May 21

One of the many great uses for a PC is to have it quickly search through your photo archive and pull out the photos you are looking for. This can be done by adding keyword metadata to your images. It may take a little time to complete but it’s worth it. In the first part, I looked at adding multiple IPTC keywords quickly to selected photographs using four free photo management packages. Zoner Photo Studio came out on top for this. But that’s only half the story. Now we need to be able to search and pull out the photos we want.

To find the photos with (or without) your keywords, we can combine the keywords as you would in other types of search. This is called Boolean search and uses the operators AND, NOT, and OR to apply search conditions to keyword combinations (e.g. keyword1 AND keyword2; keyword1 OR keyword2; keyword1 NOT keyword2). It’s also essential that the software searches for photos in all subfolders as well, if instructed. So let’s look at the same four free photo management packages used in Part 1 and see how they shape up in IPTC keyword search.

IrfanView

Although you can add IPTC keywords in IrfanView, unfortunately it doesn’t have the ability to search directories or filter photos by keywords.

GeoSetter

GeoSetter will search or filter photos by keywords and will include subfolders as well. Navigate to the folder that you want to filter. To filter by keyword/s, you must first click on the Search & Filter menu at the top, then Filter, then click Activated near the bottom of the slide-out menu. Next click Crtl-F and you will see the following window.

GeoSetter search for images

You can choose AND (all conditions have to be true) or OR (at least one condition has to be true) and then add your keyword filters. Check the box Include Subfolders (if you want to search subfolders). In the example above, all photos with keyword1 AND keyword2 will be listed. I tried searching for all photos of my wife AND myself in my Pictures directory (currently about 13700 images in 74 folders) on a 1TB hard drive. This took about 8 minutes. No doubt this would be much quicker on a solid state drive. GeoSetter displays a running log as the search progresses and you can press Esc at any point to stop the search if necessary.

Unfortunately, GeoSetter hasn’t been upgraded since January 2011 which is a shame although a beta version was released in June 2014.

XnView

In XnView, navigate to the folder that you want to filter. To search the folder and subfolders, click Crtl-F and you will see the following.

XnView search for images

Check Include subfolders and IPTC. Select Keywords from the IPTC fields to search. Add your keywords and choose the filter condition from the menu by clicking the double right arrows next to the keyword entry box. I chose With all of the words. The same search for keyword1 AND keyword2 that I tried in GeoSetter took about 3 minutes in XnView – and found the same files. XnView displays a running log as the search progresses and you can click the Stop button to stop the search if necessary. To view thumbnails of the images that met your keyword search criteria, choose Browse rather than View.

Zoner Photo Studio

In Zoner Photo Studio, make sure you have Manager selected in the top right menu bar. Navigate to the folder that you want to filter. Slightly confusingly, when you click Organize in the top left menu bar, you will see options to Filter and Search. Choosing Filter will only search the current folder so it seems best to choose Search if you want to search subfolders as well. The Crtl-F key combination doesn’t work here so click Search and you will see the following window.

Zoner search for images

Unlike XnView, all your previously used IPTC keywords are remembered in Zoner and can be selected on the left side. So select the ones you want to search for then select the search mode. I chose All (AND). The same search for keyword1 AND keyword2 that I tried in GeoSetter and XnView took just under 3 minutes in Zoner – and found the same files. Unlike Geosetter and XnView, there was no indication of search progress in Zoner, just a ‘working’ cursor. There was also no way to stop the search when under way. But on the plus side, previous keyword search results could be recalled in Zoner from a drop-down box directly above the thumbnail window.

Conclusions

Of the four free photo management packages tested, only three would search by IPTC keywords. All three could search through subfolders but GeoSetter was significantly slower than XnView and Zoner. GeoSetter doesn’t seem to be being actively updated these days. Only Zoner retained a list of keywords to select from. Zoner was the only one to allow AND, OR and NOT searches although these search conditions could not be combined in any of the software packages (e.g. keyword1 AND keyword2 NOT keyword3). XnView seems to have improved markedly in IPTC keyword management since my earlier review several years ago and it seems a pretty versatile free photo management package.

