June 01, 2007

What?

Google logo

Send yourself a voicemail message using Google Talk and you'll get it as an MP3 audio file via email. This makes it a great general purpose voice memo service.

Google Talk voice memo service

The ability to record up to 10 minutes of audio and get it as an MP3 via email makes Google Talk's voicemail a useful and flexible tool for recording audio. Sending yourself voicemail gives you several options: listen to the MP3 using Gmail's embedded player, forward it to others (even if they don't use Google Talk), download it, post it to a blog or website, etc.

How?

Send yourself voicemail using Google Talk in 3 easy steps.

Before you begin, you'll need some kind of microphone or headset (I use the Bluetooth headset I bought for my mobile phone) setup as your computer's audio input device. Once that's setup, go to Google Talk's Settings to make sure the right input device is selected. For now, you have to use the desktop version of Google Talk — voicemail is not currently supported in the Gadget version.

  1. Search - Search for yourself in the "Search all contacts" field. (Hey, Google Talk Team: It would be really nice if we could send voicemail to ourselves without having to search first!)
  2. Hover - Once your name comes up, hover over it, and a dialog box will pop up. Click the "Send voicemail" button. (If "Call" is the only button that comes up, use that; it'll ring briefly and indicate that the call was not answered, and you'll see the "Send voicemail" button.)
  3. Record - Wait for the "meep", record your message, and click "End Call". You'll receive the voicemail message via email shortly afterward.

The Google Talk Blog has more information about using voicemail.

Tips & Tricks

  • To find all your voicemail messages, click the phone icon at the bottom of Google Talk, or type label:voicemail in Gmail's search box.
  • Easily record a quick podcast without having to find & setup additional software. (Audacity is a free, open source option for more extensive audio recording.)
  • Enrich email to far-away family & loved ones with the sound of your voice, even if they don't use Google Talk.

Thanks for yet another great free service, Google, and for such a well-designed & useful service, Google Talk Team!

February 07, 2007

Apparently, some smart people at Yahoo! were listening to both of us, and they sure did deliver!

Yahoo! Pipes icon

I've only just begun to play with Yahoo! Pipes, and I can already say, it's gonna be hot! I considered my feedmixing wishlist fairly forward-thinking for its time, but a quick glance at the things Pipes can do and the ways it lets you do them shows some real vision.

From the Pipes website:

Pipes is a hosted service that lets you remix feeds and create new data mashups in a visual programming environment. The name of the service pays tribute to Unix pipes, which let programmers do astonishingly clever things by making it easy to chain simple utilities together on the command line

That's really just the beginning of how to think about it; the true description and definition of Pipes will evolve through the innovation it's sure to produce.

Unfortunately, I don't have time to play with or write about Pipes more right now, but I definitely plan to do both, and I strongly encourage you to go check it out. The site provides a good overview — for some in-depth discussion, explanation, and analysis, read Tim O'Reilly's Pipes and Filters for the Internet. I look forward to having a lot of fun, and doing some really cool things with Yahoo! Pipes!

October 20, 2006

What?

Microsoft Windows logo

Collapse Windows Task Manager into a desktop widget that's between full size and the minimized system tray icon.

In two clicks, you can put Task Manager in "widget mode" and see useful information at-a-glance, without taking up a lot of room.

Why?

Widget mode is much smaller than normal, but still large enough to display different kinds of useful information.

Windows Task Manager is a great way to see what your computer is doing, but sometimes it takes up too much space. Minimizing it to the system tray moves it nicely out of the way, but it

  • displays only the current processor load,
  • doesn't show processor load history, and
  • doesn't display any other information.

How?

Double-click on the inner border of any Task Manager tab to put it in "widget mode". Double-click again to restore Task Manager to its normal state.

