Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sure you have travel horror stories, but can you tell them like this?

We've all spent more time waiting for flights than we'd like to remember.  But next time you're stuck, try creating a memorable anti-airline mockumentary like this one.

Delta Flight 6499, Seven Hours on the Tarmac

This is pretty hilarious, but only because I can sooo feel this guys pain.

via Consumerist and Scoble


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The world's most hated a loved reincarnation?

Trivia Question: Which of your friends' service did you hate the most?  Answer: Plaxo. Plaxo was that contact manager from hell.  If you subscribed to the service it pestered everyone you ever met until you wanted to scream.  Worse yet, if your friends subscribe it made you want to scream.  They got a well-earned, terribly bad reputation.  And now its back....only I think they've learned something.

Plaxo's new incarnation has a lot going for it.  It's positioning itself to be "an address book for life."  It wants to be the one place where all of your contact information, calendar, tasks and feeds come together, from a variety of services.

Plaxo brings together your your stuff from Outlook, Google, Yahoo, AOL/AIM, your mobile, Outlook Express, LinkedIn, Mac OSX, Hotmail & Windows Live.  For now, these are the "sync-points" supported by Plaxo.

After reading Scobles post, I thought I would take it for a spin.  After opening my free account I was taken to the screen above and asked which "sync points" I wanted to add.  plaxosyncpoints I thought I'd stat with Outlook and, when selected, asked me to download an add-on.  Normally I avoid Outlook add-ins like the plague, but I thought I'd try it out.  Once it was installed I had a new set of options from within Outlook


Next I selected "sync manager" and told Plaxo what I wanted synced from Outlook to the Plaxo cloud.  I entered my Plaxo account information and then selected my Outlook calendar, contacts, tasks and notes to be synced to Plaxo.

That was it.  I hit "sync now" and with in minutes all of my stuff was available to me on the web.


I was shocked.  I added a task to the left-hand task bar in the Plaxo window and it was brought to my Outlook to-do list at the next sync.  I added a couple of other sync points, my Google and Yahoo accounts just to see how it would work.  Those too synced up in a snap.

If you're interested, check out the below video from Plaxo's vice-president of marketing.

Now for the not so good news.

  1. The free version syncs up to 1000 contacts.  For more than that you need the Pro version, which will set you back $50/year.  The pro version also supports syncing with LinkedIn, a social networking app for the business community.
  2. Syncing isn't particularly fast.  This might be because the product is new and they're working through the scaling issues as lots of new people register.  I hope so.
  3. I'm not so thrilled with giving out my credentials to a third party.  More and more though, it's becoming a given for certain services.

Why is this interesting for folks in our line of work?

  1. We move around a lot and this makes it easy to keep all our contacts up to date.
  2. It allows me to change my task list and my calendar from any computer in the world, knowing that those changes will also appear in Outlook on my desktop.
  3. Its serves as an easy backup for my most important information: my contacts, my tasks and my calendar.
  4. It appears as though this would also allow you to sync multiple computers together effortlessly.   

I don't think I'll spend a lot of time on the Plaxo's website, but it is a very, very easy tool to use if you want to bring a lot of information together from a variety of sources.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Backing up your blog: here are two options

We may assume that the contents of our blogs are safe way up there in "the cloud."  Google's recent problems with lost email, however, demonstrate that things aren't always what they seem.  A year or so ago the hosting company I use for a couple of websites upgraded their servers.  Shazaam....all my data was gone (fortunately, most of it was backed up locally).

Given that, here are a couple of options for backing up your blog.

1. BlogBackupOnline is a service that backups up your blog to another place in the cloud.  It's automatic, set and forget.  I've been using it for quite a while.  In fact, it's so simple I forgot I was "using it."  It's in Beta right now, and free at least while the beta lasts.


2. If you're a blogger user you may want to consider Blogger Backup, mentioned on DownloadSquad on Friday.   Blogger Backup backs up your entries to your computer.  It only works with Blogger at this point, but all your data is saved "safely" on your local drive.

Either way, it's probably a good idea to have some sort of backup solution for your blog.  You've spent too many hours for it just to...shazaam...disappear.  If you know of other backup options please let me know.


