Category Archives: Review

ReMarkable 2 Review

At first glance, the reMarkable seemed expensive for a one show pony. Replacing a pad of paper for notes was its only selling point and truly main focus. Could it really fit my use case and deliver an experience I needed?

As one who regularly types notes and prints them for use in public speaking, I sought out a replacement for physical paper. I had multiple copies of notes, printed quite regularly, and often would get copies confused. In my flow, I numbered the pages as to not get them confused which order they were to be referred. I reprinted each time a correction to the notes or if the paper withered due to use. This seemed like a huge waste of paper. (At $.05 estimated per sheet of paper, 10 pages of notes would cost approximately $2 by the time I was finished.)

I first started using my Kindle Paperwhite as a replacement to printing. I could easily send myself a PDF and have it appear on my Kindle. Over time I realized the screen was perfect for the lighting environments where I routinely looked at my notes – a pulpit. It was like having my notes printed, but without the glare of an LED from a tablet. One flaw of the Kindle stood out: while it was the perfect size for reading a book, it was too small for reading full sized PDF documents at a distance. I learned that I had to type “convert” in the subject line of each PDF email sent to my Kindle. This allowed better font viewing, but my formatting would not appear the way I needed it to.

When I first saw the reMarkable, it looked like it would alleviate my two concerns. Once I received my remarkable (thank you, stimulus money), I was able to import a few PDFs and view them as full-sized on the glare-free e-ink display. The formatting was also exactly as I set it in my word processor. Everything seemed as if it was going to be perfect; however, the reMarkable had one flaw – it does not have a typing program. Yes, it does have an on-screen keyboard for filling out items such as filenames, emails, and others, but if you want to word process, you have to manually write out the letters. While this is good for hand-written note takers, this threw a wrench in my workflow. I could not use the reMarkable as an all-inclusive document processor to where I would no longer need to type on a computer. (To reMarkable’s credit, they did not market the device as such, but I was erroneously thinking there would be some sort of typing application included.)

After some reviewing my workflow of typing my document in GSuite, saving it as PDF, and uploading it to the reMarkable, I figured this required too much effort to get something on the reMarkable. There had to be an easier way – considering I would update my typed document quite frequently. Looking for options, I was able to find the google-drive-sync script and extend it to include Documents and convert them to PDFs. My workflow now is as follows:

I. I type a document into GSuite
2. It syncs to remarkable cloud and my device
3. I copy the file to a local folder, make annotations in the process of reviewing
4. I update the file on GSuite
5. Repeat from step 2

I still have a few flaws to work out with the sync, but it works for now.

As for the other aspect of the reMarkable – note taking and eBook reading, I have to say, that I quite enjoy the experience. Jotting down a to-do list, quickly putting thoughts down (instead of waiting for a note app to boot on a phone or computer), and notating on top of eBooks have been a breeze. The experience is just like using paper, and for one who can detect lag from a stylus, I cannot tell that I am using one.

For a device that is marketed as replacing paper notes, it does quite well. My use case is also satisfied with some modifications that I have made. Overall, I am satisfied in the purchase and 2 year break-even point.

My tablet history and Kindle Fire (7th Gen) review

My first tablet was an Acer A500 which ran Honeycomb (Android 3.0). I used that laptop for everything – reading, pictures, studying, and using it to project games in the children’s class I taught at the time. It was used more than my laptop, phone, and desktop combined. It served its purpose until my wife accidentally knocked it off the kitchen counter (it was laying flat) and it got a huge dent. It never was the same after that incident. I eventually got rid of it after it no longer held a charge due to the damage it received. 

The next tablet I purchased was a Kindle fire 2nd gen which I gave to my wife and borrowed it when needed. Life was great. Then, as a reward for good behavior, we let our children play the games and apps we purchased on the Kindle. Our children are so well behaved (thanks to some awesome parentig tips we received in our Adult Bible Class at church) that my wife no longer had enough Kindle time to do her reading. This is when I bought her a 5th gen Kindle fire. The difference between versions impressed me. I liked the thinner design and the new UI was very intriguing. I made a determination if I ever wanted a new tablet I would get myself a Kindle fire. (I was not in the market for one as I was a happy 6 inch phablet user.)

Recently, I have had a desire to reduce my reading list by actually reading the books. At first I tried reading from my phablet, but alas, a 6inch screen is not ideal for reading large amounts of text – even if you have a high DPI phone such as my Google Nexus 6. This has led me to purchase a Kindle fire 7th gen which was released on June 7th 2017.

It has the same intriguing design as the 5th gen device, but has better battery life and more external storage capacity. When I first unboxed and turned on the device, I was happy at how little I had to do to get my new Kindle operational. After 10 minutes of using Kindle fire OS (which is just Android without Google), I quickly realized just how attached I am to Google services. Most of my daily use apps – such as Dropbox and JuiceSSH – were not available. Did I make a mistake buying this $70 device (+$30 case and $9 tax)? Thankfully, there is an alternative and it works quite well – it doesn’t even require rooting your device either!