SCREENSHOT: Windows task manager collapse to widget

Tips & Tricks

  • Click and hold on the border to drag the widget around your desktop.
  • This works for any tab in Task Manager, so you can use it to keep an eye on all kinds of information, like network utilization, your process list (to see what's hogging all the memory or processor), etc.
  • Find a creative way to use Task Manager in widget mode; look in the View menu in each tab to choose optional information to display. Some things (e.g. I/O reads & writes, network throughput, etc.) might be really useful to see at-a-glance, depending on what you're doing.

Disclaimer: I stumbled on this by accident. In fact, I'll come clean and admit that I did this months ago on one of my computers, and figured there was just something wrong with Task Manager. :) It wasn't until I accidentally did it again today and started to experiment with resizing it that I realized it might be a display mode!

Update: I didn't think by any means that I was the first to "discover" this; I mainly wrote it up because I'd been too lazy to look into the "problem" before, and thought I'd share it with others who may have done the same. My wife encouraged me to search for more information; it turns out this is called Tiny Footprint mode. (I think "widget mode" is cooler!)

October 04, 2006

What?

Google logo

Put individual, "standalone" Google gadgets directly on your Windows desktop using built-in Active Desktop. No web server required.

Google just opened up their inventory of gadgets that were previously available only on your Google Personalized Homepage. Now you can put Google gadgets on any web page, which makes it possible to use them in a wider variety of places and ways than before. One example is to put Google gadgets right on your Windows desktop. This is easy to do using Windows' built-in Active Desktop feature.

SCREENSHOT: Google gadget on Windows desktop

Google said they made the gadgets available for "webpage owners everywhere to browse and select gadgets for their own pages". That's great, but in fact, you don't have to be a webpage owner; you can use gadgets on your Windows desktop without a web server.

Why?

This is an easy way to use gadgets in "standalone" mode, without hosting them on a web server, browsing to a web page, or installing additional software.

The concept of gadgets/widgets on the desktop isn't new, but this variation allows you to:

  • Use gadgets without a web server. You can store the code for a gadget right on your computer.
  • Use gadgets without manually opening a browser and visiting a web page. Technically, you are using a web browser -- Internet Explorer -- when you use Active Desktop, but it's embedded in the desktop, and always visible.
  • Have a consistent set of gadgets. Now you can use the same gadgets on your desktop as you use on your Google homepage. (NOTE: Not all gadgets available for Google Homepage are available for webpage use.)
  • Use gadgets without installing any additional software. Other widget/gadget frameworks that use an installed "engine" -- such as Yahoo Widgets/Konfabulator -- might provide richer functionality and look & feel in some cases, but there's a certain appeal to avoiding yet another piece of software to install and update.

How?

Add Google gadgets to your Windows Active Desktop just like any other webpage.

  1. Find a gadget in the directory of Google gadgets for your webpage and click the "Add to your webpage" button to configure it.
  2. Click the "Get the Code" button, and copy the HTML.
  3. Create a new HTML document (e.g. "gadget-name.html") on your computer or web server, paste in the code for the gadget, and save it.
  4. Right-click on your Windows desktop and select Properties.
  5. Click on the Desktop tab, and the Customize Desktop button.
  6. Click on the Web tab, and the New button.
  7. Click the Browse button, and find & select the HTML document you created to hold your gadget code. If you saved it on a web server, enter its URL in the Location field.
  8. Click OK 3 times, and you should see the gadget on your Desktop!

Tips & Tricks

  • Repeat the steps above to add more gadgets to your desktop.
  • Finishing touch: By default, there's a white background surrounding the gadget (even larger than in the screenshot above). You can add
    <body bgcolor="your_desktop_background_color">
    above your gadget code to make it blend seamlessly with your desktop background color.

Beyond Windows?

Does this work on other platforms? If so, blog it, and link to this article!

I haven't looked at Linux or MacOS in a long time, so I'm not sure if either (or any other platform) has an equivalent to Windows' Active Desktop. If you get this to work on something other than Windows, please blog about it and link to this article. I've disabled comments due to spam, but one of the search engines will pick up the link, and I'll see it & link back.

