Jun 29

Evernote: Worth the Increased Cost?

App costs are out of control – they usually don’t charge enough for what they offer. Lately, we are seeing a trend toward increased costs and Software as a Service (SaaS) models for supporting software development. In general, this is a good trend because we should be paying for the real cost of development.

I am a firm believer in paying a fair price for a service or product, especially if it brings value to my daily workflow. And not just paying some minimal amount, such as $1 in the App Store, but truly paying developers for the work they do to create something useful. Most recently, a piece of software I use daily switched to a SaaS model rather than an outright purchase. I had to give TextExpander a good long reconsideration because the increase in cost was significant. It wasn’t until they lowered it, based on consumer feedback, that I decided to go with the annual payment plan at a slightly higher cost. Though other options for this exist, I do use TextExpander daily on my laptop and iPhone so it was mostly a no-brainer.

Now another piece of software that I use daily has increased their annual subscription plan by 35% – from $45/year to $70/year. That’s a big jump!

Evernote Logo / Brand

I’ve happily been using Evernote since 2008 (though it took a couple years to get it into my workflow) and began paying for a Premium Plan in 2012. I loved the tool so much, I offered workshops at Santa Barbara City College. Back in 2013, I had the good fortune to meet Phil Liben, co-founder of Evernote (and current Chairman) only to discover a person who is kind and passionate about being human and developing great software. So, it’s not just another software company.

Earlier this month I was at a conference and Evernote became super handy. I could snap a photo of a business card, have it recognize the contact fields, populate to LinkedIn, and let me send my contact information right back to the person’s card I just received. Super Awesome! The fact I can dump pretty much anything into the app and it can read, index, and make it searchable is of immense value. Every tweet I favorite gets dumped into Evernote. Entire webpages and articles can be added to Evernote with the web clipper – no more bookmarking needed. And did I mention that it’s all searchable? Immediate and consistent syncing between my iPhone, iPad, desktop, and laptop.

What to do? I use Evernote everyday and I would definitely miss it. Of course, there are several other options in this market space that could meet the same needs for a much lower cost – including free. My subscription isn’t up for renewal until December, so I have some time to decide.

Are you a paying Evernote customer? What are your plans for the future with this type of software?

Dec 04

Apple Photo Stream Should Be Simple, Right?

It's taken a month or two of tinkering, and I think I finally have an understanding of how the Photo Stream works. Like other Apple products I've experienced in the past, this was perhaps too simple for my mind to grasp.

The first challenge arose when I tried to delete a picture from the Photo Stream. You can't. What you can do is reset the entire steam from iCloud. However, you must also remember to turn it off on all connected devices as well. For the record, Photo Stream keeps a rolling 30-days of photos (or 1000 pics).

The second issue had to do with getting photos onto my Mac. I could continue syncing when connecting to computer, but this seemed kind of silly to do in conjunction with the Photostream. What's the point of the Photo Stream if it doesn't backup to computer as well. Well, it does backup but one needs the latest version of iPhoto to accomplish. Launch the App Store and turn over $14.99 and an updated version appears. Lovely.

It took a while, some money, and a few inappropriate photos, but now I understand. It does keep the rolling 30-days of pics/videos, and it does sync between all devices, and most importantly, one can configure Photo Stream to auto backup to iPhoto and create monthly events.

Still can't delete, so if I take more inappropriate photos then I have two choices. Reset the entire steam (on all devices) after the fact or turn off Photo Stream temporarily on the iPhone taking the picture. The Photo Stream doesn't sync photos taken when it's off.

Though this has probably been covered elsewhere, I hope this helps a few of you.

#miscjoy #apple #iphoto #software #stream

May 20

Dropbox, Privacy, and TrueCrypt

I wrote about files in the cloud back in 2009, and in light of the recent attention Dropbox is getting about security, the time seemed ripe to revisit the topic. From a philosophical perspective, two articles, Innovative Consumption from the New Yorker and Why Privacy Matters Even If you have ‘Nothing to Hide’ in the Chronicle of Higher Education, provide a framework for cloud computing, technology, and privacy. It is clear that the convenience of the cloud, the ease of use and access are compelling, but at what cost?

I’m a technologist, and am probably more willing to push the boundaries more than others I know. I started using the then-start-up Mint to manage my finances long before it went mainstream and was purchased by Intuit. Likewise, I happily keep my files in the cloud so that I can easily access the material from any computer including all my mobile devices. It is efficient and effective.

First, let me say I love Dropbox and often recommend [use this link please] the service to all my friends and colleagues. Second, I do have an awareness of privacy and do attempt to take adequate steps to address this with the services I use. I also use a unique (and long) password for just about every site I use on the internet. Since I love Google too, I know that a ton of my data is out there for harvesting. For me, the most important thing to remember is that once content reaches the digital realm, especially how most people use it, we have to assume that it could be compromised at some point. If something is that important or private, don’t put it in the cloud without the appropriate security.

This is where my discourse switches from philosophy to reality. I have files on Dropbox that are of a highly personal nature. Financial and personnel records that should remain confidential. Yes, it is true that Dropbox encrypts my content, which is great, but they hold the keys. So what is the solution?

A product called TrueCrypt is an open source, on the fly, encryption solution. It’s reasonably easy to use and works with Dropbox. With TrueCrypt, I can create a virtual encrypted disk that can be stored on Dropbox and mounted on my computer when I need to use the content. The encrypted disk can be of any size I wish (within the confines of my Dropbox account size). The encrption is controlled by me and it uses the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) cryptographic algorith that may be used by US federal departments and agencies to cryptographically protect sensitive information. TrueCrypt uses AES with 14 rounds and a 256-bit key (i.e., AES-256). Most likely it would take hundreds of years to crack this.

So, fear not. Use the cloud to store your files, have an automatic backup, and use TrueCrypt to protect the sensitive material.

What are your thoughts on privacy and use the cloud?

P.S. – I have recently attempted to use an older encrypted volume of mine and have forgotten my password. This is the downside of AES-256…I have to remember it or will never recover that content. I need to take that drug from Limitless because it’s in my brain somewhere!