Backing Up Your Brain with Evernote

I’m not an Evernote user. However I have my own system of notes of everything using dropbox, google docs/drive, gtasks and gmail.

Mastering these processes will really help pastors who want to develop their Bible knowledge and theological growth in every area.

This is a great video showing how a secular IT journalist uses Evernote:

Something that strikes me is that Evernote looks useful, but these processes still could be vastly improved with better software.

Smartphones – the negatives

Here is what I see as unhelpful about smartphones (some of these points overlap):

  • They can cause you to be enslaved to every latest message/txt/facebook/tweet whatever.
  • They are addictive and hard to not glace at. Will your kids remember you as an absent  father playing with your phone all the time?
  • Your kids want to play on them all the time and suddenly you are no longer training children in patience and they are unable to ever sit still in worship or sit still anywhere. An awful curse of induced attention deficit disorder.
  • They give a false sense of control because you read messages quickly. However you can easily simply read messages then forget about processing them properly (according to a GTD style setup) or ever actioning them. They can make the non-urgent-and-non-important as significant as the urgent-and-important (and they do nothing to help with the non-urgent-and-important).
  • They distract you from reading real paper books and the Bible
  • They deceive you into thinking that an bible reading app or something else is going to help your spiritual disciplines – when all it is doing is making it easier to look at facebook.
  • They tempt you by making it easy to voyeur more into social media and what other people are saying about you.
  • It is very hard to install ad blocking and porn blocking software, and this creates a temptation. I cannot get opendns to work over the telstra mobile data network.
  • They make it easy to flood quick interactions with people when what is needed is a real phone call or a discussion over coffee.
  • The games and apps are a world of infinite distractions.
  • They make it hard for your brain to enjoy rest and meditation away from a screen of any sort.
  • They easily become a status symbol or an idol.
  • A minor quibble: They “app ecosystem” is not conducive to free software. Even though without linux and the rest of open source there wouldn’t be an Internet or Android phone. There are huge privacy problems and DRM dangers with such capable devices.


Smartphones – the positives

Here is what is good about smartphones (remember I’ve got Android in mind here):

  • they have beautiful typography (on anything with pixel density greater than 300 pixels per inch)
  • they make it easy to process emails that require a quick response
  • they make it easy to send short text messages
  • they make it easy to process emails that simply need to be read and archived. This helps significantly in keeping inboxes to zero – you can keep up with prayer letters while standing in a queue etc.
  • Google Maps is amazing and the navigation is very useful. Up to date, takes traffic congestion into account, accurate time estimates, all good. Google maps is great for holidays also.
  • Google Contacts (part of Gmail) is amazing, once you have gathered all the right data into it. Makes it very easy to get directions between someone’s house and a hospital for example. Great for a pastor doing alot of visiting.
  • They make it pleasant to make calls. I’m putting numbers for everyone I ever see into my Gmail contacts. As a pastor it makes it easier to use the phone quickly and effectively (especially combined with in-car bluetooth – see below).
  • The Android Gmail client is very nice. Works well for me because I use gmail and labels for my todo lists.
  • (Google calendar on the desktop and Android seems pretty awful – I’m still on an A4 week to a page paper diary.)
  • The instant messaging apps are a great alternative to SMS. I’m often using Android google chat to my wife on her gmail desktop (she is not a mobile phone user at all!).
  • Mobile data speeds are fantastic these days – I get 5-10Mbits on Telstra in Melbourne in most places.
  • Tethering via usb or wifi to my netbook helps to redeem time very well when stuck somewhere
  • They replace ipods and mp3 players – they make it really easy to listen to sermons and music.
  • Bluetooth is wonderful if you have it in your car – jump in, keep listening to the sermon, phone rings – sermon fades out – take the call – sermon fades in etc. Get bluetooth in your actual car stereo, don’t just buy a bluetooth unit as an add-on.
  • Battery life is no issue because you can get micro-usb (for Android) dongles in everyplace you are – home, car, work.
  • Smartphone camera and video are pretty good and the convenience is outstanding. Especially combined with dropbox auto upload.
  • Dropbox is a killer app – I can see all my files, all my photos any time from my phone – incredible.

Tomorrow I will post what is wrong with smartphones.

I’ve changed my mind on smartphones

For many years I’ve been a cynic about whether smartphones actually aid productivity. I was proud of my cheapie “phone only” phones. I lugged a little netbook everywhere.

