Tom Solid

Plastic Man

Do Plastics Have a Place in the Clean-Energy Future?

So what, exactly, is a “plastic”?

Plastics are made up of synthetic polymers and a mix of chemicals. The polymers are created by taking monomers, found in oil and gas, and putting them through a polymerization process to produce the polymers needed to create plastic. (Did you get all that?)

These polymers are what make plastic so versatile. At some point in the manufacturing process, plastic can be poured, spun, molded, extruded, or applied as a coating. This ability to manipulate plastic makes it useful for everything from water bottles and plastic bags, to car parts and technology components.

Lego01

Plastics don’t just give us better tech, they make our lives better in other ways too.

Plastics contribute to public health and safety by giving us sanitary ways to package food and deliver clean water.


Using plastic as packaging for food gives us a safe way to store food and keep it from spoiling as quickly as it would in other packaging materials. It also protects the food during shipping and keeps the quality of the food consistent.


Water is an important resource that can be contaminated in urban areas if it isn’t handled properly. Plastics are used to store and supply clean drinking water to communities, and to help prevent the spread of germs into the water supply. Because plastic is both lightweight and durable, it’s reliable and easy to use in city water control and distribution systems like sewers, irrigation, and drainage systems.


Plastic is a huge part of the innovations we see in the medical field. What would we do without life-saving advancements like IV lines and bags, surgical equipment, monitors, and imaging machines?

Plastic saves energy and uses less material.

Using plastic in building, packaging, and transportation uses significantly fewer materials and fossil fuels in the long-run.

A high strength-to-weight ratio makes plastic a superior storage container when compared to glass, metal, paper, or wood.

Compare a glass soda bottle to a plastic bottle with the same dimensions. Both bottles are strong, but glass will shatter and plastic won’t. And the plastic is lighter in weight, which means less material (and cost) is used to create it.

A comprehensive study published in January 2005, GUA (Gesellschaft für umfassende Analysen GmbH) shows that packaging beverages in PET, instead of glass or metal, reduces energy consumption by 52%.

Plastic Duck

Plastic is used to save resources, cost, and weight in aircraft, automobiles, construction materials, dishes, toys, televisions, computers, clothing, shoes, food containers, medical equipment, and more.

It’s plain to see that without modern plastic materials, we wouldn’t have the lifestyle and resources we currently enjoy.

As paperless devotees we use our computers and devices to live paperless and help save trees. But considering the plastic we rely on to make tech accessible to us, are we hurting the environment in other ways?

What is the effect of being surrounded by plastic to our health and environment?

The chemicals that make plastic such a versatile material are also the chemicals that cause an impact to our health and our environment. These chemicals easily leach out of the plastic and into the surroundings.

When we finish using a plastic container and we throw it out, we end up with a big problem: A landfill full of plastics that won’t biodegrade quickly or safely.

Different plastics decompose at different rates. The range of decomposition can be from 20 years for a plastic bag to 450 years for a plastic bottle (Source). 

During the long slow decomposition process, chemicals leach into the dirt and down into the groundwater.

As the plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces and spreads through the environment, it becomes a threat to a large number of earth’s living creatures who can, unknowingly, ingest it. Once inside an animal’s body, the plastic can block the digestive tract, or leach chemicals into the animal that can lead to death.

Plastic waste in our marine environments can be found from the poles to the equator (Source).

It gets into the oceans and waterways from tourists, sewage overflows, illegal dumping, landfill sites near the coastlines, and accidental industrial spills.

Because there is so much plastic waste in the oceans, marine life is exposed to the risk of swallowing small pieces of plastic or getting tangled up in larger pieces of plastic (like soda rings), which can lead to permanent disabilities or death (Source).

Does plastic pose any risks to human health?

Different types of plastics use different chemicals, like flame retardants, stabilizers, phthalates, bisphenol A, and more. There is a concern that these chemicals can be transferred from the plastic into our bodies and cause problems.

Bisphenol a (BPA) is a chemical found in some plastics. In 1936 scientists called BPA an “environmental estrogen” when they watched the BPA bind to estrogen receptors in female rats and stimulate their reproductive systems. BPA is also linked to negative developmental effects, like reduced survival, low birth weight, reduced growth of offspring early in life, and delayed onset of puberty in male and female rodents (Source). 

The concern over how this environmental estrogen affects humans has caused scientists to monitor the amount of these chemicals in human blood and urine. They are using this data to try to determine the effects plastics are having on us. This is an ongoing study, with no definitive answers (Source).

So what’s the solution? Can we live without plastic in our lives? Do we want to?

Plastic has added to our quality of life in so many ways. From technical and medical innovations to safe storage for food and water; the benefits of plastic are easy to see when you look around.

Even though there are health and environmental threats created by using plastic, the trend shows that plastic use is going up worldwide.

Instead of focusing on eliminating plastic from our lives, innovators have started to look for ways to make plastic safer for the environment.

Recycling

Recycling is an energy-saving strategy. We get the largest benefits from recycling when we look at it as a “material conservation strategy”. One of the materials we look to conserve is carbon.

Carbon is a valuable resource we use to create our electricity. To get this carbon, we burn nonrenewable fossil fuels.

Plastics capture about half of the carbon that is used to produce them.

Instead of burning fossil fuels, certain kinds of carbon-rich plastic waste can be used as a feedstock, to burn as fuel in place of some of our limited natural resources. (Although this is not my favorite solution, our current reliance on fossil fuels is undeniable. Until we make the shift to cleaner methods of energy production, using plastic waste instead of fossil fuels can help preserve nonrenewable resources.)

Here are some other ways plastics can be reused and recycled.

Plastics can be:

  • Reused to create the same product again (called regrind use)
  • Recycled into resins or glues
  • Incorporated into asphalt roads
  • Spun into fibers for clothing
  • Turned into carpeting
  • Made into insulation for jackets and sleeping bags, and much more.

As recycling equipment improves, and innovative people use their imagination and motivation, we will continue to see plastic being reused in innovative ways.

So what’s better than reusing our plastic waste? Plastic that is biodegradable!

Manufacturers and innovators have been making serious progress in the development of biodegradable plastics that can compare in function to oil-based plastics. These plastics are being created largely from renewable natural resources like starch or cellulose.

In 2008 it was estimated that production capacity for biodegradable plastics worldwide was around 350,000 metric tons. (Bioplastics 07/08)

What’s so exciting about biodegradable plastics is, they can be composted.

In the UK there are more than 300 composting sites that collect household waste, commercial waste, and municipal non-household waste, to create carbon and nutrient rich compost for soil. (http://www.organics-recycling.org.uk/).

Biodegradable plastics could add a large amount of material for composting. Just imagine plastic being added to compost for the benefits it gives. This is a much better picture than a plastic bottle sitting in a landfill for 450 years and leaching harmful chemicals into the ground.

Plastics have an important role in renewable energy.

As we move closer to our goal of 100% renewable clean energy sources, we will need earth-friendly plastics to play an important role in the progress. Plastics can help drive innovative designs to support this effort.

Plastics are already being used in the hardware we rely on to produce renewable energy.

For example:

  • Lightweight rotor blades made from plastic foams are being used for offshore wind turbines.
  • Solar water heaters containing plastics such as PE and PVC can provide up to 65% of a household’s hot water needs.
  • The cells on solar panels are coated in plastic to protect them.
  • According to an article titled Plastics Help Deliver Renewable Energy, “researchers have been developing a new generation of solar cells in which plastics not only can protect the technology but also can serve as the photovoltaic material itself”. 

