Archive | Technology RSS feed for this section

Reverse Image Search

I may be late to the party on this, but I had no idea one could perform a reverse image search on Google. What’s a reverse image search? It’s where you have an image but would like to know where it came from…it’s source, creator, etc.

Here’s how:
– Navigate to the Image search on Google — http://images.google.com
– Drag an image from your desktop to the search field. I used this one:

– As you drag the image into the search bar it changes to indicate that you can drop the image into the search bar.

– Google uploads the image to the search engine and gives you it’s best guess as the search result.

Very cool.

The Buggles Were Right

The Buggles were right, way back in 1979, when they sang that videos killed the radio stars. As a child of the 80’s I can remember watching MTV waiting for the next “cool” new video to come out. Videos drove music sales, not the radio. We may have come full circle…I don’t know of many teens today that sit around and watch music videos, but that’s beside the point. The point is, we shape the tools and the tools shape us.

Social media has changed the way we view and interact with the world around us. From Twitter to Facebook to micro-blogs we have shaped tools that allow us to get information more quickly, more succinctly, and more frequently. Unfortunately, these tools that we have shaped to “help” us are now shaping us…with consequences we have yet to fully know and understand.

There are those vices, those addictions, whose consequences are easy to recognize…especially after years of observation. The smoker faces any number of cancers and/or respiratory illnesses. The gambler faces loss of career, possessions, and even family in some cases. The drug addict faces…well, you get the point. But what about the person who, in a quest to know more, read more, and learn more through the tools that power social media, is spending copious amounts of time in front of his/her computer? What happens to, and in, the person that is addicted to Facebook, Twitter, etc.? Even now psychologists do not how to label this type of addiction, much less how to treat it. With smokers you take away the cigarettes, with gamblers you take away the ability to gamble, and with drug addicts you take away the drugs. But what do you do with social media/computer addicts? Can you take away the computer? What will the person do to communicate (email), to book travel reservations, to do research? I’m being a little facetious, but I think you understand where I’m going with this. The computer has become such an integral part of our lives that it is almost inconceivable to contemplate a life without one.

Several weeks ago I came to the conclusion that it was time to honestly evaluate my use of the computer, and more specifically my use of social media. I loved Twitter and the 500+ people I “followed”. I found it extremely useful to find out more about the city I live in, to track releases of software, to understand more about web design. I loved Facebook…the perfect tool for keeping in touch with friends and family around the world. Flickr, Gowalla, blogs, they all had their use and I was engaged with all of them. I knew that these “tools” were impacting me more than they should when I began to feel that I was going to miss something important if I wasn’t monitoring them. When I worked from home I had Tweetie (my Twitter client) up and running the whole time. I checked email and Facebook from my iPhone right before turning out the lights at night and as soon as I awoke in the morning. It all became too much. Honest evaluation led me to realize that my marriage was suffering, my parenting was suffering, my friendships (now that’s ironic) were suffering. A change had to be made.

Here is a sampling of the changes I’ve made:

  • No computer before the kids leave for school, except to check the weather forecast.
  • No computer from 3PM to 8PM (kids get home at 3PM, go to bed at 8PM).
  • No computer on Sundays (it’s a day of rest and family).
  • I check Facebook no more than 3 times a day (morning, lunch, and bedtime).
  • I dropped the amount of people I’m following on Twitter from 570 (2 months ago) to 182 today. I will probably drop another 80 or so within the next couple of weeks.
  • Dropped my RSS subscriptions (blogs, etc.) down to 68, from well over 100.
  • I only sit down in front of the computer when I have a task to accomplish. Editing a photo, replying to email, filing an expense report, etc. No more pointless browsing and fiddling.

Is social media evil? No. Are these tools evil? No. I think great benefits can come from the use of these tools. But have we as a society jumped head first into something with little consideration for the long term consequences? Yes, I think so. And while my solutions for handling my time on the computer may be a bit extreme for some of you, I would still ask you to consider, honestly, are the tools shaping you, or are you using them effectively?

