Brian Cody Prosser Veterans Memorial

Tuesday, May 31st, 2005
This memorial day, rather than travelling to an event off the hill, I decided to visit the local Veterans Memorial in Frazier Park. For a brief moment in December, 2001, this mountain community became a media center of attention as news spread that Staff Sergeant Brian C. Prosser was the first US soldier to be killed in Afghanistan. Since then, things have been quiet. No media. No news. The media and the world may have forgotten, but the mountain communities haven't.


In honor of Brian Cody Prosser and the men and women of our Armed Forces, past and present, who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom and for their country.

Thank you.

Brian Cody Prosser Veterans Memorial
Staff Sergeant Brian C. Prosser
5th Group Special Forces (Airborne) 3rd Battalion

17 July 1973 - 5 December 2001
"De Oppresso Liber"

In Honor of Brian Cody Prosser...American Patriot

Cody Prosser began life in Frazier Park, riding on these roads and trails in a baby carriage, pushed mostly by his mother.  He walked, played and worked on the same turf, living life as people do in this and other small towns throughout America.

After graduating from Maricopa High School in 1991, Cody joined the United States Army which took him to Fort McClellan, Alabama for basic training and military police school.  His first assignment was Fort Bragg, North Carolina as a member of the 21st Military Police Co. (Airborne).  Proud to be a soldier, he decided the military would be his career.

In 1998, Cody became a Special Forces Soldier.  He was re-assigned to 3rd Battalion 5th Group Special Forces (Airborne), stationed in Ft. Cambell, Kentucky.

Cody was called to serve his country in Afghanistan, fighting to defend America and the world against the threat of terrorism, following September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  On a hill just north of Kandahar, Afghanistan, Staff Sergeant Brian Cody Prosser lost his life, as did two other 5th Group soldiers.  The morning of the fifth day, December 2001.  These brave men successfully saved a village of mostly women and children from certain death by the hands of the enemy.  For his actions that day, he was awarded, posthumously, the Bronze Star with V for Valor.

Let this monument stand as our town's testimony of our undying support and gratitude for all men and women serving, or who have given their lives for the preservation of the freedoms we enjoy - with special pride for our own fallen hero, Cody Prosser.

Tecra M4 Observations for May 28, 2005

Saturday, May 28th, 2005
For the past two days, I've used the Tecra M4 as my only computing device. In all, the machine worked well. I should point out that other than a brief impromptu Tablet PC demo to David and Jason, I worked almost exclusively in laptop mode.

Some quick [unscientific] observations:

The M4's fast; consumes lots of power; the screen rocks more than a traditional laptop screen; the fan is much louder than the ThinkPad T42 (I was plugged in which causes the M4 to default to high-power); and I am not yet comfortable with the keyboard.

Keyboard observations: I've owned almost a dozen ThinkPads over the past decade, and I've been spoiled by the wonderful ThinkPad keyboard. The M4 keyboard is not bad mind you, but I'm not adjusting to it very quickly. Here are a few differences that I've encountered today: When using the Accupoint (TrackPoint, for you IBMers) the left and right mouse buttons are now top and bottom mouse buttons. Now Idea why Toshiba did that. I'm constantly clicking on the wrong button. In addition, the Accupoint seems very stiff to move around, even after adjusting the settings. The ThinkPad Keyboard has CRTL & ALT keys on each side of the space-bar. The Tecra's layout is very different. My productivity has dropped, largely because I have 10 years of ThinkPad keyboard experience to undo. Again, this is not a bad thing, but it will take some getting used to. Of course, I'll soon be doing everything in ink, right?

Screen observations: I 'm beginning to understand why wide angle viewing is such a big deal for a Tablet PC. When I look at the M4 straight on or use it in laptop mode, the screen is fine. If I'm even a few degrees off center, however, the screen readability drops. This would not be a problem with a laptop but a tablet, as I'm finding, is used very differently. For example, I tried to show Kathy a video clip. She was sitting next to me on the couch and could not see it. If I want to sit in a chair and lay the tablet on the table in front of me, it's difficult to see. If I prop it up a little, it's fine. If I want to write with the tablet in my lap I have to make sure that I'm looking at the M4 straight on to get the clarity that I would expect. Unfortunately, I have no way to compare this screen to another tablet, such as the Fujitsu, so I don't know if this is state-of-the-art or if I'm justified in expecting more.

As I type this, my fan has kicked into high gear. It does that from time to time. For the most part, I've been able to manage the power settings, but there's a high pitched whine - probably like my blog. I'll see what I can do to mitigate that and share what I've learned. On the topic of sharing, I have a list of questions people have asked me on or off the blog. I'll collect these and respond soon. Thanks for your patience.

I realize that not everything I've shared about my quest to become YABHTU is positive. I don't like to complain, but I'm not going to sugar-coat something that I think could be better either. As for the comments that I have made (or will make) about the Tecra M4, you should know the standard of comparison that I'm using. It's the IBM ThinkPad T42p. I've been fortunate to have this laptop for almost a year, and it's a delight. For the most part, I've been spoiled by IBM, the ThinkPad and the service and support. Oops; That's not entirely true. There was the one time I tried to give IBM $50,000 and they would not take it. But that's another story.

I guess this is all a part of the learning curve. I work with many new systems each year, and I retain few. Of those, still fewer do I recommend to clients. I'm still a long way away from any definitive conclusion on the tablet platform. I want to give it a fair chance.

All in all, my Tablet PC experiment continues well, though I'm not sure I did the Tablet PC justice in my impromptu demonstrations to David and Jason. My demonstration of OneNote and MindManager were not as smooth as I would have liked. Still, I think I was able to make a compelling argument for why I think the Tablet PC is a platform to watch. David's comment was that he's glad that he "pays me to evaluate hardware and software to figure out what works and what does not." There's still much that I want to learn about the Tablet PC as a paradigm for getting things done.

As I learn more I'll share it here. Over the next few days, I'll try to switch and do the bulk of my work in Tablet mode and see what kind of an impact that makes on my productivity.

Enough rambling. It's late.

As always, a special thanks to those of you who have taken the time to post comments with advice and recommendations.

Jason, Tech, Tablets, & Gadgets

Saturday, May 28th, 2005
Last night, I enjoyed a delightful dinner with my friend, Jason Womack, his wife Jodi, and some of their friends. After dinner, Jason and I played with the M4 and we showed his guests how to use Skype to make a call over the Internet - well, at least across the room. You might say it was a geek dinner, or at least a geek dessert. It always is, when Jason and I hang out. (Actually, as Jodi will attest, Jason and I were very well behaved: we did not talk one word of tech for the first two and a half hours.)

As I left the their home, I noticed that Jason had a bike trainer (or whatever you call it) by the door. This is a device that supports the rear wheel of the bicycle so that Jason can practice for the cycle portion of his triathlons in the living room. Impressive?  Yes, but does he have one of these?

Mobile Document Imaging

Friday, May 27th, 2005
The other night, I used the 14" wide-screen on my Tablet PC display a PDF file on the left while I created a MindManager map on the right. What a delight! No paper! As I've said before, I don't believe in the paperless office; however, I DO believe in the less-paper office. It looks like the will be a vital part of this strategy. I want to see how far I can take this.  (Do I sound like I'm getting closer to becoming YABHTU?)

Now that I have the Tablet PC, the next step is to deal with getting paper into it so that I can store, organize, retrieve, and markup these digital documents.

