Saturday, October 22, 2011

How To Use Siri With The iPhone 4S To Create A Note In Evernote

Ok, I've got this working perfectly now, thought I would share.

The problem: I wanted a way to be able to add a note to Evernote completely HANDS FREE (i.e. when I'm driving).  The iPhone 4S and Siri make hands-free reminders incredibly simple (and useful), but I also needed a way to compose Evernote notes hands free.

With a little help from Google Voice, I've got it set up seamlessly.

For example, I can say to Siri...
"send a message to Evernote...Tim recommended that we stop by the lighthouse on vacation next month, do a little research on it"
...and within seconds, the note appears in Evernote.

Here's the overview of how I set that up: Siri sends a text to the phone number created for my "Evernote" contact, which is my Google Voice number.  Google Voice then forwards that text to my Gmail account.  Gmail then, via a filter, bypasses my inbox (so no email notifications are received) and forwards the message to the email address provided by Evernote.

Side Note: This would have been FAR easier if Siri had the ability to compose emails, or if Evernote gave us the ability to add notes via SMS.  As long as neither of those are possible, I think my solution is the best completely hands-free way to add notes to Evernote.  If you've got a better idea, let's hear it in the comments!

Here's the full step by step: 

Step 1. Make sure you have a free Google Voice account.  Write down your phone number.

Step 2. While you're in Google Voice, go under your voicemail & text settings and make sure you're forwarding texts to your email address.

Step 3. Write down your Evernote email address, which you can find on the account settings page.

Step 4. Create a contact on your phone for Evernote. Add your Evernote email address, and for phone number, put in your Google Voice number.

Step 5. If you're using Gmail, you'll have to add your Evernote email as a forwarding address.  You go to the Forwarding & POP/IMAP settings and click the "Add a forwarding address" button.

Gmail will then send a verification email, which (obviously) will appear in Evernote in a few seconds.  Go into Evernote, and click the link in that note to let Gmail know that the email address is valid.

Step 6. At the top of your Gmail account, next to the search bar, there's a link that says "Create a filter".

Click that, and follow the steps in the images below (you're creating a filter that will take all of the text messages sent to you by Google Voice and forward them on to your Evernote email address).

click next step after this....

Step 7. That's it, you're done!  Just ask Siri to send a message to Evernote, and she'll do it...completely hands free!

One note about notifications...if you have the Google Voice app on your phone as I did, you'll probably want to turn off notifications/badges/etc so you don't get a notification every time you create a note. For me, that was the final step to make it completely seamless, like it was built into the iPhone 4S from day 1.

Friday, October 14, 2011

How To Integrate iOS5 With Facebook

If you have an iPhone or iPad and you love Facebook, you're probably a bit miffed that Apple chose to bake Twitter into their new software instead of Facebook.

The new software release (iOS 5) makes it dead easy to tweet almost anything from almost anywhere inside of your iPhone/Pad.

Luckily, there are two pretty easy workarounds to use this "Tweet" button to post to Facebook.  Neither are perfect, but both work really well.

Option 1: If You Don't Currently Have A Twitter Account

Well, you're going to need one, so go sign up for one.

Then on Twitter, go to your Settings > Profile.  At the bottom you'll be able to connect Twitter with your Facebook account.

Once you've connected the two, again from Settings > Profile, simply check "Post your Tweets to Facebook" and you're good go to!
Now anything you Tweet in iOS will be automatically cross-posted to your new Facebook wall!

If you don't want every tweet going to Facebook, choose Option 2 instead...

Option 2: If You Already Tweet (And You Want To Individually Choose Which Tweets Go To Facebook)

You, my friend, need the Selective Twitter App.  Click that link and set it up by entering your twitter username.

Once you've installed that, any tweets where you include the hashtag #fb will be cross-posted to Facebook.  That way you can pick and choose what goes to FB and you're not flooding your wall with 20 posts an hour. 

Once you've set that up, you just use the "Tweet" function in iOS 5 and #fb to your tweet, and it will post to Facebook.

