How I Keep Track of Printed Articles [EverNote Usage]

For nearly 10 years now I’ve been gone through many different systems of organizing and keeping track of the printed material I read (that is magazine articles, photocopies, pamphlets etc.).  I used to just keep the magazines I read in boxes, but then my stash got too big and it would take me forever to find something I remembered reading.  However, this is the system I used for nearly 5 years.

Next, I started keeping only articles I thought were worth keeping and keeping a database/spreadsheet of the articles on my old Palm IIIe.  It was a system that worked quite good for about two years.  I would file the articles in a binder alphabetically and by number (using stick on tabs) and then in the database I’d include keywords and short blurbs from the articles with the article information.  To find articles around a subject I just had to do a search and then I could locate the article in my “article binder”.

Then disaster struck when my Palm PDA died and the backups I had made were all corrupt.  So… I lost my index and the value of my article file plunged.  By then I had discovered WordPress and thought I’d try to keep a private repository of articles online.  Here’s where things got really ridiculous time-wise because I decided that I’d type in (yes, manually type) the articles that I thought were worth keeping.  Needless to say, the backlog of articles I had to enter piled up fairly quickly.  This was mitigated a little bit when I discovered that in many cases I could find the articles online and just copy and paste but there were still a lot of steps involved.  The advantage of this route, of course, is that finding information greatly improved.  This disadvantage was the incredible time investment involved in keeping up with my reading.

Let me just take an aside for a moment.  Why was/am I doing all this?  The main reason is I wanted a way to find and access things I’m reading when I remember them and also be able to properly attribute what I remember.  There have been many times over the years I’ve been in ministry where I’ve been doing some leadership teaching, or preparing a message, or writing an article and I remember something I read in a magazine that would apply and I’ve been able to locate that and use it.  Sure, as the years went by, the internet became a VERY valuable resource for illustrations, quotes, and ideas but to this day, nothing beats  a cultivated, filtered stash of personally reviewed material.

About a year ago I discovered Evernote and all I can say is it is a gift from heaven.  Evernote, has made keeping track of the articles I read (especially print articles) SOOO easy and way less time consuming than any of the other systems I’ve used in the past.  Here’s the new steps for filing articles:

  1. Mark articles/quotes I want to keep in things I read using post-it tabs
  2. Scan and email articles to my custom Evernote email address (I get my Admin Assistant to do that now but even when I did it, it didn’t take long).  I’m fortunate that I can email right from the photocopier at work.  If I didn’t have that ability I would just scan into a folder that you can setup Evernote to automatically read from whenever something is saved to it.
  3. That’s It!

Evernote Logo

Here’s why it works so well.  Evernote is a note capturing utility that you can use to keep track of material from all kinds of resources.  You can manually type notes in, drop files into it, add pictures, drop in screenshots, clip whole websites etc.  One of the cool ways of getting stuff into Evernote is via a custom email address linked to your Evernote account.  Anything you send to that email address gets added to a note.  Now, you can title and tag each note but it’s not even necessary because here’s where the power of Evernote kicks in – text recognition in images.  Yes, that’s right!  When you add pictures/images to your Evernote database all the text is recognized and indexed.  When you do a search for a term or phrase, all the images/text matching the search criteria will be returned!  My only criticism?  I WISH Evernote was around years ago!  Oh, and one more thing – everything you add to your Evernote account can be accessed either on your local machine or via the internet because all your notes are synced to the “cloud”.  So now, even if I don’t have my own computer I can look up the articles I’ve saved AND I can also rest easy knowing there is a built-in backup of all my notes.

{disclaimer: I was NOT paid anything to write about Evernote.  Yes, they are that good.}

A Gate for the Net

One of the things I do is write a quarterly column for the Communication Magazine of my church district (Western Ontario District of PAOC)The magazine is called Connections and it is sent out to over 500 credential holders and leaders and the title of my column is ‘Tech Pass”.  I usually write about various software/web apps and technology tools I come across that I think are useful for churches and ministry. For a copy of the latest magazine you can get it from the wod.paoc.org website.

