I love my office setup at home. I have a Windows based VM server, a Windows workstation, and a Mac laptop. The flexibility that this setup gives me is invaluable when I am developing. Since the developing varies between writing courses and books to creating instructional videos, the computer that fits the job varies as well. Like I said, I love this setup , except when I don’t. That doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while I run across one of those “there has to be a better way” moments. I ran into one of those last week. I had some text on one system that I wanted to cut and paste onto another system. This required me to either email it to myself or save it to a file on the network drive and then open the file on the other system and cut and paste it. This meant I had to cut and paste it twice as well as save the temporary file. It was faster for me to just re-type the information.
This morning I decided that there must be a better way to do this and I was going to find it. Surely others have had this same issue and someone must have created a solution for it. So off to my trusty friend Google I marched with high hopes. Well… my hope started to slip as I realized that while there were programs out there that almost offered what I was looking for, for the most part they were Windows OR Mac based. There were only a couple that claimed to be “cross-platform.” I decided to download a demo for the most promising one. I installed it on one Windows system and the Mac. To make a long story short, it didn’t work. I decided to give up on the quest.
Later in the day I found a few minutes to spare and decided to look one more time. So I entered a slightly different search on Google and clicked my way across a number of sites when I found PonPon. PonPon is a Firefox extension. When I read this, I almost ignored it. I assumed that it only worked within Firefox. Boy, was I wrong. This extension is very cool. Once installed, you have to have Firefox running on the systems, but you can cut and paste within any program. To copy you use ctrl-c on the source computer and to paste you use crtl-v on the destination computer, sound familiar? It’s simple and it just works. The fact that it is free doesn’t hurt either.
If you are reading this blog, you are mostly likely someone that finds technology interesting and enjoyable. For the most part, that is a good thing. However, the knowledge you gain does come with a price. That price being that others find out that you know things about technology and then you become their “tech guy.”
This can result in spending more time telling someone how to change their Facebook password (for the 127th time) than you do sleeping.
Don’t get me wrong – I like helping my friends and family. The problem comes in when you are trying to help them over the phone and you can’t just show them how to do it. There have been times I even created simple videos or step by step instructions. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone else took the time to create videos that show how to do common computer tasks and make them available on the Internet? Well, someone is doing just that. A site called Woopid.com is creating a library of videos that offer simple and straight forward instructions on a number of basic PC, Mac, and Internet tasks.
I am sure some of you are sitting there saying, “hey, that was my idea” or “I should have thought of that.” All is not lost. Woopid is looking for people to help create videos and expand its library. They are even willing to pay you to do this. Hey, you are already giving your knowledge away for free, why not try and make a few bucks off it?
So, the next time a friend asks you, “how do I attach a file in Gmail?” Send them this link: http://www.woopid.com/video/1099/Attach-a-File.
I had to send a survey out to a number of people today. First I thought I would email it to them in a PDF, but I really didn’t want to have to manually compile the data once I received the PDFs back. That’s when I figured I would create an online survey. I looked at a number of options and while there are a number of them out, there I settled on Google Forms. If you haven’t heard of Google Forms, don’t feel too bad because I hadn’t either. All it takes to use it is a Google account (Gmail login) and you probably already have one of those.
The interface is super easy, which you would expect from Google. But what I like about it most is that the results are saved in a Google spreadsheet. You can then save the spreadsheet locally as an Excel, CSV, PDF, or Text file. The main reason I didn’t want to use one of the other solutions is that I didn’t want to send people to an outside site – that is I wanted them to feel that the survey was part of the main site. I think this looks more professional than directing them to “joesfreesurveys.com.” Google makes it simple to embed the form into you website. All you have to do is dropdown the More actions menu and select “embed.” Cut the code that it provides and place it into your webpage. You will, of course, want to make sure the formatting looks correct, but that shouldn’t take too much.
So, the next time you find yourself in need of a simple to use online survey service, use the one you probably already have an account for and use Google Forms.
As I have written in the past, I have an iPhone and I am very happy with it. But today I stumbled across a phone that makes the iPhone look like a rock. I immediately decided that I had found my next phone. This thing is amazing. It has a modular bluetooth headset that doubles as a “mouse,” a built in projector that can project the image of the screen on the wall, or project a keyboard on the desk in front of you, or both. It is fairly thin and provides a nice amount of screen space while keeping the device’s size similar to that of an iPhone.
The speed at which this things moves is unbelievable, as a matter of fact the entire phone is unbelievable and that may be because it doesn’t exist. It ‘s a Mozilla Seabird concept phone and while I normally dismiss concept devices this one hit me differently. While the features seen in this phone are not something we will see this year, I feel this concept does a great job at showing where we could be heading if enough talented and creative people move in the right direction.
