Monthly Archives: January 2016

5 Tips for Effective Digital Note Taking

Being a full time student, working two part time jobs, being married, and doing some writing and development on the side proves to be daunting. With my discovery of GTD a few years back I was like everyone else; enamored with the idea of getting things off their mind to then produce better and more effectively. I instantly grabbed onto the practice of “ubiquitous capture” by taking notes so I wouldn’t let as many things fall through the cracks.

At first I just used a junky old notebook and a crappy Bic pen. I slowly improved my tools as any good, geeky GTD student would. But it wasn’t until I switched over to a full digital work-flow that I started to see real benefits with the use of my system. I am in a very technical field at work and technical major at school; computers and devices are around me all day long. It only made sense to capture and process thoughts and actions digitally as it was faster and more “iron-clad” for me.

Here are 5 tips on on digital note taking as well some of the pitfalls to look out for.

Make sure to stay engaged

There is absolutely nothing more annoying that someone click-clacking their way away on a keyboard or iPhone when you are trying to have a conversation with them, regardless if they are actually taking notes or not.

If you are a very fast typer, maybe around 50+ WPM it is a good practice to listen to what someone is saying then jot down a sentence or two to summarize it. Or, if you are in a meeting you could always say, “one second while I get this down so I don’t forget.” The idea is to capture what you need without constantly looking at your screen or phone and not paying attention.

Edit and consolidate

One of the biggest things that I noticed from taking extensive school notes was that a lot of the stuff was pure garbage. I would say that out of typing through a whole 55 minute lecture, I had about a couple of pages of text that was extremely out of order and mostly indecipherable. After taking a look through each class’s notes I soon realized that I have about a half a page of bullet points that were really important and all the rest was considered details and reference.

Now, I wouldn’t say delete everything that isn’t the main points of what you captured, but I would say to consolidate your notes. One good way of doing this is to summarize your notes from a meeting and then take the original junk that you typed down and save it in a “repository” of some kind just in case there was a minor detail you actually did need later.

Make them available from anywhere

I am a very mobile person and because of that I need a way to input notes and access them from anywhere I have an Internet connection or device. My tools of choice that make this happen include Springpad, Evernote, and Simplenote. I won’t go into which one I think is better; the important thing is that you can reach them from anywhere and all of them are decently reliable and extremely useful.


Put a voice to your notes

Something that I have found to be game-changing when it comes to capturing information is recording a lecture or meeting while taking notes. There are several ways that you can do this, but what I have adopted is the Livescribe pen and paper so I can write naturally, record audio with my writing, and still have digital notes that can (somewhat) easily be transformed to text. You can of course use tools like OneNote for Windows and Circus Ponies NoteBook for Mac to record and type at the same time.

Have you ever had a note you took during a meeting that didn’t make a lick of sense? I know I have. Yet, when recording audio and locking it up to your notes you can refer back to what was being said around the moment you were capturing it. This helps clarify and make your notes come “alive”. Of course, you definitely want to tell your colleagues that you are recording them before hand, that is unless you are looking for someone to sue you.

Choose a tool and stick to it

The biggest tip, and this goes with everything that is related to personal productivity systems; find a tool you love, one that works well for you, and stick to it. I am Captain Fiddly when it comes to list making, project tracking, note-taking, and productivity software. About a year and a half ago I gave up on googling “best note-taking tools” and “best online GTD systems” and just stuck with what I had and what worked well enough for me.

If you have a productivity system itch like I do, pick something simple like Simplenote or if you want a little more power, Evernote or Springpad and devote 30 days to that tool. I guarantee after 30 days that “itch” will go away and you can concentrate more on getting things done rather than finding the best new note tool that doesn’t exist.

Critical Review Writing Pdfs

Things to consider for writing hire reviews

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How to Write an important Investigation Custom Essay In just round the clock to make It Actually Good?

How to Write an important Investigation Custom Essay In just round the clock to make It Actually Good?

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When debating making use of this methodology, the notion is to always triumph in the dispute simply by receiving the other contestant concern their own align and finally disprove their issue with some motivate issues, labeled socratic questioning.

Ten Tips for Donating a Computer

As companies, nonprofits, charities, libraries, and individuals find reasons to upgrade their computers, the problem of how to safely discard used equipment continues to grow.

