Changing Email Address the Easy Way

January 26, 2016

Sometimes I’ve found myself getting into a situation where in discussions with colleagues it appears that a great solution to their email “problems” is changing email service problem. The “problem” often is that the person is using the mail server connected to their internet service provider (ISP), e.g. Verizon, BTInternet, or whatever. They notice (or I notice when trying to send them email) about the unreliability of their email account. Sometimes mail just gets lost on the way. Sometimes the ISP mail is blacklisted due to malware reports, e.g. Yahoo.co.uk is notorious for that.

ISP’s are also notorious for not providing proper email service. Mail is not their core business. They don’t care. For example, IMAP was designed in 1986–30 years ago, yet it was only relatively recently that BTInternet offered this to their customers. IMAP, compared to deficient protocol POP, allows email clients like Outlook, Apple Mail, etc. work like people expect them to work. Yet sometimes they cannot or will not use it for reasons unknown to me (other than like with BTInternet, just not available). I’ve seen people hesitate or be nervous to use IMAP and then I hear their complaints about how the mail on their iPhone is different than on their PC. Yeah, that’s the cost of not using IMAP.

Worse, when someone uses email service and email domain address “hooked” to their ISP it means when they their ISP (because of poor service or they moved residence/business to another area), their email address is no longer going to be of any use to them.

The Better Way

A better approach is to use a great quality email service and a service where it is likely you’ll never have to changed your email domain.

Some options:

  • Get your own domain. That email address(es) and domain are yours to keep for as long as you keep the internet domain active. Registration of an internet domain is low cost, e.g. from Hover.
  • If your email is to be used for business purposes, absolutely use a domain for the business becuase to use any other email domain address, especially with a retail ISP, e.g. “@btinternet.com”, makes the business look amateurish.
  • Get an email service from a quality vendor, e.g. FastMail. Their costs are very reasonable, has great support, and many ways to set things up–with your own domain, or use one of their many domains. Quality of service is essential, especially for business use of email.
  • Use something like Google, Apple iCloud, Microsoft 365, or similar. Free and great quality (for now) service.

All the quality email service providers will use IMAP (Google’s is reported to be slightly difference, but you’ll not notice) which you would use to setup access on your PC, smart phone, and tablet. IMAP keeps all the mail in sync. They also will provide a web site interface which requires only a login via your browser using any device. Some even have dedicated “apps” for portable devices which bypasses the native mail applications you might have. Due to extra complexity I don’t recommend using dedicated “apps”, but if that floats your boat go with it.

Going about Changing Email Address

Set up your email client, e.g. Outlook, with the new account. Keep the old accounts in your email client for as long as you want. Continue to monitor them.

Be polite and send everyone who is important to you a simple email to tell them you have changed your email address. Send out this email to everyone using BCC and to “TO” so that you are not broadcasting everyone’s private email address to everyone else.

For the accounts that you already setup on your email client, change the “reply-to” field in the client configuration for all those accounts to the new email address. That way when people send you mail to your old account, when you reply, the “reply-to” field in the mail your friend receive will be the one that you want them to use. If they reply, it will go to the new address.

Some of these people will update their contact lists. Some won’t both. This isn’t a problem, as many people don’t bother looking up emails and simply “reply” to the last email. Some look for an old email and copy/paste that email into the new email. As they will find your “new” email address first, or if they hit the “reply” button, they will send to the correct email address.

And, since you are not going to stop monitoring (until you have to) the “old” addresses, you will not lose email even if sent to the “wrong” email address.

Log in to any internet services where you have registered email address and change to the new account. While you are at it, use 1Password (or similar, and if not done already) to develop an inventory of internet sites and their login ID and password. Use 1Password’s feature to create complex passwords as way to enhance your internet security.

Job done.


Microsoft Project as a Planning Tool: Getting to “Done”

July 1, 2014

The purpose of this posting is to point the way forward for those who are interested in having a simple-as-possible methodology, based on using Microsoft Project or equivalent, for handling the numbers and computations related to planning the cost and schedule for a project.

The goal is to get quickly and easily to:

  • Identify what “done” means.
  • Identify when “done” might get done.
  • Identify how much “done” might cost (to request funding).
  • Identify who needs to be involved in getting to “done” (and automatically create an integrated “CTR”).

Here I will tease the reader with the general outline of how to do it and expose the possiblities. In later postings we may more fully flesh out how this works with examples.

