Monthly Archives: April 2007

Purple Mountain Majesty

You’ll recognize the title of this piece as a line from America the Beautiful. Yet that isn’t the America I see on this April morning in 2007. America today, if you believe the media, is divided into Red and Blue states. But if you combine red and blue, you get purple. In my opinion, America needs to be purple again, because as someone once said “united we stand, and divided we fall.”

Please take 3 minutes and 3 seconds of your time to watch this video and allow Sam Waterston to explain how Unity08 hopes to achieve the goal of making America purple again.

Here is the link to the video on YouTube.

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If you’d like to see and hear Mr. Waterston’s 22 minute speech to the National Press Club about Unity08, read more below.

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RSS in plain English

This video is courtesy of Lee LeFever. Thanks, Lee.

There are two types of Internet users, those that use RSS and those that don’t. This video is for the people who could save time using RSS, but don’t know where to start.

Thunderbird 2.0

This morning I downloaded and installed Thunderbird 2.0, which has just gone gold, and I must tell you this excellent open source email client has gotten even better than it was already.

It’s new feature set includes the ability to tag messages in as many different ways as you wish and to search for those messages based on those tags. This feature alone, which emulates Gmail’s labels function, is enough to justify the upgrade, but that isn’t the only improvement that has been incorporated into the new version. In addition, you can save the searches as a folder which means you can re-run the search without having to respecify the criteria. Another very helpful enhancement is that setting up Thunderbird to pull mail from your Gmail account has been made much simpler than it used to be. Like its sister product Firefox, Thunderbird is extensible through the use of addons, so you can tailor the program to your own preferences simply by choosing an extension and adding it to the program to add whatever functionality you find useful.

Here are a couple of screen shots of the tagging and searching functions. You can click the thumbnails on to see a larger version.

Thunderbird 2.0 tags Thunderbird 2.0 Search dialog with saved search option circled

If you are one of those people who hasn’t yet realized that you have an option to use another email client than Outlook Express, I recommend you download Thunderbird 2.0 and check it out. Once you’ve gotten use to it, I’m sure you’ll wonder how you ever managed your email using that default Windows email client.

Update: Jim Rapoza of Eweek reviews the new release of Thunderbird favorably in this article, but he raises the valid question whether desktop email clients are relevant any longer because of the fact that webmail applications have become easier to use and offer some significant advantages, such as access from anywhere, off-site storage of the message base, and in some instances excellent spam filters and a superior storage and categorization paradigm. I think that his is a legitimate question, but the fact that such a relatively small percentage of the computing population even appreciates that using an alternate email client is an option means that it will be a while before desktop email clients become obsolete.

Why do I blog?

Tom Simpson has tagged me as a part of the “Why do I blog?” meme that is circulating in the blogosphere.

Here’s my list.

    I want to share the things I discover online with others.

    I enjoy experimenting with my ability to put things on the web.

    I learn by playing with the technology I explore.

    Blogging allows me to share thoughts with others without overloading their inbox.

    I enjoy being surprised and sometimes embarrassed when I re-read the things I’ve posted before.

Now I am supposed to “tag” five other people, so here goes. “Tag, you’re it.”

Mike Neel

Jerry Pounds

David Steele

Colm Smyth

Gail Snyder

Google Makes Fathers Unnecessary

My son Mike has frequently called me while driving around and asked that I look up some business on Google and give him the location or the phone number. We’ve jokingly referred to that as his connecting with “Dear-Old-Dad Central” or “the Mother Ship.” However, now such calls are no longer necessary.

Google has introduced yet another experimental service called Google Voice Local Search. This morning I’ve tested it out and pronounced it quite useful. So much so that I’ve programmed the number into my cell phone, given it a speed dial code and resolved to use it when I need to know such information. They provide this “cheat sheet” that explains in simple terms how to use the service.

One thing I discovered while experimenting with it this morning is that it is preferable to feed Google the zip code where you are located, if you know it, rather than the city name, since doing so will result in getting information on businesses nearer to where you are located than if you specify the entire city. For instance, I specified Knoxville, TN, rather than my zip code, and I asked for information on grocery stores. I got the correct information, but the stores it gave me were on the other end of town. Of course, if you are driving around, you may not know the exact zip code of the neighborhood in which you are driving, so under those circumstances, you may have to give it the generic city and just sort through the results you get.

