Make way for ducklings

Saturday, April 30th, 2005
This afternoon, I took Kelly down to the lake to feed the ducks. Two of the ducks had ducklings in tow. We saw a mother duck with three ducklings and another with eight. What a treat!


And of course, my little duckling ...


Tablet PC productivity gadgets

Friday, April 29th, 2005
Thank you, to those of you who recommended your favorite TPC productivity software. I plan to look at each of these programs in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, I'm about to evaluate gadgets to go along with my Tablet PC.

Here's what's on my list so far
  • Spare Pen (I ordered Toshiba, considering a Cross/Wacom)
  • Toshiba Portfolio case for the M4
  • USB Headset/Mic (Logitech M300 or Plantronics)
  • Mobile Scanner: Visioneer Strobe XP 100 or Plustek OpticSlim M12
  • Book Scanner: Plustek OpticBook 3600 Book Scanner for my desk
Care to share your favorite Tablet PC productivity gadgets?

Update: I forgot to mention that I've purchased the new Toshiba superdock, which supports M200 and the M4.  I'll add the Cross Pen w/Cap to the list.

A simpler time ...

Friday, April 29th, 2005
Just 40 years ago, a man's home was still his castle. As I remember, radio, TV (black and white, all 7 channels - available up to 18 hours a day), and to some extent the rotary phone, were the only ways for information to penetrate the castle walls quickly.

Back then, we lived in a mostly disconnected world. There was no such thing as satellite television or satellite radio, and pagers, cell phones, personal fax machines, and e-mail did not yet exist. Homes that had phone service had only one line. Growing up, I remember we had a "Party line." Two or three neighbors shared the line. (A few years ago, I had more phone lines in my house than I had occupants. How times have changed.)

I remember once, hearing a typing sound coming from my parent's room; the strange thing was that no one was in the room. I peeked in the room. There, I saw a typewriter typing all by itself. (I now I that was a portable teletype machine with an acoustic coupler - probably operating at about 50 baud. For a young boy, it was an amazing sight.) That was 30 years ago.

Even then, technology was chipping away at the castle walls. Information had begun to cross the castle walls in both directions. Still, it was a trickle, by today's standards. I hesitate to think about what the "norm" will be in five to ten years.

I have no idea where I'm going with this post; I'm not sure I even have a point. I'll file this one under "musings."

Instant messages? We had those: An instant message was what happened when your neighbor came over and rapped on the kitchen window to let you know that your dog was in her rose garden again.

Tablet PC Software Recommendations

Thursday, April 28th, 2005
Several readers posted recommendations for productivity software I should consider for the Tablet PC.  Thanks. I appreciate the recommendations.

Here's what's on my list to evaluate so far:

Marc Orchant
  • Orange Guava Desktop with ActiveWords
  • Agilix GoBinder
  • Tablet Enhancements for Outlook
James Kendrick
  • For ease of use with the pen- Entbloess or TopDesk for switching windows easily
  • Tablet PC Launcher for pen access to all your programs and docs
  • Media Transfer from Experience Pack to get media files (including podcasts) onto TPC
  • ritePen which offers write anywhere capability for ink text entry and fuses their advanced recognition engine with the TIP.  I get better accuracy using ritePen than the TIP alone.
Warner Crocker
  • Orange Guava Desktop with Active Words
  • Agilix Gobinder
  • Experience Pack for the Snipping Tool if for no other reason
  • PrinttoOneNote powertoy and
  • PP2One to pull Powerpoint Presentations or slides into OneNote for annotating
Nik Tipler
  • ResultsManager, now "Ink Enabled"  
  • "I'm playing with Orange Guava Desktop with Active Words at the moment"
  • "I've set up some MindManager/ResultsManager Active Words commands which is looking interesting."
Eric Mack
  • MindManager
  • ResultsManager
  • Microsoft OneNote
These three applications are the main reasons I purchased a Tablet PC in the first place ... aside from the geek factor, of course.

Anything you'd like to add?

Box #1 from Toshiba arrives

Thursday, April 28th, 2005
FedEx just delivered my Toshiba Tablet PC Pen, battery, and Targus AC/DC/Air Adapter.

No M4 yet; however, it's only been 4 days since I placed my order.

I feel like Inego Montoya, looking down from atop the cliffs of despair, waiting for the man in black to reach the top ...
"I hate waiting"

Fortunately, I have several TPC software recommendations to review

This made me smile

Thursday, April 28th, 2005
Turn up your speakers. Spin your mouse around, then release for a greater effect.

Elastic baby

Have fun.

Feeling overwhelmed? You need a checklist.

Tuesday, April 26th, 2005
A checklist could save your life. Here's a not-so-subtle reminder about the value of checklists:

Have you ever found yourself emotionally shutting down in the face of a daunting project list and an overflowing e-mail in-box? I have.

The Air Force calls this Task Saturation and it can manifest itself in many ways. Some people hyper-focus on their email and new-mail alerts to the point where nothing gets done.

David and I made posts on Saturday and Sunday about the UK researcher who found that email distractions can cause a drop in IQ.

Fellow productivity blogger, Bert, from Open Loops, posted an excellent comment about how the military helps its pilots extract themselves from overwhelm before they have to extract themselves from their wreckage:

The Air Force calls this Task Saturation. When one is faced with a large volume of tasks, which is what you might see when you look at your backlogged email in-box, humans can shut down. Some, in an effort to deal with the tasks, begin to compartmentalize and channelize, meaning that they begin to concentrate on their email to the exclusion of all other communication and input that is still coming their way. This is why perfectly good pilots sometimes fly good airplanes right into the ground. In our lives, it means that we will not perform well on other tasks and responsibilities while we are struggling with that in-box.