If a phone came out with even half of the features this one offers, I would sign up for it today. Why don’t you sit back for a minute and take a trip in to the possible future. Here’s how it might look…
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/oG3tLxEQEdg" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Home wireless routers are great and yet frustrating at the same time. It seems that no matter what brand or model I get I have intermittent problems. At least once a week and sometimes as often as everyday one of my PCs fails to connect to the router. When this happens, I start running trough the normal troubleshooting steps, but the majority of the time the only thing that fixes it is to reset my router. Everything then functions fine for a at least a day and then another one of my PCs stops communicating.
The other day I was working on a router and found a “Refresh” setting. It allows you to pick a time of day that the router will perform a reboot. When I saw this I thought, “why didn’t someone think of this sooner?” Of course, this wasn’t the same model router I have at home so mine doesn’t include this magical “Refresh” setting. But this did lead me to a solution for my router, a solution so simple I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. I plugged it into one of those lamp timers that you can pickup at the hardware store.
I used a digital one so that I could pick precisely when it would turn off and back on. I set it to turn off everyday at 5:59am and turn on at 6:00am. At first I was going to have it reset at midnight since that seems like a logical time, but since I often set large uploads to occur after I go to sleep I determined this wouldn’t be a good idea. And, of course, I don’t want the router to reset in the middle of a late night Call of Duty match! So there you have it, a simple man’s solution to those aggravating home router lock ups.
I saw a story on the web today that made me really start to wonder about some of the advances we are making in technology. I have always thought that the main purpose of technology was to make the life of the average human a little easier and more enjoyable. Everyday I see more people becoming more comfortable with technology, which for the most part is good. As an example, my dad got a Sony Dash for Christmas and now this 87 year old is checking Facebook more often than me. If you ask my mother, she would not say this is a good thing since he finds it necessary to share Facebook updates with her every minute or so. I think this is very cool. Technology is no longer only for the geeks. It is becoming the property of the average human.
But let’s get back to the story I was talking about. It is a story that makes you stop and wonder if we are becoming too comfortable with technology and willing to allow it to have more control than we should. The title sounded great, “3D No Glasses.” For some this is the holy grail of 3D video. The story went on to explain that the way many of the 3D glasses work is that they rapidly open and close so that one eye is never really seeing the video. Since they open and close so fast, you really don’t notice it. So how are they achieving this without glasses? Small devices are attached near the temple of your eye and they causes your eye lids to open and close rapidly. If you think this sounds weird, wait until you see what it looks like. Checkout the video:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/Uef17zOCDb8" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Some may say this is fake and for all I know it may turnout to be, but it still makes me wonder. Are we becoming so comfortable with technology that we are willing to let a device control functions like eye movement? Who knows what the long term effects could be. For myself, I’ll just stick to the glasses.
A few weeks ago I mentioned the Cisco UMI. It is their new home video conferencing product. It hooks up to your TV and allows you to have 1080p video calls with other UMI owners. It’s pretty cool, but due to the price I think it will be a little while before there is one in every home. Well, UMI isn’t all Cisco wants to put in your entertainment center.
Last week at CES Cisco announced its VideoScape product. Well, actually it’s a few products. The first is the Videospace IP set-top box. This device is very similar to the cable box you are use to, but it allows you to access other content such as premium web content and videos from friends and family. It has a very intelligent search feature that allows you to tell it what type of content you are interested in and will show you what is available on live or recorded TV as well as premium content you may have access to. This device will only be available from a service provider.
The second product is called the Videoscape media gateway. This allows for the integration of voice, Wi-Fi, and network traffic. It also allows you to easily upload video to the cloud so that friends and family can view it.
The last product I am going to touch on is the Videoscape software client. This is a client that can run on a number of devices including Apple’s iOS and Android devices. It syncs with the home system and presents the same type of content that you were last looking at on your home system. It will stream some of the content to the device but not everything (like live TV).
All in all it seems like a rather interesting suite of products. Since I really don’t watch a lot of TV, I don’t know that it is for me, not right now anyway. Also, the more I think about it, many of the things this promises I can already do with the devices I already own. I think the true strength of these products will be how easy they are for the average user to use. While I am typically one of the first in line when a new technology or gadget hits the street, for now I am just going to sit back and watch where this goes.
When I got my first iPod touch, a friend told me that I had better be careful when visiting the App store. This caused me to wonder if there were malicious apps on the store. He assured me that wasn’t the problem, but that there were so many interesting apps I would find myself spending more money than I might want to. Two iPhones and an iPad later I can tell you that he was right. There are many good apps, but I am fortunate in that I am a hesitant buyer when it comes to apps. I often mull over whether or not to buy an app for a day or so and that’s just a .99 cent app. If it’s way more than that, it could be several days before I choose to purchase it. It seems the new Mac app store has noticed that and made it easier for me to buy apps, even ones I don’t want.
