – telling me how much I owe, when and if I’m overdue. You can’t pay from Manilla – it just takes you to the credit card website, where you have to log in (again) despite providing those credentials to Manilla initially upon registration. So, if F is gone and I need to pay bills, I still need all of his login information – it’s of no help at all. I already know when all of my bills are due, I’m a grownup – what I wanted was a place to aggregate the deadline and balance information with the ability to pay directly or at least not have to log in to each individual credit card site again and again.

I had to go through the whole process to find this out – which was a huge pain in my huge ass…wasted sixty of my precious post-bedtime minutes on this crap. Ugh.

Do. Not. Want.

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I had Evernote on my old work computer back in NYC and never felt like I was taking full advantage of its robust offerings. Sure, I halfheartedly clipped a couple of web pages to it, but never really took the time to play around.

Evernote is a “personal digital assistant,” allowing you to record thoughts and notes, clip web pages, take pics and store PDFs. Your notes are available everywhere you’re your desktop computer, the internets, your iTems… Everything you do on each of your devices is aggregated in your personal Evernote account for access anywhere.

Evernote supports tagging and advanced search and replaces bookmarking apps like Delicious.

When your’re on a website or in a pertinent document, select the text/image, hit command+c to copy, click the Evernote bookmarklet and choose “clip to Evernote.” Easy-peasy.

Evernote uses OCR to recognizes words and catalogs them – index, searchable by text.

Premium users can put it Word docs and spreadsheets.

CNET, Lifehacker, … they all RAVE about Evernote, calling it “life-changing.” Well with all that sexy hype, I must try it.

One con that was frequently mentioned was that Evernote doesn’t play well with Outlook (like anything does?!?!) but other than that, it’s all positive.

I’m not going to install on my current work computer – because it might not be my work computer forever… I’ll play with it at home on the desktop and my iTems and will report back.

Mac demo:

http://www.evernote.com/about/video/#OlOLXWvaIy0|1|1

Evernote overview:

http://www.productivity501.com/evernote-review/6307/

Evernote Essentials: The Definitive Getting Started Guide (paid eBook):

http://nerdgap.com/landing/evernote-essentials/

Tech Tuesday – Evernote

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Recipes: Best Friends or Worst Enemies?

The Mr and I love to cook – the ritual of preparing and enjoying a great meal (preferably shared with friends) is one of the great joys in life. What isn’t great is keeping track of the many recipes I pull out of magazines or print off the web, etc. I have a file folder in the kitchen stuffed with the most recent items that I want to try. There’s also a small accordion folder under the bar with even more clippings – somewhat categorized. Plus we have about 30 cookbooks and there’s Epicurious, etc… It’s sometimes a daunting pain in the ass to sit down and plan the weekly menu or conceive a party spread with so much nonsense floating around.

There are many apps and electronic solutions to my problem – but they mainly tackle organizing recipes that are already digital. Plus, I don’t always agree with the way they are categorized – I like to break stuff out into groupings that meet our particular lifestyle needs, such as: food for the kids, party food, weeknight meals, weekend feasts, etc. I think I’m going to go analog luddite on this one and just buy a honking binder with dividers and a bunch of plastic sleeves to protect my recipes.

I’ve been doing some research about electronic options, and while none of them appeal to me, you might find them useful.ImageI think BigOven looks like a really robust option and does allow for scanning or typing in your analog recipies. But, ugh, when do I have the time to transfer all of that data to an electronic format. Good lord – if I had like 10 hours to kill, it sure as hell wouldn’t be spent typing recipes – but I digress… BigOven.com features a 30 day free trial followed by a $15.95 annual subscription charge. I’m doing some research before I make the commitment and document my experience in a future post.

http://www.bigoven.com/?gclid=CLjF8pa6iq8CFQpjTAodxGQMDw

Lifehacker – 5 Best Recipe Organization Tools

http://lifehacker.com/5862746/five-best-recipe-organization-tools

If you’re into a more traditional method of organizing your recipes, you might give this a whirl:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/barefoot-contessa-recipe-organizer-ina-garten/1100026339

But at $100 a pop, it had better cook the damn food for me. Not sure how the Barefoot Contessa can justify the cost otherwise.

