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Masons of Texas embrace iPhone

Posted by Ed King on Friday, October 29, 2010 in , , , ,
Although there are updates to iPhone programs every day, I don't always go poking around in the App Store to see what's new. Besides, their search system stinks worse than two dozen dead skunks on a half mile stretch of road. Popping in "Masonry" earlier this week, I saw a bright and shiny new icon which said "Masons of Texas". How could I resist?
The very first preview screen of the program, intelligently, pointed me to their website which revealed a LOT of work by, it would seem, one very dedicated Mason - Bro. Blake Bowden. It's graphically appealing, well laid out, and intellectually stimulating. WOW!

I'll be the first to say that what this internet doesn't need is one more Masonic discussion area. Yes, I'm still dreaming back to the days where you could go to CompuServe and find out everything about everything from everyone and for that reason, I think the Brother who has invested enormous time and energy into this won't be rewarded nearly enough for his labors. However, I do see how this type of site, coupled with the enthusiasm of this Mason, could do wonders on a national basis. The iPhone link is unbelievably smooth and it's a joy to behold. Although not an official app, it could well be. Wouldn't it be nice if The Masonic Society, for example, were to have their bulletin board system available this way? Think of the possibilities....

Kudos to Brother Bowden - and for those Masons who've been searching for this type of program, look to Texas! Their Grand Lodge was the very first Grand Lodge to link to my masonicinfo.com website back within just a couple of months of its creation so I know there's a LOT of great Masons there. Check out this app. It's really good! 

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Brother Secretary, what's next?

Posted by Ed King on Friday, September 10, 2010 in , ,
There you are in the big chair and - WHOOPS! - you don't have a clue what the next item of business is. You wrote out an agenda but you left it on the front seat of the car and you can't very well run out to get it. It's one of those 'deer in the headlights' moments that every group leader experiences - and your Brethren will know well when you're 'fakin' it'....

Now there's an iPhone app to solve this problem: CHAIRMAN NOW. You can set up standard agendas and then modify them to suit a particular meeting. Plan the duration of each item in the agenda and mail it to your Wardens and Secretary for their comments if you want. (Might save a lot of needless blustering during meetings?) When you move to business, you simply push a large button and two progress bars will track the overall meeting and the present agenda item, show time used and time remaining, as well as a summary of over or under time minutes. When the District Deputy is twitching in his seat, it'll help you avoid looking at your watch constantly. Audible prompts can be used to indicate 75%, 90% and 100% points in the agenda item discussion time although in tyled meetings you might not want to have them activated.  A series of tips on running meetings is included in this $4 app. What's more, the program's owner is a delight and promises more improvements to come.

Good management encourages us to "plan ahead" and this app will encourage you to do just that. Whether you're Master, chair of a committee or head of any body or group, you can get on top of things with Chairman Now. Members react SO much better to well-planned meetings and with this app, you've got the opportunity to garner some more of that praise. Go for it!Enhanced by Zemanta

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I can name that tune in One Note....

Posted by Ed King on Wednesday, August 11, 2010 in , , , , ,
Those of you of a certain age will recognize the allusion: the old television program "Name That Tune". With the program having run from 1952 through 1985, we'll all just pretend that we remembered it from when we were in diapers at its conclusion.

Today, though, Microsoft's version of OneNote is a very powerful free-form database software for accumulating all sorts of information. (A brief nod to the all-time BEST free-form database AskSam but the Microsoft notebook analogy makes it easier for office mates to understand so that's what we use....) Part of the Microsoft Office suite in recent years, it has become daily staple for storing the bits and pieces of things I'll be called on to remember at some point in the distant future. With SO much oft-referred-to data having been piled into OneNote by both myself and others with whom it was shared both at work and home over these past 4-5 years, it was a natural that I'd want to have it in my iPhone.