Excellent illustration.  How does the Air Force help their pilots cope?
The solution? The Air Force provides tools and systems that pilots are supposed to fall back on in times of emergencies when task saturation can immobilize a pilot. They pull out their emergency checklists and start taking actions.

Checklists.  That's the ticket.

Got one?

Towards a Better Understanding of History

Tuesday, April 26th, 2005
This weekend, I finished reading Towards a Better Understanding of History, by Bernard Norling.

In nine chapters, Norling provides an excellent overview of how to study history. While all of the chapters contained valuable information, I found chapter four (What Can We Really Know About History?) and six (The Role of Ideas in History) most interesting.
Chapter outline:

  • Why Study History At All?
  • How to Study History
  • Things Always Change: But Always Remain the Same
  • What Can We Really Know About History?
  • Is History the Work of Great Men?
  • The Role of Ideas in History
  • How Organizations Influence History
  • Economic and Technological Factors in History
  • Man and His Physical Environment
At 124 pages, the book offers an excellent overview of the events and thinking that have shaped our world. More important, it provides a framework with which to examine "historical" information, or any information about people and society. It's not light reading, but recommended all the same

Getting closer to YABHTU

Tuesday, April 26th, 2005
Toshiba has processed my credit card, the web site shows the Tablet is being assembled. I am hopeful that my M4 will ship this week.

Meanwhile, I've been researching productivity software for the Tablet PC.  Do you have a favorite app you'd like to recommend?

E-Mail is bad for your brain

Saturday, April 23rd, 2005
It's not only bad for your productivity, it may also be bad for your health.

We all know how disruptive repeatedly checking your e-mail can be. Did you know that reading too much e-mail, too often, can lower your IQ, too?

CNN reports  that according to Dr. Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist at King's College London University, constantly reading email is costing you a loss of productivity (we knew that) and possibly a few IQ points.

... the IQ of those who tried to juggle messages and work fell by 10 points -- the equivalent to missing a whole night's sleep and more than double the 4-point fall seen after smoking marijuana.
"This is a very real and widespread phenomenon," Wilson said. "We have found that this obsession with looking at messages, if unchecked, will damage a worker's performance by reducing their mental sharpness.
You can tell everyone that you aren't going to be checking your e-mail but once or twice a day.

I wonder what my IQ is now - adjusted for all of the e-mail I read, of course. Perhaps I don't want to know.

What about reading blogs?

Have a great weekend ... and don't check your e-mail!  

It will still be there on Monday.

Two lessons I learned today

Saturday, April 23rd, 2005
1. Never leave your children unattended in the tub. Even for a moment.

2. It is a bad idea to place the grand piano on the main level, directly below the children's bathroom.

The adventure begins

Saturday, April 23rd, 2005
After considerable research and public discussion, I've decided to purchase the Tecra M4 Tablet PC. The Tecra has all of the features on my wish list, so I expect to be a happy camper. It looks like an ideal combination of tablet and power desktop.

I just placed my order with Niki Spano over at ToshibaDirect. We were able to design my dream Tablet PC using the build-to-order site in real-time.  How cool, I was able to actually talk to the manufacturer and place my order - and on a Saturday!

Today's ordering experience was a delight. Niki is sharp; she answered all of my questions and made the buying process fun.

Well done Toshiba! I hope that the delivery experience is as smooth as the order process. (I'll be sure to let you know.)

My new Tecra M4 Tablet PC, fully loaded, should arrive in 2 weeks.

I can't wait!

Yes, Tablet PCs are disruptive

Thursday, April 21st, 2005
Last week, I asked the question "are Tablet PC's too disruptive?" I don't really know yet.

Shopping for one certainly is.

In response to my blog, several power-tablet PC users have offered their advice, including Marc Orchant, Lora Heiny, Linda Epstein, Michael Hyatt, James Kendrick, and Rob Bushway,  to name a few. After several delightful conference calls and email exchanges with these fine people, I decided to purchase the Fujitsu T4010D Tablet PC ...

until I read the latest news ...

Just before I closed my shopping cart on the Fujitsu site, I checked Tablet PC Buzz; there, I read that Toshiba's just announced the Tecra M4 Tablet PC -- the latest in a series of Tablet PC announcements this month.  (See buzz thread.)This unit addresses many items on my Tablet PC wish list. The M4 sports an impressive list of features usually found only on high-end laptops. Perhaps I can become YABHTU after all!

Here are my quick observations taken from the PDF file on the Toshiba site:

Features that I'm excited about:
  • Larger screen. 14.1" - yes, I know that makes for a big tablet and a heavy one. I can live with that.
  • 8X DVD-R
  • DVD Dual-layer burning & playback
  • SATA Drive - presumably MUCH faster throughput
  • LCD Contrast
  • NVIDIA Graphics
  • FireWire built-in S-Video port, too.
  • AccuPoint - just like my IBM ThinkPad TrackPoint -- A big plus for me, when in laptop mode
  • SD Card slot
  • Reputation of M200
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Second Battery Option
  • Appears to offer options for HD up to 100 gigs, though only as add-on, not upon order. (Why?)
  • Microsoft One Note button on outside of Tablet for instant-access to MS One Note
  • "Longhorn Ready"  (Longhorn's a long way out. I will either grow to enjoy using the tablet or I will ditch the Tablet PC. It won't take long for me to decide.)
"Features" I'm not thrilled about:
  • Only one mic - no mic array. (I hope I'm wrong about this)
  • Bluetooth does not appear to be built-in. (Yes, I can buy Bluetooth as an "option," buy why? I hope I'm wrong)
  • Speakers obscured when in tablet mode. (Does this mean I have to switch to laptop mode to listen?)
  • No clear path to order faster processor or larger HD as a custom unit. (Fast HD is a requirement.)
Questions remaining:
  • Is it real, or just announced? If I order a customized unit today, when will I receive it?
If Toshiba had made it easy for me to buy the M200 I wanted weeks ago, I would have done so. I don't like to play the game, "let's see what gets announced next," as there will always be something new around the corner. I have work to do. Still, since I cannot get one immediately, I've had more time than I want to consider the options. I still really like the Fujitsu and, as I mentioned, had planned to purchase it this week. I've written to Paul Vollenweider, the VP of the Toshiba Business Direct Unit, to find out if this Tablet is real, and how soon I could get one.