But overall, Zoner Photo Studio is still my choice of free software for photo management and IPTC keyword search on a Windows system. How about you? What’s your choice for photo management on a Windows system?

I hope these two parts have given you enough information to start working with IPTC keywords in Windows. In the next part in this series, I hope to look at IPTC keyword entry and search with Linux photo management packages.


Apr 29

Zoner IPTC

In an earlier post, I looked at free software for tagging photos with keywords. This is useful so as to be able to search for them quickly later on. The point I made in that post was to make sure to use IPTC keywords rather than proprietary systems so that they would be portable with the image file if you ever moved to a new photo management system. I particularly liked Zoner Photo Studio at the time but is this the best option available now?

If you’ve got folders and folders of photos, you want to be able to add keywords as quickly as possible to speed up the tagging process. This means being able to select multiple photos and add multiple keywords to them at once, preferably from a pick list.

The free photo management packages I looked at were Zoner Photo Studio, XnView, GeoSetter and IrfanView.

Adding multiple selected tags to multiple selected images

I’ll have a look at the four photo organization packages I’ve mentioned, list some tips for using each and identify their strengths and weaknesses with tagging. I’ll also try to suggest a website for further information with tagging. The information presented doesn’t make for easy reading but is meant to help out if you are using any of the four packages to add keywords. For a summary of my findings, just jump straight to the end of this post.

If you’ve found ways round any of the problems or shortcomings I’ve encountered with each utility, let me know and I’ll update the post.

IrfanView

To tag photos with keywords, it’s best if you can open a folder of thumbnails, select the files you want to tag, then add the keywords. With IrfanView, you can open a folder of thumbnails from Windows Explorer by right clicking the folder and selecting Browse with IrfanView. Otherwise, open one photo in IrfanView, then click the keyboard shortcut T to open a folder of thumbnails. To add a set of keywords to a group of photos, select a discontinuous group of photos with Ctrl-Left Click or a continuous group of photos with Shift-Left Click. Then Ctrl-I brings up the IPTC Information box. Before you add your keywords, go to the Options tab and check that Edit the first file only; apply text to all files has been checked. If not check it.

Irfanview IPTC

Select the Keywords/Categories tab and add your keyword/s for this selection of photos and click Write. That’s all there is to it. If you choose another selection of photos and then go to tag them, you won’t find a pick list of keywords from your previous entries so that’s a real disadvantage.

Just in passing, I also noticed that when the folder of photo thumbnails was displayed in Windows Explorer before going into IrfanView, you can hover over a thumbnail and see a list of any keywords already assigned to that photo under Tags.

GeoSetter

To add keyword/s, select the files. Then Ctrl-E brings up the Edit Data box. Add your keywords or select them from the drop-down pick list (if you’ve used them before), then click Enter to add it; Then click Set Current Values for All Selected Images. On the next screen Keywords, Changed Items Only should be checked; click OK. Note that all selected photos on the left will now be highlighted in bold. In the Thumbnail browser, your changed photo(s) will now be highlighted in purple. As you add keywords, they are automatically saved to a drop-down pick list for future use.
Finally when you have added all your keywords, you’ll see that all changed images are shown in red. To save the keywords in the changed files, click on the Images menu and click Save Changes (Ctrl-S) or Save Changes of Selected Images (Ctrl-Shift-S). Or use the hotkey combination.

One niggle I found was that keywords weren’t listed alphabetically in the drop-down keyword pick list. For a fuller explanation of the process to add keywords in GeoSetter, have a look here.

XnView

XnView has improved its IPTC keyword tagging since I last reviewed it. There’s a good video of the keyword tagging process on YouTube, so I’ll just go over the highlights.

As with IrfanView, it’s Ctrl-I to bring up Image information once you have selected your images.
There’s no drop-down pick list of previously used keywords, but you can save a text file of keywords previously and call that up by clicking Open text file.

XnView IPTC

I did find I had to call it up each time I wanted to add new keywords to photo selections. When you’ve added your keywords, chose Writing options; Add new values to current value; Then click Write all selected. It doesn’t do this automatically straight away. Once you click Close, it then writes the keywords to the selected files.