My current document imaging setup:

I'm presently using a hybrid of Adobe Acrobat 7.0 (for document preparation), ScanSoft PaperPort 10 (for file-based document management) and Cobra Image router for document image capture and automatic filing in Notes. On the hardware side, I use an HP DS9100C for high-volume work, an OpticBook 3600 for books, and a mobile scanner.  I have everything working with the Tablet PC - except for the mobile scanner

Visioneer + Tablet PC = Strike out

After a frustrating experience trying to get my new Visioneer scanner (Strobe XP 100) to work with my Tablet PC, I did what any sensible person would do ... I called tech support. My support tech rep informed me, "Visioneer does not support the Tablet PC with any of their products at this time; the market's just too small."  Despite this disclaimer, I he tried to help me anyway before concluding that this scanner and the related driver simply would not work with Windows XP Tablet Edition. There was some discussion as to whether or not Visioneer would take back the product since, according to them, the problem is that I am using a Tablet PC.  I finally got an RMA and the scanner will soon be on its way back.

Too bad. Visioneer makes a really nice scanner and its small size make it an ideal companion to the Tablet PC. I would have gladly recommended it to my clients as a standard part of their mobility toolkit. Instead, I will look for an alternative.

My current plan is to purchase the Plustek OpticSlim M12 (Rob Bushway has a photo and a link to a review, here. James posted his thoughts here.) The book scanner that I recently purchased is also from the same manufacturer. The drivers installed without a problem on my Tablet PC and the application worked flawlessly. I hope that my experience with the M12 will be equally positive. If so, I'll recommend it to everyone. (That's what blogs are all about, aren't they?)

If you are a Tablet PC user and you are successfully using a very small mobile scanner with your tablet, I'd like to hear about your experience.
That's the question that Thomas Weber asks in an interesting article on web-based to-do lists. (See the personal technology section of today's Wall Street Journal.)

In his article, Net-Based To-Do Lists Permit Collaboration By Family, Colleagues, Weber mentions some of the productivity sites he's visited in his research and he shares his evaluation of a few web-based To-Do lists:
Email programs like Microsoft Outlook can track your obligations and hassle you until they're completed, while PDAs and even cell phones offer task lists and reminder options. The latest twist is to-do lists that you keep on the Web. Several new services promise to store all the details of your responsibilities online, from your loftiest career goals to how many bananas you need from the supermarket. Once the list is online, you can allow a colleague to update project milestones or let your spouse add to the roster of household chores.
The sites mentioned include: (web-based task management), , (for business projects), and, (free web-based to-do list).

Weber's article mentions bloggers focused on productivity:

The desire to become more productive and better organized is a powerful drive, and it has spawned interesting blogs. For anyone looking to exert some control over the daily chaos of work and home, these make for interesting reading ...
He lists two productivity blogs: and that " .. cater to followers of the "Getting Things Done" method, known simply as "GTD" to devotees.

GTD devotee. Hmmm. I've never thought of myself as a devotee, though my signed copy of GTD is on my desk, right next to my NASB and I am blogging about this topic. I guess I am, as Weber states, a "follower of the "Getting Things Done" method."  I think it's great to see blogging and GTD in the mainstream. Too bad Weber does not include a link to the GTD Jedi himself, David Allen or to my favorite GTD portal.

I hope Weber picks up a copy of GTD for himself; the world can always use a few more productive people.

Here's a link to the full article:,,SB111705821195243399,00.html

Tablet PC Roller Coaster of Emotions

Thursday, May 26th, 2005
In case you haven't noticed, my Tablet PC adventure has been an emotional one. Lots to do, lots to learn. Fortunately, I've met some wonderful people along the way, who've given generously of their time to assist me in my quest to become YABHTU.

Lately, I've been pulled in two directions: I'm thoroughly enjoying the Tablet PC as a platform for getting things done. At the same time, I've been dealing with the tedious process of designing and configuring a new system with all of my favorite applications, just the way I want it. It's a process I know well; I do this for my eProductivity consulting clients. This time, I'm both my own client and consultant.

It's been a good exercise for me to experience both sides of the equation in a fresh new way. As the end-user, I've been searching for the ideal system and I have plenty of questions, like "I want to do this ..." or "why can't I do have that feature?"  As a consultant, it's my job to make technology easy for my clients, by selecting the right technology and helping them to implement it. In that role, I ask a different set of questions, such as "what's best for my client's needs?" and "Will this technology really help my client to be more productive?" At times, it's been a trying experience, as I've shared here.  I've encountered a few speed bumps on the road to YABHTU; I'm sure that I'll experience some more. I do look forward to smoother roads ahead..

I've often joked with David Allen that I'm going to give up on technology and open a bait shop; one with no phone, and no electricity.

The prospect is tempting. I think I could do it ... for a day.

It is with excitement that I announce that at 10:20 AM today, I switched from the ThinkPad T42p to the Tecra M4 as my primary computing device. I'm going to take it to a client's office to do some work. We'll see how it goes.

I'm sure I'll have more to share, soon.

Thanks for your support and encouragement.

Image:Tablet PC Roller Coaster of Emotions
Robert Scoble and his friend are soliciting ideas on how to get children interested in computers. Not just interested, but really interested - like taking one apart, building one, programming one from the ground up. These days, many children grow up playing with computers; they get into the games, but not what's inside.

When children grow up using computers, it's easy for them to be unimpressed with what's inside.

As a parent of four computer/PDA literate children, ages 12, 12, 7, and 5, here are a few suggestions that come to mind ...

Start early. Expose your children to computers as early as possible

We allowed our children to "play" with computers starting at age two. I purchased a "Jumbo Keys" keyboard that had oversized keys arranged alphabetically.

Be creative in explaining how computers work

       See Binary Carrots

Be selective about the software that they use

There is a lot of wonderful software out there; software that will encourage and promote critical thinking skills. There's also a lot of less-than-constructive software out there. I could do a sermon on this, but I won't. I'll simply recommend parental involvement.

OK, those are software-related suggestions. But, what about getting kids involved in building or programming computers? Consider these options ...

Build a LEGO robot and program it to do something

Get a LEGO Mindstorms set and build it with your kids. Its a great investment. Reusable, too. There's nothing quite like the experience of watching a creation that you have built and programmed run across the room and do something.
       Read: Productivity in motion

Join a FIRST Jr. Robotics Team

Help your child enjoy the excitement of team projects in technology and watch them experience the thrill of competition
Channel 9 guy thinks it's cool. Your kids will, too.
       See: The LEGO Mountaineers

Let them build their own computer

This year, I took four old laptops and helped my children set them up -- everything from formatting the drive, to installing XP, to loading service packs, applications and games. We've had a great time, and the kids have taken ownership of their computers. The process allowed for many length discussions about how and why things work.
       See: Why do they call them Radio Buttons, Dad?

Let them take a computer apart

Last year, for a science fair project Amy and I took apart an old computer or a printer (older the better; bigger stuff inside, lots of moving parts) -- all the way down to cutting open the hard drive and keyboard to see how they worked
       See: MackAcademy (Click on Science Fair)

What ideas do you have?

My proposal to Kathy

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005
May 26th, marks the 15th anniversary of my proposal to the kindergarten teacher in room 19.

The proposal was tricky. It involved short-term deception, an airplane, mystery, lots of roses, and many accomplices.

Fortunately, she said yes.

We've been through a lot together: better and worse, sickness and health, richer and poorer. Through it all, God has blessed our marriage. I've been faithful to her from day one and I will continue to be so. (She only has to share me with a robot, four daughters, and now, a Tablet PC. )

I am honored that she's my wife.

Perhaps I should see if she would agree to share the story?

