Archive for August, 2012

Microsoft OneNote for iPhone review

August 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Onenote is great… On the desktop. The mobile app is a “bare minimum” but could be so much more.

I use Treepad, have tried Evernote, and looked at a thousand other apps. Onenote seems to be doing it for me, and the desktop app supports basic hierarchical structures, inline graphics and RTF, attachments, etc. It even recognises text in images, like Evernote. The fact other MS Office users will have it, makes sharing easier, compared to trying to get them to install/use/pay another app.

What impresses me with the mobile app is the sync – I took a photo of an item, and literally watched it pop up on the desktop app inside the page I was looking at. It also stores everything offline in the phone.

What doesn’t impress me – unlike the desktop app, the inability to create new groups or folders. Only basic text and photos – no formatting, no drawings (!?), no annotations. And bizarrely, you can’t even highlight/select more than one line!?!!

I sincerely hope MS are developing v2.0, because they have a product that is, well, productive! They just need to patch the gaps – like this basic mobile app.


Installing VMWare ESXi 5.0 / Hypervisor on a HP Proliant N40 MicroServer

August 24, 2012 1 comment

OK, so I’ve just taken delivery of a microserver, a 2TB HDD, and 8GB RAM. Not completely sure what I want to do with it first, so I decided to install ESXi, and then I can get it to do everything 🙂

Since it’s not remotely manageable, and it only has VGA out, I’ve not included screenshots. But you’ve found this post because you were googling the exact same thing, not because you follow this blog avidly, so hopefully you’ll forgive aesthetics.

1. Download ESXi from VMware

The basic version is free, but can only be managed by a thick client. Fine. You can download it here.

2. Install ESXi to a bootable USB to use in the MicroServer

You’ve just downloaded a VMWare ISO – CD image. My Microserver doesn’t have a CD drive. Not to worry – I built a bootable USB flash drive using the instructions here. In case those are no longer available – you basically download UNetbootin (I used Windows version), run it, give it the ISO and the USB drive letter, and away it goes.

BUT – I don’t like installing apps willy-nilly on my laptop, even nice light ones like UNetbootin. So I ran it within VMWare Workstation 7 on my Win7 x64 laptop – reading from a copy of the ISO file inside the VM (not mounted as a virtual CD drive), and writing to the flash USB via the virtual USB controller. Guess what – it worked.

3. Put the USB inside the Microserver, and fire it up

The N40 has an internal USB slot, which is great for bootable flash drives. Opened the door, slotted it in, and booted. It automatically prioritised that USB, booted, loaded the installer into RAM, and then ran the installer.

Note the USB is not a live USB to start with – you can’t run ESXi from it straight away. You have to run the Installer, and then install over the very USB you just loaded it from. Don’t worry, it works. At this point, it asks for a root password.

4. Boot and configure ESXi server

At this point, it reboots, then boots off the USB again, and this time enters ESXi proper. You can now make configs such as IP address, My network has DHCP, so it automatically picked up an IP.

5. Install the client on your laptop

Windows EXE. It was on the page under the ESXi download. Or, if you missed that, it’s also on the ESXi server – browse to its IP in a web browser, and download the installers. Job done.

6. Start playing with your new VMWare infrastructure

It’s that easy. Since I intend to test the performance with various apps before ordering more drives, I’m happy to leave the hypervisor on the bootable USB. If/when I upgrade or reconfigure, I hope I can just whip the USB out, re-write it, put it back in, and keep working with the same drives and VMs as before.

Categories: Uncategorized

RJays Motorbike covers deteriorate

August 12, 2012 Leave a comment

This is what happens after a couple of years in the Australian sun and rain. The seam trim is coming off, and the entire surface has degraded and seems like it’ll disintegrate soon.

Otherwise – it’s been a good cover; particularly that I can throw it on the Blackbird as soon as I get back, without it melting on the pipes.



Categories: Motorbiking

Itinerary Planning Apps Review

August 9, 2012 Leave a comment

[This post was posted after the trip, for various reasons]

OK. We’re going sailing in 2 weeks’ time. We’re currently coordinating flights, cars, hotels, etc…. I have a shared Google doc where I post URLs and links to interesting sites and do price comparisons. And so I decided to check for an app that does this for us.

Right now, I’m checking out 3 (found via a quick google for “alternatives to plannr”):





So – I’m going to plan the itinerary with all three, and see how I go.



OK – first problem:

Plannr only supports a shortlist of European destinations. Evidently they have to manually focus on certain places for affiliated sources/partners, and so that’s no use for my sailing holiday in Australia. Plannr – dumped.

Nonetheless, I quickly checked out using it for San Francisco. The URL gives a clue as to how it works:

Basically, it’s pre-selected attractions and locations, based on pre-defined options. You can re-order, add and remove. If your starting point is “let’s see <name popular city here>”, and have little idea what you want to see, then it seems to be an excellent way to get a starting point – and the UI is verrry nice.

However. I like to think for myself, am off the beaten track, and so Plannr is out.