Both of those options work really well.  The only thing that you can't do with these iOS workarounds is post to Facebook without posting to Twitter...but considering the way those two websites are built to interact, that's probably not a huge issue for most people.

Monday, October 10, 2011

How To Secure Your iPhone or iPad

You probably already know that Apple offers the free MobileMe/Find My iPhone service.

You may have even set this up, so if your phone is lost or stolen you know to just go to to locate it.

What you may not realize is that a thief could easily thwart your defense by simply deleting the "Find My iPhone" app!

Here's what you need to do to make sure that doesn't happen.

First, Set Up Find My iPhone (this works with iPads as well)
  1. Install the Find My iPhone app from the App Store
  2. Go into the Settings app on your device, choose Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and under Accounts click Add Account . You'll use your regular Apple/iTunes ID and password to sign in, and then turn ON Find My iPhone/iPad.
  3. Test it on your device by launching the app you downloaded in step 1 and use your Apple ID/password to sign in.  Your device should locate where you are.
  4. Test it on your computer by going to and signing in with your Apple ID/password. That website should locate your device. (also note that you can click the blue circle and you'll be able to either display a message on your device, play a sound, lock it, or wipe all the data off of it...all right from your computer!)
Good job!  That's more than the average person does to protect their device, but even the tech savvy individual doesn't always think that you need to go a step further.

But you still need to SECURE it so a thief can't just delete the app or turn off the GPS!
  1. Go into the Settings app on your device, choose General, then choose Restrictions and click Enable Restrictions.  You will have to choose a 4 digit passcode.  Make sure you don't forget it!!
  2. Now you've enabled restrictions, but you haven't actually set any yet.  We are going to set 3 of them
  3. Under Allow, turn OFF the one that says Deleting Apps. This will ensure that a thief can't delete the Find My iPhone app.
  4. Under Allow Changes, click Location and then select Don't Allow Changes. This will make sure a thief can't disable your GPS.
  5. Finally, under Allow Changes, click Accounts and select Don't Allow Changes. This will ensure a thief can't delete your Find My iPhone account (the one we set up in step 2 in the first section).
That's all you need to do!  Your i-device is now secure.  If it is stolen, a thief will not easily be able to stop you from locating it.

Keep in mind that those restrictions will prevent you from doing some things you may want to do (delete an app, for example).  In that case, just go back into settings and turn the restriction off temporarily, then turn it back on after you're done.

Note: I know that a thief could potentially just wipe your phone clean and re-sell it or use it themselves.  NOTHING can stop that, but remember that a person who snatches an iPhone they see laying around probably isn't the brightest person in the world.  Following the above steps at least gives you a fighting chance of locating the cops and provide them the location so they can recover it.  This also ensures you can wipe the data if it really is stolen (as opposed to just being lost).  If you want some extra security, you should go to Settings > General > Passcode Lock  > Turn Passcode On and set it to Erase Data after 10 failed attempts.  You should also write down the IMEI number under Settings > General > About and report that to your carrier if it is stolen. They can blacklist the IMEI number which may also assist in locating it for you if the thief tries to get cellular service with it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Beware of The Bluehost Ordering Process

I've recently been reading a lost of Pat Flynn's fantastic Smart Passive Income blog and listening to his equally great podcast, both of which I highly recommend.

He's inspired me to actually go ahead and start a project that I've had kicking around in my head for a while, and over the weekend I signed up for a Bluehost account on his recommendation.

I want to warn anybody who is thinking of purchasing hosting from Bluehost, their ordering process is questionable at best, and downright deceptive at worst.

The first thing you see is a large screen telling you that hosting is $5.95 per month with "no hidden fees" and an "anytime money back guarantee".

Sounds great!  Let's click through and get going!

On the next screen, you choose the domain that you want to use.

No problem here, type it in and click Next.

This next page is the one I have a problem with...