Once again, Google has provided a service that will, in time, cause us to wonder how we ever got along without it, just as many of us do with its search engine, its maps or any of the other myriad services it offers. And in the process, it has put another mom-and-pop service out of business, as “Dear-Old-Dad Central” and “the Mother Ship” fade into irrelevancy.

The Resurrection

No, this isn’t a religious post; the title just seemed appropriate to the day on which I’m making it. I’m referring to my own resurrection from not posting here recently. I didn’t die, and I wasn’t buried. I was just off exploring various things on the net and have been a bit remiss in posting my thoughts about them. So this will be something of a catch up post, covering a number of things that I found interesting lately.

One site I’ve subscribed to and been reading with interest is Web Worker Daily. If you’ve read my link blog you’ll recognize that site as the source of a number of the things that I’ve shared. Although I’m not technically a web worker, I have found this site to be a valuable resource for information about web tools, and that’s a subject I’m sure you know I find interesting.

One thing I found there was their recommendation that they couldn’t live without a Firefox extension called Tab Mix Plus. I had been using Tabbrowser Preferences, but this new extension contains all the features of that one and then some. So I’ve substituted it for the extension I was using previously. One thing I particularly like about it is that it gives you the option to have rows of tabs rather than a scroll bar when you’ve opened more tabs than the window will accommodate. That is preferable to me. You can learn more about its other useful features by visiting the extension’s website. Here are some screen shots of it.

On the 30th of last month I discovered Google’s Notebook and since then I’ve been experimenting with it. I’ve found it useful for keeping an diary of activities online, making quick notes to myself and for listing things that I want to blog about, things I call blogfodder. I see now that I mentioned Notebook in my post titled Google 24/7 as one of the several Google services that I’m using.

Yesterday I set up the ability to post to the blog by email, using a plugin called Postie which was created by Dirk Elmendorf. I host several blogs on my space with my hosting service, and those other blogs are for people who aren’t dedicated bloggers like some people I know. So their having the ability to send an email to a specific address and have it automatically posted to the blog simplifies the process for them. Postie offers many more features than WordPress’ built-in ability to set up an email address for posting by email. For instance, you can designate that only certain roles (editor, author, etc.) can post using the address. If someone else tries to use it, their post will not appear on the blog but instead will be sent to my address as an “Unauthorized Post Attempt.” I haven’t yet figured out how to set up a cron job to cause the email to be posted without my intervention, but I’ll eventually get that working too.

Recently I installed Greasemonkey, and even more recently, I installed a couple of greasemonkey scripts. One of them, called YouTube Video Original Page, adds a link below any embedded YouTube video which shows the URL to the original video on YouTube. Since I prefer having access to that so that I can sent a link to the video using my own email system rather than YouTube’s “share” feature or so that I can embed the clip on my own site, if I choose, I find this little script to be quite handy and not at all intrusive.

Lest you think I love everything I try on the web, I have to say that when I read this post, I thought I might like Blogrovr so I installed it and ran my system with it installed for a week or so. Now I’ll admit that I didn’t subscribe to many blogs using it and in that sense maybe I didn’t give it a fair shot, but it felt intrusive to me, so I’ve removed it.

And my friend Daryl Houston recently sent me a link to a service called tumblr, thinking that I might find that interesting. I certainly appreciated his thoughtfulness, but after reviewing that service, I decided not to sign up for it either. So I don’t sign up for everything I discover after all. Yeah, I know. I’m slipping as I get older.

And finally, I’ll mention that I have installed a program called Pando, which according to their website “is a free personal P2P software that makes sending, receiving and publishing large files a breeze.” Both parties have to have Pando installed to share files with each other, but the need to send such files grows more each day, so this seems like a reasonable solution to a problem I’ve experienced more than once. Here’s the geek explanation for how it works.

So as you can see, though some of you may have thought I was dead and buried, the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. I have arisen.