Monday, July 28, 2008

How to make your Blackjack quiet on startup and shutdown

I'm one of those people who turn their cell phone back on as soon as the plane hits the ground. But from now on, I won't be one of those people whose phone makes an annoying sound!

On my last trip, as I started up my phone, my seat mate, who had the same Samsung Blackjack, asked if there was a way to make it not make the startup noise. Not sound, but noise. The Blackjack, as provisioned by AT&T, makes this horrid whooshing sound when it starts up. I think it is a hold over to the fax connection sounds as the phone makes its 3G connection.

At the time, I did not know how to stop the noise. But now I do. A quick google search yielded this on the AT&T forums:

Agunat wrote:
Is there anyway to shut off the loud noise the phone makes when I turn it on or off? It is really bothersome to me and others in the room.

It's easy..just turn off System Sounds from your profile.
Other posters mentioned that you could edit the registry (it is powered by Windows Mobile 5), but that always comes with the warning of being brave (and requires additional software).

Why didn't I do that search right there on the plane? That would have been cool (and geeky) But nameless seatmate, I hope you find the answer, because it is really simple!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I'm a big geek, as if you didn't already know

This weekend, I watched Drillbit Taylor which I thought was a hilarious movie. Basically, the premise is that a group of dorky (not geeky) high-school boys hire a body guard to protect them from the high school bully. There is more to the story than just that, but I'm not too much of a spoiler.

The boys post an online ad and end up interviewing a lot of potential body guards (you can imagine the mix they get from an online ad) at some coffee shop.

When they get to Drillbit Taylor (Owen Wilson) and they ask him about his experience he says, "I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate."

Recognizing the line from Blade Runner, I chuckle. My wife, who had watched the movie previously with the kids, gives me the big you-are-such-a-geek look, because one of the dorky (who must be a little bit geeky, too) says, "Hey, isn't that from Blade Runner?"

Yeah, I'm a a geek to have recognized the line, but don't you feel a little pity for all the kids who saw Drillbit Taylor and didn't get the significance of that line? Its such a statement of experience. It says something about what humanity is defined or how we try to protect our own humanity.
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... Time to die.

Being productive with Jott

Jott – Bring simple back to your life, anywhere.

I first read about Jott on Lifehacker and thought it would be cool. I tried it out (the simple sign up was really nice) and it fit right into my lifestyle. I'm often away from my computer and network access, but I always have my cell phone. Jott is a great capture device and inbox for Getting Things Done.

Jott provides a free service that transcribes voice to email, text message and other web services. Their transcription is done through a combination of human and computer transcription and they indicate that their computer transcription is doing the majority of the work these days.

Jott is a great way to communicate with groups. You can setup groups in your contact list and then send group emails and group text messages. I've made use of this when we were working on a group project at work and I had to provide an update on work that I was doing while my team mates were commuting home, so that they could continue working on the project. I use Jott groups frequently with my MBA team, especially when I'm stuck in traffic and delayed getting to class.

Recently, a buddy of mine expressed surprise at the 47 pounds of gear I was going to take on an overnight, winter camping trip. As I unpacked my gear, I used the kitchen scale to weigh it. I used Jott to record the results with my voice and then put it into a spreadsheet later. It made data collection really simple.

I use Jott to send most text messages instead of my QWERTY keyboard on my phone. The fact that you can email from a non-internet enabled phone is really cool (and can save a buck or two on service, too). I use Jott lots to text message my wife when she is at swim meets and swim practice where the loud environment makes it challenging to hear the phone.

Jott reminders are pretty cool, though they need a little refinement in my opinion. With my voice, I can create a timed reminder and receive a text message 10 minutes before that time (thats where the improvement is needed, I want my reminders on time). This has been useful to use my phone as an alarm clock when my wife (and maybe me too) takes afternoon naps or when she asks me to remind her of something at some later point in the day. I don't have to remember, Jott will do it for me!