Under Package Information, you default to "24 Month Price - $5.95".  The other options are "12 Month Price - $6.95" and "36 Month Price - $5.95".  If you assumed, as I did, that you'd be paying monthly, these pricing plans make no sounds like you're entering a contract for a certain period of time.

But that can't be right, there's an "anytime money back guarantee", how can there be a contract?

After staring at that for a minute, I realized that you are paying up front for the entire term.  So what those plans really mean is:

"12 Month Price - $6.95" = you're paying $83.40 today
"24 Month Price - $5.95" = you're paying $148.75 today
"36 Month Price - $5.95" = you're paying $214.20 today

Because the default is set to "24 Month Price - $5.95" and because they got you there by advertising $5.95/mo, I guarantee you that a ton of people think they're being charged for $5.95 when in fact they are being charged $148.75. 

That's not even the REALLY deceiving part though.  The kicker comes next...

I switched the drop down to "12 Month Price - $6.95", entered my card information, and then clicked "Next".  Now if you've ever bought anything online from a reputable company, the next thing you will see is an order confirmation page with a summary of your order, the full amount that you will be paying, and some sort of "Purchase" or "Complete My Order" button.

Bluehost doesn't do any of that.  When you click "Next", they charge your card the full amount without ever telling you exactly what that amount will be.

I was shocked to see this screen saying I was done, and that I was just charged.

That was my first impression of Bluehost, and it left a REALLY bad taste in my mouth.

I'm sure that they're doing a ton of additional business by removing one entire step from their flow, but it's kind of an important step.  Their current system is deceptive and should be changed.  It's just not right.

In the interest of fairness I do have to say that once the initial shady transaction was completed, everything was INCREDIBLY easy and well thought out.

As someone who's only installed WordPress in the past via manual FTP and creating a database, setting it up with one-click on Bluehost was a breath of fresh air.

The cPanel backend has pretty much everything you would ever need to start any kind of website let alone for a simple blog.  And I've seen Bluehost recommended in so many different places that I have to assume that their uptime and customer support are excellent.

So if you want to get hosting through Bluehost, go for it.  They're inexpensive and reliable.  Just make sure you fully understand that you're paying all of the hosting up front!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How To Invest In A Startup For As Little As $25

It strikes me now that the title of this post is a bit misleading.

I guess that's why they always say that you should come up with the title AFTER you've written the post.

It's not entirely misleading, just a little bit. I'm not talking about the kind of investing where you put in $25 and you own a little piece of the company and that company goes public and suddenly you're a millionaire sipping margaritas on your yacht.

If that's what you're looking for, you'll have far better odds "investing" $25 in Powerball.

No, what I'm referring to is finding small-time, just-starting-out companies and individuals who have a great new product or idea, and contributing your money to help them out. Only instead of getting a piece of their company, you get to be one of the first to have the product (and frequently some other goodies), and you get the immense satisfaction that comes with helping a new entrepreneur succeed.

I'm referring, of course, to Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is a "crowdfunding" website that enables anyone to help fund creative projects, either out of the goodness of your heart or in return for a "reward" offered by the creator of the project (rewards increase depending on how much you chip in).

Here's how it works: I've got an idea for a new widget and I've got the specs all drawn up and I've got a manufacturer sourced, but it will cost me $5,000 to put the first batch into production and I don't have the money. I head over to Kickstarter and post my project. I tell you all the details, and I set my rewards for levels of funding. For example, $40 will get you one widget. $100 will get you two widgets and your name on the website as a backer. $200 will get you 5 limited edition widgets. $1000 and you can come to the factory and watch them being made. You get the idea.

A nice feature is that you're making a pledge, but if the project doesn't fully fund, you aren't charged. So you could go ahead and chip in $100 for my new widget idea and know that you'll only be charged if I raise the full $5000 needed to actually produce it.

I'll occasionally browse Kickstarter and look for cool new things.

I feel kind of like a small scale version of one of the sharks on Shark Tank. In my opinion, the best part of that show is seeing all of the cool stuff people invent, and Kickstarter has that in spades.