AND I CAN! There's a very unique app called MobileNoter to synch your OneNote pages with your iPhone. Everything! Your pictures, charts, handwritten notations - the whole enchilada. (Oh, did I mention? You can put nearly anything including voice into a OneNote file as easily as buttering toast.) While it requires a bit of 'finger spreading' to make it readable on your iPhone unless you're using a darn big font on the desktop version, just having it there in your pocket - including the search feature which makes OneNote indispensable - means that you'll never go hungry for your information again.

What I particularly love is that it also does 2-way synch of information so you can add to your notes while you're off somewhere and they'll be right back into your desktop version as soon as you get home. If you've never tried OneNote, you have no idea how handy this can be when you're trying to remember pieces of planned projects, dabs of information about the next outing you're planning, or whatever. In your Masonic life, it's a great place to put the bits and pieces of things that you always want to have handy: a copy of the lodge by-laws, treasurer's reports, or whatever fits with your current or future office responsibilities. Imagine a notebook with dividers and filler paper. Inside is all of the information you've accumulated and might need to refer to. By typing "stated meeting" you'll see all instances of that within your several notebooks. Then imagine how handy that would be on your iPhone in your pocket. If you're a lodge Secretary, you can't do without these two - and, of course, your Masonic iPhone!

What's that? You say you can run it on your SmartPhone with OneNote Mobile? Ah, not so fast: you don't have all the features you do from the desktop, do you? And it looks SO much different.... No, my friend (and Brother?!): it's NOT the same. This is what you're used to on the desktop: not a cheap imitation for some inferior operating system that's always behind the times. (Compare the blue graphic on the left with the pictures above!)

If you've never used OneNote, take it for a test drive. You'll probably end up buying it. When you do, immediately, go to Mobile Noter's website to spend the $15 ($15 annually for the cloud edition with 600 Mb limit or $15 one time for the Wi-Fi version including unlimited storage/transfer which is great if you can regularly link to an office/home machine directly).

Now I have all of my notes about Anti-Masons (those with Masonophobia) sitting in my pocket along with work stuff, things I've got to remember for the lodge, chapter, shrine, etc. etc. plus ideas for more Masonic iPhone posts, Masonic geocaching notes, and so much more. Look out world!

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While meditating on the spot....

Posted by Ed King on Thursday, August 05, 2010 in , , ,
Yeah, sure: it's nice to have the pounding beat of an old Meatloaf song or a quick game of Plants versus Zombies on that iPhone but sometimes, we Masons find ourselves in a contemplative mood - and finding something to help is often out of reach. Not any longer! Quite by accident, I stumbled on a $4 program for the iPhone called "Level Steps - 100 Daily Meditations for Freemasons". Pretty overpriced, I thought, but it might save my Brethren from wasting their cash.

I was quite pleasantly surprised. Although created by IndiaNIC, a company which seems to just pour out iPhone apps with out-of-copyright material by the zillions, this is a gem I hadn't seen before in my Masonic literary travels. Written by Jonti Marks, apparently a UK Mason, it contains thoughtful essays on the essence and being of a Mason. Great for reading singly, these several paragraph thoughts are well formed and will leave you with something to mull both immediately and for some time thereafter. Reflecting on the great moral principles of our order, it is an app that has been well worth the price for me. I'd love to refer you to a website so you could see more but the creator just churns these things out and does not maintain separate pages for any of their many offerings. Get thee into the iTunes App Store, though, and do a search on "Freemasons". You'll see it there. It's a good selection and will certainly enhance your Masonic iPhone and enrich your day!




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Craftsmen with important communication to make

Posted by Ed King on Friday, July 30, 2010 in , , ,
Blogs come and go - just as bloggers do. Like a bad penny, however, I'm back - and now that I've got my iPhone 4, I'm in love again. Oh, it's not that the phone reception problems have gone away: living in remote areas like Northern Maine or San Francisco, one accepts this as a fact of iPhone life. The much bally-hooed antenna problem, however, never seems to have been an issue and, in fact, this phone seems to have marginally (VERY marginally) better reception than before. The phone sounds better too, something I had also whinged about previously.