I've run out of time. I need to return the wonderful IBM T42 I have been using and make a purchase.

What I thought I could do in a day - purchase a new Tablet PC with the features I wanted - has turned into an amazing adventure. I'm exhausted.

Still, the journey has been a productive one. I've learned a lot and I've met some very interesting people along the way. For that alone, this adventure has been worthwhile.

I would like to make a final purchasing decision in the next 48 hours. (If I can get the answers I want, I'll even order today.)

If you would like to offer your two cents - and I hope that you will - now is your chance.


My lists revealed

Tuesday, April 19th, 2005
Dean Wrote:
You may have done this already, but could you do a post on your GTD system? I’m curious about how you manage your lists, what those lists are, how many items you have on them, etc.
Thanks, Dean.
[I receive this type request from time to time, however, I've delayed a public response until now. I'm collecting these questions to use as topics for more detailed posts, once I launch eProductivity.NET - which I hope, will happen sooner than later.]

Dean, your email reminded me that this draft blog entry has been on my Someday/Maybe list for too long.

Some quick answers to your questions:

"how I manage my lists ..."

I've used many systems * to track my projects and actions, Dean. I keep coming back to my favorite - Lotus Notes. Notes allows me to integrate my action management system seamlessly with the rest of the systems that I use. Over the past 5 years, I've developed a custom template to help me manage my actions. Several of my clients use this eProductivity Template for Lotus Notes to manage their projects and actions as well.

"what those lists are ..."

My lists are rather simple. It was not always this way. Before I met David (when GTD was still known as MAP),  I used an action management system of my own design. Far from simple, it had many categories. Once I adopted GTD as a methodology for getting things done, I adapted my system, but I kept most of the categories.

Over the years, however, I've streamlined my systems and trimmed my lists down to the essentials shown in the screen shot to the right. My system allows me to create subcategories, so each major section can be expanded to reveal my list items by project, by functional area, etc. I review my lists and categories every six months or so. The subcategories change all the time, depending on what I'm doing. The top-level list has been stable for the last few years.

"how many items you have on them, etc. ..."

As of this evening, I have 3729 items on my lists. Yes, 3729. Too many for any sane person, but then ...   Don't worry, many are classified in subcategories under someday/maybe.

There are many other pieces to my "eProductivity system." As far as list management goes, this is a good overview.

It's been fun to reflect on this as I wrote this post tonight.

Thanks for your question, Dean!


PS. I'd like to thank everyone who has sent me emails or posted on this blog. I enjoy hearing from you and I will do my best to respond as time permits.

* I've used a variety of systems for list management, beginning with simple lists created in WordStar and then SuperCalc, both on CP/M. I designed my first action management system in dBase II - which brought sorting to list management. (In the mid-80's Tanny helped me rewrite my dBase app in compiled FoxPro for DOS.) In addition to these self-designed action management systems, I've used a variety of commercial systems - both paper-based and digital - including Time-Design, Goldmine, Palm Desktop, Act!, and Outlook.  As I mentioned earlier, I keep coming back to Notes. My systems continue to evolve and I change systems from time to time in order to evaluate new software. Currently, I'm experimenting with MindManager and ResultsManager. I hope to integrate these visual tools with the power of Notes. Stay tuned.

Back page stuff?

Tuesday, April 19th, 2005
What happens when two guys, who are passionate about technology - and who aren't afraid to challenge popular thinking - blog about the same topic at the same time?

Sometimes, humor.

Michael Hyatt and I have been blogging about the benefits and drawbacks of the Tablet PC technology. The discussion has been fun and has provoked many comments and cross-posts on other blogs and forums.

Apparently, yesterday, we were both busily typing about Tablet PCs around the same time. You can imagine my amusement when I logged in and saw this on my favorite productivity aggregator site:

Image:Back page stuff?

I quickly snapped a screen shot and sent it over to Michael. Michael wrote in reply:
This looks like one of those shots that should go in the back of PC Magazine. Very funny!
I've appreciated Michael's posts and candor in discussions and on the web. Like me, Michael's an explorer. For us, technology is just a tool. We have no problem trying new technologies in order to find out what does and what does not work for us. Who knows, perhaps next year, I'll be blogging about my PowerBook.


Michael: Why I Ditched My Tablet PC
Short version: The Tablet PC is an attention getter.  At least that's been Michael's experience. *  

Eric: Why by a Tablet PC?

In addition to our contasting experience/expectations with the Tablet PC, be sure to check out Michael's latest post on the value of taking notes vs the value of retrieving.  

One more thing - check out my RSS comment feed. Kim Snider's just posted a comment about how, as a result of my blog and post about the Fujitsu Tablet, she's YABHTU.  (I've sent Kim an email to find out what model, etc..) Congratulations, Kim. I hope you will post an update on your blog.

