Keep Is A Keeper

Good Options

What do an elephant and a light bulb have in common? They’re both logos for jotting down your thoughts to help you remember or process them later. There’s much good to say about writing notes by hand, but if you’re into digital note-taking, then there are several good options to talk about. The one I wanna focus on is Google Keep (the light bulb!), because as much as I like Evernote (the elephant!), I keep coming back to Keep (you know I had to do that).

Weighing The Two

Last year when I ditched my iPad and switched to Chromebook, I upended my workflow. I had used Apple Notes and Ulysses to write all my “stuffs.” Both were great, but they were pretty much Apple-only. And when you go Chrome, you’re going Google

The first obvious new choice for my notes was Google Keep. But its differences from most digital notes apps made the transition uncomfortable. Or maybe not noteworthy. So, for journaling, I ended up settling with Journey. And for the rest of my note-taking, I landed on Evernote. I was so enamored with Evernote, I blogged about it!

After the shiny newness of Evernote wore off, I began to encounter some challenges. First, as I wrote my draft of a Novella for NaNoWriMo, I had quite a bit of frustration with simply typing into the Evernote web app. The cursor would jump randomly and inexplicably to the top of the page or seem to disappear for a moment. My flow of writing would derail. After this happened across many days, my confidence in Evernote’s reliability was shaken.

The other thing about Evernote that trips me up are the multiple interfaces. The web interface has three possible setups: an old one, a new “Classic Editor” one, and a beta version of that. Then there’s the Android app sprawled out on my Chromebook. Finally, there’s the iPhone app version. Not only do they look quite different from one another, they do not have feature parity! One version will have “word count,” for example, but another won’t. So I had trouble sticking to one version.

Over several months of using Evernote, Google Keep was ever present on my Chromebook and iPhone. For certain types of notes, Keep works best. Mostly, it excels at short temporary notes like digital Post-It notes. Also checkbox lists! That makes Keep sticky. It’s simplicity gives it utility. So I kind of ended up using Keep and Evernote, plus Journey, to record my thoughts. Of course, I also use Google Docs for blog drafts. This spread of apps and services is a bit much.

I don’t know if it’s Keep’s simplicity or something else; somehow I kept getting drawn to it. Weird? Maybe. But true. Keep’s simple interface is totally consistent across my iPhone and Chromebook: web app, iOS app, Android app. And although Keep is simple, it has some super handy and powerful features. But maybe the biggest advantage it employs is its omnipresence – its integration into Google’s other apps.

When in Google Calendar, or Gmail, or Docs, you will also find Keep. Off to the right side, in a consistent and persistent slide out column, Google Keep’s notes appear. You can read or copy text from them and vice versa. One surprising ability lets you save an email from Gmail into a Keep note as an attachment. One more great feature lets you automatically turn your Keep notes into Google Docs. Like I said, super useful stuff!

So I found myself at a strange yet not surprising switch on the track. Stay on the Evernote train, or go all aboard the Keep locomotive. Using both is simply too much for me. I need simpler. And while Google is notorious for killing off some of its products or services, I believe Keep has proven to be an indispensable part of Google’s platform and is here for the long haul.

Pick One

The Evernote app is still on my iPhone and Chromebook. But I’ve slowly started to transition fully to keeping all my notes in Keep. But it’s hard to let Evernote go because it still has many strengths. Yet this is what I do. I try different techy things, I rely on some for a long time, then I switch things up, keep things fresh. For now, Keep is a keeper.

Do you switch things up, or have you stuck with one tech solution for many years? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Animal Crossing New Horizons

A year ago, my pleasant pastime was playing Animal Crossing: New Leaf… Now, I’m doing it again in a whole new way! Today is the official release of Nintendo’s excellent game Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Last March, my wife and I leisurely explored Animal Crossing: New Leaf for Nintendo 3DS. It reminded me of the time when we first played Animal Crossing on the Gamecube – almost 20 years ago! But New Leaf had improved graphics and other gameplay enhancements that made it more enjoyable. It’s totally casual, labeled a “Life Simulation,” and it’s not everyone’s cup-o-tea.

There have been other Animal Crossing main titles over the years, including a few spin-offs that just were not the same. Now, Animal Crossing: New Horizons looks to be the best, most robust, main entry of the title ever. And since it has been many years in coming, the hype has been through the roof!

A month ago, I was in my local Gamestop where I ended up pre-ordering the physical copy of New Horizons. I was supposed to get a free poster of the game as a perk, and there was going to be an early release at 11pm the night before launch day. But thanks to the COVID-19 virus plaguing the planet, those plans got canned.