Jott is also integrated with other web services and even has an API to integrate beyond just sending an email to the service. With the Zillow Jott Link, my wife and I can be driving around and quickly settle the “how much does that house cost” guessing game. She's usually right because she's more in tune with the housing market. I can add to-dos to my Remember the Milk to do list, even adding tags and due dates with their natural speaking interface.

When I'm away from my computer, I can Jott directly to my blog on Blogger and they support many other blogging platforms to. Its also convenient to add events directly to my Google Calendar, so I don't have to worry about losing the little appointment business card (or worse, if I don't a reminder card).

Jott has links to lots of other services that I don't use, too and the link of services integrated with Jott grows frequently.

I use Jott just about everyday. Not only can reach out with so many other methods of communication, Jott sends me copies of what I Jott with the control to even receive it on my phone as a text message. I only do that for the important things, namely adding to my calendar, once I've built up the trust in the system.

Jott is super useful when driving. Sure, its common sense to not be distracted while you drive, but I live in one of those states that has passed no texting laws and will require a hands-free device in a few months. Not only is it easy, it is safe, too.

Most recently, Jott released an iPhone app. While I don't have an iPhone, its apps like these that make me want to get one.

On my last work trip, I Jotted my expenses to myself as I made them. I had several cash and expenses on my personal credit card (where they didn't take American Express) that I wanted to keep track of. It really made the post-trip reconciliation quick and easy. All of my expenses go straight into a Jott folder called expenses and with them all in one place, it makes it easy to fill out the expense report when I get home.

For my birthday, my family got me a Jawbone headset. I love it and the noise cancellation allows me to use Jott in even more locations (like quick notes from swim meets and basketball games). Jott was one of the reasons that the Jawbone made it on my wishlist.

Jott is also a local Seattle startup. I'm all about trying new things and Web 2.0 services and its that much more cool when you can actually meet the people behind the company. They are great at responding to feedback and incorporating that feedback into the newer versions. Because I live close by, I've been able to participate in focus studies and user group events. Not only is Jott a cool service, but they're cool people, too.

Sign up for Jott here.

Edit 26 August 2008: Jott has announced that they are no longer in beta and have paid plans. Read my thoughts here.

My 10 year old sense of humor

I was flipping through my Williams-Sonoma risotto cookbook because the weather here has turned cool and I'm thinking about things to eat that are warm and hearty and I found a great looking recipe for Gorgonzola Risotto with Grilled Beef. As I read through the recipe, I started to smile as I read about Toasting Nuts.

Put the hot nuts in a clean, dry kitchen towel and rub them together vigorously to remove most of their dark, papery skin.
Yes, I have a 10 year old sense of humor, not an archaic one, but a juvenile one.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

My Productivity Tools

My Productivity Tools and Techniques

pro·duc·tive (prə duktiv, prō-) adjective

  1. producing abundantly; fertile productive soil, a productive mind

  2. marked by abundant production or effective results a productive day

  3. bringing as a result (with of) war is productive of much misery

  4. Econ. of or engaged in the creating of economic value, or the producing of goods and services

  5. Linguis. designating any affix or method which can be and still is used to make new forms “non-” is a productive prefix

Etymology: ML productivus <>productus, pp. of producere: see produce


We all want to be productive. We all have limited resources in everything we do and nearly limitless demands on our resources. Our time is usually the most limited of the resources and those demands on our resources include work, family, friends, school, video games, blogging...

There are lots of things we can do to become more productive and there are many blogs, seminars, books that try to teach us how to be more productive. Over the next few weeks (or months depending upon the other draws on my time), I'll write about the tools and techniques I use to be more productive.

I'm no productivity expert or life coach. I'm a married father of three young kids, working in corporate America, attending Business School at the University of Washington, who enjoys cooking and getting into the outdoors. I'm a geek when it comes to computers. My kids are involved in competitive swimming and I telecommute (though as I type this in early March, I am on a plane on my way to Oakland for a week long meeting).

