What’s so hard about remembering the milk?

I often get teased because I make lists: “But you’re so young; you shouldn’t be so forgetful all the time.” I hear that line (or several variations of it) often, but the truth is, I make lists not only to remember things, but to organize.

With the rigors of everyday life bearing down on working professionals, why should we be expected to remember everything? Well, we’re not.

Remember the Milk (RTM) is a free online task management site that simply manages your tasks in the form of lists so you will “never forget the milk (or anything else) again.”

Here’s just a sample of what you can do with Remember the Milk.

Manage tasks effortlessly
Ever have an idea pop into your head or suddenly remember something as you’re driving, only to have it dissipate from your thoughts completely upon arrival? It’s OK – it happens to the best of us (at least that’s what I’m telling myself). With RTM, you wouldn’t have that problem when you can just fire off an e-mail or TXT message from your phone and add it to your list.

Receive TXT, e-mail and IM reminders
Set-up reminders for your tasks to be sent to you via the interface of your choice. Choose from e-mail, TXT or IM (AIM, Gadu-Gadu, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, MSN, Skype and Yahoo!).  Can’t get any more convenient than that.

Organize with lists and tags
I love tag clouds. I think they’re fun and I can easily spot the subjects of any blog that I am reading, or in this case, the contents of my lists and tasks. With unlimited list-making at your disposal, I have found this feature to be extremely helpful.

The more a tag appears throughout your lists, and the longer your lists are, the tags are displayed in a larger font in your tag cloud (or Task Cloud as RTM calls it). It is also easy to distinguish between lists and tags in the cloud, as your lists will be displayed in gray and your tags will be shown in blue.

Another cool aspect of the tag cloud: the higher priority a task is, or the closer the due date is, the word will also appear in a larger font, making sure that you can’t miss it.

Track your tasks using Google Maps
Now that you’re not going to forget the milk on the way home, map out just where you’re going to stop. Use this feature to pinpoint where you will be completing your tasks so you never have to go out of your way!

Share, send or publish tasks and lists
Need a friendly non-nagging way to remind someone to do something (your significant other perhaps)? Add them to your RTM contacts list and send them a task reminder.

As I mentioned above, this is only a small flavor of features that Remember the Milk offers. Now, if you’ll excuse me, writing this blog completed another task that I must go “cross off my list” (after all, I didn’t want to forget to write it).

Found on Google: More than just a simple search

Variables of every type swirl around computer user’s habits and hardware, still one common tool seems to always be on everyone’s list: Google. This simple search engine grows in every direction, yet does no wrong or at least no intentional evil. Google has added several great features and services, but their claim to fame is still their search ability.

Let’s say that you’re feeling adventurous enough to stray from the comfortable simple search. Take advantage of these lesser known features of the Google search engine.

SPELLING: Google’s suggested word feature offers a quick and easy on-off spell checker. By mistakenly typing “catastophic” into the Google search returns: “Did you mean: catastrophic.” Simply clicking on the new spelling suggestion brings up your intended search results.

DEFINITIONS: Need to find the technical meaning for XBRL? Entering “define: xbrl” in the search returns a list of definitions found on the Web. Need the definition in another language (Hey, you never know!)? Simply click on one of the nine languages available to view your search results in that language.

CALCULATIONS: Use the Google search box for calculations and conversions. Soople.com provides an interface to send raw numbers to Google for calculation. Check out the Google results below after these formulas were entered into Soople:

TIME AND WEATHER: Use the time or weather operators to get information about a given location. Simply enter “time” or “weather” and the name of the city and voila – instant time or weather information (not to mention thousands upon thousands of search results relating to said city’s weather or time).

AIRLINE TRAVEL INFORMATION: Typing the airline name and flight number of any arriving or departing flight will link you to flightstats.com for up-to-date flight information. Entering the airport name or code followed by the operator “airport” will display airport conditions.

PACKAGE TRACKING: Enter any UPS, USPS or FedEx package tracking number and a direct link to your tracking interface will be returned.

Nice features for a simple search box, but outstanding from your mobile phone. Many of these features work by sending a TXT message to Google “466453” (FYI: 466453 spells out Google on the keypad). TXTing weather Denver to 466453 will return the current weather in Denver as a text message. More importantly TXTing your zipcode along with the keyword pizza returns all the information you need for the perfect late night snack.

More Google search features:

More Google SMS/TXT features:

Do you see what I’m saying? Video conferencing on a budget

As a parent I never underestimate the phrase, “Do I look happy?” As a business traveler I understand the difficulties involved in conveying the actual “look”. Technology to the rescue – with a few mouse clicks my disapproving gaze is instantly transmitted back home. Alas, the value of budget video conferencing solutions doesn’t stop at harassing children.

As more employees telecommute or work from remote locations, video conferencing reduces travel costs and maintains relationships with co-workers. Video allows for clearer communication, and is more engaging than your average conference call.

Getting started with video conferencing is easy, and best of all it isn’t expensive, difficult to deploy or hard to use. Follow these tips to get started with video conferencing:

You must have a camera to video conference
If your computer doesn’t have a camera, purchase a simple USB webcam. To keep things simple, start small and work your way up to enhanced features. Looking for an entry level webcam? Check out Logitech for entry level cams with echo-canceling technology. Prices range from $50 – $100.

Start with a simple one-to-one service
Begin with friendly faces and build your network out from there using Windows Live Messenger. Start by conferencing with friends and family to get comfortable with the experience and to work out any glitches before expanding to business contacts.

Move into multi-user video conferencing solutions
For greater impact and rewards multi-user video conferencing such as ooVoo allows up to three users to communicate via video simultaneously and at no charge. More users are able participate for a small fee. SightSpeed and Yugma also offer value priced multi-user video conferencing solutions.

The closest we can get to teleportation, video conferencing deserves business consideration. Until next time, hope to see you around…

Working In the Cloud with Microsoft Live Services

Microsoft’s marketing efforts never ceases to frustrate me, yet strangely I never thought a lack of marketing would be one of my complaints. Still, here I am wondering how I ever knew about products like MS works, Windows ME and Urge. Meanwhile, Office Live Workspace, Office Live Small Business and Windows Live FolderShare get no press.  While I’m not nearly as skilled as the folks who once sold Microsoft Bob, let me share some information with you.

Office Live Workspace – http://workspace.officelive.com/

Extending MS Office productivity by adding seamless online collaboration, Office Live workspace is a gold star for Microsoft. While the 500MB storage cap is limiting, the ability to store, manage, share and remotely access documents from an Internet accessible computer is impressive. Seamless integration with MS Office, an interface that mimics the SharePoint tools and remote screen sharing make it a best of breed productivity tool. Best of all it doesn’t break the bank, in fact it’s free.

Office Live Small Business – http://smallbusiness.officelive.com/

Expanding the service offerings provided by Office Live Workspace, the small business product line brings an enterprise software feature set to the masses. Starting with free Web site hosting, then moving into e-mail, CRM, and marketing management tools, the small business package is right priced and right sized to meet a number of today’s business needs.

Windows Live FolderShare – http://www.foldershare.com

Foldershare automatically synchronizes files and folders across multiple machines. Simply visit the Web site, install the client, and register your computers. Once registered, access documents where you need them and when you need them. Best of all, changes are updated to your machine as updates are made. The days of e-mailing yourself files or using USB keys are over.

Hey Microsoft folks! These things are pretty cool. Let some folks know about them…