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July 3, 2011

shut it down
Filed under: Uncategorized — admin

Well, this blog was harder to maintain then I foresaw. I’m going to close it down and switch my efforts to the Best of Construction Phone Apps page. I’ll try to keep that updated with the latest and greatest in apps that can help on the jobsite. Thanks for watching.


April 20, 2011

Apple location tracking
Filed under: Uncategorized — admin

According to security researchers in this Guardian reveals a new security concern for Apple iPhone users: there’s a secret file that tracks where you go. Anybody with access to your phone or computer could use this tool to see where you have been.

This information has always been trackable by the cell phone companies but only the police had access with a subpoena. Apple never asked permission to install the tracking file in an update last June.  Now a “jealous spouse or a private detective” can use your phone to find detailed records on your whereabouts.

As app developers, we rate the major players like this:
Android: Great, easy, a little Wild Wild West
Blackberry: Dinosaurs. Nice try but way behind.
Apple: Monsters. Miserable mites focused on control and heavy handed dealings with customers , developers and partners

Hattip to Neal Leininger for sending me the article


April 13, 2011

the cloud makes life easier for everyone
Filed under: Uncategorized — admin

I’m currently visiting family in the Netherlands (hints: don’t call it Holland and don’t compare them to Germans). The Dutch are a wonderful people and though they’re too reserved to admit it, they secretly know that they’re the quintessence of Europe: multilingual, ferocious advocates of personal liberty and the seat of many European institutions. As for their business skills, there’s a Japanese saying that “where the Dutch pass, the grass does not grow.”

So it was interesting to hear my cousin and husband talk about how they use the cloud for collaboration in their work. He works at an institute that studies the letters sent between the great scholars of the Medieval age. They’re looking to see how ideas spread between the thinkers just like historians will one day have to trawl through the hordes of data being generated by this generation. Sifting the data involved in hundreds of thousands of letters in collections across the world and in dozens of language creates quiet a problem. He’s helping to build an automated system that finds links between the spread of ideas. One of their main programmers is a Hungarian kid genius who can’t stick in one place. So while he works on his PhD in Singapore or spends a few months on holiday in South America, they use Dropbox and Google Docs to keep everybody in the loop with no old versions of the code floating around to screw things up.

My cousin Fia freelances in communication and with her years of expertise, she’s writing a book with a colleague. They do all of their work in Google Docs because of the real time collaboration. She can see where her partner’s cursor is and what she’s typing. While editing, they’ll type messages in the document to each other like “How could you write that? It doesn’t make any sense.”

One of the advantages of using Google is that the systems are constantly improving. Here’s a blog post from the Google Docs blog about a new commenting system so you can discuss the document with collaborators in the sidebar and leave the original document unchanged. I think this would be a great help for a small construction company for creating estimates, writing up contracts and working together on the hordes of paperwork that are needed to build cool things.


April 5, 2011

2.0 released into wilds of Android Market
Filed under: Uncategorized — admin

Exciting times at Construction We just released version 2.0 of our apps for Android. Blackberry and iPhone apps will be out soon.

The next version allows you to email, text or copy the results of wood beam calculations, unit conversions or the schematics & dimensions of a steel beam. We also have snazzy new icons and improved user interface. Many of the improvements came from user comments so let us know about improvements or bugs.

You can see the apps here in the Android Marketplace.  We’re in the process of developing some new apps so we’re all ears if you can think of something to help you get a job done in the field. How can we help you build cool stuff with more efficiency?


March 25, 2011

Print from your Android phone
Filed under: Android,Uncategorized — admin

Gmail blog:
Now you can print emails and attachments from your Gmail account to any printer that you connected to Google Cloud Print.  When you have big jobs to print, now you can do it from the field or the road and have them waiting for you at the office.


March 16, 2011

Secure your data

My flatmate has been making fun of me for my NYC sensibilities: locking the doors, keeping my stuff out of sight. I got the unfortunate last laugh because our friends across the hall last night got robbed while they were sleeping.  Gael, an artist, had his laptop of writing and photography taken from right next to his head.  Life is short & the data is precious.

