Adding old writings to this blog

 

I’ve been online for a few years, as have many of you, but haven’t really kept a blog ever, until recently.

Most of what I wrote is in forums I was a part of. Some posts were only valuable there, but others were good even outside of them.

The fact that some of those places have gone offline, or may go offline, worries me. I wouldn’t like to lose those writings.

So I decided to start going back to them and see what I can rescue as a post here, where they’ll be under my control.

I’ll post them here with their original dates. Because of that, they won’t be obvious at the top of the homepage, but they’ll be there in the archives.

Eventually, I’ll organize them with tags and they should be easy to find.

Have you ever done something like this?

LastPass passwords manager

 

You know, I’ve always disliked this kind of software or sevice. Never trusted it.

One time I decided I’d try an app to do it, installed it, got a few accounts in there. It crapped out on me a couple of days later and the logins were lost into bit barf.

Never used another password manager again after that.

I’ve been writing down my logins in paper, and had that in a safe place since. Is it the safest way? No, but it’s worked for me the past several years. I always find them back when I’ve needed them so far.

Not long ago, after I started some internet projects that required tons of new accounts in several services spread across the web, it started being a pain and I thought I’d give password managers a new look.

Well, there was Roboform which was quite recommended, but it cost money and I wasn’t really interested. It’s been my experience that I should search for a while before a purchase, so I kept looking for options.

And I found a pretty good one. Yeah, I know you figured out which one… LastPass.

They named it like that cause it’s supposed to be the last password you’ll need to remember, the one to the account you have with them.

Well, I still remember many, many of the other ones I use, but I haven’t had to remember them if I didn’t want to, cause LastPass has been pretty good at what it was supposed to do.

My concern has still been to have something crappy happen like before, where I end up losing what I had saved. Well, I didn’t stop writing down the passwords in my usual place, but LastPass has saved me plenty of time every time I need to login, let me tell you.

Is my info secure with them? Well, I read a lot about that and I got quite confident that it will be, and it has been. I haven’t heard about bad experiences so far. From what I read, the info is encrypted in a way they themselves can’t read it, only you after you login can get it unscrambled.

I decided to believe them and I’ve been happy so far and thought I’d share this too.

Oh, and it’s free, too, unless you go advanced with features I don’t remember. Free has plenty, does all I need and a bit more. You can read more about the service in their website, go inform yourself well before you make this decision, like I did.

I’m just sharing that I’ve had a good experience so far hoping you’d find it valuable and make your work a bit easier.

Autosave while you write

 

I just read my friend Gary lost a 400 word write-up he copied, but forgot to paste, so I thought I’d share something I do to add an extra layer of security when I write long things that I wouldn’t want to lose by mistake, power outage, etc.

I simply open up my Gmail account, hit the “Compose Mail” link and start typing in the email body box. I use this even if what I’m writing is not an email, but a post or article that’ll go somewhere else. I’m actually writing this post in a Gmail draft.

I use Gmail because it has this nice auto-save feature that will keep a copy of my work in the Drafts folder for me.

I also have the habit of hitting Ctrl+S to save often, which works in Gmail too, but I have this habit from before with any editor software I use.

I don’t use Google Docs much, so I’m not sure if text documents have the same autosave feature there, but it’s most likely. So this tip is probably not very useful for Docs users. :P

Be less distracted, more productive

 

I’ve found myself having this problem over and over: distraction.

Aside from the offline ones, I’ll focus on the online ones for now.

It just amazes me sometimes how late it already got and how little progress I made in my to-do list. It’s not just amazing, but sad, and costly. And I yet have all those things pending! So I’d also say: frustrating.

Where did that time go? Well, most I don’t know, somehow it just vanished. Many times I’m fully aware, and it usually boils down to distracting things I have at my fingertips, almost in front of my eyes, most of the time.

