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Business card scanning

Sep 28 2016

Franklin Planner - DaveTavres.comLike many people, I’ve probably gotten thousands of business cards over the years. For at least 8 years I carried a Franklin Planner, but by 1998 I went digital. I’m also a bit of a contact-hoarder. I make notes for many of the contacts I make, because I like to go back to give business to people I’ve actually met in person, or when someone else says that they need someone for a particular service, I like to connect people.

Over the years I’ve tried entering all of these cards into my contact list, but now and then I get lazy and they get tossed into a box with dozens (or hundreds) of other cards. I’ve looked for solutions – and there are plenty out there – but I didn’t really want to buy a business card scanner, as scanners are kind of out-dated today. Smart phones can take photos at such high resolution, and OCR is pretty common.

Permissions - DaveTavres.comI’ve been looking for an mobile app-based option, or even a desktop application that would quickly take an image, read the edges of the card, crop it, then convert the characters to text and hopefully import the information into my contact list. (I use Google Contacts) Oh – and I’m somewhat paranoid / I don’t trust most app developers, so anything that was a mobile app needed to have REALLY limited permissions. What I found were LOTS of mobile apps that wanted WAY too much access to my device. What I really hoped for was something that would just create a vCard file that I could then import – which means the app doesn’t have (or need) access to my contact list. Most people install apps without checking the permissions, which is begging for a not-so-honest app developer to scrape a user’s information – and contact lists – for the purpose of spamming or phishing all their contacts. I’m not one of those people. At least now, the latest versions of Android give users much better control over their device, so they can disable access to each part of their phone, for each application.

Office Lens - DaveTavres.comSeveral apps on the store had some of the features I wanted, but they wanted way too much access. Then I found articles talking about how LinkedIn use to have a tool called “CardMunch”, but they shut it down and sent it to Evernote. I’m a OneNote guy, so I wasn’t too keen, but I downloaded the latest desktop and mobile version of Evernote, then went hunting for the ‘business card scanner’ feature. Guess what? Now it’s a paid feature. 10 seconds after I saw that, Revo was removing any trace of Evernote. Then I remembered that OneNote does OCR on images you add to pages, so I started reading up on that. It turns out, Microsoft has recently partnered with someone to release “Office Lens” for Android, iOS and Windows, and it integrates with OneNote – AND, it creates a vCard! Wow… they read my mind!

After playing with it for a few minutes, I setup my phone on the desk, connected to the phone via TeamViewer so I could go faster with the mouse and keyboard, and within 10 minutes, I had scanned over 40 cards that had stacked up on my desk. Wow. I was impressed. It isn’t the best solution out there, but for free and fairly easy to use, it’s a winner!

Step 1 – Lens ‘finds’ the card, and you snap the pic.
Office Lens OCR result - DaveTavres.comOffice Lens - Step 1 - DaveTavres.com

Step 2 – Check the image, save or delete it.Office Lens - Step 2 - DaveTavres.com

Step 3 – Choose where to save it to.
Office Lens - Step 3 - DaveTavres.com

 

Should domain name WHOIS info all be public?

Sep 09 2016

Should domain name WHOIS info all be public? - DaveTavres.comI bought my first domain in the early 1990s, when NetworkSolutions was the ONLY company allowed to sell domain names, as they were the only public domain registrar. If I recall correctly, domains were $150 per year. That was a lot of money back then, especially since I was only getting paid $15/hr doing technical support for Internet In A Box.

Internet In A Box - DaveTavres.comIn the early 90s, WHOIS info wasn’t a data mining source, and it wasn’t even something that most people understood. I doubt NetSol even offered a “Keep your info private” option. Today though, there are scammer companies that collect and store WHOIS information every minute of every day. They send out fake invoices to get you to either transfer the domain to their registrar for outrageous annual fees, or they come up with some other scam using technical and official sounding information that non-geeks wouldn’t understand – so they send in a check.

On the other hand, sometimes there are domains that people should be able to figure out who owns them, whether for legitimate entrepreneurial ventures, or because they simply want to contact the domain owners for philanthropic endeavors. Or, sometimes you just want to know why someone has a domain that they aren’t using.

The question is… Should domain name WHOIS info all be public?

Google Domains - DaveTavres.comDomain names are part of the public thing we call “the internet”. So why shouldn’t whois info be public? If you want to find out who owns a coffee shop or other business, you can go to the City Clerk’s office and look up the information. However, many businesses do have lawyers’ names and addresses (also called a ‘Registered Agent’) on file, you still can’t “easily” find out who owns the business. But, it is possible to go through public records to find out who actually owns a business. Not so much with domain names.