In XnView, when you select a photo with IPTC keywords, the keywords can be viewed in a window below the thumbnails by clicking Ctrl-Shift-P and then clicking the tab IPTC.  A nice touch.

Zoner Photo Studio

Although XnView has certainly improved over the last couple of years, I did find Zoner to be the best photo management package overall. There’s a nice summary for adding keywords in Zoner here so I won’t go into much detail just to point out the key features.

Zoner scores in providing a nice alphabetically sorted pick list of keywords on the right side of the thumbnails.

Zoner IPTC

 

With Zoner, it’s Shift-Enter to bring up the Image information box to add new keywords. Or you can also just drag them from the keyword window onto you photos. You can also categorize your keywords under, for example, People, Events, Places. I did find it difficult to add new categories at first so here’s how to do that.

In the keyword window to the right of the thumbnails, click on the empty space below the categories, for example, below Topics in the image above, and select New Keywords… This will open the Keywords box.

Zoner add keyword category

Fill in your new category Title, in this case Location, and then be sure to check This keyword also serves as a category. After clicking OK, your new category will be added and you can then add keywords in it.

Once you have all your keywords defined, you can select your photos, select the multiple keywords you want to add to that set of photos, then drag the keywords onto one of the selected photos. The tags will be added to each and you will also note a small label symbol near the top left corner of the thumbnails. Hover over any of these label symbols and you’ll see the keywords assigned to that photo. And if you come back later to continue tagging, your sorted keyword pick list is still there.

Summary

So that’s a quick look at adding IPTC keywords in these four photo management packages. For me, Zoner still stands out head and shoulders above the rest. The free version is fine for adding keywords, the interface is very nice and I believe it’s probably the quickest option to add keywords if you have a large archive of photos.

In the next part of this series, I’ll look at searching through your photo archive for photos with the keywords you’ve selected.

How do you add keywords to your photos?


Apr 9

Evernote confidential

I’ve read a couple of blog posts recently where the writer was concerned about adding sensitive notes to Evernote: ‘I didn’t feel comfortable keeping such data in the cloud, or on an unencrypted server’.

There are a couple of solutions for storing confidential or sensitive data in Evernote.

Encrypt your notes

In Evernote, you can encrypt part or all of a note, but not a complete notebook. To encrypt part or all of a note, highlight the text or the whole note (Ctrl-A), right click, and select Encrypt Selected Text, or hit Ctrl-Shift-X. If your sensitive data are attached to notes as PDFs, you will have to encrypt those PDFs before attaching to your Evernote note. There are free tools available to password protect and encrypt PDFs, for example, Free PDF Tools.

Use local notebooks

But let’s assume you aren’t happy with storing sensitive, password protected, encrypted notes on Evernote’s servers. Well there is a straightforward way around this, one which seems to be commonly missed by many. You actually don’t have to sync all of your data to the Evernote servers, indeed you actually don’t have to sync any of it!

Here’s what to do. Make a new local notebook. On the Windows client, go to File>New Notebook and choose New Local Notebook:

Evernote - New Local Notebook

Local notebooks are not synced to the Evernote servers or to any of your other devices where Evernote is installed. They stay on the machine where they were created. They’re not the same as offline notebooks in Evernote Premium where you can select to have all your notes in certain notebooks synced and saved on your mobile device ready for offline use.

Advantages of local notebooks

Adding more data to these notebooks obviously doesn’t count to your monthly upload limit – because it’s not taking up space on the Evernote servers, so there is no cost involved. Indeed if you really wanted, you could make your entire Evernote system from local notebooks, everything would be stored on your PC or laptop, Evernote would see none of it and you would only have the limits of your storage space as your storage limit. You can store your sensitive data here without it being synced up to the Evernote servers.

Disadvantages of local notebooks

Well there are some. You obviously won’t have access to them on online or on your other devices. Evernote won’t be able to run their OCR magic on attached PDFs and JPGs (to make them searchable) as this is done on the Evernote servers. But you could OCR them before you add them to your Evernote local notebook. You can’t change a synced notebook to a local notebook (or vice versa) but you can create a new notebook (synced or local) and copy the notes into the new notebook.