Things like Facebook, Gmail, YouTube, StumbleUpon, Digg, Instructables (those last two not so much lately), etc. Facebook is a big one, since it doesn’t just show you the contact’s activities, but also all those pages one “likes” and keep posting new, interesting, damned articles.

Well, I kinda fixed the Facebook thing and Gmail lately, a bit.

Gmail I’m not opening every single email anymore now, and I’m not labeling everything, either, creating filters or organizing the arriving messages anymore. I just:

  1. Quickly glance the inbox’ top.
  2. Delete all the uninteresting or irrelevant ones immediately.
  3. Delete Facebook notifications (I’ll be shown those over there when I visit, anyway).
  4. Open the important ones and reply if necessary.
  5. Ignore the rest, leaving it unread in the inbox.

It’s worked OK so far, have been checking email much faster now. Yet, I go back to that inbox all too often, so now I decided to not keep that tab open all the time and, instead, visit it in two or three times a day only. Now I just have to do it. :P

Facebook has been a bit more challenging, it still takes too much time. Some days I just opt for not even going to the Newsfeed. I still go to the Internet Marketing Super Friends group daily, usually straight from the bookmark.

Despite the lack of visits, I still find myself wanting to see every single item in the News Feed sorted by Most Recent when I do spend time there. The last couple times I did make it faster browsing similar to Gmail.

  1. Ignore most new connections of friends with others I don’t recognize immediately from the picture or name.
  2. If I recognize someone, I may request to connect myself, but that rarely happens now.
  3. I try to just browser the feed fast and if I see anything interesting, open it in a new tab (the post time is the permalink to the post).
  4. Get as fast as possible to the point where I left last time.
  5. Go to the tabs I opened, read and close them one by one. Whatever I’ll do with them, I try to do quick: comment, share, bookmark; and if I don’t see an immediate use, I’m trying to close even without fully reading.
  6. Important not to leave them for later cause they tend to stay there for days.

Another thing that helps browse the News Feed faster is to have every contact and page organized in a few focused lists that you can then filter your News Feed by for a quick, on-topic browsing. I find that the most time consuming ones are the pages with too many interesting articles almost daily. But browsing by topic actually makes it faster than jumping from one thing to the next randomly. I have to add that the list filters don’t work very well and sometimes mixes updates from seemingly random contacts not in the list.

And yet another thing that’s great to remove stuff from the News Feed is to hide the application notifications, e.g. FarmVille, Mafia Wars, Horoscopes, etc., caused by friends that use them. Hover over the top-right corner of the notification and you’ll see a “hide” button appear. Click it and you’ll be presented with three options: click the middle one to hide that app in the feed. Voila! Do this with every app you see show up there, that you don’t care about, and you’ll cut down the browsing time considerably.

I’ve just installed RescueTime to log what I do and see if I finally notice where the rest of the hours went. Even if they are spent on things that I’m aware of, I’m sure that I’ll be able to optimize best if I know where it’ll pay off most.

A while ago I read a nice article by Paul Graham on distractions. His solution is very nice, but I’m afraid that I don’t have a second computer to do it myself, but I try to come close with what I have.

What I’m going to try starting today is to keep my browser open for work only (during work time) and close it when not in use. I find that having it minimized just begs to bring it to the front too often, usually with an array of open tabs that are way too distracting. Most of my work is web related, so I can’t just not use the browser, but I can keep only the production pages open. And close everything else. Close the browser when not in use.

Another big one is chats. I used to have Trillian open all the time, with all the MSN, AOL, Yahoo! and ICQ chats online. I don’t have that many contacts, but those I have are very nice to chat with usually. That made them worse! Chats started dwindling with the years, but the best was to simple not start the chats at all. Went to edit the Windows startup programs and got the chat ones out.

Well, let’s see how these changes I just made today do make a difference in how much I get done a day.

Post a comment on how this helps you or what you can suggest me to do to improve what I’m doing! :)

Edited to add the procedure to hide Facebook apps notifications from the News Feed. I just taught my wife how to do it and realized I missed including it here.