Things + Applescript + MailActOn

I’m a Mac guy. So if you’re not, this will not be that helpful to you.

I use Things as my task management app. I love it. To-Do items can be tagged, assigned to Areas (that you define yourself), and can be assigned to Projects as well. For my workflow I have Areas such as Personal and CommunityOne. When I start a new CommunityOne project I create a new Project container that holds to-do items for that specific project. Non-project related tasks sit in the more general Area for CommunityOne. This seems to work well for me.

One of the other aspects of Things that I appreciate are the keyboard shortcuts. Anything that allows me to keep my hands on the keyboard without reaching for the mouse is a plus. Command-N creates a new task, Option-Space creates a quick entry task, Shift-Command-N creates a new project…you get the idea.

One specific shortcut is Control-Option-Spacebar which invokes the Quick Entry box, but with Autofill. In practice, say you’re reading an email with a list of things you need to do for a project. You can select/highlight that list in your email, hit Control-Option-Spacebar and the Quick Entry box will pop up with your highlighted selection pasted in the Notes section of the task, with a link to the original email. Pretty smart.

There are times, however, that I simply want to create a new Task based on an email. I don’t need to take the time to highlight a portion of the email. I just want a new task with the subject of the email as the name of the task, with a link to that email. As fate would have it, Things has Applescript support built in. And there are clever Things users that have created scripts to make Things even easier to use. One of the scripts allows Things users to do just was I was looking to do, create a new Task based on an email. There were a couple of small bits that I changed in the script. One, the script originally assigned a tag to the new Task using the senders name. I don’t need that. I just wanted a tag assigned called ’email’. That way I can track all my to-do’s that just pertain to emails. Also, the new Task was created in the Inbox within Things. I hardly ever use the Inbox. But I do use Next quite a bit. So, I changed the script to put my new Task in Next, not the Inbox.

The last piece of the process is invoking the script within Mail to actually create the new Task in Things. To do that I use Mail Act-On. Mail Act-On is a plugin for Apple Mail that allows the user to create Rules and then invoke those rules using keyboard shortcuts. So if type Control-I it colours the email red, for Important. Or if a bill or invoice email arrives I use Control-M to colour the email green, for Money. To create a new Task in Things (with the Title being the email’s subject, and being tagged with ’email’, and being placed in ‘Next’) I created a rule in Mail using Mail Act-On that invokes the Applescript I created anytime I use the shortcut Control-T.

All of this has made the process of reading through emails, deciding which ones required action, and then creating a to-do based on that email, much more streamlined and efficient. If you’re interested in the Applescript you can grab it here: MailToThings

24 Hours with the Kindle

My Kindle arrived yesterday afternoon and I’ve spent the last 24 hours trying it out. The packing was overly simplistic. In fact I was a little surprised…just a standard Amazon cardboard box and a protective liner on the front screen.

After plugging it in and getting a little battery power I began to put it to use. Since I purchased it for myself it was already linked to my Amazon account. In the last 24 hours I’ve ordered 4 books. The purchasing and downloading was straight forward. The Kindle did lock up while downloading the ESV Study Bible. I’m not sure how big the dowload was but it choked and I had to turn the Kindle off and on again to get things back to normal. Other than that minor hiccup everything else has been performed as expected.

Pros:
– Unbelievably easy on the eyes. The E-ink screen is really nice. I had read other reviews and didn’t really believe them, but it is just like looking at the pages of a real book. The screen is the biggest plus for me.
– Easy purchasing capability. You simply choose the Amazon Store from the menu, type the book you want in the search bar and choose Purchase. That’s it. In under 1-2 minutes you have the book on your Kindle and can start reading.
– Bookmarks and Highlights. While you’re reading you simply click the little joystick which starts a highlight, move the joystick right and/or down and then click again to end the highlight. It’s then added to your list of highlights for that book, which can be found under the Menu in the “My Marks” section.