Searching PDFs and other attachments in local notebooks

If you’re an Evernote Premium user and you place your PDFs in a synchronized notebook, Evernote will index them and they will become searchable even if you move them to a local notebook later. Obviously that’s not what you want for sensitive information. Problem is, if you have a PDF scanned as an image without OCR and you put it straight into a local notebook it won’t be searchable. So it’s best to run OCR on your scanned PDF before sending it straight to your local notebook in Evernote. Then it will be searchable within Evernote but the data won’t appear on the Evernote servers. You’ll have to check if your scanner is producing searchable PDFs. Here’s the dialogue box I see when I send a PDF from my ScanSnap S1300i to Evernote.

Scan to Evernote with text recognition

Certainly my Canon MP280 multifunction printer and ScanSnap produce searchable PDFs. How do I know? Well, to check, open the PDF, hit Ctrl-F and enter a keyword which appears in the PDF and see if it can be found. One word of caution – if you’ve scanned a PDF upside down and then used a utility like PDFill PDF Tools to rotate it, you may lose the searchability of your PDF.

Backing up local notebooks

All your local and synced notebooks are stored in the same Evernote database. If you have both synced and local notebooks, your database will not be the same on the Evernote servers (only synced notebooks) as it is on your hard drive (synced and local notebooks). Because the local notebooks aren’t synced to the Evernote servers, you must back them up yourself. If you don’t do this, and you later reinstall Evernote, your database will be restored from the servers so you will lose all your local notebooks an that would be disastrous.

To get all your data back including local notebooks, you’ll have to restore the database from your backup. In Windows, to backup your Evernote database to an external drive, go to C:\Users\[Your Username]\AppData\Local\Evernote\Evernote\Databases and backup everything that’s in that folder. To restore notes, you must restore your entire Evernote database from where it’s backed up. Your note attributes (tags, notebooks, etc.) will be preserved if you restore your database.

Of course you can also copy your database to another PC or laptop and access all your local notebooks there too.

Still not happy?

But let’s say you’re still not happy with a database where some notebooks are synced and some aren’t. Well you could open a new Evernote account and make all notebooks local and keep that separate from your synced account. There’s no cost involved as obviously there are no uploads to Evernote so you can add as much sensitive info as you like to this database. However, I have read the possibility that you may have to keep one default synced notebook. But just keep that synced notebook empty. Of course if you are really sensitive about your data, you could even keep it in local notebooks and encrypt the notes as well, just in case.

Do you store sensitive data in Evernote? Any tips? I’ve tried to verify as much of this information as I can from Evernote blogs and forums, etc but if I’m incorrect on anything or there’s some tip I’ve forgotten, let me know and I’ll update the text.


Apr 1

I’ve looked at tracked changes and comments in LibreOffice Writer and MS Word before but thought it might be worth another closer look now with the release of LibreOffice 4.4. As I’ve said before, tracking changes and inserting comments are important features of MS Word for authors and editors in the publishing field and any progress towards a more seamless exchange of changes and comments between MS Word and LibreOffice Writer (shortened to LO Writer from here onwards) may help to encourage use of open source rather than commercial software in that particular field.

If you just want a summary of what I’ve found, just jump down to the Conclusions and read on there, otherwise if you’re interested in the details of exchanging comments and changes between Word and LO Writer please read on.

As an editor, I usually receive files from authors and publishers in Word doc format and have to return them in the same format after editing. So I’m going to start with a simple doc format file created in MS Word 2007 with changes tracked and comments added, I’ll open that in LO Writer 4.4 and make some more comments and changes there, then save the file in doc format and open that in MS Word again to see the final state. Obviously, my eventual intention is to be able to receive documents from authors, edit them in LO Writer and return the file in Word doc format. I’ve managed to make some progress with changes and comments in a very simple file which I’ll go through here. However, I’ve no doubt that files with other complex formatting will show some incompatibilities. I’m only looking at tracked changes and comments in this post.

For compatibility of changes and comments between the two programs, the first thing that has to be considered is the labelling of comments and changes as they pass between the programs. In MS Word, this means setting the user name (or author name) and user initials. In Word 2007, this is done by clicking the Office button at the top left of the screen and choosing the Word Options button at the bottom of the menu that opens. Under Popular you can enter your User name and Initials.

