Saturday, March 30, 2013

New Site Page

I've created a table that lists some of the systems I own. Since most of that stuff will be talked about on this fairly regularly, I decided to devote a tabbed page to this content. You can check it out by clicking on the "My Hardware" tab above.

Moleskine Evernote Smart Notebook

Moleskine is a brand of paper notebooks that's known to produce a quality writing product. Not too long ago they teamed up with Evernote and created a "Smart" notebook that's supposed to merge the worlds of digital and physical note taking. The idea is that you do your note taking the old fashioned way with your Moleskine Smart Notebook,then later you can use your phone to take a snap shot of the page and save it as a note in Evernote. Your written notes are saved as a digital photo and Evernote runs some handwriting recognition on your notes so you can use Evernote's search function to find any keywords in the snapshot. You also get a pad of stickers you can use to tag your notes. The stickers are recognized by Evernote so you can look up notes and organize them based on the sticker you used.

Originally I thought the handwriting recognition meant that there would be an option to transcribe the written notes into digital text, but it turns out I was mistaken. Apparently after doing a little research it turns out that is a feature which is just a little too advanced and not accurate enough to be useful. Evernote get's around the accuracy issue with its search function because the function doesn't have to worry about piecing together a coherent sentence. If the software looks at something you wrote and decides there's multiple things it could mean it can just add them all to its list of keywords instead of trying to figure out which word is the most likely word you meant to write. Unfortunately this means that if you want any of your physical writing on digits you'll need to type it up yourself like you would with any other "dumb" notebook.

So basically the Moleskine Evernote Smart Notebook is really only smart about giving you a digital backup of all your hand written notes. How useful this is to you really depends on how much you enjoy writing things by hand. Also the other big advantage is that everything you save to Evernote is now in the cloud and can be accessed anywhere from your phone, computer, or tablet. Evernote is pretty good about providing an app for any device you might have.

Below is an example of my first test note.

When I wrote that the original idea was to translate that page into digital text and then compare the two in this article. Naturally I was pretty disappointed to discover that feature didn't exist. Not sure if this was a result of Moleskine and Evernote over hyping their product or me just reading into it more than what actually existed. Perhaps it was a little of both. I really did want this to be a super notepad that would allow me to naturally hand write notes into my computer, and Moleskine really did want my money.

So, was this a wasted purchase? That depends, the Moleskine Evernote Smart Notebook sells for around $20 at Amazon, which is really expensive for a notepad, but it does come with a code that can be redeemed for three months of Evernote's premium service. This service is about $5 a month so that technically brings the notebook down to only $5. I said "technically" because the three month code would only be of value to someone who is a fan of Evernote and actually wants their premium service, otherwise your paying $20 for a freaking notepad. My recommendation would be to play around with the free version of Evernote first and decide if you like the service enough to want to start storing your physical notes their too.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My First Computer

While digging through some old boxes I came across what I believe is the last remnant of my first computer. It’s a Western Digital Caviar IDE hard drive, with an impressive 2.5 gigabytes of storage. My first computer actually shipped with a 4 Gig drive, so technically this is just an add on component, but still it brought back some good memories. Before I had to use the family computer but this PC was set up in my room, which is a huge bonus when you're a teenager.

Here are the stats that I can remember from “Old Faithful”

  • Windows 98
  • 300MHz Intel Celeron Processor
  • 32 Megabytes System Memory
  • 4 Gigabyte hard drive
  • Generic 2d 4 Meg video card
  • 56K Modem Sound Card Combo

The video card was probably the weakest part of this system, running 3D games was never guaranteed. I can remember never being able to get the Quake 3 demo to run. The modem was also a real piece of work too. That POS would always drop my connection when I was in the middle of an online game.

My dad purchased this computer when I was 14 and just starting high school. I had to pay half the price tag, which I believe was around $700 or so. This agreement came about when I was 13 after I told my parents I wanted to save up my money to buy a computer. My dad, who had a few beers in him at the time, had said that if I could save up half of the money he’d pick up the rest. Motivated by the idea that I only needed half the money, I signed up to do a paper route to raise the cash. This took a while because the paper route only paid around $50 - $70 a month, and it was a real pain in the ass to get up every morning and distribute papers around the neighborhood.

Old Faithful really isn't an accurate name for this PC. The Windows 9X line of operating systems were notoriously unreliable. The blue screen of death was a constant visitor during the best of times and I didn't help matters by always tinkering with things and running various games that always pushed the system to its limits. In fact I think Old Faithful didn't even last three full years before suffering a catastrophic failure. Fortunately by that time my dad didn't make me work another paper route before getting a new computer. We ended up building Old Faithfull's replacement from a bare-bones kit, but I'm going to save that for another article.