This outline assumes you have some familiarity with using Microsoft Project. If not, take the time to read a good book about Microsoft Project. You can use Primavera P6 if you must.

Setup

  • Assemble a list of the deliverables. A list of deliverables is preferable to a list of the tasks, e.g. the things you have to do to deliver a deliverable. Let tasks be the domain on the people who do the tasks. Focus instead on named deliverables. Remember to include the deliverables you plan for risk mitigation.
  • Look at the calendars in Microsoft Project. They probably are ok, but if not then change them.
  • Import that list of deliverables (copy/paste works well) into the field in Microsoft Project (or equivalent tool) called “Task Name”. Yes, that may appear to violate the advice in the previous point, but we can’t change Microsoft’s nomenclature.
  • Add one project “start” milestone (linked to successors) and one project “complete” milestone (linked to predecessors).
  • Use Microsoft Project’s automatic scheduling, and except for the start milestone task, do not enter any start or finish dates. You want Microsoft Project to do the “heavy-lifting” and compute the dates for you.
  • Avoid creating more than one or at most two levels of summary task hierarchy, and do not enter blank lines. Keep it simple.
  • Fill in the following fields for each “task”:
    • Task Type: fixed duration. Let Project compute units based on your input of duration and work.
    • Duration, in days, hours/minutes, or whatever. Use elapsed days (“edays”) if the task timeline should ignore non-working days in the calendar.
    • ID of successor and/or predecessor. To create the project execution logic.
    • Create a Custom Text Field: Gate. Tag each deliverable for the planned project Gate at which the deliverable will be reviewed. Gated project systems are in common use in many industries.
    • Create a Custom Text Field: CTR. This is the number or other identifier of CTR (Cost, Time, and Resource) document that will be given to the project’s finance team. CTR’s are commonly used in many industries and show a scheduled estimate of the time estimate of people and other resources. You want CTRs that are integrated with the project plan and not something completely separate–which is what some project teams do–an unnecessary use of their time and could add significant risk to the project. With this approach, generating the CTR is automatic, not added work, and useful.
    • Create a Custom Text Field: AFE (Approval for Expenditure) number into which this deliverable will be packaged into the AFE document to seek customer/partner approval for expenditure. AFE’s are commonly used in many industries.
    • Assign the list of resources planned for each deliverable. Normally this will be in terms of “work”, e.g. days of chargeable time.
  • In the Resource list, provide a billing rate for each resource (per use or per unit of time, e.g. per day).
  • Add in key milestones as “tasks”. Link all predecessors and successors for these milestones, e.g. those deliverables which encompass successful completion of the milestone. Fill in the deadline date in the Deadline field if these milestones have real deadlines (as opposed to wished-for dates).

View and Work With Results

  • Show the Project Summary task on the view.
  • Add the standard field “Cost” to the view to show the cost (which is computed automatically by Project multiplying the resource work times billing rate. Total project cost will be in the top row (Project Summary Task).
  • View the Critical Path. This will tell you when the project, as described will be done and what the critical path activities are. If you dislike the computed cost/schedule for your project, then re-plan. Remember, of course, that the Critical Path is not the boss’s favourite tasks, necessarily.
  • View the schedule by CTR using the Group feature to group by the CTR custom field.
  • View the schedule by AFE using the Group feature to group by AFE custom field to show you when and what to ask your partner(s) and/or customer(s) for funding.
  • View the schedule by Gate using the Group feature to group by the Gate custom field. This will give you an indication when to schedule Gate Review meetings with gatekeepers.
  • With the Resource Usage view, show the CTR summary. This will be automatically aligned with your current schedule. Adjust the timescale to something useful, e.g. by month, quarter, etc. Daily and weekly CTRs are unrealistically precise. If you must track/plan high-frequency time, use the project schedule, not CTRs, for daily/weekly project control.

Next

  • Revise the schedule to better match resource availability
  • Revise the schedule to get the dates you seek
  • Revise the schedule to get the governance needed (Gate reviews)
  • Use probabilistic methods to get the most probable schedule and take care, knowing the uncertainties, when promising project dates. In general, consider promising 70-80% probable dates with customers, and target 30-40% probable dates with suppliers. Align everyone’s incentive bonus schedule (if applicable) to these probabilistic cost/schedule estimates.
  • When the schedule is sufficient “complete”, set a “baseline” and track progress to that baseline.
  • At intervals (normally for Gate Reviews), update progress and refine with greater precision the remaining schedule.