The biggest plus, though, is that this phone REALLY moves! And the screen has left me breathless. It is SO crisp and clear that it's really impossible to understand unless you hold it side-by-side with an iPhone 3. With some programs, it's just astonishing. Yes, a lot of superlatives and, to be sure, there are great things about other phones but this will be a phone you'll want to keep around for a while until the next rendering which will memorize your ritual for you, provide extra funds for charity contributions, and ensure that you get at least three healthy helpings at each and every Masonic dinner you attend. Oh, wait: I wasn't supposed to tell you about that. Whoops!

In any event, I'll start posting here again with some really useful apps for my Brother Masons with an iPhone. For those without, please remember that jealousy is NOT a Masonic virtue. Just go buy one and you'll be fine.
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The winter of my discontent!

Posted by Ed King on Tuesday, February 16, 2010 in , , ,
Chalk it up to a sour disposition, induced by a couple of very bad colds this winter (no flu of any kind thankfully) but I've honestly found writing about my iPhone to be pretty low on the priority list for the past couple of months. The work of being Secretary for a newly-forming daylight lodge might have had a small part in keeping me occupied but honestly, the more I use the PHONE part of the iPhone, the angrier I become.

If you've heard the stories about the iPhone having sound capabilities far worse than much cheaper (or even free) mobile phones, I'd agree with them based on my experience. The phone really is difficult to hear sometimes, particularly when you're in a crowded area or in a car with four studded snow tires and a group of jabbering Masons!

Don't even get me started on the coverage issue! Sure, I live in a somewhat remote area but I'm a few hundred feet from one of the major highways in the state. It's impossible to sit on the living room sofa and receive a call - and often calls are dropped if you simply turn your head a few inches. This ain't no way to run a railroad, as the saying goes.

Do the MANY other features of my iPhone make it still worthwhile? You betcha - and during this, my winter of discontent, I've gotten a half dozen programs that have made the Secretary's job a LOT easier and can help you if you're involved in lodge, chapter, council, commandery, shrine or the leadership of ANY body. I'll try to get my act in gear soon and tell you about them all. Meanwhile, I just wanted to let you know that the reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated.

Oh, and just so you don't have to write: I know about AT&T's app that allows you to report dropped calls and/or no coverage but guess what? It has no way to store that information so it can be sent to them sometime when there IS coverage. Thus, you go to all the trouble of clicking around to report something and at the end it reports 'No Connection. Try again later.' DUH! I can't report that I don't have a connection because I don't have a connection. They really thought this one out, didn't they

I'll get back to my old self soon - I hope. Meanwhile, talk amongst yourselves....
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The word, my Brother, is....

Posted by Ed King on Thursday, December 17, 2009 in , , , , ,
When I first got my iPhone, I was thrilled by the ability to have a dictation unit in my pocket, in addition to everything else. Many times I'd tried to use small units to capture my thoughts while driving or right after meetings but the tapes usually remained un-transcribed and gathering dust in a desk drawer.

Like a lot of others, I'd also tried using the venerable Dragon Dictate software to assist in getting things done. It didn't understand all the names and Masonic titles I'd throw at it and because I use a mail program other than Outlook, it wouldn't work for that. (Thank you, U.S. Navy, for at least having taught me how to type!) So on I went.

Quite recently, I saw that Dragon had just released an iPhone app and my curiosity was aroused. It, installing gently, caused me.... (Am I lapsing into ritual again? Sheesh!) Anyway, what was even better? The price. FREE!!! And, by golly, it WORKS! (There's one small typo in the pics. The last word should be "it".) Now lots of other folks, including Huffington Post (Look, I'm only mentioning it so don't get all politically upset if it's not your cup of tea....) have commented on the pros and cons of this and initially there were some concerns about privacy but here's one of the great things about your iPhone and its apps: if you don't like something, just delete it. It's not like your PC where the ghosts of an uninstalled program will haunt you forever. It's GONE and you move on.

However, if you get hooked on this system, there are lots of ways to make it even better. The SkillCasting site has an interesting video if you're interested.

For the active Mason it's really great to be able to sit for a moment in the car after a meeting and make a few dictated notes about things you need to remember. Try it. You might really like it.

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