Print? Scan? Copy? Fax? It’s covered!


Recently I had an oppor­tun­ity to put one of the new Broth­er multi-func­tion print­er devices through it’s paces, and over­all, I liked what I saw.

Priced as an entry level unit, the Broth­er MFC-J615W (that’s a mouth­ful, why can’t they just use names) is a sol­id home and light-duty small busi­ness doc­u­ment centre.

The first thing that impressed me was the pack­aging — no styro­foam. Now I know that’s minor, but I appre­ci­ate it when com­pan­ies make the effort to design their pack­aging with the envir­on­ment­al impact in mind.

Judge me by my size, do you.
This is a fairly small unit, and very well designed. Once it’s set up and ready to use, the unit is smal­ler than most toast­er ovens. Unlike my cur­rent print­er, which when in print mode has a huge paper ream sup­port rising out of the back and anoth­er fin­ish­er sup­port out the front, the Broth­er has an intern­al paper tray and feed sys­tem that keeps the foot­print small — great for small home-office situ­ations.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Print? Scan? Copy? Fax? It’s covered!”

I read the news today (oh boy)

If you’ve been without power and not heard the news today, The Beatles music lib­rary is now avail­able from Apple’s iTunes store for down­load.


No, I’m not overly enthused by this, as I already own digit­al cop­ies of all the Beatles music that I’m inter­ested in. I bought them on CD years ago, and have since copied the music to my vari­ous .mp3 play­er devices. This is leg­al in Canada.

I’m not sure what addi­tion­al value there is in then in the music being avail­able through iTunes, oth­er than to make it easi­er to buy songs or albums con­veni­ently if you sud­denly real­ize you’ve got the Blue and Red albums, but are miss­ing the White.

Meh. It’s news, but it’s not the big news it’s being made out to be.

Saving time with Text Replacement utilities

I write a lot. Blog posts, pro­pos­als, reports, reviews, email…you get the pic­ture. Often times I end up cre­at­ing new doc­u­ments that share sim­il­ar format or con­tent, and I cut-and-paste from older docs into new­er ones. But I’m lazy, and always look­ing for easi­er ways to get the job done…

I’m Lazy
Over the past year I’ve been slowly learn­ing how to save time and key­strokes by using text expan­sion soft­ware. In the old days we called them Macro keys.

Basic­ally, what you do is cre­ate a data­base of com­monly typed words, phrases or lay­outs and assign unique key trig­gers to each snip­pet of text. For example, I usu­ally sign my email thusly:

Brad Gri­er

Brad Gri­er Con­sult­ing
Life­style Tech­no­logy & Com­munity Media

Lots of char­ac­ters and format­ting, no?  Here’s the cool thing, all I typed to get that email sig­na­ture was ‘.mysig’ (minus the single quotes). The soft­ware did the rest.

Anoth­er example? Sure!
Ok, the bright ones amongst you will be email­ing me to say that most com­mon email pro­grams have a place for a sig­na­ture, and it’s auto­mated whenev­er you com­pose a new email. True. Save you’re email. But this was just one example. Here’s anoth­er.

Let’s say you’re a web design­er, and you use com­mon CSS or HTML snip­pets. It’s a simple mat­ter to add this code to the data­base, and call it with a few key­strokes. This Lor­em Ipsum lay­out text block, for example:

Lor­em ipsum dol­or sit amet, con­sect­etur adip­is­cing elit. Nunc mat­tis arcu sed quam tin­cidunt et lobortis nunc volut­pat. Phasel­lus lacin­ia nulla quis lect­us molestie in com­modo maur­is blan­d­it. Nul­lam in ves­ti­bu­lum velit. Donec libero est, volut­pat non accum­san ac, rutrum vitae odio. Cur­abit­ur pre­tium maur­is non nisi ves­ti­bu­lum tin­cidunt. Aenean tri­stique quam sapi­en, vel dapibus ligula. Mae­cen­as com­modo faucibus pulvin­ar. Donec eleifend ante eget pur­us luc­tus ultrices. Nulla quis sem magna, eget feu­giat dui. Ves­ti­bu­lum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luc­tus et ultrices posuere cubil­ia Cur­ae; Etiam sodales enim in dui ultrices in dapibus ligula porta. Aenean adip­is­cing ipsum id massa luc­tus vel sus­cip­it metus ele­mentum. Morbi ven­enatis maur­is eget metus tin­cidunt luc­tus eget quis elit. Cras eget ligula quis diam phare­tra luc­tus vel ut tortor.

That was gen­er­ated by me typ­ing ‘.lor­em’ and hit­ting the Tab key. Much easi­er than past­ing it in from the .txt doc I keep in my design snip­pets dir­ect­ory.