This list is not a “woe is me” list; its not about how tough I have it. I know that I have a lot of things going for me. The list is meant to illustrate some of those competing demands on my time. With all those things going on, things that my wife and I have chosen to do, I need to be able to best use my time.

Tools and Techniques

Getting Things Done

Remember the Milk



Online Grocery Shopping

Note taking

Online Banking

Google Calendar

Google Documents


Grand Central

Over the course of the next few months, I'll post write ups on each of these tools.

I have Roger to thank for the inspiration behind this series. I wrote about some Web 2.0 resources I used and he asked for a review and this is what it turned into.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Saturday night dinner by myself

Tonight's dinner, originally uploaded by beau.raines.

Last night, Heather and the kids went to see the American Idol show in Tacoma, so I had the afternoon and evening to myself.

I ended up going to the grocery store (we'd been out of orange juice for a while) and I had a craving for avocados. This was my final product!

I enjoyed soy-cilantro chicken on skewers, grilled marinated tofu and a tomato and avocado salad. Accompanied by Rouge Chipotle ale and a peanut soy sauce dipping sauce.

While I was cooking, I had some Reed's Ginger Beer - it had been a very long time since I had seen that in the store and so I snatched it up. We'll have to see what the kids think since it is an acquired taste.

I also made strawberry ice cream while Heather was out. Strawberry ice cream requires that you macerate the berries, strain the liquid out and then puree some of them. If you're keeping track, thats 5 dirty dishes in those steps alone. I didn't empty and reload the dishwasher last night (it was a 22 ounce bottle of beer so I didn't do too much after dinner other than sit on the couch and watch a movie). When Heather came home later, we were talking and she asked if I had a party because of all the dishes! I'm going to go start Heather's coffee and empty and load the dishes now, for those of you that may be wondering. :)

Earlier in the day, I was chatting with a friend about cooking and meals and it some how came out that we use cloth napkins at every meal. You can see that even in my dinner by myself, I have a cloth napkin. She was a little surprised about the cloth napkins. We don't do it from an eco standpoint, I think it is more about the dining experience.

It has already been ascertained that I am weird, but is it out of the ordinary to use cloth napkins (especially white, restaurant grade ones) at every meal?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The internet has lost its fun factor

The internet just isn't as fun as it used to be. Sure, it's great for research or to be organized or stay in touch with friends. It's a great tool for communication and productivity, but I'm finding it lacking in the entertainment arena.

I enjoy blogging, don't get me wrong. That is fun, but not entertainment. I need to think a little (which is good) in order to write a post (in fact, I pre-wrote this post with pencil and a moleskine journal).

I enjoy reading other's blogs and checking out my friends photographs, but for pure recreation, I'm just not finding it.

Maybe when it comes down to it, I'm thinking about games. YouTube clips just don't do it for me. I'm looking for something diversionary and completely different.

Dear Readers - what do you do on the internet when you aren't working, blogging or connecting with friends?

Friday, July 11, 2008

The smells of summer

With the arrival of nice summer weather in Seattle, we have been keeping the windows open more. Today, on the breeze, was the smell of poo.

Helen, was it you? Or do I have one of my other upwind neighbors to thank for the "smell of summer?"

I'm less than pleased with this.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I ran yesterday

I ran yesterday morning (7 July 2008), when I took Alec to swim practice, 2.5 miles on a track. There was too much background noise when I tried to post Jott, so it didn't transcribe well and the post didn't go through.

Thanks for the comments on my other post. I'll respond to them later today.

Friday, July 04, 2008

And I ran

I'd like to say, I ran so far away, but alas, I cannot. Suffice it to say, I ran today for the first time in a long time.

I'm only walking mildly funny and I've only stumbled a few times going down steps and stairs.

My goal is to get back into running, at least twice a week and I'll blog about it, just a short one, just to keep me honest.