User name and initials in MS Word

If you’ve used tracked changes and comments in MS Word, you’ll know that, when changes are visible, if you hover your mouse over changes or comments, information bubbles will appear explaining when the change was made and starting with the user name or author name you’ve chosen. Comments will be labelled with the initials you’ve chosen followed by a number in ascending order through the document. The simple example below shows the Reviewing Pane on the left with ‘User name’ for the user name and INITS for the initials. The first comment is labelled INITS1.

Reviewing pane in Word

So now here’s a Word document with change tracking turned on and showing Markup. This time I’ve used T&L for the initials. As you can see, to the original document I’ve added a sentence, deleted a sentence, inserted bold and italic in places and added three comments labelled T&L1, T&L2 and T&L3.

Lorem ipsum with changes added in MS Word

After much trial and error with user names in Word and LO Writer, what I’ve found is that, to achieve compatibility of labelling when adding comments and tracked changes in both Word and LO Writer 4.4, you must have the same user name/initials in Word and again the exact same Company/last name in LO Writer. The problem seems to start in LO Writer which won’t use the Word initials field for labelling comments inserted in Word but uses the Word user name field instead. But when you add new comments in LO Writer, it will label them using information in the last name field in LO Writer. Interestingly, when you save your work as a doc file in LO Writer and reopen the file back in Word, the original Word comments reappear labelled from the Word initials field but new comments added in LO Writer have all labelling dropped and are just numbered consecutively.

So to avoid these labelling problems, open LO Writer and add your Company name and last name by clicking Tools>Options>User Data. Company name in LO Writer appears to be the equivalent of User name in Word while last name in LO Writer appears to be the equivalent of initials in Word. As I’ve said, to maintain compatibility between the programs, these should be the same as entered in Word.

User name and initials in LO Writer

Now we can open the Word doc file in LO Writer, turn on tracked change and add more changes and comments. The old and new comments are all added with the correct label T&L but aren’t numbered.

Lorem ipsum with changes added in MS Word and LibreOffice

All the old and new comments are highlighted correctly in the text as shaded boxes. They weren’t last time I tried this with the older version of LO Writer. All additional comments and changes made in LO Writer occur in the same colour as the older Word changes as they are done by the same user.

So far so good, but after adding the new changes and comments in LO Writer, we now have to save the file in doc format then reopen it in MS Word to see how the original changes and the new changes made in LO Writer are displayed.

Lorem ipsum with changes added in MS Word and LibreOffice and viewed again in Word

Everything looks file. The old and new comments have been integrated into one consecutive list labelled T&L1 to T&L5, and all tracked changes have been made by the same user.

Of course, you may not want to pass files from Word to LO Writer and back to Word, but instead just create the file in LO Writer and save it as a doc file so that someone else can open it in Word. After much trial and error with Company name/first name/last name/initials in LO Writer, I was unable to produce labelled comments when the doc file was opened in Word. The comments just appeared numbered 1, 2, 3, etc. That’s disappointing. I hope someone can sort this out in LibreOffice in a future release for the sake of seamless transfer of doc files to MS Word.

Conclusion

If you want to ensure compatibility of tracked changes and comments when moving documents between MS Word and LO Writer 4.4, you must have the same label in all four of these fields: User name in Word, initials in Word, Company in LO Writer, last name in LO Writer.

I’ve also found that that this only works for the older doc format. Try using the newer docx format and compatibility breaks down – new comments added in LO Writer are not labelled when viewed back in MS Word, they just have consecutive numbering and aren’t integrated with the older comments as happens when using doc format. A good reason to stick with the older doc format, something which publishers seem quite happy to do when you look through author guidelines for manuscript submission.

I also couldn’t produce labelled comments in MS Word when a doc file created in LO Writer and with comments added in Writer was later opened in Word. That’s disappointing and I hope it can be fixed in LibreOffice.

But all in all, quite encouraging. If developers working on LibreOffice could fix the user name/initials/company/last name labelling issue of changes and comments so there was no need to use my workaround, then that would be one more reason to drop MS Word in favour of LO Writer.