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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Finally exercised...keeping track of first things

This probably sounds pretty lame, but I've been having a difficult time exercising lately.  I know it helps me function better.  It's good for my mind, my spirit and my body....but I haven't done it.

ex2In fact, when I consulted Joes Goals, my daily goals tracker, I realized I hadn't exercised in  57 days.  Yikes!  I confess.  I am a hopeless sloth when it comes to exercise. 

The point of this post isn't so much about what a sluggard I am.  It's really about the importance of developing tools that help us keep track of the agreements we've made with ourselves.

I continue to use Joes Goals to do help me keep track of the "first things" in my life, the things that have the biggest pay-off 120 days from now.  I first wrote about JG back in January around New Years and have been using it about a year.

How do you keep track of the agreements you've made with yourself? 


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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Facebook Toolbar for Firefox

One of these days I'm going to catch my breath and explain why I think Facebook is a must-have application (at least, for right now).  Scoble and Dare Obasanjo give some clue to this.  Until that time though, I'm going to keep feeding Facebook odds-n-ends.

A Firefox extension was just released though that brings most of your Facebook functionality into a toolbar.  I've been keeping Facebook open in one of my 3 permanent tabs.  This toolbar gives me access to most of the functionality without the tab.


via Facebook Developers | Facebook Toolbar for Firefox

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Speaking as a Performing Art

Guy Kawasaki talks about his friend Doug Lawrence about the similarities between public singing and public speaking.  I've never been a singer, but I do have to get up before groups and speak occasionally.  If you're a missionary you are a speaker.  If you are a speaker, you can improve. 

Since I drafted this post he's added a second part.  Rather than give you my limited insight here, let me just link to the two parts. 

Part I: Speaking as a Performing Art

Part II: Bite Your Tongue: Eight More Ways To Improve Your Presentations


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Using OneNote to handle your task lists

There's a great post on "Scharnetzki’s line of reasoning" about using OneNote to manage projects and tasks.  The way he describes his workflow is almost exactly how I manage mine.  Using a notebook section as a project folder works perfectly for me.  I can push an email to the proper project folder with a push of a button (see his post for details.  Using pages and sub-pages I can easily find emails, quotes and copied web-pages germane to the project.

My only difference is that Scharnetzki seems uses the "to-do' tag in OneNote to keep all of his tasks together, but also keeping his tasks in OneNote.  I use Outlook as my work "dashboard" and all of my tasks have to end up there.  I want all my tasks in one place where I can see them.  Fortunately, OneNote and Outlook synchronize bi-directionally making it moot where you put your task!



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Monday, June 18, 2007

Toodledo, another online task manager

One of the keys to getting your thinks done it making sure that all of your "things" are written down in one place.  Many people end up using slips of paper, emails, envelops and all sorts of artifacts to act as reminders of things that need to be done.  Worst of all, some people just try to remember everything.

If you're looking for an online task-list application, you may want to check out Toodledo, which is pretty feature packed.  Features include:

  1. integration with Google Calendar, Google Personal Homepage, Firefox, and IMified
  2. Contexts
  3. printable tasklist
  4. email alerts for your top tasks (called a hotlist)
  5. ability to import/export tasks to iCal, Palm OS, XML, CSV, and text.
  6. publishing of task lists to the web

They offer a pretty thorough features comparison here.

via DownloadSquad

Sunday, June 17, 2007

“Clip to OneNote” Firefox Extension

image I'm not sure how I missed this before, but there is FINALLY a Firefox extension for my beloved OneNote!   It was originally written by Gmx Lee.

Patrick Schmid mentions that it was designed for OneNote 2003 and FireFox 1.5 and provides a version for FireFox 2.x and OneNote 2007.

Patrick was a great contributor during the Microsoft Office 2007 beta program and maintains a super site for all things 2007-ish.

Thanks Patrick!


via Patrick Schmid

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14 Must-Have Online Banking Features

Most missionaries probably have someone Stateside that helps facilitate their finances.  If you don't, or you want greater control or "situational awareness" of your financial situation you'll have to look at online banking

Mark Shead over at Productivity501 has a great list of 14 "must have" online banking features.  I didn't realize banks offered some of these, like "online check images" or the ability to open accounts entirely through the web.