As well, text replace­ment soft­ware can eas­ily auto­ma­gic­ally enter oth­er dynam­ic data such as the cur­rent date (.d) [ Thursday, Octo­ber 28, 2010  ] or time (.t) [ 10:09 PM ] in a bunch of formats. You get the idea.

The Soft­ware
On win­dows, I’d recom­mend the free Tex­ter pro­gram, cre­ated by Life­Hack­er edit­or Adam Pash. And look­ie here, there’s a video:

For iPhone and iPad, I use Tex­tEx­pander Touch. Same fea­tures, with a few extra bells and whistles such as applic­a­tion integ­ra­tion.

For OSX, I don’t have one. I don’t do any writ­ing on our Mac, it’s my wife’s com­puter :smileyhappy: But Tex­tEx­pander Touch has a coun­ter­part (called Tex­tEx­pander, of course) that runs on OSX and oth­ers con­sider it the ‘bench­mark’ for Mac text expan­sion and script­ing tools.

texter.jpgSav­ing time?
One oth­er thing, Tex­ter actu­ally tracks the key­strokes you’ve saved, and provides this fun little report show­ing how much time you’ve saved using it, and provides a handy print­able chart of all your replace­ment mac­ros.

Hello coders and writers, do you use a text replace­ment applic­a­tion? If so, weigh in on your app-of-choice, or per­haps a favour­ite replace­ment macro you use often.

This post of is one of many I pub­lish weekly at the Future Shop Techb­log. Read more of my stuff here.

Best Skins Ever — Perhaps

I’m a bit prissy when it comes to my dis­play screens on my mobile devices and tech­no­logy. I like put­ting screen scratch pro­tect­ors on them. To pro­tect them. To give me the peace-of-mind that they’ll sur­vive the harsh treat­ment they get in my vari­ous bags and packs, and that the pro­tect­or, not the screen, will absorb any harsh treat­ment.

I’ve done this with my digit­al cam­er­as, my hand­held GPS units, my PDAs, and now my iPad.

While there are a num­ber of dif­fer­ent screen pro­tect­or and skin vendors, for my Apple devices, I’ve chosen skins from Best Skins Ever (yes, that really is their name).
Con­tin­ue read­ing “Best Skins Ever — Per­haps”

Dilemma: Offloading old tech

phonedump_250.jpgOk, so here’s the deal. You want a new com­puter, or iPad, or BluRay play­er or whatever. But your old one is still work­ing per­fectly fine. Yet, the fea­tures of your next tech­no­lo­gic­al acquis­i­tion are so good, so cool, that really, that new tech item will make your life much bet­ter.

Great, so you go out and get it, but what do you do with the old item?

And there’s the rub.

You’ve got the old tech, that still works and you’re com­fort­able with. And you’ve got your new tech that you’re learn­ing and works and is Jobs-gift-to-human­ity.

For me, there’s huge reluct­ance to get rid of the old stuff. Sure, it’s already been replaced by bet­ter stuff — but it still works! It can still do things. So here’s what I do:

1) Resell — this one is pretty obvi­ous, but takes a bit of work. List­ing on (com­pet­it­or) or Kijjiji requires set­ting up an account and man­aging the pro­cess. If you’ve done everything right, you’ve got a buy­er for your tech-stuff and you’re both happy.

Oth­er altern­at­ives that often work are pawn shops. If not, pro­ceed to step 2.

2) Regift — it’s entirely pos­sible you’ve got a very young neice or neph­ew that could use a ‘first’ com­puter. Once prop­erly refur­bished, your ‘gift’ could meet that need. Of course, you’ll be the first in line for hard­ware sup­port, but isn’t that what being sup­port­ive in a fam­ily is all about?

3) Repur­pose — Older com­puters still work well run­ning older oper­at­ing sys­tems. Giv­en your hard­ware won’t be your daily desktop box, nothing’s pre­vent­ing you from giv­ing it new life as a ded­ic­ated serv­er, a home secur­ity sys­tem, or a media centre box.

4) Recycle — this one is actu­ally my favour­ite. In Edmon­ton, we have loc­al Eco­St­a­tions that are set up to take our tech. As well, FutureShop has an amaz­ing Elec­tron­ics Take-Back pro­gram in Alberta and Ontario. What bet­ter way to keep your older tech out of the land­fill and ensure it (or its com­pon­ent mater­i­al) is being put back to work.