* I'm sure that this will change over time. I remember bringing my Radio Shack Model 100 to work. That was distracting. (A bit of trivia: Apparently, the the Model 100 was the last computer that had code in it handp-written by Bill.) All that power in an 8 line by 40 chr display. Wow!

Intelligent Design

Tuesday, April 19th, 2005
Many scientists are coming to the conclusion that the theory of evolution cannot explain life as we know it, and that the universe bears the fingerprints of a Designer. It's a fascinating subject with startling implications. There will be a seminar on this topic in Santa Clarita, this Wednesday evening. Interested? Send me an email.

David’s new blog design!

Monday, April 18th, 2005
There's a lot going on over at The David Allen Company. In case you read David's blog by RSS only, David's blog has a new look. Greg Fisk and Jim Rider have been busy with the design, while Robert and Chirill have been busy integrating David's new blog site into the overall DavidCo corporate web site architecture.

No, David's not moving away from Lotus Notes - it's still our core in-house productivity application and we use it for almost everything behind the scenes, including email, calendar, project tracking and shared discussion and document databases, to name a few. I will continue to manage internal technologies and various productivity initiatives.  We're just changing the way that the web side of things are handled. David's blog will now be fully managed by the web team, headed up by Robert, Greg, and Chirill.

David's been kind enough to refer to me as his personal productivity tech guru - a moniker I'm proud to wear. I really enjoy serving David and the entire DavidCo team in this capacity.

Here's the link to David's new blog:
And here's the link to David's new RSS feed:

I'd like to publicly thank Steve Castledine and Tanny O'Haley for their help with David's blog - especially with the unexpected excitement in the beginning.

Steve's DominoBlog template for Notes/Domino was a pivotal tool in getting David up in the blogosphere.

As for me, and my blog, we will continue to be served by ... DominoBlog.

Why buy a Tablet PC?

Sunday, April 17th, 2005
I just reread my blog entry about  the Tablet PC. The aspect of the TabletPC that interests me the most is the prospect of using digital ink to transform the way that I work:
I've been following the analog approach to note-taking. It's an attractive option. It's one of the key reasons that I plan to move to a Tablet PC - I look forward to the simplicity of analog note-taking and mind mapping with the benefits of digital recall.

Homebuilt Tablet PC in the works

Saturday, April 16th, 2005
I've decided to see if I can build my own Tablet PC, or at least something like it - something that I can use to evaluate ink-enabled applications before I move to the Tablet PC platform. There have been many discussions about how to do this in the various forums - most recently on the MindManager forum. So far, I have the Tablet OS loaded and MindManager will now launch in pen mode.

I'll have to forage through my junk room to see what I can come up with for a mega digitizer. Perhaps I can retrofit my LiveBoard to the task. Imagine ... a Tablet PC with a 6' drawing surface. That would be really cool. On second thought the LiveBoard weighs over 600 lbs.

I guess I won't be able to call it a tablet.

Tablet PC, too disruptive?

Thursday, April 14th, 2005
A week ago, I publicly teased my friend, Michael Sampson, by challenging him to cancel his order for a new PowerBook and to purchase a Tablet PC. I even asked for your help with persuasive arguments. Michael responded with a bullet-list of requirements and how the PowerBook suited his needs just fine. Several people posted or emailed comments with their experiences and opinions.

Mike Hyatt had this to say to Michael Sampson:
As you know, I have made the same journey. Initially, the Tablet PC was a delight to use. But then, like all Windows systems, it started bogging down with a bloated registry and annoying "bugs" that just wouldn't go away.
Mike, I've designed configured some amazing systems for some of the most productive people I've ever met. Over the years, I've developed a protocol for designing and tuning my client's systems so that they run exceedingly well. Still, I'll admit that it does take a lot of work to achieve this - I wish it was not so involved.

Most of the business applications that I use with my clients (and their clients, and their client's clients ... ) are PC-based; changing platforms is not a viable option.

In addition, the technology is just too conspicuous. I couldn't walk into a room with my Tablet PC without becoming the center of attention and people getting side-tracked from the business at hand. This made me very uncomfortable.

Mike, I am intrigued by your comment that  your Tablet PC was a distraction - especially in light of the quote from Michael Linenberger on your blog on  why you bought a TabletPC:

Placing a laptop with the screen flipped up in front of you on a conference room table creates a physical barrier between you and others in the room. This is literally a barrier to communication. The Tablet PC is normally on your lap, and out of sight. Or it is flat on the desk like a writing pad.

I would have expected that after a while people would pay no attention to your Tablet. I'm sorry the Tablet PC did not work out for you as you hoped it would. I'm still willing to give it a try. [I would be happy to send you my shipping address. :-)]

I've gone low-tech for meetings and love it. I carry a Moleskin notebook and write down everything. I put a "star" symbol next to those things I need to follow-up on. When I get back to my desk, I quickly transfer these to Entourage. My workflow is simple, unobtrusive, and 100% reliable.

I've been following the analog approach to note-taking. It's an attractive option. It's one of the key reasons that I plan to move to a TabletPC - I want the simplicity of analog note-taking and mind mapping with the benefits of digital recall.

And, I absolutely love my PowerBook 15". In my humble opinion (sorry, Eric), you're making the right choice.

I've since had many discussions with Michael Sampson, and I agree, that for his stated needs, it would appear that the PowerBook is an excellent option. As for me, yes, I would have to agree, the TabletPC is too disruptive - I think about it way too much.