The Drifters

 

This is a group of japanese comedians that I enjoy a lot. They’re not new, started in the late 60s and were popular until the mid-80s, when only a couple of its members continued. One of them actually still has his own TV show.

Here’s the Wikipedia page that tells a bit about them:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Drifters_(Japanese_band)

The Drifters

And if you’re curious, you may want to watch some of their clips available on YouTube. You don’t really need to know Japanese to understand their jokes, most of them are easy to figure out just from what you see. Or is it because I’ve gotten used to Japanese already? Anyway, check them out. :)

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%E3%83%89%E3%83%AA%E3%83%95

Well, this was a rather short post, but I guess that it’s alright. If I don’t have to make them long, I may post more often. :P

More efficient blogging and social networking

I’ve been trying to be on the ball with the social networks and it is time consuming…

I don’t even use that many. I can say I only really use Facebook, Flickr and YouTube, and I’ve only ever posted something to the first two.

I do want to post more, and I do want to network more, but I realize that a lot of the posting would be repetitive.

Like, photos I post to the blog should or could go in Flickr, Facebook, Picasa and be tweeted as well. So could a link I found interesting go in my Twitter account, my blog or Facebook wall. A post I make in this blog should at least be mentioned in Facebook and Twitter to make it known to contacts in those networks. Videos would go in YouTube, my blog and Facebook. And so on and so forth…

The point is this, it can be done as it is, by hand and going to every service and repeating the posts in each, but it’s a pain and very time consuming, too. I’ll look into automating this stuff. I’m pretty sure there must be WordPress plugins that allow one to post whatever one writes in the blog, in the social networks one has accounts with. If not, there should be someone developing it now!

I found a web browser that supposedly integrates a few of these things, named Flock. I came across it while browsing Flickr, when I noticed a legend that said something like “posted with Flock” or some such. I downloaded it, installed and tried it. It is okay. I can’t say I managed to streamline any of the posting, though.

The option to configure a self-hosted blog seems to have a problem, because I entered the login data and it didn’t work no matter how many times I tried. The del.icio.us account never got saved, even after several logouts and ins to allow the browser saving the login data. No success. So live bookmarks didn’t work. Although I’ve told it to keep me logged in to the services, I keep having to login. So, it’s a work in progress, but it has one redeeming feature: the Media Bar!

I love the Media Bar! I find it very helpful to browse very fast through the media streams of my contacts. It allowed me to go over years of photos of some of my Flickr contacts in a matter of a couple of sessions. I had stopped following them because of how time consuming it was, but now it’s simpler. It’s nothing that couldn’t get done with a webpage using frames, etc., but I had not done something like that or found such a thing yet, so this was nice. Same thing with Facebook’s friends as well as other things that may have media streams, like a YouTube search, for example.

The only problem I have with it is that sometimes I get the feeling the stuff is not always date ordered, and that if I refresh or close/open the bar, the stream goes back to the beginning and I have no way of going back to a very old photo without scrolling several “pages” of media in the bar until I get to where I was, and I noticed the media is a bit different from the previous time, which made me wonder about the randomness mentioned before. But I still like this feature despite it needing a bit more work.

I was hoping to find a Firefox extension that created this media bar, but I didn’t find it. I hope someone develops it. But I also hope Firefox didn’t have the RAM issues it has…

Anyway, for those blogging and socializing online that may have the same issues I mention here, I will post new findings on this topic in the future, because I plan to work them out. I want to make good use of these communication lines, but in the most efficient way possible.

Online color tools and resources

Well, finallly a third post here! I keep thinking I have to have a good topic to talk a long while about for each post, but I guess shorter ones are okay too. I doubt I’ll manage to microblog (e.g. Twitter) though. :)

Yesterday I was looking for a color while designing a book cover, and needed to find a good color to complement the one I was using in the title. I had used some great color tools in the past, free online resources that have saved me trouble when working on website templates, but couldn’t remember their URLs. I have always relied on the search engines to find them.

