Google Maps updates may spell the eventual end of Waze

I loved and used Waze for many years since it’s inception, but about a year ago, I switched back to Google Maps, preferring its more professional look, better lane direction, and fewer detours through neighborhoods to save a minute or two on my commute.

And the best feature at the time, and what tipped the point for me, were the notices on the map of differences in time if I chose another route. While Waze can do this, it requires you to switch away from the map. With Google Maps, just a quick glance as you approach an alternate street is needed to see the time difference.

It was a painful switch, as I missed seeing the speed limit on the map, and warnings of speed cameras and police, crashes, debris on the road, etc. All of these crowdsourced warnings were missing from Maps but I stuck with it.

If you haven’t used Google Maps in a while, you might want to take another look. Recently, they’ve added the speed limit and speed cameras to the map, and I was really appreciative of those additions. But today, I noticed a new button on the map and when I clicked on it, it showed two buttons, one that can be used to report a crash and another to report a speed trap. Passing a roadside radar trap on my way home this afternoon, I clicked on the Report button, clicked Speed Trap, and it was immediately displayed on the map. Wow! Maps is looking more like Waze every day.

While I’m happy that my favored Google Maps is getting these features, I’m a little sad as it seems like Google is taking the functionality of Waze and adding it to Maps. And that doesn’t bode well for Waze. I’m wondering if there was a timestamp on the agreement Google made with Waze when they purchased this Israeli company.

I, of course, have no insight or insider information, just speculation, but I wish Waze the best as I thoroughly enjoy the improvements Google has made to Maps.

Thanks for reading, J

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Why Google, Why Now?

About two and a half years ago, something happened in my technical life which has happened only a few times before. Like my first experience using a PC in 1985, and then when switching from Windows to OS X in 2005, and once more when I purchased the first iPhone in 2007, I experienced a complete change in what technology could offer to simplify my life with computers.

What happened you ask? ChromeOS happened. Of course, I was late to the party having only heard about Chromebooks, Chromeboxes and the world of ChromeOS in August of 2016.

This “new to me” operating system actually debuted in 2011 with several Chromebooks offered the same year and the first “made by Google” Pixel Chromebook going on sale in 2013 with a hardware refresh in 2015.

In September of 2016, I started my journey toward ChromeOS with a simple test. I would see if I could live in the Chrome browser without running any applications from my Windows Desktop or MacBook Pro for 30 days. I learned a lot from that experience. I learned all the things that Chrome could do that I didn’t know about, even though I’d been using Chrome as my primary browser for several years.

While I had used a few Chrome extensions, I didn’t realize that much of the work I was doing in Windows or Mac applications could be done with a web-based app or browser extension. I learned that I could run a web application in a window without the browser’s tabs or toolbars so that it felt more like a real application. And though I had used Gmail years ago and had a Google account dating back to November 2004, I was ignorant about the myriad of services, most of which were free, that Google had to offer.

So with some conviction that I might be able to switch to a simpler to manage OS, I started looking to purchase a Chromebook. My timing couldn’t have been worse. Just the month before, Google discontinued sales of the 2015 Google Pixel, and the prices for remaining stock and used units just seemed too high for my experiment.

After reading about other Chromebooks, I decided that the Acer Chromebook R11 with a 365 hinge and touchscreen fit my budget, $350, and would be a good starting point. It was love at first sight, or use, as I had never had a laptop that started so fast, was extremely lightweight and that could be folded back to use in tablet mode while reading and relaxing in my recliner. I started to read about three things Google included in their mantra about Chromebooks, the three S’s, speed, simplicity and safety, and as I started using the R11 as my daily driver, that mantra became real for me.

Speed – I’ve already mentioned how fast it was compared to my past experience. Starting from power on was unbelievable, as was a restart and reengagement upon opening the lid. In fact, I rarely shut the thing down, just closing and opening the lid to start computing.

Simplicity – It was, in fact, the simplest OS I’ve ever used. Now there was a bit of a learning curve in the beginning as I tried to find things I was used to with other OS’s, but I quickly found that there really wasn’t a lot that needed to be learned to perform daily tasks. To ensure I had all of the basics I spent some time reading the posts at Chromebook Central, Google’s primary community-based forum for Chrome OS. You can find the recently revamped site at https://support.google.com/chromebook/community/

Security – While it took some time to trust that this was a more secure computing environment than Windows or OS X, I did come to understand that this platform did not need the usual virus protection software that more times than not slowed my computers down, but was built with security in mind. Google outlines these security components better than I can in their Chromebook Security Help page.

