10 Awesome Dropbox Tricks (plus one more for the major geeks)

If you’re not already familiar with Dropbox, read about it here. It’s a little program that helps you not ever have to worry about losing your most important files or keeping them synced between multiple computers, a flash drive, and/or your phone.

It’s so easy and intuitive to use that you can just set it up and forget about it. So, a lot of people do. But if you really want to unleash the power of Dropbox, I recommend checking out this post on Unclutterer.

And…as a bonus, here’s a super geeky trick I came up with to text commands to your computer and have it do pretty much anything. There’s a tiny bit of programming involved, but the return on investment is amazing. It’s allowed me to essentially create my own app store for my old flip phone – for free.

Enjoy and let me know in the comments if you have any Dropbox tricks that I’ve missed!


Fractal Writing

I have a confession to make. In my free time, I’ve been writing a terrible, terrible sci-fi novel. And in so doing, I ran into a problem. I had multiple timelines going, each with multiple creative branches I wanted to explore – and I didn’t see any free tools that really helped me organize and visualize this creative mess.

So I spoke with my writing partner about this problem and out of that conversation, FractalWriting.org was born. It’s a collaborative writing tool that will hopefully help writers do just that – organize and explore the insanely complex products of their collective creativity.

FractalWriting.org

If you write – even as a hobby – please check it out . It’s free and just opened up to its first big round of public testing. It’s extremely bare bones right now, not very pretty, and may even have some bugs. But that also means that this is the best time to use your unique insight to shape its future. There’s even a big, green feedback button on every page for you to do just that. Go head. Try it out. I’ll be listening.


June Update

It’s been a couple months since the big move and Power On has had a lot going on. Here are some highlights:

Fun at the NEO Center

Yes, perhaps too much fun at times. I mean, we do have a slide. But I also get to work side-by-side with some of the most talented and passionate entrepreneurs I’ve met, and that high is often better than coffee for my productivity.

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Computers for Kids is going strong!

We’ve been making another big push to get computers out to families that need it, but we’re running out of hardware. If you have an old computer you’d like to donate, please give me a call at 517-798-6098. Monitors are also extremely welcome.

Edubuntu

Classes & Windows 8

We continue to do our senior classes at the Greer Community Learning Center, among others, and everyone seems to want to learn more about Windows 8 these days. Some people love it, some hate it, but most want their Start Menu back. It definitely is a considerable change, so if you’re using 7 and wondering if an upgrade is worth it, I’d stick to what you have – for now.

Geek Scouts

Geek Scouts is up an running and we’re having a blast. Our scouts are currently working on programming their first Android apps and we’ll soon be paying a visit to LCC’s DICAST center to do some 3D modeling and 3D printing. I’m thinking of printing something like this, which can only be made with a 3D printer. Miraculously though, we still have spots open, so apply now if you are or know a high schooler that might be interested.

#edcampLansing

For those who may not be familiar, an edcamp is a radical unconference for educators, where teachers get together to exchange problems – and more importantly – solutions, in a format unlike any other education conference. I’ve been an organizer for Michigan’s first edcamp in Detroit since its inception, but now we’re teaming up with TechSmith to bring edcamp home. Learn more at edcamplansing.org.


The Last Day at 114 West Allegan Street

Today was Power On’s last day open downtown. I’m definitely going to miss it, but growth requires change. For the rest of March, I’ll be transitioning over to the new space at 934 Clark Street. That also includes some significant (and exciting!) changes to the website over the next few weeks.

Finally, I’d also like to reiterate that while the address is changing, our phone number, website, and email address are all remaining the same. And while I’ll be much more mobile than I’ve been able to previously be, which will be a blessing to many customers, that also means if you’d like to meet with me, your best bet is to make an appointment, because I won’t be keeping regular hours anymore.

I hope to see you soon at Power On’s new home!


Power On is Moving and Shifting Focus

Dear Customers and Friends,

We are happy to announce that Power On will soon be relocating to the NEO Center at 934 Clark St., Lansing.