Notes:

  • Some people prefer (and sometimes brag about) using Microsoft Excel (or equivalent) to do the above project planning to “keep it simple”. This is usually naive. If you are prepared to program into Excel all the algorithms–correctly, of course–this would be ok. Frankly, it is unlikely that the algorithms can be done very easily, nor would most mortals know how to do it. Doing all this work yourself increases the risk you will develop an erroneous cost/schedule estimate for your project. Avoid Excel or other manual methods for this sort of thing unless you are prepared for doing a lot of work–work that Microsoft Project could do for you.

Essential Software and Hardware

January 11, 2014

updated 6 April 2016

I sometimes get involved with helping people help themselves by using good computing tools. Following is a list of tools and products that I heavily rely on and recommend to those with needs that match what these tools do. The key is “need”. Given the need, here’s a list (in “no particular order” and ignoring specialty software used for professional reasons):

Apple Mac hardware. say no more. Accessories: external keyboard (to put wear and tear, including spills, on that instead of the laptop keyboard), wireless mouse, DVD Drive, 27″ Apple monitor (get to as much space as possible).

Scrivener ($). For writing. Outstanding. I wish I didn’t still have to to use Microsoft Word. I have been using word since DOS days in the mid 1980’s. Scrivener is the first thing that has come along which can usurp Word. http://www.literatureandlatte.com.

OmniGroup Tools ($).  OmniOutliner and OmniGraffle are terrific to tools. Use OmniOutliner to make (write, edit, re-write, re-edit) then export into Scrinener as an OPML file.  Use OmniGraffle for making all the diagrams. Store the OmniGraffle source files in the Scrivener Research folder.

Safari and Chrome. For internet browsing. I list both to make the point that you can use both and not fret about picking one or the other. I tend to use Safari.

Feedly. For doing lots of internet reading. http://www.feedly.com

Apple Ecosystem. Apple Mail, Contacts, Calendar, iTunes, iPhoto, etc. Just works, especially with iPhone and iPad synchronisation with each other. Supplemented with iCloud and DropBox.

Apple Terminal. There is so much that can be done at the command line which is so much faster, easier, which more importantly can lend itself to automation. There is no reason for anyone to be afraid of it or shun its use. GUI’s are not necessarily the best way to do everything.

BusyCal and BusyContacts ($). I supplement Apple Calendar with BusyCal and OfficeTime (for time logging for client invoicing).  BusyContacts, from the same company who produces BusyCal, is most useful because of its ability to show all emails and documents associated with a contact.  Both of these “busy” products use the standard Mac OS calendar and contacts databases so nothing is lost by using these other products.

Microsoft Office ($). Well, can’t get away from it, can you. Use Excel and PowerPoint. Avoid Microsoft Outlook (which some new Mac users gravitate to because they erroneously justify the decision on “I don’t want to lose my email or contacts”). I am migrating away from Word. While I used it since it was released in the 1990’s, I stopped in the 21st Century and never looked back. There are so many better products which facilitate better productivity.  That being said, I now have a Microsoft 365 subscription.

ScanSnap Hardware and Software ($). By Fujuitsu. I’m getting good at being paperless. ScanSnap products make it happen. I use an S1100 and S1300, but a few years old. I’d probably go with the XI500 if I was buying now and get rid of all the old paper that is still around but that I want to retain.

Hazel ($). Gosh, but a big impact on personal productivity. http://www.noodlesoft.com/hazel.php Allows me to setup key automation to help save time, especially with scanning and other “paper-work”.

DropBox. http://www.dropbox.com Relied on for syncing all my devices. http://www.dropbox.com. I avoid DropBox for situations requiring collaboration as there is no secure the file from others editing/changing/deleting. For that also use SugarSync http://www.sugarsynch.com

CrashPlan ($). Offsite backup of all machines (Windows, Mac, and Linux). http://www.crashplan.com And of course use Apple TimeMachine for routine and continuous backup. Have used often to recover past versions of files. Never used for disaster backup, but I’m confident it will work.

1Password ($). To securely store the hundreds of bits of sensitive information, e.g. passwords, ids, account numbers, scans of identification, etc. https://agilebits.com

Text Expander ($). Boy, does that save me time in routine writing. http://smilesoftware.com/TextExpander/index.html As of today,July 18, 2014, TextExpander tells me that it has saved me 2,063,152 keystrokes and 85.96 years of my life (assuming 80 words/minute typing speed). I can believe it.  Update April 2106: the publishers of Text Expander has changed their licensing model to a monthly subscription with the new version having features of no interest to me.  Not for me.  Like Dr. Drang, I’ll migrate what I have to Keyboard Maestro and in due course un-install Text Expander.

