Category Archives: Tech

Google Calendar Sync Going Away Today

Well, Google announced the end of life for their own product to sync between Outlook and Google Calendar awhile ago, After uninstalling it, I went back to using the free version of gSync-it for the time being, but I now realize that Nov. 17th is the drop dead date for the version that I have installed now.

Guess I will have to spend some time this week seeking out a replacement, or pony up the money for the paid version of gsync-it.

One place I noticed today that may help me out is a project called Outlook Google Calendar Sync, which I picked up from a tip at Slipstick Outlook and Exchange Tips. Might be worth checking out.

Anyone else out there stuck using Outlook for their work calendaring needs but want to be able to sync up with Google for other things? How are you handling it?

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Hey Siri Voice Activation

Today, I saw this tweet about the new Amazon Echo:

Now why do I bring this up? Because iOS now has a similar feature. When your iPhone is plugged in, Siri will listen for, and respond, to the words “Hey Siri”. So, similar to the idea behind the Echo, when I’m home with my phone plugged in, I can simply say, “Hey Siri, what’s the weather for tomorrow?” and get a response.

The problem, of course, is that your phone is an open mic, all the time, and we have to trust that Apple, or Amazon is only activating the listening device when the correct magic words are said, and not doing any sort of recording or other kinds of eavesdropping on their behalf, or on the behalf of the government. I’m not so sure I feel comfortable with that.

Of course, there’s also the fact that we are depending on it only responding when the magic words are said. This week, I discovered the hard way that the “Hey Siri” option might not be quite that accurate, as I was teaching an online course, talking into my headset as you do when teaching. Suddenly, my iPhone, which was plugged in behind me in the office, starting responding to me and searching for information. Whoops! I don’t know what I said, but I definitely did not say anything about Siri. ;-)

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People Don’t Just Want Tools

Saw an article the other day that reminded me of something I rediscover with every training class.

“I teach my people on day one…’People don’t want drills, they want holes.’”

There’s something very profound in that statement. The reality that “most” people don’t buy tools, or technology, just because they want the technology. They buy it to help them accomplish something. Technology training, then, becomes much less about what the tool does and more about getting the hole you wanted in the first place.

It can be tempting in a training class to make sure you cover all of the options. If you’re teaching someone Word, for example, it can be tempting to go through each menu and talk about what each item on the menu does, and move on to the next menu and do the same, all while losing the point of why someone wants to use Word in the first place.

Frankly, a training class that simple went through the features of a tool, in order, would bore the heck out of me.

Don’t teach me everything the tool does, understand what I am trying to accomplish with it and show me how to do that! Take the time to be in my shoes, and understand my pain points, and then teach me how this new tool can be used to eliminate those pain points and get me to my end result.

When I’m doing a custom training class with a new customer, one of the first things I do is get in touch with them and ask about what they do now, and what they are trying to accomplish. With that information, I can create a class that fits with what they need, that teaches them to get where they are trying to go using that tool. Sure, I might run out of time and not explain every single feature, but that’s OK. It’s highly likely they aren’t at a point where they would use that feature anyway, and I leave them with plenty of documentation to help them understand anything that we didn’t specifically cover when the time comes that they want to start looking at some of those other options. The important thing, is that they know how to get where they are headed.

Now if they bought a tool and don’t know what they are trying to accomplish with it, that presents a whole lot of other problems, but that’s a post for another day. I’m sure some of you have seen projects like that, right? ;-)


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Glenn Greenwald on Why Privacy Matters

I love his response to anyone who suggests that we don’t need privacy if we aren’t doing anything wrong. OK, go ahead and email me the passwords to ALL of your email accounts so I can troll through, read what I want, publish what I find interesting, etc.

Also note the way people like Eric Schmidt and Mark Zuckerburg, while claiming that privacy doesn’t matter for you, go to great lengths to protect theirs.