Conclusion​

Without plastic, the use of these technologies would be impossible.

Without a doubt, plastics have made our lives better and have helped advance our technologies.

We also can’t deny the damage they cause to our environment and our health.

The efforts of dedicated scientists and innovators are giving us a future where we can keep plastic in our lives, and also limit the damage that it does to our health and our environment. Innovations in technology like biodegradable plastics will help us get closer to our goal of green energy and a clean environment.

We can do our part to contribute to the responsible use of plastics by staying informed, participating in recycling programs, and choosing to buy biodegradable plastics over oil-based plastics as they come onto the market.

To keep up on the latest innovations in going paperless and clean energy, join us on the #PaperlessMovement.

Apple Pencil and iPad Pro

Stylus Alternatives for Apple Pencil

This page contains affiliate links meaning I earn a little commission if you use those links.
This will support the #PaperlessMovement. Thanks!

Okay, of course, everybody knows the Apple Pencil, but there are so many other styluses out there claiming to be awesome if used with an iPad, that I needed to test at least some of them! Actually, all of those I checked are cheaper than the Apple Pencil. However, some have a very close price tag.

I hope you’re sitting tight. Here is what I think:

Adonit Pixel Pro

It claims to be perfect for the iPad Pro. However, once I connected it to my iPad Pro 12.9 2017 (which at least was an easy task to do) the excitement was lost as soon I started to draw something in Procreate. The Bluetooth connection was not very stable in my opinion. The lines I drew were not straight and even showed gaps, and palm rejection was…well all that was rejected, was the stylus from my Bluthooth devices after I tested it…but not my palm during writing. My friends, this is a “no go”! This stylus costs nearly the same as an Apple Pencil, and yes, it has a button that can be programmed for undo, redo, etc. But…I don’t care about a button, if I cannot draw a simple line with it, without losing my nerves.

Adonit Pixel

The Adonit Pixel is a little bit cheaper than the Adonit Pixel Pro and is sold for the “normal” iPad 2017 and older. So it is for those people who don’t own an iPad Pro and still wanted to write with a proper stylus. But, and it is a big BUT, with the iPad 2018, we have Apple Pencil support. So guys and girls…all I said about the Adonit Pixel Pro apply to this one too. In my opinion, spend a little extra and go for an Apple Pencil.

Wacom Bamboo Sketch

Ok, so far we have seen Adonit products. What about Wacom, a very established company if it comes down to high-quality digital drawing boards for professional illustrators and designers. Oh boy, what a letting down. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I am very open minded and started all those tests as objective as I possibly could be, but what we have here is just nothing you should even bother with. Same thing, no proper palm rejection, no perfect lines, not worth the money.

Adonit Jot Pro 3 (Passive Stylus)

I did an in-depth video review for this stylus already (here). And I still think it is an excellent stylus if you need one for your iPhone. But if you own an iPad 2018 or an iPad Pro, don’t even think to get a passive stylus. Especially not one that has such a high price tag! Why? Because of the lack of palm rejection. I believe this is indeed one of the most important things, to be able to lay down your hand on the tablet and write like on a piece of paper (which even feels like paper with the PaperLike screen protector applied, that I will discuss a little bit further down).

Mixoo (Passive Stylus)

If you really want to save money and just need a stylus for a little bit of drawing around, tabbing and surfing the internet, then get this one for about ten bugs here at Amazon, and you made a good deal there! It does everything the Adonit Jot Pro 3 passive Stylus does and even has additional features such as interchangeable tips.

Conclusion​

If you own an iPad Pro or the new iPad 2018, then go and get the Apple Pencil. This is all I have to say here. Really, don’t waste your money on any other stylus. As soon you can test the Apple Pencil on a friend’s iPad you will start crying about the money you lost. However, I have to admit, I am a little bit sorry for Adonit and Wacom though. Clearly, they supplied us for a very long time the only way to use a stylus with an iPad. But with the release of the Apple Pencil, they either need to improve their products from the ground up to be more reliable, making them a lot cheaper or just give up trying to compete. Sounds hard? Well, I don’t think Apple will make it easy for those companies to get access to the parts of iOS that makes the Apple Pencil as excellent as it is. If you say, “TOM, you are just a blinded ‘Apple Fanboy’ I don’t believe you!” then please go and have a read on Amazon here and here what other people say about those styluses.

I think, I also made my point of view quite clear in my video about those styluses:

Do you agree / disagree? Any other experiences with those styluses?
Let us discuss this in the comments below!

Digital Collaboration

Can Your Company Survive in a Digital World?

Digital can have many facets, but for the interest of this article, we will narrow it down to two: internal business operations, and having an online presence.

Inside a company, there are things like files, workflows, and communication that can benefit by moving from paper to digital. Transitioning your internal files, systems, and processes to a digital format can increase your bottom-line by reducing errors and increasing efficiency. Having an online presence through a website, social media platforms, and email marketing can make the difference between success and failure in a business. As more and more consumers turn to the internet for socializing, entertainment, and shopping, businesses will have the opportunity to connect with these potential clients and become a part of their “online” world.

To give you an idea of how this might play out in a real business we’ll look at an old-school insurance agency:

This type of business is run by an insurance agent who gets customers by running ads, cold-calling, and referrals. They have a brick and mortar office where clients come to learn about insurance policies, sign documents, and receive customer service. This office has paper files containing all of their customer information. There is no system for internal communications or a systematized workflow that can be accessed from a centralized location. This results in less-than-optimized operations as each employee does their own thing (and they usually only communicate or collaborate when something has gone wrong).

Now compare this business to an insurance agency with digitized operations and an online presence:

Digital insurance agencies can still get clients through ads, cold-calling, and referrals, but the bulk of their customers come from online searches. They can still meet clients and sell in person, but they can also close sales and sign documents online. And the same can be said for customer service, making payments, and the client’s ability to view their insurance policies in real time.

Since file storage and internal operations are digitized, information and processes can be accessed in seconds resulting in more efficiency and fewer mistakes.

So what does this mean for the future of brick and mortar businesses?

Since so much of our commerce is shifting to the digital realm, does this mean you can’t have a brick and mortar business?

No. It just means that in order to stay competitive, you need to have a streamlined system that increases efficiency for your business, and convenience for your customer. You also need an online presence for marketing, sales, and customer interaction.

The old way of throwing out some advertising and tracking average monthly sales has merged with sophisticated systems like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. These highly specialized programs can track the journey of individual customers; from their interactions with your brand on social media, to how often they purchase and which payment method they use.

Businesses use this highly focused data to create loyalty programs and reward their best customers with coupons and special promotions. They also use the data gathered from CRM software to help predict income trends and make the needed adjustments.

A CRM is only one of many digital advantages businesses can use in the quest to become digital.

So what does this mean for the future of brick and mortar businesses?