Wow, after installing the four apps, running a Google play services update, and downloading my needed apps, I am really enjoying my Kindle fire 7th gen! Everything is working as expected; albeit, I have to wait a few milliseconds longer over my phablet to do common tasks. The screen size is perfect, the weight and style is also perfect, and I was able to be different and get a yellow one. (My wife has blue, black is the color I usually get, and red seemed too plastic.)

My IoT device history

The internet of things (IoT) is getting pretty saturated with devices most of which are either smart watches or activity trackers. Smart watches do not appeal to me as I have a very nasty habit of destroying the clock face of my watches. Last November, I was able to get a Vivosmart from Garmin for $60 plus tax and shipping. It was great – did step tracking, allowed for notifications, allowed me to dismiss calls and see texts. My brother-in-law also received one as a gift a few months later (he preferred it over the Fitbit which did less and cost more).

A month ago we both noticed the pixels disappearing on the Garmin Vivosmart display. I was able to submit a warranty request through their website quite painlessly, and the offered to upgrade me to a Garmin Vivosmart HR! Of course I took the upgrade offer and paid the shipping for the old device to be sent back. My brother-in-law had a complete different experience. The website at first said his Garmin Vivosmart was out of warranty (even though it was newer than mine) then it eventually – a day later – said it was in warranty. He was given the option to replace the Garmin Vivosmart with a non-HR model, but they gave him a shipping label. It is quite odd that we both had different experiences within a few days of submitting our warranty requests.

I recently received the newer model after waiting the RMA process and I am quite impressed. At first, the font was too skinny and hard to read, but all I had to do was upgrade to the latest firmware and it was fixed. One neat feature that was added (besides the obvious HR function) was the ability to see the weather – up to a 4 day forecast. Two new goal trackers were also added – a stair counter and strenuous activity counter. The plain Garmin Vivosmart’s battery lasted over a week. I haven’t depleted the new model all the way, but I am assuming it will last 4-5 days depending on my use.

The future without Microsoft Office products 

I recently submitted a proposal to remove Microsoft Office from off my network and switch to Google Apps for Work and LibreOffice. This would incur a cost savings of ~$17.50 per user per month (GAFW $5 plan versus Office 2016 Professional Plus, Corporate, Open License, License Only). Some may argue that there are better license options with Microsoft and the $508 per user per 2 years (with the open license; source: is not a fair estimation, however, it is not fair to compare a stagnant version of Office versus the always updated version of GAFW or LibreOffice. Continue reading The future without Microsoft Office products 

Blame as a service (BlaaS)

Today I am pleased to announce a new offering – Blame as a Service (BlaaS).

With the ever increase of SaaS offerings and cloud providers with high resiliency and low downtime, there will be the inevitable glitch or hiccup whenever a CEO views your team’s area of responsibility. With the recent passing of Murphy’s Law in IEEE this has become more frequent in day-to-day operations.

BlaaS helps you by receiving the blame for your incompetence by providing you with simple, easy-to-use templates that you can share with your CEO. These templates shift the blame from your SaaS choosing and put it on your BlaaS application making you the hero and us the bad guy.

BlaaS has already saved several Developers from embarrassment and System Administrators from potential job loss and it can help you too!
Continue reading Blame as a service (BlaaS)

7 essential Android IT tools

I have been using an Android phone for the past several years (since version 2.3.2). It has turned out to be the swiss army knife in my IT toolkit. Here are 7 apps that I cannot live without and help me perform my daily job duties.

ActiveDir Manager

ActiveDir Manager is a $4.99 app that allows you to do 80% of Active Directory management tasks including: changing user passwords, locking/unlocking user accounts, adding users to groups, and editing basic user information. It comes in handy when someone stop you in the hall and mentions their account is locked out. Instead of writing it down in Evernote, then walking to your desk and unlocking the user, you can whip out this app and get it done in under 10 seconds!

WiFi Analyzer

WiFi Analyzer is the most widely used app for wireless network troubleshooting. I have used it to hunt down missing access points, see signal strength in the location I am presently standing, and pick out an open channel for my home network. If this app is not on your phone, you obviously are not a network administrator!


JuiceSSH is another neat little app.  I use it to manage my fleet of Raspberry PIs that power my campus display TVs and wayfinding signs. The feature that got me most locked into this app is the ability to sync connections and accounts between my old phone and new phone.

Ring Scheduler

Ring Scheduler was developed by the same guy who made WiFi Analyzer. Its purpose is to silence your phone on a schedule. You can also use it to ensure your ringer is on at specific times. For me I use it to silence my phone at 10 pm and re-enable it at 6am.

Microsoft Remote Desktop Client

Microsoft Remote Desktop Client is a perfect app to connect to the GUI of Microsoft servers. Right-clicking is still kind of annoying, but this simple app keeps me from having to install 3rd party software on my servers just for remote desktop access.

ES File Explorer

ES File Explorer is a utility I use to connect to remote network shares as well as navigate and cleanup my android device.


Screebl has made my reading more enjoyable. Ever read a news article or book only to have your phone go black in the middle of the good part? Screebl solves that. I have often come to rely so much on Screebl’s function that I find using any device without it to be deemed as a dumb phone (including other android phones).

My Review of Digium

In a previous post, I mentioned that we switched to Digium Switchvox. Here are some features I really enjoy. Continue reading My Review of Digium