A quick question for IT security professionals

I just read this paragraph in the Evernote security and privacy information page. Does this point to a good data security infrastructure?

Operational security is equally important, and physical infrastructure and operations procedures reflect that. The data center where the Evernote service operates is SAS 70 (Type II) and SSAE16 SOC–1 (Type 2) certified and requires two-factor authentication for admittance. All access to the data center is limited in scope of personnel and regular audit reviews are conducted.

As I understand it, their recent move to 2048 bit SSL keys is really good and exponentially strengthens the encryption used to secure data transmission to and from their servers but what about the rest?

Trying out the Ozaki Stylus R with my iPad

Styli comparison

I bought an Adonit Jot Pro stylus a while ago to use with my iPad 3 and I struggle writing stuff on my iPad with it. It seems to jump around a bit. It is possible I am not holding it correctly (or something) but I tend not to use it even though I have some awesome apps on my iPad for notes, drawing and brainstorming stuff visually.

I was at a meeting a while ago with a couple agency people and noticed Ramotse Phalatsi (I think it was him) using a fat stylus and asked him how it works for him and he raved about it. It is cheap and you get 3 for the price of 1. I thought I’d check it out and went to the iStore today. I couldn’t remember the brand but I bought the Ozaki Stylus R which I am pretty sure is the one he was using. The stylus comes with 2 replacement tips so you basically do get 3 in 1. The Ozaki costs R199 (I received a discount due to some sort of FNB Business cheque card promo I was unaware of).

I played around with the Ozaki for a few minutes and it is really smooth and seems to work well. It is definitely chunkier than the Jot Pro (I lay the two styli besides a couple pens and a marker for a size comparison below) but it feels good in my hand. I’ve been taking more handwritten notes in a Moleskine notebook I carry in my laptop bag lately mainly because doing that on my iPad has been more frustrating than its worth.

Stylus and pen comparisons

I think fairly visually so my notes include diagrams and handwritten notes that probably don’t make much sense to other people but that works well for me. My process has been to take a photo of those notes afterwards and stick the photos into Evernote for later reference. If the Ozaki works consistently for me, I’ll have the option of doing something similar on my iPad and just moving the images across to Evernote either using Penultimate’s integration or importing images I create with Paper.

The only catch with the Ozaki is, because of its size and shape, you don’t see the point where it makes contact with the screen so really fine work can be tricky until you get a great sense of how it feels in your hand and where it makes contact. It is very possible I am not using the Jot Pro effectively so I’ll keep working on that. For now, though, the Ozaki works pretty well. I’ll see how well it works when I am using it for a longer time period and how accurate it is. At R199, it’s not all that much to spend if you want to try it out and like the size and form factor.

Evernote's persistence despite my growing dislike

I once swore by Evernote. I used it for everything. I used it to take notes, to collect scanned documents, receipts, bank statements and serve as a general reference archive for everything that caught my attention and that I want to be able to get back to one day. I still do much of that with Evernote today but that is more because I haven’t worked out how to do all of what I want to do without it yet. I’m getting close, though. Until then, Evernote is the app that is just slightly more convenient to keep using to remain in use.

Evernote used to be clearly superior to other options. It works fairly well on my desktop and I have a host of workflows that tie into it. My bank statements and assorted legal newsletters route into Evernote automatically. I scan all my receipts and store them in Evernote in case I ever need to find them again and I keep track of case reports and miscellaneous bits of data in there, including important data relating to my home and family.

I don’t use it to take notes any more. The apps are too slow to get going and unreliable enough to really not want to go there at all. All the documents I scan and store in Evernote go into a Dropbox folder too. I once contemplated using Evernote for my tasks too but Omnifocus is where I manage all my projects instead. I used the mobile apps all the time to capture stuff on the go. I still use them for that but not nearly as much as I used to, the apps are just too unreliable so it’s easier to take a photo with geo-location data and email it to my Evernote profile for storage.