 If you're shopping for a new bank, or aren't satisfied with your current bank check this out.  Unfortunately, Mark declined to state where he banks (read the comments), so you'll have to use this post as a checklist.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Get Productive with Windows Live Writer - Guide for Power Bloggers

 Amit Agarwal wrote a great guide to using Windows Live Writer, my favorite off-line blog post editor.  I learned quite a bit from this post, including the fact that you can just paste a video's embed code right into WLW normal view.  WLW will automatically notice it's embedded code and treat it accordingly.

Amit also talks about the new "links glossary" feature which I didn't even know existed.  If you're a WLW user, be sure to read this post.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Skype 3.5 Beta for Windows released

Everyone's favorite Internet telephony  application just released their new beta, 3.5  Skype's really been rolling out the upgrades lately, adding feature and third party developer support like crazy.

The new features include:

  • feature: Auto redial
  • feature: Call Transfer
  • feature: Device Indicators
  • feature: Edit chat messages
  • feature: Message history loading granulated
  • feature: Private Telephone Numbers
  • feature: Send contacts inside chat
  • feature: Visual indicators for Audio In / Audio Out in options
  • feature: Show examples of notifications / alerts in options
  • feature: Added Latvian localization - Intars Students
  • feature: In-Client Hardware store button
  • change: Extras Manager updated to version
  • Some of these are nice, some are really, really handy.  You can now transfer calls to any other Skype user for free, or any SkypeOut number with a SkypePro account (which is not, of course, free).  You can read more on the Skype blog here.  Download the Beta here.

    Hat tip: DownloadSquad

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    Thursday, June 14, 2007

    Blogger upgrades its platform

    If you're a Blogger user (like I am), you may be interested to hear that Google (Blogger's owner) is updating the interface and feature set some.  You can read about it here

    imageThe key feature is that you can now upload videos from the web editor.

    Of course, in my humble opinion, if you're still writing blog posts with a web-based application you've got other problems :)


    via DownloadSquad

    Tuesday, June 12, 2007

    The Ultimate RSS Toolbox - 120+ RSS Resources

    This is one to bookmark for future reference. This Mashable round up cover just about every conceivable category of RSS tool, from readers to publishers, Mac, Windows, Linux and mobile

    Check it out here: The Ultimate RSS Toolbox - 120+ RSS Resources .  It's an outstanding resource.

    Google Launches Powerpoint Preview for Gmail, be careful with PP2007 docs

    I wrote about Google's PowerPoint viewer a while back and it looks like it's been released for everyone.  I opened an email with PowerPoint attachments and found the below.


    image Clicking on "View as a slideshow" opens a slide viewer that's pretty slick (picture at right from Mashable).

    You'll note from my example above that PowerPoint 2007 files (with the pptx extension) are not yet supported.  Google was also unable to open one file that I had downconverted from the 2007 format to the 97-03 format.  If you use PowerPoint 2007 keep these two things in mind.

    The viewer gives you the options in how to play the deck.googlepptcap3

    As long as your browser supports Flash you can use a deck of slides anywhere. 

    This is really a nice function that will surely come in handy.  In this incarnation it's not exactly a threat to PowerPoint's dominance in the presentation software space, but it is a sign of things to come. 

    Tip of the hat to Mashable

    Monday, June 11, 2007

    Greaaat...just what I want to hear: Data Loss At Google Reader

    After launching my little experiment yesterday I'm confronted with this headline from several places: Data Loss at Google Reader.  Great.

    Many people report losing their feeds but also in seeing them restored.  Follow the comments at TechCrunch and Scoble

    If you're using Reader you may want to back up your OMPL file.  I can't say that I ever worried about data loss with Newsgator.  Everything was always kept safe on both my local machine AND the Newsgator server.

    20 Tips for More Efficient Google Searches

    Over at Dumb Little Man we find a list of 20 tips for good Google Searches.  Some of this you may have seen before.  Here are my favorites:

    7. Definitions - This is my favorite!  Simply type "define:" and your word and you'll get back several definitions from popular dictionaries.

    8. Calculator - I use this one all the time.  Just type: 835/15 into the search bar and get the results.  You can use +, -. * and / for simple math.

    10. Site-specific search - There are times when I want search results only from a particular website.  For instance, sometimes I'm looking for a particular person in my parent organization.  Simply enter: Smith and see the results from only that domain.

