Plea to Audible Regarding iPhone App

I have been an Audible member since 2004 (prior to Amazon owning), I have listened to approximately 125 books.  I wish it was easy to pull that data (as well as the total time), but your library is listed by part, by book.  For example, Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordon & Brandon Sanderson is 5 parts.

 

I have been listening on my iPods since the iPod Mini in 2004.  Overtime the listening experience has improved from running software and connecting to iTunes, playing through music App, to the Audible App.

The Audible App allows you to download directly from your iPhone (wi-fi only), full access to your library, listening stats, badges, and most recently they have added Whispersync so you can listen and read on a Kindle the same book.

There are other features such as a “More Books” link in the toolbar that just takes you to a page that says you can buy books at Audible.com (really?) and a News link which I have found not to be useful.- WORTHLESS FEATURES.

The listening stats provides the number of titles in your library (mine says 170), total time listening in total, monthly, daily or today, a Badge collection (I have earned 7 of 15 badges), and your iPhone listening level from Newbie to Master (5 levels).  As good as all of this sounds, it is fundamentally flowed in how it is designed.  It stores this information on your phone, not the cloud.  Thus if you ever have an issue with the App (which you will as you will see later), one of the ways to correct is to uninstall and reinstall.  This process wipes all data (I am currently only at Novice listening level due to this).  Which means all the Stats are meaningless.  Especially to those that use it a lot since you are more likely to have an App bug/error that means reinstalling. – WORTHLESS FEATURE as is.

 

My first request to Audible is to sync the data to your profile online.  Provide the true ability to track your Library (problem in first paragraph) and listening.

As I noted earlier, books are broken up in parts to “make the download easier”  (Audible’s reasoning).  But what this does is makes the listening experience difficult.  Listening without issues should be Audible’s primary focus, not downloading easier (what does that even mean?).  How is it difficult?  When you come to the end of a part, it “sometimes” will automatically start the next.  That “has” been a feature, but one that seems to rarely work.  For a long time it was NOT a feature.  Now when I get to the end of a part it does not go on to the next, instead I get a screen that pops up that says …..


Of course I AM logged in.  I have even logged out and logged in and still the same message at the end of the next part.  It is SO FRUSTRATING.  If I was not logged in, I could not get another book and download.  And I have no problem with that.  From pas experience,  I am sure if I contact Audible regarding, I will get one of two responses:

  1. We are aware of the bug and are working on the fix as soon as possible.
  2. Please uninstall the application and reinstall.

As to number 1, I get this response to often.  My second request to Audible is to fix the bugs quickly, not quarterly as has been what I have seen.  But better testing = < bugs!

As to number 2, sure that sounds simple, except it breaks all of your STATs features!!!  Really?  Break another feature to fix a feature?  Really?

I have yet to use the most recent feature addition (whispersync between Audible book and Kindle book).  I typically do not spend the money to have a book both on Audible and Kindle (how many people actually do this?).  If the Kindle version came free with the Audible version, then maybe I would.  But to buy a book twice for this “convenience” seems useless. – WORTHLESS FEATURE

My third request is that Audible either fix these worthless features or pull them and focus on keeping a stable, user friendly experience.  It is about the Books, not the App.

I use this App because I WANT it to work!  The potential for me is great.  Much better than having to sync with iTunes and play with the Music app.  
Please Audible, your my only hope.

Resize Boot Camp Windows Partition

On my MacBook Air, I installed Windows 7 via Boot Camp in a 36GB partition which I have filled quickly.  I wanted to increase the partition size to 50GB if possible, but without having to completely wiping, repartitioning, and reinstalling Windows.  How do I do this?

Note: Before trying anything, be sure both partitions are fully backed up!

My first thought was via Disk Utility, in which it allowed me to shrink the OS X partition which creates a 3rd partition in order to increase the Windows partition, but Disk Utility would not allow me to increase the Windows partition.  So I booted into Windows and via Disk Management, tried to extend the Windows partition to the newly made empty partition, but it would not allow as well.

So I went online to see what others have done.  The vast majority used a Mac program called WinClone that clones Windows and then through wiping and repartitioning, to restore Windows on the new increased partition.  Winclone Actual success with this process looked 50-50 based upon what I read, and WinClone is no longer supported and does not work with OS X Lion.  A modified version of WinClone to work with Lion was available, but it did not look stable enough based upon comments by users.