Soulver ($). Terrific calculator. While I do use the HP15 emulated on the iPad, and my “real” one, Soulver is useful.

DayOne. ($) A journaling tool which I use more and more instead of a little black book. Really like it’s integration with iPad and iPhone to be handy.

OmniFocus ($). Absolutely essential. Have used so many ways to keep track of “to-do’s” over the years. The only tools that have stood the test of time were Daytimer 5×7″ notebook system and now OmniFocus. “Things” almost made it into my life, but too simplistic. I also like their OmniGraffle product which I use occasionally for illustrating technical writing. Integration with iPad and iPhone make this the “must-use” product.

DEVONthink ($). http://www.devontechnologies.com A fantastic document management systems. I’m a packrat for files.

Sublime Text 2 ($). For text editing. I like to mess with Python. BBEdit also in use, but tend to use Sublime Text 2.

Jump ($). Helps me while travelling to connect back to my Windows desktop computer at HQ. Used to use the Microsoft Remote Desktop Client, but it was limited to accessing Windows. And it “seems” Jump is faster. I find myself using Jump on the Mac to use the Windows machine that is adjacent. Simpler.

Parallels ($). To run Windows 7 and Linux on the Mac. Could use VMWare which is equally as good. Migrated to Parallels as the newest version seems to handle the Retina screen better. Never proved this assertion, but using it none the less. I recently found that Windows 64 bit runs so much better in Parallels than Windows 32. Until I changed I naively expected the opposite. Go with Windows 64 bit unless reason not to.

Apps in heavy use on on iPad include: Drafts (most iPad writing starts here), OmniFocus, 1Password, Calendar/Fanstastical/Calender5 (can’t decide so use all), OfficeTime, HP15c Calculator, Soulver, Downcast (Apple’s iTunes just does not work properly for Podcasts, DayOne (aspirational), Kindle, iBooks, ByWord, iPhoto, and Prompt.

To be Avoided:  Colligo Engage (crashes).

($) Means purchased software.


Recommended! CargoLifter and ForgetMeNot

December 21, 2013

Now available in a bundle at ChungwaSoft a terrific bundle for Apple Mail:

  • CargoLifter which uploads email file attachments into the cloud before sending. Avoids sending large attachments.
  • ForgetMeKnow which helps you not forget to include attachments which you say something like “Attached is ” and then don’t do it (happens to me all the time).
  • SendLater which allows mails to be sent at a specific date and time in the future.

All these products have saved me much effort.


Google Reader is Dead. Long Live Google Reader

June 16, 2013

I was horrified to a few months ago that Google Reader was to be killed by Google on 1 July. Horrified. Google Reader was in the centre of my reading world, for many years.

After some looking around I found Feedly (www.feedly.com) and I’ve never looked back. It’s terrific. Today they told me via a message that all my feeds from Google are now in Feedly and I’m no longer dependant on Google Reader.

I like Feedly better than Google Reader. Good move.


Small Discovery with Hazel … press “alt” key for sub-rules

September 3, 2012

I discovered Hazel from the “Mac Power User” podcast. Hazel has really helped my personal productivity by allowing me to automate a number of time-consuming things related to my consulting business management.

In setting up a new Hazel rule to experiment with a new idea I used Google search to see if I could get some ideas from others. In that search I ran across an article where in the “Condition” part of the Hazel rule a sub-rule “if” statement was used.

Hazelsubrule.

I wrote the author and got an almost immediate reply:

Hazel has a fairly hidden feature that allows you to do this. Instead of pressing the + button to add a new condition, holding down the Option key will turn that plus sign into ellipses, and clicking the ellipses will allow you to add sub-rules like I did; you can end up with as many nested conditions as you’d like.

As an added bonus, this trick generally applies to other apps with ‘rule editor’ interfaces like Hazel. Many applications that allow you to define conditions with this interface (it’s a standard Apple-provided interface kit) respond to this Option-click, which is cool.

“Fairly hidden” is an understatement. But it works. And it’s an important discovery for me as I am pretty sure the rules I’m going to be writing need that sort of capability.

Hazel is “cool”.