Robert Peake wrote about a Linux-based Tablet:

If you've lost faith in Microsoft and are looking for a budget option, the Helium 2100

Robert, I've not lost faith in Microsoft, but I am discouraged at the effort it takes to get my hands on a new TabletPC. The Helium 2100 looks like a nice machine at a great price. I might even consider it. Too bad you have to buy 24 of them at a time. :-(

Several others chimed in with equally compelling arguments for either the Tablet PC or the PowerBook.

LBE made an excellent point:

[Eric,] you are confounding two distinctions - the operating system and the form factor. In the same form factor, an increasing number of people are finding Mac OS X to be more productive and stable for their needs. The rest just haven't tried it. If the tablet form factor works better for you than a standard laptop, then you are currently forced to by a Tablet PC.

and a good observation:

But that's not a reason to buy a Tablet PC, let alone advocate them. It's a reason to wish that Mac OS X came in a tablet form factor.

Good point, LBE. While I was having some fun with the  "PC vs Mac" debate at Michael's expense, my real comparison and interest, was Tablet vs traditional laptop. I should have been more clear about this. I hope Apple DOES jump in with a Tablet offering. It will no doubt raise the bar.

I'm still sold on the Tablet PC for my needs.
Michael Sampson lamented that it took Apple NZ 6 weeks to fulfill his order. I checked with him today, and he's since received his PowerBook and is happily working away. He plans to bring it with him in June, when he flies up to spend a day with me in the digital sandbox.

As for me, I have ... well, at least I'm still blogging about the Tablet PC.

ResultsManager Tune-Up

Wednesday, April 13th, 2005
I enjoyed a productive ResultsManager coaching session today with Nick Duffill, and Nic Tipler of Gyronix. These guys created the powerful add-in to MindJet's MindManager that allows you to visually manage your projects and actions.

As you know, I'm a big fan of MindManager and MindMaps. I've been working with ResultsManager for some time, however, I've always been aware that I was not using the program to its fullest potential. After today's tune-up, I see several new ways that I can use ResultsManager as a part of my planning process, weekly review, and for project management.

I'd like to eventually integrate ResultsManager and MindManager into the way that I use Lotus Notes so that I can visually map the information in my eProductivity template. The folks at MindJet and Gyronix are supportive of my efforts to do so, and have offered assistance in the process.  Last year, I evaluated a few commercial tools that provide Notes <> MindManager integration. At the time, I did not feel that either was ready for prime time - at least not for what I wanted to do. I'll revaluate both in the coming weeks. Hopefully, I'll have something exciting to show before long.

One neat thing about working with Gyronix team is that they are open to suggestions, and they are responsive. Already, several features that I have recommended have made it into the current product.

If you currently use ResultsManager, be sure to update to the latest version. The new ResultsManager Wizard simplifies many things. If you've never seen or tried ResultsManager, click over to You can download a 21 day trial of ResultsManager and MindManager from the site.


Notes Touchgraphs

Wednesday, April 13th, 2005
Take a look at what Alan Bell has done with Notes and Touchgraphs. This is precisely this kind of integration that I hope to achieve with Notes and MindManager.

Nice work, Alan!

From my RSS Comments feed.

Comment feed now available via RSS

Tuesday, April 12th, 2005
You can now follow and join in on the latest discussion on my blog. I've just added an RSS feed for comments. If you follow my blog via RSS, be sure to subscribe to my comments feed, too.


  • RSS
  • RSS Comments
I've also added a recent comments section on the home page, so that you can easily view the most recent comments.

If you have no idea what RSS or Blog Syndication is, you might want to watch my four minute video about RSS. Stephen O'Grady's written a nice document on how to read a blog. Thanks to Michael Hyatt for this excellent reference.

Next up: TrackBacks -- as soon as Steve Castledine releases the next version of DominoBlog. Coming Soon!

Plenty of Wiggle room ...

Tuesday, April 12th, 2005
Where can you take your young children where they are encouraged to make lots of noise, get out of their seats and move, and interact with the folks on stage?  A Wiggles concert!

The Wiggles are Australia's best export in the world of children's entertainment.  Are these friends of yours Richard?


Greg, Jeff, Anthony and Murray wiggle, giggle, sing and dance their way into children's hearts.  Parents love them because their songs are about safety (how to cross the street), healthy eating habits (Fruit Salad, Yummy Yummy), and excercise (Shaky Shaky Shaky).

Tonight, Kathy and I took the girls to see The Wiggles perform a live concert in Bakersfield.  We were soon clapping, singing and dancing along with them (even our 12 year olds caught Wiggle fever - but don't tell their friends!).

According to their website, they are currently touring the west coast, up through Canada.  If you want to experience pure childhood entertainment, without the crassness Hollywood has thrown into the movies and television shows, then I encourage you to catch the Wiggles in concert.  You are never too old to have fun!

Visual Thesaurus

Tuesday, April 12th, 2005
What do you get when you cross a visual mapping tool with a thesaurus?  Visual Thesaurus, of course.

For those of you who like to write and who think in mind maps, this application's for you. Type in a word and watch the map blossom before your eyes. Click on a word and watch the new branches germinate in real-time.

Thesaurus Screen Shot

A screen shot cannot do justice to the visual elegance of this application. You must  try it yourself.  Try the words "reason" or "review" and watch what happens. Though less exciting, there's even an entry for "blog ."

Ideal podcast length?

Tuesday, April 12th, 2005
I'm making slow but steady progress on the plans for the eProductivity.NET blog site and podcasts. I plan to keep the specifics under wraps a little while longer until I'm ready to launch. (For those who have already clicked the link on the site, no need to click again. When I'm ready, I'll send you an announcement and a link to a special podcast and the RSS feed).

I'm working on the outline for the eProductivity.NET podcast show format.  I'm curious to know what your ideal podcast length is and why.

