Some kudos for Evernote

I stumbled upon Evernote a few months ago while looking for a software application to manage my ever-growing to-do lists. As the name suggests, Evernote is not a to-do management software. It is simply an application that lets you take quick notes in any situation and from any device. However, since it let me add check-boxes next to lines of text, it doubled up as my simple “to-do management” app as well, besides becoming my everyday note-taking software. It suited me just fine also because I work across three computers — my office laptop, my office PC, and my home laptop — on any given day.

So what does Evernote have that Google Docs (unfair comparison, I know!), Notepad, or for that matter some of the expensive note-taking software out there, doesn’t? Here’s what:

  • Evernote is not entirely in the cloud or on your PC. It’s somewhere in between. Most importantly, it lets you decide which notes you want to save in the online repository and which ones you want to store locally. So, if you’re worried about your intellectual property living on somebody else’s servers, Evernote may be a good app to try.
  • It supports elaborate on-the-fly tagging of notes and notebook/folder-based organization; something that you’d expect from a good note-management software.
  • The storage limit for free users is well calibrated. I usually take only text notes and I haven’t been able to consume even 10% of my monthly limit over the three months that I’ve been using Evernote for.
  • The “ink note” feature comes handy if you like to conjure up impromptu diagrams and schematics.
  • The Search, Print, and Email features work like a charm. It’s obvious that the app developers chose to stick to a limited array of features, but deliver them well.

And did I tell you that the UI of Evernote rocks as well? It’s clean, unambiguous, and very thoughtfully designed.

Another good thing about Evernote is that, besides PCs, it works with almost all breeds of smartphones out there. I haven’t used Evernote on a mobile phone yet, but I’ll likely have an opportunity to do so later this year. More about the mobile experience later then!

[Update 6/2/2011] I use Evernote on two more devices now — my HTC Desire HD running Android Gingerbread and iPad 2. Having all my notes available on any of the five devices I use is a great convenience. However, the app developers could probably add a feature or two to better support checklists and rich-text notes on smart portable devices.


Fixing WiFi issues on openSUSE 11.2

Wireless connectivity issues seem to plague all major Linux distributions (at least the ones that I’ve tried recently!). This evening, I installed openSUSE 11.2 (KDE) and ran into the same issue that I had reported with Ubuntu Karmic Koala a few weeks back. The WiFi connection would die on its own a few minutes into the session.

This time, fortunately, I was able to solve the issue through a simple tweak — disabling IPv6. Here are the steps I followed:

  1. Click The Chamaleon Icon > Computer > YaST.
  2. In the YaST Control Center, click Network Devices > Network Settings.
  3. On the Global Settings tab in the Network Settings dialog box, deselect Enable IPv6.
  4. Click OK.
  5. When prompted, restart the system.

I’d strongly suggest you try disabling IPv6 if you’re facing similar issues with any Linux distribution.

Why did I give up on Ubuntu and Kubuntu, and choose openSuSE as my desktop distro? Well, I’ll try to cover that in a separate post.

Later, then!

The curious case of the missing ‘Trash Can’

I came across this interesting Ubuntu forum thread that tells you how to reinstate the Trash Can icon in Ubuntu if you’ve ‘accidentally’ deleted it. Well, deleting it accidentally seems pretty easy too — all you need to do is right click the icon and then click ‘Remove from Panel’ instead of ‘Empty Trash’. Oops!

What the forum thread doesn’t say clearly is how to reinstate the Trash Can icon in its original position — far bottom-right corner of the screen, to the right of the Workspace Switcher boxes. I was able to do this easily by following these steps:

  1. Right-click the panel and click Add to Panel.
  2. In the dialog box that appears, select the Trash item and click Add.
  3. Now, right-click one of the Workspace Switcher boxes and click Remove from Panel.
  4. Right-click the Trash icon you added, click Move, and drag the icon to the far right corner of the panel.
  5. Add the Workspace Switcher item to the panel. If necessary, move it to the left of the Trash Can icon.

