This afternoon, my wife walked into my office to find me wrapped in a towel, headset on, and engrossed in a conversation. Not knowing who was at the other end and careful not to interrupt my conversation, Kathy quietly stepped around the side of my desk and handed me this note:


There is an explanation. Earlier in the day, I went to take a shower. Even before I turned on the water, a flood of ideas came to mind. I leaned out from the shower and started to brainstorm on my white board that I keep for this purpose. Realizing that no one was home (my wife and kids were at VBS) I decided to wrap myself  in a towel and walk back to my desk to quickly map out the rest of my ideas before returning to my shower. I had only one objective - not to lose the ideas in my head before I could write them down.

Well, I finished mapping out my ideas in just a few minutes; but then, one great idea led to another... I was about to leave when the phone rang. Then, it was time for a conference call with a business associate.

Then my wife walked in ...

She's still laughing.

Outlook help needed

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005
Wendy and I are sitting here, watching NASA TV on her laptop.  The shuttle crew has just radioed down to Houston control to ask for help; it seems that they cannot get Outlook to connect to the on-board server. As best as Wendy and I can determine, they are running a network of laptops on board, with one laptop apparently acting as their mail relay to the ground.

NASA Television 07/27/2005
9:25 PM PST

Wendy's indicated that she would be happy to make an on-site visit help them troubleshoot their network. Michael and I have recent experience with high altitude networking.

I'm not sure if the Shuttle crew is following my blog while in space, but I thought that we might collect some possible solutions for them - just in case they check in via RSS. Meanwhile, I'll listen to the NASA channel for details.

Tune in now to  NASA TV to watch along.

Tablet PC - Productivity tool for business

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005
While I relaxed yesterday, Michael got the jump on me by writing an excellent post with suggestions about the type of people the he thinks will benefit the most from a Tablet PC.

Michael suggests that the business people who will benefit the most from a Tablet PC are those who:
  • Spend Lots of Time in Meetings
  • Use Sketches and Drawings to Communicate
  • Lead Seminars, Courses and Workshops
  • Review and Edit Letters, Documents and Other Papers.
  • Like to Use a Whiteboard for Communicating and Sharing Information.
What do you think? You can read his post here.

Michael and I agree that it is likely that the Tablet PC, as a mobile computing platform, will eventually replace laptops as the device of choice. I'm still looking for a brilliant Tablet PC developer to step forward with a solution to last week's challenge. Meanwhile, I'll work on the software side of the YABHTU equation. Michael's got a good list, and we're on the same page/screen.

Complete the sentence

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005
Kathy and I watched one of my favorite movies last night. We enjoy adventure, drama, and the opportunity to laugh. When a movie provides all three, it's a real treat. Yesterday, I enjoyed a day of nonstop greetings from friends and family. (Thank you!) It was a wonderful way to celebrate my birthday, topped by a movie that ended with these words:
"This world is an uncertain realm filled with danger, honor undermined by the pursuit of power, freedom sacrificed when the weak are oppressed by the strong. But there are those who oppose these powerful forces, who dedicate their lives to truth, honor, and freedom. These men are known as ..."

I love these closing words. They inspire me to do more: to do what is right, to serve others, to imagine a different time.

See if you can finish the sentence - without looking it up on the internet.

Yes Michael, that’s cake you smell

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005
My good friend, Michael Sampson, wants to know if he smells cake? Yes, it's true. I'm old enough to remember watching Niel Armstrong step onto the moon.

The week of my sixth birthday, NASA's Apollo 11 crew gave me a treat:


I remember sitting front of our black and white television to watch the Apollo 11 crew land on the moon. I remember Neil Armstrong slowly climbing down the ladder of the lunar lander, stepping on to the moon's surface and saying the famous words that will be forever etched in my mind: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

Too bad you weren't around to see it, Michael. :-)

Well, at least you can see how NASA celebrated my birthday this year.


And the cake? Double Chocolate. Mmmmm. Delicious.

Thanks for the birthday greetings, Michael.

Outstanding M4 Tablet PC Review

Monday, July 25th, 2005
Shawn Erdenberg recently posted a 10-part review of his Tecra M4 Tablet PC. It looks like our experiences and opinions are quite similar (except that Shawn's obviously got way too much free time between classes). If you are looking for a detailed geek-review of the M4, this is a must read. Be sure to check out the comment threads, too.

Nice work, Shawn. Are you YABHTU yet? Skype me at eProductivityGuy and we'll talk.

Perhaps we can reach consensus on what it will take for us to get there.

A step away from YABHTU

Saturday, July 23rd, 2005
Patrick Mayfield Skyped me yesterday to introduce himself and to ask me if I was YABHTU yet. I told him that I was getting much closer, but that there were still a few issues to work out before I would make that claim.

