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Author Archives: DT

A look at the Facebook Profile through the years

For those who are unaware yet, Facebook has recently launched their vision of a new Facebook at their f8 conference, and while the Internet is buzzing with thoughts on the keynote, Web.Appstorm’s article on how the Facebook Profile evolved over the years offer a great reprieve and appreciation of just how far we have come.

Link to Web.Appstorm’s article in header. If you are interested in the keynote, check out Facebook’s own f8 page on (no surprises) Facebook.

Neutrinos faster than light? OMG! Anyone wanna bet?

XKCD has always been one of my favorite webcomic, and their take on the latest news about how Neutrinos might be faster than light puts everything in perspective.

Brilliant read if you ask me; link in header. For those who are interested in the Science bit, check out Reuter’s article about the Neutrino faster than light experiment by CERN.

Shawn Blanc’s guide on how to spell tech names properly with correct capitalizations

I’ve always wondered if it was Facebook, facebook, or FaceBook, and their logo doesn’t help. Hence imagine my joy when Shawn Blanc published a simple guide on common miscapitalized tech names.

But that’s not all. Both he and I (and many other Mac users) use TextExpander, which is well, a text expander app, and he has included for download the snippet group to make typing these pesky names easier.

Link to his article in header. Meanwhile, do check out TextExpander and how it can save you time typing.

YouTube launches video resource for teachers

Just a while back I posted on TOOZE roundups that YouTube rolled out editing features for uploaded videos. Soon after, the good people over at YouTube rolled out a specific site which promotes the usage of YouTube as an education tool. I quote from their profile page:

This site is a resource for educators everywhere to learn how to use YouTube as an educational tool. There are lesson plan suggestions, highlights of great educational content on YouTube, and training on how to film your own educational videos.

This site was written by teachers for teachers, and we want to continue that spirit of community-involvement. We’re creating a new YouTube newsletter for teachers (sign up above!) and are asking teachers to submit their favorite YouTube playlists for us to highlight on YouTube EDU.

Link in header. Do check it out sometime to add those spice in your teaching and learning.

I’ve always been a great fan of dual displays, having used the setup since the demise of my old desktop; that situation afforded me an extra monitor. What do I use it for? Primarily when I’m preparing my lessons for teaching: I’d have my Word document (lesson plan) on my main screen (in front of me) and the PowerPoint lecture slides on another monitor to my side. This setup allowed me to work on both documents simultaneously instead of one after the other. How about split screen or alt-tabbing, you might ask. For me, the former is too cramped even on my 15″ MacBook Pro screen, and the latter too tedious and mentally draining.

I haven’t been using it for a while now, because I gave away my external monitor and I’m working on either my 11″ MacBook Air or 21.5″ iMac. Nonetheless, I’ve always thought of myself as a huge fan of the setup.

Ben Brooks recently wrote about how he switched from a dual display setup to a single, large monitor setup since 2008-9[1] and I quote:

At some point in 2008-9 I started just using one display — this only after I measured my use of the second display finding that I rarely used it.

Since that time I have held the opinion that one, large, monitor is the best action to take in the name of productivity.

Now I am even questioning just how large of a monitor you need.

It triggered two things in me: first being the use of a dual display, and the second about the size of a screen.

Let’s look at the first one.

Technically, my 21.5″ iMac has a screen that’s almost four times the size of my 11″ MBA, so I should logically be able to see four times the things right? No. What happens is that I usually have the same number of apps open on my iMac as compared to my MBA, just that their windows are bigger; and since the font sizes on both machines are similar, I end up with a lot of white space on my iMac.

What I can do is to arrange my app windows such that I fit in four apps/windows on screen instead[2]. However, I don’t do that because it’s tedious and repetitive, and somehow, it makes my screen/desktop look cluttered — like some security surveillance monitor.

That’s where the beauty of a dual display comes in.

I used to hate the borders of individual monitors and wished that they were non-existent so I can put together two screens and make it look like one big screen. On hindsight, the division caused by the borders created different physical spaces: in essence, I am told by my setup that I am working on two screens, and how each one has a specific purpose (like how one handles my Word documents and the other PowerPoints). That specificity of purpose gives me more cognitive coherence and flow than the extra space on my 21.5″ iMac.

Weird, but it works for me.

Having said that, I don’t use a dual display setup often, nor wished for it all the time; but when I do need to view multiple things at the same time, a dual display setup works like a charm for me. As an aside, I don’t have my extra monitor now but instead use my iPad as a secondary monitor via Air Display[3].

So what does it mean for you?

If you have never tried a dual display before, give it a shot for the following situations: 1) when you need to edit two (or more) things simultaneously like me with my Word and PowerPoint documents, or 2) when you need to see real-time reviews, like when you are working on coding, graphics or web design (one screen for code and the other for output).