I have recently discovered that an overseas author client of mine does in fact use LibreOffice Writer, then saves his file in Word doc format for me to edit. As we exchanged files for revision, it was only the comment labelling that gave away the fact he wasn’t using MS Word! In fact he’d been using LibreOffice to prepare doc format manuscripts for some time and I hadn’t noticed! That’s very encouraging and hopefully we’re not far away from a viable open source solution for authors and publishers.

So if you’re still using an old version of MS Word and don’t want to upgrade to the latest version, if you can’t afford to upgrade or if you’re using a pirated copy of MS Word, have a look at LibreOffice. It may just be an adequate replacement for MS Word for the things that you do.

Do you use LibreOffice and exchange documents with someone using MS Word or vice versa? What’s your experiences?


Mar 17

Recipe books I have about 40 cookbooks mostly picked up from charity/thrift shops. That’s fine but it can be difficult to find a recipe starting from a shelf of books and it’s often just a case of picking one book, and thumbing through it till you find something you fancy. Or you could just go online and search recipe blogs till you find what you want, then save it to say Evernote. But I like thumbing through cookbooks and it’s a shame not to make full use of a great resource I have. Well, I’ve discovered there’s another way – Eat Your Books, a site where you can sign up and add your indexed recipe books then search them for recipes. You won’t find the full recipes online but that’s the whole point – you have to refer back to your own recipe books. If you have only 5 cookbooks, great, you can add all five for free if they’ve been indexed by Eat Your Books. Check the Library tab and select Books, then search for each of your recipe books in turn. At the present time, they seem to have indexed around 5500 cookery books so yours may well be there, particularly if your cookbooks are by well known or celebrity chefs. Of my 40 cookbooks, I found that 20 had been indexed with over 3000 searchable recipes in those books. I’ve decided to try a year’s membership at $25 (currently about £17) or the price of a couple of new cookbooks as I felt it was worth it to get more from all the recipe books I have on my shelves. One thing I like is that I can actually search my cookbooks for recipes with particular ingredients. You can find the different benefits of non membership, free membership and premium membership here. You can also add indexed food blogs and cooking magazines, and it’s also possible to add recipes as you surf the net. There’s a bookmarklet available to help you add recipes, however, I did find it impossible to add recipes from recipe aggregator sites. So now if I feel the need to pick up additional recipe books in charity shops, I’ll check first to see if the books have been indexed by Eat Your Books. Unfortunately, there aren’t Android or iOS apps available for Eat Your Books as yet but hopefully they’ll come with time. So if you have a shelf full of recipe books gathering dust and you want to get more from them, give Eat Your Books a try.


Mar 4
What Makes Us Who We Are?
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Life | icon4 March 4, 2015| icon3No Comments »

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(5 minute read)

I’m stepping away from tech this week to tackle a life post. This may be one of the most important pieces I’ve written and it should leave you with something to think over.

I’m going to start with a logical and hopefully unbiased look at why we are who we are, then pose a very difficult question and finally wrap up.

As we journey through life from conception onwards, our personal identity is constantly developing, and in many cases, outwith our actual control. At conception, we are given the genetic fingerprints from both our parents and their ancestral lines giving us many predetermined traits. Before birth, we have already gained identities such as our nationality, gender, sexuality, skin tint, race, tribe, class, family name, and handedness. And for many of us, there is no doubt that identities like religion or lack of religious beliefs are already predetermined for us by our own parents and community.

As we grow and learn as children in our family and in our particular community, further identities are added such as forenames, language, accent, dialect, beliefs, traditions, creed, rituals, heritage, dress, dance, music, well/poorly educated, privileged/deprived, prejudice, food we eat/won’t eat, sports we play, sports teams we support, height, weight, and age. Even after we reach adulthood, we build on all these with further identities such as third level education, marital status, work profession, income level, political persuasion, criminal record, flag/country we identify with.