This move will allow Power On to shift its services:

  • More web development, with website design and setup starting at $200. There’s also a top secret education web app being developed right now that you can look forward to hearing more about in the coming months.
  • More classes and other educational programs, including Geek Scouts for high schoolers.
  • Tech repairs now by appointment only, so call ahead at 517-798-6098.
  • Personalized tech tutoring still available by appointment. Again, call ahead at 517-798-6098.
  • No new small business support contracts, but we will accept one-time setup or troubleshooting jobs.

Between now and April 1, we are accepting only a limited number of new jobs so that we can focus on the move. However, you can call us any time at 517-798-6098 to make an appointment or get emergency support.

We’ve really enjoyed our time downtown and would like to thank the community, our landlord and everyone else for the great help they’ve been in helping Power On prosper. We look forward eagerly to the next stage in Power On’s development and hope you do too!

Sincerely,

Chris Fritz, Founder/Operator & Tom Stewart, Founder/Partner
Power On, LLC


All You Need to Know About Tablets: Part 4 – What apps should I get for my tablet?

There are a ton of apps for both iOS and Android, but these two lists will give you the carefully curated cream of the crop:

And that’s it. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time to listen to some audiocasts on my favorite app for the iPad: Downcast.


All You Need to Know About Tablets: Part 3 – Where should I buy my tablet and what accessories do I need?

Where should I buy my tablet? Should I go with new or used/refurbished?

Good questions! My answer will be simple. Follow the link to the device you want to buy:

All of those take you to the official website for each device, where you can buy online. That’ll get you a new device, which I recommend.

The problem with used is that even if the device looks brand new, that battery has already been worn out some and as I mentioned in Part 2, would be very difficult to replace. You don’t want to use the tablet for a year, then have to plug it in all the time because it’s now only giving you a few hours on full battery.

The problem with refurbished is that some vendors use it to mean used, broken, then fixed. So then you have something that’s not only used, but then had major surgery done on it. And just like with a human surgery, things can go wrong. The iPads in particular are very difficult to repair. A small tear, almost unnoticeable tear in a cable could drastically reducing wi-fi performance or touchscreen responsiveness.

Should I get a case? What about a screen protector?

While I’ve seen a lot of cracked screens, I’ve yet to see a single scratched iPad or Nexus screen. They all use very effective, scratch-resistant glass, so that I can write my name with scissors on my iPad screen and it doesn’t leave a mark. Don’t believe me? Come in to Power On with your keys and coins and I’ll give you a demo screen to test this with.

The moral of the story: don’t waste money on a screen protector. It’s easier to scratch the rest of the tablet than the screen and a plastic sheet won’t keep it from shattering if you drop it.

But what about cases? While portfolio cases and Apple’s “smart cover” are very popular, they don’t offer the best protection. And let’s face it – this is a portable device and some day, you’re going to drop it or it’ll get knocked off a table. Here are my suggestions:

If you have typical needs, the Seidio Active cases are the best I’ve seen. They look good, feel good, keep your buttons and ports very accessible, offer great protection against drops and while traveling, and act as a flexible stand so that you can work at any angle. Check out this video for more. Unfortunately, they do not yet have cases for the iPad Mini or Nexus 10, but those both just came out, so give it time. The wait will be worth it.

What about apps?

Hold on there. Let’s wait until you actually get the tablet before worrying about that. Part 4 (coming soon) will tell you about some of the best, free and paid apps available.


All You Need to Know About Tablets: Part 2 – Which tablet should I buy?

Which tablets are the best?

There are only two lines of tablets you should consider: the iPad and the Nexus. Short and sweet. Both are great choices. The Nexus tablets are cheaper, more powerful, easier to repair, and more customizable, while the iPad has more tablet-specific apps available – which is a pretty big plus. Some will say you’d be crazy not to buy a Nexus, while others insist the iPad still offers the better experience. I recommend reading both points of view and deciding for yourself.

Should I get a big one or a small one?

So now we’re narrowed down to four options: either the iPad 4 or iPad mini – or the Nexus 10 or Nexus 7. How do you make up your mind?

The obvious difference is the price. The smaller one will let you save you $150 for the iPad and $200 for the Nexus. If you can’t afford to spend the extra money, your decision is made for you. But what if you don’t mind spending the extra money if suit your needs better?