Well, yesterday, rather than arriving at one of the tools I already knew, I got to a new (at least for me) website that I thought was very nice and did a great job: Color Hunter.

It helps you create and find color palettes made from images. I had seen other tools do just that, but for some reason, I really liked this one. I wasn’t generating a palette for this task, though, but it was still helpful because searching the color returned the palettes that website had generated from Flickr photos which had that color.

Now, that is just a new find, I’ve been using another great website I had found in the past to deal with colors is Colour Lovers. It has been a great source of inspiration and solutions in this subject.

This website features collections of palettes and also background patterns, created by its users. Sometimes they are very nice, sometimes not really, but its still a very cool resource to use when dealing with colors.

I like that it also has a section that deals with websites and magazine covers to check palette trends, as well as a tool to create palettes.  It is much more than that, too. It features a community of: color lovers, what do you know :D. Think of it as a Flickr for colors, kind of.

Now, one more tip for those dealing in colors. Sometimes I need to know what the value of a color in an image or website is and I could take a screenshot or just copy the image and then open it up with PhotoShop and use its color picker tool. There is a problem with that: it takes a lot of steps to do something that should be quite simple.

Enter Firefox‘ add-on ColorZilla. This thing makes it very simple to pick any color being displayed in the browser. Its just is as simple as PhotoShop’s, so there is hardly a learning courve. I love saving myself all the steps I needed to go through before, including having to launch the damn application which gets heavier with every release.

I guess that’s enough for this post. Now that I mentioned the Firefox Add-on, I felt tempted to start listing other graphics related add-ons I find helpful, but I’ll restrain myself for the time being and probably take them on in a future post.

Hopefully you found this information useful.

Comment and share!

First thoughts on Picasa

Well, I haven’t been posting in this blog as often as I’ve thought, although I write a lot of drafts in my head during the day and I never get them past the editor… Oh well, on with this one or it’ll get filed away as a mental draft too.

I think I want to talk about Google’s Picasa. I’ve installed it two or three days ago and I have been very pleased with it. It did take a bit of hard drive space, as I feared, but I guess I will live with it for the time being. What I really ought to do is back up all the stuff in my computer, making plenty of free space and stop worries about that.

For those that don’t know what Picasa is yet (I didn’t know much about it until recently), go to Picasa’s homepage and read about it. Also, there are a couple videos posted by Google in YouTube, which cover version 3 and 3.5:

I haven’t explored all the features yet, so far I wanted it to organize my photos. To my surprise, it also takes care of videos, which will probably make me shoot videos a lot more now, knowing they’ll be as easy to manage as photos.

I like the scrolling, which feels smooth like the iPod Touch’s, and the thumbnails don’t lag like Windows Explorer. Selecting photos is simple, with several options like ctrl-click to add individual items to a selection, or shift-click for a range, as well as selecting areas. Batch actions aren’t complicated either, drag-and-drop makes some actions pretty fast and intuitive.

I love how you can filter photos by album, people, keywords, and then only work on the matching set of files, combined with the features mentioned above.

Like I said, I didn’t particularly explore the features set, like editing or uploading yet. I did find that you can add more features like uploading not only to YouTube or Picasa’s Albums, but also to other services like Facebook or Flickr, with the proper plug-ins (or whatever they are called in Picasa). I imagine there are some for other web apps, like WordPress, which I could do a quick search for, but am lazy at the moment.

The feature that I liked the most, organization-wise, has been people tagging. You can name the people in your pictures and then use those tags to filter the photos down to the set of individuals in them. Like a certain photos folder and then clicking on your kids face, will show just the photos in that folder where your kids were tagged. Pretty nifty when you have tons of pictures and you need to find the one you want to share.

