Making technology work for you

If you’ve ever known me, you know I love technology. I love what it can do, I love where it is going, and most importantly I know what it can do for me. Yes, I am completely aware that technology in all of its forms has caused the human race to spend less time with family, less time on truly social aspects of life, and more time working. That much is a fact, compare us to hunter gatherer societies, and they spend an inordinately large amount more time with their family socializing. But I still love my technology, and this is the world I live in. It’s there to make some things easier, and it is in that part that I’d like to talk on today.

Since moving to Halifax, I’ve had a remarkable amount of time at my disposal and I’ve attempted to make our lives better as a result of it. My favourite addition of late has to be the music server. I’ve always loved music and being able to stream it to any device in the entire house, via either cable or WiFi, just makes me smile. I can even access it across the internet and stream music anywhere I can get WiFi (or even cell coverage, though the data rates would make me shudder). So now we can have 1 organized collection, and securely access it anywhere we travel. Yes I’m aware you can do this with Google Music (and I sync there too), but it’s not available here in Canada, and I’m not sure how long my account will work, so having a backup is awesome. Plus I don’t have to upload it, it just works. If you’d like to setup something similar, check out Subsonic. You’ll thank me later.

Streaming music Server
Our Streaming Music Server

All setting something like this up takes is a bit of reading, and while we’re on that subject, I’d like to introduce you to my new favourite tool Readability. Takes any page I want to read later, saves it in my account, and strips off all the “chrome” of the page. I get the raw text, and it syncs across all my devices so while I’m riding the bus I can catch up on those articles. It even has an option to sync it to your Kindle, though I don’t have one to try out how well it does it, but given the rest of the app? Most likely very well indeed.

Saved items to read later!

But what really brings all of this wonderful technology together for me is the ability to automate things. Let me give you an example: I’m on Google+, Twitter and Facebook. I have friends who are exclusively on one but not the other, so when I want to share something, I share it multiple spots depending on the target audience. Sometimes though? I’d just like things to go everywhere when I post on one of them. With ifttt you can do this with ease. (Okay, disclaimer, they don’t have a Google+ module YET, but it’s in the works, and that was just an easy to understand example) I can setup a rule that when I post a link in twitter, it becomes a link post in my Facebook. When I upload a picture to Facebook, or Instagram, or Flickr, or a video to Vimeo or YouTube? They’re automatically backed up to my Dropbox account. And this is just scratching the surface of the tool. In fact, according to the sites homepage when I’m logged in, with the 19 channels I’ve activated (of which there are plenty more), I can create 1105 possible tasks.

ifttt - Tasks
If This Then That

Why am I randomly writing about this? Because of late it’s had my mind running with ideas of things to build which automate tasks in our lives. I’m developing ideas and these things give me inspiration that technology needs to be simple, powerful, and give us what we need without the extra crap that makes us want to pull our eyes out of their sockets. Do you have any favourite tools? Something you use to automate a part of your life? Or even an idea of something you’d like to see built to make your life easier? Share yours in the comments please, I’d truly love to hear them.

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Jamie Harrell is an Information Technology specialist in the Halifax, Nova Scotia area. From business, to gaming, and everything in between, technology drives him forward in his life goals. On he rambles about various thoughts, opinions, and news he wishes to share with the world.

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