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Tech Tuesdays: PageOnce Road Test

ImageI’ve been playing with Pageonce on and off for a couple of years, especially so this past month. I’m feeling the same way about Pageonce that I do about Mint…that I’m better off with my Excel budget/bill payment spreadsheet than dealing with any of these app solutions. My apathy is even more intense with Pageonce, which seems to be perpetually two days behind in updating my information. Case in point: paycheck deposited Saturday, so yesterday I get a notification from Pageonce that I had a large deposit into my primary checking account. Gee, thanks.

Pageonce claims that you can automatically track your money and pay your bills from one app. Unfortunately, again, it doesn’t appear to have the permissions to link to several of my accounts. I also don’t seem to have the ability to make payments directly from the app (not even sure I’d want to – since I’m concerned about security).  Originally, Pageonce was supposed to function as your iPersonal Assistant (note to tech types: please stop putting “i” in front of every f@cking thing, for the love of jeebus…) It was supposed to aggregate all of your online accounts like Netflix, Gmail, cell phone, banking, etc in one location for your easy reference. Not sure if that has gone by the wayside, but it seems to be primarily intended for personal finance management at this point.

As far as user ratings and popularity of personal finance apps go, Pageonce is a distant second to the giant Mint.com (see last week’s review…)

Another shortcoming of these personal finance apps is that not all banks will reimburse you for unauthorized charges to your account – check your Terms and Conditions carefully before proceeding. Some apps play better with some banks than others, unfortunately. Your mileage may vary….

Here’s Lifehacker’s ranking of personal finance apps:

http://lifehacker.com/5724757/best-mobile-personal-finance-tool-mint

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Tech Tuesdays (a day late): Mint.com Test Drive

In the never-ending quest to get all of our disparate financial information into one place, controlled from one dashboard, I’m revisiting Mint.com. I started entering information into Mint waaaay back in 2009 (life was so much less complicated then…) and then pretty much abandoned it because I never had the time or energy to sit down with all of my paperwork and enter everything in.

ImageNow I’m sitting here trying to get into Mint.com again, and the site seems to be having connectivity problems with every one of my accounts, which is nice and frustrating. I really want to like Mint.com…Even tabbing between the login name and passwords as I enter my accounts does not seem to work. This is why I can’t seem to get it together on this stuff: half of the store cards we have are not supported by Mint.com, and although I put in a service request, I don’t know how long it will take them to respond. Furthermore, two of my credit cards do not support Mint at all, so I can’t add those accounts. So, Mint’s major selling point is that I can see “all of my accounts,” but that’s not actually true.

The other major problem I’m having with Mint.com is that it’s counting our American Express and other credit card transactions right along our bank account transactions… they are totally integrated with each other in the “transactions” tab. So, it looks like our credit cards are income, which it’s clearly not, since we have to pay it back every month. It’s not a true picture of income/spending against budget categories, in other words.

The assignments of each transaction to a budget category are frequentlt incorrect and require manual intervention. Also, the dates are a disaster – I have stuff from March 2011 showing up right next to my grocery bill from yesterday, etc. I’ll keep playing with it, but I’m not holding out much hope. Maybe it’s because I started this 3 years ago and then went back in to update? I dunno… I’m going back now and reading some online reviews of Mint.com to see if I’m just crazy,

I really don’t want to keep relying on our ancient Excel spreadsheet to do our budgeting and payments every month, but I feel like I have no choice. I have yet to come across a system/program/app that fulfills all of our family financial management needs.

In the coming month, I’ll also be trying Pageonce, Manilla and possibly Quicken. If you guys have any other suggestions, they’d be much appreciated.

For more info:

https://www.mint.com/

http://news.consumerreports.org/money/2010/05/mint-com-quicken-online-review-combined-improve-allow-input-checks-transactions-.html

Making Sense of iCloud

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OK, I’m no slouch, but lately I feel like a f*cking luddite when it comes to my iTems. I love the idea of this iCloud business, I know it replaces my MobileMe account and I currently have my contacts, calendar and bookmarks available. But damnit if I don’t know how to get my books, podcasts and music up there too. I just want to share between devices. So far this is not working out and it’s seriously pissing me off – I’m on a mission to figure out how to get all of my (paid-for) content available via the cloud.