Tripwiser is doing a better job in terms of location support; anything in Google, it seems:



OK, let’s add our sailing trip. Oh… no….


Hmm. Nice Web 1.0 UI. Must have been in Beta a long time!

Let’s keep going, anyway…. Awww…..


So, Tripwiser can only handle major cities. Anything off the beaten track is unavailable. #fail!




Clicking the ‘Add to Duffel’ bookmark link provided, gives a nice UI that parses out key data


And there we go. I also tried creating a new item within Duffel itself, with just the URL, but that bombed (the empty note, right)


I just noticed Duffle defaults to public trip sharing. Not cool.


Adding a new activity to Duffel is as simple as clicking the bookmark. Sailing, added. Switch to my Duffel board, and… hang on, where is it??


OK – there it is. Interesting automatic choice of picture!

OK – let’s drop that into the calendar


How do I span the activity across days… Oh, I don’t’…

OK, let’s turn it into transportation as well…. Wow. Back to text entry – where are the dropdowns and calendars?



Hmm… I can’t span the transport over more than a day as well? And no times? No order? This is not going well.




OK. How do I update the location in Duffel?


Oh… I can’t, at least, not from the mini map. I guess I have to open Google maps elsewhere…


So… Duffel does at least allow non-city locations, and generally has a good structure: you browse around, adding web pages to your pinboard as you go, and then drop them into the relevant days. Hence, it’s good for brainstorming, but then poor at turning that into the detailed structure that you may need when actually trying to plan how to stay at A, do B, C, D, see E and F, travel to G, and still make your scheduled flight at H.

And so.. is there nothing that will help us plan our trip?


Well…… there is one…





Tripit isn’t great for brainstorming holidays, as it’s intended for very structured data from flight booking emails; the very structure that makes it great for tracking precise dates, times, and places, makes it a lot of work to ‘throw’ ideas into it.

However – at least it does handle times, dates, and pretty much anything you bother to enter into it, which is handy when you actually have to plan.

It still can’t handle multi-day activities. But we can lodge the sailing as a cruise, which is multiday


TripIt, of course, syncs directly into our shared calendar as an .ICS file subscription, so you can see all the entries in your iPhone without having to do anything else (something none of these other apps will do).


In the end, we put our major events: accommodation, flights, major trips – in TripIt, and ended up using Duffel to ‘throw’ other ideas into a day-by-day format. Duffel definitely has potential – and so we chose to use it in substitution to our usual “put it all in an email” or “copy and paste all the links into a shared Google doc” – but it remains to be seen whether they’ll continue developing it to the point where it’s really streamlined for its purpose.


Categories: Uncategorized

This is how every shop, bar, cafe, and conference presenter can build a solid customer feedback system in ten minutes

August 2, 2012 Leave a comment

This is so simple, it’s silly.

How often do you walk out of a cafe, thinking that it was great… except the coffee was burnt, or the chicken was overcooked, or it was too long a wait so you gave up. You liked the place, and want to offer a little honest and helpful feedback, but they have no means to do so, and you didn’t want to disturb the waiter….

Or you’re sat at a seminar. You want to give the speaker some feedback. He probably wants to get that feedback. But again – you don’t want to disturb them; you’re in a rush; you really wanted to tell them the content was great, or their style was terrible, or the audio was bad, or just apologise for snoring at the back…

There are so many approaches to this, but most are too inconvenient for the customer to bother with them: feedback forms, postcards, push-button boxes next to the cashier, web URLs.

So – how can we connect the consumer to the provider- conveniently, easily, and, if necessary, assured to be anonymously, by all parties. And how can we tailor, structure, and organise that feedback?

This approach takes around 10 minutes, and has all the advantages of being:

  • Free for ever
  • A standard, universally accepted platform, using existing accounts
  • Universally compatible with many different platforms (laptops, tablets, iPhones, etc)
  • Accepted to be anonymous by all parties
  • Feeding directly into spreadsheet tools, live reports and dashboards

All this in only 3 steps:

  1. Google Forms
  2. Google URL Shortener
  3. QR Codes

It’s like this:


1. Create your Google Form

Go to Google Docs, click Create, and click Form.

From there, create the questionnaire you want. Add as many items as you think a respondent will put up with.


2. Create a link

Right-click the published form link at the bottom, copy it, then paste it into the Google URL shorter at


3. Create the QR Code

Copy the resulting short URL, and paste it into a QR code generator, such as the one at



Copy and paste that image into the last slide of your presentation, or print it and post it by the door in your cafe.



Job done. Now your audience or customers can scan the code on their smartphone, and go straight to the questionnaire.



And what do you get out of it?

Well, Google automatically collate the responses for you, and you can view the results directly in Google Sheet, where you can also show summary statistics, or feed them straight into other sheets and formula.



That’s good enough… but how many people went to the link, but didn’t bother with the form? Well.. to an extent, you can get that too, using the tracker stats that provide. To get to these, copy/paste the URL into your address bar, with a ‘+’ at the end.




So – that took 10 minutes to set up, and it’ll be as supported, compatible, accepted as any other service that Google provide.

Categories: Uncategorized