Category Archives: lifehacks + cooltools

cool tools, productivity tips, lifehacks, technological innovations that make life more pleasant, especially those that lead towards greater autonomy, freedom, privacy and independence.

Scanning and organizing your files

This is a kind of product review and includes Amazon affiliate links (I’m not an affiliate of FileCenter.) You have been warned!

Below the fold, I describe how I use Lucion’s FileCenter program to automatically name my scans and sort them into separate files by name.

I’m a satisfied user of Lucion’s FileCenter software and have been for several years now. One of the things I like about it and the main reason I use it, I guess, is the ability to automatically name files that I’ve scanned, based on whatever criteria you choose. I have FileCenter name my file based on the location of the file. Continue reading Scanning and organizing your files


I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Password tips from LastPass

I’m a premium user of LastPass to manage my passwords across my devices. Today, I was alerted to a new LastPass feature – the username generator. I’d felt the need for random anonymous usernames since several years ago and had been using LastPass’s password generator to create usernames but it was a bit clunky, so i’m delighted to hear of this new function and will be using it from now on.

The latest blog post also alerted me to some other useful tips: use LastPass to fill-in credit card information and stop leaving my credit card information on shopping websites. This is not a new last pass function but the blog post has prompted me to take steps to remove my credit card information from my various shopping sites. I have no confidence that shopping sites are using hashes to properly secure my credit card information. They don’t need my entire credit card number; all they need for identification purposes are the last four digits. However I doubt that most of them do this.

Here’s another recent LastPass blog post:

Looking to protect your bank accounts? One of the most common security options is to send one-time codes to your phone. Every time you log in, a new code is texted to you. But what if someone steals your phone number, so they receive your codes instead? Today we’re going to chat about this threat and the steps you can take to protect yourself from these so-called “port-out scams.”

Read more here.


I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Passwords and passphrases – upgrade your password security

I recently upgraded my password security after reading an Intercept article about passphrases vs passwords.

The skinny: passphrases are better when it comes to something like a master password, or for locking or encrypting a local folder or drive, but for individual websites, random passwords generated by a password generator (such as LastPass) are quite good enough. The article I read said that a 5-word passphrase should be good enough, but apparently no longer. Now 6 is the minimum.

A more complete article can be found here: https://www.cloudwards.net/how-to-set-up-a-strong-password/

Diceware, the solution offered in many articles, including the ones above, seems like an easy-to-implement, analog way to create secure passphrases. Don’t delay, upgrade your master password today. Use a passphrase.


I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

How to get your Kindle book notes into Evernote

Some 11 months ago, I wrote a long, involved post about how to get your Kindle notes and highlights into Evernote automatically, which was not automatic and very involved.

Here’s a better way. It’s also not automatic, but contains relatively few steps.

  1. Read your book on Kindle or a Kindle app.
  2. Highlight parts and (optionally) write notes about those highlighted sections.
    1. You can share your notes if you wish (on my iPad, the only options are Twitter or Facebook), but it’s not necessary for this procedure to work.
  3. Finish the book (I don’t mean it’s essential to read the whole book, but you’ll see why later).
  4. Head on to your Kindle page on Amazon (you may have to sign in): https://kindle.amazon.com/
  5. You’ll see all your books listed in some kind of order (I think it’s alphabetical), and probably your most recently read book is not visible (unless it begins with A).

    Amazon Kindle page
    Click on image to see a larger one.
  6. From here, there are 2 ways to get the highlights and/or notes of your most recently read book. One is the long, pretty way, two is the shortcut:
    1. Find your book in the list and click on the title. This will take you to this page where you (again) have 2 choices.
      My_book
      Click on image for a clearer version
      1. (Refers to the circle 1 in the image above). This will take you to your highlights.
      2. This will open your highlights in a pop-up window

        Click on image for a clearer version
        Click on image for a clearer version
  7. From your Amazon Kindle page (see first screenshot above), click on “Your Highlights”. This will take you to your highlights page, with the most recent ones at the top.
    1. I read books and make notes one book at a time, so all my highlights for any book are all in one uninterrupted list. If you are no so orderly and organized as I am, your highlights will be in chronological order you made them in, but may not be sorted by book title.
    2. Tough luck. In that case, follow the step in 6-1-1 above.
  8. If you’ve been obeying instructions, you should now have in front of you a page with all the highlighted passages from a single book that you read, and whose highlights you want to share or transfer to another medium or app.
  9. Assuming you want to copy all your highlights and notes from here to Evernote, just select all the ones you want then right-click and select “Evernote webclipper” and “clip selection” (mine’s in Japanese but trust me, that’s what it says).Rightclickhttpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9pfq9ubPMY