Fifteen minutes? 5 minutes? 20 Minutes?

What works for you?

Tablet PC Update 04/12

Tuesday, April 12th, 2005
I've been waiting for a fellow Tablet PC enthusiast and blogger to receive her Fujitsu T4010D before I placed my order.  I've been checking in with her every few days. It's been a few weeks, and she's still not received it. This is not encouraging. Still, there have been some encouraging posts on TabletPC Buzz from users who have received their new T4010's.

Frankly, had I not completely sold myself on the Tablet PC platform, driven by applications such as MindManager, ResultsManager, and OneNote, I might have given up and focused my attentions toward another technology. Do I order the Fujitsu now and hope for the best? Do I go back to my original choice, the Toshiba M200 and hope for the best? Do I wait for the new rumored Tablets from Toshiba and Fujitsu?

Decisions, decisions.

The pre-configured but ill-equipped Tablet PCs are starting to look really good. It shouldn't be this way.

Did I call myself a Tablet PC enthusiast in the opening sentence? Funny how we are so quick to visualize ourselves in desired outcomes.

And I don't even own one, yet.

Cool, Jim likes my blog

Monday, April 11th, 2005
Jim Lindenthal has just launched his own blog, The Lindy Journal Blog. Apparently, I'm partly responsible:

I am an avid reader of Eric Mack's blog because of the new and interesting technologies that he talks about. One of these technologies is Skype VOIP Phone service. Well, I tried calling Eric on Saturday night using Skype and actually hesitated when connecting with him. Eric saw me try to connect and called me back. (Eric, I think I fixed the volume control). It was very exciting for me to finally speak with Eric. Well after a very enjoyable conversation, Eric emailed me a really good article on setting up an RSS feed. This article motivated me to setup these blog's over the week-end. Thanks a lot Eric for helping me ...

Glad I could be an encouragement, Jim, and congratulations on the new blog!

I’m disgusted

Monday, April 11th, 2005
I'm sick of a certain high-profile case that has been all over the media. I'm not going to name the parties involved - I won't even link to today's article in the news - because, in my book, they don't deserve any more recognition.

Until now, I've refrained from joining this discussion, largely because I did not want to add to the circus. Plenty of people are commenting on the lewd details of this trial. I won't go there.

The jury will decide the innocence or guilt of the individual on trial.

But, what about the parents of the children involved? Should they be on trial, too?

When I read that several parents allowed their children to spend time, unchaperoned, alone, overnight, with someone, just because he's famous and he begged them to, I cannot help but wonder who might have committed the more serious crime.

Parents need to be more responsible; they must protect their children.

I believe that children are a gift from the Lord. They are entrusted to us, as parents, to train, nurture, and protect. What a tragedy when the trust of a child is betrayed by their parent.

Parenting is a great  responsibility. It is also an opportunity for great blessing.

Share a tip, win a night’s sleep

Monday, April 11th, 2005
Do you have a productivity tip to share? Is it good enough to win an award?

Richard Giles, host of The Gadget Show, is offering a Sleeptracker watch as the prize for the best gadget-related productivity tip.

Richard invited me to be his guest co-host the Gadget Show Podcast. It was a lot of fun. We talked about computing, MindManager, Tablet PCs, and, of course, his review of the Sleeptracker watch.

Consistent with the theme of the Gadget Show, your productivity tip must focus on how you use a specific technology or gadget to improve your productivity. If you have gadget-related productivity tip that you would like to share, send it  to Richard. You may just win a watch and a good night's sleep, too.

Did I mention that Richard's asked me to be the judge?

I would like to wish you the best of success and I hope that none of you enter the contest.

Just kidding. Well, sort of ... I'd like to have the watch. I could use a good night's sleep.

Follow the money ...

Saturday, April 9th, 2005
"Public Schools Wooing Home-Schooled Students." That's the title of yesterday's CNN article on education.

Why would a school district do this? Is it about educating the next generation of decision makers?

I'd like to think so.

It seems that more than one school district is trying to make up for severe budget cuts by... imagine this ... finding new ways to better serve students in their districts - particularly those who are not currently enrolled in public school.

This is a topic that I've wanted to write about for a long time. I'm no stranger to public education. Still, I'm the only member of my family not involved in public education. I spent eight years of my life in the American public school system. My wife, a devoted teacher, gave up her career in public education just so that she could home educate our children. (Why would she do that? It's a long story - perhaps I'll blog about it another day).  As you can see, I have input and experience from many perspectives.

The CNN article brings up the fact that many public school districts are trying to get homeschool families to send their children back to public school ... so that they can collect state funds. You see, although you and I pay state taxes earmarked for education, your local schools only collect if your child is in school. If you don't send your child to public school, the school does not get the money. The state keeps the rest. No refunds. Surprise. Perhaps this is why some school districts argue that families that choose to educate their children at home are hurting their districts. Sorry, I don't think it's the classroom attendance they are worried about; it's the ...

Regardless of their motivation, I think it is wonderful that so many school districts are looking at what they can do to better serve students in their district. I want to see all students benefit from a quality education. I even pay taxes to help make this happen.

There is MUCH that I could say about the topics mentioned in this article. Perhaps someday I will find the time to put all of my thoughts in writing. Meanwhile, I would like to quote two paragraphs from this news article that summarize a few of the reasons that Kathy and I choose to home educate our children:

Many home-school parents are fiercely loyal to the lifestyle, and to the educational benefits they see for their children. Some want to protect their youngsters from the peer pressure and drugs they fear are rampant in public schools. Others, like the Wilsons, home-school their children in part for religious reasons.

