2nd Friday Issue #2 2017

Food, Glorious Food!
There are two new things I’ve tried over the past few weeks, and I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without doing them sooner. Both of these require a little prep and then a “set it and forget it” method.

First up, making my own beef jerky. We’ve had a food dehydrator for some time. And have used it for making banana chips, apple chips, ‘sun’ dried tomatoes, and drying herbs from our garden.

What I hadn’t done until this past weekend was make my own jerky. Turns out this is extremely easy to do. Basically you can take a cut a meat, trim off fat (reduces spoilage), slice it thin and then marinate it before placing it onto the dehydrator for a few hours (for me 5 hours did the trick).

For me I started basically with a simple Worchester and Soy marinade, keeping it simple to start before going for more creative flavors. It came out great — and I didn’t worry about a great cut of meat.

The other method I discovered is for making caramelized onions. We use them for all kinds of dishes that we make. I’ve made them on the stove top with my cast iron. Whether small or large batch, to do it right just takes time to get there. I’ve found a great new way to cheat. It takes longer time overall, but requires gobs less work on your part.

They key is using your slow cooker (in my case it’s a combo slow cooker, pressure cooker, but I use the slow cooker low setting). Slice the onions, season and oil the same way you normally would. Instead of putting them on the stove, put them in the slow cooker and let them go on low for a few hours. The recipes I had seen online talked about having to do it for 10 hours. For me, it took only 5 hours to do get them to a state I liked. If you want, towards the end, the last hour or so remove the lid to help reduce some of the liquid.
I’ll need to do this again to dialed in on the time. For me, my slow/pressure cooker has a ‘brown’ function which I used (accidentally) when prepping this the first time. And it likely gave my onions a bit of a head start. Overall, you just put them in and walk away, checking on them every few hours. 
This is the way I’m going to do onions for the rest of my life. Two methods I just can’t believe I haven’t tried already!
OneNote vs. Evernote
For business use, I’ve been a OneNote user for years. It is my go-to note taking for use in my business life. For personal electronic note taking, I’ve used various solutions over the years — starting with Lotus Notes Organizer, a great personal organizer for its time! I have even played with early incarnations of tablets an e-ink, such as the NEC Windows Tablet. The NEC device was a good idea, but was just ahead of what technology could deliver at the time in terms of experience.

Part of my issue with pen devices for notetaking is that my handwriting is just downright atrocious. Whether electronic or on paper, having to take notes by hand — and being readable by me or anyone else in the future — is a challenge. The keyboard is very much my friend! [And as always, credit to my mother for having me take a keyboarding class in high school so I can type with some speed and efficiency.]

Note: While there may be many non-Microsoft centric organizations in the world, for me Windows as the corporate desktop device — tablet or laptop — has always been the case and will be that way for the foreseeable future. That being the case, there really isn’t any other tool for my corporate use besides OneNote for note taking electronically. So the focus here is personal use and not meant to be an exhaustive review of electronic notebook tools in the market place.

Personally I’ve been using Evernote for a few years now. That product has been the right price (free!) with the right level of convenience (web clipper to grab articles and available on all my devices). And it has been pretty solid for my personal use. There are features I like about both tools, and features in both which annoy me.

With my use of my Windows Surface, I opted to get an Office 365 subscription last year. Mainly for the storage, but also for access to Office features, Groove and other features, in party tying into Xbox also. Recently I figured I would give OneNote more of a try for personal use (the main driver was I finally got my Surface fixed and was back to using that full-time). 
Rather than start from scratch, I used the import tool from Microsoft which allowed me to import my years of notes from Evernote right into OneNote. That worked really well and pulled in all the data seamlessly. You even have a few options on how to import.

After the import, one thing became apparent. In Evernote I was more ‘notebook’ organized and had way more notebooks. In OneNote I tend to be more ‘section’ than notebook focused, so having so many notebooks is a bit different — and I don’t know that I like that.

With the number of notebooks in OneNote to get them on your machine you have to open each one, until you do it is not there and not synced. Whereas in Evernote they are all there and available. I’ve also seen some instability in OneNote, I think might be due to the number of notebooks. I’ll have to do more testing with the application to confirm.

From a formatting perspective, OneNote has always done a bit better than Evernote with straight copy and paste from a web page. Though with the WebClipper add-in for Evernote, it helps to really overcome that issue. Formatting in Evernote has always been one item that has bugged me. I don’t do a lot of formatting, since this is for notes and not published documents. But Evernote is overall weaker, especially in its table controls.

Evernote has better control or use of additional metadata, like #tags and the ability to see and edit metadata like modified date and time, or source URL. OneNote does not really make use of tags at all (other than on import as a provision for a way to import your data). And getting to that data is OneNote is a lot harder.

