About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

October 28, 2014


I went through almost my entire college career without taking notes.  I found that when I took notes I was busy writing and missed what I really needed to get from the lecture.  I was/am not good at shorthand; neither the genuine one nor my own made up version.

Lo-and-behold, technology triumphs again!  This creative technology started out in mid-2000s and after an iteration or two became known as, "Livescribe."  

Basically, you have a Livescribe pen and special paper.  The pen basically contains an ink cartridge and a laser camera in the tip.  It also has a cap, on/off switch, small screen, USB port for charging and syncing data, microphone, speaker and an audio jack.  Costs vary depending on where you get them.  Check out for information on the current three versions.  Each one does a little something different. 

You tap a button on the paper labeled Record with the pen, hear a beep and start writing notes.  When you are done, tap the Stop label.

Livescribe Pen and NotebookLook at the notes you just took and they look, well like notes.  However, the paper has almost imperceptible dots on it.  Now tap at the beginning of the notes and the pen will play the audio portion of what it recorded in your written text.  If you were to number five items and tap on number four, the speech you were listening to when you wrote "4." will play.  A friend of mine uses his for illustrating sophisticated Network Diagrams.  When he goes back in his notebook and taps on one line in the diagram, it plays back what was being said at that time so he is reminded of every component.  Amazing! 

I heard of these before and thought it was a silly gimmick and a waste.  When my friend Nick pulled his out at a meeting we recently attended and started using it I was e-awestruck.  He tapped a note he had taken a year ago at the previous year’s seminar and I could hear what it was all about.

All of the audio and written information is stored in the pen.  Once you are done with your note taking you can attach (depending on the version of pen you have) the pen to your computer and transfer the information there.  It creates a PDF file of the information.  Later you can open the file with the free Adobe Reader and read the notes.

But that is not all.  The recording is also in the PDF file.  Simply click on a line with your mouse like you did with the pen on paper. The audio recording will play back on your computer speakers.  It is much clearer on the computer than the pen.  Also good in the event of a lost paper notebook.

Simply explained, the laser camera in the pen tip records what is written on the paper using the small dots to coordinate its position.  The camera records everything that goes on the paper.  The audio is obtained in the tiny microphone which synchronizes with the text.  All of this data is stored in the pen’s memory.

It does a lot more, search for Livescribe online and see the demos.  I think I will make a note about that!

August 27, 2013

Google Keep

Welcome back to another week of Double Click!  I would like to remind you to shoot me an email with your tech/computer questions when you run into them.  I am always glad to hear from you guys any time. 

If you read the column regularly you will know that I have a love/hate relationship with Google.  I love many of their products but I hate it when they have a really good one that they decide to remove from their cadre of apps.

So let me share a little love and hope that Google does not decide to kill it in the next couple of years.  The app/site is called, "Google Keep" and it works really well.  Google even added a very good feature to it this week, so it will be around for a while…well, I guess.

It is presently available for all Android devices.  Sorry iPhoners, it is not an app yet; however, it is available as a website for one and all. 

imageBasically, Google Keep is a note taker/keeper.  I know you have been doing one thing with your phone/tablet (device from here on out) and think of something you need to get to later.  Yes, you could email yourself, write it on a piece of paper or do it the ancient way…remember it.  But with Keep (yes, I shortened that one too) you open the app with a click and add your note.

There are similar apps out there but they are not as simple to use or available everywhere electronically.  Evernote is one of the others I have used.

You can type in a note, create a list, add a photo with or without notes and even leave an audio message.  The speech to text transformation is smooth and fairly accurate but not perfect.  For instance, with audio I recorded the previous sentence and it was all correct, except for "smooth and" which was changed to "moving."

All of your "notes" are added to your Google Drive so you can log into, "" and see your notes there.  Then you may edit, delete or create new ones online.  In just a few seconds they will be available on your device too. 

Tablet ScreenNow let’s discuss the recently added feature. It can mark an existing or new note to alert me at a specific time.  Yeah, neat but not extraordinary.  However, I can also set it to alert me at a specific location, if I have a data or Wi-Fi connection at that time.  For instance, I set an alert the other day to notify me to write a column about, "Google Keep" the next time I went to my favorite coffee shop.  When I arrived here this morning, ding-ding, I received the reminder to write the article.  I don’t even need a brain anymore.  Hmm. 

Think about this, since you can create lists in Keep, how about your grocery list?  Set it to alert you when you get to the grocery store.  When you arrive at the store, there it is, ready to read from your phone or tablet.

Keep in mind this new feature may not be available to you right this second since they are adding this through the end of the month.  So make sure you do your updates.

Yes, I know the brain and paper are probably just as easy but not as cool…

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