Sunday, October 29, 2006

Five-year birthday of Windows XP, we love you

Travis at Gizmodo is helping us celebrate the five-year birthday of Windows XP.  Mac users, don’t ever bother reading this…it’ll only get your blood-pressure up.  Seriously, there are things I hadn’t thought of here.  If you’re a Windows XP user under the onslaught of  “competitors” check this out for a birthday happiness.

NOTE:  To those of you with sensitive ears or eyes, you should note there is some bad language here.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Backing up Outlook automatically

We all know we should back up our data regularly.  Sometimes its tough to get to, or remember to and that’s why I look for the most idiot proof  method available.  James Kendrink pointed me to Jake Ludington’s blog with a simple, and better yet, free method for backing up my Outlook data daily.  He uses a simple text file to create a batch file that is then run by Window’s Scheduled Tasks.

The upside is that this method is completely free and that it can be set up in about two minutes.  I have a 2 GB SD card that sits in my laptop all the time and which I use for backups.  I’ve followed Jakes simple steps to backup all of my Outlook data daily.

The downside is that Outlook has to be closed to do this.  That’s not Jake’s fault, that is a limitation with almost every file; they’re locked while in use.  Since I rarely ever close Outlook, and neither does Jake, he includes a command that closes Outlook before running the ‘copy’ command.  This isn’t exactly rocket-science, but if you’re looking for an easy way to backup Outlook, or any other folder for that matter, check out Jake’s simple method.  James points out that OutbackPlus does the same thing, and also backs up your IE and Firefox settings and other docs as well.  The only catch is that it is $39.95

Now where did I put that--bookmarking and finding stuff fast

Niall Kennedy wrote an interesting piece yesterday called “Bookmarking and social sharing trends.”  While the article is really about social sharing trends, and not bookmarking per se,  it’s a great summary of the way people are bookmarking content on the internet.  If you’re not very geeky, skip his first couple of paragraphs which are about an upcoming conference. He presents about nine ways people are currently dog-earing online information to look back at later.

The bottom line for me is this: How do I retrieve the information I’m looking for quickly and easily? That is, how can I  be the most productive with the information I’ve already found once.  If it takes me more than a couple of minutes to find a website or other content I’m looking for it’s taking too long.  How do you find your stuff quickly, and more important, effortlessly, when you’re looking for it?

Here are nine ways.  I’m only explaining two, because they are the two that I care most about.  Check out his article if you’re interested in learning more.

1.  Local bookmarks – this are what most people use; it’s built into their browser.  The advantage is that they’re always there, ready to use.  The downside is that they can be hard to organize, unless you’re really intentional.  Click on your bookmarks toolbar button right now.  Are they organized?  Can you find what you’re looking for quickly?  If you’re like most people you probably have a long list of unsorted sites lurking there.  The other downside is that they are easily lost if your system crashes or you’re using someone else's computer.

2.  Live bookmarks

3. Bookmark clusters

4.  Synchronized bookmarks

5.  Bookmarking in public – This is the method I’ve chosen to use.  I do this primarily because if a site even remotely interests me I can tag it with a descriptive word and bookmark it in about 3 seconds.  The bookmark is then saved in “the cloud” and I can access it from any computer or find it easily later.  I’m using to do that and there are a number of extensions for Firefox that help me tag things quickly.

6. Bookmarking for another individual

7. Bookmarking for an affinity group

8. Shared collections

9. Additional data collection and display.

Pretty neat stuff if you’re into leveraging the information you’ve already found once, and don’t want to have to search for again.

Treo 680 Pricing from Cingular in

Engadget is reporting the new pricing on the Treo 680 from Cingular:

Treo 680: $424.99 straight, $349.99 one year, $249.99 one year with unlimited data (and $100 rebate), $274.99 two year, $174.99 two year with unlimited data (and $100 rebate; their ad, however, shows a $200 list price, but it's good to know we can count on around two Benjamins. Expect it November 5th (tentative).

This is apparently based on an Cingular marketing presentation that you can find here (PowerPoint presentation).  But included in that deck is some pretty good comparison charts on the 650, 680 and 700P/W.  If you’re into that, check it out.

The 680 will apparently become available from Cingular on Nov 4th.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Comparing Web Browsers: IE7, Firefox, Opera, et

With the recent releases of both Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7 the trash talk is heating up in the browser space.  Read/WriteWeb has a pretty decent quicky overview of the dominant players right now.  But for kicks, you've gotta read the comments! 