September 14, 2006

Google logo

Google's Personalized Home Page now supports multiple tabs

I'm a big fan of Google's Personalized Homepage, and today I noticed that they added the ability to have multiple tabs:

SCREENSHOT: Google Personalized Homepage Add Tab

This feature makes it easy to organize content, group it by function/context (e.g., Work, Personal, Project X), etc. I know it's not a new concept, but it's been the one thing I've been wishing for, and I want to thank the Google team for implementing this feature!

April 19, 2006

What?

You can embed an OPML browser like Grazr or Optimal in your Google Personalized home page using Bitty, an embeddable mini web browser.

SCREENSHOT: Grazr and Optimal in Google Personalized Home

 

Grazr and Optimal are OPML browsers designed to be embedded in blog sidebars & web pages.  Usually, embedding one of these in a page requires that you have the ability to edit the page's source or template.  This isn't an option with your Google Personalized home page, but you can circumvent the problem by adding Bitty -- an embeddable web browser  -- as a content  module to your Google page, and use that as a "wrapper" to display your Grazr or Optimal browser.

Bitty can display OPML too, and may be a good choice depending on your needs.  Grazr and Optimal are a bit more purpose-built for the task of displaying and navigating OPML, whereas Bitty is a good general-purpose embeddable web browser that can also display OPML.

Update: 2006.04.25 - I tested this with my Windows Live home page, and it works, but doesn't seem to pass through the parameters I included in the URL for Grazr (e.g. size, run solo). 

Update: 2006.07.03 - Grazr blog: Tom Morris (who just joined the Grazr team) has hacked Grazr into a Google home-pages widget so you don't need to use Bitty Browser as a wrapper for Grazr. 

 

Why?

Embedding an OPML browser in your Google Personalized home page extends the capability of the page by enabling you to browse & graze content without having to navigate away from the page.

This is a good way to aggregate multiple instances of Grazr and/or Optimal that you use on a regular basis, or to ensure you always have an OPML browser handy any time you're looking at your Google home page.  I won't enumerate the potential uses for this capability here, (but free free to share your ideas in the comments) but consider the basic idea that you can setup a collection of several easily-navigable, miniature content sites, all of which are accessible from a single place

Despite the bad rap they often get, I think there's a lot of potential value in personalized home pages, especially with the addition of customizable modules, and new tools & capabilities like these embeddable web and OPML browsers.  More on this another time...

Update: 2006.04.24 - Apparently, I'm not the only one who likes the idea of using Bitty in the Google home page!  Steve Rubel is using it to make his personal mobile wiki always available.

 

How? 

The general idea

Add a Bitty Browser module to your Google home page, and within Bitty, load an instance of Grazr or Optimal that points at the content you want to display. 

 

First, consider how you'll use it 

There are two approaches to using embedded OPML browsers on your Google page.  Each has its merits, and they are not mutually exclusive; in fact, you may want to use a combination of the two.  It's important to think about which approach you want to use before you begin, so you can configure the OPML browser in the appropriate mode:

  • Approach 1: Create multiple instances, each to display specific content
    • Description: Display more than one OPML browser, each with its own purpose or topic.
    • OPML browser mode: When you point the OPML browser at the content you want it to display, select "Run Solo" (Grazr) or "Standalone" (Optimal) to get a clean page with just the browser and no controls.
  • Approach 2: Create a general-purpose instance
    • Description: Use a single OPML browser to load different content at different times.
    • OPML browser mode: Do not click the checkbox next to "Run Solo" or "Standalone", and you'll be able to enter the addresses of different OPML files (and feeds, with Grazr) you want to view.

Grazr and Optimal have different strengths for different uses, so experiment to determine which works best for you using either approach.