After our chat, I thought about it and I decided that I should break down the scope of what it means to be YABHTU between the hardware and software of the Tablet PC Platform. Today, I'll discuss briefly the hardware side of the equation. I've now had the Toshiba Tecra M4 for just over two months. In that time, I've shared my experiences working with and adapting to this new Tablet PC. When I met with David Allen this week, I told him that I see tremendous promise for the Tablet PC platform and his next computer is likely to be a Tablet PC; however, based on my experience to date, I'm not yet ready to advocate that he or my other clients rush out and switch today. Still, I'm working with the Tablet PC. I want to find out what it takes to make me YABHTU so that I can serve and advise my clients on this technology in the future.

Back to the hardware. Yesterday, I prototyped a custom stand for my M4 which has made all the difference when I work at my desk. The stand itself is not terribly pretty, but what it has done for me is amazing. Instead of leaving my M4 in laptop mode while at my desk, I'm now using it mostly in tablet mode. This of course, has increased the number of hours I spend working with it in tablet mode; it has also improved my perception of the unit as a whole. I've found that, running in high-power mode, most of the problems (which I suspect to be Tablet OS & Driver related) do not affect me.


Battery life remains an issue, but not a big one. I understand that I have the mother of all Tablet PCs in terms of screen and computing power and that takes a lot of energy to operate. While I wish the battery life were better for me, I'm pleased with the results. Remember: I believe that I have a hardware TPC OS Driver issue that is affecting my ability to run in speed-step reduced-power mode reliably. Once/if this ever gets fixed, I expect that I can run in low-power mode the majority of the time, in which case I would definitely be thrilled about the battery life. (Until I learn new information otherwise, I shall assume that this is indeed a software problem only. (Again, I'll cover software in a future post.)

I've also grown accustomed to the various design features of the M4 - and many of them have grown on me. I've gotten used to the keyboard, placement of lights, switches, etc.. In fact, now that I've used the M4 for a few months, I can now see the wisdom of the design placement for all of these,

So, what remains for me to become YABHTU as far as the Tecra M4 Tablet PC hardware is concerned?

Not much.

My only current hardware issue with the M4 is the issue of the DVD drive. I enjoy the drive and all of its features - including the ability to read and burn DL DVD-R media. What I do not like - and what I consider to be a serious design omission - is that the drive pops out whenever I brush against the eject button. I'm constantly concerned that my drive will suddenly eject and snap off.

This is not a difficult problem for a brilliant Tablet PC developer to solve.

In fact, I've already mapped out what I want...

Eric's challenge to all Tablet PC developers:

I want a system-tray utility that will keep power to the DVD drive off at all times (even after a reboot). This will prevent the DVD drive from accidentally ejecting when I do not want it to. Further, it will reduce power consumption. This system tray utility should only turn on the power when I click on it; and then, when I click to enable power, it should pop-up a list of durations to choose from (10 min, 20 min, 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, indefinitely). This way, when the duration has been reached, or the tablet is rebooted, the DVD drive will once again be powered off. I will save battery life, and more important, I won't have the problem of the drive suddenly popping out when I least expect it.

[Update: After thinking about this further, I would like to see a "power-off" after xx minutes of inactivity. This would probably be the most useful and flexible option. Of course, as long as I'm dreaming, I might as well ask that any drive access originated by the system be allowed to power up the drive, too.]

I know that Toshiba presently provides a DVD power utility in the system tray. The problem is that the default mode of this utility is for DVD power to be ON at all times. If you reboot the tablet, the DVD drive returns to power on mode.

Toshiba engineers came close but missed the point and value of DVD power saving. While I'm at it, they missed the opportunity to simply create a "DVD Power" setting within the Toshiba Tablet PC Power Management utility, too. The ideal would be to be able to manage DVD power both with the power management utility and at the system tray.

Hopefully, someone will take me up on this challenge. If they do, it will bring me one step closer to becoming YABHTU, at least as far as the hardware is concerned.

That’s much better

Saturday, July 23rd, 2005
If you've been following my Tablet PC adventure, you'll know
what this means.

Create your own caption

DominoBlog Kills Comment Spam

Saturday, July 23rd, 2005
This is a long-overdue comment about how well DominoBlog, my blog tool of choice kills blog comment spam:

It works.

I receive a lot of comment spam, but so far, only one has slipped past DominoBlog; I rarely get false-positives, either.

I don't know what algorithm Steve Castledine uses to detect and flag spammers who attempt to post their unwanted ads on my blog.

Whatever he's doing, it works.

Just another small feature - one among many - that makes a big difference for me and for readers of my blog.

Thanks, Steve!

Parents: be involved with your children

Thursday, July 21st, 2005
There are many studies that show the benefits of different modes of education, including home education, government schools, parochial schools, and private schools. It is not uncommon for a discussion of these to quickly, , turn into a discussion of which is better: home education vs government schools, or which provides a more socialized child, or any of a number of other aspects of the educational experience. I know; I have these discussions often with parents of school-age children - regardless of where they choose to educate their children.  Recently, a blog entry led to some interesting discussion in follow-up emails and comments.

I do not believe that the debate should be between public government vs home education. I can come up with strong arguments for both points of view - I've even debated many of these in public settings.  Both options offer opportunities and benefits to our children. I think there is a more important discussion that needs to occur in every home: the importance of parental involvement in the training and education of their children.