  • Digital file storage systems with search functions
  • Calendar and scheduling systems
  • Task apps and programs
  • Customized email systems that integrate with calendars and task lists
  • Digital document signing software
  • Virtual meeting programs
  • Invoicing and payment software
  • Accounting software and programs
  • Inventory Management System with integrated Point-of-Sale software to coordinate ordering supplies, receiving shipments, and maintaining in-house stock
  • Webcam-Enabled Monitoring systems to ensure security and employee compliance
  • In-store iPad kiosks and tablets to streamline the customer ordering process and increase credit card privacy
  • Using social media to engage with customers
  • Optimized website with responsive customer service and detailed FAQ
  • Comprehensive Analytics

This huge list of possible digital upgrades a business can adopt is only a fraction of what is available.

The seemingly endless applications can leave a business owner feeling completely overwhelmed. Being unclear on where to start, many companies make half-hearted attempts at integrating digital into their business, only to abandon it later.

How can a company begin to make the transition to digital as painless as possible?

By far, the most important step a company can take in the digital transformation journey is to hire a specialist to analyze the company’s needs, draw up a plan for which software and programs to use, and implement the transition with the company’s current OS and employee workflow.

This specialist can be an in-house Chief Digital Officer, or an external company that specializes in helping companies transition to digital. Each option has advantages based on the size of your company and the size of the job.

The CDO or digital transformation company will analyze the needs of your company and then draw up a plan.

Here is a brief outline of what this process might look like:

1- Analyze the workflow of the company. Look at the available software and create a workflow that is easy for your team to use and adapt to.

2- Digitize paper files and create a reliable backup schedule and location.

3- Select specialized software and programs for your unique business needs such as: a CRM system, inventory management system, collaboration software, etc.

4- Digitize processes such as inventory, invoicing, ordering, and receiving shipments. Automation in these areas reduces errors and increases efficiency.

5- Choose the online components to your digitization. This includes a website, online ads, email marketing, online marketing, and engaging with customers through email or social media.

6- Analyze the company’s security needs, to protect customer information and internal communications. For example: Be aware of which apps and software use cloud services for storage. Avoid those options if cloud storage goes against your company’s privacy and storage regulations.

Conclusion​

The final component of the move from paper to digital inside your company is giving special attention to the attitudes and habits of the employees.

Most people resist change. This includes employees who can be deeply attached to their personal systems and processes.

When team members resist change and refuse to adopt new systems, workflows, or technology, they can sabotage the best laid plans at digitizing your company, and leave you more frustrated than before the transformation began.

Special attention, care, and training must be given to your employees to make the transition smooth.

This can include personalized training in software and workflow systems, dedicated meetings to hear employee concerns, and brainstorming sessions with employees to help them feel like they are a part of the process instead of victims of change.

Adding emerging technology to an existing business can be a big job. But the benefits far outweigh the inconveniences. With the help of a skilled CDO or a digital transition company, and a committed team of employees, it can be done.

You’ll have peace of mind knowing that your company is up-to-date and operating at the current level of technology.

Light Bulb in Gras

How Close Are we to 100% Clean Energy?

Harnessing the production of energy has propelled us forward as a species.

It has also threatened the health of our planet. One of the major concerns surrounding the production of energy is the pollution caused by burning fossil fuels. And as our technology advances, and the population grows, our need for energy just gets bigger.

There are two categories of energy resources: non-renewable and renewable.

Non-renewable energy resources come in the form of coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power. These resources are non-renewable because of the amount of time it takes for them to be replenished. Fossil fuels are created over millennia as a natural process of anaerobic decomposition. Nuclear power is produced using a rare form of Uranium which is considered a non-renewable resource.
These sources of energy notably produce large amounts of pollution and damage to our environment.
Renewable energy sources come in the form of solar, wind, hydro (water), and geothermal. Renewable sources of energy are replenished in a shorter period of time. While renewables do impact our environment, it is small in comparison to fossil fuels. And advances in technology continue to make that impact even smaller.

 

So how close are we to getting all of our energy from clean sources?

Reports and estimations for how quickly the world can be at 100% renewable energy use are all over the map, depending on who’s talking about it and the method of analysis they’re using.
We get clean energy predictions coming from politicians, futurists, news reporters, and scientist, to name a few.

For example, in 2008 former U.S. Vice President Al Gore said it was “achievable, affordable and transformative” to generate all the electricity in the United States using wind, solar and other renewable sources within 10 years. Listening to that, it would be easy to get our hopes up, and then dashed again, since it’s been 10 years and we aren’t there yet.

It’s hard to know who to listen to, but one thing is evident: we are moving in the right direction.

report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that in March 2017, 10% of the energy in the U.S. was produced by wind and solar. Now 10% might not sound like much, but the numbers are on the rise. 

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s New Energy Outlook 2017,  “Solar is already at least as cheap as coal in Germany, Australia, the U.S., Spain and Italy. The levelized cost of electricity from solar is set to drop another 66% by 2040. By 2021, it will be cheaper than coal in China, India, Mexico, the U.K. and Brazil as well.” The report also shows that homeowners’ use of solar is on the rise, saying, “By 2040, rooftop PV will account for as much as 24% of electricity in Australia, 20% in Brazil, 15% in Germany, 12% in Japan, and 5% in the US and India.”

Do we need to create new technology to make the move to clean energy production?

Sometimes we think it will take new inventions and innovation to be able to move an entire country to using energy made from fossil fuels to energy made from renewable sources.

A new study by the Department of Energy’s National Energy Laboratory (https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/re-futures.html) shows that the U.S. can generate most of its electricity from renewable energy by 2050, using the technology and resources we have available NOW. The technology we currently have available includes hydropower, wind turbines, solar power, biopower, and geothermal.

This isn’t a space-age daydream or story; we have access to these resources now.
You can see proof of this by looking at the example set by Costa Rica. Costa Rica generates 99% of its electricity using renewable sources.

Even though we have access to the resources we need to create energy from renewable sources, it will still take time.

Although clean energy sources are less expensive in the long run, they are very costly to build and install. Switching to clean energy also means we need new technology that can use that energy.

An example of this is the gas powered engine. It’s easy to go and fill up at the gas station. If we want to switch to a greener option, we need to buy a car with an electric engine. And the development cost of those engines was something most companies weren’t willing to invest in… until now.

Following the lead of Tesla Motors, auto makers are now jumping into the electric car industry.

And other industries are following suit:

  • Solar panel companies that cater to homeowners are on the rise.
  • Power companies are adding wind and solar to their power generating operations.

So what can we do to push the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy?

Although it might seem like a big job, we can do our part to help the change come faster.

Contact your local political leaders and tell them how you feel every time an issue regarding the environment or energy production comes up. The right policies can clear the way for clean energy initiatives.

There are more and more jobs in the clean energy field. The more people we have working for clean energy, the better. The Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy has information on the top jobs in clean energy and also career information. https://www.energy.gov/eere/education/clean-energy-jobs-and-career-planning

Renewable energy is costly to build and install. Investing in this growing field could potentially help you and the environment at the same time. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s New Energy Outlook 2017, “Renewable energy sources are set to represent almost three quarters of the $10.2 trillion the world will invest in new power generating technology until 2040, thanks to rapidly falling costs for solar and wind power, and a growing role for batteries, including electric vehicle batteries, in balancing supply and demand.”

To stay informed on the latest innovations in technology and green energy, join the paperless movement community. By coming together as a group of people who deeply care about the environment, we can keep each other aware of important changes in the development of green energy, and stay informed on what we can do to help it along.