In this sense, Krishna M. Sadasivam from PC Weenies[4] echoes my thoughts:

Most of my work involves working with multiple applications at a time; applications that have tool palettes scattered around my screen. A typical scenario for me involves working with references when digitally illustrating. A dual display setup lets me use the main (larger) LCD for palette blossoming applications like Photoshop, Sketchbook Pro, or Manga Studio Pro while the secondary (smaller) LCD is used for displaying reference photos or a creative brief. A dual display eliminates the need for me to shuffle back and forth between apps, thereby improving my productivity.

So how can you get to try the setup without buying an extra monitor? Use the projector in your office to act as a dual display. Yes I know it’s crazily out of proportion but hey, it’s just for a try-out right? Or if you have nice friends with desktops and standalone displays, go over their house with a pint of ice cream and borrow the monitor while they enjoy your bribe.

Let’s now look at the second point about the size of a monitor.

My first laptop had (I think) a 14″ screen or thereabouts. Moving forward, I have worked on screens at least 13″ and bigger. So you can imagine my hesitation when I was considering the 11″ MBA (which has a resolution of a 13″), but after using it for half a year, I can safely say that size is not an issue. Then again, I need to qualify that I have my iMac if I really do need the screen space, and I don’t do Photoshop on my MBA.

So what does this mean? Basically, the screen on my MBA is suitable for over 90% of my computer usage, and that justifies its cost. In other words, I can’t see myself spending more money just for the additional 10%. Furthermore, I actually enjoy looking at my MBA screen; my iMac just feels too large.

In this sense, I agree whole heartedly with Ben:

For about a month I have been debating and failing to pull the trigger on a monitor for my home. Monetary concerns are certainly a factor, but the bigger factor is that I quite like just having the small screen.

So as I stare at this 24″ Apple LED Cinema Display as I am typing this post, I can’t help but wonder: what if I ditched it for just my MacBook Air screen?

How about for those who only have one laptop as their primary machine? Two options: 1) Switch to the 13″ MBA (which has a resolution of a 15″, or any other laptops with bigger screen), or 2) add a dual display when necessary.

In conclusion, forget the concepts of productivity or efficiency. Try out different setups and see which allows you to produce better.

It might not be faster, but it can be better.

Or even more comfortable or happier.

———-

[1] Ben Brook’s take on why he’s not using a dual display anymore.

[2] I use the app Cinch to manage the windows in my Mac and I love how easy it is. There’s another more powerful windows management app for the Mac called Moom but it just didn’t grow on me.

[3] Air Display as a extended display works really well and it’s selling for US$9.99 now as a Universal iOS app; much cheaper than getting an extra monitor. However, do note that it runs over Wi-Fi and hence not as responsive as a display plugged into your computer: meaning video streaming and gaming is not recommended for it.

[4] Krishna’s take on why a dual display setup works for him, and if I may add, myself.

YouTube Video Editor

YouTube recently added a video editing function for users to combine videos, trip clips, rotate clips, add music, insert transitions and stabilize clips. There’s also color filters like Black and White or Cartoon, just to name two.

One small caveat though. Videos which have more than 1000 views will have to be saved as a new video after editing. It’s probably to keep the popular video unaltered.

Personally I haven’t tried it, but it looks like a great thing for those who want to make small changes after they have uploaded their video; I mean, there really isn’t a reason to use it when there’s other free video editors out there right?

In case you are not sure, there’s always Windows Movie Maker and iMovie. For photo slideshows, there’s always Animoto and MixBook.

Link to YouTube’s blog post about the editor in header.

Social media during its puberty days

Social media sites like FaceBook and Twitter didn’t use to look like what it does today. Like all pretty grown-ups (sort of), they also went through an awkward puberty. Kottke put together the first sites of FaceBook, Tumblr and Twitter, and as a bonus, threw in Google and Yahoo.

Link in header for a good laugh! Thanks to Gizmodo for sharing.

Quickly add events in iCal

David W. Martin did a short post about how one can quickly add events in iCal using simple human speech. It’s a nifty little tip that’s worth your few minutes to check out, especially if you are a heavy iCal user.

As an aside, you don’t have to click on the + sign. Instead, you can just hit Apple (Command) + N.

Link to post in header.

Wired’s short update on Canon’s S100

Frankly, when I saw that Canon has released a new camera (S100), I didn’t pay much attention to it until I saw Wired’s article, and realized that it was a successor to the S95, which is a successor to S90, which, is one of my favorite compact cameras. Basically, the 100 didn’t hit me; after all, 90 and 95 are double digits.

Anyhow, the S100 looks to be really good, so check it out if you are looking for a compact this holiday season.

Link in header.

