Using Google Calendar Effectively

21 September 2019

Google Calendar makes the world go 'round, especially for kids who travel between households and have lots of school events. There are a couple things you can do to get the most out of your calendar.

Set Locations

Calendar events obviously come with times and fixed reminders so many minutes before the event. It doesn’t matter where you are or where the event takes place: that notification is coming at the same time.

With a location set on each calendar event, other software, like Waze GPS, can continuously watch your current location and offer you a more useful notification giving you time to travel based on distance and current driving conditions along the way.

Set the Earliest Time

Most my calendar events have just one start time, but my kids' events aren’t that simple. A marching band performance may be at 7pm, but the bus to the stadium leaves at 4pm. Since we live by notifications, it’s important to get those notifications at the earliest time at which we need to act. The other times are likely just extra details that can go into the event title or event details. I can get a notification for 4pm and realize I don’t need to be there until 7pm, but I can’t tolerate a 7pm notification if I was supposed to be dropping a kid at the practice at 4pm.

If I find it’s important to see notifications for all the potential times of an event, then it’s probably best to break that event into more than one event: drop-off, performance, and pick-up.

Share the Calendar

This is the first and most useful collaboration feature of Google Calendar. A personal calendar benefits one person, but invite the other participants (the kids), and then they can start adding and maintaining events and following these rules as well.


Bachelor Week 2013

12 August 2013

Bachelor Week 2013 (where Claire and kids ran off to the beach and left me behind) started out with photographing at the Menges Mills Tractor Show for the third year, and the week ended with a quick road trip after work to join the family for a day on the beach.

In between, I got to a party with some photographer friends, sat in front of the computer for many, many hours catching up on photo processing for the Project 365 (whew!) and beyond. I also managed to have some friends over for an Xbox night to play a little good old Halo 2 and Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed.

While continuing to go to work, I listened to podcasts like crazy (at 1.5x speed!) to get caught up on all the news in technology and photography.

It was a much-needed reset, and I was glad to rejoin the family at the end of the week (and start adding to my photo backlog again)!


D-Link DIR-615 vs Asus EeePC 1000HE

06 August 2009

Claire's excellent little EeePC 1000HE was not being so excellent in one area -- the wireless network. Everything had gone so nicely with the installation and daily running the machine, but the network kept dropping out, and it always seemed to have a weak signal (~50%) in our favorite parts of the house.

The Problem

I didn't use the machine much, but it seemed to mostly behave for me -- I had trouble reproducing the problems, so I was continually moving the DIR-615 router around in the office trying to get it closer to where she wanted to use it. It only needed to go through 4 or 5 surfaces (walls and floors). The DIR-615 was performing fabulously for every other device in the house (ThinkPad, E71, MacBook Pro).

I really started to suspect the netbook was maybe broken (but at this point, it's been months of it working on and off) when I installed the same model access point (D-Link DIR-615) at K-Prep, and Claire still dropped connection just trying to get packets across an open room!

Google turned up some discussion of the wireless being weak, and people cracking these things open to install external antennae, but fortunately no talk of it being a Linux vs Windows driver issue. I also stumbled upon talk of some radio bands no working so well.

The Resolution

Finally, I started digging around more in the router configurations to try to work this out. I figured maybe I needed to eliminate the fringe technologies and settings (like those problematic radio bands, etc). I didn't find those particular bands (5GHz?), but I did find the 802.11 B/G/N settings, and locked it down to the more tried and true B/G networks, eliminating the fringe N spec.

I did this on both the home and work routers, all the normal devices kept working, and now even the EeePC is working reliably -- it almost never drops connection!

I don't actually know how to get the Linux to tell me that much about its wireless network, so I don't know if it was ever really using the N network, or if the N network was just causing interference for its G connection. Interestingly, the connection power still sits around 50-70% in the popular spots in the house as it always has, but the connection is more robust at those levels than it had previously been. Either way, Claire is once again happy with her little netbook, and I'm sort of wanting one again for myself.


Ubuntu 8.10 on EeePC 1000HE

26 March 2009

I picked up a Asus EeePC 1000HE for Claire, and she needs Linux installed on it. Ubuntu 8.10 looked great on the ThinkPad, so that's what I'm installing on this new netbook.

First problem: get an Ubuntu installer on an 4G SD card. It turns out that unetbootin does an excellent job of this. I installed it on my Debian unstable server right from the repository. unetbootin provides a choice of distributions to download and install (including Ubuntu), or you can build a bootable USB device from an existing ISO.

After a few failed attempts, I realized that I needed to repartition the SD card with fdisk, giving the card one big partition, and marking that partition bootable. That main partition needed to also be given a vfat filesystem (mkfs -t vfat /dev/sdX1), not ext2.

With the SD card in order, I could have unetbootin install the full Ubuntu 8.10 Live CD image to the main partition (/dev/sdX1).

F2 on the EeePC gets into the setup screen, and there, I disabled all the quick boot stuff and booting off the hard drive. Then, I rebooted and hit Esc to choose a boot device. Upon choosing the Single Flash Reader, I got to see the SYSLINUX boot screen, and then the nice graphical Ubuntu boot screen. After a few more moments, it played it's normal chimes and I was looking at the live, wide-screen desktop with battery, bluetooth, wired network indicators going. I clicked the network applet, and on the Gnome toolbar, and I see that even wireless seems to be working!

The Install icon is sitting right there on the desktop, so I give it a run, tell it to use the whole 160G drive, and it's off. I let that finish, and rebooted, and I'm in business.

At this point, the volume keys aren't working for some reason, but the brightness and suspend keys are working. First time out, the battery was only lasting 4-5 hours, but I suspect that probably had something to do with the processor scaling defaulting to on-demand instead of conservative or power-save. I'll have to look into that a bit.

As I search around for solutions to the last few things, I see lots of details on fixing problems I'm not experiencing -- it seems that Ubuntu has taken care of most the hard stuff already, and they've rendered many of the other fix-it articles outdated.

It looks like its going to be a great little machine.

Update (16 March 2009): I'm still not seeing the 9-hour battery life yet -- instead the fan runs and runs, and I see 4-5 hours. Additionally, it seems that the ASUS ACPI kernel module is reporting a few events incorrectly, so evolution keeps trying to pop up when I plug in the AC power. This lead should help me get all the little buttons working, like volume the volume keys.

Update (26 March 2009): The LCD display, USB hub, keyboard, and mouse arrived for the notebook over the past week. Ubuntu mostly saw the display correctly when I plugged it in. I ended up having to restart the X server, and it seems that I have to restart the X server any time I want to switch now, but it took care of the configuration itself. The external display isn't running at its full resolution yet, though. I have to look into it a bit closer, but it's working well enough for now.

I assembled the USB gadgetry, left it on the desk. When Claire found it later, she just plugged it in, and it just worked. Linux has come a long way.


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