There are many reasons to donate or recycle your used equipment:

  • 75 percent of the fossil fuels and energy used by a computer are actually consumed during manufacturing. Extending the computer’s lifespan through reuse means more return on that initial environmental cost.
  • Every computer dumped into a landfill represents a missed opportunity to provide technology and tools to individuals and organizations across the digital divide.
  • Even if a computer cannot be reused, recycling ensures that valuable raw materials are recovered from used computers and that any waste is disposed of in an environmentally sound fashion.

Unfortunately, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Plug in to eCycling program, only 15 to 20 percent of computers and other electronic devices are being recycled in the United States (latest statistics are from 2007).

TechSoup has a long history of working with Microsoft, the U.S. EPA, the Electronics Takeback Coalition, and other organizations to improve the environment and bridge the digital divide by helping consumers properly donate or recycle computer equipment. We also have expertise in computer equipment refurbishing through our Refurbished Computer Initiative (RCI). It provides reliable, warrantied desktop and laptop computers to U.S. nonprofits and charities at the lowest possible cost.

Below are some tips for passing along your used but still useful equipment.

1. Determine if Your Old Computer Can Be Reused

If your computer is less than five years old, chances are it can be put to good use by someone else. Usually, the lifespan of a computer is seven to eight years. Extending the computer’s lifespan through reuse provides the highest environmental benefit of all electronics disposal alternatives.

2. Consider Donating Newer Equipment to a Refurbisher

You may be tempted to donate equipment directly to a favorite local school or charity. However, keep in mind that most organizations have very specific technology needs. A donated computer might not be a good fit. Refurbishers are better equipped to repair and upgrade older computers. They will ensure that equipment works well and runs legal software copies and that any e-waste is disposed of properly. They will pass on ready-to-use equipment to those who need it, often at little or no cost to the recipient.

Refurbishers work with newer equipment that can run current software programs. Therefore, if your computer is more than five years old, it’s better to send it to a recycler.

Find refurbishers that accept donated IT equipment via the directory of Microsoft Registered Refurbishers. Most Microsoft Registered Refurbishers also accept Macintosh products. If you are planning a large donation of more than 50 computers, please consider donating to TechSoup’s Refurbished Computer Initiative.

3. Recycle Older and Broken Hardware

Any equipment that is not working or is more than five years old should go to end-of-life recycling, meaning responsible destruction. A computer recycler is a business or organization that salvages useful computer parts before breaking down what’s left, safely removing hazardous materials in the process. Note that some recyclers will charge a fee to accept old computer equipment, especially monitors.

For listings of recycling drop-off locations in your area, visit:

  • Earth911
  • Dell-Goodwill Reconnect

4. Choose a Responsible Recycler

You’ve probably seen or heard horror stories about dangerous and irresponsible electronics recycling. However, there are certification programs for recyclers that can help you feel good about the recycler you choose.

Both the Responsible Recycling Practices (R2) and the e-Stewards® programs require recyclers to demonstrate that they meet specific standards for safe and responsible electronics recycling. They include environmental safety, worker health, and data security standards. You can learn more about certification programs at the EPA’s Certification Programs for Electronics Recyclers page.

5. Contact the Refurbisher or Recycler Before Donating

Call the organization or check its website to ensure that it accepts the type of computer you plan to give away. Some refurbishing organizations, for example, will refuse anything older than a Pentium III. Many recycling and refurbishing organizations also have specific locations where equipment can be donated, while others have delivery instructions they expect donors to follow.

6. Remember the Software, Documentation, and Accessories

If you can, include the keyboard, mouse, printer, modem, packaged software, and any other accessories you have used with the computer. They can almost always be utilized by schools, nonprofits, charities, and most organizations only accept complete systems.

Also pass along the original disks, media, Certificate of Authenticity sticker, user manual, and other documentation that came with the equipment. Keeping the Certificate of Authenticity sticker (usually on the computer) intact is generally the most important thing to remember. This allows refurbishers to inexpensively re-license and reload Microsoft Windows and Office software on the donated machines.

7. If You Clear Your Computer of Personal Information Yourself, Use Disk-Cleaning Software

The best way to protect against any unauthorized use of personal information is to use a disk-cleaning tool that obliterates all data on the hard drive. “Personal information” includes your Internet browser’s cache, cookies, history; your email contacts and messages; your documents; your recycle or trash folder; and all nontransferable software.

Below are examples of recommended disk-cleaning utilities.