Cons:
– I don’t really care for the keyboard. The buttons have a funny shape with a slightly raised center. It doesn’t feel natural at all. And while I know how to type I felt the need to search for keys instead of intuitively finding them.
– The little joystick seems like it could break easy.
– No backlight. While I appreciate that this greatly improves battery life it would be nice to have.
– Navigation seems to lag a little. As you’re reading if you push down on the joystick it places your cursor at the top of the page. With every downward push of the joystick it moves your cursor down a line, naturally. It just seems to me it could be a little more responsive. I have found myself wanting to touch the screen at the location I wanted to place the cursor.

One other thing I’ve tried, which worked well. I have had a book in PDF form sitting on my computer for quite a while. I emailed the PDF to my Kindle email which converted the PDF to the Kindle format and emailed me back a download link. I downloaded the file, connected my Kindle and simply dropped the PDF in the Documents folder of the Kindle. The PDF is now listed along with my other books for me to read. Pretty cool.

The first 24 hours have been great. I’m looking forward to trying it out in “real-life” scenarios…flights, doctors offices, while driving, etc.

*Full Disclosure: the links to Amazon are through my Affiliate account. Purchases made through my account go towards the projects and work we do through our charity, CommunityOne.

Re-Ignite

Ignite Cardiff is happening again. This time it’s being held at the Wales Millennium Centre on Thursday, October 15th. I think Ignite is a really cool idea. Presenters get 5 minutes, 15 slides, 15 seconds per slide to talk about anything they want…although there is a “no self promotion” rule.

Unfortunately I’m unable to attend this year since I’m in the States. If you’re in or around Cardiff you should make plans to attend. Here are two links for you. The first is to the official Ignite Cardiff info page, through Cardiff Web Scene, and the second is my short review of Ignite Cardiff #2.

Enjoy.

Ignite Cardiff Details
Ignite Cardiff #2 – A Review

The Sixth Sense

Imagine doing your grocery shopping with a device that allows you to see if the toilet paper you’re about to purchase was manufactured in an environmentally friendly way. Or imagine walking up to someone on the street and within seconds of meeting the person you know his background, where he works, where he lives, what groups he belongs to. Pattie Maes from MIT thinks it’s possible. She demoed such a device at TED. Enjoy.

 

Flip Test

I recently purchased a Flip Mino HD. Overall I’ve been really impressed with the camera. It’s dead simple to use, small enough to fit in your pocket, and provides very good picture quality. The one downside would be image stabilization. Because of the small size and light weight of the camera it can be difficult to keep still while recording. And forget about walking while shooting and getting a still picture. Another small gripe is that the FlipShare software, while allowing simple uploading to YouTube, it doesn’t allow for the uploading of HD video.

Here’s a short clip (50 seconds) of the view from the back of our house. Don’t forget to watch it in HD.

Geek is the New Rock

…at least that’s what I was told last night at Ignite Cardiff. It’s hard to describe exactly what Ignite is or who it’s aimed at, but let me briefly try to explain.

Basically, a presenter is given 5 minutes, 20 slides at 15 seconds per slide, and can talk about anything they want. Last night there were 11 presenters with topics ranging from the truly geek (“Drupal”) to the truly philosophical (“Change”).

The crowd was predominantly male with an average age in the mid-30’s. I would also suspect that the majority of people in the crowd had some interest, either hobby or work, in web technologies, design, social media, etc.

A couple of highlights:

  • Pete Prior talked about how he’s tagged his cats with an RFID collar and now knows when they leave the house. You can follow his cats movements on Twitter.
  • Lloyd Morgan talked about the psychology of wine. Don’t order the second cheapest bottle of wine on the menu. It’s been marked up the most.
  • Rob May gave us all a plan for retreating to Cardiff Castle should zombies attack the city.

All in all it was a good night. I’m looking forward to the next Ignite Cardiff. Thanks to Cardiff Web Scene, Nocci, and Lonely Planet for putting on the event.

Ignite

I think this is pretty cool: http://ignite.oreilly.com/

I’ll be attending Ignite Cardiff. http://www.cardiffwebscene.com/events/ignite-cardiff-2

Cheers.