Ask any teacher and they will tell you that one of the most important factors that influence the outcome of a child's education is parental involvement. This is important, because teachers will only be involved for a brief period of time in the life of our children. Even the finest teachers in the finest schools only have but a few hours a day to influence their class. From that, subtract time for distractions, (breaks, disciplinary interruptions, lunch, assemblies. etc.) Divide the remaining time by the number of students in the class, and you will realize just how little time that is really available in each day for the education of each individual student.

Theoretically speaking, even if a school were operating at 100% efficiency - educating the full time that our children were in attendance - they would only have the students for what, 6 hours a day? What parents do with their children for the remaining 18 hours a day will largely determine the effectiveness of their child's education.

While I'm thankful that our government provides educational opportunities for children, the government cannot - and should not - be responsible to provide the total education of our children. It's not their job. That's my job and Kathy's job as parents. If you're a parent, it's your job, too. Parents, you must be involved, not only in selecting the format and venue for their child's education, but in every aspect of encouragement and reinforcement that goes on until your child leaves home as an adult.  

For parents that choose to educate their children at home, as we do, or for parents that choose to send their children to a government school, parochial school, or even the finest private school, I say: BE INVOLVED. Be involved and stay involved, all the way through high-school and college graduation. That's a big responsibility. Far more important than career or work or recreation.

Outside of our spiritual responsibility to our children, I believe it's the most important responsibility that we as parents have.

GTD RoadMap preview

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005
In case you've been hiding under your in-basket, the big launch is this Thursday. This evening, Amy and I drove over to David Allen's office. He was putting the finishing touches on his new GTD RoadMap seminar and he treated us a sneak preview of some of the materials. Very cool.

I'm disappointed that I won't be able to make it to the launch in Santa Monica this week, but I need to focus on some big projects behind the scenes. That's OK, serving David and his team as an eProductivity consultant, I get to see this stuff in action all the time. It's real, folks.

If you have the opportunity to attend, do. I think Rachelle's got a few seats left. You'll walk away inspired and motivated; you'll learn a new way to think about your work. More important you'll learn how to get things done, so that you can truly be ready for anything!

A Buzz in the Sky(pe)

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005
This afternoon, while in a meeting with Andrea, at David Allen's office, my Skype alert goes off. It's Buzz Bruggeman, asking if "I'm there;" he wants to test Skype. I respond "No, I'm not here - in a mtg." Of course, then Buzz drops the teaser line - I'm in a Boeing Jet at 30,000 feet over Eastern Washington. He's testing the new Connexion in-cabin internet service. (See what I miss for not checking my RSS feed today?)

We tested Skype. I heard him  just fine, though he could not hear me. I cannot tell how much of an issue latency will be. So, I guess it won't be long before the skies are no longer a place of isolation.

Imagination into action

Monday, July 18th, 2005
Mark Gershon posted a great comment on my blog this weekend:
Eric, I have the other side to hand to you, Yes, the Robotics are cool, but can't we wait until they know how to read, and write (i.e.  hand writing skills) before the computer takes over.  Please remember they need to move physically just as much!!!!

Mark, I agree with you, however, my children all know how to read and write. In fact, each of them began to read full-length books on their own by the age of 5, some at age 4. Dick, Jane, and their dog Spot were a great help in the early years. (Kathy had these books from many years ago) Dr. Seuss will of course remain a starter classic in our home. Amy and Wendy read the entire [original] Nancy Drew series a few years later. They love to read and write as much as they love to run and play outdoors.

We did not have to push them into reading. We simply read and spoke to them in full, complete, sentences from birth - no baby talk.

Kathy and I encourage reading and writing in everything that we do, whether it's in our homeschool or just for recreation. (We don't have television in our home, but we do have a large library of great books.)

I don't advocate robotics or computers in place of learning the basics; but, when kids have the basics, I think robotics are a great way for them to put their imagination into action.

Drama in real life

Saturday, July 16th, 2005
Given the remote location of where we live we don't see helicopters often. When we do, it causes a lot of excitement and anxiety. Tonight was no different. I heard the whoosh of the blades first, then I saw the flashing lights as the helicopter cleared the mountaintop opposite my home and began its descent towards the quiet community below. The chopping noise in the air alerted everyone to its arrival. Everyone knows what it means.

When a helicopter descends into our mountain-top community, it's usually for one of three reasons: search and rescue, to pick up water for a forest fire or to pick up a patient for a 20-30 minute flight to the emergency room in Bakersfield or Valencia. (Actually, there's one other reason, and it's a fun one: the Lilac Festival)

Since it was already dark and I did not smell smoke, I knew that a water pick-up was unlikely; I got in my car and headed down the hill toward the fire department. When I arrived a block away from the emergency helipad, I pulled over to the side of the road and parked my car. I pulled out my binoculars to see what was happening. I saw the Hall air ambulance; the paramedics and the medics from the medical flight-team were tending to a patient in the ambulance.

