Tag Archives: iPhone

How to Check on a Pet When You Can’t Be at Home

PuppyThis is my puppy. He’s fourteen weeks old, and he is nuts. We named him Talmadge, after one of the longest-standing political families in the state where we live.

He is a great little guy to have around, but he really is crazy. No, seriously. Crazy. He weighs five pounds and can jump up to my waste already. He figured out how to climb out of his playpen before he was old enough to visit a dog park. Like I said, crazy.

When my wife and I decided to get a dog, we rationalized our decision by coming to two realizations:

  • Right now, we have fewer commitments than we will probably ever have for the rest of our lives. Why not get a dog now, while we still have a good bit of extra time on our hands and no one else to look after?
  • And, modern technology allows us to keep an eye on the little guy even when we can’t be there, at little to no cost to us. We both work a lot, and we need to be able to check in on him because we can’t come home to let him out for lunch.

So that’s the purpose of my blog post tonight. No, I’m not saying that to be twenty-something, you need to have a dog. What I am saying is – if you’re looking into it, know that it’s a big commitment, a great decision and not as expensive as the critics like to tell you it is. I really do love the little guy. Also know that there is an easy way to keep an eye on pets like Talmadge when you can’t be at home.*

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. An internet connection
  2. A computer with a built-in camera or a webcam
  3. The free software program “Skype” or another video communication service.
  4. A cell phone/iPad/iPhone/Android, etc. that can stream video
  5. Oh yeah…you’ll also need a pet. Although I guess this could work as a security option in general.

And here’s how to do it:

  1. If you don’t already have one, set yourself up a Skype account. Accounts are free and the only cost associated with using the program occurs if you need to call an actual phone number and not communicate via internet. I’ve never paid a cent.
  2. Next, set up another Skype account (using a different e-mail address) for your pet. Yes, Talmadge has his own Skype account. No, you can’t call him.
  3. Once the pet’s Skype account is set up, you need to change some of the settings in order for this process to work correctly. Navigate on over to your preferences, and click the “Privacy” tab. I would transfer every single preference to only receive and allow messages from contacts. Then, I would only add your account to your contact list. This way, no sketchy pet people can watch your pet while you’re not home.
  4. Next, navigate to the “Calls” tab and beside Incoming Calls, click “Answer Automatically”. If you skip this step, you will not be able to successfully use this process. Unless your pet can answer his/her own Skype calls. Which would be awesome.
  5. Position your camera so that you can see your pet’s play space.
  6. Finally, mute the computer’s sound or turn off the computer speakers. It might make your pet go insane if they can hear you when you call to check in on them.
  7. Once you’ve done all of this, you can log in to your Skype account via your iPhone, iPad, work computer or whatever and your pet’s account should pop up as being online once you’ve logged in if you’ve added him/her to your contact list.
  8. Click “Make Video Call” and you should see and hear your pet momentarily. I recommend testing this out in another room before leaving home.

A special note: Skype is free, but it will use a good bit of your data if you’re not making calls over a WiFi network. I would recommend waiting until you’re in an area with a WiFi connection before making a call, unless you happen to have an unlimited data plan.

Some people think we’re crazy for doing this, but in the early stages of having a puppy, it has proven to be an invaluable tool for us. Remember how I mentioned that Talmadge figured out how to get out of his playpen already? I wouldn’t have realized that he had done that until hours later if it hadn’t been for this process, and my wife was able to turn around and put him back in the pen and calm him down.

What do you think? Am I crazy? What crazy things have you done for your pet?

*Do not misinterpret this post as an endorsement of being away from your pet for long periods of time. They love you and they need you, and you need to be there for them.

