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Software reviews coming soon

As the entire city and all of my consulting clients are snowed in today, I’m experimenting with small business financial software InDinero,  proposal writing software BidSketch, and project planning software Tom’s Planner.  Reviews coming soon.

 

This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog


10
Jan 11


Written By Steve French

 

Adventures with PayPal Website Payments Pro and Authorize.net

walletSeveral days ago I decided to use PayPal’s Website Payments Pro system for the Stronico credit card processing system.  At the time, I thought PayPal was the obvious choice.  It had relatively low fees (about $60 per month), no setup fee, and it seemed to be the 800 pound gorilla in the space, so how bad coudl it behard could the setup be?

As it turned out, I was very, very wrong.   I spent part of the day Sunday and all day Monday wading through non-working sample code, looking at near duplicate setup guides for the 56 (how it is 56 I don’t know) versions of their Website Payments Pro system, installing all of the add-ons needed to get the sample apps going and so on and so forth.  All of that merely to make a Get request with the proper query string (which is all the Website Payments Pro System really is). Continue reading →


09
Jun 10


Written By Steve French

 

Everyone should read Brain Rules by John Medina

Brain CoralSeveral months ago I finished reading Brain Rules by John Medina and I’ve been raving about it ever since.  Medina is a noted brain researcher and the book contains the 12 things he wishes the lay public knew.

The 12 things (with my notes in bold and italic)

  1. EXERCISE | Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power. – The most important chapter.  Short version – if you exercise your brain will be smarter and it won’t get dementia.  I’ve put this to the test, and I am more focused with exercise than without.
  2. SURVIVAL | Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too. – Not that memorable, good background information.
  3. WIRING | Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently.- Not that memorable, good background information.
  4. ATTENTION | Rule #4: We don’t pay attention to boring things.- Intuitive,  and general background information
  5. SHORT-TERM MEMORY | Rule #5: Repeat to remember. – Important, counter intuitive info on memory.
  6. LONG-TERM MEMORY | Rule #6: Remember to repeat.- Important, counter intuitive info on memory.
  7. SLEEP | Rule #7: Sleep well, think well. – The second most informative chapter.  I had always thought of sleep as a time of rest, it turns out to be a very active process for the brain.   Sleep is when the brain cleans and restocks itself.
  8. STRESS | Rule #8: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way. – I had no idea that stress was the physical reaction that it is.  This is the third most important chapter.
  9. SENSORY INTEGRATION | Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses. – Good advice for graphic designers.
  10. VISION | Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses. –  mostly background information.
  11. GENDER | Rule #11: Male and female brains are different . – we knew this already, but Medina tells us how male and female brains differ.
  12. EXPLORATION | Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers. –  mostly background information.

From this book I have made the following changes in life Continue reading →


03
May 10


Written By Steve French

 

Ten great books for American business

After writing yesterday’s post on lessons learned from eight years in business, I thought I would come up with my listing of great books that have helped me starting out.Shakespeare and Company bookshop I follow Tyler Cowen’s notion that if you you finish every book you start you’re wasting time on crap.  On average I finish less than half of the books I start.   Since I’ve gotten a Kindle I’ve upped my selectivity considerably.  Before anyone asks, I have yet to finish Getting Things Done by David Allen.

With no further ado – here are the books I recommend to start out. Continue reading →


30
Mar 10


Written By Steve French

 

Top 10 things I would change about QuickBooks Pro 2010

For some reason the blog posts about QuickBooks Pro 2010 are the most popular ones on the entire blog.  As I’m doing accounting this morning, here are what I would change.

  1. Remove the advertisements written directly into the program.  Click on “Learn about Payroll options” to see what I mean
  2. Allow better sorting of invoices and estimates, currently the program throws everything at you at once.
  3. Fix the printing problems – there is really no reason why creating a pdf is so error prone.
  4. Allow easier access to templates – they should copy the sadly defunct Microsoft Office Accounting in their use of templates
  5. Split off recurring invoicing and functions, avoid this whole “Memorized” metaphor, it’s simply not accurate. Continue reading →

12
Feb 10


Written By Steve French

 

