5 Things - Week Ending 5/18/12

This is the 8th post in a series called 5 Things. Each week I will share a combination of technology articles and apps that I have discovered and liked in the past week.

Why We're Missing Out on Real Life

Mark Sisson:

I just find it really sad to see people miss out on life because they “had” to check their phone. It’s sad seeing strollers full of wide-eyed babies who are absolutely amazed at everything they’re seeing – that bushy squirrel tail flashing across the powerline overhead, the cat sunning itself on the sidewalk, a garbage can left out from garbage day, a bush, a cloud, a man on a recumbent bike, a leaf fluttering down from treetops - pushed by moms and dads with their eyes glued to their 3.5 inch screens, totally oblivious to the sensory explosions going on in their offspring but completely up-to-date on whether or not someone “liked” their most recent status update. “Ooh, red notification!” At least take a photo of the kid or something, sheesh.

This is one of the best articles that I have read this year about technology. You know that this is a legitimate problem when you see couples at a restaurant spending more time on their iPhones than talking with one another.

Last week, my wife Britta and I decided to spend six hours on a Saturday afternoon walking for 12 miles. We didn't use any technology during that time. It was wonderful. We were able to take in the smells of the lilac bushes. We were able to enjoy watching kids run around their backyard playing tag. We were delighted by the smells of people barbecuing their dinner. When we got home that night I logged onto the computer to check email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and I quickly realized that the world didn't fall apart because I decided to disconnect for a good chunk of a day.

My philosophy from now on is that unless I am on vacation I will make every effort to get back to people within 24 hours instead of ASAP. This gives me the flexibility to enjoy life away from technology (trust me I spend alot of time around it) while still providing great service to any of my clients.

I would encourage you to take Mark's challenge of not checking your phone, email, or Facebook after 7pm for the next seven days and do something else during that time. Take a walk with a loved one, read a book, go to bed early, or cook a delicous meal. Just do something other than be plugged into the web.

How Search Works

A neat video at how Google searches the Internet to provide you the answers that you are looking for.

Microsoft Gives Windows a Clean Sweep

Walt Mossberg:

For a long time, some Microsoft officials have privately griped that PC makers don't present Windows in its best light. They clutter desktops with icons that are often little more than ads for third-party products; include confusing utilities that duplicate functions already in Windows; require lengthy setup; and configure PCs in ways that slow them down.

Now, Microsoft is doing something about the situation. In a program unknown to most computer users, the company has been using its small chain of retail stores and its online computer store to sell customized versions of popular PC models that have been streamlined for a cleaner look and better performance. It calls these machines "Signature" PCs. They retain the maker's brand, but sport a special Signature desktop and configuration. And they cost about the same as the identical stock version of the machine sold elsewhere.

A couple months ago I helped one of my clients purchase a new notebook computer from the Microsoft Store at the Mall of America. I transferred the data from the old computer to the new computer and got to see first hand what one of these "Signature" PCs looked like. I have to say that I was impressed. No third party software mucking up the machine. No trial software nagging you to purchase it. This is the way that all computers should come. Apple has been doing this for years and I think Microsoft is smart to copy that approach. I know that the client was very happy with the new machine and would buy from the Microsoft Store again.

Glassboard: Know who you're sharing with.

This week John Gruber, one of my favorite bloggers posted about an app called Glassboard. He had the following to say:

“I didn’t get it at first. Just didn’t see how I’d use it. But then I went to a weekend-long conference where a dozen or so of my friends set up a board on Glassboard. We shared notes, jokes, links, and things like where we were going to eat and drink. All of it private, with instant SMS-like notification of new messages and comments. Now I don’t know what I’d do without Glassboard.”

Of course, after I read that I had to check it out. The concept is that it's like Facebook but completely private. One of the blog post on Glassboard's website was titled Number of steps for Facebook privacy settings: 12. Number of steps for Glassboard privacy settings: 0. You can set up boards for your close friends, co-workers, family, etc. You are in complete control who gets to be on that board. People on the board can share status updates, comment on stuff, "LIKE" things, share photos, videos, files, etc.

I created a board for Britta and myself. We can share status updates that only the other person would care about or we can post inside jokes that only we would get.

I also plan on setting up a board for my family to share photos and private stuff that we wouldn't want the whole world knowing. It's a really neat service and I like how committed to privacy they are. According to Glassboard's blog they plan on remaining free for the basic service and eventually adding premium features that you can pay for.

Glassboard currently has a website, an iPhone app, and an Android app. If you want to use Glassboard on the iPad you can use the website or the iPhone app.

The Photo Cookbook - Quick & Easy

While I am not a cook myself this app looked very interesting. If you prefer to bake check out The Photo Cookbook - Baking