 

5 steps to embed an OPML browser in your Google home page:

  1. Use Grazr or Optimal to "skin" an OPML file, and copy the address of the resulting page.
    • Here's where you would select "Run Solo" (Grazr) or "Standalone" (Optimal), depending on the approach you chose above.
  2. Go to the Bitty Browser configuration page and select "contents/home page" from the "Customize" section:
    • Bitty Browser config 01
  3. Enter the address of the skinned OPML file you created in Step 1:
    • Bitty Browser config 02
  4. In the "Add this Bitty Browser:" section, select Google:
    • Bitty Browser config 03
  5. Google will ask you to Confirm that you want to add Bitty to your Personalized Home page
    • Bitty browser config 04

After you add Bitty to your Google home page, you can easily change it's Home Page (the address of the page it initially displays) using the "Edit" link on the module:

Bitty browser config 05

This is an easy way to switch between the two approaches discussed above, and experiment with loading different content n the OPML browser without having to re-add the Bitty module to Google.

Of course, you can use Bitty to display much more than an OPML browser on your Google home page, it just happens to be a perfect solution for this problem.  I really appreciate that the developers at Google, Bitty, Grazr, and Optimal are providing these tools & services, especially that they're doing so for free!

April 06, 2006

What?

Screenshots are a valuable tool for any level of computer user, but many people think creating them is difficult, or requires special software.  In fact, they're easy for anyone with basic computer skills to create, using software that comes standard on every Windows computer.

The tools:  (Alt + PrtScr) + Microsoft Paint

 

windows screenshot tools 

Unfortunately, many people don't realize how easy it is to take screenshots, and end up using the wrong tools that produce larger than necessary images in formats that aren't suited for email and the web.  Fancy screen capture software does have its place, but for basic screenshots, it's overkill.  Using the right format guarantees everyone will be able to see your screenshot right in their email programs and web browsers.

Once you memorize how to do it, you can create a screenshot and add it to an email or blog article in less than a minute.

 

 

Why? 

Screenshots provide an easy way to share or keep a record of what's visible on your computer at a particular instant.  They improve communication by adding a visual component; as they say, a picture is worth...

Once you see how fast and easy it is to take a screenshot, you'll find it often comes in handy for a variety of uses, such as:

  • Creating clear how-to and help documentation with visual examples
  • Showing someone exactly what you're looking at on a computer
  • Quick-saving something when you don't need or want it in editable form (e.g. receipts from online purchases, airline itineraries, maps)
  • Sharing desktop & browser configuration tips
  • Showing off your high score on web-based video games

 

How?

Take a screenshot in 5 easy steps:

This looks long, because I'm including a lot of detail, but it really is just the quick five steps in bold below.

  1. Select the window you want to capture
  2. Press "Alt+PrtScr"  to take the screenshot
    • (Press and hold the "Alt" key, then press the "PrtScr" key.)
      • This key combination should be easy to remember, since "PrtScr" stands for "print screen".
    • This copies the image of the selected window to the clipboard.
    • "Prt Scr" alone will take a shot of the entire desktop
  3.  Open Paint
    • Shortcut: Press the "Start" key + R and type "mspaint":
      • screenshot of run dialog with mspaint
    • Paint isn't fancy, but it's on every Windows computer, takes no time to load, and can handle basic tasks like highlighting and adding comments.
  4. Paste the screenshot
    • If you don't want the entire window:
      • Select the part you want (Paint defaults to the Selection tool after you paste an image.  Just press the "Esc" key to cancel the selection of the entire image; you'll see the dotted border disappear.)
      • Copy it
      • Use Ctrl+z to undo the paste of the initial screenshot
      • Paste your selection
  5. Save the file
    • You'll be prompted to enter a filename and specify the file type:
      • screenshot save as PNG example
    • Saving to your Desktop makes it quick and easy to find, for instant emailing or posting on a blog, though I recommend filing it somewhere meaningful after using it.
    • I've standardized on the PNG format for screenshots; it doesn't degrade image quality and produces a small file size.  See "When and how to use internet image formats" for good information on this topic.

February 02, 2006

Problem

Various tag-enabled services use different delimiters to separate multiple tags (a.k.a. labels, topics, keywords)

Example of tag delimiter problem

This makes switching between the services inconvenient, and decreases usability for the many people who use more than one tag-enabled service.

