Monday, July 18, 2022

Secure, Fast & Customizable: Why I Ditched My Windows PC for a Hot Rod Chromebook

Go to Phandroid Article: "The Incredible Asus Chromebook Flip CX5..."


In this article I explain why, after over 40 years using personal computers (mostly Windows-based), I  switched to a powerhouse Chromebook. And I'm loving it! If you're in a hurry (and you're willing to skip my carefully-crafted prose­čś×) you can skim through the stuff in bold to find the big ideas. Or you can just scroll down to one of these main sections:
  • After 30 years, enough with Windows, already!
  • Chromebooks dominate in education because they're powerful & easy to use.
  • Chromebooks are REALLY secure.
  • Chromebooks are fast! (Thanks to the ChromeOS.)
  • Chromebooks are customizable.
  • Buyer beware! It may be cheap, but when does that low-cost Chromebook expire?
  • My Chromebook: Part of a Powerful Ecosystem of Google Tools
  • Final Thoughts: How 40 Years of Personal Computing Has Led Me to a Chromebook
  • Bonus Tip: Don't throw away that old Windows PC or Mac. You might be able to make it a Chromebook!
[FYI: This article contains over 60 links to references for further research. Enjoy!]

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Screwed up projects? Here's a PM Minimalist quick fix strategy!

The PM Minimalist Quick Start Checklist: Helping You Solve Your PM Puzzle!

Budget overruns, schedule delays, unsatisfied customers, low quality deliverables... Whether it's a DIY project at home or a complex new initiative for your organization these symptoms of poor project management (PM) are the same. But you don't need PMP certification or extensive training in project management to address these problems and make sure your projects run smoothly.  In fact, you can make substantial improvements with a quick and easy-to-use one page checklist! 

When I first introduced the PM Minimalist approach I developed this checklist so that PM newbies could ease themselves into taking charge of their projects. Check out the article below, from my PM Resources Archives website, for details. It will help you unscramble your project puzzles and make the pieces fit!

NOTE Regarding Updated Links

You might find a few "dead links" to the free PM Minimalist tools referenced in the archived article linked below. Some of the stuff has moved since this was first published. Not to worry! Below is an updated list of links where you can download all the documents from my PM Minimalist collection at Internet Archive as free PDFs, including the entire PM Minimalist book

Click the image below to go to the archived article & video overview. 

Go to article Applying PM Minimalism: Manage Your Project with a One-Page Checklist!"

Interested in more PM tools, videos and lots of other free stuff? 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Taking Care of Yourself: Some Tools & Tips from the Archives


This article is for the work-weary professional, manager or anyone else who feels swamped, is always getting interrupted and who feels like screaming in frustration! The selections below are from my collection Inspirations: Optimize Your Attitude, Maximize Your Results. These three are hand-picked to inspire you to take care of yourself, reclaim your humanity, enhance your job satisfaction and find some peace of mind.

Set and respect "office hours."

This excerpt from The Project Management Minimalist is a short pep talk and set of practical guidelines that will help you set aside uninterruptible office hours so you can be more productive and get into that "flow" state in which we all do our best work. 
Check out the book excerpt.

Leverage your signature strengths.

There is much happiness, emotional satisfaction and, arguably, higher-quality output to be had when you are doing what you are purpose-built to do.  Are you leveraging your "signature strengths?"  Learn more in this excerpt from The Project Management Minimalist.

Check out the book excerpt.

Is it time to go "off the grid?"

Ever feel like running away and simply disappearing for a while? Getting lost, going completely off the grid, can be one of the most energy-renewing, creativity-enhancing and simply joyful things you can do!  This article from the archives makes the case for doing so.  

Check out the article.

Get The Project Management Minimalist from Amazon or as a free PDF.

If you find the preceding samples to be valuable, why not go a little deeper. Specifically:


Thursday, April 28, 2022

Music to Get Lost In: A Brief Introduction to Jam Bands

What's a jam band?

I like all kinds of music: blues, rock, psychedelic, R&B, jazz and ocassionally even folk/bluegrass and their offshoots. And I especially like long, well-developed performances that I can get lost in -- the kind of music that musicians love playing as they engage a melody and soar side by side like the Blue Angels in tight formation and then diverge into solo musical loops and barrel rolls, eventually converging back at the melody where they started. This kind of musical aerobatics is the domain of the jam band. 

In introducing its comprehensive and always-growing list of jam bands, Wikipedia summarizes:  "Jam band performances often feature extended musical improvisation ('jams') over rhythmic grooves and chord patterns, and long sets of music that cross genre boundaries."  

Elsewhere, Wikipedia traces jam band origins: "The jam-band musical style spawned from the psychedelic rock movement of the 1960s. The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band became notable for their live improvisational jams and regular touring schedules, which continued into the 1990s." Wikipedia also identifies the "stylistic origins" of jam bands to include:  jazz, folk, country, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, jazz fusion, blues, rock, and Southern rock. In fact, many jam band tracks (songs) seem to slide effortlessly among several of these musical genres within the same piece. 

(Rather not read my wise & wonderful background info? Then scroll down & start listening.)

What's so great about jam band music?

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Book Review -- "Flashing Back: Coming of Age in the American 1960s"

Amazon Listing for Flashing Back: Coming of Age in the American 1960s

[Note: As a baby boomer and a survivor of the 1960s, I found this to be one of the most powerful and authentic books I've ever read. Below is my heartfelt review & recommendation. - Mike G.]