Unfortunately, our old desktop – which housed the bulk of our music collection – sh!t the bed back in the Fall, well before the iCloud was even available. So, who knows how I’m ever going to retrieve all of that… I guess I can use Senuti again, like the last time our hard drive died, but to be honest I’m totally dreading that entire process. Honestly, iCloud in general is a bit irritating – I miss my iDisk.

How to use Senuti:

Connect your iDevice and open Senuti.

When you first launch Senuti you’ll be asked a variety of setup questions before you can get started. Don’t breeze through this process because you’ll be asked to set where your music will be copied and whether or not it’ll automatically be added to iTunes. You want to know where your music is going to end up when you’ve finished copying it so don’t click through and ignore these options.

Once you’re done you’ll see the main Senuti window. It’ll look like a simplified version of iTunes, with all your playlists on the left and your music/media on the right. Just search for the songs that you want to transfer, or select them from your library, and click the Transfer button in the upper lefthand corner of Senuti’s window.

Wait while Senuti transfers your music to the location you chose during the setup process and adds it to iTunes automatically (if you decided you wanted it to do this, also during the setup process).

Now I have iTunes Match working – and I’ll need to activate that on all of our devices for it to be worth a damn, and I just need to retrieve my “lost” music from the old, dead desktop. Progress report to come.

Some helpful links:

http://lifehacker.com/5875202/does-icloud-suck

http://lifehacker.com/5869827/how-to-copy-music-from-your-iphone-ipad-or-ipod-touch-to-your-computer-for-free

http://www.apple.com/itunes/itunes-match/

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Tech Tuesday: Goodreads

If you are a total bibliophile (read: dorkass) like I am, you’ll dig on Goodreads, a social networking site for book lovers that allows you to peruse what your friends are reading and post your list and reviews. Every member has a “bookshelf” with a list of books that they are currently reading, have completed reading, or are anticipating reading. The site has been around since 2007, but I’ve only recently been turned on to it via Facebook friends – probably because my nose is always buried in a book (or my Kindle).

Goodreads was the winner of Lifehacker’s “Hive Five Best Book Recommendation Service.” Once only web-based, you can now download the Goodreads app for your iPhone or Android device to keep track of your reading list (handy when you’re at the book store), search book reviews, and receive personalized recommendations based on what you’ve previously read and reviewed. Goodreads also “hosts” book clubs, which I’m particularly interested in as I don’t have the time – thanks to the kiddos – to go to a real-life book club, plus I’m painfully shy (I know, right…?)

I just started using the site and have yet to brain dump my huge list of books I’ve read, am reading, or intend to read, and start writing reviews. I need to take it a little bit at a time, I think, starting w/ my Kindle library and working from there.

Come take a gander at Goodreads – let me know what you think.

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Tech Tuesdays: I’m Back + Obsessed

After a long 4 month hiatus from the working life, I found myself back in the saddle doing contract production management starting last month. Adding this element back into my life required some shuffling of time and priorities and consequently, I had to put OCDelight on the back burner for a while. Now we that have a routine down, I can hop back into the blog – and I have a lot to share, because I haven’t stopped reading since ending my self-imposed “maternity leave.” In fact, taking the bus means I now get an uninterrupted 90 minutes of reading time every single day. It’s tits!

Pinterest is a virtual, visual pinboard app helps you collect ideas. A curating tool, if you like. And jeebus knows I am all about curating my life in 2012.

I’m totally obsessed with it.

Pinterest also has a social networking function and is currently invite-only. However, it wasn’t exactly hard to wrangle an invite – just submitted a simple request form, and was “in” about a week later. Download your “pin it” bookmarklet and the iPhone app, and pin on the go. You can share your boards with your followers, follow others (both friend and stranger alike), and comment. I’m not into the social aspect as much as I find it so extraordinarily convenient to catalog all of my finds on the web in one place. I think if you were working on a brainstorming or creative project, Pinterest would also be super useful.

I currently have idea boards to collect ideas for home décor, stuff to do in Austin and for this blog. I anticipate adding a recipies/party board and maybe a fashion/beauty board – dunno…Let’s see where this thing takes me. It’s not like I don’t have enough demands on my time already, after all.

You can find me at pinterest.com/mrschrislopez. Feel free to hit me up for an invite.

Happy pinning!Image

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