However I’ve repented. I’ve been using using the latest and greatest Galaxy Nexus with Android ICS 4.0. Feels good to be on the top of the gadget hierarchy for five minutes.

My previous criticisms about smartphones have not gone away. They are over-hyped and they give a false sense of security and productivity. However I think if used very carefully they can give a modest productivity boost.

2010 Tech Tools I Can’t Live Without

Here is a dump of my most used tech or productivity tools in the last 12 months:


Google Docs

Ubuntu Linux

Google Chrome


Book Depository


Google Reader




Moleskine Plain Black Cahier Notebook

Fisher Space Pen – Trekker


Brother P-Touch Labeller

Bible Gateway (NIV 1984 online)

Interesting Wikipedia Articles #3

I must admit, I am a fan of Wikipedia. Used wisely it is a wonderful resource. I even donated.

Incidents at Six Flags parks – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

List of scandals with “-gate” suffix – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

See also:

Wayne Schuller’s Blog » Blog Archive » Interesting Wikipedia Articles #2

Wayne Schuller’s Blog » Blog Archive » Interesting Wikipedia Articles

Hard drive speeds

Doing some yearly IT maintenance over January. Upgraded my main hard drive from 200 gig to 500 gig (it was getting full). This contains all my photos, 18 years of email (includng gmail backup), steam games, all my documents etc.

I do two backups. One to a second hdd within the desktop (every midnight). The other to an external hdd enclosure I bring in every couple of weeks from home. The backup is of the entire system using ‘rsync’.

The only problem with the USB enclosure is that it is very slow. So I bought an esata pci card and connect via that instead. This increased my speed from about 1MB/sec over USB2 to 57MB/sec over esata. That is an increase of 50 times!

I also noticed that my internal hard drive is much faster than a few years ago. Old notes suggest I was getting about 54MB/sec in 2003, but the newer hard drives are giving me 96MB/sec.

The sustained write speeds are slower than hdparm. The external esata actually rsyncs at about 30-40MB/sec  (not 57MB/sec). But now I can update the backup in minutes, not hours.

All measurements are using hdparm under linux.


[email protected]:/home/schuller# hdparm -t /dev/sdc1

/dev/sdc1: Timing buffered disk reads:  290 MB in  3.01 seconds =  96.22 MB/sec

In summary: if you are using external hard drive enclosures, make sure you connect via esata.

What about NAS? They are great in theory, but very expensive compared to a generic esata/usb enclosure.

Avoiding the seedy side of the web

Have been using opendns for dns content filtering for a few weeks now.

I highly recommend it. All you have to do is put their dns servers on your computer or router. You can get an account to get more fine grained control on what to filter.

Not intended to be foolproof, but does a good initial job of stopping me even accidentally drifting into seedy websites.

The other thing I would recommend to make your web experience less seedy, is to run an adblocker plugin to your web browser.

How Ubuntu Saved A Dell Laptop

My Mum’s Dell laptop is 3 months old.

When Windows update tried to install service pack 1, it died horribly. Every time we booted there was a “blue screen of death” (I have photos). Safe mode, repair mode, nothing worked. Ruined a day off.

Dell support were hopeless, the only concrete suggestion was to restore the PC to it’s original state. And they kept insulting my Mum for installing such haxor 3rd party software (such as Firefox) and peripherals (such as a USB mouse) that caused running Windows updates to kill it.

I downloaded the latest Ubuntu Linux (9.04). Booted from the live CD. Backed up the documents. Installed Ubuntu. Restored the documents.

The machine now runs much faster than Vista did.

Charlie Brooker on why he hates Apple Macintosh computers | Comment is free | The Guardian

Charlie is right. Except what he doesn’t add is that MS Windows is also your proprietary Fisher-Price activity centre.

Use an open source (free software) operating system if you really want to use your computer. My choice is Ubuntu Linux. Don’t get bullied around by Bill or Steve.

I hate Macs. I have always hated Macs. I hate people who use Macs. I even hate people who don’t use Macs but sometimes wish they did. Macs are glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults; computers for scaredy cats too nervous to learn how proper computers work; computers for people who earnestly believe in feng shui.

via Charlie Brooker on why he hates Apple Macintosh computers | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Official Gmail Blog: A small (but helpful) change to ‘mark as unread’

Google have fixed my number 3 gmail bug.