"The wall on which the prophets wrote is cracking at the seams..." - from King Crimson's "Epitaph," 1969

The 1960s were a swirling maelstrom of assassinated heroes, civil rights and racial strife, and the draft turning young men too young to vote (or even needing to shave every day) into cannon fodder, compelling them to kill and die in an unpopular war for reasons still unfathomable. The walls on which our prophets wrote cracked and crumbled as we discovered our institutions victimizing us rather than serving us. An entire generation called “bullshit” on the whole thing. Finding ourselves groping along an uncharted path, we tried to figure out what was going on and how we could survive. We got high. We protested and raised hell in the streets, and at our family dinner tables. Our new, over-amplified music blasted our ideals at deafening levels, a unifying force too loud to ignore. We hit the road partying, leaving the draft, the war, and Ward Cleaver’s America in our rear-view mirror. This disaffected population demographic coalesced into a counterculture of alienated youth with long hair, weird clothes, and loud music: the hippie-freaks. It was indeed a long, strange trip. It was also a passionate trip, a trip motivated by a genuine search for justice, freedom, truth, spirit, and personal authenticity. 

Friday, February 25, 2022

Become an armchair expatriate with these 55 video series that'll take you out of the U.S. & around the world!

These video series shown above will take you on regular trips to South Africa, Australia, England, Greek island of Corfu and India!

Armchair Expats

My wife and I have spent nearly every evening for the past decade or so as armchair expatriates, leaving America behind and spending hours in other parts of the English-speaking world. We travel by video streaming services to cities, villages and rural areas of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, India, Canada and pretty much anywhere that English speaking folks have established themselves. We leave behind the bulletproof vests, serial killers, SWAT teams, predator-driven, high-intensity thrillers and cheesy "reality" shows that make up a typical evening of American television. 

Our Viewing Criteria

We have this test question for any new TV series: "Would we want to have dinner with these characters?" If so, we watch a few episodes and ask another question: "Do I feel better after spending time in this series?" As long as we can answer both of these questions in the affirmative, we keep watching the series. But if the episodes start going dark, nasty or generally emulating the "edgy" dreck served up by most American media we instantly drop them and move on.

Looking back over our nightly travels "abroad," we see that the series we spend the most time with share many of these qualities: 
• There are no commercials or ads breaking up the flow (at least there are none after each episode begins).
• The characters are generally good people with reasonably good intentions.
• The characters are pursuing laudable goals and encountering plausible obstacles that they eventually overcome.
• There is little or no violence or gore.
• There is beautiful scenery.
• Our characters are not constantly battling a life-threatening evil or slogging through a dark, dystopian world.
When the series is over we feel better, rather than worse, at having spent time with these characters. In particular, we don't feel ashamed or voyeuristic at having been sucked into something that was mostly negative or merely sensationalistic.

Our Recommended Series

Below is a list of 55 fictional series we have seen and recommend, categorized by the part of the world to which they will take you. The majority of these are from two low-cost sources: Acorn TV ($5.99/month) and PBS Passport ($5/month). A few are from Hulu and Netflix

Friday, January 28, 2022

Replacing Google Play Music: How I Store & Stream 22 GB of My Own Music (MP3s) for a One-Time Cost of $7.99


Ah, Google Play Music... How I miss you!

Once upon a time, I was a loyal and satisfied Google Play Music customer. I used it to:
  • Upload and store thousands of my own MP3 music files (many pulled from my own CDs) in the cloud.
  • Search for and purchase new music as MP3 files.
  • Stream music to my Android tablet and phone.
  • Save and play my custom playlists offline.
  • Cast music to any combination of my eight Google Home speakers.
  • Stream music from my phone to my Android Auto screen and control playback hands-free while driving.
And all this was free of any monthly costs and free of advertising. The only cost was a one-time purchase fee for new songs or albums from the Google Play store.

And then Google killed Google Play Music and replaced it with YouTube Music, which requires that I pay a monthly fee for doing many of the things that Play Music did for free. Worse, they insert ads where there had been none before!

The bottom line: I decided to figure out how to replicate the old Google Play Music experience using free alternatives. And I'm pleased to say that my new music streaming system works great!

My New Cloud Storage & Streaming System

Here are the key components of my Google Play Music replacement:
Using the components above, I am able to do pretty much everything I was able to do with Google Play Music, including casting music to any cast-enabled device. The only thing missing is the ability to initiate music playing by saying, "Okay Google, play [playlist]..." Instead, I use my phone or tablet as a remote control to begin casting a particular playlist via CloudPlayer. Then, once the playlist has started playing on my Google Home or Nest smart speakers, I can use "Okay Google..." voice commands to stop, pause, rewind, tell me the name of the song that's playing, etc. So for a one-time cost of just $7.99 I get pretty much everything I need from my personal, custom-made, ad-free streaming service. **

(NOTE: If I had a TON of my own music and needed more than 22 GB I could buy 100 GB of storage for just $20/year from Google Drive. But, for now at least, I have plenty of cloud capacity so I'm going to stick with my free 22 GB storage strategy.)

So how can you set up your own service like this? It's easy! Below are the steps.

How to Build Your Own 22GB Cloud Streaming Service for One-Time Fee of $7.99