KP’s Computer Counsel

January 24, 2009

~ Welcome to KPCC ~

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kiwi Polemicist @ 12:41 pm

By popular demand (well, there was at least one request) this blog was started with the intention of giving practical computing advice.

Here’s what I believe makes this blog unique:

Click here to continue reading…

August 24, 2009

• Firefox Plugins: ten of my favorites

Filed under: Internet, Online backup — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Kiwi Polemicist @ 1:45 pm

Firefox is my preferred web browser and one of its great features is the ability to add plugins, which are small pieces of free software that customise your Firefox and extend its abilities in order to make browsing easier and faster for you. There are thousands of plugins available, so you’re not spoilt for choice. Here’s ten of my favourites…

1-> Down Them All

Down Them All is a download manager and accelerator. One of my favourite features is the ability to go to a web page that has a list of downloadable MP3 files and download them all with a few mouse clicks (it works with any file type).

If you regularly download files to a particular location (e.g. Desktop) the One Click feature makes this very fast.

2-> Xmarks (formerly Foxmarks)

(Xmarks is also available for Internet Explorer and Safari)

I have 3,000 bookmarks and if I lost them it would be effectively impossible to replace them, so I use Xmarks which gives me an automatic off site backup of my bookmarks.

You can view your bookmarks on any computer that has an internet connection, so if you’re visiting a friend you can give her the address of the website that you’re discussing right away, rather than trying to remember to email it when you get home. You can add and edit bookmarks when you’re away from home; again, this is much faster and easier than emailing links to yourself.

Xmarks has mobile access (for cellphones), which is also good if you’ve got a slow internet connection at home.

If you use more than one computer Xmarks will synchronise your bookmarks across them, and if you want only some of your bookmarks to go to your work computer the Profiles feature covers that.

The Share feature could be useful for couples who have more than one computer. This is from the Xmarks site:

Sharing [bookmarks] folders allows your friends to view their contents. You may choose whether to include subfolders, or just immediate contents. When you share a folder, we provide you with:

• a link to a web page that displays its contents,

• an RSS feed

• and a widget that you can put on your blog or website.

Changes to shared folders contents will show up within 30 minutes. You may stop sharing a folder at any time.

If you use the Firefox Saved Passwords feature (which automatically fills in the log in details, address details, etc. when you go to a website) Xmarks will also back up those passwords and encrypt them. For security reasons Xmarks requires you to turn on this feature manually.

When I go to the Xmarks site and view my bookmarks and I can do much more with them than I can when using the Firefox bookmarks library.

3-> Net Notes

Net Notes lets you write a note or memo about a website (e.g. your thoughts about an article) and this is stored in the Description field of your bookmarks. Doing it this way is much, much faster than doing the same via the Firefox bookmarks library.

If you also use Xmarks (see above) your notes will be backed up off site and when you view your bookmarks on the Xmarks site you can search the notes that you’ve written. E.g., if you want to find a website and can only remember writing a note that said “This author is a plonker” you can go to Xmarks and search for “plonker”. This is not possible in the Firefox bookmarks library unless you can find or write an appropriate plugin.

4-> Update Scanner

Update Scanner lets you monitor websites that don’t have Atom or RSS feeds. Scanning web sites for updates can be done automatically or manually. When a web page is updated you’ll get a notification (with clickable link) and the new text will be highlighted in yellow: brilliant.

5-> Plain Text To Link

With Plain Text To Link you can open links written in plain text (i.e. they’re not clickable) by highlighting the link and doing a right click to open it.

You can also select a portion of text on a web page and save it as a text (.txt) file.

6-> IE Tab

When you use Firefox you’ll occasionally find a web site that won’t work properly, because the person who designed the web page forgot that Firefox has a 22% market share and made a site that only works with Internet Explorer. IE Tab lets you use those websites without actually opening Internet Explorer.

To switch a tab to IE mode use the right click menu or the Firefox icon at the bottom of Firefox. Right click on a link to open a new tab in IE mode.

7-> Classic Compact

Classic Compact is a theme, a type of plugin that alters the appearance of Firefox. I like Classic Compact because it maximises the area available for viewing web pages whilst also giving a clear interface that’s easy on the eye (the interface is the clickable buttons, scroll bars, etc.).

8-> Clippings

Clippings saves frequently-entered text for pasting later, reducing repetitive typing. There are import/export and hot key options, as well as a Thunderbird version.

9-> Video DownloadHelper

DownloadHelper is a tool for web content extraction. Its purpose is to capture video and image files from many sites.

Just surf the Web as you are used to, when DownloadHelper detects it can do something for you, the icon gets animated and a menu allows you to download files by simply clicking an item.

I’ve used this to download You Tube videos for people who have a slow internet connection, and it’s good for viewing the same on a second computer that isn’t connected to the internet. Click here to read more about Video DownloadHelper.

10-> Split Browser

Split Browser lets you, well, split your browser. This lets you have two or more Firefox panes all visible at the same time – much like having two or more tabs visible at the same time – so you can compare, copy, multitask, etc.. This plugin has numerous features including horizontal and vertical scroll lock.

The basic operation of Split Browser is simple but you’ll be rewarded if you have a play around and see what it can do. E.g., you can drag a link to any edge of the screen to open that link in a new pane. In that new pane you can drag a link to the title bar to open it in a new tab.