"I like instruction where the instructor, not just the body of knowledge, is important," Teckla Wilson said. "Home-schooling allows you to work out the pace that is best for them. And, we are Christians, and for me, it is important that I teach them to think with a biblical world view."
We would add to the above the amount and quality of hands-on instruction time. In fact, it was the amount of classroom instruction time (or lack thereof) that influenced my wife's decision more than any other factor.

I know that I've said this before: any parent with children still living at home - is a teaching parent. As a parent, everything that you do or say becomes a part of your child's education. Whether or not you choose to entrust your child to a school outside of your home for 8 hours a day or not, you still have at least 16 hours a day to influence and educate them. Make the most of it.  Children grow up fast.

I'm thankful that we live in a country where we enjoy many liberties, including the freedom to continue the excellent tradition of home education.

A tradition as old as the first family.

FYI: It's no small investment to educate your children at home. It requires a big commitment in time, expertise, and financial resources. We pay the same taxes for education as everyone else. In addition, we must purchase all of the curriculum, training, and resources that we use each year. Finally, most homeschool families must choose to have only one parent work outside of the home. I believe that the long-term benefits significantly outweigh the costs.

It’s good to be home.

Saturday, April 9th, 2005
It's been a busy several weeks. While I enjoy traveling and visiting with clients, I am always glad to return home to my family.  

We've been plunged back into winter, with snow and heavy fog for the past two days - so much for our Southern California weather.

I'm still making progress on a variety of projects, including  plans for a new site launch, my eProductivity podcast series, a template update, and, of course, my continued adventures of life without a Tablet PC.

I've enjoyed the emails and Skype calls I've received over the past few weeks; it's been fun to connect with some of the readers of my blog. Thanks for your encouragement!

I've collected a long list of things I'd like to blog about. Most of the items on my list require that I do some research before I write, so all I have to offer you right now are these less-detailed posts.

I'll try to post something more interesting very soon.

Thanks for stopping by.


PS. In-line comments for this blog will be available very soon. (Thanks Tanny!) This will make it easier for you to join the discussion on this blog. Meanwhile, you can click on the "add comments" link below to post your thoughts.

Procrastination pays off

Friday, April 8th, 2005
Two days ago, it was close to 80 degrees outside. I decided that I should remove the studded tires from my car and mount the street tires.

I added "Change Tires" to my @Home list.

However, I never "got around" to actually doing it.

This morning, we have 3 inches of fresh snow on the ground.

For once, procrastination paid off.

Digital pet names

Friday, April 8th, 2005
The Sampsons have a new house guest:

Yes, it's true, there are four more little feet at our house at the moment. Welcome Nibble!

What amuses me is Michael's choice of a digital pet name name:

A Nibble = 4 bits - 1/2 a Byte. I'm not sure that's what Michael had in mind.

Growing up, I gave most of my pets digital names:
  • Cats, "Bit" and "Byte"
  • Hamster, "Nibble"
  • Sheltie, "Prefix Notation"
Prefix's name was selected by choosing a page and line number from a computer dictionary at random.

Prefix Notation - A method of forming one-dimensional expressions without the need for brackets by preceding, with a string or vector of operator, an operand string or vector that may itself contain operators upon operands.

You are probably not surprised, coming from a geek like me.

Tablet PC vs PowerBook

Wednesday, April 6th, 2005
As my first act of Tablet PC evangelism, I tried to make a convert out of my colleague, Michael Sampson, today. I challenged Michael to cancel his pending order for a new Apple PowerBook and join me over on the "smart side." (And I don't even have a Tablet PC to show him yet! But that's another story.)  

Michael's just posted his thoughts on our discussion on Tablet PC vs PowerBook.

Working together, we can help Michael make the right decision, before it's too late. :-)

[I'll try to get my friend Mike Hyatt to join in, too. He's transitioned from PC to Tablet PC to a PowerBook. A PC guy switches to the Tablet PC, then to the Mac. How does it work out? Enquiring minds want to know. At least I do. Last June, Mike told us why he bought a Tablet PC. Then, in February, he took the plunge over to the dark side.]

I know that there are likely to be passionate discussions on both sides. For me, it all boils down to productivity, and I think that Michael makes a good case for ...  Or does he?

All kidding aside, I am very interested in the discussion that is sure to follow.  

It's not too late to help!

Michael has not yet taken delivery of the new PowerBook, but its arrival is only days away. We must act quickly! Can you provide Michael with compelling new information to help him make the right choice?

Post your comments and links to information.

This should be fun.


PS In the event that Michael does give in to temptation and accepts delivery of the PowerBook, I'll be sure to blog about it. :-)

Bible Quizzing, Ridiculous?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2005
TesTeq thinks my post about Bible quizzing is ridiculous, and he's taken the time to share his point of view in a comment on my blog today.

TesTeq wrote:
Such competitions concerning religion are ridiculous in my opinion. What about "fastest said prayer" competition. Or who loves God most

Thanks for reading my blog, TesTeq, and for sharing your point of view. You did not leave an email address, and I do not know who you are, so I can only respond to you here.

TesTeq, you bring up a legitimate point: we live in a world of extremes and, as with anything, it it possible to take any competition to an extreme - even a Bible quiz.

Please permit me to share with you another perspective - my perspective: To me, the point of the Bible Quiz is not about who's the best for the sake of being the best. The purpose of Bible Quiz is to train and encourage children (and even adults) to develop a better understanding of the instruction in God's Word, the Bible, so that they can apply it in their lives.

The Awana Bible Quiz competition format is simply a tool - one that makes the learning process fun for children and one that recognizes them for their efforts.