Solution

Standardize on a single tag delimiter

I'm writing to ask those who provide these services (and software that uses tags) to start the ball rolling toward standardizing on a single tag delimiter. I know this isn't a trivial task, but now -- while tagging is still relatively "young" -- is the time to invest in improving the usability of the services. I'd argue that Yahoo! has good reason to seriously consider initiating this effort, since MyWeb2, flickr, and del.icio.us -- three popular tag-enabled services -- are all Yahoo! services.

Benefits of having a standardized tag delimiter

  • makes switching between tag-enabled services easier
  • helps people who are new using tags feel more comfortable using different tag-enabled services
  • improves developers' ability to write software that works with multiple tag-enabled services

I know there are often good reasons for using different delimiters; for example, Furl permits spaces in a "topic" (tag) name, therefore, the space can't be a delimiter. By contrast, del.icio.us doesn't permit spaces in tag names. Which approach is best is another discussion -- one I hope will be undertaken by the providers of tag-enabled services -- but I'm sure that with a bit of collaboration, there could be agreement on a good, universal standard. I'll save my thoughts on the need for a universal name for tags (let's just call them tags, not labels, or topics, or keywords) for another post...

February 01, 2006


 

SanDisk MobileMate SD with cards

I've recently acquired (thanks, Dave!) a SanDisk MobileMate USB card reader, a 5-in-1 card  reader (SD/MMC/etc.) about the size of many USB "thumb" drives.  As SanDisk says, it's "ideal for memory-enabled mobile phone users and photo travel needs".

I had a chance to use it with my digital camera and laptop while travelling in Europe, and it was a great solution for off-loading pics from the two SD cards we were using in our digital camera, but its value extends beyond that:  A mobile USB card reader + memory card is a useful combination that fits several data storage and transport needs as well or better than a traditional USB thumb drive.  I'm not saying you should throw out your thumb drive if you have one, but if you don't, a mobile USB card reader could obviate the need to get one.

Benefits of the mobile USB card reader + memory card combination

  • Enables you to make better use of the storage you already have - You most likely already have to buy some kind of memory card(s) for your digital camera, mobile phone, PDA, or digital audio player.  Why buy storage twice?  Mobile USB card readers cost ~$25, and allow you to use your memory cards (essentially) just like thumb drives.  So, for a small additional cost, you get to really "leverage your investment" by using the storage you already have for more than just the devices for which you bought it.
  • You get more value and flexibility of use from your storage - Imagine you have a camera, phone, and digital audio player that can all use SD cards, and you buy a 1GB card for each.  When needed, you can dedicate them all to a single device, such as when taking the camera on a long trip.   The mobile card reader makes the storage useful for more than just the devices you bought it for; it becomes a more general resource.   You can load up all 3 cards with vacation pictures and video and take them to share with a friend.  With 7+ megapixel cameras that take video, and 1 & 2 GB storage cards, this is often the most efficient way to quickly share lots of pictures & videos.
  • Enables instant photo sharing  - If you're with a friend and each taking pictures with your own camera, you can transfer a copy from your camera's memory card to your friend's computer, and put a copy of your friend's pictures on your card.  That's something a typical thumb drive can't do.  We did this a few times on our trip, and it's a nice capability!
  • Doubles as a desktop card reader -  Until WiFi becomes more common on cameras, a card reader is a much nicer way to transfer pictures to a computer than connecting the camera via cable.  (If nothing else, it saves your battery!)  If I had known about the benefits of a mobile card reader, I wouldn't have bought the desktop version -- that's part of why I'm writing this.  NOTE: This is not a good solution if your computer doesn't have front-mounted or easily accessible USB ports.