Obvi­ously, this won’t work for every situ­ation. For example, I’ve got a few old cell phones and  PDAs gath­er­ing dust in my closet. I’ve not figured out nor taken time to determ­ine the best ‘end’ for them, yet. Your mileage may vary…in fact, I hope it does! And I hope you share your best ‘tech recycle story below…because frankly, I could use a bit of help 🙂

This post of is one of many I pub­lish weekly at the Future Shop Techb­log. Read more of my stuff here.

Remote control your computer from your iPad

Some say that the iPad is a magic­al device. I won’t go that far, but it is kinda cool, though it does have its short­com­ings — espe­cially when you com­pare it to a desktop or laptop com­puter. There are just many things done much bet­ter on a com­puter than on an iPad, which is why it’s neat that there’s com­puter remote con­trol soft­ware for the iPad.

One of the easi­est I’ve found to use is Log­MeIn Igni­tion. Part of the Log­MeIn fam­ily, Igni­tion lives on your iPad (or iPhone, or iPod Touch, or Android) and allows you to con­trol any com­puter you’ve registered with the Log­MeIn ser­vice.

Here’s how the pro­cess works:
1. Get a free Log­MeIn account
2. Install Log­MeIn Free cli­ent soft­ware on every PC/Mac you want to con­trol
3. Register those com­puters with your Log­MeIn account inform­a­tion

If you stop here, you now have the abil­ity to con­trol any of your registered com­puters from any oth­er registered com­puter (that’s run­ning the cli­ent soft­ware), or through the Log­MeIn web inter­face (which is very slick!).

4. Install the LogMeIn:Ignition cli­ent on your iPhone/iPod Touch or iPad

And you’re done. You can now con­trol any of your com­puters via your iPad.


Con­tin­ue read­ing “Remote con­trol your com­puter from your iPad”

Tablets will be the story this holiday season

The iPad has been out for a bit now, and it’s the tab­let that all the oth­ers will be com­pared against as they jockey for pos­i­tion going into the hol­i­day sea­son.

But over­all, I think this is the year that tab­lets finally start to make some head­way into the mar­ket­place; a mar­ket­place already crowded with Desktops, Laptops, Net­books and Data Phones.

So, why con­sider a tab­let? Here’s a few things to think about.

Tab­lets won’t replace your main com­puter, nor will they replace your laptop. They’re not power­ful enough to do a lot of the work those com­puters do. But, they will fill in the middleground between your smart­phone and your com­puter, simply because they are smal­ler, yet not too small, and offer a great inter­act­ive exper­i­ence.

Tab­lets are  great to bring to meet­ings, light-weight and yet func­tion­al enough that look­ing up cal­en­dar con­flicts or tak­ing simple notes is a very simple pro­cess — and the tab­let is much less obvi­ous than a laptop when sit­ting around the board­room table.

Oh, and you smart­phone jockey’s out there, yes, you can do all that stuff on your hand­held Android/BlackBerry/iPhone, but the screen size is kinda lim­it­ing when you want/need to share the view.

Using some cloud com­put­ing applic­a­tions such as Drop­Box, any notes you cre­ate on your tab­let are instantly stored in the cloud account and access­ible to your oth­er com­puters.

And, if you’re in that meet­ing and need to ref­er­ence some­thing stored on your desktop, you can use desktop con­trol soft­ware such as Log­MeIn Igni­tion (on the iPad / iPhone / Touch) or a VNC cli­ent writ­ten for your tab­let. A couple of quick touch­pad strokes and you’re work­ing on your desktop com­puter as if you were sit­ting in front of it.

Ok, those are the big reas­ons that a tab­let wins for me. And here’s a few more that are really just icing on the cake:

  • Inher­ently port­able — smal­ler form factor makes it easi­er to take every­where. My iPad is with me daily, where­as my laptop or net­book only came out when I thought I might need it
  • Cas­u­al usage — since it’s with me I use it more to jot down notes, surf, etc dur­ing oth­er­wise dead time
  • Tact­ile, friendly, enga­ging — a tab­let seems less impos­ing than a full-up laptop. People like to share work on a tab­let, it’s easy to hand around a meet­ing and soli­cit feed­back.
  • Port­able media — tab­lets are great for watch­ing movies or videos on the bus or wherever because they’re smal­ler and sleeker — no huge key­board to haul around in addi­tion to the screen.

So, in my humble opin­ion, yes, the tab­let will make some ser­i­ous inroads this hol­i­day sea­son, espe­cially if the price can stay low, the hard­ware deliv­ers, and the soft­ware is developed to live in this new middleground.

So that’s why a tab­let appeals to me, how ‘bout you? Are you in or out when it comes to con­sid­er­ing a tab­let in the near future?

This post of is one of many I pub­lish weekly at the Future Shop Techb­log. Read more of my stuff here.