My Next search looked for actual programs that could resize a Boot Camp partition and was led to an application called CampTune by Paragon Software.  It does cost $19.95, so the you have to weigh the “cost vs. effort” to determine if you want to purchase.  You also have to recognize that even this software may not work and you could end up reinstalling both OS X Lion and Windows 7 in new partitions if something goes wrong.

create-partition-for-windows

What this software does, is create a Start Up CD/DVD with a minimal copy of Windows and their Software utility which gives you some options to Install Windows, backup, restore, resize partitions and other tools.   I resized my Windows partition to 50GB, it went through the process in about 20 minutes.  I rebooted into OS X to be sure that partition was still working correctly.  I checked in Disk Utility and indeed the partition for OS X was now 68GB and the Windows partition was 52GB.

I then rebooted into Windows without issue.  Checked in Disk Management and it was now showing 49GB as the Windows partition.  Interesting how each OS gives me slightly different sizes.  I am satisfied and all is working as advertised.  Impressed at how easy it all worked using CampTune.  I do recommend.

My New Life with Microsoft OneNote

I know I am a late comer to Microsoft OneNote, and I can not say what has taken me so long.  Regardless, I do use it everyday now and wish I could also use on my Macbook Pro, iPhone & iPad.  But alas, no.

 

So I focus on my work life, since it is Windows based.  I keep all of my "Notebooks" on a network drive so that no matter which Windows computer I use, I have access to all my Notebooks.  And since it keeps a local copy, even if I have no network, I can still use.  And to be a little meta, I am writing this blog post in OneNote.   Integrate Windows Live Writer and it would be just that much better.



For work and business purposes, note taking during meetings is taken to a new level.  The ability to Tag enhances my workflow so much, I wonder how I lived without it.

 

 

It is very well integrated with Microsoft Office, especially Outlook.  It allows inserting and attaching supporting documents, pictures, audio, video, screen captures, etc… with each note.  You can also share the notebooks via SharePoint for collaboration purposes. 

 

My current "Notebooks" are Meetings, Personal, Projects, Conventions, Acquisitions, and HRIS.  I can drag and drop stuff from one Notebook to another.  Link items between them and add shortcuts.

 

As stated earlier, there is no real multi-platform analog that I have found.  Evernote is what comes to mind for most people, and is similar in many ways and is very workable. 

 

 

I use it, and I know people who rely on it as much as I rely on OneNote.  My perspective of Evernote is more a repository of miscellaneous stuff, pdfs, scans, receipts, etc… more a way to organize a junk pile than a productivity powerhouse.  I can only pray somehow Evernote will become OneNote compatible.  Not sure if Microsoft will allow such a thing, but the ability to use Evernote on my iPhone and have the info show up in OneNote could be a great solution.  Evernote does allow for a OneNote2007 import, but I am using 2010 and would miss to many of the OneNote features to use Evernote exclusively.  Maybe I will give it a try just to see…

 

Stay tuned for possible follow-up.

Cross Platform Syncing

I am finally sick of JungleDisk & .Mac or MobileMe (I am up for renewal).  Jungledisk does not have native syncing abilities and seems to have trouble on my Macbook staying active when I change from Wifi to EVDO and back it does not like to re-mount the drive.  It is also difficult to update my music and picture files from computer to computer.  For example, when I upgraded a music track from DRM to non-DRM in iTunes, I had to manually replace it on each computer and on the online storage.  It is good for back up of each computer separately, but not for keeping one back up to use on all computers & share.


Dropbox Web Interface

I do use Dropbox, and would love it to be my one solution for everything, however, it has only one paid option for 50GB max.  Also, the files that are synced must all be in the My Dropbox folder on every computer. I would love a solution similar that would work on Windows, OS X, and my iPhone, as well as, not tied to a specific sync folder.  Thus I came across SugarSync. It has multiple paid options, thus I can upgrade as more space is needed, is accessible and managed from the web, windows, mac or iPhone, and you identify which folders you want to keep synced.


SugarSync Web Interface

Others I have tried or found are MobileMe - which just did not work,  Mozy - which I found cluncky on my Mac and lacking in sync like I wanted, Windows Live Mesh - worked well but only has a 5GB option currently.

There is a good chart comparing free online storage/sync solutions on Lifehacker here.