 

Benefits of USB thumb drives

As I said above, I'm not against thumb drives, nor arguing that they're not useful.  Here are some advantages they have over the card & reader combination:

  • More durable - You don't have to worry about removing your memory card from the device, and securing it.  Memory cards seem pretty durable, but I wouldn't want one floating around unprotected in my backpack, something I would comfortably do with a thumb drive.
  • More software features & functionality - Many thumb drives are bundled with software & capabilities such as encryption, authentication (some via fingerprint scanning), running programs, serving as boot disks, etc.  These are often vendor-provided and sometimes vendor-specific, and you're almost certainly paying a bit extra for them, but they can be valuable features for mobile storage.  (There are probably not many technical reasons similar features couldn't be included on memory cards, but I think it's unlikely to happen given the way thumb drives are marketed.)
  • More storage - I don't think memory cards are commonly available with quite as much capacity as thumb drives.  The gap doesn't seem to be widening, though (internally, they're probably very similar technology), and is most likely to shrink.

SanDisk has introduced SD cards that plug directly into USB ports, which are certainly worth considering.  I'm not sure that's likely to be done with mini SD and other card formats (but who knows?), so the mobile USB card reader may still be a better choice.  (Of course, if the price is close, why not buy direct-to-USB SD cards even if you have a card reader?)

I'm sure there are other great mobile USB card readers in addition to SanDisk's.  I just happen to have a SanDisk reader and cards and I'm happy with them thus far, so I used them as an example.  I'm writing to illustrate the concept, not endorse this product in particular.

January 03, 2006

jkOnTheRun:

I think it would be really cool if someone could come up with a way to automatically derive written transcriptions from podcasts. This would work similar to speech recognition programs but it needs to be speaker independent to be effective, kind of like closed-captioning used by TV stations.

I agree! I generally dislike listening to vs. reading information, but sometimes the audio is all that's available. I recently setup my Dad with an account Odeo, a free service that lets you call a phone # and record audio (in MP3 format) which you can then send via email or put into a podcast. The idea is, since he isn't that accustomed to typing, he can use Odeo to record his memoirs. I hope to transcribe these memoirs once good technology is available. In this case, there's sentimental value in having his actual voice, but it would be great to have both text and voice!

Thanks, Odeo Team!

I want to thank the Odeo team for providing the service, making it so easy to start podcasing, and especially for making it possible to record audio via the telephone! This is a great idea; everyone has access to a telephone, you don't have to be tied to a computer, and it makes using the service very easy and natural. Although I don't anticipate creating many podcasts per se, I like the idea of using Odeo for voice memos.

November 27, 2005

Writing down the software and services I really like and use on a regular basis is useful for several reasons, including:

  • It's a great way for friends and family to find good tools, and understand why I chose them.
  • When I set up a new computer, I can easily see what I need to install -- or which cookies I need to allow (I use a default deny policy, which is tedious, but worth it) -- to get it ready.
  • Helps me maintain perspective on what I use and why, and prevents the proliferation of applications.  Michael Hyatt just wrote about that problem in his article "Sentencing Applications to Death Row".

This is not a list of every utility I use or like, but rather a short list of what I consider my essentials.  I definitely expect it to change over time.  Everything listed here is free, which I think is amazing, and for which I want to thank the creators/providers!