Well, then it comes down to a personal choice. I prefer a larger screen while my wife’s happier with something lighter, more the size of a book. Think about how you’ll use your tablet. Something else to consider is that while both the iPad and Nexus have roughly 7-inch and roughly 10-inch models, each brand has a different shape and feel. I suggest getting your hands on whichever models you’re still considering at this point (either at a store or from a friend) and getting a feel for them yourself.

Do I need a 3G/4G plan or can I get by on Wi-Fi?

Are you going to need Internet access when you’re not near a wireless network? For me, I have Internet access at home, at work, at other people’s houses, at many cafes and restaurants, which gives me Internet access 90% of the time. Is it worth paying around $30/month for that last 10%? Not for me, but it might be for you. Again, this is a personal decision.

What about space? Do I need 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB?

It depends on how you’ll be using your tablet. If you mostly want to browse the web, stream Internet radio, maybe install a few games, read some books, 8GB could work for you. On top of the previously mentioned, I download audiocasts and videocasts to my tablet, plus store other files that I want available while on-the-go. And for me, 16GB works well.

If you want to store music on your tablet, take a lot of pictures and video, load up a small library of books, or install hundreds of apps, you should probably consider 32GB or 64GB. Just remember that it would be extremely difficult to upgrade the space once you make your purchase, so if you’re on the edge, go for the next version up.

What color should I buy?

Are you serious? It doesn’t matter. Just pick one.

Great! Now where should I buy?

I’m leaving that for the next part of the series, where I’ll discuss not only where to buy your tablet, but also share my thoughts on cases, screen protectors, and new vs used/refurbished.


All You Need to Know About Tablets: Part 1 – Is a tablet right for me?

Many people buying tablets right now have never owned one before, so it can be difficult to imagine whether it’s the right choice for you. Would it replace your laptop? Would typing be a problem? Would navigating websites work as well? What are the downsides?

Well, for some of this, you’ll just have to go into a store and play with a device first-hand. But here are 5 possible cons and then 5 pros, to help you make your decision.

DON’T buy a tablet, if you want to…

  • …type on a big, real keyboard. The external keyboards for tablets are either integrated into a case, so no bigger than the tablet itself, or a completely separate piece of hardware that’s actually longer than your tablet – and another piece of technology you have to carry around and worry about crushing in your bag.
  • …use programs like Microsoft Office, Picasa, or Spotify Free. I’ve never seen an alternative for a tablet that I’ve been impressed with. If there’s any program you find essential, do some quick Googling to see if you can find an app that does the same thing on a tablet.
  • …use the Internet without wi-fi (unless you want to pay for a data contract). You can get an “ethernet adapter” for Nexus tablets, but that’s one more thing you have to pay for and one more thing to carry around.
  • …do a lot of file editing or content creation. There are apps like Goodreader and ES File Explorer that make this easier, but organizing and editing most files on a tablet is surprisingly cumbersome and limited. You can read files and websites, watch videos, listen to music, but for any considerable creative work, a desktop or laptop will still be necessary.
  • …have more than one app open at a time. Unlike on a regular computer, you normally can’t look at two different programs side-by-side. For most work, this isn’t an issue – but it’s something to be aware of.

DO buy a tablet if you want…

  • …a more lean-back, rather than lean-forward, experience. Using a tablet just requires less energy than using a laptop and especially a desktop computer. It’s great for traveling or lounging around – not as great for getting most things done.
  • …you want a larger version of or even a replacement for your smart phone. Tablets run on the same technology that smart phones do, so have the same essential interface and can run all the same apps – and even more. You could even keep a “dumb” phone and put it on a cheaper, pre-paid plan, then buy a tablet with the money you save.
  • …to not worry about always being near an outlet. Tablets are made to be carried around all day and it’s very possible to go for days without having to plug in again, even if you watch videos on your tablet.
  • …access to one of the fastest growing (and most affordable) gaming markets. There are a lot of great games built for tablets (and especially for the iPad), with more on their way. If you enjoy playing casual games to unwind, a tablet works very well and most games cost just $1 to $10.
  • …to just touch a screen, zooming and swooshing around. Seriously, it’s fun! Not monkeys controlling robots fun, but delightful all the same.

So now let’s say you’re convinced, you do want a tablet. But which one? That’s what we’ll be exploring in Part 2: Which tablet should I buy?