If only they could fix the other two major flaws of gmail:

1. The gmail search sucks (cf normal google web search)

2. Gmail doesn’t understand attachments from Mac Mail.App (the suffixes are missing)

Now if you’re reading a conversation that had unread messages when you opened it and you mark it unread, Gmail will only mark those messages that were unread when you opened the conversation in the first place. It’s a small change, but it’s the little things that can make a UI feel right or wrong, and we hope this makes Gmail a little bit more right.

via Official Gmail Blog: A small (but helpful) change to ‘mark as unread’.

I don’t like Google Calendar

I love Gmail. It is clearly the best email client bar none.

But Google Calendar is awful. Cumbersome. Slow. The event edit page is slow and ugly. I currently put reminders in it to be emailed to myself – it is a way of keeping my action lists from being drowned.

What Gmail really needs is an incubate feature. “Incubate this email for the next 1/7/n days” (ie: archive it for that time, then put it back in my inbox)

I could use a third party calendar site or some other todo list like service. I’m sure there are some great services out there, I’ve tried a few. But they rarely have streamlined user interfaces. When I am juggling lists and tasks, all these “workflow processing” type of actions need to be very very quick – two or three clicks away. Four clicks and it won’t happen. Ideally it happens from the keyboard with zero mouse interaction.

Thats why I hope it can all be done within gmail one day.


For the past 6 months we have enjoyed a whiteboard in our house.

We highly recommend the prices and service of Mr Whiteboards. We got a 1800x1200mm vitreous board. Basically I wanted to get something as good as you would have in a normal classroom or conference room, except it is in our dining room. The boards you would buy at Officeworks are mostly expensive junk. After a year or so they will be full of ugly streaks from pens that don’t rub out perfectly. Kind of like the cheap whiteboards that churches always buy.

The service of Mr Whiteboards was fantastic – we weren’t happy with the mounting, and they came and installed a replacement board which was mounted much more firmly without wobble. I think we even had Mr Whiteboard himself in our house come to install it.

It is a great help with the homeschooling, but we have also enjoyed using it for family devotions, and even the odd family brainstorm. It’s great for making temporary lists, such as “things to do before going on holiday”. It also functions as a intercessions reminder wall.

Now we’re going to have to ask for one in every house we live in.



Compare book prices in Australia with Booko

This looks like an interesting site for sourcing best prices for books in Australia from international and local retailers.

A few test examples confirms what I already knew, the cheapest place to buy books is the Book Depository. We’ve been using them for over 12 months – there is no cost for freight, the prices are cheap, and they arrive quickly. It was even better when the AU dollar was stronger.

Booko is a site with a very simple goal – to find the cheapest place to buy books in Australia. This site started out as a personal itch and has slowly grown into a very handy site, slowly adding more shops for comparison and more features to make it easier to use.

Compare book prices in Australia with Booko

Where is the new Nikkor 50mm?

I’m still dreaming about the 2180 Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S Auto Focus Nikkor Lens that was announced back in September.

Doesn’t seem to be on sale yet in the USA. Can I justify getting one? It is cheaper than the Nikon wide angle lens.

Whilst on holiday we took our Christmas family photo – was surprisingly painless to get all four kids looking in the right direction and it came out very well. Shooting on a DSLR was easy and fun.

Also realised that the reason my 4 gig SD card didn’t work on linux was not to do with “proprietary vs free” but simply that old card readers can’t read the new bigger cards.

Between Two Worlds: Free John MacArthur!

The best way to promote any electronic media is to give it away free with no strings attached.

If you require money or even just subscription/password details, people are always going to go for the unconditionally free electronic media every time. Even if your content is 100x better than the unconditionally free stuff.

I’m sure this move by “Grace to You” will result in a long term increase interest Macarthur book sales and interest in his ministry.

At HTD we offer all our sermons for free download under a Creative Commons license. People can repost them, and spread them as much as they like. Our CC license we have chosen precludes commercial reselling or editing, but even this I have no personal problem with.

I’m told that starting next Wednesday, November 5 (the day after the election), Grace to You will announce a new policy, effective immediately, that all of their mp3 downloads of John MacArthur’s sermons will be completely free.

That’s 3500 sermons for free–with no strings (like required registration) attached.

Between Two Worlds: Free John MacArthur!

Interesting Wikipedia Articles #2 (list of people who share my birthday – Emperor Constantine, John Steinbeck!)

See also:

Interesting Wikipedia Articles