Blissful OS configuration

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005
I can't believe that Marc scooped me on my own Skype chat with him!  After our chat today, I pasted the notes to save for a blog entry this evening. 15 minutes later, I read my RSS reader and Marc's already blogged about it.

Here's what I wrote at 2:49 PM PST:

Inspiration from my Skype chat with Marc Orchant today:
Marc, this may be strange, but I miss Windows 3.1. Only two ini files; system.ini and win.ini. I knew what almost everything was for and what every file did, and I could tailor the system to meet my needs. Complete control. That was productive. Sigh.
After words of encouragement from Marc and Lora, I've decided to move beyond Windows 3.1. The Tablet OS  is stable, so I cannot justify taking the time to reload it right now.

Update: 7:21 PM. Tablet PC loading progressing well. I may cut-over this evening.

Podcasts, interesting?

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005
I'm not quite sure how the recent podcasts happened. I never expected to do podcasts in this way: rough, unedited, no music, no script.  Yet, the podcast feedback I've received has been amazing. Kathy thinks it's funny. I expected my first podcasts to be much more dignified. In fact, I've been sitting on a few podcasts that I did with David Allen when he was here to play in my digital sand box. (We took a tour of the office and talked tech.) The reason that I've not yet posted them on the blog is that I was waiting for a new site launch or a more dignified opportunity. I have even created "dignified" podcasts in the queue. Now, I'll have to rethink this while podcast thing. But first, I need to get moved over to the new tablet, and before that I need to get back to some client work. More to come.

A painful Tablet PC experience

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005
I may have to admit that Michael Hyatt was right, when he gave reason #4: why he ditched his tablet:
"Fourth, I just got frustrated with the Windows operating system. This is the crux of the matter. Ditching my tablet was not so much about the tablet as it was the operating system. I just got tired of fighting with Windows. I switched to the Mac."
Last night, I exchanged a series of emails with Lora Heiny last night about my Tablet OS woes. I told her I was about to flight test the tablet.  I explained that I wished that the Apple ads were true.  Lora offered some help and cheer; however, we were unable to resolve the issues.

Up until that point, things had been going well with my Tablet PC project. That is, until I tried to install two devices: the Treo 650 and the Visioneer Strobe XP 100 scanner. Both installs failed, which led me down a wild chase for the cause. In the process I discovered that the Windows XP OS had not created any restore points for the first two days of software installation and those that it did make over the past few days were unusable. I cannot restore my OS to any previous point.

Frustrating? Yes. A big waste of 8 hours? Yes?  Do I wish I had read Marc Orchant's Tablet PC blog post on this? yes

So now I have a decision to make. My tablet works well, and as I shared on the podcast, I'm really starting to enjoy it. I just wonder if I can (or should) trust it.

Do I proceed, knowing that XP system recovery points don't work, or do I start over and reload the machine from scratch? Well, not really from scratch: there's no legitimate way to  get a vanilla Tablet OS to load, so I'm forced to use the recovery disks. This means that I will have to once again deal with all of the "free" spamware that my Tablet PC vendor forces me to have on my machine.

Podcasts breaking RSS?

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005
A few people have reported that my DominoBlog RSS feed may be broken. This may have something to do with the podcast enclosures. I'd like to hear from anyone that is using a podcatcher to retrieve my podcasts.  Meanwhile, I'll remove the enclosures and see what happens. I've also pinged Steve over at ProjectDX to see if he can help me fix the issue. Thanks for your feedback.

I’ll keep Kathy and the M4

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005
Well, it looks like Kathy will stay on as a guest host on the podcast; at least for now. I've received more feedback letters for Kathy than for me - perhaps I should rename this site: KathyMackOnline ...  In any case, we've recorded another update with some words of appreciation, thoughts on the Tecra M4 14" UXGA screen (I love it); the portfolio case (I'm sending it back); the fan (loud, but you can use power management to silence it); and a variety of other tablet related topics. Yes, I'm having fun; mostly. (Don't ask me about restore points and software issues.)

Once again, Kathy prevented me from doing the podcast with a straight face. I suppose that's what I get for asking he to join me in a podcast at 1:39 AM, when we could be asleep.  If you have 19 minutes, are still interested in my experience with the M4, and you voted to keep Kathy as my co-host, then here's another podcast for you.

Quick Tablet PC Update for May 25, 2005

Eric Mack On-line - May 25, 2005, (19 min 33 sec) MP3  4.47 MB

Show highlights:

- James Kendrick comes through with info on a build-it-yourself pop-filter
- Eric and Kathy review some of the feedback to last week's podcast. Thanks!
- Eric describes his idea for an M4 wedge; Kathy goes off on another tangent
- Handwriting recognition in Tablet OS is excellent; Eric needs to relearn cursive
- Thank you James and Lora for your help today
- Discussion of my recent experience using the Tablet in the car
- The agony of loading software; problems with XP restore points
- Eric's thoughts on his tablet experience so far
- Wrap-up

If you have specific questions; things that you would like to know about the M4 or my podcast experience; or if you have a question for Kathy (about home education, etc.), send it in. We'll try to get to it.

Note; The opinions of expressed my guests are entirely their own and do not necessarily represent the opinions of :-)

Matt Buchanan made an excellent post today about his experience with the Toshiba MultiDock.

Matt writes:
I’ve been following your Tablet PC unveiling with great interest.  Nice job.  I am a Tablet user (M205), and probably YABHTU.

I recently had an out of the box experience with a tablet accessory (yes, an accessory!) that changed my tablet habits dramatically.  I posted about this experience this morning, and thought you might find the content interesting:
Matt's post came at a good time, too. I recently cancelled my MultiDock order because it did not look like something I would use. Well, apparently I'm not the only one who thought that way. Matt sets the record straight by sharing how he uses the MultiDock and he accents today's narrative with photos. I guess I'll have to call my Toshiba rep again ...

My current understanding is that Toshiba's discontinued the current MultiDock and that a new MultiDock II, apparently redesigned to accommodate the new 14" tablets (such as the M4), will ship in June. (Strange that the MultiDock II specs don't show gigabit ethernet support.)

Meanwhile, my own tablet adventures continue. I'm still configuring the new M4 in between client projects.  I took the tablet with me on my first road trip yesterday and I used it to take notes in meetings. I've got a page of notes to share on my current observations, lessons learned, likes, wants and rants. (Perhaps I can get Kathy to join me for the next podcast.)

Back to the title of this post. My favorite Tablet PC hardware accessory, so far, is a book scanner. (I've got a long wish list, including: an unobtrusive Bluetooth stereo headset/mic, a better portfolio carrying case, a magic wide-angle non-glare coating of some kind, and a mini fuel cell for 18 hours of uninterrupted use.) I'll blog about these soon.

What's your favorite Tablet PC accessory?
This afternoon, I used a book scanner to scan in several chapters from one of my management texts. Next, I created a searchable PDF file for each chapter. Finally, I sat on the couch, with the Tablet PC on my lap, and studied. I used the M4 jog joystick (or whatever they call it) to scroll through the document. I used the markup feature of  Adobe Acrobat 7.0, to highlight sections of interest. Other than the learning curve to make the book scanner to PDF process work, the process was very productive. Now, I can leave my texts on my bookshelf. The weight reduction will help offset the M4 and accessories. I'm glad that I waited for the 14" high-resolution screen. It makes for a bigger tablet, but it sure is nice to have room to work with. I've learned to tilt the screen to avoid glare from overhead lighting. It's not ideal, but I can live with it.

I still have a long way to go to fully migrate my remaining applications and data to the M4, however, I'm greatly encouraged by what I've accomplished this evening.