I recently helped fund a Kickstarter called Pen Moto. It's this awesome magnetic ring that lets you instantly go from writing to typing without having to put down or pick up your pen. (as you may be able to tell from some previous posts, I'm a big fan of getting things done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Saving seconds and minutes will really add up over time!)

Here's the video that explains it better than I could...

And here's the link to the Kickstarter page so you can see an example of what I'm talking about (this one has now fully funded). If you look down the right hand side, you'll see the different rewards that come with backing the project at various funding levels.

It's a win-win all around. I get to be one of the first to find out about and own a cool new product (which will improve my work efficiency), I get to contribute to the success of startup, and the entrepreneurs get the infusion of capital and the boost that they need to hopefully take their business to the next level.

If you enjoy keeping your money local, you can also browse Kickstarter locally by heading to their "discover" page and looking for where it says "search cities" down the right hand navigation. On a similar note, browsing Etsy Local is another good way to support local people making things (albeit usually much less "techy" than things found on Kickstarter). 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

This Guy Loves This Old Nerd

This Old Nerd is a webshow from Iyaz Akhtar.  Each episode features Iyaz solving a problem that I personally have.  That's what it feels like anyway.

A typical episode consists of Iyaz petting his dogs or holding his newborn while teaching you in plain english how to do things like set up a home media server, cut the cord on your cable TV, build your own  PC, or set up a wired network.

I've watched every episode.  I actually get excited to watch whenever I notice a new episode in my YouTube subscription list.  I can't say that about many webshows.

(PS - One of the best uses of the iPad is watching YouTube videos when you're laying in bed at night or when you've just woken up on a weekend morning. Truth.)

The only thing I can't figure out is why most episodes on YouTube have such a small view count.  I consider it a clear sign of the apocalypse that This Old Nerd has 300 subscribers and this toolbag has two million.

To keep my sanity I'm just going to assume that he gets tens of thousands of views on Finite Comedy, the ironically-titled main site that hosts This Old Nerd episodes.

(PS I just used the word "ironically" properly.  It doesn't mean what you probably think it means)

Check out This Old Nerd.  You'll thank me later.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Giving Back To YouTube

9 months ago I bought a dump of a house.  It was a foreclosure, bank owned property that I bought directly from the bank.  I paid an incredibly low price, but it was a disaster.  We're talking mold, burst heating pipes, the whole works.  I had to literally rip out the entire kitchen and start from scratch.  Two bedrooms had to be ripped down to the insulation (ceilings too).  I had an in-ground pool that hadn't been maintained in over 2 years with black water and about 2 feet of leaves at the bottom of the deep end.

The house was a mess.

I say "was" because it's pretty much all fixed up now.  Sure, there are still some cosmetic things to take care of (trim, mostly), and I'm planning on redoing at least one of the bathrooms this winter, but it actually looks pretty great.

Except for some electrical work and some plumbing, I did all of it myself, and I didn't know how to do ANY of that before I started.

So how did I learn?

Simple...YouTube.  Believe it or not, that site has much more to offer than just corgi bellyflops and coning.

YouTube is also a goldmine of DIY information.  Dominick DIY is one of my favorites.  That guy rocks.

Anyway, that brings me to the subject of my back to YouTube.  A couple weeks ago I installed an automatic chlorinator for my aforementioned pool (which is now all fixed up and are some before/after pics).

The first thing I did when getting ready to install it was search YouTube for a how-to video.  I was amazed that I couldn't find one, so I decided that it was my duty to give back to YouTube and I created my own video on how to install the thing.

It's not hard to do.  Just record the entire time, then get some video editing software and cut up the video to keep it from being too boring.  Record a voice-over explaining what you're doing and upload.  Boom, done.  Easy peesy, and I'm positive that it will help people out for years to come.

Here's the end result (warning: this is totally boring if you don't have a pool, but I can't just write a post and not include the video that I'm referring to. You've been warned...)