Thoughts on the Apple iPad and the Kindle

iPad
Creative Commons License photo credit: Rego – twitter.com/w3bdesign

First things first, I have not seen the Apple iPad.  I am an enthusiastic owner of an Amazon Kindle.  I honestly don’t see what the hype is about.  Granted, I never do with Apple products, but I can’t even see it from Apple’s point of view this time.  The Kindle is perfect at what it does, largely because it doesn’t do that much.  You read order, download, and read books on it.  Period.  The Kindle does that effortlessly and the e-ink is easier to read than paper.  The pages are consistently sized (an under-reported feature of the Kindle that helps quite a bit) and the battery lasts forever.  The Kindle also weighs almost nothing and you do not have to choose between it and a laptop in terms of weight or space.  In sum, the Kindle solves the problem of “I want to read something” quite well.

What problem does the iPad solve?  It will have the low battery life of anything with an actual monitor, so it can’t go that long without being charged, so add in the bulkiness of a charger 40% of the time to the transport of the unit.  It is harder to read (again, relative to the Kindle) so that’s another strike against it.

Perhaps I’m reading this wrong, maybe the competitor isn’t the Kindle, but rather some segment of the iPhone market.  Perhaps there is some segment of the world that is clamoring for multimedia computing power that is available while in motion.  But the obscurity of the Microsoft Tablet OS/PC indicates that there are not legions of people clamoring for walkable computing power.

Happily no one’s products depend on me, so good luck Apple.

 

This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog


30
Jan 10


Written By Steve French

 

Review of The Power of Less by Leo Babauta

Overall Grade: 6/10

I recently picked up a copy of The Power of Less by Leo Babauta (I was using a gift certificate and that was the only interesting thing Barnes and Noble had in stock).  Babauta blogs as www.zenhabits.net and I imagine most of the content originally appeared there.  It is an easy, fast read.

The book boils down to these points: Continue reading →


11
Jan 10


Written By Steve French

 

Review of Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod

Overall Ranking: 8/10

The first book I purchased on my new Kindle was Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod. I bought it based on this review by Derek Sivers. On the whole, I liked it very much. In fact, I read it in one sitting. Here are my thoughts:

What the book is not:

  • A step by step manual for doing anything
  • A specific guide to doing anything
  • Case studies

What the book is:

  • A collection of generalized lessons learned from 20 odd years in the creative business
  • Extremely well written
  • Largely a collection of aphorisms, similar to the work of Eric Hoffer
  • Highly motivational

Continue reading →


31
Dec 09


Written By Steve French

 

Review of the Amazon Kindle

Overall Ranking: 10/10

This Christmas I succumb to pressure and purchase a Kindle. First thoughts

The Good

  • The clarity is superb
  • The Kindle screen increases readability slightly compared to the printed page
  • The Kindle page is slightly smaller than an ordinary paperback page. This was nice actually.
  • The software is intuitive
  • It arrives pre-setup for the most part
  • Taking notes is quite easy and easy to review
  • The dictionary feature is wonderful

The Bad

  • It is far too easy to purchase books accidentally. The purchases are reversible
  • They should include a cover and light as accessories. Those two items are essential to the safe operating of the Kindle (the cover anyway) and are not included with the Kindle.

On the whole, the Kindle is wonderful and I reccomend it to everyone.

 

This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog


31
Dec 09


Written By Steve French

 

Thoughts on Create Your Own Economy by Tyler Cowen

I recently finished Create Your Own Economy by Tyler Cowen and loved it. I found it to be an insightful treatise on the Autistic Spectrum and it raised many thoughts which are still bouncing around my head.

As a self-diagnosed Aspie – I was particularly fascinated by the part about degrees of difference, mainly that some people can appreciate/perceive some things, music, food, books, etc, to a far higher degree than others. I thought I would create some lists for future reference.

High degree of perception list

  • Music written in pentatonic scales
  • Word choice
  • Barbecue
  • Written History
  • Driving pattens (I can predict what people in front of me will do)
  • Boxing
  • Speeches and internal messaging
  • Verbal tone
  • Dogs

Low degree of perception list

  • Classical music
  • Jazz
  • Sushi
  • Body language
  • Basketball
  • Poetry
  • Cats

What does all this have to do with Stronico? I’m not sure, but I was inspired to make several changes to the app after reading the book, though I find the reasons to do so unclear.

 

This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog


07
Nov 09


Written By Steve French

 




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