Commercial Windows Disk-Cleaning Software:

  • Blancco Data Erasure Software
  • WipeDrive

Free Windows Disk-Cleaning Software:

  • Active@ Kill Disk Hard Drive Eraser
  • Darik’s Boot and Nuke

Macintosh Disk-Cleaning Software:

  • Disk Utility (built-in in Mac OS X, under “Security Options”)
  • WipeDrive for Mac

8. Keep a List of What You Donated for Your Records

Remember that tax season will always return — and you are likely eligible for a deduction if you donate to a nonprofit refurbisher or recycler. Most school or nonprofit refurbishers and recyclers can provide a tax receipt upon request. Business donors can deduct the un-depreciated value of the computer, and individuals can deduct the current market value of a computer. To determine the fair market value of a computer, use an evaluator tool like GadgetValue. For more information on tax laws related to computer donation, see Section 170 of the Federal Income Tax Code.

9. Find Additional Information on Electronics Recycling

For more information on the urgent need to recycle discarded IT equipment properly, see the Electronics Takeback Coalition’s overview of the problems created by computer dumping and the EPA’s eCycling Frequently Asked Questions.

10. Find Additional Information on Refurbishing

  • Visit TechSoup’s Hardware Forum for more information on refurbishing or to post a question.
  • If you are interested in donating your office computers, visit the RCI page.
  • If you would like to donate your personal computer, visit our Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher page.

To Catch a Thief Tips and Tools to Protect Your Computer Investment

A recent New York Times article discussed how Back to My Mac was used to help apprehend two burglary suspects after an Apple employee’s laptop was stolen.The owner used Back to My Mac, a subscription service, to access her own computer remotely and used the built-in camera to take a picture of the suspects. Her roommate recognized the computer users, and the police made an arrest.

Back to My Mac wasn’t designed to be an anti-theft device, but applications known as Remote Laptop Security exist specifically to aid in the recovery of stolen laptops. Computrace’s LoJack for Laptops is one example. The CyberAngel is another. GadgetTrak provides anti-theft protection for both PC and Macintosh laptops as well as mobile devices like cell phones. Most RLS applications require the stolen equipment to connect to the Internet in order to be tracked; however BackStopp can track a laptop computer using GSM (Global System for Mobile Computing) or RFID (Radio-frequency identification) technology and delete pre-selected files as soon as the stolen laptop is turned on. If there’s a built in camera, BackStopp will also take a picture of the user.

Another deterent, the STOP Security Plate places a plate with a unique barcode on the surface of a computer. If removed, the plate leaves an indelible message on the surface of the computer informing the world that it is stolen merchandise. At the very least engrave a contact name and phone number onto the laptop, so that it can be returned if found.

The best way to safeguard your laptop is to ensure it does not get stolen in the first place. Invest in one or more of the preventative measures now available. Though more difficult to steal, placing a laptop computer in a docking station does not offer a true theft deterrent. More effective are security cables with keyed or combination locks by companies likeKensington or PC Guardian. Additionally, the Targus Security Anchor Base Plate is designed to work with the cables, attaching to a desk or other furniture to further secure your notebook computer. Cables and docking stations will only slow down a determined thief. If possible keep laptops locked in an office or safe when not being used.

Think about what you are using to carry your laptop. A standard laptop case is an invitation to theft; thankfully there are tons of cool ways to transport your laptop while keeping thieves unaware. Many messenger bags include a padded laptop sleeve and backpacks with laptop storage are a nice alternative to the standard laptop case. Ogio offers an attractive selection of these that are appropriate for both men and women. Appropriately named eBags provides a handy laptop bag finder search tool and presents a number of options from which to choose.

If your laptop falls into the wrong hands, make it tough for an unauthorized user to gain access to your laptop’s content. Power on passwords with a combination of letters, numbers and characters are a great first line of defense. In “Power Passwords,” author Dennis Kennedy advocates pass phrases—a password consisting of an easily remembered but hard to guess sentence or verse containing letters, characters and numbers. Use the free online Password Strength Checker to test out your pass phrase.

Data encryption scrambles your data thus making it impossible to read without the key and should be standard procedure for mobile computing users. LaptopLock is freeware that protects data by encryption. After a number of failed access attempts it will delete files and/or hide them from unauthorized users. FYI: Playing it Safe with Encryption provides additional data encryption options.

Laptop theft is big business. A Consumer Reports employee and blogger recently posted his own experience with skilled laptop thieves in Brussels, Belgium. This ABC News article also discusses the trend. LTRC further addresses mobile security in the article FYI: Security on the Go.