While Google only includes the three S’s I’ve listed here, I believe there is a fourth S that should be included, and I’ll be detailing that in a future post.

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading,  J

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the new face of johnbkendrick.com

If you’ve been a long time reader of John Kendrick’s Weblog, its likely that you noticed that my web presence disappeared some time ago. Unfortunately, due to lack of attention, I lost my original domain and have been without a blogging vehicle for a couple of years.

Recently, I made a great many technology changes that have brought back my itch to write, so I have resurrected my blog under a different name, johnbkendrick.com and intend to spend a bit of time catching up on all that has changed in my technical life.

Stay tuned for an initial post sometime soon. Thanks for reading, J

BookBook Stays the Course

When I purchased my last MacBook Pro a little over a year ago, I knew I needed a case that would stand up to carrying the device from home to work everyday, and moving from meeting to meeting all day, every work day.  Not to mention carrying it to church each Sunday so I could use it to watch YouTube and other videos with the  teens in my high school Sunday School class.  I am seldom without my MacBook no matter where I go, so it needs protection with staying power.

I had been using a BookBook case from Twelve South for my iPhone for several years, primarily so I could have my iPhone and wallet in one case, so I was intrigued by the MacBook case by the same name.  Incidently when I traded up to the iPhone 5 this fall, I purchased another BookBook for it as well.

After using my BookBook to house and protect my 13″ MacBook Pro for the last 14 months, I can honestly say that I could not see myself switching to another case.   Here are my reasons for staying the course with BookBook:

  • The interior of the case is padded red velvet, so I know my MacBook is safe and comfortable in its home.

13" MacBook Pro in BookBook case
13″ MacBook Pro in BookBook case

  • Using two zippers, the case quickly zips up surrounding and securing my entire MacBook, and just as quickly unzips ready for use upon reaching my destination.

Two zippers make opening and closing a snap
Two zippers make opening and closing a snap

  • It can be carried just like a book, and the leather feels oh so good in your hands.

IMG_1873

  • Best of all it looks like a vintage book when closed, hiding its real contents, which of course was the intent of its designer.

BookBook opened for use
BookBook opened for use

  • I’ve  added some additional character, reminiscent of a college book cover, by adding stickers of some of my favorite things to the outside of the case. (This makes the case uniquely my own, and also helps me quickly place the laptop right side up, as the stickers are on the top of the case.)

Lastly, and most importantly, the case has held up perfectly, the zippers are as smooth as new, and the case ages gracefully, actually looking better as it ages.

As a late 50ish guy on his way quickly to his 60’s, the case has a way of making me feel younger than I am, and I get comments on the BookBook often.  Word about these great cases must be spreading, because while watching the new ABC series, Zero Hour, I spied the star carrying his MacBook in the very same case.

So this case, in my mind anyhow, has advantages that others simply can’t beat.  Twelve South makes great products for Macs, check them out and I think you’ll agree.  Thanks for reading . . . John

~OmniOutliner is my “New” Favorite App

Long time readers of this blog know that I have a love (let’s call it a craving) for productivity methods and applications. Perhaps its because I always seem to be managing so many professional projects at one time, (currently over 20 network storage projects). With my ever increasing workload, anything I can do to speed my workflow is essential in keeping my commitments, not to mention my sanity.

The GTD method, and applications patterned after that method, have taught me a lot about managing tasks to be more efficient, and have helped me keep up with the frenetic pace of business life.

Nozbe and Omni applications in particular, have played a significant role in my development, so first I’d like to say thanks to Michael Sliwinski (Nozbe) and Ken Case (Omni), for their significant contributions to this industry and my personal growth.

Having refined task management over the past few years for myself, I have turned my efforts toward helping my project teams to organize their efforts a bit more. I have learned to do that by providing timely meeting notes that identify specific task assignments and due dates, and creating project plans to provide a bird’s eye view to keep our entire team on schedule.