The internet is an awesome tool and incredible resource.  In the last 10 years or so it has grown from humble beginnings as a hobby-for-some into a multi-media delivery & application platform that many of us wonder how we’d ever get along without!  However, along with the good things the internet brings us is also the bad – things like viruses, spam (not the ham wannabe, but those annoying Viagra like ads you get in your email), and evil websites (sites that promote crime, pornography and the like).

One of the common questions I get from people who are newer to the internet is how to protect your computer from the “evil” found on it.  In this article I’m not going to address the virus and spam problem but I would like to focus on some tricks that will help you put up a “gate” to keep unwanted internet stuff out.

Before I do that however, a brief lesson on how the internet works (yeah, I know, you always wondered didn’t you?  Well humor me for a bit… Oh, and one caveat – I’ve really simplified things here, so you technical folk keep that in mind…)

First off, every computer that is connected to the Internet is part of a network (of computers), even the one in your home.  For example, you may have a modem at home that your internet service provider (ISP) provided you to connect to the internet – or your computer at your office may be connected to a local area network (LAN) that in turn at some point is connected to an ISP that your workplace contracts with for internet service.  Either way, when you are connected to your ISP you are connected to their network.   The ISP in turn may be connected to another service provider and is a part of that network.  In simple terms the internet is simply a network of networks.

I’m going to skip a few steps in the story (really, you’d want me to…).   We all know that there are different Internet Service Providers (as in Rogers, Bell etc.) – now, what happens is that all the ISP’s in the world agree to connect to each other via what’s called Network Access Points or NAPS.   In the real internet, dozens of large service providers interconnect at NAPS in different cities, and all the data flows between the networks at those points.  In this way, every computer on the internet is able to connect to another computer.

However, in order for computers to successfully communicate with each other there has to be some way of knowing where the data is to go to and for responses to know where to come back to.  This is where IP addresses come in.  IP stands for Internet Protocol and every machine on the internet has an IP address.  An IP address is a number something like this – 212.27.52.1

In its infancy, the internet consisted of a few computers hooked together with modems and telephone lines.  You could only make connections by providing the IP address of the computer you wanted to connect with – that was fine when there were only a few computers to connect to (hosts) but eventually that became unwieldy as more and more “hosts” came online.

In 1983, the University of Wisconsin created something called the Domain Name System (DNS) which maps text names to IP addresses automatically.  So for humans, it became much easier to remember www.iwanttogohere.com instead of the IP address of iwanttogohere.com’s host computer.  This easy to remember address is known as a “Domain Name”.  When you type a Domain Name into a browser address bar it first goes to a Domain Name Server (which usually defaults to what your ISP is providing as a Domain Name server) where the address is compared against a database to see if there is an IP address connected with it.  If the IP address is found then your computer goes to that IP address and makes the connection.  If it’s not found then the server will “talk” to other Domain Name Servers and see if any of them know where iwanttogohere.com points to.  If no results are found that’s when you get a “this page not found” message in your browser.

Take a breather – you’ve come a long way through those paragraphs!  That is (very roughly) how the internet works.  Why did I explain all this?  Because the service I want to tell you about is called OpenDNS.com. Hmmm – recognize anything in that name?  Yup, it’s got “DNS” in it.  Want to take a guess at what it does then?  Go ahead, then read on.

OpenDNS.com is better than nearly any other internet filtering type of application you can download or run on your system because it isn’t software.  Instead, OpenDNS.com is merely a Domain Name Server which you can use for sending ALL your internet requests through (did you guess right?  Good for you! Email me and let me know and I’ll send you a prize).  Essentially, after setting things up, what you do is instruct your computer to check the OpenDNS servers for the IP address of the domain names you want to visit instead of your ISP’s DNS server.  The power of OpenDNS kicks in at that point because not only will it check for the IP address but it will also screen that IP address against any “rules” that you set to make sure it’s something  you consider “safe” to visit.   You can also use OpenDNS to track all the website activity from your computer.

I’ve used OpenDNS.com at home for about two years now to keep track on what my kids are doing on the internet and also to block them from visiting certain types of sites.  It has been the easiest, and most thorough tool I have ever used and I highly recommend it.

How easy is it?  Well if you go to this page -> https://www.opendns.com/start/ and follow the instructions  you should be able to start using opendns.com in only 2 minutes (they even use pictures to explain it…nice, pictures are always good). However, it will take a little bit longer to fine tune the filters the way you want.