Online 

  • delicious.com ("del.icio.us") - Keep a record of, tag, and share web content.  You can subscribe to each tag's feed.  I like this social bookmarking service even better than Furl!  More later...
  • Mozilla Firefox - I can't go back to browsing without tabs.  I especially like that Firefox is really configurable!
  • Mozilla Thunderbird - I use this for work, and for its purpose, it does a very good job.  I think it has a lot of potential; again, it's very configurable.
  • Gmail - Free web-based email.  Great user interface, a bit different approach to email, but one that's well thought-out.  Uses tags! (They call them "labels").  I switched and never looked back!
  • Furl - Keep a record of and share web sites, create topic-specific & individualized feeds (Also uses tags, but they call them "Topics")
  • Bloglines - Feed reader/ "news aggregator".  Since it's web-based, you never have to wonder if you've already read something on another computer.   (Needs tags.)
  • Yahoo Calendar - It can send reminders to Y! Messenger, email, and a mobile device's email, which I use all the time.  My wife and I each have accounts, and we share our calendars so we can both always know what's planned.
  • Yahoo Addressbook - Good for what it's designed to do, and when I get around to it, it'll sync to Outlook and therefore, my phone.
  • Wayfaring - Create personalized maps with customizable route and waypoints.  Great for showing someone how to take "the back way", or for showing someone how to take a route that passes a specific point the mapping services may not normally include.
  • Yodlee OnCenter - Similar in concept to a (RSS/ATOM) feed reader/"news aggregator", but for financial info, Yodlee aggregates your financial account information (bank accounts, credit cards, investments, etc.) into one page you can view at a glance.  Some people are (understandably) wary of providing login information for several financial accounts to a single site like this, and it's definitely worth some serious consideration.  On the other hand, it's quite useful to see everything in one place at one time.
  • Odeo - Record audio (in MP3 format) by calling a telephone #.  Your audio file shows up on your personal web page a few seconds after you hang up, and you can share it via email, as a podcast feed (RSS), or by sending people a link to your "Channel" on the Odeo web site.
    • Great for voice memos!  Imagine driving and having an idea you don't want to forget -- just grab your mobile phone, call Odeo, and record it.
    • I've setup an account for my dad so he can record his memoirs.

Offline

  • Picasa - Excellent photo manager, uses tags (called labels) and has decent editing capabilities.
  • Wink - Free screen capture utility for making tutorials/presentations/screencasts/etc.
  • FreeMind - Mind mapping tool.  In beta, but development seems to be progressing quickly and well.  I used to resist mind-mapping, but have found it frees me from focusing so much on hierarchy.
  • Microsoft Notepad - My primary note-taking tool.  I'm a firm believer in the versatility of plain-text.  Yes, it's basic, but it's ubiquitous, fast, and free.
  • Microsoft Paint - A very basic tool, but I use this all the time for basic screen captures; Alt+PrtScr to capture a window, open Paint, paste screenshot, then use Paint to edit and save.  Again, ubiquitous, fast, and free.
  • Multiplicity - Control multiple PCs with one keyboard/mouse, no KVM switch required.  Very nice for quickly moving between my primary & test computers at work.  Copy & paste works too, even for files.

Smartphone

  • Text messaging/SMS - Less overhead than mobile email, but with some of the same benefits, text messaging is perfect for short, unobtrusive communications.  It's especially useful when you don't need to communicate interactively with someone and just want to quickly let them know something, such as during a meeting.  It's great in environments where it's difficult to speak or hear, such as a concert or club.  Text messaging is a really convenient and useful way to communicate, and I don't understand why more people in the U.S. aren't more into text messaging.
  • Google Local for Mobile - Great downloadable mapping and local search application for mobile phones.  It "animates" the following of your route when providing directions, so it's almost like having a GPS-enabled map, except you have to keep track of where you are, since it doesn't know.  I really think this is a good example of a smartphone "killer app".
  • Bloglines Mobile - It's really nice to be able to access my feed reader via my mobile phone.   Bloglines lets you choose whether or not a feed is displayed when you connect via a mobile.

 

April 01, 2005

I tend to be pretty paranoid (well, I'd say "prudent") about problems when using a computer, (though I rarely have any), so I am a bit of a fanatic about saving what I'm doing, sometimes to the annoyance of anyone using a computer while I'm present.

The rule of thumb I use is, save your work every time you don't want to go back and re-create what you've just done. In fact, saving is so easy, there's no reason not to do it constantly, whether it's a document, email, or blog article.

Save button

I was just editing a blog article, and had put a fair amount of time into it, so I thought, "I should probably save a copy". Not 2 minutes after doing so, something else I was doing on my computer caused it to crash. I would have been pretty frustrated by this, but having just recently saved, I only lost a sentence or two.

I think this is a great example of why my "saving fanaticism" is justified, so it seemed worth taking a moment to stop and remind everyone: Save your work often! It's quick & easy, and though you may only rarely benefit from it, you'll be very happy those few times you do.