Privacy matters. We have the right to be secure in our persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures for a reason. The government should have to provide a reason to invade your privacy, you should not have to provide a reason why they should not. This is why the government’s argument against encryption is so important, and backwards.

h/t to Lifehacker for the video.


FBI Director James Comey Gets Phone Encryption Completely Wrong

Watching 60 Minutes tonight, and in an interview with FBI Director James Comey, he compared Apple and Google’s plans to encrypt phones by default to having car trunks that can never be opened or houses that can never be entered, even with a court order.

Except his comparisons are completely and utterly incorrect. Law enforcement, even with a court order, still requires me to open the trunk, or open the door to my house for them to conduct their search. What they want with mobile devices is the equivalent of having a key to every single house in the country and freedom to enter them without your knowledge. No, I’m sorry, you don’t get to have that.

If law enforcement has a court order to search a seized phone, then it can be presented to the owner and they can be required to enter their passcode. Why is that so hard? Why does the government need access to decrypt personal data on mobile devices without the involvement of the owners of that data?

No. No. No!


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Marriott Gets Caught Blocking Mobile Hot Spots

My new toy

As a card carrying Gold level Marriott customer, the wifi situation has always been a source of confusion for me. When I travel for work or personal reasons, I generally stay in the lower end Marriott properties, the Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn and Suites, etc. Those rooms usually come with free wifi.

The more expensive properties, however, charge for wifi. That makes no sense to me, especially when the typical business traveler would have a mobile hot spot anyway. (I have one for my work travel).

On the other hand, if you block mobile hot spots, you can force customers into paying for your wifi, couldn’t you?

They can claim to be trying to protect their network and customers from rogue devices but at the end of the day isn’t that the point of the hot spot? When I just want to surf the web easily, I can connect to the hotel wifi, when I need to do some work, or access some more secured sites, I can connect to my mobile hot spot, use a VPN connection, and not be a target for the other people on the hotel’s wifi network. Best of both worlds, right?

I really don’t enjoy paying more for a room, and for wifi on top of that. Not very nice, Marriott.

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U2 and Apple Combine to Give Away New Album

So, as part of Apple’s product announcements today, they also teamed up with the band U2 to give away their new album to 500 million iTunes users.

In terms of marketing, it’s an interesting ploy. Why charge for the music at all, why not give it away and make your money as a musician from playing live? That might work for a band as huge as U2, I’m not sure every artist would agree with the premise.

On the Technology front, however, I do find this interesting. How do you feel about Apple pushing out an album to your iCloud storage without your consent? For non iCloud users, how do you feel about the fact that this album is no listed as a purchased item in your iTunes library, potentially affecting the genius recommendations in the future, even if you choose not to download it. (It shows as a purchased item regardless of whether you go to the Purchases link and download it or not.

How do you feel about Apple pushing an album out to all iTunes users whether they want it or not?

Update: Ars Technica has some tips for getting rid of it if you really don’t want it.


The Problem with Total Surveillance

20140529-201524-72924452.jpgI was talking with someone a few weeks ago and the NSA and how the government is snooping on email and social media and all those sorts of things. He mentioned that he finds that most times he bring things like that up, it’s met by the all too common refrain “If you don’t have anything to hide, then what’s the problem?”

Let me tell you what the problem is. Context.

Look, I truthfully don’t have anything to hide. I’m not doing anything illegal, I’m not sleeping around, I’m not hiding money anywhere, I’m not living in fear of the government finding out some deep, dark secret that is going to get me in trouble. What I am afraid of is someone from the government seeing a random email, text message, chat, etc. and taking it out of context. Because then I have to go defend myself from their innuendo.

Let me give you a perfect example. I have a Gmail address. I was lucky enough to get on the gmail train early and I have my name Unfortunately, I have a pretty common name, and lots of people with that name either forget to type more than just the name @gmail when signing up for things, or go ahead and do that so that they don’t have to deal with the emails. Lots of other folks, when sending email to the Mike they know, manage to only type the name @gmail too. Continue reading

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