I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

How to disallow comments for old blog posts – in bulk

WordPress has a single ON/OFF switch to enable and disable comments on all posts in a blog. But what if you want to turn off comments on just a few blogs, or all blogs older than 1 year old, for instance? Is there no alternative to editing each blog one at a time and turning off the comments? Yes, there is. Here is how.

In your WordPress administration, click on “All Posts”.  If you have 20 or fewer posts, they will be listed on one page. If you have more than 20 posts, they will be spread over several pages. I have 3o pages, and I wanted to switch off comments on all posts older than 6 months. So I clicked to the last page with the oldest blog posts. Then,

2014-04-20 19-38-18Click on the downward-pointing triangle next to the words “Bulk Action” and choose “Edit”.

2014-04-20 19-39-29Next, underneath the word “Edit” you’ll see the word “Title” with a checkbox next to it. Click the checkbox and all the checkboxes to the left of the title of all the posts listed on that page will also be checked. If you don’t want to edit all the posts, just unclick the ones you don’t want edited.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2014-04-20 19-40-09Now click the word “Apply”, next to the “Edit” window. You will see a new small window appear at the top of all the blog posts which will list them all in miniature, together with a bunch of options (see the next graphic below).

 

 

2014-04-20 19-43-29(Click the image to see a larger, clearer version.)

You can make bulk edits to several different elements. I wanted to just edit the comments options, so I clicked on the downward-pointing triangle next to “Comments” and chose “Do not allow”, like this:

2014-04-20 19-43-29Then click the big red button named “Update” and hey presto! All the blog posts listed on that page should now have had their comments disabled. If there were any comments on any of those pages, they won’t be affected. They should still all be there. It’s just that from now on nobody can write a new comment on those posts.

As I had about 25 pages of old posts I wanted to disable the comments on, this took me quite a while, but it was still a damn sight quicker than fixing each post one by one!

 


I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Beginner’s Guide to Writing With MultiMarkdown | Michael Hyatt

I’ve heard about Markdown, a simple way of marking up simple text so that it appears as formatted, and have started exploring it (well, I downloaded an app, and saved an article on it to read later). Then recently this article by Michael Hyatt convinced me to get going with it.

I started using Drafts app recently, but have not explored its Markdown function yet, mainly because I use Drafts solely to get notes quickly into Evernote on my mobile devices, and Evernote doesn’t recognize Markdown (I think).

But if you want to know more about Markdown, especially how simple it is to use, and/or how a busy blogger and writer uses it, read Hyatt’s article. It’s not a comprehensive overview, just a brief introduction.

I have used a number of “blog processors,” including BlogJet and then MarsEdit. But in the last few years, I have completely converted over to MultiMarkdown.

It’s a way of writing that turns minimally marked up plain text into well formatted documents, including rich text and HTML. You can even use it directly with WordPress. If you are a writer, you owe it to yourself to explore MultiMarkdown.

And, before your eyes glaze over, it is honestly the easiest way to write anything. The syntax is so simple, you already know it. If you can use an emoticon, you can write in MultiMarkdown.

via The Beginner’s Guide to Writing With MultiMarkdown | Michael Hyatt.


I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Revamping my Evernote

Revamping my Evernote. Why?