    15. Unit Converter - "Enter: 35 miles in kilometers" and get the answer back: 35 miles = 56.32704 kilometers

    Here were some new ones for me that I need to try:

    13. Movie show times - Enter "movie:," the title of the movie and your zip code and you'll see the returns for all the show times for your flick.

    16. Types of numbers - you can enter telephone numbers, ISBN numbers, patent numbers and a several others and get results specific to that item.

    The others are great too.  Make sure you check out the post for the other 14 great tricks.

    Sunday, June 10, 2007

    The experiment: Going from Newsgator to Google Reader

    This week I'm trying a little experiment; I'm trading in my venerable Newsgator Inbox for Google Reader.newsgatorinbox 





    Three things pushed me over the edge to this decision:

    1. Offline Readability: One of my long-standing reasons for using Inbox was that I could read feeds when not connected to the Internet.  Living in a low-bandwidth country meant that there were LOTS of times I couldn't connect but wanted to write blog posts or read my feeds.  Inbox also doesn't download the graphics in a post, which is a big plus in low-bandwidth situations.  The announcement of Google Gears means that I now have that option.
    2. NGinboxDistractability - Using Newsgator Inbox meant that all of my  feeds came right into Microsoft Outlook.  That has a lot of upsides.  It kept all my communication in one place.  It let me read my feeds offline.  It has also become distracting to me.  I end up spending too much time in the "mail view" and not enough time in the "task view".  My mail view has gotten a little busy and I want to try simplifying things.
    3. Odds and Ends - I read a post from Tim Ferris this week on "How Robert Scoble reads 622 feeds daily."  Scoble used to use Inbox, but changed to Google Reader "when the tools broke."  He found that his previous feed list (1000+) made Outlook unusable, the PST files huge and reading difficult (see the video of the interview here).  I've noticed that the Inbox add-in makes gives Outlook fits on occasion but chose just to live with it.

    So, here goes; we'll give it a try and report back.

    Which lights rule your world?

    Bert Decker wrote a short little piece today on the leaders' communication style.  It was sort of interesting, but the underlying idea he mentions is far more interesting...and provocative.

    Most human performance, whether it's sports, music or speaking has a physical "ready" position.  I'm not really an athlete, but I wrestled in high school and studied Tai Kwon Do and fencing in my youth.  I took years of piano and cello lessons as a child.  I took a number of public speaking courses as an adult.  Each one of these activities involved a "ready" position.  In wrestling it was standing facing your opponent, shoulders and hips squared, arms up and forward, weight over your toes.  In fencing it was shoulders perpendicular to your opponent, one arm forward, foil up, other arm behind, curved up.  Okay, you get the picture.

    The question of the day, however, is what is your default life position?  Decker quotes a friend of his in describing a Green Light Approach to life.  He says we all operate under one of three traffic lights.

      • Those who are ruled by the red light stop themselves - or never get started.
      • Those who always see yellow are very cautious about making a move.
      • But those who go for the green light are staunch advocates of their positions and DO move forward. While they certainly slow down if they see yellow - and stop at the red signals - they see life as a green light. Moving forward unless directed otherwise.

    I want to learn to live on the tips of my toes, in the "ready" position.  I want to be a "green light guy."  I want to have a posture that is leaning forward into each new day.

    Saturday, June 09, 2007

    Live writers having growing pains

    I've mentioned Windows Live Writer several times here over the months.  LW was just upgraded last week and is experiencing some growing pains.  I've you've had issue with either

    1. Failed installation or
    2. System hangs when running Writer

    you may want to read this post from the Live Writer team.

    How To: Close chip bags without the clip

     It's the weekend, and hopefully you're sitting close to your loved ones and taking some time out to hang out and relax a little. And what would be relaxing be without a handy bag of potato chips, tortillas or national snack of your choice.

    But how do you seal up the half-empties?  Maybe you can't run down to your local treg, souk, b/pazzar and buy handy plastic clips to seal the remnants of your family time.

    If so, look no further than this handy trick from Instructables.