I stopped for a while to pray. I prayed for the patient, the medical personnel in attendance, and the family and concerned friends outside the ambulance. I have no idea who it is, but in a community as small as ours, it's possible I know them. It really does not matter whether I know them or not, and it has no bearing on the impact of my prayer for divine intervention. A person is hurting, in need of care and compassion. That's all that matters.

After about 10 minutes, the medics removed the patient from the ambulance and wheeled the gurney to the waiting helicopter. Moments later, the air ambulance lifted off from the helipad. It's probably on it's way to Bakersfield Heart Hospital as I write this.

Twice, I've been taken off the hill by the Hall Ambulance paramedics. Fortunately, my condition did not require an air evacuation, but I remember how frightening it was, nonetheless. I'm sure it was even more so for my family.

I'm thankful for the men and women who care for us up here, whether they provide us with fire or paramedic services, or security and a number of other services that allow us to enjoy life in the mountains.

I'm thankful that their training and technology are available to us, even in this remote mountaintop community.

I hope that this person - anonymous to me - will rest peacefully in flight tonight and that they will be well cared for when they arrive.

Times have changed

Thursday, July 14th, 2005
Two recent comments to my blog about Amy & Wendy's podcast got me thinking about how tech and times have changed since I was a kid.

Colin Walker:
Excellent podcasts - I take my hat off to everyone involved. Listening to them, it really points out how times have changed since I was 12 years old.

Warner Crocker:
These efforts by these two young ladies continue to impress mightily.

Warner, Colin, in 1978, when I was 15, I was what some would have called a computer genius - or at least a computer wiz kid. (Whatever that means).  When I was a kid, if you wanted a computer, you had to build it - either from a Heathkit  - or better, from scratch. In either case, you started with chips and circuit boards to wire wrapping and soldering. The one megahertz 8-bit CPU in my H-8 wasn't fast by today's standards, but I never complained. (I simply clock doubled it to TWO megahertz and added beefy cooling to the chassis.)

I once read an article, about 20 years ago, that attempted to explain why so many young computer wizards had appeared on the scene all at once. (Aside from the fact that computers were suddenly available to the masses; at least those with the money and time to build one.)

The article, as best as I remember, offered these reasons:

Young people often:
  • Have lots of time
  • Are infinitely curious
  • Are not intimidated by the dreaded "BDOS ERROR ON DRIVE A:" (If you remember CP/M you'll get it)
  • Are willing to experiment to find a work-around
  • Will spend hours, trying to make something work (i.e. Text Adventure)
  • Usually don't care what others think about their computer efforts
  • Take satisfaction in leaning/knowing things others don't (or won't)
If you have  young children and computers, put them together; then get out of the way.  (No internet connection needed)

I love encouraging my children - and children in general - to explore technology. That's why I enjoy robotics outreach programs where I get to dress up like this. I wish that when I was a kid, I had access to everything that they have now.

I look forward to seeing what my children will accomplish as they grow up. I look forward to learning from them, too.

7 Pillars and OneNote Shared Sessions

Wednesday, July 13th, 2005
One of the highlights of the Collaborative Technologies Conference was the opportunity for me to attend and participate with my colleague, Michael Sampson in his 7 Pillars of IT Enabled Team Productivity workshop. Over the course of a the day, Michael walked us through each of the 7 Pillars. Throughout Michael's workshop, we split up into smaller groups to work on exercises designed to focus on specific areas of team productivity. It was great to hear what organizations, large and small, are doing to IT enable their team productivity. (There were many Notes/Domino organizations present, although IBM was notably absent).

During the section on shared spaces, Michael and I gave a live demonstration of OneNote shared sessions, using our new Tecra M4 Tablet PCs.

Michael used OneNote to mindmap the session objectives

Prior to the conference, Michael and I spent a lot of time working with OneNote shared sessions - the ability for multiple people to take notes simultaneously. Before our trip, Amy and Wendy met us in the Digital Sandbox and treated us to a live 4-way demonstration of OneNote and Michael and I followed up with several 2-way sessions. We even set up a network on the airplane just for OneNote. Our goal was to learn about and demonstrate what users can do today - using off the shelf solutions. We wanted to be able to discuss key issues that should be considered when selecting a tool for collaborating in shared spaces. Overall the shared session capability of OneNote worked well, however, there are still many opportunities for improvement in the area of joint editing and review. We've been in touch with the OneNote team, and we look forward to evaluating the next release. (Note: Michael's currently working on a paper that will summarize some of our experiences and his conclusions about OneNote as a collaborative tool. Keep an eye on his Shared Spaces blog.)

The folks at the CTC conference were kind enough to provide not one, but two 12' projection screens for this workshop, which made the demonstrations all the more impressive.

Michael and Eric in front of our giant OneNote displays

I think the only thing that would have been more impressive would be for Michael to have invited Amy and Wendy do the live demonstration of OneNote shared sessions.

Perhaps next year.

Toshiba, stop the spamware, please!

