Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Me and Evernote

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Long ago I promised myself I’d blog about <a href=””>Evernote</a> when I made more than 1000 notes. I broke that record on Friday November 9, 2012 so here’s a quick summary of what Evernote is and what I use it for.

Evernote is intended to help people remember everything. While I haven’t achieved that, I’m a lot closer.

Evernote is a desktop, phone/tablet, browser plugins and a web application that allows you to capture information from anywhere. The application also indexes all entries so that the content can be quickly searched, including any text in pictures – for example: whiteboards.

All these collected notes are synced to client/applications on almost any device that connects to the internet – as a lowest common denominator, there is

Evernote has a provision for tagging notes, but more importantly it lets you start new notebooks and sub-notebooks. I use this to collect notes about the kids, projects at work, my favourite beers and wines, and other notebooks – including some I’ve shared with others.

There’s lots of information on Evernote’s site, so instead I’ll share what I use to for:

At home and around the town:

  • Lists of things to pack, buy, collect and almost anything else.
  • Pictures of the various medicines and other records my kids have taken – both kids have their own notebook.
  • Planing and document projects around the house – including the summer’s minor fence project and last summer’s major patio project and year before that’s nursery project. The notes are important, but the pictures are handy to travel back and forth from Home Deport with.
  • Records and information about the cars and appliances.
  • I transferred my wife’s recipes etc. from an old laptop to all her new devices – I also have access to the this shared notebook and…. don’t use them.

Structured Schedule and Course Calendar Data for Brock University

Monday, August 20th, 2012

As my last post about a Brock University Important Dates iCal Feed indicated, I often find myself needing Brock University information in a structured, digital format. As I’m not one to improve public information and make it private, here’s the how I made this information more fun to play with.

As we in the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (formerly CTLET) at Brock University to update places like Contact North’s and other reporting work, we often need this type of information, and to make it easier for a number of purpose to make use of the information as a web services.

To that end I created is a collection of RESTful APIs that return Brock University course calendar information in a number of formats: xml, html, csv and txt. The request URLs are created in a way that respects’s guidelines for URLs.

Along with a the course calendar information is a handy “function” I created called brock_year. brock_year returns the current course calendar year by default, or the year that corresponds with a queried UNIX time value. This is useful because the course calendar issuing year does not always match the Gregorian calendar year. For example, duration 3 of Brock University calendar year 2012 occurs in January of Gregorian year 2013! I’ve cut and pasted the PHP for that code a few times for me and others, now it’s a web services for all.

Things will be updated as time permits and need arises. Also I should note that the Brock University Registrar’s information is considered definitive, and is the most accurate and well maintained source for this information .

Hope this helps someone, or inspires someone else to expose data in a number of structured formats.

Brock University Important Dates iCal Feed

Monday, July 30th, 2012

I tried to share this on, but can’t make an account (the password field is not blank!) so I’ll share it here.

I created a Brock University important dates feed from the registrar’s list of important dates . The dates are added to a Google Doc Spreadsheet then run through our Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (formerly CTLET) CSV to iCal converter at

The outcome is this feed of Brock University’s important dates — I promise to update it

Lunch Blog

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

I’ve started a new lunch blog! I encourage you to check it out at

The site is obviously more of a joke at the expense of my daily lunch at Brock University of two penut butter and jam sandwiches that I slather in double fruit jam and chunky penut butter before I leave for work each morning.

The blog was built using Bootstrap, from the developers at Twitter. Bootstrap was created to help people build web responsive web sites easier, better, and faster. You can read more at

The blog itself simply uses a Bootstrap example, two pictures I took with my phone yesterday, a little CSS to apply the pictures to the backgrounds of the right divs, and some PHP to dynamically create “dated” posts. The PHP is key to the ability to review older posts and the short reviews of each lunch. The source is posted here .

All and all, a positive experience and I look forward to bootstrapping more sites.

If My Contact Is On Your Phone, Please Protect It

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

A recent article in the Columbia Journalism Review by Matthieu Aikins underscored the need to protect the contents of your smartphone. If the potential to have your own information stollen or generally snooped through your stuff, please consider this story.

The British journalist and filmmaker Sean McAllister was in Syriashooting a documentary for Britain’s Channel 4 about the underground there. A few he had worked with were concerned about his general lack of care about his communications and protection of the identities of those in the underground he was working with.

In October, McAllister was detained by Syrian security agents. Well detained he could hear the cries of prisoners being tortured in nearby rooms. He was interrogated and had all of his electronics seized and searched.

Upon hearing that security forces had McCallister a few individuals who had been in touch with, including the main source of the article, immediately fled fearing the brutal Syrian regime now had information that put their lives at risk. Others in McAllister’s electronic records, like one Omar al-Baroudi, were never heard from again.

The article uses the example to point to the need for journalist and the organizations that employ them to become more aware of how to protect their digital information. I hope this stark example will encourage everyone with a smartphone to consider protecting the information on it and information available to it.

If not, please consider the potential embracement of a malevolent or mischievous individual finding your smartphone and posting to Facebook or Twitter on your behalf (though I would understand that it would be nice if someone update your Google Plus account).