If you pay the extra fee (or not, if you use Google Domains, which adds privacy for free), the registrar will put their own address and phone number, and create an obfuscated email forwarder, so that you don’t get bothered by the scammers – or the legitimate people – who want to find out who you are.

I think public benefit services, which the internet has become, should probably have information publicly available. And you should be able to access public records to find out who owns a domain, just like finding out who owns a business. But right now with WHOIS, that’s the only record. You can’t find out who owns a domain without a court order. I’m thinking that needs to change.

WHOIS - DaveTavres.com

 

Old vending machine idea

Aug 05 2016

Old vending machine idea - DaveTavres.comI’ve wanted one of these old cigarette vending machines for years. I remember these as a kid, and there’s something magical about the mechanical pull that dispenses goods.

Ideally, I’d like to get one and have it professionally stripped, cleaned, re-painted and have all the mechanicals cleaned up and well-oiled. Then, find an interested business where the machine would stand out and be a point of interest for their customers.

Then, I’d like to engage someone like my friend Rick Boxeth and his delicious, hand-made, chocolate covered caramels, to box them up cigarette-pack-sized boxes of four-packs of chocolates, and vend them through this classic design. Or maybe use the same boxes to sell gum or rock candy.

Cigarette vending machine idea - DaveTavres.comCoin-op vending machine idea - DaveTavres.com

 
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Posted in Business

 

Alaskan Farms

Jul 12 2016

As I was shopping for a new house, I saw some amazing photos of ‘open-air’ homes. Homes that have giant doors the size of walls that can be opened up and create an amazing open space feeling. I thought about cooling a space that size, and wondering if the right airflow design could keep an ‘open-air’ home cool, even on the hottest days.

Open-air Server Farms - DaveTavres.comAlaskan Farms - DaveTavres.com

Being the geek that I am, I suddenly flashed over to server farms, and thought – ‘What if you had an ‘open-air’ server farm in an always-cold climate like some parts of Alaska?’

Rose and flower farmers have giant tents with roll-up flaps that they hurriedly roll up and down depending on the wind, temperature, sun, and other environmental variables – so why not computer controlled doors that partially (or fully) open and close based on the inside and outside temperatures?

Yes, there are other issues, like wild animals, dust and debris, etc. but there must be simple solutions for those issues as well, like large screens and air-filtration systems – which should cost less to run than the tremendous cost of massive air-conditioning units that currently power server farms around world (and sometimes in places like Las Vegas, where power isn’t cheap, and the heat can be 100+ degrees in the summer!)

Plus, for places like Alaska and Canada where some parts have year-round snow and cold temps, these server farms could be a tremendous source of new business.

Oh, and I wasn’t actually looking for a new house – a nice picture of a huge mansion just scrolled through on Facebook :)

 

USE A PASSWORD VAULT!

Jun 05 2016

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of technical consulting for individuals and lots of small businesses. The one thing that is almost universal with all of those people is – they don’t use a password vault. But they REALLY need to use one.

Why? Because, if someone gets access to their computer, or steals their computer, or hacks it, those people can either lose all of their passwords, or worse, someone can login to many website and do malicious things. (Ya know, log into your bank, transfer money, send dirty or scam emails to hundreds of thousands of people, lock you out of your bill pay, etc.)

So – the best solution I’ve come across (and I LIVE WITH EVERY DAY) is LastPass. Right now – GO CREATE A LASTPASS ACCOUNT! – www.bit.ly/LastPassVault

Create a LastPass accont! - DaveTavres.com

Seriously. Right now. Go do it. Get started.

Even the basic free account will do more for your online security than you currently have with that Word or Excel file, or that book in the desk with all the family’s passwords in it.

Once you’re comfortable signing into the site and adding your accounts, you can move on to the really useful features like auto-login and shared folders.

What is auto-login? You install the Chrome or Firefox extension to your web browser, and when you go to a website that is listed in your LastPass Vault, LastPass can do an auto-login, or can let you choose the username and password to login to that site with. Not only is this a huge time saver, it’s far more secure than typing it out each time, or pulling up that file or book to find the password (when I’m standing at your desk and see the file or the book, now *I* know where to find ALL your passwords. If I’m not a good person, I effectively have access to ALL of your websites!)

Now you might ask, ‘What are shared folders?’ Good question!

If you upgrade for $12 A YEAR, you can have a single folder that is shared with your spouse, partner, friend, family, etc., and everyone can use that one folder for the commonly shared sites. The upgrade also lets you install the app on your mobile device to auto-login there too!

There are few things that I insist people do with their technology. This is one of those things. If you’re still using papers, sticky notes, books and a ‘clear-text’ file on your computer for passwords, it’s just a matter of time before someone steals your logins.

Create a LastPass accont! - DaveTavres.com