Wednesday, July 13th, 2005
I seem to have become a magnet for feedback about the Toshiba Tecra M4. I wish that I had the time to respond individually to all of the email I receive each day either asking questions or sharing feedback on the productive benefits of Tablet PCs an d the Toshiba M4 in particular. I am grateful for the comments and suggestions from those who have sent tips and offered to help me with my issues.

Many people have blogged about their growing disappointment with the additional unsolicited software, gratuitously supplied with the US version of the Tecra M4.  I think this is a big issue and I believe it is to blame for at least some of my problems. For what I paid for my shiny new M4, I should not have to deal with this. Apparently, I'm not alone in this regard.

Note that it is not the M4 that people are complaining about so much as the preinstallation of unsolicited software. - I call it spamware (Listen to the Tablet PC podcast #16 for a good perspective from Marc Orchant and James Kendrick. At the least, be sure to read: this and this.)

A reader by the name of Gustavo posted this comment to my blog today:
I'm very very disappointed with how Toshiba US is handling this issue. My M4 is full of Spam and crap I never wanted. They even preloaded a full version of Office trial even thought when I so that on my email order confirmation I wrote therm and said I did not wanted that. I bought this laptop because of a technology advantage of having a full laptop system with tablet capabilities. By the time I need to upgrade other manufactures will have better tablets. Then I'll be happy to never buy a Toshiba product again.  This is also because their sales and support experience has been the poorest I've ever had.

Perhaps the folks at Toshiba don't read blogs or at least they choose not to comment. I hope that they are at least considering what people are saying. It would be great if someone from Toshiba would get back to Gustavo (or me) and offer to help solve the problems.

I know that I will need to reload my M4 from scratch. I hope that when I do, my experience will be better than it has been so far. Unfortunately, I don't have the time to reload any time soon. When I do, I'll go back and review Marc and Warner's narratives on their experience reloading their Tablet PCs.

Overall. I'm still enjoying my M4, though my move to the Tablet PC has not been as easy as I hoped it would be.

In fact, from a total productivity perspective, I'm still very much in the negative zone.  I believe in the potential of the Tablet PC as a productivity tool; however, I'm not there yet.

Meanwhile, I'll continue to press on, in the hope that I will someday become YABHTU

Missing photos in my DominoBlog RSS feed?

Wednesday, July 13th, 2005
James Kendrick just sent me an email to tell me that the photos from my blog are not showing up in his RSS reader. I thought this was a problem unique to me. Is anyone else having this problem?

This may be an issue with the way that DominoBlog handles photos. I'll check with Steve Castledine to see what he can do to help me fix this.

OneNote Shared Sessions at 30,000’

Tuesday, July 12th, 2005
Want to collaborate on a document with your seatmate at 30,000 feet? It's easy; all you need are the right tools.

Last month, on our way to the recent Collaborative Technologies Conference in New York, Michael Sampson and I put to use everything Amy and Wendy showed us about OneNote Shared Sessions. (Missed it? See here and here.)


Using our new Tecra M4 Tablet PCs, we were able to successfully conduct a OneNote shared session at 30,000' using our in-flight gigabit network. (Notice the red crossover cable between our seats.) Even more amazing to me, was that the guy across the isle from us overheard our evaluations and comments about OneNote and he jumped into the conversation. It turns out that he had recently joined Microsoft Research. (We promised him that we would not to post his name.) He was extremely interested in what we were doing with our Tablet PCs. and we spent much of the remainder of the flight discussing Tablet PCs, OneNote, and collaboration tools. If that's not interesting enough, he had - you guessed it - his own new Tecra M4, still in the box, in the overhead bin.

Michael and I offered to help him set up his new M4; I was even willing to extend our network across the isle so that he could help us test and evaluate OneNote Shared Session capability. (When I realized that the stewardess was becoming suspicious of our efforts to rewire the plane, I backed off from that plan.)

I'm still intrigued by the thought of three shiny new Tecra M4's all in the same row, at 30,000'. Now, what are the odds of that?

Note: I've made many posts about OneNote Shared Sessions. I've actually had these in my drafts folder for some time. Michael gently reminded me that if I did not blog about our trip, he would. Two more to go. Stay tuned!

OneNote Usability, Part II

Monday, July 11th, 2005
What about OneNote usability? Join Amy and Wendy in their second presentation/podcast on this topic.


This is actually an earlier podcast from Amy and Wendy's PowerPoint presentation on OneNote shared spaces; I did not plan to share it. However, when I listened for the second time, I realized that there's some good information that is not in the first public podcast.

So, while this podcast overlaps somewhat with our earlier podcast I think you will find it equally informative and entertaining.


OneNote and ActiveWords
OneNote at School
OneNote Templates
Action management
OneNote and the Tablet PC
Amy and Wendy (with Michael's help) again hint for a Tablet PC
Amy and Wendy share their reactions
What's your next action? Amy & Wendy's closing comments" title="Click to play, or right-click to download file.">Amy & Wendy on OneNote Usability
Eric Mack On-line - June 16, (30 min 43 sec) MP3 14.1 MB

Note: Amy and Wendy's entire PowerPoint presentation, this podcast, and their comments and observations are entirely their own. Other than supervising the loading of OneNote on their ThinkPads, I was not involved in their preparations. I'm very proud of their work.

