29 July 2007

My 3×5 Life

Those of you that know me well, know that I keep my work life (and home life ocassionally) on 3×5 cards. This week I hit the mother lode of 3×5 card accessories at Levenger — my favorites were the 3×5 card bleachers and the pen pocket briefcase. I ordered a set of bleachers for home and one for work, and one pen pocket briefcase. I also ordered a set a 3×5 sized file folders…I’m not sure how I’ll use them, but they very cute. I’m sure there will be additional orders later.

While I was waiting for those items to arrive I started doing some research looking for 3×5 card templates - Levenger sells cards preprinted with small forms, grids, etc. which were quite expensive ($44/thousand - or about 10 times the cost of plain 3×5 cards at staples or office depot.) I found there was an entire subculture of 3×5 card junkies…who have produced a ton of various templates and posted them on the web. I’ve downloaded quite a few and I’m trying them out…I’ll let you know which ones work best for me. The best sites for 3×5 junkies seem to be hipsterPDA and 43Folders. I think I’m going to end up making my own templates to accommodate my own idiosyncrasies (though many others seem to share some of them - case in point - I jot down note on each voicemail I receive and someone actually has a form for that.)

Beyond the templates I also found a very interesting micro-wiki application which prints 3×5 cards. The GTDTiddlyWiki is an html page which you download to your computer - it uses javascript to record your changes within the html page — with no server needed. It works like most wikis with short hand formatting, links, etc. It is setup to print to 3×5 cards complete with titles and small tick boxes to check things off your list while you’re on the go. This really addresses my compulsive list making…which is what most of the 3×5 cards become.

So a combination of template forms for quick on the go items and the GTDTiddleyWiki for cleaning up the lists should do me well. So why not keep all this in my PDA? Though I have tried several applications (my favorite for windows mobile was Teddy Lindsey’s SmarterTasks.) I find I keep electronic lists up for a week or two and then revert back to cards. There is something about shuffling the cards about and organizing them in ordered piles, pinning them to the wall, or now organizing them in bleachers that seems to get me back to on track.


07 July 2007

My Life Simplified

I’m attempting to take some of the complexity out of my life by moving all of my web and email hosting out of the house to hosting providers. Originally, I was running web and email servers from the house as a good way to learn and keep current on things. I’ve now moved past that and want to have someone else apply patches and keep the systems running.

There were several requirements - I wanted a “pretty” photo web site with slide show function to dissolve between photos, a blog to post travel logs and things like this, email had to support my mom and brother while also providing me with an Exchange 2007 account with active sync. After a lot of looking around, I have finally found a solution that appears to be working…

I’m currently using the following service providers:

  • Email
    • Primary host is Goggle Hosted Apps (no cost.) This gives my mom and brother the ability to use POP3 on both of my domains (laabs.biz and spice-weasel.com)
    • My email is forwarded from Google to a hosted exchange account at 123Together. They have been quite responsive so far and offer all the features I wanted at a good price: Power 1000 account for $14.95/mo. Includes a 1Gb mailbox, active sync, OWA 2007, and RPC over HTTP (”outlook anywhere”)
  • Web Page / Blog
    • The Host is ANHosting. They were highly rated and supported auto-installation of my blogging software. They provide shared Linux hosting for $6.95/mo with 250Gb of storage and 2.5Tb of bandwidth. (Also, I found a deal for 3 months free with a 1 year commitment - making the effective price $5.56/mo…but that doesn’t appear to be showing up on my invoice yet…)
    • I installed by blog of choice (Wordpress) at the press of a button in their control panel and I was able to restore the blog I started at home to the new site. Up and running in a only an hour or so.
  • Photos
    • This was the most difficult one. I really wanted control of how my photos looked and how they were viewed. Jesus pointed me to Phanfare. They offer photo hosting with a very nice flash based interface. I had been running a photo gallery package called SlideShowPro (with SlideShowProDirector) for a couple of months. It was $50 and would run on either Linux or windows. There was nothing wrong with it - and I can still use it on the ANhosting site if needed, but so far I’m very happy with Phanfare. The cost of Phanfare is $54.95/yr and includes unlimited storage. The thick administration client is great - and the web client is not bad either for quick touch-ups without the install. (If you decide to join, please indicate that you were referred by “bard” [my Phanfare account name] so I can benefit - you will also, with $7 off your subscription.)
  • DNS/Domain Hosting
    • To make this all work seamlessly, I needed a great DNS host - I’ve been using EasyDNS for years and have been nothing but happy with them. I have total control over my DNS entries - making all of this dispersed hosting easy. Even to the point of adding SPF records to allow email from all of the servers involved. Its not the cheapest, but it has worked very reliably.

So the monthly bills break down like this:

Google $ 0.00
ANHosting $ 6.95
123Together $14.95
Phanfare $ 4.58
EasyDNS $ 5.83 (2 domain registrations with DNS service)
$32.31 Total per month

I’ve estimated the electrical costs for running the server was about $30 a month, so I might even come out ahead on this whole deal if I can reduce my monthly internet bill by $25/month by removing some of the static IP addresses I’m no longer using. (Although now that I look at it, $388/year seems like a lot just to talk to you all…)
It has been a chore to work this all out - but I’ve finally turned off the server. I’m down to 1 computer, an open source PfSense Firewall (highly recommended), and a SonicWall SLLVPN (recommended, but they want a lot for software updates and maintenance) for most of my computer needs.


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