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Evernote: 3 Tools You May Not Know About

EvernoteI have a bad habit of downloading a new app, using it once or twice, and then never giving enough thought to how the app could help me improve my productivity or simplify my life. When I first got an iPhone in 2010, Evernote was one of the first apps I installed. I had heard that I needed to have it because it was new, innovative and cool. I also had heard I could install it on my Macbook, so I did that too. I used it once or twice, mostly as a way to bookmark sites and also as a way to take some notes. It is really good for bookmarking sites and taking notes, but there is much more to this app than that. Over the past several weeks, I have started hearing more and more about people who use (or wish they used) Evernote to its fullest capabilities. The best example of someone who gets Evernote is Brett Kelly, author of “Evernote Essentials”. This eBook gives you the basics of Evernote for a small price and Kelly will even e-mail you a free sample. He also offers a 100% money-back guarantee. If that doesn’t stimulate your interest or your pocketbook is empty, check out Craig Jarrow’s advice on 10 ways to save time using Evernote. The things I’m about to tell you about are likely already covered in both of the posts I’ve already mentioned, but I’m showing them to a new audience.

Before you read the rest of this message, download Evernote, create an account and make some notebooks based on the types of articles, sites and ideas that you’ll want to hang on to. A few of my favorites include: Recipes, New Projects, Read Later, BeTwentySomething.com, For My Wife, For Work.

Once you’ve downloaded the App and are getting familiar with it, here are three things you may not have known about Evernote that can help you simplify your life and improve your productivity:

  1. Did you know that Evernote has “OCR” capabilities?
  2. The Google Chrome Evernote Webclipper is awesome.  The webclipper is a small elephant icon that sits just to the right of my navigation bar on Google Chrome.  It looks like a bookmark, and it is a bookmark, except it is a special bookmark that we refer to as a bookmarklet. A bookmarklet is a bookmark that has a function. The Google Chrome Evernote Webclipper’s function is to help you save time and increase productivity by allowing you a unique opportunity to save things you see on the web that you may need later. But, hey, isn’t that what bookmarking is for? Yes. You can bookmark pages and that will work well, too. However, does bookmarking a site allow you to easily organize your thoughts into specific folders (Evernote calls them notebooks)? Does bookmarking a site allow you to search by keyword later? Does bookmarking a site sync with every single one of your devices? No, it probably doesn’t. The Google Chrome Evernote Webclipper will really take your Evernote-usage and the effectiveness of this tool to the next level because it’s so easy to use.
  3. I can e-mail notes to my Evernote notebooks and tag them – even when I don’t have access to an Evernote-enabled device. Many big companies are fearful of services like Evernote, because they do not necessarily want sensitive documents to be sitting in some “cloud” somewhere, accessible by every device that may “sync” with your work computer. While I don’t like the limitations this has on my ability to use new tech tools, I completely understand the thought process and “I get it”. So, at work, when I cannot access Evernote, I just e-mail notes to myself that I want to read later. If I’m using LinkedIn for a work project and see an article I’d like to read (or write about) later, I can e-mail it to my custom Evernote account e-mail address, add @ followed by the notebook I want it filed in (i.e. @MyRecipes), and the note will be there when I need to get ahold of it. To see this e-mail address for yourself, open up Evernote, click the elephant on the top left hand side of the screen, click your name on the top, then, under General Settings, click “Evernote email address”. This will list your email address and even give you the capability to add the address to your contacts.

How are you using Evernote to simplify your life and increase productivity? Is this a cool app for 20-somethings to use? Have you moved beyond just bookmarking webpages to genuinely using this app and its vast array of features? Let me know!

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Empty Your Inbox, Sync Your Messages, Reclaim Your Life.

We get a lot of e-mails. As twenty-somethings and millennials, the best way to sell us a product is online (or at least that’s what marketers think). While I’m not sure how comfortable I feel actually buying products using hash tags on Twitter, I can say unequivocally that I’m a sucker for a deal site, and my daily e-mail flow reflects it. Throw in free shipping and a free gift and I’m likely hooked. It’s also possible that some of your parents or grandparents enjoy sending you chain mail all day, like this woman.

EmptyGmailNo matter how it happens, it is no secret that, for many of you, your e-mail inbox has thousands of pointless messages that should have been deleted the second they were opened. Those pointless messages are like kudzu to the few messages that you may actually need someday. Sure, you know that the e-mails  you need are still there, but it takes valuable time to actually find the things that you need. You may also be filling up storage space with pointless attachments and large files.