Shared sessions allow two (or more) people to share a screen and collaborate on a document in real time. The latest version of Microsoft OneNote provides this capability from a simple menu option.

I recently asked my two resident junior technologists - Amy and Wendy Mack- to explore the shared session capability of Microsoft OneNote so that they might show their robotics team how to use OneNote to work together, apart. Amy and Wendy did this - they used OneNote and Skype to collaborate on a document from different rooms of the house,


I have invited Michael Sampson, of Shared Spaces Research and Consulting, to join me as Amy and Wendy teach us about how they use OneNoteShared Sessions. During this unedited podcast, Amy and Wendy even walk us through a live 4-way shared session. (It works!)


Brief overview of OneNote features
How to launch a shared session (A live 4-way session)
OneNote in School
Audio recording and playback (You can record video, too)
Amy's tour of OneNote as a clipboard for research
Wendy describes OneNote templates and planners
OneNote in School as a tool for note taking (Amy)
Note Flags in OneNote (Wendy)
Wendy hints that she really needs a Tablet PC
OneNote for Mind Mapping - Wendy says MindManager is better suited
Amy & Wendy share about their experience the FIRST Robotics Competition
Using OneNote and MindManager as collaborative tools for a robotics team


In this, their first podcast, Amy and Wendy, eProductivity specialists in their own right, teach us about their experience using OneNote Shared Sessions.

Amy & Wendy on OneNote Shared Sessions

Eric Mack On-line - June 16, (20 min 30 sec) MP3 9.3 MB

Amy & Wendy asked me to clarify that they did not actually get in trouble for using OneNote shared sessions during school. I promised them I would.

In comparing my Tecra M4 to Michael's M4, there are two immediate differences.


First, the International version of the M4 has fewer vendor stickers on the front - less visual blight. (I know, it does not affect performance, but why take a good looking (and expensive) Tablet and make it look like it came from Toys-R-Us?) Second, Michael seems to have missed out on Toshiba's selection of "free" SpamWare that  is preloaded on the US version of the Tecra M4. What this means, is that Michael got the better value: Less clutter on the desktop; fewer apps to uninstall at initial power-up; and, get this, his machine appears to be more stable as a result. Overall, this contributes to a more productive experience. Toshiba, are you getting this? You've got a great machine, but for a happier customer experience (at least for me) you've got to ditch the SpamWare.

A quick tour of Pine Mountain Club

Monday, July 11th, 2005
Kathy said that it's not good for boys to play inside all day - even in the Digital Sandbox, so she told us to go outside and get some fresh air...

I decided to take Michael on a quick tour around our community.


Making Music in the Digital Sandbox

Monday, July 11th, 2005
What's a day in the sandbox without music? As part of our office tour, Michael Sampson spotted the contraption in the center of my office - a collection of pipes, wires, and cables. When he asked what it was, I decided to show him; rather, I decided to play it for him.

Listen along for a digital-to-analog treat, live from my Digital Sandbox

Making Music in the Digital Sandbox

Eric Mack On-line - June 16, (3 min 26 sec) MP3 1.7 MB

Are you surprised?

Monday, July 11th, 2005
I've received many emails from people telling me why, as a result of this blog and my podcasts, they decided to purchase (or perhaps not purchase) a Tablet PC - especially the Toshiba Tecra M4.

Michael did not send an email to inform me of his purchase. He simply showed up at the Digital Sandbox with his new toy in hand...




Surprises in the Digital Sandbox

Monday, July 11th, 2005
You never know what will turn up when you dig around in the digital sandbox. Sometimes, even I'm taken by surprise. In this second installment on Michael Sampson's recent visit to the Digital Sandbox, we briefly catch up and take a quick tour of some of the tools I use at work. Part way through the podcast, Michael opened his briefcase and shows me his new productivity tool. Needless to say, this will certainly change the tone of our visit and our trip across the country.  

Show highlights:

- Unified Messaging (Big Sky Technologies)
- The mother of all digital whiteboards - the Xerox LiveBoard
- The HP Digital Sender
- Michael's big surprise. (Hint: it's not a new Apple PowerBook)
- OneNote Shared Sessions
- Brief overview of the OneNote podcast by Amy & Wendy

For reasons which will become obvious in the podcast I will delay posting the photos related to this podcast.

Michael Sampson in the Digital Sandbox

Eric Mack On-line - June 16, (11 min 7 sec) MP3  5.5 MB

Michael’s in the Digital Sandbox

Monday, July 11th, 2005
Many interesting people come to visit and play in my digital sandbox.  Recently, Michael Sampson joined me, all the way from New Zealand. This is the first of several time-shifted podcasts, full of treats and surprises.


Michael Sampson in the Digital Sandbox

Eric Mack On-line - June 16, (3 min 9 sec) MP3  1.4 MB

What’s your Knowledge DNA?