Pricing for Dropbox and SugarSync are as follows:

Dropbox = $9.99/mos or $99/yr for 50GB ($0.20/GB per mos)
SugarSync = $2.49/mos or 24.99/yr for 10GB ($0.25/GB per mos), $4.99/mos or 49.99/yr for 30GB ($0.17/GB per mos), $9.99/mos or 99.99/yr for 60GB ($0.17/GB per mos), $14.99/mos or 149.99/yr for 100GB ($0.15/GB per mos), and $24.99/mos or $249.99/yr for 250GB ($0.10/GB per mos).

Bottom line, I will use both for different reasons.  I will use the Free 2GB Dropbox for quick file sharing between computers and SugarSync as my online backup and sync of music, pictures, documents, etc...across all computers and iPhone.

If you have a good solution for you that is different, let me know!

Update - With SugarSync you can stream you audio as well.  This includes your iPhone.  Full access to all my music on the iPhone is excellent.



Excel Tips Regarding Formulas and Breaks

Recently when creating an overtime pay adjustment calculator, I ran into some tricky issues in regards to the calculator to not show values when certain cells in the formula are blank.  I did this as to not confuse the end-user with numbers that are not correct without all the appropriate values filled in.

As you can see in the above calculator, they "System Generated" values are dependant upon user required values as well as system caclulated values.  Done normally, some fields would populate with values without all the required inputs completed.

My first try was to use the ISBLANK function.  So in cell C25, the formula was =IF(ISBLANK(C17),"",C17+C12) and this work correctly.  However, I was receiving an error in C27 with the formula IF(ISBLANK(C25),"",(C25/40)*1.5) and the only reason I could figure was due to C25 also having a ISBLANK function.  However, if I changed them both to use the LEN function, everything worked fine.  So the final formulas in each cell are as follows:

C25 =IF(LEN(C17),C17+C12,"")
C27 =IF(LEN(C25),(C25/40)*1.5,"")

More tips to come as I come across them.  Have fun!



Favorite New Software and Service

Being a computer user that switches between Mac and Windows everyday, I am always searching for tools that will allow me to share information between the different computers, as well as platforms.  Over the last month I have drastically simplified this issue by the addition of Foxmarks and Dropbox.

Foxmarks is a Firefox add-on that originally syncs and backs up bookmarks.  Since I use Firefox as my primary browser on all computers, having them sync is important.  I use to use the Google Sync tool until it stop supporting the new Firefox browser, and in fact, Foxmarks does do this better than Google Sync did.   Recently Foxmarks added the ability to sync passwords as well.  I have had success with this on all of the computers except my office XP box.  It continues to ask for my PIN to sync passwords over and over.  This does not happen on my other XP/Vista/OS X computers however, so am unsure what the issue is?

Dropbox has been a great tool.  It syncs specific folders in real time very quickly so I can have my KeePass and KeePassX synced between all the computers, as well as, my IE favorites folder.

I find Dropbox faster and easier to use than JungleDisk, however, Dropbox has a 2GB limit.  So I do not use it to sync my music collection and the like.  I highly recommend Dropbox to anyone.



Plurk

I have been posting to the social website Plurk a lot lately.  This site is similar to Twitter, as it is a social micro-blog, but with a twist.  It is visually more appealing than the basic Twitter, and as you earn "Karma", more options and control over your account you get.  You gain or loose Karma by the amount of posting you do, as well as, who friends or follows you.

 

The timeline is also unique, as instead of a vertical view, it is horizontal.  Although the mobile version of the site is vertical.

 

 

 

I have found that there seems to be more "community" and interaction between users that have no real off line connection.  That can happen on Twitter as well, but Plurk seems a whole lot more interactive among it's members.  This may also be due to the fact that replys are their own thread under each original plurk.

 

I am really enjoying Plurk and invite you to join in the fun!  Follow me here.



New Site is Live

After a couple of weeks and playing with many Wordpress templates, I have finally decided upon one, as well as added more content and how to interact with the site. The template I selected is Revolution by Brian Gardner. Unlike my last template which stopped being supported and updated, I feel this one will continue to grow and get better over time.

I started out wanting something more than a blog, but one that was closer to a content manager than a simple blog. Although I have not implemented everything yet, I am very happy with the outcome. There will be continual changes, modifications and improvements over time, but I believe this template gives me the foundation to move forward.

I can not wait to learn the new CSS skills and Wordpress skills to continue this journey.