Split Browser won’t work if you have the Zotero plugin enabled, and vice versa.

~~~~~

Nearly all plugins have options: to access these click Tools>Add-ons, then the relevant plugin. You can learn a lot about a plugin by looking at its options.

Finally, if you don’t like the way that the bookmarks work in Firefox 3.x, check out this, this, and this.

What are your favourite Firefox plugins?

February 13, 2009

Synchronise and back up bookmarks with Foxmarks

foxmarks-multi-browser-21 Bookmarks/favorites in your browser are valuable because you’ve spent time finding those websites and you can never get that time back (you can only spend time once); if you lose your bookmarks the time spent finding those websites is effectively lost. Foxmarks saves you from having to remember to back up your bookmarks and does much more besides.

How Foxmarks helps you depends on your situation:

1) If you’ve got one computer it will back up your bookmarks to the Foxmarks servers (your bookmarks are stored on the internet) and you can access them from any computer that has internet access. Thus, if you’re visiting a friend you can show him that website that you found yesterday.

2) If you have more than one computer Foxmarks will back up and synchronise the bookmarks from all the browsers on all the computers*. A master list of all your bookmarks from all your browsers is visible at http://my.foxmarks.com/, and the profiles feature controls which bookmarks appear on which computer, helping you avoid the embarrassment of having marital advice websites appear on your work computer.

Other features:

  • it’s free, which is pretty amazing
  • the software is basically set-and-forget: your bookmarks are backed up and synchronised automatically if you set Foxmarks to do so. You can do a manual back up and synchronise at any time
  • your bookmarks are normally visible at http://my.foxmarks.com/, but going to http://my.foxmarks.com/mobile will give you a version that’s good for slow connections and cellphones
  • you can edit your bookmarks at http://my.foxmarks.com/ and send the changes to your various computers and browsers
  • the bookmarks appear in the same order in each browser, reducing confusion
  • Foxmarks will also back up and synchronise your saved passwords if you so desire: I haven’t tested this feature
  • there are several ways of sharing your bookmarks at http://my.foxmarks.com/
  • at http://my.foxmarks.com/ you can import and export bookmarks
  • a good level of user control, including an overwrite option

I’ve been using Foxmarks lately and now I wouldn’t be without it. The only real problem I found was the “suggested tags” feature which automatically suggests tags/labels for Firefox bookmarks: it was very slow and the suggested tags didn’t suit me so I turned off the feature.

What are your experiences of Foxmarks and how do you use it?

**********

* Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer are supported; there are versions for Windows, Macs, and Penguin People. Click here for full details. Chrome support is on the way.

February 1, 2009

What are the actual sizes of LCD monitors (computer screens)?

If a screen is said to be “19 inches” that means that the viewable area is approximately 19 inches along the diagonal, i.e. corner to corner. Even that doesn’t tell you much, but I have found an excellent table that gives the true dimensions of many screen sizes.

It also gives the pixel size, which is a good measure of the readability of a screen. Anything less than 0.297 mm may make everything too small unless you alter the screen’s resolution. Doing that is fine but it will reduce the sharpness of the image.

Everyone’s vision is different so there’s no substitute for seeing a screen in action before buying it. Failing that, look up the pixel size of the screen you’re using now and compare it with the one that you’re considering buying.

NB: your current screen resolution may be different to that which is listed in the table. E.g., the table says that a 15″ screen at a resolution of 1024×768 has a pixel size of 0.2977 mm. If you have a 15″ screen set at 800×600 to make it readable then a pixel size of 0.2977 mm is too small for you.

To find your current screen resolution in Windows XP click Start>Settings>Control Panel>Display>Settings. To exit without changing anything click Cancel.

This topic is quite difficult to explain so hopefully that all makes sense :) .

Online backup options for writers & authors

If you do a lot of writing you should seriously consider having those documents backed off online/offsite, so that you won’t lose everything if Henny Penny turns out to be a realist and the sky does fall. Here’s some free options:

1) use a online storage service such as Adrive. Adrive has a useful file sharing option, but I don’t use it for backups because such services are well known for ceasing to provide service. Also, I haven’t been able to ascertain how reliable and secure Adrive is.

2) Gmail has a 20Mb attachment limit so provides a realisitic backup option. The trouble is that if you have a large number of documents managing the backups will be an organisational headache at best.

3) You can copy and paste your documents to a private blog. WordPress allows you to search the content of posts and has categories and tags, but to me this seems like a clumsy and labour intensive backup method. E.g. if you amend a document on your computer you have to find the relevant post and alter it.

4) Google Docs is the best option in my humble opinion, primarily because it is a word processor with storage space and therefore ties in nicely with the word processing that you are already doing. Moving all your documents to Docs and working on them there is an option with many merits.

Here’s a fraction of what Docs will allow you to do, quite apart from simply editing and storing documents:

  • search within your documents
  • place documents in multiple folders
  • link to other documents
  • real-time editing of documents together with people who are on the other side of the world
  • publish your document as a web page that anyone can view

I have written A Practical Guide To Selected Features Of Google Docs and a lot more information can be found there. A link to this guide can also be found in the sidebar to the right.

I’m currently in the process of evaluating Zoho.

Do you have any other ideas for backing up large numbers of documents?

January 24, 2009

Linking to posts on Blogger

Filed under: Blogging — Tags: , , , , — Kiwi Polemicist @ 12:20 pm

The other day I was trying to link to a post on a Blogger blog and had a dickens of a job finding the link for that particular post. Was I having a dim day or do other people also have this problem?

The link is lurking at the bottom of each post in the time stamp; right click to copy the link into your clipboard. Why can’t Google do the intuitive thing and put the link in the title as WordPress does?

The Shocking Blue Green Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

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