While at it, you can also add some other interesting gadgets to the panel. I added System Monitor, Tomboy Notes, Eyes, and Drawer! Here’s a clipped screenshot of my Ubuntu Lucid Lynx desktop.

Easier offline install on Ubuntu…

In the course of a Google Buzz conversation, my friend Edgar D’Souza shared a less circuitous way of downloading Ubuntu packages on Windows than I had suggested in this blog post. Download scripts!

Here are the precise steps that he shared:

  1. Boot Ubuntu and run the Synaptic Package Manager.
  2. Search for the packages that you have determined you need (they will most likely already be in the main repositories). Mark the packages for installation.
  3. Accept the Also install prompts to mark their dependencies as well.
  4. Once you have marked all the required packages, select File > Generate download script. Save the download script to your USB thumb drive.
  5. Boot Windows.
  6. Install wget for Windows.
  7. Run the saved download script. If necessary, edit the file to make it more palatable to Windows.
  8. Copy the downloaded packages to the USB drive.
  9. Reboot into Ubuntu and go back to the Synaptic Package Manager.
  10. Select File > Add downloaded packages. Navigate to the USB drive and select the downloaded packages.
  11. Click Apply (to install).

Troubleshooting Wi-Fi issues with Ubuntu

Wi-Fi connectivity is not yet Ubuntu’s area of strength. My laptop running Karmic Koala offered very unstable access to the Internet until I installed some additional required packages. Figuring out what packages to install, however, was not as easy as I had hoped.

The Karmic Koala living in my dual-booting Acer 5542g laptop had been giving me strange connectivity problems. Although Ubuntu would show some Wi-Fi signal strength immediately after I logged in, the connection would die on its own within a few seconds and not come up again. Not even when I moved the laptop right next to the Wi-Fi router! All this while, whenever I used the Windows 7 that shipped with my laptop, I’d get excellent Wi-Fi connectivity.

A quick search on Ubuntu forums convinced me that this issue was pretty common. apt-getting a few missing packages would apparently solve it, but how? apt-get is useful on systems that have a live Internet connection. However, with the window of connectivity down to 15 seconds, there was hardly an easy way to sych repositories, download the packages, figure out their dependencies, and then put everything together.

So, I decided to tread the way that all Linux users dread—offline install. I downloaded the packages on Windows 7, tried to install them on Ubuntu, and when dependency issues arose, booted back into Windows 7 to download the missing packages. After seven restarts, I was finally able to access FaceBook using Ubuntu and share my success story!

Here’s the deal…

To fix Wi-Fi connectivity issues on Ubuntu, you need the following packages installed on your system:

  • linux-backports-modules-karmic-generic (3.4 KB)
  • linux-backports-modules-wireless-karmic-generic (3.3 KB)

However, as you try to install these packages, you will realize that they have sequential dependencies on the following packages:

  1. linux-backports-modules-2.6.31-19-generic (1.5 MB)
  2. linux-image-2.6.31-19-generic (27.5 MB)

Downloading and installing the packages

To download the required packages, go to Ubuntu Packages, and search for the package name in the Search Package Directories section.

Once the search hits are displayed, navigate to the karmic branch and download the .deb package for your architecture (i386 in most cases).

When you have all the required .deb files available, copy them to a storage location accessible from within Ubuntu (a USB drive, for example). Now, install the packages in the following order by double-clicking the corresponding .deb file and supplying the administrative password:

  1. linux-image-2.6.31-19-generic
  2. linux-backports-modules-2.6.31-19-generic
  3. linux-backports-modules-karmic-generic
  4. linux-backports-modules-wireless-karmic-generic

Once all the packages have been installed, restart your computer Windows-style and enjoy the much-improved Wi-Fi connectivity.

That’s all for a night spent troubleshooting! I hope you find this tutorial useful.