Between Dropbox for file storage, Omnifocus for my tasks and short term reference and my plain text notes (synchronised through Dropbox), there isn’t a lot I really need Evernote for lately. The one thing keeping Evernote in my workflows is not knowing how I can export all my data into a coherent archive that I can reference later, if I choose to. I also have a couple niggling uncertainties around how I would capture and reference emails I receive (such as email newsletters) which I forward to Evernote automatically.

I can probably supplement a Dropbox file storage system with Yep and Leap from Ironic Software and integrate better into my growing Openmeta Tags use for my notes and documents. The cost of a bundle of all the Ironic apps is even less than my annual Evernote Premium subscription.

With all of this I find myself wondering what went wrong? When did Evernote become the service I use because I am more or less locked into it, despite it being the sort of service that eschews lock-in, in favour of common standards and formats? Is Evernote going to fix these apps, make them all work better or should I join the few travelling out into the desert in search of something a little more reliable and effective?

Context aware Evernote notes

I noticed a cool feature on the iOS Evernote app. If you create a note when you have an event scheduled in your calendar, the app auto-populates the title field with the event description.

You can change it but if you don’t tap on the title field and just add note content or an attachment, the note will have that title. Very handy!

Evernote Rescue Project was a success

Just as I thought: my Evernote experience has improved noticeably by deleting the hundreds of tags with 0 or 1 note associated with them.

The trick was deleting the tags in smaller batches of 10 to 20 tags at a time. Evernote reindexes and syncs after each deletion and deleting too many tags in one go slows Evernote down dramatically.

Evernote ninja and my 2nd borked database

I am an Evernote ninja. I have managed to maim my local database for the 2nd time and did it so expertly, I’m not even sure how I managed it.

Actually, I do have a thought or two. I realised that I have a lot (really, a lot) of tags which either aren’t being used by any notes or are used once or twice. It seems that all those tags are slowing Evernote down, so much so that anything I do with tags makes Evernote unusable for a few minutes or so. So, armed with this hypothesis, I decided to delete all the tags with 2 and few uses. Unfortunately the act of selecting all those tags was enough to crash Evernote and every time I opened the app after Force Quitting it on my Mac, Evernote remembered which tags I selected and tried to do that again, crashing the app all over again.

I’m backing up all 12GB of my local database and then I am going to remove Evernote from my laptop and download it all again. I should be done in March.

Evernote and contextual experiences

Evernote is the app you use to remember stuff. Just about anything. Its apps run on a variety of mobile devices, Mac and Windows and the only reason its not ubiquitous is that there isn’t a Linux app (although the Web app has really developed in the last few years to the point where its a pretty decent desktop app alternative).

Evernote has launched a couple apps in the last few months that focus the general service on specific uses. Clearly, a Chrome extension, is a lot like the Readability extension and it renders a Web page into something more readable and which you can conveniently save into Evernote to read another time.

Evernote launched two more really interesting apps in the last week or so. The first is Evernote Food which immediately reminded me of Oink which I am using. The idea is to capture food you eat and enjoy along with information about location (posts can be geotagged) and people you were with. The result is a custom note in Evernote optimized for the content type (a photo, description of the food and other info). I’m not sure how often I’ll use it but it signifies a subtle shift in how users may perceive and use Evernote.

The latest app, Evernote Hello, excites me a bit more. This app encroaches on apps like LinkedIn’s CardMunch and Hashable although it takes the idea of capturing contacts a bit beyond business card captures (one of the uses Evernote’s Phil Libin mentioned in the earlier days was snapping business cards with Evernote with his camera phone) and addresses one of the challenges I face – recognizing people when I bump into them again.

I am curious to see how this would work in practice. It would obviously work best if people you meet are happy to take a snapshot of themselves and enter their data (or let you take the photo). As with Food, this app creates a custom note in Evernote with the data you capture along with the photo. I love the idea.

What interests me more about these apps is how it extends Evernote’s utility for me. Until now I have had the Evernote app on my phone and use it from time to time (I find the app is pretty sluggish so I don’t bother when I have a quick note to take – not the point). These two apps give me quick, specialized applications of the service to specific contexts. These apps make Evernote an experiential and contextual service and that interests me a lot.