In the course of setting up the M4, I've discovered many features, some by accident, that I like about the Tablet PC and the M4 in specific. As far as the features I don't like, I've got a list, but I've already crossed several things off.  Fan and power issues remain a challenge. The fan can be loud of you are running in high-power mode. Fortunately, Toshiba has an excellent power management utility. I now have a profile that works for me. I'd like to find a way to keep the DVD drive powered down at all times unless I wake it. This would prevent the door from being opened accidentally and it would save power, too. There is an option to disable power to the DVD drive, however, it is a temporary setting until the next standby, hibernate, or power-cycle. I wish this could be made a part of the power management profile. [hint] At this time, the only real disappointment that I have is in the portfolio case. (My recommendation: don't buy it. I'll explain soon.)

I'm not yet YABHTU, but I'm getting closer. I'll post updates as time permits. Perhaps I'll even invite Kathy back as a guest on a future podcast.

I'll leave you with this powerful feature: the button marked "OneNote" on the side of the M4 serves not only to launch a program, but also as an "instant on." When your tablet goes into "sleep" mode (not standby or hibernate) this button will cause it to resume in a matter of seconds. I like this instant on capability. It makes the tablet operation closer to paper and pencil, especially with OneNote loaded. Somehow, in the course of installing software, Lotus Notes now launches whenever I press the OneNote button. Go figure. I'm sure that there's a setting for this, but I'm not complaining. I would like to see someone develop a pop-up utility for this button that would allow me to choose between two or three applications, including the most recently used application.  That would be helpful. As for the button itself, I would have named it the "instant on" button, however, I don't have the influence of Microsoft.

Thank you to everyone who has sent me emails to offer encouragement or assistance. If any of your end up purchasing an M4, let me know. It would be great to connect.

Quick Tecra M4 Update for May 21, 2005

Saturday, May 21st, 2005
The new Tecra's growing on me. I've been loading software all evening from my eMack configuration. (MS Office, OneNote, Project, Visio, MindManager, ResultsManager, etc.) Next step is to make a ghost image and then load all of my productivity utilities (Activewords, etc..) Once I get everything loaded, I'll switch over to the M4 full-time.

I've not loaded any Tablet PC specific productivity applications yet, though I have  a growing list of software I plan to evaluate. Right now, my priority is migrating my applications and data to the new machine.

Kathy joined me on this podcast, so the discussion is a little less tech than you've come to expect from me. I'll let you decide whether I should bring Kathy back.

Quick Tecra M4 Update for May 21, 2005

Eric Mack On-line - May 21, 2005, (7 min 20 sec) MP3  1.9 MB

Show highlights:

- Eric talks about the M4
- Kathy goes off on a tangent re: PC advertising
- Eric loses control of his podcast
- Can you say "toilet paper" on a podcast?
- Eric gives a quick update on where he's at loading the M4 and what's next
- Wrap-up

Note; The opinions of expressed my guests are entirely their own and do not necessarily represent the opinions of :-)

Geography Fair 2005

Saturday, May 21st, 2005
This afternoon, our family participated in a homeschool geography fair. In all, 12 children participated. The Mack sisters taught us about Egypt (Wendy), Japan, (Amy), New Zealand (Emily), and Mexico (Kelly). This is the second year that Kathy's organized the event, and it was educational, entertaining, and filling -- we sampled food from each country.

Emily, teaches us about Kiwi fruit from New Zealand

Michael Sampson, and his family (also homeschoolers) were kind enough to provide Emily with an inside look at their beautiful country. Michael sent pictures, newspapers, crafts and even money. [You're always welcome to send money, Michael.] He even called Emily to let her hear the funny way that New Zealanders talk. We'll get to hear more of that when he comes to visit us soon.

I really appreciate the opportunity to encourage our children to participate in public events like this. It's a great way to reinforce the instruction that goes on in the classroom at home. Between church, science fairs, geography fairs, speech, drama, and book report nights, our girls have become comfortable presenting in front of an audience.

Toshiba Tecra M4 Tablet PC Spam

Saturday, May 21st, 2005
I thought my new Tablet would make me more productive. Yet, I've just wasted 2 hours, removing software, so that I can be more productive with my Tablet PC.

As I prepare to migrate my working environment from the IBM ThinkPad T42p to the Toshiba Tecra M4 Tablet PC, I must first remove what I will call Tablet PC Spam. You read correctly. I received two kinds of Tablet PC Spam with my new Tecra M4 and neither were delivered by email. I'll talk about the first kind in this post: Pre-installed software and desktop shortcuts.

Just look at what I had to remove today:

I uninstalled the following programs
  • Acrobat 5.0  (I'll install a current version, thank you.)
  • Alias SketchBook Pro
  • AOL - will not uninstall. Says it's not installed even though Windows shows it.
  • AOL Coach
  • AOL Connectivity
  • AOL Spyware (They got that right)
  • AOL Pictures
  • AT&T
  • MS Office SBE - I specifically ordered my tablet without MS office. (I already own MS Office Pro)
  • MS Works - If guess if you can't sell it ...
  • Napster
  • My Connect Special Offer
  • Pure Networks Port Magic
  • McAffee
  • And more ...

I uninstalled the following shortcuts
  • MS Office Editions Trial
  • AOL Trial
  • AT&T Trial
  • Napster
  • My Connect Special Offer
  • Toshiba Software Upgrades
  • Toshiba Great Software Offers (Free software that you have to buy)
  • EZ Firewall trial
  • And more ...

I realize that there are probably some marketing execs at Toshiba that are thinking "That's not Spam; it's a service to our customers." I don't think so. Not when it gets in the way of my productivity. Today, rather than spending two hours happily loading productivity software onto my new Tablet PC and blogging about the productivity gains, I wasted those hours uninstalling and removing unwanted software.

I don't mind that all of this software was made available to me. I mind that I had to remove it. And, I really mind that the AOL software that Toshiba allowed to infect my new Tablet PC, is impossible to remove.

Vendors. Don't irritate your customers and champions.
Seth Godin would probably jump all over this kind of experience. If you really want to serve your customers, give them a DVD with add-on software, but don't preinstall software they don't want it in such a way that it wastes their time or worse, cannot be safely extracted from the system.  

Current score on productivity - 2.0 hours.
(I know, Michael Hyatt will say he warned me)

Recommendation to Toshiba:
For those of us who paid a premium to purchase a "build to order" tablet, why not give us one more option: "Removed all 3rd party software from your new Tecra M4? Y/N."

I'll have more to share on the second form of Toshiba Tablet PC Spam - one that I find even more offensive and insulting - in another post.

I promised to share my experience and opinion. I've already documented 3 pages of likes and dislikes. I plan to work my way through the list to see if my initial reactions are reasonable. Then, I'll start to share them.

Right now, I'm going to load some productivity software on this machine so that I can report some good news about this very cool Tablet PC.

I had no idea ...

Friday, May 20th, 2005
For a long time, I've kidded that I have at least a dozen readers of my blog. I guess I was wrong.

Recently, my blog traffic has skyrocketed - boosted by yesterday's podcasts about my Tablet PC experience.

Some highlights of what people are saying:

Eric blogs the Tecra M4 Tablet unveiling (James Kendrick)

Watch for The Tablet PC Show- Eric Mack interview (James Kendrick)

Eric Mack starts opening his Toshiba!!!  (John and his dog. This is funny)

Eric's Out of Box Experience Continues (Warner Crocker)

And, of course, Robert Scoble always has something funny to say.