Dropbox: for easy data backup & filesharing

That’s why I recommend Dropbox or every person or business. Data backup and instant syncing of your files into the Internet cloud. 2 gigabytes of storage for free or 50 gigs for just $100 a year.

Easy to use. Just put the Dropbox folder on your desktop and copy all of your important files into it. Whenever you save a file, Dropbox detects this and automatically transfers the new copy to the Internet. If your laptop is stolen or your computer crashes, it’s only a few easy steps to download all of your files to your new computer.

Dropbox also makes filesharing easy. Shared folders allow several people to work on the same file. Very helpful in an office environment. A construction company could share their blueprints, change orders and project documents to their supers in the job trailers or on their smartphones.

Lex’s Dropbox Tips:
1. Put Dropbox on your Desktop and make it the default save point for all your documents, photos and projects. These are the things you probably care most about losing.

2. Make Dropbox the destination for backup data files from programs like MS Outlook, Evernote or anything else that you use often for creating content you don’t want to lose.

Find your phone:

There’s a bunch of apps out there that can locate your phone via GPS whether stolen by bad guys or lost by children (who can be more annoying than thieves).

For Android & Blackberry, I recommend the free app Lookout Mobile Security (site here, Android app here).  It does antivirus and phone finding. Just log into their website and click the locate phone button. I setup the app on my phone this morning and in a couple of minutes, it emailed me my location down to the street address. For thieves, I would wait outside their place with mace and a baseball bat. For children, just the mace should suffice.

For iPhone, the FoneHome app recently got some new features besides remotely locating your phone. You can sound an alarm on the phone if in vibrate mode (useful for a phone lost somewhere in the house) or remotely take a photo using the front or rear camera.


March 14, 2011

Chalk up another one for Android
Filed under: Uncategorized — admin

According to this blog post at Android Community, one more reason to go Android instead of those jerks at Apple:

“Each year the Pwn2 Own hacking contest is held to see who can hack various browsers, software and OS’ the fastest. There are money award to those that are able to hack the software in some instances. In the latest edition of the content Google put in its Chrome browser and the Android OS to see if anyone could do the deed.”

“Google made it through the competition with no one reportedly able to hack Chrome or Android. The same can’t be said for the iPhone 4 with the browser on the iPhone falling and the smartphone being hacked during the contest as well. Along with Android, Windows Phone 7 survived the hack contest.”


February 26, 2011

Google syncs MSOffice to the cloud
Filed under: Uncategorized — admin

Here’s Google’s blog post detailing their newest feature. You can tell they’re excited because they crossposted it across about a half dozen of their many blogs.

Google Cloud Connect

This piece of gadgetry will allow people using Microsoft Office to work on their documents in Google with all the benefits of offsite backup and online collaboration.

I think this is a resource worth checking out for any small company. Here’s a blog post from the unofficial Google Operating System blog about how to enable this new feature. You don’t have to undergo the hassle of switching yourself over from Microsoft Office to Google (although it’s fairly easy and almost always worth it in my opinion) but you still get all of your data backed up in the cloud in case of catastrophe.


February 14, 2011

google tricks or: a call to digital arms
Filed under: White Paper — admin

For those of us in construction, Google searches can be especially frustrating because of two major reasons:
1. Any search involving the word “construction” mostly brings up a list of sales sites and big companies.
2. There is not a huge treasure trove of information for our field unlike other areas of interest like Pokemon cards, video games & boobs.

So I have two ideas for this blog post. I want to show you better ways to search Google to find helpful information and to get your feedback on the construction sites you find most helpful (you can me on the right or leave it in the comments).

Send any of your favorite construction sites my way and I’ll create a list of informative sites for all of us. You don’t need to send in Construction because I already know that my old man put together a great database to help the various construction trades.