One area which Evernote handles better is sorting of notes by modified and created date. While I like how it keeps notes at the top based on edit date, I have had to do some work when wanting to have notes put in chronological order by created date. It would be nice if Evernote supported the ability to pick either created or modified and not just assume modified. Mainly for notebooks — like a journal — which are typically handled chronologically. But in OneNote, it’s a bit harder to manage and order notes that way (especially if you wanted to go and put pages in that are older).

Overall I think I’ll probably stay moving forward with OneNote and may ditch Evernote, but it will take some more time and burn in to see where I stand. I haven’t had a chance to test the web clipping actions for OneNote and I think any tool like this take some time to really kick the tires.

OneDrive and Dropbox make it easier to manage data organization which is shared, but Google Drive doesn’t. I work on our local PTA organization and they leverage Google Drive for document sharing. Overall, hot mess would be an understatement for collaboration on that data.

While moving to bundle more services into file storage there needs to be an improvement in controls provided by these services around shared or collaborative information.

Two key areas these services should improve are improved data control and integration across services. For improved data control, there needs to be more granular controls and notification on when data is changed and what people can change. Overall for collaboration you need versioning and also the ability to limit who can delete data. This is especially important when you have people who are not very technical that are leveraging a service which is backed by corporate enterprise support services.

The other area of improvement is in integration across these services. Dropbox, Box, Google, Microsoft, Amazon has my data strewn throughout them in different ways. There is no way for me to manage my data centrally to know where and how this is all stored. Even if I settled on one service for all my data, I still need to interact with groups who may chose to use different services for collaboration.

I am technical, and I find it hard to manage and get to my data across services. Those who aren’t as technical struggle even more — and are more apt to make mistakes like deleting a lot of data, not realizing the impact of their actions. If these providers plan to grow their consumer, company based business they need to move forward more quickly to the level of service corporate enterprises have had for some time.

A wishl ist feature for me would be to have a client on my computer which provides access to these online file services as more of a “mapped drive” so that I could see and interact with the data like a file system, but not actually replicate it down to my computer, unless I want to have that data offline. I have access to more data through these services then I have space for on my computer. But they all function in the same way, replicate the data down to your computer.
Converged Services
One of things which brought me back to trying OneNote for personal use was changes to a number of different cloud based services. Evernote has dialed back its free services considerably, limiting the number of devices you have use at any one time. Dropbox and other services have slowly folded features into its premium services away from its free tiers. Bigger companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft have followed suit. And they have to, no one can sustain a ‘free’ business model. The technology landscape is littered with companies that have good or great ideas but an unsustainable business plan.
It may be a way to start and build a base and demand for your idea, but you eventually have to move into some form of charging for your services.
I’ve been using various file services for a while (mainly Dropbox, somewhat with Google drive, and more recently OneDrive). I pay for all three services, in varying degrees. I also leverage note taking (Evernote and OneNote), online ‘office’ components — word, excel, etc… (via Google and Microsoft) and time management (Cozi). The main drivers for me is not so much collaboration, but more for making sure my key data is backed up. At least until recently. With some of the collaboration I do is on our EAC (Environmental Advisory Committee) and that has been via email and Dropbox. Its been in place for a number of years, having taken the data provided by the previous chair and moving it there so that everyone on the committee could have access and add to the data. It has worked well, but relied on the assumption of people not doing dumb things. Which has worked well for several years. But these are people who are not technical in nature (at least not with computers). So I’ve had problems a few times where someone deleted something and I had to go in and undelete the files and put them back.

Dropbox keeps deleted data for 30 days. Which seems like a reasonable period of time. But if your organization decides to take off the months of December and January from meeting, you can easily go 30 days without looking at what is stored out there. And Dropbox failed to notify me that data was changed — deleted in this case — wholesale from the shared EAC folder. We’ve now lost several years’ worth of article history. I can get some of the data back through emails and such, but it’s a painful process.

While my data is backed up to a degree, it is also dispersed across multiple services with varying levels of protection and controls. 
Onetastic — OneNote Add-In
As part of my foray into using OneNote for personal use again, I stumbled across this add-in for OneNote. This add-in is likely going to be the thing which pushes me over the edge into full-blown OneNote use personally. I’ve been using it for work and personal use. It works on OneNote 2010 and higher versions. It basically offers macro based ability to add features into OneNote to take all kinds of actions. I don’t know how long this has been available, but so far I am finding it friggin’ awesome.

There are hundreds of macros already built that you can pull down. Or you can write your own. It is easy to inspect any macro to see what it does, so you can take an existing one and build from that and not just from scratch. I’ve used a few such as page sorting, calendar creation, table of contents. One of the other great functions with the add-in is the calendar view. It allows you to pull up a calendar and lists out all the notes based on when they are created. So if you need to look for something from a specific day, it gives you a very easy way to do that.

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