Thanks. I'm honored.

I'm delighted. If nothing else, it's an opportunity for me to help add value to the community and to the people, many of whom have become friends, who have taught me so much.

Quick Tablet PC Update 5/20/05

Friday, May 20th, 2005
I've been silent on the Tablet adventure for the past 24 hours.  There's a lot of information to digest, about tablets in general, and about the Tecra M4 in specific . Some things I like;  others I don't. (Not surprising. I go through this with every new technology I evaluate.)  I'm mostly sold on the Tablet PC platform - I sort of expected I would be. Some of my issues deal with hardware and ideal form factor. I suspect that as I study the manuals and speak with others who use Tablets, I'll come up with solutions to address some of my concerns. Overall, my impression is positive.

One feature of the M4, that I discovered quite by accident (before I found it in the manual), is a joystick on the front of the tablet screen. What first appeared to be a button is actually a pointer - like you would see on a ThinkPad. With a little pressure, I can move the mouse in four directions and make selections. Great for scrolling through documents and menus.

Today, I used the M4 to take notes during a company teleconference for DavidCo. It worked well. The down  side is that I ran through a battery rather quickly. (I'll play around with the power settings to see what I can do about that.)

I will continue to share my experiences, the good, the bad, and the ugly - not as a structured product review, but as I encounter them. That said, my next action is to load up the tablet into my standard eMack configuration. Then, I'll use the unit as much as possible for day-to-day work. It would be great to have a few people that I can call on from time to time. If any of you would like to volunteer, you know where to find me.

Thank you to those of you who have sent tips, tricks, and words of encouragement.

Tecra M4 Out-of-Box Experience

Thursday, May 19th, 2005
Join me, in my quest to become YABHTU. In this fifth installment I'll take you along, as I power up the Tecra M4 Tablet PC and go through the out-of-box experience.

Eric's Tecra M4, Energized ...

Eric Mack On-line - May 19, 2005, (27 min 55 sec) MP3  6.39 MB

 (No time to listen and insert chapter markers. Sorry)

- Energizing the Tecra M4
- What happens next
- Kathy's first impression
- I've got ink all over me, but does digital ink really work?

Feel free to post feedback & questions. I'll try to get to them in a future post or podcast.

Two more gadgets arrive for my tablet

Thursday, May 19th, 2005
I was just about to go through the out-of-box experience (Initial power-up) on the M4 when my Kathy walked in with packages from UPS.

Inside ... two more gadgets for the Tablet PC. Cool!

Find out what's inside the latest two boxes ...

Eric Mack On-line - May 19, 2005, (5 min 42 sec) MP3  1.43 MB

 (No time to listen and insert chapter markers. Sorry)

- I start the Tablet PC out-of-box-experience
- Kathy walks in with two more boxes of Tablet gadgets
- We find out what's inside ...

Next step is to power-up.  I promise!

OK, The box is open

Thursday, May 19th, 2005
I'm getting ready for my first out-of-box experience with the M4. I've promised Mark and James the first interview once I have the M4 opened and set up. We're planning to do that this evening. Meanwhile, if you're curious, you can listen along share the initial experience.

Listen along as I open up my new Tecra M4

Eric Mack On-line - May 19, 2005, (17 min 28 sec) MP3  4.13 MB

 (No time to listen and insert chapter markers. Sorry)

- I describe the contents of each box as I open it
- James Kendrick Skypes me to find out how it's going
- I get to box #4
- ...
- This is awesome!
- Laptop mode
- Tablet mode

Next step is to take a tour of the M4 and power up for my first out of box experience with the M4 ...

Should I bother to podcast this? Is this interesting? I could simply use the Tablet for a week or so and then post something then. Let me know if I should record my out-of-box experience.

So, what does it sound like?

Thursday, May 19th, 2005
Kevin C. Tofel just posted a comment to my blog:
The suspense is killing me! What does the sound of the box opening actually sound like?!?!?  Seriously, as a fellow Tab owner (Tosh Portege M205), you will LOVE your purchase!
Keven, it sounds GREAT!

Here are some pictures from the grand opening:

Podcasting the opening of my tablet.jpg
My table, set up to podcast the experience in STEREO

2. Laptop mode.jpg
The opened Tecra M4 in Laptop Mode

3. Tablet Mode.jpg
And, most important, the Tecra M4 in Tablet mode

I'll update this site with the podcast of the grand opening. Give me 10-15 minutes, then refresh this page. Otherwise, check for it in the rss feed in a few minutes.

Step One - get ready

Thursday, May 19th, 2005
Throughout the morning, I've received several e-mails and Skype requests asking of today was the day. Yes!

I thought it might be fun to share my experience as a podcast. I'm not sure how practical this will be, as it takes time to post the podcasts. I suppose this will be a good exercise to me to test the podcast capability of Dominoblog, too.

If there's interest in my continuing, I'm willing to give it a try.

I've promised Mark and James the first interview once I have the M4 opened and set up. We'll probably do that later today. meanwhile, I'm happy to share the initial experience here.

Listen along as I prepare to open the boxes from Toshiba

Eric Mack On-line - May 19, 2005 (0 min 53 sec) MP3  .5 MB


00:00        Intro

"May the Ink be with you!"

Thursday, May 19th, 2005
Less than an hour ago I announced that there would be a grand opening today. I've already received a few emails, Skype calls and chats and now the first comment on my blog, from Colin Walker.

Thanks guys. I'm in a great mood, and ready to play in the digital sandbox. I want to find out just how productive this Tablet will help me be. :-)

Status Update: 1:32PM PST
Step 1 - collect
I decided to set up a table in front of my desk so that I could spread out. All of the boxes from Toshiba are now in one room and I'm feeling the force pull me toward the table. I'll set up a mic.

The next voice you hear will be my own, as I open the boxes. Now would be a good time to point your podcatcher here.

It’s begun

Thursday, May 19th, 2005
At 12:01 AM last night, coincident with a world wide grand opening, I began to plan for a grand opening of my own.

I'm clearing off my desk now.

Marc and James are standing by; I've promised to call them later this afternoon, once the box is open.


Wednesday, May 18th, 2005
I'm back home, after a few days in Ojai to serve David and his staff. David and I had a nice meeting. David showed me some hysterical videos about office productivity. I hope he'll post references on his blog.

Meanwhile, Buzz is organizing a geek day up in Pine Mountain Club, so it looks we'll all be playing in my digital sandbox in the next few weeks.

As long as I'm rambling ... on the way home, I passed through Ventura county. I stopped at a roadside fruit stand an picked up a flat of strawberries.


$13 for the entire flat.


X1/MSN Search MindManager & Lotus Notes?

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005
I'm still waiting for X1 to add MindManager search capability to their product. I've been testing their Lotus Notes Support for many weeks. The Notes support is OK, but not quite ready for prime time, IMHO. And, they have yet to implement the list of fixes and required features that I sent them.

I've pitched the idea of adding MindManager support to execs at both companies. The folks at MindManager have indicated that they are willing to play. I hope that the folks at X1 decide to play, too; I think MindManager support in X1 would be a powerful addition to their product.

For now, X1's still on my "must watch, but wait and see" list.

Meanwhile, the new Desktop search toolbar from Microsoft apparently allows plug-ins. And, there's a plugin for Mindmanager!  (ComputerWorld | add-in)

A while back, I blogged about how my ideal desktop search tool would include support for both MindManager and Lotus Notes. I wonder if we'll see a MSN Search toolbar add-in filter for Lotus Notes?

If they did, I might switch gto MSN. My clients might, too.

Wishful thinking?