I read a few reports about people claiming that they had mistakenly purchased apps. Some were fortunate in that their mistakes resulted in them purchasing a .99 cents or $1.99 app while others experienced this problem while looking at a $79.99 app. Losing .99 cents because you clicked the wrong button is one thing, but losing 80 bucks because of it is another.
The problem is that as soon as you click the price button the app is purchased. I have never seen such a thing. Have you ever been to any online store that by simply clicking on the price of an item causes you to make a non-refundable purchase? Even when you purchase an app from iTunes or directly from the app store on an iPod, iPhone, or iPad it is a two click process, which is often enough to keep you from making a purchase that you did not intend to.
I decided to go ahead and test this myself to see if it was as bad as some are claiming and it is. Even after being aware of the issue this can still happen. If you happen to have a sensitive mouse or track pad, you could accidentally click the price and then be the proud owner of some useless app.
At the very least Apple needs to allow the user an option of enabling a purchase confirmation button. Actually, it shouldn’t be an option. This was either a huge oversight or a very ingenious way of selling more apps. I don’t know that it will stir up the media storm that antenna-gate did, but something needs to be done. Oh, Steve Jobs, if you are reading this, I’m not looking for a free phone case. I already got one of those. Please just add a “Confirm Purchase” button. Thanks!
It’s finally here. We all knew it would happen we just didn’t know when. The other night I noticed that my iPhone wanted to update a few applications. I always like to see what the updates are before I install them so I started to check them out. When I got to Skype, the update said that it now supported Skype to Skype video calls. While Facetime is cool, most of the people I am interested in having video calls with don’t have an iPhone or the new iPod Touch.
It didn’t take long for me to download the update and start playing with it. The first test proved to be pretty much trouble free. I tested it over WiFi, but it is supported over 3G as well. The quality of the video wasn’t the greatest but was acceptable. Once in a while the audio dropped, but that can happen any time you are trying to use the internet to transmit voice.
It requires iOS 4.0 and only works on the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and 4th generation iPod touch. You can use the front or rear facing camera. Of course, since the iPhone 3GS only has a rear facing camera, you are somewhat limited when using that device. It kind of works on the iPad as well. I know, you are saying “wait a minute, the iPad doesn’t have any camera.” You are right. When using it with the iPad, it only receives video. I tried this out as well and it works as promised. You can see the other party but all they see is themselves. I guess if you are the one with the iPad it would be OK but the other guy is stuck looking and himself for the entire call.
While I don’t see myself using this everyday, I do think it will cause me to use Skype to communicate with my family when I am on the road. The best thing is that to make a call you don’t do anything that much different than you do to make a normal call. I think that is the key to bringing things like video calls to the main stream. It seems that people aren’t willing to do anything extra to make a video call. If they can make a call the way they normally do and it has video, great – they will most likely use it. But if they have to connect to the internet, get the camera working and then load software, they are just going to pick up the phone instead. Creating cool technology isn’t enough, you have to make it easy to use and Skype for the iPhone does just that.
While this time of the year is quite busy, many people have more time to surf the Internet than normal. This is most likely due to time off of work or school. It’s a shame that there are some many ill willed people out there that hope to make your innocent time online an eventual nightmare.
I got a call the other night from a relative that happened upon a site that installed malicious software on his PC. It was one of those programs that tries to make you think you have a virus and that you need to “buy” their software to remove it. There really is no virus, just a piece of malware installed on your PC. Removing this software can be as simple as doing a Windows system restore to as painful as a complete rebuild of your PC. Whatever you do, DON’T “buy” their software. In most cases you get nothing, but they get your credit card number, which they sell faster than you can say antivirus.
While trying to come up with ways to remove this uninvited malicious guest, I thought how it would have been a lot simpler to have just avoided getting it in the first place. The problem is that often these programs are installed from very harmless and often legitimate looking sites. I guess you could try to avoid any website you hadn’t heard of, but that would cause you to miss many great and useful sites. That’s when I thought of my old friend Sandboxie. I have blogged about Sandboxie before. It is a program that creates a virtual environment on your PC. You can install and run programs in an environment that does not permanently affect your PC. When it comes to surfing, you can run the browser in a Sandboxie session and if your PC gets infected with anything, you can simply end the Sandboxie session and whatever you were infected with should be gone.
If you are the type of person that likes to explore uncharted regions of the Internet or you just sometimes find yourself at an unfamiliar site, you might want to try using Sandboxie. You may not ever need it, but if it saves you even once, it will have been well worth the download.