NotesPlus

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Notes Plus

1. Dual window mode | See two notebooks at once

There is a dual window mode: while users are in main page view, users can use finger to swipe on the handle (rotate to landscape mode to see this handle more obviously) on the left side all the way to the right to switch to browser mode (dual window), in this mode user can browse web and capture specific area with Scissors tool and send it back to the current working notebook. It’s convenient for those who need to access reference information on the internet while taking notes. Users can open 2 notebooks side by side thanks to the integrated browser. While working on A notebook, return to library, swipe on an notebook, choose “Dual” icon will open that notebook in the integrated browser. This is a handy way to browse 2 notebooks side by side conveniently. However, as I show you in the video, it is not working very stable and the notes cannot be positioned correctly.

Update 12.06.2018:
With the recent update of Notability 8.0 a dual screen mode was implemented. It is a shame, that Notes Plus was not working on to improve their splitscreen mode. Now, Notability got the pole position as the only note taking app offering a proper dual screen mode!

2. Open notebooks on any desktop (PC and Mac)

Users can open the notebook on a web browser on computer when auto backup is ON (or save “Notebooks” from Notes Plus Documents in iTunes File Sharing through USB cable). For example, if Dropbox auto backup is turned on (under Library > Auto Backup > start “Dropbox”). Then, open Dropbox’s Notes Plus folder on the computer at /Dropbox/NotesPlus/AutoBackup/Notebooks/Notebook Name, then open “index.html” with a web browser like Safari/Chrome, then users can view notebook content on the browser.

3. Handwriting is globally searchable

Handwriting is always searchable even users don’t do Handwriting Recognition. Notes Plus will run HWR thread in background mode (when users quit a notebook) so handwritten notes are always index-able and searchable.

Update 12.06.2018:
With the recent update, Notability 8.0 added handwriting to text conversion and a global handwriting search function along with it!

4. Shared notebooks stay editable

Users can share a notebook in native format so other Notes Plus users can open it up in Notes Plus and edit original handwriting. To do so, go to Tools > Export > set File Type to WebArchive, share via email to other people. Now, other user can download the .WebArchive file and open it up with “Notes Plus” to import it into Notes Plus Library (full editing capability).

5. Customizable toolbar and UI layout adjusts to writing preferences

Users can customize toolbar with long-press gesture. For example, they can arrange the toolbar to their own preferences: use finger to long press on an existing slot, this pops up all editing tools, choose a slot to assign it to select placeholder.

Notes Plus provides different UI layout to fit with the writing direction configured under Tools > Writing Position.

6. Easy page selection and editing even in fullscreen mode

There is a quick way to browse through pages with page thumb panel: use finger to long press near the utmost right edge of the screen, that opens up the page thumb panel, users can browse pages quickly, rename a page or re-arrange page order quickly.

7. Invisible scrolling bars

In any edit mode (i.e pen, eraser, etc…), dragging up/down within a half of inch from the right edge of the page will scroll it instead of other actions. This is like an invisible scrollbar. When Palm Pad is up, an invisible scrollbar on the left will be enabled (in addition to the invisible scrollbar on the right). Using your left thumb to scroll the page while writing with your right hand is very convenient. 

8. Draw straight lines and shapes via auto-detection

Whenever you draw a straight line, circle, square or even complex shapes like hexagons, you will get the option to convert it into a straightened object. If this option does not show up, then you have to go to the app settings and change the threshold, the minimum shpae size in millimeters that triggers shape detection. You find this setting in top right/App Setting/Shape Detection Threshold. 

9. Easy object selection, deletion, transformation and rotation

You can use your pen anytime to select object in your note. Either you just tip on the object or your draw around it. You will then get the obtion to select the object. Once selected you can change the style of the drawn lines or convert handwriting to text. You are also able to transform the selection by grabbing the right bottom corner and drag it. You can also easily rotate it, by tapping with two fingers on the object at the same time and then turning them. If you want to delete an object, just tap the red cross sign on the top left. However, you can also delete non-selected objects by just scribbling over it. For more details how this works, watch my video.

10. Bring object to the front or back

If you draw an object in front of another, but you want it to be behind. Just select it and select from the top right menu bring to back. This is very helpful if you underline handwritten text and the line is covering the letters “g”, “j” etc. 

! One More – Add Date and Time Stamp to your notes

One thing I actually forgot to cover in the video is the function to add date and time stamps to your notes! I think it is a really nice feature and you can access it by just adding a text box in which you normally write your text. Have look at the top of your Keyboard. There are the icons you need to tap on to get the times in your note! Well, isn’t that nice. 🙂 

Meeting with Laptops

Don´t Make This Etiquette Mistake When Taking Notes At Your Next Business Meeting

WHY AREN’T LAPTOPS WELCOME IN BUSINESS MEETINGS? HERE ARE A FEW REASONS.

  • The screen of the laptop is a barrier, blocking the view between you and the other people in the meeting.
  • There is no way to tell if you’re paying attention, or just checking your email.
  • The clicking sound typing makes is distracting.
  • Looking into the laptop screen means there is little to no eye contact with the speaker, or with the other people in the room.
  • It causes feelings of disengagement and discomfort.

What it boils down to is, laptops in business meetings are alienating. The person sitting behind the laptop usually has their eyes down and they’re typing away. It’s hard for the presenter to know if the note taker is listening or goofing off.

The goal of a meeting is to solve problems as a group. When someone in the room isn’t engaged in the meeting it takes away from the feeling of camaraderie. The other people in the room feel uncomfortable, and will be less likely to participate in the meeting discussions.

HERE’S ANOTHER REASON YOU MIGHT WANT TO RECONSIDER TAKING NOTES ON A LAPTOP.

In general, typing your notes can be great for organizing them and sharing them with your coworkers. But researchers have found when you type information rather than hand-write it, you don’t learn as well or remember as much. An article published in Psychological Science (April 2014) called, “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking,’’ cites three studies that show note takers who type their notes score lower on tests than those who write their notes longhand.

When typing notes in a meeting, you can get lost in just copying the words down, and not properly understand and digest what’s being said. This leads to less engagement, less participation, and a less productive meeting.

WITH ALL THESE STRIKES AGAINST LAPTOPS IN MEETINGS, WHY WOULD SOMEONE STILL BE TEMPTED TO BRING ONE ALONG?

In spite of the bad feelings people have about employees and coworkers typing notes on their laptops in meetings, these people still want a way to quickly take down notes and keep them neatly organized. Some other laptop features that businesspeople don’t want to do without are:

  • Autocorrect
  • The ability to quickly edit, insert, and highlight text
  • Easily add images
  • Keep the document looking nice and neat
  • Keep all work documents organized in one place
  • Easy access to other important documents or emails that could be useful during the meeting
  • The ability to share meeting notes with colleagues

SO WHAT OPTIONS DO WE HAVE?

We know that taking proper notes during a meeting is important. Using a laptop is poor etiquette but we like the paperless features and storage options that it gives us.

We know that writing notes by hand is good for meeting etiquette and helps us remember information. But the format is messy, hard to share with colleagues, and leaves us with mountains of paper.

What’s the solution for being able to take wonderful notes (making full use of the amazing note taking apps and living a paperless and organized life) without ruining the atmosphere of the business meeting?

 

A TABLET WITH A STYLUS IS A GREAT SOLUTION FOR TAKING NOTES IN A MEETING.

A tablet gives you all of the functionality of a laptop without the features that offend people during meetings.

Since Apple introduced the Apple Pencil in 2015, people have started bringing more tablets into meetings to take notes.