Global Experts in Electronic Collaboration

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005
Hungry for information and discussion on electronic collaboration?

My colleague, Michael Sampson, is organizing a "GEEC" Dinner. It should be a lot of fun. I'm thinkiing of attending.

Right now, the plan is for a dinner in Boston; New York may be an option, too.


How often do you process your e-mail?

Tuesday, May 17th, 2005
The folks at Ferris Research suggest that it's best to process your e-mail 2-4 times a day:
The best email processing strategy is to process email two to four times a day. This reduces the number of interruptions as well as your workload. This policy applies across different work environments and different types of workers. Processing emails twice to four times a day results in minimum worker distraction due to interruptions while keeping the balance between email response time and primary task completion time.



Tablet PC Show #8 is live

Tuesday, May 17th, 2005
Marc and James once again invite us to listen in on their Tablet PC discussions. This week, they talk about my Tecra M4, James' new HP tc1100 Tablet, and the Marc's Treo 650.

I'm not sure I merit the air-time they've given me, but it was fun to listen to someone talk about the Tecra.

Schedule-permitting, I hope to share more Tecra M4 information in the next few days.

Meanwhile, you can listen to their latest Tablet PC Show podcast here.

2005 Lilac Festival

Tuesday, May 17th, 2005
Pine Mountain Club is known for its Lilac festival. People travel great distances to come up to the mountains to see the lilacs in bloom. Unfortunately, in past years, the Lilacs have bloomed either before or after the festival, but rarely during the festival.

This year's Lilac Festival was a real treat - we actually got to see Lilac's in bloom!


The parade was entertaining, as usual, and the artisan booths were interesting. It was warm during the day, but cool in  the evening.  Mt. Pinos is still buried under several feet of snow. The waterfalls and streams are flowing again with run-off from the snow melt.

At this year's festival, I did something that I've always wanted to do ...  (Hint: It has to do with flying) More in another post.
I did a bit of ego-surfing this morning, while waiting for a client file to download. Lots of interesting posts. Geeky info had this to say about my tablet temptation:
I am speechless with admiration that Eric could continue to process his in-box while the box which contains his new tablet PC sits on his desk. Or is it that Eric knows that his boss reads his blog?
I am an independent eProductivity consultant, so I don't have a direct boss per se. Still, I'm accountable to myself, my family, and the clients that I serve.

The greatest transparency, however, is with my wife and children. They know what's in the box. They've heard me talk about it at the dinner table. They know I want to open it. They can see my desk through the French doors of their classroom. If they see me approach the box, they know to smile, wave, and ask me if I've gotten all my work done.

Notes client for Linux?

Monday, May 16th, 2005
Earlier this year, Robert Peake (a client and colleague of mine at The David Allen Company) shared his thoughts on a Notes Client for Linux.

I particularly liked his idea of a diskless workstation, booting Knoppix and a Notes client.
Imagine hundreds of diskless Linux workstations booting into the equivalent of Linux Terminal Server or Knoppix for Domino. In fact, many different types of workers could handle all of their day-to-day tasks in this environment with substantial savings not only on the overhead of operating system licenses, but everything that goes with a complex user environment -- like viruses, malware, and (worst of all) the myriad of operator errors that go with giving users too much latitude.
Back in the early 90's the entire ICA network on diskless workstations, booting DOS and Win 3.1 across ArcNet. The workstations in the offices as well as those at my home (up the street, connected via WaveLan) were all diskless.

Worked great! I could upgrade the entire network in a manner of minutes. Of course, our reasons at the time weren't security or convenience as much as it was the high cost of disk storage. Once we got used to how applications behaved in a diskless environment, it worked quite well.

Robert's makes a good point. I'd like to see it happen.

How does a 5-year-old use a PDA?

Friday, May 13th, 2005
This week was a big week at the Mack Academy. Kelly gradated from the first grade. To celebrate, we gave Kelly a Palm IIIc.


Kelly's no stranger to PDAs but this one is her very own - a fact that she's more than happy to remind her sisters about. Fortunately, her older sisters have Zire 72s that they saved for, and Emily will have her own Palm soon, too.

So, what does a 5 year-old keep on her PDA?
  • Games
  • Handy dandy [digital] notepad
  • Flash cards
  • Bible & Memory verse flash cards
  • Calendar
  • Lists of important  things to remember
  • Grandma's phone number
  • eBooks

I'm not pushing the kids with this -- just allowing them to use the same tools that dad uses. As I model best practices, like GTD, I hope that some of those will wear off on my children. This coming school year, we will begin to integrate PDA use into our routine. I'm in the process of equipping Kathy to prepare flash cards on her computer so that she can beam decks to the kids to study in the car.

It’s burning a hole in my desk!

Friday, May 13th, 2005
Yet, the box remains unopened, and the security tape intact.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to post words of advice on what I should do relative to my dilemma. So far, over twenty people have written to me or posted comments on my blog. Most tried to provide an argument for why I should give in and rip the box open now. Two people even offered to hold the tablet for me until I was ready.

If I were to give in, the most compelling argument (so far) came from Steve New:
Here is one thing I must disagree with Mr. Allen over. While there are without question thousands of things you can get off your mind by scheduling them for future attention, a new computer in the box is not one of them. To be an adult you need to be honest with yourself. You know you won't be giving your full attention to your client's projects while the untouched Tecra remains in the back of your mind calling to you. I see your blog as a call for help. In your heart you know what to do. Play with it Eric. It's best for you and for your clients that you do.
I think Steve's argument supports the position that owning a new Tablet PC can be disruptive - even if you don't take it out of the box.

Several people appealed to my love of productivity tools, arguing that I would instantly become more productive with the new Tablet PC in hand. Marc and James have even offered to help me set up my new Tablet PC in a live podcast. (That would be fun; we may do this.)

All of this is well and good, but my in-box(es) still overfloweth.

After prayerful consideration, I've decided that to give in to temptation and play with my new tablet before I get my work done would be to undermine everything Kathy and I have taught our children about a strong and balanced work ethic. Work first. Play later.  (Amy and Wendy would like me to believe that I have these priorities reversed.)

If you do the things you need to do, when you need to do them, then you'll have the time to do the things you want to do, when you want to do them - Zig Ziglar.

I'm working as hard as I can to clear my plate of family, school, and work commitments so that I can play and feel good about it.

One step closer. Digital torture

Thursday, May 12th, 2005
I'm about to find out for real just how disruptive owning a Tablet PC can be.

FedEx just delivered a box from Toshiba. My new Tecra M4 Tablet PC waits patiently inside. After 6 months of research + two months from the time I decided to make my purchase, I'm ready to take the next step.  


I can't believe it's finally here!

Unfortunately, I've got a very full plate, with several eProductivity projects due for clients over the next few months.

I'm presently negotiating with myself just how much I will commit to get done before I break the first seal on the box.

Will I force myself to have a completely empty in-box (paper & digital) before I peek inside?

Or, will I give in to temptation, rip open the box, boot up Windows XP, Tablet edition and start blogging in ink?

Accountability and integrity. A real test.

What would you do?

Why do they call them radio buttons, dad?

Wednesday, May 11th, 2005
We all know what radio buttons are -- software buttons that allow you to make only one selection. But why do they call them by that name and how do you explain the answer to a kid who was born long after those radios - the ones with the mechanical push-buttons - disappeared?