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Firefox 2, tweaks and TabMixPlus

By now you’ve probably heard that Firefox 2, the ever popular browser was released yesterday (download it here).  What you may not know is that there are lots of ways to tweak ‘fox through the about:config set of parameters.  You can adjust things like the scrolling behavior, which I wrote about here and a whole host of other things.  Lifehacker has a list of the most obvious ones here.

That saddest thing about ‘fox 2 for me has been the loss of Tab Mix Plus, which hasn’t been compatible with the most recent builds.  However, commenter murph2481 points out that the bet of TMP for Firefox 2 is available here.  This has really made my day as it gives you control over where you’re new tabs will appear, which links create new tabs and which don’t (history, links, other apps, etc) and a whole host of other great stuff.  It apparently isn’t perfect, but it works fine for me.

Embedding a Flickr slideshow in your site or blog

Jordan over at DownloadSquad writes about how to embed a Flickr slideshow into a blog or website.  All you need is this script:

<iframe align="center" src="
user_id=12345678@N00&tags=YOUR_TAGS" frameBorder="0" "width=500" height="500" scrolling="no

You have to replace the green user_id and tag fields with your own. If you are a Flickr user and don’t know your user_id click here and a little app will tell you.  You use whatever photos you want from your Flickr site.  I tagged a bunch “slideshow” for use on my website.

If you want to see how this might be used you can check out my effort here.  I’m a pretty lame web designer, but little tricks like this help brighten things up a little.  You should note that in the comments section of the DownloadSquad post there are other ways to do this as well.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

One of the coolest online organizers I've seen

I saw this on Techcrunch a few weeks ago and haven’t had time to look closely until today.  Skrybe, which hasn’t officially launched yet, is a browser-based organizer that lets you edit and interact with your data whether you’re connected to the internet or not.  Check out the short video over view on the Skrybe site and I’m certain you’ll be impressed.  It offers:

  • Seamless offline access - without any installations
  • Rich and fast like a desktop
  • Intuitive zoomable calendar views
  • Organize your thoughts with bookmarks, web snippets, images and files
  • To-do lists integrated with your calendar
  • Share and collaborate with friends and co-workers
  • Elegant, compact and handy print formats
  • Easily work across multiple timezones
  • Import and export from other apps easily. Your data is yours!

I was most impressed by three things:

1.  The way Skrybe handles time-zones seems to be intuitive and very easy to use.  It’s one of the few products I’ve seen that assume that you’ll be working with people in various time-zones and visually helps you set appointments with them.  Very cool.

2.  The zoomable calendar looks very slick.  It’s fast and again, intuitive to use.

3.  Skrybe allows you to print out your data in a format that is formatted in such a away as to make it easy to fold up and take with you.

Again, take a look at the video and see what you think.  The seems like the first app I’ve seen in a while that seems to begin with the actual, day-to-day needs of regular people.  We’ll see when the product goes public.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Treo 680 headed to Cingular

Engadget is reporting the inside scoop from an internal Cingular powerpoint presentation that the new Treo 680 will be released to Cingular.

It'll have everything we've been expecting: Palm OS 5.4.9 with that new five-tabbed quick access (dial pad, favorites, home screen, contacts, call log), quad-band GSP / GPRS / EDGE, 312MHz XScale processor, 2.2-inch 320 x 320 display, SDIO, Bluetooth 1.2, IR, PocketTunes, 1200mAh battery, and a 4.41 x 2.36 x 0.88-inch body weighing in at 5.28 ounces.

No details yet as to WHEN.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Prayer card of the future...redux

Several weeks ago I mentioned a new on-demand print solution for small business cards…or in my case, prayer cards.  I ordered a bunch, but haven’t seen them yet because I’m on the road.

Amber over at Download Squad also ordered a batch.  She says they’re great, high quality and, well…cute.  She posted several pictures there too.

Disable (or modify) tab scrolling in FF2

One of the things that has annoyed me about Firefox 2.0 is the way the tabs are created to a set width and once you’ve opened five or six tabs you have to start scrolling through them.