The shape and thickness of these tablets resemble a pad of paper. They can also be held like a pad of paper, which won’t block the view from you to others, or keep you from making eye contact with the people in the room.

As a matter of fact, using a stylus or Apple Pencil to take notes in response to what’s being said in a meeting actually makes you seem more engaged. It’s similar to the image you have of a reporter or an officer who is interviewing someone. They look at the person who is speaking, and then write down what they say. You don’t question whether or not they are listening.

HERE ARE A FEW MORE REASONS TABLETS ARE GREAT FOR TAKING NOTES IN MEETINGS.

  • You can write with a stylus instead of typing, decreasing any distracting noises and increasing your comprehension.
  • It feels more natural in a business setting– people are used to seeing someone take notes by hand in a meeting.
  • You can draw lines and arrows, makes notes in the margin, and easily add your own thoughts and ideas on the topics being discussed.
  • It eliminates the bulky rectangular barrier between you and the other people in the room.
  • You can take screenshots of charts or whiteboard displays that are being used in the meeting.
  • You can take advantage of the great note taking apps on the market.
  • The screen can’t be completely hidden, reducing the chance that someone will be goofing off instead of paying attention in the meeting.
  • You can use the Split View and Slide Over features on the iPad iOS 11. (This makes it easy to use two apps side by side on your iPad. One for note taking, and one for locating important documents, emails or calendar.)

Besides all of the great advantages listed above, a tablet also gives you the ability to share notes with your coworkers by uploading to the cloud in an instant. Having all of your work documents organized and stored in the cloud means you won’t have disorganized file cabinets and lost documents. All of your information will be easily searchable, and can be accessed on your smartphone or desktop if you have questions or dates that need clarifying, or you have a brilliant idea you want to add to your notes.

A TABLET ISN’T JUST GREAT FOR NOTE TAKING, IT’S A GREAT TOOL FOR THE PERSON PRESENTING THE MEETING TOO.

  • A tablet won’t block the view of the speaker. The speaker can look up and engage with the other people in the room.
  • You can create a sharable outline/agenda. This can also be a great template that attendees can use for taking their notes!
  • The meeting outline can then be used as an action list for employees.
  • The same outline can be used as a follow-up at the next meeting, to evaluate the completion of assignments.
  • You can save and share over the cloud, keeping everyone in the loop.
  • It eliminates the need for folders full of reports and papers. You can have it all at your fingertips, neatly organized in your tablet.

PAIRING YOUR TABLET WITH A GREAT NOTE-TAKING APP WILL MAKE IT YOUR TOOL OF CHOICE FOR TAKING NOTES IN MEETINGS.

As more people use their iPad Pro or Android tablet for taking notes, the demand for great note-taking apps has increased. If you want to use a tablet with a note-taking app, you’ll need to find the right app for the job.

There are a lot of note-taking apps to choose from, each with their own unique features.
Some examples of popular note-taking apps are, Notes PlusNotabilityGoodnotes 4,
 OneNoteNeboNoteShelf2ZoomNotes, Evernote and many, many more.

You can check out my reviews of some of the most popular note-taking apps to help you decide which app is right for you. You can also look at my Note Taking App Comparison Tool to get a side-by-side view of some of the apps you might be considering. 

Conclusion​

In today’s meeting settings, using laptops for note-taking is considered bad etiquette. Moreover, taking notes by hand is cumbersome and adds to an unwanted paper mess.

In order to live paperless and organized, you need a way to take notes digitally.

Tablets with a stylus and a note-taking app are the perfect solution. The size and shape make them welcome in meetings. They give you a way to take notes by hand, share them with workmates, and keep them neatly organized.

Choose a tablet and stylus that feels comfortable to you, with an operating system (OS) that you like (click here to see what I use). And use my Note Taking App Comparison Tool to find the perfect note taking app that will be compatible with your tablet and will fit your specific needs.

Then take it to your next business meeting and try it out. Leave me a message in the comments below and tell me how it works out for you!

Integration

There’s No ALL-IN-ONE App. Here’s How You Can Fix That.

This page contains affiliate links meaning we earn a commission if you use those links.
We only recommend brands we use and trust.

The growing number of apps that provide a standalone solution will make you feel like a kid in a candy store.

You might have one app for note taking that uses a handwriting function with a stylus, and another app for to-do lists and appointments. And even another app for storage, project collaboration, or work-sharing.

When we add more and more apps into our daily workflow, we start to find complications. Apps with overlapping functions start competing with each other. Because they both have a similar job, we forget which app we used for which project.

For example, your favorite note-taking app can also have a reminder function and you favorite calendar app might also have a reminder function. You certainly don’t need two. So which one do you use? Which one did you use? Did you even remember to set that reminder?

Further complications arise when some apps integrate with each other, while others don’t. And some apps can do one job great, but we like a different app for another job that the first app can do, just not as well.

Is your head spinning yet?

How do we keep track of all these apps? Isn’t there one mega-app out there that can just do it all?

It can be tempting to think that someone should come up with an app that can do it all.

But as tempting as that sounds, imagine what it would be like.

An app that covered all of the possible needed functions would end up being as big and complicated as an entire operating system. And it would have the glitches and bugs that go along with being big.

Not to mention, each function of this imaginary mega-app would be watered down at best, because the company who created it would have their focus spread over dozens of areas.

When an app serves one main purpose, or several related purposes, the developers can focus on making it the best possible solution for the problem it solves.

So what is the best solution for app overwhelm, if it isn’t a mega-app, or just embracing the chaos?

The answer is integration.

When it comes to using your favorite apps to their highest potential, app integration is the key.

What is app integration?

App integration is bringing the data (and/or function) of one app to another app so they can both work together. (Kind of like building your own customized mega-app.)

When your apps communicate with each other you won’t have to play the part of the data entry middle-man. Manually going back and forth between your apps to make sure all of the data is congruent can be a recipe for disaster.

Said another way, app integration gives you the ability to use your favorite apps without having to re-enter the same data into each app separately.
Individually, each app is helpful and does a good job of making your work easier. You end up with a few really great apps that you regularly use in isolation.

The power comes when you get all of these apps to work together.

Here are a few benefits of app integration that will make your workflow more efficient.

INTEGRATION LETS YOU CUSTOMIZE.​

No two businesses operate in the same way. Every business and every person has different needs. One of the biggest benefits of app integration is the ability to customize a series of apps to work together to best suit the specific needs of that business or person. Because each app has its own area of expertise, you have the ability to pick and choose the apps that will work best for your unique way of operating. You can then combine these apps in a way that will give you an operating edge.

INTEGRATION SAVES YOU FROM FRUSTRATION.​

Manually entering data into multiple apps, calendars, appointment tools, task managers, and file systems, can result in lost information, missed appointments, and data entry errors. It can become a job just to manage the apps. You got the app to reduce your stress. Trying to remember which app you used for which task, whether you updated one piece of info across all your apps, where you stored a file, etc., can cause stress that the app was there to eliminate in the first place. Integration reduces errors, data duplicates, and task redundancy, and adds peace of mind.

INTEGRATION CAN HELP YOU ACHIEVE INBOX ZERO.