Radio Button.jpg

I faced this challenge, this evening, as I taught my children how to install Windows XP onto their computers. (Part of our homeschool computer class)

My answer: a radio button is a round button you can click on to select one of several choices in a list. You can only select one radio button at a time. When you select another button, the original button is deselected - it "pops up," just like the mechanical car radios. (Unless, of course, you were like me as a kid: I tried to see how many buttons you could push down at the same time.)

Google, provides a technical definition here.

However, Jake Howlett, has a much better explanation.

Tecra M4 questions answered

Tuesday, May 10th, 2005
I've had a few lingering questions about the Toshiba Tecra M4 Tablet PC, so I contacted my friendly Toshiba rep to find out the answers.

I've managed to confirm that the Tecra M4 indeed has a Mic Array. That's good. I've also confirmed that the speakers are blocked in tablet mode. That's bad.  I just found out that my tablet has shipped and is on its way to me. That's good.

From my correspondence with my helpful Toshiba Rep:

I asked about the Mic Array and the Speakers on the Tecra M4:

I have question about Mic Array and Speakers on the M4

I've been reading the materials from the web site. I have two questions about the M4 that I have purchased.
Table PCs usually have a Microphone Array consisting of 2-4 microphones that are built-in to the side of the case, for voice Dictation with the Tablet PC Operating system.  Can you tell me about the Mic Array on the Toshiba Tecra M4? I do not see any information about this on the web site.
I am looking at the PDF picture of the new M4. From the picture, it appears that the stereo speakers on the M4 will be obscured and the sound blocked when I demonstrate the tablet to my clients in tablet-mode. Is this correct?

My Toshiba representative promptly responded:

Hi Eric,
This is what I found out regarding your questions.  Also the speakers will be blocked when you are in tablet mode.  Here is the information I received from Toshiba regarding the microphone array on the M4: The Mic Array determines the direction of sound source input to the microphone and suppress sound from outside specified range and surrounding noise.

I followed up to ask about the Mic Array:

I understand, from your email, that the speakers will be blocked when in tablet mode. That's discouraging. I hope I will still be able to use multimedia functions while in tablet mode.

What about the microphone array?  
1. Please let me know if the mic array will be blocked from use when in tablet mode as well.
2. Please let me know how many mics make up the array. (Typically 3-4 individual mics. The screen shot appears to imply 3 mics).

To which, my representative responded:

Hello Eric,
No the mic array will not be blocked since it is located on the display
panel. There are 3 individual mics.

Weekend update

Monday, May 9th, 2005
I've just wrapped up a productive weekend in Ojai, topped off by a delightful dinner earlier this evening with David and Kathryn, Kathryn's mom, and Greg Fisk. We started by the fireplace in the outdoor "living" room, while David grilled up some lamb and vegetables for our dinner. Then, we moved inside to continue our discussion around the table, talking into the evening.

There are many exciting developments in the works at DavidCo and I've been very busy planning for new ICA* technologies for our expanding team. In fact, I'm writing this from the new world headquarters. Ojai is beautiful this time of year. It's not too hot [yet] and there's always a spectacular sunset to watch.

It's not my preference to travel often, and whenever possible I try to avoid being away from my family on weekends or for more than a few days; however, a great place to work and great people to work with make the experience a treat.  I consider myself blessed to be a part of such a dynamic team of wonderful people.

This trip has also been a good time for me to think about some of the projects and products that I've got on my plate. I've decided to look into recruiting some Notes developers to join me on a product in the works (more to follow) and to slow down on new business development efforts. Between work, family, and school, I'm very busy. I'm also excited.

I guess that's a good place to be.

Have a great week!


* Information, Communication, Action

The party’s begun!

Saturday, May 7th, 2005
For months, billboards around Southern California, have been building up the excitement and counting the days to the 50th birthday anniversary kick-off at Disneyland.


This week - in-between lots of client work, two final exams, and day-to-day life - I found time this week to whisk my wife away to the Magic Kingdom for the special event. Julie Andrews was a delightful hostess and every attraction in the park that was 50 years old, had a gold element to it. The entire park was decorated with plenty of hidden Mickeys to find all over the park. Many of the rides had a special element, created just for the celebration.

Kathy and I enjoyed the nighttime show at the castle. Tink no longer flies in a straight line one time. Instead, she interacts with the events from high above. (Think 30 years ago -- Wonderful World of Disney.) It's best to watch this from the central plaza, as there are now activities (i.e. fireworks, lasers, etc.) going on all around the park. An amazing exchange of laser firepower between the castle and the top of Space Mountain. Perhaps I'll post some video clips. It was spectacular!

It was also a celebration for Kathy and me, as it was almost 15 years ago to the day that I proposed to her.

The next day, we went to Disneyland to celebrate our engagement.

Many thanks to those who helped make this special day possible.
I missed Happy TV-Turnoff Week and I did not even know. Many years ago, we shut off our TV; we've never looked back. It was difficult for about 3 days. Since then, we've found better things to do with our time - like visiting, playing games, and just being a family.

I do miss the history channel, but not the commercials - it's just not worth it. I can buy or rent quality programs. I can also check them out from the library. Life is too short to fill my head much of the garbage that the networks and their sponsors want me to see. Even when we did have broadcast television in our home, there was so little that represented our values, that Kathy and I spent most of our viewing time previewing and screening shows and their commercials from our children. Even our favorite classics on Nick-at-Nite (were talking many years ago) were routinely punctuated by commercials unbecoming a responsible network. It seems that the networks (or their advertisers) see little value in programs that are not violent, degrading, or graphic in more ways than one.  Well, I'm not watch'n it and I care too much about my children to let them watch television that won't show them what a functional home and marriage can be like.

Recently, we purchased the entire Little House on the Prairie series on DVD. I'd never seen this; I must have been too busy playing with computers. What a wonderful program -- and without commercials. Each week, we watch one episode with the children and then we talk about it. We've had a great time and we still have many seasons left to see.

Kathy and I have learned to be much more careful about what comes into our home and into our minds.

If you've not tried it, consider turning off your TV for a week. You may not miss it.
Methodology + Technology = Productivity. That was the title of yesterday's blog article. The response, both publicly and privately, has been very interesting, so I've decided to take this discussion to a more public format.

Over on the GTD forum, I asked the question, "Do you distinguish between the technology and methodology of productivity?"  

I hope you will participate in my poll  on the GTD Forum of the David Allen Company web site. You can see the results in real-time.

In the coming weeks, I'll share my own experiences on the tech side of the productivity equation.

Here are the questions in the poll:
  • I'm clear about the difference. I use each where appropriate in a balanced way
  • I understand the difference, but I tend to focus more on the technology
  • I understand the difference, but I tend to focus more on the methodology
  • I routinely confuse the two, alternately focusing on one or the other to an extreme
  • Other

Which statement is true about you?

It’s easy to buy the latest and greatest in technology, but that does not guarantee a boost in productivity. Without a method for its effective use, the potential benefit of a new technology will be limited. Technology might even get in the way.

It's important to distinguish the difference between your method of getting things done and the technology  that you use to support your work.  These separate elements must work together in order to be productive.

This weekend, David Allen blogged about things that get in the way of productivity. Last night, he asked his seatmate on the plane what got in the way of his productivity:
... I asked him what he thought was the main thing that got in the way of his productivity. He didn't have to think very long before he said, "organizational processes." Too many forms, too many boxes on the forms, too many rules and regulations for filling out the forms.
This comment reminded me of a conversation David and I had over 10 years ago. At the time, I was using a custom Notes-based action management system, patterned after a system I had designed for the Navy. As I had learned about new methodologies of project/action management, I simply "built" what I had learned into my system. This was great, but it added a measure of complexity to my system. I remember I once showed some new features to David. He smiled; I think he even said something like "check back with me in two months from now and let me know if you are still using it."