Really, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have some sort of “gate” on your computer to protect you from the “evil” of the internet – especially when it’s this easy.  You may want to recommend it to the families in your church and even consider using it on your church network (IT guys – OpenDNS.com has some great instructions on their site for you).

For some of you this won’t be new.  I was reminded recently of OpenDNS.com when I received a question about it from one of the readers of this column (thanks Ingrid D.!) and it was mentioned in a WOD email blast, but nevertheless for those of you who haven’t tried it out I encourage you to do so.

BONUS TIP:

Most search tools on the internet have some sort of advanced selection options where you can turn on safe searching.  For example – I do a lot of image searches using Google’s Image database – However, I make sure I set the “SafeSearch” filter to “strict filtering” – otherwise there is the chance that some searches will return some raunchy images that are not something I want to see.  To do this, just make sure you click on the “Advanced Image Search” text next to the search box.  The SafeSearch options are at the bottom of the list.

Strangely soothing…

Yeah, I’m writing late at night.? I’m working late at the office and I’m wrapping up to get ready to go home.? One of my final tasks is running some paper through the shredder.? You know I never noticed it before, but there is something strangely soothing about seeing that paper get shred!? Now, you’ve got to understand – the paper shredder I have is not your ultra-deluxe-chew-up-stapler kind of shredder.? No, this one will do a maximum of 5 sheets at a time and is pretty picky if you don’t enter the sheets at the right angle.? I’ve had to de-jam it a number of times (which isn’t really soothing at all!).? But tonight, as I watched that paper go through the shredder, for some reason I had this incredible feeling of satisfaction – as if I’d accomplished some monumental task…

I really don’t know why I felt that way.? Maybe it’s because with the shredding of this paper I knew I was done what I had to do in the office – certainly there’s some finality to that.? Or maybe it’s because in some weird way, the shredded paper represents the unwinding of my subconcious as I prepare to head home to bed.? Or maybe, just maybe – seeing those equally spaced strips of paper spit out the other end from one sheet of paper (well actually about 3) which cannot be reassembled into what they were before gives some sort of ephemeral taste of what happens as time goes by and it cannot be regained.? No, that couldn’t be it…that’s too depressing.

In the end, I guess it’s just because I like pushing buttons…

KaBoom One-Liners (Episode #3)

What are Kaboom One Liners? Go [here] to find out!

Alright, the word for this episode is gravid. (grav-id)

KaBoom was walking his dog Chachachink (a beagle/daschund cross) down Red Boulevard when he bumped into John Busybody.”Hey KaBoom, did you hear the news about Mr. and Mrs. FightAlot’s separation?” KaBoom did a quick look around and then gazed in a conspiritorial way as he leaned in towards Mr. Busybody, “No, I didn’t but I’m sure you’re just gravid with all the juicy details. Now make sure you don’t speak too loudly because my dog here is a bit of a gossip…”

KABOOM!

KaBoom One-Liners (Episode #2)

What are Kaboom One Liners? Go [here] to find out!

Alright the word for this episode is arbiter. (are-bit-err)

KaBoom was peering into the windows of the electronics shop (and leaving marks on the window I might add). He was fascinated by the big-screen T.V.s being showcased just inside the window. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a salesperson moving quickly to the entrace door with a disapproving look on his face. The door flung open and Mr. FancyPancySalespersonWannaMakeBigSales whined, “Alright KaBoom, you’ve been at that window long enough, either come in to the store and make a purchase or move along!”KaBoom held out his hand and said (while still looking at the TV’s), “Hold your horses, and put away your whine, these TV’s need an arbiter and you’ll just have to wait your turn.”

KABOOM!

KaBoom One-Liners (Episode #1)

What are Kaboom One Liners? Go [here] to find out!

Alright the word for this episode is paucity. (paw-sit-tee)

Kaboom was going about his business, you know the usual – twiddling thumbs, smacking his lips, blowing spit bubbles. Today he was sitting on a bench in the park. Along came Bigmouth who said with a smirk, “Kaboom, you really need to get a life!”Kaboom slowly turned to look Bigmouth in the eye, “Oh my, I never realized such a paucity of brain cells could result in such an elucid observation!”

KABOOM!