Lifehacker tells you how to modify the tabwidth or disable the scrolling.  This is a great hack; once I have 18 tabs open, I want to know it!

via Lifehacker

Firefox 2.0 almost ready to ship

Read more at TechCrunch.  There isn’t apparently much new between Release Candidate 3 and the official release version.  Once the extensions (add-ons in FF2) get written compatibly this is going to be great.  The built in spell-checker is great for commenting on blogs and online forums, etc.

More on the Treo 680

Brian over at Brighthand has a nice little review of the new Treo 680 I mentioned a few days ago.  This is really going to be an interesting line-up, especially for those of us who aren’t looking for a high-end ‘smartphone.’  I was really interested in the 700p but it has built-in support for high-speed EVDO which won’t do me a bit of good where I live in Kosovo.  I need a quadband

It also has 64MB of memory, twice that of the 650 and support for 2GB SD cards for all that multimedia content that’s fun to carry around.  Also, according to Bryan:

To further make the Treo 680 an outstanding value, Palm is offering a bundle, for the foreseeable future, that includes many of the accessories that new buyers need right away. This kit includes a 1 GB SecureDigital card, a headset, and a 30-day trial to Yahoo Music Unlimited.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Packing tools for life on the road

I need to admit on the outset that I’m not really a road warrior in the consultant-life-on-the-road sense of the word.  My trip are usually fairly short, or I end up staying where I’ve gone for long periods of time.  But for the last five weeks I have been on the road visiting with churches and staying in people’s homes.  While staying in homes has many advantages one thing that it does not afford is the ability to unpack one’s bag. 

Not only am I no road warrior, I’m also probably the worst folder-of-shirts that can be imagined.  No matter how carefully I fold my things they’re a mess by the time I take them out of the suitcase.  Before this six-week tour I invested in a couple of things from Eagle Creek, the folks that make odds and ends for travel. Eagle Creek makes a number of various sized “folders” which help in folding shirts and packing them in such a way that they don’t get wrinkled, or at least don’t get wrinkled as much.  Their web page has illustrates the various sizes, but doesn’t illustrate how clever the design is.  Each folder has a fairly rigid plastic “folding board” of the type you might use if you worked for GAP or other clothing store.  The folding board has printed instructions on it that even someone like me can understand.  When used each shirt is folded to the same size and then can be placed in the folder, velcroed up and put in your bag.  Besides helping your clothes to say comparatively unwrinkled, they also make it very easy to sort through your things when you can’t unpack your suitcase.

I bought three, one for long-sleeved dress shirts, one for short-sleeved shirts and one for pants.  Packing and re-packing is a breeze.  If you can’t fold a shirt to save your life and you live out of a suitcase for periods of time these may be worth checking into.  I bought mine retail from an Outdoor Provision Company store I stumbled across.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Firefox Instant Calculator

I’ve been using Firefox RC2 for the last few days.  Overall I like it, though there are some of my older extensions that I can’t quite get to work.  Lifehacker points out that there’s an instance calculator available through the Google search bar.

Pretty slick.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Palm announces the "low price" Treo 680

There have been rumors of (several) new Treo’s floating around for months.  Then a few months ago Palm released the 700p, which is the Palm version of their first-ever Windows Mobile 700w.   Yesterday Palm announced the Treo 680 which should come in under $250.  Check out the pictures from the Gizmodo post.

The 680 isn’t ground-breaking in terms of features, but it does open up the Treo line to a whole new demographic who want a cheaper, but full-featured smart phone.  I’ve been watching Ebay for months for a good price on a Treo 650.  Since the release of the 700p prices on 650’s have begun to drop slightly, but not quickly or sharply enough.  The 680 may be the smart-phone for a guy like me who wants a full-featured phone with Palm OS but doesn’t have a corporate budget to back up the purchase.

Here are some of the specs from the Palm site:

64MB user storage Memory
320 x 320 pixel TFT touchscreen 
352 x 288 pixel resolution Digital Camera
Full QWERTY key layout with backlighting
Expansion Slot for SD I/O cards
See also this good post from Treonauts here.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Final status issues becoming more complicated

Life is always interesting in the Balkans.  As many know Kosovo is in the midst of negotiations to determine the final status of the essentially independent province.  Though legally still a part of Serbia, Kosova is essentially a non-state country run by the United Nations. Negotiant ions are currently underway in Vienna, Austria to determine its final status.