    Step by step instructions are available here.  Closing my half open bag of chili pepper potato chips has never been so easy.

    via Lifehacker

    Thursday, June 07, 2007

    Flickr Facebook App is Now Available

    An important piece of Facebook's social networking reach was added today with a new Flickr application.  I use Flickr a lot more than I use (or can imagine using) Facebook's built in photo app so I've been waiting for this one.


    via Facebook blog

    Monday, June 04, 2007

    Facebook..."it's not a choice, it's an IQ test"

    I have to admit that the whole MySpace/Facebook phenomena eluded me for quite a while.  I looked at both of them over the last year or so, but never registered for either.   Believe me, I've registered for a lot of social networking sites but these two didn't interest me.  This may have been because I didn't realize how many friends were already using Facebook.  Maybe I just didn't "get" it, but I never crossed the threshold of real interest.

    That changed last week. 

    Last week Facebook announced the launch of "Facebook Platform."  According to Paul Allen, who was at the launch,

    Facebook is inviting anyone to develop applications for their users on top of what Mark calls their “social graph”–the core of their service which basically keeps track of real people and their real connections to each other.

    What this means is that Facebook is no longer only a place for real people to keep track of each understatedly powerful as that is.  Facebook is becoming a hub, or perhaps, THE hub, for social networking applications.

    When I registered my Facebook account and saw that I could add my account, my Twitter account, my 30Boxes account, and my account to Facebook's already decent set of built in applications, I was sold.  Each of these tools is tremendously powerful and when utilized together become even more powerful.  Now that there is once place that can act as a hub for them all, I've drunk the kool-aid.

    That's why Michael Arrington said that difference between MySpace and Facebook isn't a choice, it's an IQ test.  MySpace may be larger, with 100 million users, but FaceBook has 20 million and is growing at a rate of 100,000 per day.  Not only is it growing rapidly, but it's growing rapidly outside of it's original demographic, older high-school and college students. According to Allen the fastest growing segment are users over 25 and by year's end, Facebook will have 50 million users, 75 percent of whom will be out of college.

    Some have commented commented that Twitter may be the new "presence," allowing all your contacts to know where and what you're doing at any given point.  With the Platform, you could argue that Facebook does this quite handily.

    What's a Wiki? Great YouTube video

    Sometimes it's difficult to explain the power of web-based applications.  More than once I've tried to explain what a Wiki was, only to have my colleagues eyes glaze over.

    The guys at CommonCraft have posted an awesome video on YouTube that visually explains what a Wiki can accomplish.  If you've ever tried to explain to someone what a Wiki to someone, check out this video.

    Sunday, June 03, 2007

    Tangler - a better way to do forums?

    Forums have long been a staple of online communities and online communication.  The basic paradigm of a threaded conversation has long remained the same.  But there is a new Aussie startup called Tangler that's trying to change all of that.

    …[blurring] the lines between what you might think of as traditional instant messaging, chat, mailing lists and forums. We’re web-based and topically structured like a forum, but interaction is real-time, like instant messaging.

    In other words, Tangler uses threaded conversations to anchor a discussion, but they give you ability to add a lot of rich content the thread.  You can easily add videos, pictures, etc. into the thread you're discussion.


    That's pretty cool, but each thread can also be done in real-time.  That is, using ajaxy goodness, discussion threads also work like an archived IM chat.  Using a separate application called "Notifier" you can track all of your conversations and groups in real-time.

    I'm not sure I'll spend a huge amount of time here, but I've been wondering what the next step in forum evolution might be.  I think Tangler is on to something.

    TanglerGroup Naturally you can easily create your own discussion groups which can be either closed or open.  Closed groups are by invite only, ensuring a degree of privacy that would be handy for folks in our line of work.

    You can watch a demo here, it nicely illustrates what they're doing.

    via Web Worker Daily

    Saturday, June 02, 2007

    Man punished for using open Wi-Fi network

    Boing Boing is reporting on a man who faced up to 5 years in jail for sitting outside a cafe in Michigan, using an open wifi access point.  The "39-year-old toolmaker, volunteer firefighter and secretary of a bagpipe band, wanted to use his 30-minute lunch hour to check e-mails for his bagpipe group."

    Crime in this Michigan town must be pretty low is law-enforcement is arresting people for stuff like this.  While I'm for prosecuting people for using open access points to break the law like malicious hacking and child porn (the targets of laws like this), this is ridiculous.

    Beware all you roaming missionaries on speaking tours!  Checking your mail at that unencrypted hotspot may land you in the slammer.


    FoxNews story here.