16 December 2009

Scheduling made easy

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, right?  I've been struggling for years to find a way to ditch the paper planner and rely solely on my phone and computer - but somehow, someway, I always keep defaulting back to that 200 lb., 3-inch wide monkey hanging from my back (or arm).

And as you know from yesterday's post - if there's one thing that irks me, it's doing something one way even though you know there has to be an easier way to do it.

On my end, I use Oracle Calendar at work (tied into my MS Outlook), Google Calendar for my iPhone and iCal on my home computer.  As previously chronicled, that process alone can make you want to throw your computer out your third-story office window.  But then you add friends and colleagues into the mix and it's enough to make you sit in the corner flipping your FranklinCovey pages mumbling incoherent phrases and cursing.

Enter Tungle.

It's a web-based service designed to seamlessly sync between multiple clients.  It doesn't matter that I use Outlook at work, iCal at home and Google Calendar on the go - if I make a change in any location, it pushes that to the cloud, and 'rains down' to all my devices.

There are two great features I like:

  1. The ability of others to schedule meetings with me even though we might not use the same calendaring client.
  2. The ease of scheduling.
Working across multiple calendar clients is a killer feature, and I'm so happy they've found a way to address this.  Even though many companies (like Google) have figured out a way to manage event invitations cross-platform, it's still not completely fool-proof.  Tungle's power in this aspect is that it replies via Tungle, syncs to your devices and allows all users to see attendees.

The ease of scheduling is, in a word awesome.  You to to someone's page (if the user allows it to be public) - for example, mine is  If you'd like to schedule a meeting with me, it shows all my available time slots.  You pick a few that work for you.  I get a notice you'd like to schedule a meeting; I look at your proposed times and pick the one that tickles my fancy, and *boom*, the meeting is set and everyone is notified.  This is what the interface looks like (online and in Outlook):

Frankly, I'm surprised they haven't branched out to doctor's offices.  Image if you could look at your doctor's schedule, pick a time that works for you and just show up.  The doctor wouldn't even necessarily need more than one staff person to help with appointments - most could be managed online.

But I digress.

So far, I've really enjoyed the service and have started sending it in my email footers.  It just makes sense, and I'm glad a company has finally figured out a good solution to the calendaring solution.  While I still haven't become totally paper-free, I'm making good progress.

And hey - anything that means you won't see me huddled in a corner with crazy eyes muttering curses at my agenda is a good thing.

15 December 2009

Lunchtime Post: Fire breath

While I don't intend to write about apps very often here, occasionally there is one I discover that makes my inner-nerd pump up the jams and do a little dance.  One week ago today, I had a moment like that.

Last Tuesday, Nuance Communications released what I believe is the very first speech-to-text translation app on the iPhone - Dragon Dictation.  I've been looking for a few months for a solution like this, and was pleased to finally see it appear.  The best part: right now, it's free.

Nuance is responsible for the "Dragon Naturally Speaking" program, which David Pogue wrote about a while ago (saying the software was one of the reasons he's so productive).  The basic idea is that humans can speak much more quickly than we are able to type; why not save a step and automatically transcribe that speech?  Thankfully, technology has caught up with our ambitions and phrases like "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" aren't transcribed to "sup or cauliflower is stick ex pee all atrocious" (and yes, I did try it).

Frankly, I was a bit surprised someone hadn't already created something like this for long-form.  Sure, there are apps like ReQall, but those are for simple task / appointment voice notes.  The great thing about the Dragon Dictation app is the ability to create longer, nearly instantly transcribed memos.

There are many times when I'm mobile without access to a keyboard computer.  Most often I record a voice memo and type it out later, and there's nothing more frustrating than doing something one way when you KNOW there is an easier one.  I'm doing my praise-the-Lord dance that I don't have to repeat this.

On a side note, it's nice to see quality apps starting to appear.  My frustration with the App Store thus far is the plethora of completely useless apps (kind of reminds me of all the crapware that used to come with Dell computers; the only irony is that iPhone users CHOOSE to download these).  This is no more apparent than in the 'free' section.  Unfortunately, those are the most downloaded; thus, finding useful free or inexpensive apps is time-consuming and anger-inducing.

Any suggestions for filtering out good apps?  What have you all found useful?

Edit: Just found some interesting tips from Just Another iPhone blog; they provide most of the punctuation shortcuts for the app.

10 December 2009

iPhone and Oracle Calendar (cross-posted from thenewadvancement)

If you're like me, you have to deal with the extremely frustrating process of trying to match the service you have with what you want.

Last August I bought an iPhone for work, but had no way to easily integrate it into our Oracle Calendar system. I simply wanted mobile, editable access to both my e-mail and calendar; while the web/online interfaces worked, they didn't seamlessly integrate. I couldn't just open my calendar app and have it populated with that day's events.

I tried searching all over the web, and unfortunately, there was an utter void when it came to the subject. Everyone was asking how but no one had the answers.

So, in service to those who'd like to connect their Oracle Calendar to their iPhone, I developed the following work around. It requires these tools (all links are to external sites):

  1. Oracle Connector for Office (OCFO), downloadable here.
  2. Calgoo Connect, downloadable here, or Google Calendar Sync, downloadable here.
  3. A Google account (mail and calendar).
  4. An iPhone.
  5. Outlook 2007 or 2003.
  6. A NuevaSync or Google Sync account.

Graphically, this is what will happen (click to expand):

From Blog

Here are the steps to syncing nirvana:

  1. Sign up for a Google account, if you haven't already, and start a calendar and gMail account.
  2. Back up your existing iPhone contacts, and export them to your desktop.
  3. Import your contacts to gMail. If you have a Mac (or PC), you can do this fairly easily by setting them up to sync with Google. Mac instructions, PC instructions.
  4. Set up your iPhone to sync with Google.
  5. Install the OFCO; contact your system admin for instructions (sometimes you can find this by peeking in your Oracle's menu: Tools > Manage Connections… > click your connection > click edit > copy information down). This will two-way sync between Outlook and Oracle Calendar.
  6. Install Calgoo Connect or Google Sync. A tip for those, like me, who already had data on their calendar: unless you want everything duplicated, Calgoo is the better option. Unfortunately, Google is more likely to update their software someday (Calgoo hasn't since September 2008). Pick the lesser of two evils.
  7. Set up Calgoo or Google Sync to sync with your MS Outlook.

This should set everything up so you have two-way, up-to-date, editable calendar information. Added bonus: it gives me access to my Oracle calendar while on the road.

Comment if you have questions, I'm happy to help!