Regardless, all that matters is: I got the game and started life on my deserted island! What did I name it: Escape! Because of course.

I’ve been trying to ramp my blogging habit back up, but it looks like I’ll be playing New Horizons for a while! And the thing with Animal Crossing games is you’re never really through! There is no “end.” Time rolls by, seasons change, anthropomorphic animals come and go, affecting the unfolding of events in the game. And life goes on.

Will you be playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, or do you have a different new game going? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

The Mess In Messaging

Communication is hard. Simple, but not easy. In this digital age, you can talk with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Instantly text, or chat, or message a friend across the country? No problem. All you must do is choose the right app. What could go wrong?

Texting via SMS is antiquated and should be obsolete, yet it continues to thrive in the US. Yeah, so texting – rudimentary, outdated, super-popular!

With the internet in your pocket, you can now act more modern, using the data-rich web to communicate. If you’re on Apple’s iPhone, it’s simple. Use iMessage. No probs, right? Well, except for those pesky green bubbles with their inferior communication skills. More on that later.

iMessage is not the only chat app available. Many others abound. So if I want to, say, avoid broken group texts between iMessage and Android Messages, I’ve got to use a third-party web-based chat app that skips SMS texting altogether.

Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are popular choices to name just two. For argument’s sake, let’s say those are the only two. It should be simple to pick one – but it’s not. The fact is, you must use the same chat app(s) that the people you communicate with do. It’s all fragmented. Many people, many chat apps.

To make it easy, you could just pick a chat app based on only the one or two people you message the most. But easy, it is not. In my case, my wife and my Dad are my best texters. My wife and I use iMessage on our iPhones – blue text bubbles! My Dad uses an Android phone, so his texts to me are green. No big deal, really. Sometimes my Dad and I use Facebook Messenger. But what will happen when I switch my phone to an Android? I’ll become a green bubble to my wife – but again so what?

Since my family is all on Facebook, then what if we all just used Facebook Messenger together? Then it would not matter what phone anyone uses. Well, that won’t work for me because my wife – to this day – refuses to install Facebook Messenger on her phone. She is adamantly opposed to the move Facebook made years ago when it pulled Messenger from the main Facebook app and “forced” everyone to install a separate app. She aint havin’ it! Okay. I can work with that.

So scratch Facebook Messenger. Instead, what if my family switches to WhatsApp? That could be great, but it’s unlikely to ever happen. Why? Simply because people don’t like change, even if it’s for the better. Change is…wait for it…hard. No matter what messenger client I may like, getting everyone on board is the challenge.

I would like to look into Google’s solutions…but oh my, that’s a convoluted mess on its own! To its credit, Google has tried – and is still trying – to clean up the mess in their messaging services. They’re now pushing RCS, the new and improved replacement of SMS/MMS texting. But who knows how that will go. At least they’re attempting to adopt iMessage-like features into Google Messages. Might as well cheer them on.

On one hand, it’s a bummer that choosing and using one do-it-all message app isn’t a reality. But on the other hand, I guess it’s cool that there are options. You can talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Just make sure you have the right app(s).

What do you think? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

7 Months Of Wireless Goodness

Good Deals

Who doesn’t like a good deal? Finding a bargain when shopping feels great! And while it makes sense to pay extra for better quality stuff, what I love even more is being frugal to discover products that are better than good-enough yet don’t break the bank. Seven months ago, I finally bought my first pair of wireless headphones…for $30! So how does a pair of these hold up over time? Are they worth the money?

Good Headphones

In Unchained Audio, I shared how happy I was to finally enjoy wire-free headphones. I had been tempted for months by Apple’s popular and prestigious AirPods. But there are things I dislike about them, most of all is the sky-high price tag. So when I pulled the trigger on my $30 pair of Bluetooth headphones, I was glad to dispel the expensive temptation.

Seven months later, I still don’t feel any tug towards Apple’s AirPods. And my $30 MPOW H1 headphones are as good as new! They still sound terrific – I swear I can hear more sounds in music with more clarity and not too much bass. They are comfortable – I wear them for hours almost everyday for songs and podcasts.

What about their durability? They have not degraded in any way. The cushioned padding, the stitching, the plastic housing, and the side buttons all look and feel like new. No fraying, no tearing, no loosening. For $30, you would think that something by now would be wrong. But even the battery still holds a super long charge.

Good Review

I had thought about doing this blog post because I am still enjoying the wireless headphone life thanks to these super affordable MPOW H1 headphones I got on Amazon. I wanted to share how good they still are and that you can save money while also enjoying fancy wireless tech.