This comes with a little disadvantage, though, you have to tag them. Picasa simplifies it to a certain extent, though. Right after adding the photos to the application, it’ll scan them to find faces. It does a pretty decent job, but it’s still far from perfect. It’ll find faces of people, but also faces in pictures inside the picture, like the ones on the shelf at the back or a street ad poster; statues will also be picked some times. At the same time, several pretty obvious faces will be ignored, and some not-so-obvious ones as well. In other words, if you want to do a complete job, you will have to go through each picture and add manually the missing people.

Anyway, after it scanned the pictures and found some faces, it will attempt to group them by person. It displays them in an “unnamed people” group where you’ll proceed to name the groupings. It’s a good way to save some time, although you’ll later have to go to each person’s set of faces and confirm they are all correct, because you can’t preview what Picasa grouped as a same person (not that I found how) and will only find out after you named him/her. You can batch confirm they are right or not, you can also move wrong picks under their right name quite easily.

To make things simpler, if you have a Gmail account, you should log in to it from Picasa and it will pull your contacts list. This will give you a drop-down list of options under the field where you name each person, making the process much faster: type the first letters and then arrow-down and enter, or click on the right name. If the name is not in the list, just finish typing it and press enter, you’ll be prompted a box where you can create a new person and it will later show in your options list too.

People tagging is great, but very time consuming, so either you not do it at all, or you half do it but I don’t see the point then, or you do it fully spending tons of time to it. First thing, then would be to decide whether you really need it or want it, and if so, don’t try to finish in one go unless you love looking at pictures and typing for hours on end and have nothing else to do. What I am doing is spending a bit of time each day, trying to complete a full folder of photos at a time, and making progress in order so I don’t skip one set by mistake. If I continue, I will eventually finish some day.

I haven’t checked if you can export all this tagging with the pictures once you back them up in a disk, but if Picasa doesn’t do this yet, I’m quite sure it will get implemented in the future, or so I hope. After all, this just seems to be the first version with the people feature, so it can only improve.

As I try new things and have more to share, I may post them here.

Share this post, comment on it, please participate! That will keep me motivated to do more. :)

Getting started with this blog thing

 

I finally get this blog going.

I’ve been pondering about doing this for years. Probably the first time I wondered about setting one up was around the time Blogger started and I learned what a blog even was. I did try a couple of times in the past , but I never really got around to do it. I guess it was a mixture of a couple of things, or maybe more.

One reason for not doing it certainly was wanting to have it perfect from the beginning. Well, this has never, ever worked for me. It just ends in never doing the thing, and I’m not just talking blog here. I have tons and tons of things I’ve thought of doing and never made them happen because I can find every single flaw before even starting them and I become my worst critic. Well, critics have never been really helpful to creative people and this is a double-faced game I’ve played with myself for too long.

Another reason for never starting the blog so far probably is that I don’t think many people would find what I write interesting. Well, after reading quite a lot of things posted around the web, I’ve realized that my ideas or things I come up with in my mind to talk about, are pretty good and have nothing to envy from others. I hate myself when I find others saying things I just thought of saying years before, but didn’t come out and say them. It is a pity I didn’t express them when they happened. I will try to fix this bad habit of mine. I hope you will find the things I say of some use and my writing a interesting read.

There is also the fact that I like my privacy, and I’ve thought that most of what I have to say has private things I don’t want to share. Well, that is true to an extent, but it shouldn’t stop me from saying those things that I could share without a problem. There’s this thing about posting something in a blog that is a bit intimidating: being exposed to the world wide web. Well, I’ve noticed that it isn’t that good to hide all the time and communicating more is fun once you get the hang of it. That doesn’t mean I will use this blog and its readership as a therapy to vent stuff. I will be a bit picky about what I write, but I’ll try to find things I feel I can write about and actually do it often.

You may see things moving around in this website, especially in its first months, until I have something I’m pretty happy with and see is working fine.

Well, I’ll leave this post here. Thanks for reading. Come back soon!