Monday, July 11th, 2005
Want to reduce information overload? Then you need an activity management system- at least that's the pitch by the folks at KnowledgeDNA. I recently met with Steve Strickholm, KnowledgeDNA's CEO, to discuss how his product can reduce information overload and provide group project and action management across organizational boundaries.

I'm particularly impressed by the project dashboards and the way that KDNA tracks completion of an item. Actions can be configured to require dual sign-off so that multiple parties must acknowledge completion, While it sounds like a lot of extra work, I can see how this might be used to reduce cycle time and improve accuracy in reporting.

Steve's got a clear grasp of a pain point in organizations: cross organizational collaboration. For my needs, he's going to have to address distributed workers in a disconnected world, or at least a world that works across a variety of devices and networks. Despite it's inherent inefficiencies, there's a reason folks continue to go back to email: it's ubiquitous, it works across devices, systems, and networks, and everyone uses it. I believe that KDNA must address this vital component or it may find that users vote with their keystrokes.

From my pre-meeting research, I was led to believe that KnowledgeDNA would install, perhaps as a gateway, at the perimeter of an organization;s email system and from there it would populate the tracking system with knowledge gleaned through passive observation. (At least, that's what I was hoping for.) The product does not do this - at least at this time. What it does do is take the conversation about projects and actions to a shared-space via a centralized web-based action management system. This is a connected model - no internet = no action management. E-mail is used primarily as the information update and invitation tool.

On the upside, by forcing everyone to login into the system via the web, all information is contained in one place, there's almost no overhead requirements, and the central nature of the system will allow project managers and users to access digital dashboards with real-time summaries of all aspects of project management

If you're looking for a web-based project and action management system and you are willing to switch your primary communications from e-mail to a shared-space, then I believe KDNA is a tool worth looking at.

CTC 2005 follow-up

Monday, July 11th, 2005
I recently attended the Collaborative Technologies Conference in New York City with my friend and colleague, Michael Sampson. During the trip, we took many pictures and notes and we recorded several podcasts. As time permits, I'll post some of those items. They won't all be in order, I'm sure you'll find many of them interesting nonetheless.

If you want to follow along, be sure to add this site's RSS feed to your RSS reader and your podcatcher.

Congratulations Shawn & Robin

Friday, July 8th, 2005
This morning, Kathy and I witnessed the marriage of Robin and Shawn Sawyer. Shawn's a colleague in my management cohort and for months we've been hearing about the preparations for this day. The wedding ceremony was beautiful and unique in may ways, from the message, to the invitation, to the horse and carriage that brought Robin to the altar and whisked Shawn and his beautiful bride away. The happy couple never stopped smiling. We wish you the best. Grace to you.


Watching the horse and carriage ride away, I was reminded of my efforts to arrange for one at our wedding in the theme of the Princess Bride. Then, I remembered my four daughters... and decided that perhaps I should encourage them to be more practical. But then...

Eric Mack: aProductivity Specialist

Thursday, July 7th, 2005
Michael Sampson's at it again. This time, he's picking on me for using, of all things, an analog tablet!
You can imagine my surprise, therefore, when during the next week Eric spent a great deal of time using paper and a pen! And in the past week, he's started to post about "analog productivity" (see Print a Next Action Form on the Back of Your Business Card and No Digital Tool Beats My Paper Scheduling Tool). What's going on? Is Eric changing from being an "eProductivity Specialist" to an "aProductivity" one? Look at the evidence and decide for yourself... link
Indeed, our trip was a great deal of fun; I did use paper and pen more than I planned to and internet and tablet challenges did provide ample opportunities for laughter. In fact, I can't remember when I laughed so much for so long. We talked about technology and productivity, solved the world's problems - or at least those at the Westin Times Square (like poor internet access, no WiFi) and enjoyed fellowship together.
Seriously though, I had a neat week hanging out with Eric. We had numerous discussions about technology and productivity, although not as many as I would have liked. Regardless of what happens next for Eric, here's my final word: There are many people who become so enamoured with electronic tools that they fail to see the pure simplicity of paper, pens and pencils. Eric defly demonstrates a clear understanding of the pros and cons of each, which is why I have no reservation in recommending his thinking and approach to eProductivity. Keep up the good work Eric (once, of course, you get back from a supplies trip to Staples).
Everything Michael wrote is true, and I did write those words on the display tablet at the Levenger store. (My M4 was...unavailable at the time.)
There are, however, many more pieces (and pictures) to the story than Michael shares in this post.

I'm saving those for a future blog entry ... perhaps when Mr. Shared Spaces least expects it...

Analog Scheduling Tools

Thursday, July 7th, 2005
Why, when the planning gets tough, do we often go back to pencil and paper?  Is it because our minds work better that way - with tactile tools, or, is it because some digital tools have not matured to the point where they present a significant gain over their analog counterparts?  I used to feel this way about mind mapping.  (For more than a decade, I created my mind maps the old fashioned way -  then, I found MindManager.)

Today's post is actually not about mind mapping; however, it's about personal and group scheduling.  I'm OK with digital tools for short-range planning - say a day or a week. When it comes to visualizing complex events over a month or more, I like the ability to see the landscape and move around the elements. There's something special about drag-and-drop - literally.