I know that some task management applications (notably Nozbe) can be used in a shared environment, but that hasn’t worked for me in the past, due to the large number of disparate team members I work with on a daily basis, and their need to focus on their project tasks and “keeping the lights on”, while leaving the project and task management efforts to me.

While I have used OmniOutliner for the past two years for all of my note taking, I have, over time, added it as my primary tool to conduct research, gather information for estimates, document project requirements, create project plans, and record testing results.

The reasons I have expanded its use beyond simple note taking are two fold:

  1. Using OmniOutliner is fast, really fast.
  2. OmniOutliner Pro allows outlines to be saved as templates for reuse.

I’ve used Word and Excel for many of these tasks in the past, and often get slowed by inserting and reorganizing rows, indenting and outdenting, dealing with the outline formats, etc. With OmniOutliner all these formatting tasks fade into the background after you learn a few keystrokes to do all of those things. This allows me to focus my attention and energy on the content instead of the tool.

Templates

Having the ability to open a new outline based on a template that is used on a frequent basis, saves a great deal of time. This is important to me as I run (sometimes literally) from meeting to meeting during the day. I have OmniOutliner running on my MacBook Pro, and simply open up a new outline based on the appropriate template, as each meeting is started.

Selecting a Template
Selecting a Template

Examples

The best way to demonstrate how I use OmniOutliner is to show you some of the templates I have created for my work. Perhaps this will initiate some thoughts on how you might put this extraordinary tool to good use to improve your own productivity, and perhaps even those with whom you collaborate.

Meeting Notes template ready to use
Meeting Notes template ready to use

Completed Meeting Notes
Completed Meeting Notes

Completed Project Plan
Completed Project Plan

Completed Project Research
Completed Project Research

Testing Results
Testing Notes Template

That’s all for now, and thanks for reading, John.

~New Faces of Nozbe – Part Duo

In March I blogged about the brand new platforms for NOZBE, including the new Mac OS X app. Well, back then it was more of a Mac application (available as a download outside the app store).

The exciting news for this month is that the new Nozbe app for OS X has been accepted and is now officially available from the app store.

Get all the exciting details and enter to win a free Nozbe account for a year. Thanks for reading, John.

~The New Faces of Nozbe

Finally, the last major limitation of Nozbe has been overcome . . .two faces

I’ve long held that Nozbe is the premier general purpose task management system, and much of the reason is that it has always been an easy to learn and use web-based application, available to both Windows and Mac users alike.  As such, if you’re a Windows user at work, but prefer OS X at home, Nozbe has you covered.

But its strength in this area always had one weakness . . . what to do if you don’t have an Internet connection. For that reason, many users  preferred a real client application, so that they could work in their “trusted system” whether or not they were online.

The problem is that most GTD applications were written for one or the other, but not both major OS’s.  A prime example is the industrial strength OmniFocus application which is available only for the Mac, leaving Windows users without any non-mobile options (though they do have very good iPhone and iPad apps).

Today, Nozbe changed all that when they announced the release of two new client applications, one for  Windows and the other for Mac OS X.

These two new apps join their tried and true web-based application, as well as the iPad, iPhone and Android apps users of those platforms have come to rely on for mobility.  This makes Nozbe one of the very first, true multi-platform GTD applications.

What they did right . . .

How about a Windows app that looks and works exactly like its Mac counterpart.  This is extremely rare – in fact I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a Windows and Mac app that are exactly alike.  Even browsers like Internet Explorer look  quite different in Windows and OS X.

So here’s what the Windows version looks like . . . and other than title bar and menu, this is also what the Mac version looks like.

Viewing project task list in Nozbe for Windows.
Nozbe for Windows and Mac look just alike with the exception of the title bar.

Both versions have an easy to use mouse driven interface, that includes lots of new features.

What could improve . . .

Part of the simplicity, and I suspect similarity of these apps, is that they don’t take advantage of the keyboard, make virtually no use of the menu in either OS, have no right-click context menus, and don’t appear to interact with their respective operating systems to any degree.  Having said that, the Mac app does make use of one of the newest features of OS 10.7, Lion’s full screen mode.

If you’d like more details, be sure to check out the FREE screencast and download links for each of the new applications.  After using the link to reach the home page, click on the “Nozbe GTD Blog” link at the bottom of the page.

Thanks for reading ~ John.