Sports fans recognize and reward athletes for their ability to move a ball around a field; The result? athletes are encouraged to work at further developing their skills.

We have spelling and geography bees, national competitions that recognize and reward children for their ability to master spelling and geography. The result? Children are encouraged to study hard, apply what they have learned, and strive for excellence.

The Awana program and Bible Quiz recognizes children for their efforts in studying, memorizing, and applying God's Word. It works.

I hope that you noted that I did not post how the teams did in the Bible Quiz - only the athletics. Every team that competed in the Awana Bible Quiz did exceptionally well. By the way, our team did not win the Bible Quiz; we have much to learn. But we did learn a lot by preparing for and participating in the Awana Bible Quiz. It was a wonderful experience.

It is my hope that as a result of their participation in the Awana Bible Quiz, these children will hide important truths in their hearts - truths that will make all the difference in the world.

I'm glad that you read my blog, TesTeq, and I thank you for your comment this morning. I enjoy discussion.


Note to other readers of my blog. I believe Testeq has a legitimate question about taking things to an extreme. Happy to continue this discussion as time permits.

Annotating paper on the Tablet PC

Tuesday, April 5th, 2005
As anticipate migrating to a TabletPC, I've been researching various productivity applications that I plan to use. This blog entry is not about a solution - yet. It's about my search for one.

One capability that I look forward to is the ability to mark up PDF files - not just any PDF files, but those that originate as paper. When I am in my office, I use my HP Digital Sender to take a stack of documents and scan them into PDF files so that I can work with them in digital form. However, when I'm out and about, with a Tablet PC, I will need another way to quickly capture paper documents into PDF so that I can edit them.

The options that I am considering will include a hybrid of hardware and software, hardware to capture and software to edit. The capture side has my attention right now. I'm presently considering two solutions: a portable scanner and a digital camera. Let's look at the benefits of each.

Portable Scanner

  • High resolution scanning
  • Suitable for OCR (for PDF+Text applications)
  • External device, cables, adapters
  • Additional steps to capture
Digital Camera
  • Easy to use
  • Much faster than a scanner
  • More expensive than scanner
  • Difficult to align for text capture
  • Images not suitable for OCR
  • External device, cables, adapters
  • Additional steps to capture
The ideal solution, in my view, would be for Tablet PC manufacturers to add a digital camera, scanner, or both, to a Tablet PC - I'd certainly pay for these options. I would like to snap a picture by holding up the Tablet. Likewise, I would like to scan a page in 1-2 seconds, either by drawing the Tablet across the page (like the HP Capshare) or by feeding the page through a slot at the edge of the Tablet.  I remember there was once a laptop with a built-in scanner.

I'm not asking for much. Once I see a Tablet PC with a built-in scanner and camera, I plan to ask for a built-in micro laser printer - don't laugh; it will happen. Right now, I'll settle for a fast and reliable mobile paper capture tool.

I'm certain that someone has thought through all of this long before me. Who will build it first?  (Toshiba? Fujitsu? Anyone?)

While I wait for an integrated solution, I plan to explore solutions that I can create using off-the-shelf technology.  I'll keep you posted.

Do you have a solution for real-time mobile import of paper documents into a Tablet PC?

Post a comment.

How well do you know the Bible?

Tuesday, April 5th, 2005
This weekend, I was asked to be on a panel of judges at the Awana Bible Quiz and Games. It's not as it sounds; I'm not a Bible scholar. Though, after this weekend, I'm inspired to work harder at it.

Over the weekend, my daughters, Amy and Wendy, competed in the Awana Bible Quiz and Games in Riverside, California. We arrived at seven o'clock in the morning; the Bible Quiz was held in the morning and the Awana Games took place after lunch.

GBC Awana Bible Quiz

While the games were exciting - our church team won first place - it was the Bible Quiz that impressed me the most.

For close to four hours, twenty-six teams, called "quizzers" competed in various activities to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the Bible. The two primary activities were the "Bible Quiz," and the "Speed Tests."

For the "Bible Quiz," the judge asked 30 questions, such as "In what Old Testament verse does God make a statement about Himself?" followed by three possible answers. After 30 seconds, the judge would say "paddles up," at which time a designated person on each team would select and hold up a wooden paddle to indicate the team's response - A, B, or C. The teams earned points for each correct score.

For the "Speed Tests," each team was given a  button to press. Each button was connected to a master computer that determined which teams pressed the button first and second. The team members stacked their hands -- one on top of another -- so that any child who knew the answer could trigger the button to alert the judge. The most difficult part of this event for the teams was triggering the button fast enough to be the first or second team to press the button and signal the judge -- only one team and one alternate would be called upon. A correct answer earned points; an incorrect answer earned a penalty. With twenty-six teams, the pressure was intense; it was important not only to know the correct answer but to be able to respond quickly.

GBC Awana team 2005

I served on a panel of judges for the speed tests. My role was to verify that the students, who quoted scripture as part of their answer, quoted word perfect from one of three translations. I verified the King James version (KJV) verses while two other judges verified the New International version (NIV) and the New King James Version (NKJV). I found this challenging, as we had to listen to the child recite the verse and provide the reference. While the child was quoting the verse, we had to determine the translation and whether or not they had quoted the passage word perfect. Fortunately, we were given printouts with the verses in advance, so we did not have to look anything up. There was no time. After the verse was recited, we conferred with the head judge to agree upon the translation and the accuracy of the recitation.

I am amazed at how well these young students did and I am proud of them for working so hard to memorize and apply scripture.

As one pastor put it, "a group of pastors would find it challenging to compete with the lowest-scoring team at the Awana Bible Quiz."

How well do you know your Bible?

I've got some work to do.