You may think that inbox zero is an urban legend, or an unachievable dream. But when you integrate your task manager app with your email, you can work on your task list and process emails simultaneously. For example, you can integrate Gmail with an app like Todoist to organize and process emails that will need your attention later. If you receive an email you can’t act on until later, you can add it as a task in Todoist. You just click a button in Gmail and the email that is open will be added as a task in Todoist with a reminder and a hyperlink that will take you back to the original email so you don’t have to search for it later.

INTEGRATION SAVES YOU TIME.

Getting apps to share information in the order of your workflow can eliminate redundancy in your work. You enter the info once and it will automatically sync across many apps. For example:

● A task management app can automatically add appointments to your Google Calendar and send alerts to teammates notifying them of the appointment.

● You can share info between CRM, accounting, and financial data apps within a business.

● Generate proposals, invoices, quotes, and contracts by entering info into one app and having it automatically duplicate that same info into the other apps.

● A project management / collaboration app, like Trello, can connect to an instant messenger, like Slack, where you can chat, send reminders, and share files.

● Connect accounting software with direct payment apps like Square or PayPal.

The combinations are limitless.

The idea of app integration can cause even the tech-lovers among us to shudder. The task of getting our favorite apps to communicate with each other, and designing a customized system for our workflow can seem overwhelming.

Although it might feel like tackling a giant, integrating your favorite apps isn’t as daunting as it seems.

How can we make our apps work together like a well-oiled machine that will turn us into productivity geniuses?

Identify the jobs you do every day that could be more efficient if you had an app to help it out. You might include managing email, taking notes, using a calendar and a task management tool, and an app for storing and curating information.

Once you have this list, do an online search for apps that do those jobs. You want to find several apps that perform the same function so you can compare them to each other.

Now visit the website for each app on your list. Take notes about the capability of the app and which apps it will integrate with. (Each website should contain a list of apps that their app will work with.)

After you have all of the information for every app on your list you can start to narrow down the options to the apps that have the function you need and will also integrate with other apps on your list and with your existing email and calendar.

For example, let’s say I need a handwriting app. There are many to choose from (to find the best go to my comparision table here). For this example I’ll compare GoodNotes4 and Noteshelf2 in this comparision table. I find that both allow me to take notes and store them. However, Noteshelf2 doesn’t have handwriting recognition but it will integrate (sync) with Evernote.

Hence, although GoodNotes4 does have handwriting recognition, I would go for Noteshelf2 as it will integrate with Evernote that I am using too. Using the combination of Noteshelf2 and Evernote makes up the lack of handwriting recognition in Noteshelf2 as the deep integration with Evernote will make my notes searchable.

So, the function of the app combined with the integration means that the overall solution, although a work around, gives me all the features I needed from GoodNotes4 and even more.

Another great way to quickly learn about the apps you might be interested in is to look at reviews online. By reading the reviews from someone else who has tested these apps in real-time, you can get the information you need without having to go through the frustration of experimenting and figuring it out.

I am passionate about living a paperless lifestyle. This leads me to review apps that are available so that I can find the very best apps for the things I want done. You can learn about the apps you’re interested in without having to do it yourself. Learn from my reviews and experience at tomsolid.com or use my App Comparison Tool.

WHAT IF INTEGRATION IS NOT SUPPORTED BY THE APP?

Ok, so now let’s say you’ve found the app of your dreams, and it fills the very function you need it to, and you love the way it works but… it won’t integrate with the other apps you regularly use.

Now what?

All is not lost. Automation tools like IFTTT or Zapier can take two apps and get them working together. With these tools you can sync 2 apps that don’t support integration with each other.

Two very popular apps on the market today are Evernote and Todoist.

Each app serves a very different function. Evernote is great for storing research, clips of articles, notes, and documents. Todoist is for organizing tasks and staying on top of your to do’s.

On their own, they won’t sync. So how do you use Todoist and Evernote together?

I’ll use the automation tool Zapier as an example.

Zapier makes a connection between 2 apps by setting up a trigger and an action. (They call this a “zap”.) Whenever the trigger event happens in one app, Zapier makes the action event happen in the other app.

You can set up Zapier to automatically create new ToDoist tasks from new Evernote reminders. Or it can automatically create a new Evernote notebook each time you create a new ToDoist project. You can set your own custom triggers and actions, or take advantage of the predesigned “zaps” that Zapier has created for immediate use between your favorite apps.

Now that you know how to get the best out of the apps you love to use, you can get started integrating them and create your ideal workflow.

Integrating your apps will make your work easier by making it more efficient.

Because each business is unique, the apps that work for you will be different from the apps that work in another business.

Each app is designed to be great at getting specific tasks done. In isolation these apps work well, but they can be so much better if they are used in conjunction with apps that do a complimentary job.

The ability to pick and choose from all of the apps available and then connect them into a customized workflow, means you can optimize your own workflow until it performs perfectly for you.

The amount of time you put into setting up your integration and workflow system will more than pay off in future productivity, organization, and peace of mind.

 

Children Play Tablet

Thousands of ANDROID Apps Collecting Data on Kids

WHAT ARE THE RULES?

When apps, games, or websites are geared specifically for use by kids under the age of 13, they must comply with the rules of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act or COPPA. COPPA regulates how games, apps, and websites are allowed to collect and use personal information from children under the age of 13.

That’s why the tech world was shaken recently by a new study released by the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) that shows thousands of free apps aimed at kids may be improperly or illegally gathering info and/or tracking kids under 13, without the permission of their parents https://petsymposium.org/…/popets-2018-0021.pdf.

The study looked at 5,855 of the most popular free apps in the Google Play store that met Google’s requirements to be featured in the Designed for Families Program. It states that potential violations were found in a majority of these apps.

The study highlights examples of infringements by the company BabyBus, which specializes in developing games for young children. They analyzed 37 apps developed by the company and found that they did not access location information through the standard Android permissions system. Instead, they were observed transmitting hardware and network configuration info to a Chinese analytics company. This information included the names of saved Wi-Fi hotspots, their MAC addresses, and currently connected Wi-Fi access points.

The FTC is familiar with this form of info-sharing “work around”. They reached a 4 million dollar settlement with analysis firm inMobi for collecting location data in a very similar way.

Another example from the analysis of apps produced by the company TinyLab found 81 apps that shared GPS locations with advertisers.

The examples above highlight only two of the 1,889 unique developers that were responsible for creating the 5,855 apps analyzed.

Of those 5,855 apps, 28% accessed sensitive data protected by Android permissions and 73% of the apps transmitted sensitive data over the internet. The study also found 107 apps that shared the email address of the device owner and 10 that shared phone numbers.

How are all of these rule-breaking apps getting into the hands of kids?

When a parent is deciding which games are safe for their kids, they rely on things like 3rd party reviews, ratings, and special safeguards set up by companies that claim to vet the games to meet parental standards.

Both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store provide special child-targeted categories in their stores where developers can list their child-friendly games, and kids and parents can easily find them. And each company has rules the developers must follow to be able to list their apps in those special categories.

According to Google, for an app to be admitted into the Designed for Families section of the Google Play Store they must be age appropriate for the whole family, ensure the app is appropriate for children and is compliant with COPPA and other relevant laws (https://play.google.com/…/designed-for-families/).

SO HOW DID NEARLY ALL OF THE 5,855 APPS ANALYZED FROM THE GOOGLE PLAY STORE FAIL TO BE COPPA COMPLIANT?

Two reasons seem to stand out from the rest.