Tricks to help you get the most out of Google:

to compare products:
search “better than search term” or “reminds me of search term” to find comparison of products instead of sales sites

to find third party recommendations:
if you use this search, it only finds pages where another page linked (anchors) to this page using your search term
for instance, to find any sites that linked to the resulting site as a metal expert
allinanchor:metal expert

glossaries on any topic:
finds glossaries of terminology and jargon on any subject
for instance, to find sites with a list of definitions for cripples, melamine, seat cuts and story poles
carpentry ~glossary -

for hypenated or double words:
use a hypen between any words that are sometimes together, sometimes apart and sometimes hypenated
for instance, fortune-telling returns all forms of the term, whether spelled as a single word, a phrase, or hyphenated

for specific location or source
find pages from sources located in the specified location
for instance,to find British news articles on the Queen
queen location:uk

find pages from specified sources
for instance, to show articles on Egypt from the Washington Post
egypt source:washington post

date range:
search within a range of numbers.
for instance, to find articles on Boston’s Big Dig in the 90′s,
Big Dig 1990..2000


to find just the type of file you need like a document (d0c), spreadsheet (xls) or PDF
for instance, to find a blank copy of the US tax form W9
W9 tax form filetype:pdf

to find the definition of a new or foreign word & find out the sex of a name you’ve never heard of:
look it up in Google Image for pictures of the fruit, tool or a couple of people with that name

to find just pictures of people:
search in Google Image and click enter. Then go to the address bar at the top of the screen and add this text to the end of the URL:

to find quality free stuff:

if you search the word free, you get a ton of crap. if you search one of the popular social sites, you’ll find quality products endorsed by others
for instance, to find free construction images for your website or wall free construction images


February 10, 2011

Plans in your hands or: AutoCAD comes to Apple
Filed under: Reviews,Uncategorized,iPhone,video — admin

Apologies for the dearth of posts. I just completed a transition to Brussels. Along with some of my own projects, I’ll be working on a photo book with a Belgian friend about a Tibetan protest march that we did through India with a gaggle of Tibetan monks, nuns and laypeople. He took the photos and I wrote articles and biographies of the marchers. In case that intrigues you, here’s some of my writing from that time. Also, it’s still not easy to find blog post topics in this still small world of construction apps so your tips & comments are always appreciated.

AutoCAD app for viewing drawings everywhere:

It just got easier to carry your plans around the jobsite. According to this Wall Street Journal article, AutoCAD drawings can now be shared between your desktop, your iPhone, iPad and web browser (link to app in iTunes store). According to Autodesk, “In just eight weeks, over 410,000 users have registered, 430 000 drawings have been uploaded and the mobile application has been downloaded from Apple’s App Store over 560,000 times.”

This app & program will keep your drawings synced between all of your devices and have them available offline in case you’re out of Internet range. You can share the drawings with others and see their edits in real time. It’s not for hardcore drawing but seems helpful for simple viewing and editing in the field. Seems designed so the sales guy can understand it, the field guy can work off it and the super can make changes from the field or see the edits just made by the architect in the office.

As always, if you have used this app, I’d love to hear how it works for you. The reviews are decent in the iTunes store but it’s more relevant to hear from guys in the field who better see the strengths and weaknesses. Especially when the product comes from an industry giant with a penchant for abusing their position of virtual monopoly. In this new world of app development, the best stuff often comes from the garage products put together by do-it-yourselfers. Those are the developers that we try to support here at

Below is the video review from the design site Core77. You can check out the AutoCAD Youtube channel for videos about the app from Autodesk.
Helpful hint: When you are signed into a Youtube account or Gmail, you can subscribe to a Youtube channel and then you see when new videos are released. I recommend TEDTalks for smart lectures on a wide range of topics and Youtube’s project called LifeInADay where thousands sent in homemade movies about a regular day in their life. Check out the video on the front page of a cute little girl with a surprising and impressive skill.

In other news, Autodesk also created Fluid FX – a special effects iPad app for photos and movies. It has very strong reviews and seems like a nice product for a buck.

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