For more than 20 years, beginning with my first major client - a surgery center in Century City - I've been promoting the virtues of digital calendaring and scheduling tools. In this time, I've designed and implemented many scheduling systems - for a small medical center, a military base, and even one for David Allen's office. While the productivity benefits for each of these applications were significant, I always felt that something was missing. To me, what was missing was the visual element. I believe users should be able to make scheduling plans in a digital system as easily (or easier) than they can by moving around Post-it Notes.

Perhaps I should be embarrassed to make this post - after all, I am an eProductivity Specialist. I'm "supposed" to focus on digital tools for productivity. At the same time, I see what clients are doing, and I know what I sometimes do when I need to visually plan complex projects. I delight in sharing honestly what works and what does not. You probably won't be surprised, therefore, to see what's on my conference table today ...


For group planning and discussion with my staff, I've yet to find the ideal replacement for paper and post-its. Once we finalize the plans, we enter them into the computer and toss the paper. In some ways, it's inefficient as it requires double-processing. In many other ways, however, it's the most consistently productive scheduling tool I've found.

There are many good (but not great) digital tools for this type of planning and I continue to evaluate new systems and technologies; however, until someone can come up with a visual solution that does for individual and group schedule planning what MindManager has done for mind mapping, 3M will remain my long-range scheduling tool of choice.

With all of this talk about analog tools, I can see it coming - Michael Sampson's gonna blog about my shift in focus from eProductivity to aProductivity.

Tablet PC Memory Leak Fixed!

Wednesday, July 6th, 2005
I may be a big step closer to becoming YABHTU!

Last week, a reader of my blog, Michael, wrote me:
The Microsoft XP tablet PC edition has, I believe, a memory leak. The solution is to reboot the system regularly (at least once a day).
While I believe his solution has merit the thought of doing it moved me closer to Mac than to YABHTU.

I may not have to.

Brian Beyer just posted a comment on my blog that Microsoft has apparently fixed the memory leak that crippled many Tablet PCs.

From Microsoft:
A memory leak in Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 causes a gradual decrease in available system memory. This loss in available memory causes degradation in system performance. When this behavior occurs, the user must restart the computer. This problem is caused by a memory leak in the tcserver.exe service.

Microsoft Tablet PC Memory Leak Fix

Happy Birthday America!

Monday, July 4th, 2005
This weekend, we celebrated July 4th by attending a parade and a spectacular 30-minute display of fireworks at Cal State University, Stanislaus.


I'm thankful to live in the United States of America, and I'm grateful to the men and women who have contributed to our nation's great heritage.

Thank you.

A sense of mission

Friday, July 1st, 2005
Over on David Allen's blog, there's an interesting discussion about corporate mission statements. A topic that started as "hey, this is cool"  has generated considerable discussion about the value and effectiveness of corporate mission statements.

I agree with some of the remarks shared about the disconnect between some organization's actions and their mission statements. However, I think that's the fault of management and how they work to develop or carry out the organization's mission. Surely some mission statements may end up to be just a page of sweet words, designed to attract uninformed shareholders or employees alike. For a mission statement to work, it must become a part of the fabric of the organization; and, it must represent the ideal and be referenced voluntarily at all levels. It's the leaders job to bring this about. The mission statement provides a sense of purpose and meaning; when an organization's behavior does not match it's company mission statement it's worse than if no mission statement existed at all.

In 20 years of independent consulting I've served many organizations where the mission statement did not appear to match organizational behavior. Fortunately, however, I've also served an equal number of organizations that ARE their mission statement. To me, these organizations redeem the concept and value of the corporate mission statement. The key is leadership. The leaders in these organizations play in active role in defining and communicating the organization's mission through their behavior and decision-making.

On a personal level, I've found that a personal or family mission statement a powerful tool for personal decision making. Many years ago, Kathy and I developed our family mission statement. We set out to describe the successful outcome of our role as parents. That simple effort, and the sense of mission that resulted, has completely transformed our family. Though we don't have it posted on the wall anywhere (we probably should), we do refer to our mission statement often enough to remember what it says and to evaluate how we are doing, both as a family, and as parents. The result is that decisions that we make are made in the context of our family mission and we see these decisions as capable of enhancing or detracting from the picture of our ideal family outcome. I've found it much easier to make decisions about what to be, do, or have when my sense of mission is clear.

The other value I've found in a personal mission statement is that is forces us to think about what we will leave behind. Again, the mission statement, used correctly, can be a powerful tool.

Back to the topic at hand - corporate mission statements. I believe that they can be powerful or a waste of paper. Their success, I believe, depends entirely on how they are created (who's involved) and how they affect behavior within the organization (Behavior changing or lip service?)

Several years ago, I gave David a copy of a book that I enjoyed: "The Mission Statement Book" by Jeffrey Abrahams. This books takes a look at 300+ corporate mission statements from America's top companies. It also offers guidance in how to create and implement a corporate mission statement.

It's an interesting and inspiring read.