First, until this study, there was no way to reliably test an app for compliance other than to manually use each and every app, or to perform a static analysis of the code of each app to checking for potential infringements. And while this practice does happen, it is very long and laborious.
According to AppBrain, in the month of March 2018, 78,361 new apps were added to the Google Play Store. Yes, that is seventy-eight thousand plus, and yes, that is in one month (http://www.appbrain.com/…/number-of-android-apps).

Averaging out to just over 2,500 apps added each day for the month of March, you can see why it would be nearly impossible to keep up with compliance checks.

The Second reason it’s hard to ensure the compliance of these apps is, they are breaking the law unintentionally.

The ICSI study states that most violations are probably unintentional. The developers of these apps are using SDKs (software development kits) to build their apps from. SDKs have pre-built tools, libraries, code samples, processes, and guides for app developers to use to create their own apps that will work on specific platforms.

These SDKs come with data collection programming already on board. Many SDKs offer configuration options that disable tracking and behavioral advertising that the developer can use to remain compliant with the law. But the study showed that the majority of apps are either not using the configuration options or they are using them incorrectly.

 

IN LIGHT OF THESE MAJOR NEW FINDINGS, WHAT CAN WE DO TO KEEP OUR KIDS INFORMATION SAFE?

MONITOR WHICH APPS YOUR KIDS ARE DOWNLOADING.

You can use Apple’s Family Share for iOS (https://www.apple.com/family-sharing/) or Google Play Family Library for Android (https://families.google.com/families) to monitor the list of apps your kids have and use.

TAKE A PEEK AT THEIR APPS.

There’s still really no better way to keep up on what your kids are doing than by playing the game or using the app yourself. If you’re too busy or disinterested, try watching your kids use the apps whenever you get the chance.

LOOK AT INDEPENDENT REVIEWS.

Websites like Common Sense Media (https://www.commonsensemedia.org/app-reviews) offer age-based ratings and reviews of movies, games, and apps to keep parents informed and up-to-date on the latest in media geared toward kids.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS.

Because kids are so immersed in their apps and games, they can easily look past info grabbing requests. Continue to tell your kids about these kinds of issues when they come up and warn them about sharing their personal information online or through their games.

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD.

Ultimately the power is in the hands of the consumer. By speaking out, sending an email to companies who have violated your trust, or uninstalling their products from your devices, you can create a shift in the way they do business.

READ THE STUDY BY THE INTERNATIONAL COMPUTER SCIENCE INSTITUTE (ICSI)

Stay informed on the current analysis methods used by app stores and reviewers by keeping up with the latest studies and tech news. This report is comprehensive and easy to understand (https://petsymposium.org/…/popets-2018-0021.pdf).

Conclusion​

For independent reviewers of apps, and companies like Apple and Google, the slow laborious method for analyzing apps has put them (and us) at a disadvantage.

These companies know how important privacy is to consumers. Newer and better ways of reviewing media geared toward children are obviously needed.

In light of this latest upset, I think we can look forward to seeing many app providers implementing a system like the one used in the ICSI study to review large groups of apps more efficiently.

Photo by Nicolas Ladino Silva

Google Photos: Are Your Images Safe?

WITH ANY GREAT TECH COMES THE NEED TO MANAGE IT IN A BETTER, MORE EFFICIENT WAY​

To manage our mountain of photos on our own, we have to create files to organize and categorize the pics into groups that will make sense to us when we need to find a specific photo later. And that means spending a lot of time.

We might have good intentions, but our actual method for managing our photos is probably more like this:

We go to take a picture with our phone and find our storage is full. We hastily delete a few of our saved pics to get the room we need to take the photo. When we get home we’re lucky if we remember to dump the photos from our phone into a photo file on our computer and that’s as far as it goes.

ENTER GOOGLE PHOTOS​

Google Photos is a cloud storage app that stores up to 15 GB of your photos, and videos for free. It works through your Google account, so if you’re using Gmail or any of Google’s other services, you automatically have access to Google Photos.

Google Photos is available as an app for iPhone and Android, and can also be used in your browser.

Using the automatic backup and sync functions, Google Photos will upload your photos to provide reliable backup and storage for your pictures and videos. It will sync with the devices you choose, so any changes you make to a photo or video will automatically update across your devices.

Having access to the cloud to instantly upload your photos is great, but that’s not the greatest feature of Google Photos.

Google Photos uses Google’s machine learning technology to analyze the content of your photos and organize them into easily searchable groups. Facial recognition, object recognition, and geotagging, automatically organize your pictures into people, places, and things.

And they’re searchable by keywords, dates, locations, objects, and people. For example, by entering the word “cat” into the search bar, Google Photos will populate all of the photos in your library with a cat in them.

Suddenly, with many ways to organize your photos, you don’t have a giant mess of pictures to deal with. It’s instant organization.

These are only a few of the many great features you can access inside this app.

With all of these great features tempting us into using Google Photos, are there any downsides we should be aware of?

HOW SECURE ARE MY PICTURES ON GOOGLE PHOTOS?​

When we use any service that has access to our personal information over the internet, security is always a top concern.

How secure are our photos? Do we want to risk having all of our memories in one place online, only to have them lost or stolen?

THE TWO MAIN CONCERNS MOST USERS HAVE WHEN USING A FREE SERVICE LIKE GOOGLE PHOTOS ARE:

  1. What info is Google collecting on me and how do they use it?
  2. Can my information be stolen from outside of Google?

Let’s look at these issues in more detail.

WHAT INFO IS GOOGLE COLLECTING ON ME AND HOW DO THEY USE IT?

Never fool yourself; you are uploading your personal information, in the form of photographs, into a giant database that already tracks your location and your searches. When you use Google’s free services, they collect data on you.

The list of what is collected is staggering.

There’s the information you voluntarily provide like your name, email address, telephone number, and personal profile picture. And then there’s the data that is gathered when you use a Google service.

Google can see which YouTube videos you watch and the websites you visit that use Google ads or Google Analytics. They track what device you’re using, your IP address, cookies, and location information including GPS. There’s more, but that is the bulk of it.

We don’t think much of it when we give our info away a little bit at a time. But viewed as a whole, this huge amount of information draws a pretty accurate picture of us and of what we do online.

“If the service is free you are not the customer, you are the product.”

For many of us, we accept that this is the price we pay to use free services online. As the saying goes, “If the service is free you are not the customer, you are the product.” And the product is your personal information.

So what specifically does Google use this information for?

According to Google’s Privacy Policy, (https://policies.google.com/privacy) “We use the information we collect from all of our services to providemaintainprotect and improve them, to develop new ones, and to protect Google and our users. We also use this information to offer you tailored content – like giving you more relevant search results and ads.”

You can manage your privacy settings inside your Google account to manage the types of information Google collects, adjust the types of ads you see, and control which personal information (including your photos) you want public or private.

All of the information above applies to your Google Photos account as well as your other Google accounts. You sign into each of these accounts with the same username and password, and they all fall under the same privacy policy and terms of service. You can read more about the data collection, privacy, and security of your Google accounts here. (https://privacy.google.com/)

CAN MY INFORMATION BE STOLEN FROM OUTSIDE OF GOOGLE?​

Besides Google having access to your info, what about the possibility of hackers getting into Google’s system?

Fortunately for us, Google takes security seriously.