About three years ago, I was tired of losing valuable e-mails in my inbox. I was sick of opening my iPhone to see that I had 827 unread messages from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Groupon, LivingSocial, HalfOffDepot, J. Crew, Target…ok, you get the point. When I needed an old message on-the-go, I couldn’t find it without letting my iPhone use all of its data to load my old messages. I decided to reclaim my online life, clean out my inbox and organize my e-mail addresses so that they actually provided value to my daily life instead of wasting my time. Here is how it’s done:

  1. I use Gmail. You don’t have to use Gmail, but I highly recommend it. You’re probably already using Gmail. I’ve also used Apple Mail and I like that too, but Gmail works better for me since I use a PC at work.
  2. I added every single one of my old e-mail addresses to my Gmail account. There is absolutely no reason you should be checking more than one e-mail account on a daily basis, unless you have to keep your accounts separate for work or unless you keep an “offer-only” e-mail account that is used to access certain content that floods your inbox with junk mail that you don’t want.
  3. To do this, navigate to your settings on Gmail, click “Accounts and Import” and then click “Add Another E-mail Address You Own”. As long as you know your password, you should be able to set up this e-mail address in Gmail to not only check the account for new messages, but also to send from this account if that’s something that you need to do*.
  4. Once all of your e-mail is coming to the same place, you can set up your Gmail account on your mobile devices to Sync it. I don’t use iCloud for my mail, I let Gmail’s capabilities work on their own. You get 10 GB of storage through Gmail, which is more than enough once you adopt these methods.
  5. Now, start deleting! Just as you can probably toss that bomber jacket you’re holding onto in case you get invited to another 80s mixer and need to dress up as Maverick, you don’t need to hold on to every single friend request you get in order to cherish the memories of college. DELETE!! But, but…I might need these! No, you don’t. Delete them.
  6. The easiest way to begin is to use Gmail’s search function to find things that you know you don’t need. Start with keywords like “Facebook”, “LinkedIn”, “Twitter”, “Sale”, etc. When you search broad terms like this, you can select all of the messages in the search results and then delete them. Remember that with Gmail, your deleted items won’t be removed from your trash until thirty days after you delete them. If you delete something you may need later, you have a month to discover your mistake.
  7. But what about the stuff I need? Where can that live? I’m glad you asked. On the left hand side of your account, click on “Create a New Label”. I use labels like “Accounts”, “Entertainment”, “Home”, “Work”, “Dog”, etc. Don’t make too many labels, because you can also have sub-labels. For instance, under “Accounts”, I can have a “Bill” label, an “Online Services” label, etc. These labels sync with your mobile devices and tablets if you’ve got your account loaded on them, and they make finding a message that you need simple.
  8. To label a message, click the Folder icon to the right of the Trash Can icon when you have a message open and move the message to the appropriate label. If you want to move multiple messages, select them on the left hand side of your Inbox and click the same icon for the drop down menu of your labels.
  9. This process will likely take you a few hours, but once you do it one time, managing your inbox becomes simple. From here on out, your inbox can serve as a place to house urgent messages that you may need at a moment’s notice. I use mine as a To-Do list. If something is in my Inbox, it means that I need to take action on it and it stays there until I do. I never keep more than 10 messages in my mailbox at a time if I can help it.
  10. After six months of efficient e-mail management, it is helpful to re-visit some of your overused labels as well. I pay all of my bills online and move the confirmations to my “Accounts” label. While this information is important to prove I’ve paid bills if necessary, I probably don’t need to keep power bill payment confirmations from 2010. Do this periodically to keep your folders organized and updated.

Other Helpful Resources:


Craig Jarrow, the Time Management Ninja

Seth Godin on what to do once you empty your inbox


*I wouldn’t recommend sending from multiple addresses unless you have to. Your online identity is important and keeping it uniform is a great way to maintain a strong network.

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