Archive | July, 2007

Google Reader

30 Jul

I hate to promote Google given their trajectory to take over the world, but I just switched over to Google Reader for reading RSS feeds. I had accumulated over 60 RSS feeds, and it was becoming difficult for me to determine which feeds I should keep and which I should delete.

I was hoping for an automated tool that would keep track of which feeds are beneficial and Google Reader has exactly what I was looking for!

The trends feature will keep track of which articles I read from each feed and report on the total number and the percent. So, over time, I’ll be able to easily delete the feeds that have a low number and/or low percentage of read articles. If you decide to use Google Reader, you should be aware of some idiosyncrasies. When viewing in “Expanded view”, the default is to mark articles as read when you scroll past them which totally defeats the trends feature. You can turn that off in the settings.

settings | preferences | scroll tracking

I like using the “list view” instead which allows me to quickly view the titles. After I’ve read the articles I want to from a feed, I click “mark all as read” and Google Reader is smart enough to not count those in the “read” statistics.

If you’re already using a different RSS reader, you can easily import all your feeds via an opml file. I was using Liferea and had folders of feeds, and I had also renamed the feeds – the import to Google Reader kept track of all of that – nice.

Google Reader has a lot of other nice features such as keyboard shortcuts, tags, folders, etc., but once I discovered the trends feature, that was all I needed to see ๐Ÿ™‚

I suppose the trends feature can be “unfair” though. Consider the following scenario:

  1. You have two feeds A and B
  2. Each day each feed publishes 10 articles
  3. The feeds overlap on 5 articles that are worth reading
  4. Feed A has 1 unique article that you read
  5. Feed B has 3 unique articles that you read

If the feeds are read in alphabetical order, then you’ll read the 5 overlapped articles from Feed A along with the 1 unique article -> total = 6, or 60%. Then you’ll read the 3 unique articles from Feed B -> total = 3, or 30%. The stats will show Feed A as being twice as valuable when clearly Feed B is more valuable. I suppose to get good stats, I should read the feeds in random order, but that seems difficult to manage.

UPDATE: ah, never mind. Simply view the folder that contains A & B and you’ll see the union of their articles in chronological order – whoever gets the overlapped story first wins ๐Ÿ™‚

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Truncated RSS Feeds

28 Jul

I just read an article discussing whether truncated RSS feeds are good or bad. I’m currently using truncated feeds (of course this post may be short enough to not get truncated), but if any of you have an opinion on the matter, I’d love to hear it.

Adblock Plus

23 Jul

Facebook.com just ran an ad that was quite offensive to me. I should’ve taken Scott Moonen’s advice from his blog earlier, but better late than never. He has simple instructions for installing Adblock on his blog. Check it out and get rid of ads!

Gizmo Project – Free Long Distance

21 Jul

I’ve been using Gizmo Project to make free long distance calls for several months, and I’ve been extremely pleased with the service. To start with, it’s free, so that’s a good thing. Gizmo runs on Linux, Mac OSX and Windows. The sound quality is unbelievably good – much better than a land line or mobile phone (think stereo vs. cheap clock radio).

I bought a ~$30 Plantronics headset for handsfree talking. It’s small enough to throw in my laptop bag, so I can make VOIP calls wherever I have a wifi connection. I used the Debian package to install on my Ubuntu 7.04 system and it was a piece of cake to get running.

If any of you signup, send me an email with your account name and I’ll add you to my contact list.

However, Gizmo just did something that really ticked me off!

I discovered they had a version for Palm devices (Palm Treo 650 in my particular case), so naturally I got all excited about the prospect of making free calls from my mobile phone without using any minutes from my voice plan. Well, after spending time downloading 5 files and installing them on my Treo, I eventually realized that the Gizmo version for Palm devices is a complete waste of time – it’s only good for chat.

So how did I get this wrong? Well, let’s see, maybe it was the prominent statement on the Palm info page that stated:

Now you can instant message, call and view your Gizmo Project, AIM, MSN, Yahoo, iChat and Jabber buddies on your Treo for FREE. Download Now!

Call Gizmo buddies right from the application.

That sounds pretty clear. Well, I read the FAQ just to make sure. There was an obscure quote stating, “calls made using Gizmo for Treo use the data network connection or your phone’s data plan and not the Gizmo VoIP network”, but that was in a question about calling out to land lines, so I thought it was a peculiarity with calling out to a land line from the VOIP network, and the fact that they specifically stated “phone’s data plan” let me to believe it actually used the data plan as opposed to the voice plan. The former is unlimited; the latter is not.

Judging from comments on the forums, I’m not the only one that was duped into installing it on their phone. I tried to give them feedback on the forum, but after I spent a fair amount of time typing my message, when I submitted it, I received the following:

Error in posting

DEBUG MODE

SQL Error : 1064 You have an error in your SQL syntax; check the manual that corresponds to your MySQL server version for the right syntax to use near ‘ 1185051488, 16, 0, 0, 0)’ at line 1

INSERT INTO phpbb_topics (topic_title, topic_poster, topic_time, forum_id, topic_status, topic_type, topic_vote) VALUES (‘Chat only – what a waste!’, , 1185051488, 16, 0, 0, 0)
Line : 258
File : functions_post.php

So I had to vent on my blog instead. Ok, I feel better now ๐Ÿ™‚ The bottom line is that it’s an excellent service to use on your computer, but skip the mobile phone version.

Best seats to survive a plane crash.

21 Jul

Plane wreck

MYTH: It Doesn’t Matter Where You Sit

“It’s like a lottery to pick your seat.”
-Nora Marshall, passenger survival expert, National Transportation Safety Board

“One seat is as safe as the other.”
-Boeing Web site

“It’s an age-old question. There’s just no way to say.”
-Federal Aviation Administration spokesman

“There is no safest seat.”
-airsafe.com

REALITY: It’s Safer In the Back.

The funny thing about all those expert opinions: They’re not really based on hard data about actual airline accidents. A look at real-world crash stats, however, suggests that the farther back you sit, the better your odds of survival. Passengers near the tail of a plane are about 40 percent more likely to survive a crash than those in the first few rows up front.

Popular Mechanics article

Oregon Man Flies 193 Miles In Lawn Chair

11 Jul

I learned about this lawn chair flight from Matt Promise’s blog.

Balloons suspend Kent Couch in a lawn chair as he floats in the skies near Bend, Ore., Saturday, July 7, 2007. Couch, on his way to Idaho, carried a global positioning system device, a two-way radio, a digital camcorder and a cell phone. He also had instruments to measure his altitude and speed and about four plastic bags holding five gallons of water each to act as a ballast, he could turn a spigot, release water and rise.

Couch is the latest American to emulate Larry Walters รขโ‚ฌโ€ who in 1982 rose three miles above Los Angeles in a lawn chair lifted by balloons. Walters had surprised an airline pilot, who radioed the control tower that he had just passed a guy in a lawn chair.

Here is an article on Fox News.