In November of 2017, Google published a report highlighting research they conducted on the phenomenon called Account Takeover. (https://security.googleblog.com/…)

Account takeover, or “hijacking”, has been reported by more than 15% of internet users, according to the report. Hijackers steal usernames and passwords to online accounts to gain access to private information.

Using Google accounts as a case study, Google teamed up with the University of California to find out how accounts are being hijacked, and learn how to defend against these attempts.

The results of the study were used to increase the security of Google accounts, and were provided to the public so other platforms could also defend against outside invaders.

Other measures taken by Google to protect your information are:

  •  Encryption technology like HTTPS and Transport Layer Security, which protect your stored photos, emails, videos, and website visits from being intercepted by outside sources.
  • A state-of-the-art cloud infrastructure that is continuously monitored. Your data is stored in multiple data centers so a disaster in one area won’t result in losing your stored information.
  • Threat detection that monitors for spam, malware, viruses, and other malicious code.

Now you know what Google does to safeguard your data.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO PROTECT YOUR PICTURES AND VIDEOS STORED ON GOOGLE PHOTOS?​

  • Use Google’s 2-step verification. While this may seem a little inconvenient, the added security is worth the extra step it takes to access your account.
  • Don’t upload pictures you wouldn’t want leaked to the world. Remember the 2014 iCloud security breach, where nude photos of celebs were stolen and posted online? Don’t let that be you. Why even take the chance?
  • Keep a hard copy of your pics and videos for backup. Use optical media like writable CD’s and DVD’s, or solid state drives like a flash drive. (These storage devices can corrupt over time so be sure to check and update them on a set schedule.)
  • Use the custom privacy settings inside of Google Photos. Custom privacy settings allow you to limit the information Google collects, and you can control what personal information shows up on your Google profile. You can also choose who to share your photos with, and who to block from seeing your pics.
  • Do a “reverse image” search. If you think one of your photos may have been compromised, you can upload that photo into reverse.photos (https://reverse.photos/) and Google will show all the pages on the internet that have similar images.

Conclusion​

In exchange for access to an awesome free service like Google Photos, most people are content to know that their info is being collected, as long as it isn’t used in a malicious or irresponsible way. Google takes strong measures to ensure the privacy and security of their users; including how they use your info, and protecting you from the outside.

In the world we live in, security breaches and data misuse happen. Hackers hack, governments snoop, and companies sneakily gather and sell our information.

To protect yourself, stay informed by keeping up on the policies and practices of the software and services you use most. And tune into websites like Tomsolid.com that keep you up-to-date on the latest tech news and security threats.

Laptop Nature

Does Going Paperless Help The Environment?

Statistics published on the website of the University of Southern Indiana say that:

● Americans use about 680 pounds of paper per person, per year.
This amounts to about 85,000,000 tons of paper or 2,000,000,000 trees.

● The average American household throws away 13,000 pieces of paper (around 1 billion trees in total in USA) each year. Most in the form of packaging and junk mail.

With statistics like these, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that using paper is bad and going paperless is good. But is it really that simple? Stop using paper = save the planet?

I’ve often wondered what difference being paperless makes to the health of the environment, so I decided to look into it. It turns out it’s a bit more complicated than I realized.

Let me explain.

WHEN THE ISSUE OF USING PAPER COMES UP, WE HEAR THE LOUDEST VOICES.

Those who actively campaign for going paperless use emotionally charged commands to make you feel guilty for using paper. And the message has been effective. They use statistics, like the ones listed above, to offer proof that going paperless is better for the environment.

And while those stats are true, they show only part of the picture.

In response to these anti-paper campaigns, opposition groups have launched their own campaigns to educate the public on both sides of the print vs electronic argument.

The website http://printgrowstrees.org/ places an emphasis on the fact that the demand for paper gives landowners a reason to grow trees, instead of selling their land for development.

The fact is, more than half of all US forest land is privately owned, and requires money for maintenance and taxes. That means landowners need income from this land. When a working forest can’t make money, the land must be put to another use, like developing, grazing, farming, or mining; all of which permanently destroy the forests.

In a press release by Two Sides Inc., Company President and COO Phil Riebel said, “The fact is, print and paper products made in the U.S. have a great environmental story to tell. Paper comes from a renewable resource — trees grown in responsibly managed forests — and it’s recycled more than any other commodity, including plastics, metals and glass.” “Thanks in great part to the sustainable forestry practices advanced by the paper and forest products industry, the volume of growing trees in U.S. forests has increased nearly 50 percent over the last half century.”

BUT WHAT ABOUT DIGITAL MEDIA, DOES IT DESTROY OUR FORESTS?

The other side of the digital vs. paper debate is often less-noticed—the impact digital media has on our increasing energy use. And more energy use equals more pollution. Americans use more energy today than ever, thanks to digital tech. We need electricity to power our phones, desktops, laptops, hi-definition TVs, and many more of the gadgets that didn’t exist 20-30 years ago. In a 2013 report by Mark Mills titled, “The Cloud Begins With Coal”, it says, “…the world’s Information-Communications-Technologies (ICT) ecosystem uses about 1,500 terawatt-hours of power per year. That’s about 10% of the world’s total electricity generation or roughly the combined power production of Germany and Japan. It’s the same amount of electricity that was used to light the entire planet in 1985.” There’s also the unseen energy usage that comes from making our technological gadgets in the first place.

research paper by Liqui Deng, Callie W. Babbitt, and Eric D. Williams, shows that as much as 70% of the energy a typical laptop uses during its life span is used in manufacturing the computer.

When the energy we need to power our devices comes from burning fossil fuels, the impact on the environment is undeniable.

The coal needed to power coal-burning power plants comes from forest-destroying practices like mountaintop removal coal mining. This practice forever alters animal habitat, destroys stream heads, and pollutes the immediate environment of a once green mountaintop forest.

Then there is the waste caused by consumer electronics.

According to the United Nations, 20-50 million metric tons of toxic e-waste are thrown out every year.

DOES THAT MEAN THAT USING PAPER IS BETTER THAN GOING PAPERLESS?

Well, not exactly.

Both paper and electronic devices have an impact on our world. But paperless has one thing going for it that could make it king-of-the-hill.

Clean energy.

A simple Google search for “countries committed to renewable energy” will bring up article after article featuring countries with specific and ambitious goals for going green.

A recent post by the Climate Reality Project highlights 11 countries that are leading the way when it comes to shifting to renewable energy. Some of these countries are operating at 99% clean energy today! And many have projected being at 100% clean energy production by the year 2020. 

In 2016 at the Climate Vulnerable Forum, 48 countries agreed to make their energy production 100% renewable “as rapidly as possible” by between 2030 and 2050 at the latest.

Initiatives by countries, and amazing advances in science, are paving the way for a world with 100% clean energy in the near future.

Conclusion​

With new technology in clean energy cropping up each year, I have high hopes that the energy we use to power our electronics won’t do the massive damage that has been outlined in the previous paragraphs.

If we balance emotions with facts, we can come up with a real solution for our communication needs that won’t hurt our environment.

The ideal scenario for a technologically advancing society like ours, is combining paperless communication with renewable energy and recycling.

This is the future I am looking forward to. And in the meantime, it seems we don’t need to feel as guilty as we thought about using some paper, while doing all we can to promote the development of clean energy.

Subscribe Now

Get the latest paperless news and discounts in your inbox.

Patreon_Members
Scroll to Top