  • I had too many tags (over 1,000)
  • Too many notebooks (around 60)
  • Too many “todo’s” scattered across 1 ToDo notebook and 1 ToDo tag (what the…?)
  • Notes piling up unattended to in my inbox and ToDo tag and notebook
  • Not doing regular daily, weekly and monthly reviews.
  1. Mission creep was affecting my original purpose for using Evernote.
    1. My original purpose was to use EN as
      1. an archive of ideas for the future, as well as reference materials for present and possible future projects, and
      2. my GTD system.
  2. BUT I was spending too much time collecting notes and clippings, and not enough time reviewing them and/or using them for live projects.
  3. Too many ToDos and ToReads and Someday/Maybes piling up.
    1. Why? Probably because these items do not pop up on my radar screen when they should, or as often as they should.
    2. Why not?
      1. Probably partly because I’m not conducting regular Daily and Weekly Reviews.
  4. Too many clippings.
  5. Too many notebooks, meaning too much time spent deciding which notebook to file a note under.
  6. Too many occasions when I was unable to locate the note I wanted because I could not search across multiple notebooks (but you can search across multiple tags).
  7. Storing too much and not trashing enough, i.e. not reviewing old clippings or other notes and discarding things I no longer need. Being too much of a packrat, in short.
  8. Lost track of my projects: too many items labelled as “projects” which weren’t.
    1. Solution: review David Allen’s definition of “project”, and re-label my “projects” which aren’t really projects (actions that require more than 2 steps).
  9. Lost track of my long-term goals, visions, etc.; my 30-, 40- and 50,000-feet perspectives.
    1. Possible solution: regular reviews (Daily, Weekly, Monthly)
    2. This means that my long-term goals and visions, etc., need to come up on my radar on a regular basis, in one or more of my reviews.
    3. That means organizing my saved searches.

I decided to re-read Ruud Hein’s article on using Evernote to GTD, where he describes in detail his extensive use of saved searches to make sure what needs to come up does actually come up. That is (for me) the biggest lesson of GTD: something important you must take to work the next day, you put it on your shoes or right in front of the front door, so next morning when you’re still bleary and fuzzy despite your coffee, you stumble over this and think, “What the heck? … Oh yeah, I gotta take this to work” and you pick it up and take it. Continue reading Revamping my Evernote


I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Getting your Kindle book notes into Evernote

Do you read books on Kindle or a Kindle app on an iPad or similar device? Do you want to make notes or highlight passages in your ebooks but don’t know how? Would you like to have access to all your notes and highlighted passages even when you don’t have your Kindle or iPad with you? Would you like to do this but don’t have an Amazon.com account, or you buy your ebooks from some other store than Amazon.com? Would you like to share your notes and highlights with others? Would you like to transport all your notes and highlights into Evernote? If your answer to any or all of the above is ‘yes’ then read on.

In this post, I show you how I, a Japan resident who purchases most of his Kindle books on Amazon Japan (not Amazon.com, I don’t have an account there)  get my book notes and highlights made on my iPad’s Kindle app into Evernote. It’s a non-geeky (no coding required), unoriginal solution that makes use of free automation services and apps: Evernote, Kindle app for iPad, Twitter, IFTTT.

(This is for Kindles or Kindle apps only; I’m still figuring out how to do the same thing for notes/hightlights created in iBooks. Here’s a video on how to share notes and highlights in the iBooks app.)

Why bother?

Why would you want your Kindle notes in Evernote? As you’ll see below, notes and highlights made on a Kindle or Kindle app are automatically stored on your Amazon Kindle page. So why bother transferring them? You can edit them, sort them by book or by date, delete them, all on your Amazon Kindle page. Well, I like to have as much of my work- and research-related info as possible under one roof, not scattered across different programs or devices. Also, with Evernote’s offline notebooks capacity, I can access and edit my book notes in Evernote even without Internet access. If those considerations are not important to you, then you can stop reading right here. If you’d like to know more about your Amazon Kindle page, read Michael Hyatt’s post: How to Get Your Kindle Highlights into Evernote.

Evernote ambassador and SF writer Jamie Rubin has a geeky and long-assed post on how he gets his Kindle book notes and highlights into Evernote AUTOMATICALLY, but it requires knowledge of snakes and anyway it only works for notes taken on a Kindle device. If you take notes on, say, the Kindle App on your iPad, you’re out of luck. There is an app called Snippefy, which seems to do exactly what Rubin and I want, but unfortunately it’s not available for Apple Japan.

Michael Hyatt’s post: How to Get Your Kindle Highlights into Evernote, is good, but it involves manually transferring each highlight/note from your Amazon Kindle page to Evernote. This article gives a very good overview of Amazon’s Kindle page. I recommend it. For best results, and if you don’t mind not sharing your notes on Twitter, the simplest solution may be to wait until you finish reading your book and making all your notes and highlights, then going to your Amazon Kindle page, selecting all the notes for that book and copying and pasting those suckers into an Evernote. You have to do this manually, tho. Or perhaps Snippefy will do the job. Unfortunately, I cannot test it out.