I think you can see from this that we actually have little control over the many identities that make us who we are. Some identities are genetically determined and many others are instilled in us by our parents and community and unfortunately introduce a bias when we view others with different identities. The identities mould us into who we are and they set for us a way of life. Have a look through these identities, or labels, and I’m sure you can easily see your own position on each of these. The labels can influence how we know or perceive others, how we form bonds with others, or how others know us or perceive us. We may be subconsciously labelled by others and even incorrectly labelled by them. Some mightn’t even be aware they are labelling us. And of course, we’re labelling others all the time subconsciously, and perhaps incorrectly.

Identities can be divisive to the point that people may be prepared to fight and die for them. For example, on the one hand defending your country or your flag, and on they other hand attacking or persecuting others because they have different identities. We see this all too clearly today globally, but it has happened throughout history and regrettably will continue to happen.

So here’s the difficult question I promised. If so much of who we are is governed by our family environment, community and upbringing, can we rightly conclude that our own different identities including traditions, rituals and religion, are ‘correct’ when we haven’t actually carefully chosen them in an unbiased fashion?  As I have discussed, we are preconditioned to believe that our religion, or lack of it, is the ‘correct’ way of life. Yet strangely, we somehow don’t consider anyone else’s religious identity to be ‘correct’, only our own. Why? Because we’re comfortable with our religion and it’s shared by our family, friends and community.

But crucially, I must logically conclude that if I had been brought up in a different religion in a different community, then that religion would probably feel ‘correct’ to me. Crucial because this logically implies that either all religions are ‘correct’ or there is not ‘correct’ religion, just the religion you are familiar with. I do accept that people are converted between religions but for the vast majority of religious people, you are born and bred into a religion and for that reason it seems ‘correct’.

Let’s look at it another way. If there was a way to be brought up without biased identities being imposed on us, without being ‘born and bred’ into a particular religion, then we would be free to think through and make fair, unbiased, reasoned judgments on things like religion, dogma, beliefs, and traditions. But that’s not quite how religion works. Because of the punishment/reward thinking at the heart of religion, parents are understandably under some pressure to bring children up in their own religion, and on our part, once we have been brought up in one religion, we may fear the consequences of renouncing it.

Have a look again at all your different identities. Is religion among them? Is yours the ‘correct’ religion? Are you sure? Try to put yourself in the position where your parents and community have a different faith. How would you feel then? Like me, when you think this through, you may also come to the most important decision you’ve made.

I hope to explore this whole topic further in a future post.

Photo credit: Scott Cresswell – Just a face in the crowd


Feb 25

CardDesk for Evernote

Quite a number of third party apps have sprung up now to further improve your Evernote experience. I can think of three free apps off the top of my head – Sunrise Calendar, CardDesk and Kanbanote. Sunrise Calendar, now owned by Microsoft, can integrate your Evernote reminders with reminders from other apps like Google Calendar so everything is in one place. CardDesk, shown above, makes a nice display of selected notes from Evernote on any number of virtual desktops, while Kanbanote organizes your Evernote notes in Trello-like boards. All are free and very enticing. Once you have signed-up for free accounts with these you must authorize the apps to access your Evernote content. More about that later.

Yet when I read reviews of third party Evernote apps, not much is made of possible privacy concerns. You give them permission to access your Evernote database and pull out data and that’s all very well if you don’t have private or sensitive stuff in your notes but I suspect many of us do and just play fast and loose with our privacy or possibly just forget what we have stored away there. All this isn’t helped by the fact that these apps are free so we install them without thinking too much about it. Possibly if there was a price to pay, things might be different and we’d consider things more carefully.

And if that hasn’t got you completely paranoid, just look at the permissions of some of these apps. Yes I know, something else we’d rather gloss over and just get the app installed come what may. Here’s a snapshot of the Sunrise permissions. And remember, Microsoft now own Sunrise.

Sunrise permissions

Evernote themselves discuss third party app permissions here and it’s worth a read if you’d like to know more about how third party apps access your Evernote data including retrieving your notes. As explained there, it’s mostly done through a process called OAuth, an open standard for authorization. You can also view a list of applications that currently have access to your Evernote account using OAuth by visiting https://www.evernote.com/AuthorizedServices.action. From this page you may also revoke access to individual applications. I’ve also had a look round and found recommended privacy guidelines which Evernote urge third party developers to follow. They’re not binding, just recommendations, so the developers don’t actually have to follow them.