Two months later, I wasn't using my own system … at least not fully.

You see, my system had gotten in the way of my process. Rather than allowing my system to be just a support tool, It had morphed into a do-all system with lots of features, including the proverbial "kitchen sink." While it allowed me to do many things well, it did not always make it easier to do them.

Many years ago, I scrapped all of my systems and started over. I decided to separate the methodology from the technology. That was a good move. The result was my eProductivity Template for Lotus Notes. Now, my system complements the way that I work. I even incorporated a key concept of the GTD methodology: organizing actions by context. This small change had a tremendous impact for me. I've been using this template ever since, and I’ve provided the template to several clients who are using it to manage their actions and projects with excellent results.

Make no mistake. The system does not do the work – it’s only a tool. I still have to "work" my system ... and some days I do this better than others.

As I consult with clients about how they use technology, I make sure that they clearly understand the difference between the methodology and technology they use to do their work. If I don't believe they have a sound methodology for managing their actions and projects, I give them a copy of David's first book, Getting Things Done. (I always keep a few of these books and tapes on hand for this purpose.) While I can deploy the latest and greatest in technology, I know that without a method for its effective use, its potential benefit will be limited.

When I work with my clients, I usually create an ICA flow diagram of their work. The ICA approach considers three aspects of the workplace: Information, Communications, and Actions, and the diagram allows us to see what they do and how they do it. Once we are clear on the workflow, I show my clients various technologies that they can use to support them in their work.

More than once a client has remarked, “if only I had the system you use [i.e. Lotus Notes, eProductivity Template, a Palm, whatever.] then I would be more productive.” Not true. As I explained earlier, without a sound methodology, the benefits of technology are limited. Begin with the methodology first. If a client does not have a clear grasp of this important concept and a well-defined way of thinking about their work, I refer them back to Getting Things Done.

Methodology + Technology = Productivity

I've continued to refine my systems over the years; I suppose I always will. Now, however, I’m careful when adding new “features.”  I don't want technology to interfere with my work. If, after a few weeks, I find that I’m not using a new feature, I remove it.

Remind yourself that while your systems should support you in your work, they should not restrict or otherwise limit it.

Do you make a clear distinction between the methodology and the technology that you use? If so, I'd like to hear about it.

Should Tablet PCs make noise?

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005
There's been a lot of discussion about Tablet PCs and whether they are disruptive. (See also Michael Hyatt's thoughts. ) Good discussion; however, I still decided to order a new Tecra M4 Tablet PC and blogged about it.

What will change my mind about the Tablet PC is the noise level produced by CPU fan.  I frequently attend meetings with clients where, Tablet or not, the whine of a CPU fan would be very disruptive.  In one of my management classes, a colleague has a laptop with a very loud CPU fan. The whine of the fan is so disruptive that she usually turns her computer off during lectures. (So much for disruptive technology.)

I will be very disappointed if my new Tablet PC makes enough noise that I have to turn it off in order not to bother others.  If it does, I can give you 4900 reasons why I will send it back promptly.

Many readers have written to ask me what I know about the noise-level of the Toshiba Tecra M4. I don't know anything yet. I'm still waiting for my Tablet PC to arrive.

I decided to take matters into my own hands; I contacted my helpful Toshiba sales representative to find out what she had to say about this.

Here's a summary of our exchange.

My question to Toshiba re: possible CPU Fan noise with the M4:
I have some concerns about fan noise on the Tecra M4 - Is it OK for meeting/classroom use?

A few readers have written to me, or posted on my blog, with concerns about the noise level of the Tecra M4. The concern is that excessive fan noise might make the Tablet too disruptive for use in a meeting or a classroom. I share this concern. I've been in meetings where someone -- usually with an older laptop - has a loud fan. It's very disruptive.

My ThinkPad T42p fan is almost unnoticeable after startup. It is my hope that the new Tecra M4 fan will be as quiet.

Would you please respond to this issue for me?  I'd like to put these concerns to rest.

Thank you,

Eric Mack

Toshiba responded promptly:
Hello Eric,
I have been informed that the Tecra M4 does have a louder fan then some of the other models.  I do understand your concern, however if this remains a problem for you after you receive the notebook we have a 15 day return policy, there will be no penalty to you.  Thank you

My follow-up question:
Thanks, for the swift reply.

I'm looking forward to receiving the new Tablet, as I will use it for client demonstrations and in meetings in a conference room.

Can you tell me, subjectively, how much louder? Are we talking Jet engine-loud?

If you are sitting at a conference table, will the people across and adjacent to you be able to hear it?  My main concern is whether (or not) this will cause the Tablet to be a disruption.


And The response from Toshiba:
Toshiba does not consider the fan a distraction.  However due to the upgrade in the processing speed; the power in the new FSB generates more heat.  Therefore, the fan must regulate this increase. I am told it is louder then the Tecra M2.  To be completely honest with you I personally have not seen the new Tecra M4.  I have not heard any negative feedback.   I do hope that when you receive your notebook you will not find the fan to be a problem, I know this machine offers many new awesome benefits.  I want you to be happy with your notebook, so please let me know if this becomes a concern for you when you work with it.  
Thank you

There, you have it. Once I receive the M4, I'll compare the fan noise to the IBM ThinkPad T42p on my desk and let you know about my experience.

New blog category for Tablet PC

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005
I've added a new category for Tablet PC and I've reclassified several of my tablet-related posts. As a result, some of these may reappear in your RSS feed.

Use the force at breakfast

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005
A delightful way to make your 7 year-old happy is to eat your cereal with a Jedi light saber spoon - the kind that glows red while you're holding it.

[Update: 12:20 PM: Due to popular request, I've uploaded a photo:]

Jedi Light
Saber Spoon.jpg

Michael, you can get your very own, inside a box of Apple Jacks. Let me know if you can't buy AJ in NZ, and I'll send you one.

Broken links in Domino blog

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005
Several people have written to inform me of broken links.

There appears to be a bug with links that refer back to my own site. I'm helping Steve Castledine test the latest release of his DominoBlog Template. I'm pushing the envelope by running the latest beta release, (Ver 3.0 Beta 2, RC15), so I expect to bump into a few problems from time to time.  

As far as I know, this problem does not exist in the current gold release of DominoBlog.

Steve's promised to look into this for me.  

Thanks for your patience.

Gadget bag: laser printer

Sunday, May 1st, 2005
I've tried (and tossed) a variety of so-called "portable" ink jet and thermal printers over the years. Unfortunately, though small, I've not found them to be worth the quality, trouble or expense to make it worth the effort. I need a high-quality solution for printing while on extended road trips.

This week, I found a quality solution that I can use when I travel by car.

Many of my clients are within a few hours drive of where I live. (In Los Angeles, that means 2-6 hours away, depending on traffic.)  When I stay at hotels near these clients, I'll often return to the hotel to do work on the afternoon/evening. When I'm on the road, I often miss having a printer close at hand. While I work digitally most of the time, I still use a printer to print reports & diagrams, client invoices, mindmaps and the like.

This week, I saw a small LED laser printer at Best Buy - the Samsung 1740 ($89 after rebate). It's small and light - it's half the weight of my first "portable" computer - and holds 250 sheets of paper - more than adequate for my travel needs. I promptly bought it.

Now, when I travel for extended periods, I have a mobile office again. It may seem like a lot to carry, and it is, but this gear allows me to be almost completely self-contained. (Sorry, no fuel cells yet)

My current "road kit" for extended trips