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Which IM network do you prefer?

5 Oct

I realize that many/most of you may have multi-network IM clients, but if you had to use only one IM network, and all your contacts (that you want) would also choose the same one, which would it be? If you vote for “other”, please add a comment about the one you prefer.

[poll id=”4″]

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Amazon MP3 Downloads

20 Feb

This may be old news to many, but I discovered Amazon MP3 downloads and it’s been a nice alternative to itunes. MP3 files are so much easier to deal with than the DRM ridden itunes format.

Gizmo Project

13 Nov

I’ve been using Gizmo to make voice-over-ip calls for many months now, and I’ve been extremely pleased with it. They have clients for Linux, Mac & Windows, and the call quality has been outstanding when both ends have broadband.

I picked up an inexpensive Plantronics headset with attached microphone which makes extended conversations while working at a computer a joy. Gizmo call quality is to POTS call quality as stereo is to clock radio. I highly recommend checking it out.

del.icio.us Tag Bundling

3 Nov

I’ve written about del.icio.us several times before (use the search box to find the articles). I’ve been using the service for quite a while and still consider it to be one of the most valuable web services I use.

I just discovered the tag bundling feature from this article and tried it out. Tag bundling, as you might expect, allows you to group your tags. For example, my first bundle was “people”, so now I can see all my people tags in one group. I’ll be adding more bundles soon.

If you’re not using del.icio.us, you should really check it out. And if you, are and don’t know about tag bundling, give it a shot.

del.icio.us makes it easy to share tags – for example, here’s a link for my bookmarks on the Ruby programming language. I haven’t discovered a similar way for sharing bundles, so if you know, please leave a comment.

Social Bookmarking

7 Aug

Here’s a video that explains why using a site such as del.icio.us can be useful. I think they may have failed to mention that you can mark bookmarks as private on del.icio.us, so it’s not necessary to expose your bookmarks to the world. However, in my case, I only mark a small fraction as private.

I’ve been using del.icio.us for quite some time. After I had been using it for a while, I realized that it had been a long time since I bookmarked something in my browser because I had developed a habit of bookmarking in del.icio.us. Most browsers force you into placing a bookmark into a hierarchical, or directory, structure, but on del.icio.us you can assign as many “tags” as you like to a particular bookmark so you can search for things more easily. del.icio.us also allows you to export your bookmarks so you aren’t at the mercy of a proprietary service.

Another thing that is handy is to subscribe to the del.icio.us feeds of your friends to be automatically notified when they bookmark something that may be of interest.

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂 The bottom line is that it’s an excellent service to use on your computer, but skip the mobile phone version.