Naturally the country of Serbia wants to hold on to Kosovo, which it sees as an important, historic part of the Serbian nation and people.  The 90–95 percent Albanian population of Kosovo wants to become an independent state.  Into this mix comes a new Serbian constitution.  Earlier this summer Montenegro succeeded from the country called Serbia-Montenegro triggering a rewrite of former country’s constitution.  Last Saturday the Serbian parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve the new constitution which declares Kosovo to be an “integral part” of Serbia.  Though the constitution still needs to be approved by a public referendum scheduled for Oct 28th, the message is pretty strong.

The UN Special Representative of the Secretary Genera, the man responsible administering, Kosovo quickly fired back that “the adoption of a Serbian constitution defining Kosovo as integral part of Serbian territory will have no effects on the final political status of this province” [quote from the article, not from Joachim Ruecker the SRSG].  On Monday the US State Department fired its own warning shots.  According to spokesman Tom Casey, "Neither party is going to unilaterally decide this," Casey said. "This is going to be something that's going to have to be worked out among them through this negotiated process."

Now the whole timetable for discussions is up in the air because negotiations may be delayed until after the Serbian Parliamentary elections which may be called for in late November or early December.

The bottom line is that Serbia will not willing let go of Kosovo, though interestingly a recent Reuters article (through KosovoReport) says that though fifty-eight percent of Serbs want Kosovo to remain part of Serbia, only twelve percent actually believe it will happen.  The Albanians of Kosovo will not willing remain within the country of Serbia.  While all sides would prefer a negotiated settlement on the issue an imposed one may be necessary and that doesn't bode well for peace in the Balkans.


More team tools

From time to time I post new services that may be helpful to geographically-disbursed, communicationally-challenged groups.  Google Groups just announced some upgrades to their popular discussion groups.

Use it for information about your group, shared documents, or anything you want to publish online. Any member can view, contribute to, and comment on the pages, from right within your group.

In less than about three minutes I set up a group for our particular field:Googlegroups (Small)

For missionaries with decent internet access this would made a handy place for ongoing field discussions, posting of organizational documents, mailing lists, etc.

When a group member makes changes to the site all the group members can be notified by email or xml feed.

And of course, its all free and very intuitive.

via Lifehacker

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Meal-time etiquette

Every culture has its own set of relatively fuzzy meal-time manners.  This becoming more apparent to me recently as I have had both “hosted” and “been hosted” on my travels on “missionary tour.”  As I’m getting older I’m coming to realize more and more that proper etiquette isn’t about a stuffy set of rules and behaviors; etiquette is a set of guidelines to help people treat people kindly and to facilitate relationships.

You may think this is a post complete with missionary jokes about eating in exotic places, but its not.  Though I could write a little about that, this is more about how to treat people kindly over dinner.  To that end I want to point you to two pod-casts from the guys at Manger-Tools.  These aren’t Emily Post talks, or notes from Miss Manners.  They’re practical tips on how to have be a polite host or guest over a meal.  They cover things like how to seat larger groups of people, where the host should sit and how you should arrange for the paying of the bill.  This is important stuff for those of us who work with people regularly.  I was invited to a dinner recently where I was the only “new” person in a large group and where people wanted to hear about missionary work in Kosovo.  Rather than being seated near the middle where I could interact with a broader group of people, I was seated on the end where I could only conveniently talk to three others.  That’s not a big deal but I missed out on meeting some pretty neat people!

These two podcasts are distinctly oriented for the North American business world and the business dinner, but there is a lot of good information here for people who are spending their time making connections with relative strangers.  Here is their introduction:

So, are you up to speed on how to have a business meal? Or even worse, HOST the meal yourself? You are? GOOD! Then you already know when to start talking business, and whether it's different at breakfast, lunch and dinner. You know how much alcohol to drink, and how many glasses of wine there are in a bottle. And the ideal way to pay for a meal, or what to do when the check comes. If you know all THAT, then we bet you also know where to seat your guests, and yourself, whether there are 2 or three of you. And, of course, what to order, and what NOT to order. Soup, you say? NO. And if you're not sure... that's why there's a Manager Tools podcast covering all that and more

Part One

Part Two

If you’re in ministry and are regularly hosting or being hosted these two podcasts are great.  Give them a listen.

UPDATE: Sorry but the links above are dead.  Here are the permalinks for the two podcasts: One, Two

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Windows XP SP1 support ends October 10

If you haven't upgraded your Windows installation to service pack two you should do so as Microsoft is apparently ending support for that version on October 10. 

via Mary Jo Foley