Then I stumbled upon a YouTube video by none other than popular tech reviewer MKBHD. In an Amazon Prime series, he reviewed the first generation of the MPOW bluetooth headphone I have; mine are gen 2. And his verdict was good. Basically, MKBHD recommended them. So that’s a good endorsement. You can save yourself some cash and feel good about finding a bargain!

Do you like a good deal? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

What Happened To Blogger?

The Blog Spot

When it comes to blogging, there’s one site that always comes to mind: Blogger. My earliest blogs were hosted there with a blogspot address. Believe it or not, Blogger is still around, but it seems to have languished under Google’s passive watch. In fact, I’m surprised it has not already ended up in the Google graveyard, outliving even Google+. So what’s up with Blogger?

Spotty Blogging

Recently, I tried to follow the Blogger account on Twitter, @Blogger. I wanted to be in touch with the platform that I once enjoyed. But for some reason, I can’t follow Blogger’s Twitter account. I was told my “follow” was pending. I’m pretty sure the tweets were public before, but now the account is private. So why the change?

No Blogger Buzz

When you look at the updates on the Official Blogger Blog, what you find is saddening. The last update was over a year ago, in 2019. Then you’ll see there was only one update in 2018, and one in 2017.

In the last three years, there have been only three official updates for Blogger. That is very little activity; not a good sign.

The last hopeful news for Blogger was in May 2018. It promised “exciting updates coming soon…” We are now nearing the two year mark, and I can’t tell what those updates are or were. The only official announcement since that 2018 promise was about a feature deprecation (no more Google+ stuff). I hardly think that sparse update is exciting.

The single update in 2017 was about new themes! Now that is exciting, but that sort of change seems like it should be normal as part of staying fresh and moving the platform ever forward. Nonetheless, it was a sign of life. I can’t say I see any signs of life at Blogger in 2020.

I’ve always loved the orange color of Blogger.

The most encouraging blog post had to be the one in November 2016. It started out with hyping the popularity of Blogger as a publishing platform. But over three years later, it seems neglected or vacant now. How do you explain that? The post was hopeful, stating its overall purpose was:

“to bring you a faster, easier to use and more beautiful Blogger.”

Not Blogger Bashing

I’m not hating on Blogger. I’m asking these questions because I care. As a blogger with fond memories of the platform, and with a continued interest and appreciation for the simplicity of the Blogger interface and it being a Google product, I’m sad to see Blogger appear destined to follow Google+ to the Trash Folder.

Google is full of resources and experience, tools and talent. Surely it can make Blogger thrive, if it wanted to. That’s what bothers me about this. Blogger could be so much better. Imagine if it became more integrated into the Google ecosystem. For example, I love to use Google Keep for notes, and one of its best features is how integrated it is within other Google web-apps like Calendar, Gmail, and Docs.

Blogger is a writing and publishing platform. What if Google weaved it into Docs and Keep, two other places where you write within the Google ecosystem. There could be ways to write drafts within Docs and from there auto-publish to Blogger, similar to the WordPress Add-On I use!

And what if Blogger was tied into Google Calendar. I would love to see something like my scheduled posts on Blogger appear on my Calendar as a Reminder or Event.

A Few More Bits

I did end up finding a bit of new info about the ongoing support of Blogger. A story on 9to5Google in October 2019 reported that something new happened with Blogger (which was curiously not blogged about on the Official Blogger Blog). The Android app for Blogger got updated for the first time in 3 years! Well, that’s something.

This news also includes some updated info about the Blogger web app. A good place to check for Blogger updates outside the Official Blogger Blog is the Community Help Forum. So these updates are a few rays of hope that Blogger has not become abandon-ware.

Bleak Blogger Future

I know not to get my hopes up though. Blogger overall looks defunct, neglected. And Google has a history of killing great things despite being used by many: Google+, Google Reader, and Inbox to name a few. Although many bloggers are likely concerned over the state of Blogger. Another interesting article detailed a few reasons why Google is not (yet) shutting down Blogger.

Here’s my theory as to what is going on. Two major things have caused Google to ignore Blogger and let it flounder. First, Google+. The company was all-in on their major social network, weaving it into every other Google product. The resources expended on it left little room for much else. Then it slowly declined into oblivion. Meanwhile, Blogger was tossed around in that maelstrom.

The other thing is that while social media took over the internet, publishing and media as we knew it fundamentally changed. The paradigm shift left blogging upended, thus Blogger became less important.

Somehow, after all this, Blogger still exists. It has survived; I’d love to see it thrive. But at this point, even if it dies, I just want to know one way or the other. What’s up with Blogger these days, does it have a future or not?

Wonder what’s up with Blogger? Have you ever used it before? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!