Once set up (explained below), and assuming I’m reading a book on my iPad’s Kindle app, theree are just 4  manual steps, all done within the Kindle app (see below for details). Continue reading Getting your Kindle book notes into Evernote


I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Going Paperless: Using the Drafts App to Quickly Add Common Notes to Evernote | Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie Rubin blogs regularly about “Going Paperless” and about Evernote (he’s an Evernote Ambassador). He recently blogged about using the smartphone app Drafts. I had installed Drafts but not really used it. Reading Jamie’s blog got me started by pointing out the advantage of using Drafts:

  1. automation – you can set up Drafts so that notes will not only go to specified notebooks and be appropriately tagged, but also be appended or prepended to existing notes. Very useful for adding to a list, for example.
  2. speed – if you don’t need the rest of Evernote (access to your other notes), then using drafts to write notes if much quicker as it takes less time to load.

If you are an Evernote user and don’t have Drafts, you might be interested in reading his post.

Regular readers of these posts know that I am very big on automating stuff that is repeatable. Adding notes to Evernote is one of those repeatable things, and I am always looking for ways to speed up and improve the process. Lately, I have been using the Drafts app more and more to get common “ad hoc” notes into Evernote very quickly. Over time, I’ve realized that there are 3 kinds of notes where Drafts has become indispensable for me:

via Going Paperless: Using the Drafts App to Quickly Add Common Notes to Evernote | Jamie Todd Rubin.


I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Yahoo! Japanese dictionary gets the boot

getting-the-boot-3f59f4

I’m not a translator, but being an English-speaker in Japan, I often need to translate words and documents as part of my teaching job. I used to have a collection of large dictionaries, but now of course everything is online and there’s a zillion apps as well.

My first stop for translating is always ALC because you can look up not just words but also phrases, and it will quickly search its database of news articles and find it or a close equivalent. This is particularly necessary when translating between very dissimilar languages (like English and Japanese) because you can’t be sure that the other language uses words in the same way. In fact, you can be fairly sure it won’t.

For example, I recently looked up “realm“, but what I really needed to translate was the phrase “in the realm of”. I know “in” and “of”, but does Japanese actually use those prepositions with the noun “realm”? If not, and I just stick “no naka ni” and “no” onto “realm”, I’m just going to look silly as well as perhaps not get my meaning across.

So, type in “in the realm of” into the ALC search engine and see what you get. First it gives you the titles of 2 controversial movies by (recently deceased) Japanese film-maker Oshima, and if you’re looking for an excuse to digress, follow those links. But below those come the meat of our search results, and you can see that, in fact, Japanese has many different ways of expressing the idea of “in the realm of”, depending on context. Very useful.

Now, in order to check which Japanese word for “realm” comes closest to the one you want, the only thing to do is pick one at a time and translate them back into English. You can do that right on the ALC website because it handles translation both ways. You can just copy and paste the Japanese kanji into the search box.

Copying and pasting is very convenient, not only because it is quick but also because you don’t need to know exactly how to say those kanji. If you want to look them up in an old-fashioned book-dictioanry (for whatever strange reason), you will need to know how to say the kanji (OK, I know there are other ways, such as by looking up the radical in a radical-based dictionary, but that takes a long time, especially if you’re like me and not entirely up to scratch on your radicals and stroke numbers).

But what if you don’t know how to say the kanji (of course  do know really, but you’ve just temporarily forgotten)? ALC doesn’t help you there.

In such cases I used to use Yahoo! Japan’s dictionary. You copy and paste the kanji you’re looking for into Yahoo’s search box and the results will give you not only the meaning but also how’s it “read” or pronounced. (It won’t give you the pronunciation in the Roman alphabet, though; you do need to read hiragana, the Japanese syllabary, which is no problem because, if you can’t, you probably wouldn’t be using ALC in the first place.)

But not any more. For some reason, Yahoo! Japan has changed the dictionary they use, or changed the format or something, but now you only get the English meaning and Japanese definitions, but not how to say it.

Goo’s dictionary does, however, so Goo goes into my bookmarks and Yahoo dictionary gets the boot. It’s a harsh world, isn’t it? (If you don’t need English translation, Sanseido‘s Japanese dictionary looks useful, as well.)

What’s Japanese for “get the boot”? ALC (via Goo) will tell you: it’s kaiko sareru or kubi ni naru

 


I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”