So what can we do about data privacy when using third party Evernote apps? Well if you’re careful about what you put in Evernote and have no problem with third party apps looking through everything, fine. Otherwise, if you want to use these apps, look carefully through all your Evernote notes and either put sensitive or private stuff somewhere else or encrypt the contents of those notes.

Any Evernote third party app developers listening? Care to drop a comment and allay my fears?


Feb 19
My Choice of Scanner for Going Paperless
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Life | icon4 February 19, 2015| icon3No Comments »

ScanSnap S1300i

I blogged recently about my plans to go paperless. I have always had a flatbed scanner for scanning single sheets but I decided to buy a duplex (i.e. scans both sides of sheets) multisheet scanner for going paperless. There’s a great variety of scanners available from small portable models like the Doxie Go through to models like the dedicated Evernote ScanSnap. The Doxie models weren’t quite what I wanted and the Evernote ScanSnap model was too much for me both in terms of price and capability. In the end, I settled for a Fujitsu ScanSnap 1300i. Michael Hyatt has posted a very nice review of using the ScanSnap 1300i to scan directly to Evernote so there isn’t much point in me duplicating his work here. Go to his post to see how he uses it with Evernote.

I’m very pleased with the ScanSnap 1300i scanner so far. Very straightforward to set up and use. I like its weight – heavy enough that it doesn’t slide around as you add paper to the feeder for scanning, yet light enough to be reasonably portable. I have it sitting on top of my multifunction printer most of the time and just lift it off when I need to use that instead.

To finish, I’ll point you in the direction of DocumentSnap, a great blog for lots more information on going paperless, scanners and scanning.


Feb 3

No signal - Nexus 4

Do you have to stand in a certain spot or a certain room at home to get any kind of mobile signal? Do you have to go out into the garden to check your messages?

Well I used to. I couldn’t find a solution to this weak mobile signal problem. You can buy mobile signal boosters/repeaters and femtocells which can help boost your signal, but there is some debate over their legality in UK. Ofcom say they are illegal. However, they may be legal in your country.

In any case, there may in fact be a free solution to this problem if you have it too. Check with you mobile provider to see if they have an app which allows your phone to use your home broadband connection to move voice calls and messages to and from your carrier’s network rather than hunting for a very weak or non-existent mobile signal. You may also be able to use it at other locations where you have access to a wifi network and where the mobile signal is poor.

In UK, the mobile operator Three offer this through a free app called Three InTouch available for both Android and iOS. The instructions for downloading and installing the app are very clear and it’s working really well on my Nexus 4. O2 have a similar app called TU Go for Android, iOS and Windows but it’s only available just now for O2 Pay Monthly and Business customers. Vodafone don’t seem to have a free smartphone app at the moment but currently offer the Vodafone Sure Signal femtocell for £100. Virgin has the SmartCall app for Android and iOS phones.

So if you have a problem with a poor or non-existent mobile signal at home, check if your mobile operator has a free app to tap into your wifi network. Failing that, check out if signal repeaters/ boosters and femtocells are legally available in your country.


Jan 26
Changing the Date Format in Gmail
icon1 techandlife | icon2 How to | icon4 January 26, 2015| icon32 Comments »

If you use the US date format (MM/DD/YYYY), this tip will not concern you as Gmail seems to use the US date format by default. However if you live in UK and are used to dates being in the format DD/MM/YYYY and use Gmail then this tip is for you. Why is it important? Well it’s important to be aware of the date format to avoid any possible confusion which might arise in a date like say 10/11/2014. Is this 10 November 2014 (UK interpretation) or October 11th 2014 (US interpretation)? And I wonder how often this has led to confusion in say international meeting planning. Once you go back to your Gmail archive, it’s nice to have dates in the format you expect.

Anyway, the solution in Gmail is simple enough. If you live in UK or want the UK date format in Gmail, go to Settings, General, Language and change Gmail display language to English (UK):

Gmail date format

Then scroll to the bottom of the page and Save changes. That’s it. Dates should now be in UK format.

If you’d like to know more about date formats, Rich Menga discussed it here.


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