Thoughts management using Thoughtboxes

Web.AppStorm ran a review about Thoughtboxes, a Web app that allows you to capture your thoughts on a free-form canvas. It’s pretty similar to Popplet, another Web app that I love, but this one is a little different in that they allow you to mark thoughts and classify them linearly within different thought boxes, instead of the concept-map approach of Popplet. I haven’t tried it myself but it looks pretty good.

Train-example

How Thoughtboxes look like. Credit: Thoughtboxes

Link to Thoughtboxes in header; review by Web.AppStorm can be found here.

Plain text and Simplenote

Simplenote was one of the first few iOS apps I ever had, and it has stayed with me ever since. And I don’t think I’m pushing it if I said that it was the app that made plain text (note: rich text refers to text with formatting, like bold and italics; plain text are just words and spacings) popular again.

In short, Simplenote is a note-taking app but the true power of it (to me) is how it syncs across devices and apps that support it. For such a great service, Web.AppStorm did a review of it and if you haven’t tried Simplenote at all, you really should.

Link to Simplenote in header; review by Web.AppStorm here.

Password management with Mitto

Web.AppStorm very timely ran an timely article about Mitto, a Web based app that helps you manage all your online login credentials. Why did I say it was timely? Well, it happened after we finished our three-parter on password security over here at TOOZE, and while I mentioned the benefits of a password manager, it’s a habit that many are not prone to undertake, unless compromised (which I hope will never happen!)

To do a quick recap, here’s what we haven been talking about:

  • Part 1 covers the need for a unique password for each site that you go to, and highlights the computing power of modern hardware in hacking.
  • Part 2 covers the difficult choice of choosing a good yet usable password.
  • Part 3 covers the usage of a password manager to well, manage all those pesky individual passwords.

So check out Mitto if you don’t already have a password manager, and be safe!

Link to Mitto in header; review by Web.AppStorm here. Link to the first part of our post on password security can be found here.

Kirk Tuck with the Olympus PEN E-P3

Kirk Tuck, a well-known photographer spent some time with the Olympus EP3 and did a very extensive usage review of it. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) system as it felt like a weird hybrid between a compact and a dSLR; then again, it is that mix which has created many loyalists. The other thing is that being in its relative infancy, MFT systems are rather expensive, and have a limited range of lenses available. However, let me quote from Tuck’s article:

People on the forums have taken Olympus to task for the price of the camera and me to task for daring to mention how much the EP3’s other branded predecessors cost… You pay a premium for design but then you get to use a camera that’s beautifully designed. Very few people will buy an EP3 with the intention of making it their sole business camera. That’s just not its role. It is an artists camera and while there are many camera choices on the market people gravitate to cameras that make them feel productive and make them feel creative. If you are a person with a spreadsheet mindset and must quantify every camera purchase with a series of metrics and check off lists then the Pen is very much not for you. Stop reading and buy the Rebel T3i. It was made for the check list people. But you can’t really put a hard price on good design and good ergonomics… But the important thing to understand is that different attributes have different values to different people and artists don’t have to justify their tool purchases to engineers.

And another:

If you think the Olympus is overpriced then it is. For you. I am a veteran buyer of many Leicas and, for what they were able to accomplish, I didn’t think they were over priced. You just can’t over estimate how important the feel of a camera in your hand is until you spend hours each day with it.

It’s a brilliant article, even if you are not interested in the PEN; for there is a lot to learn from it about how to judge a camera, and how to evaluate a tool (hopefully) more objectively.

Link to article in header.

Here’s the third and last part to this installment, and here’s the list of recommended sites that I subscribe to (well, almost all — this is the curated list). The ones with an * are highly recommended.

For technology news

For reviews

Other technology blogs*

  • Daring Fireball by John Gruber. This is one of the most definitive technology blogs out there, with a slight skew towards Apple stuff.
  • Fraser Speirs is best known as the guy who rolled out a 1:1 iPad deployment in a school. His blog is a great resource for schools and educators looking at tablet deployment and other technologies in education.
  • Paris Lemon by MG Siegler. Hailed as a über Apple fanboy by some, Siegler writes with force and clarity that few rival.
  • Shawn Blanc is a (relatively new) full-time writer and his blog is clean and a joy to read. His reviews on the HP TouchPad and OS X Lion were some of the best I’ve seen.
  • SimplicityIsBliss by Sven Fechner is a great resource for Getting Things Done (GTD) systems, or just productivity in general.
  • The Brooks Review by Ben Brooks has been a great resource to me in my own writings and learning of technology. Has a slight skew towards Apple stuff.
  • Macalope. The Macalope is a mythical creature that is totally crazy when it comes to defending the (you guessed it) Mac (meaning Apple stuff), and while it’s easy to dismiss it as yet another fanboy writing, the Macalope is witty and full of fun. Doesn’t hurt that the specific people he poke fun of are really rather bad, at least in terms of factual information and writing. So suspend your judgement for a while and enjoy some laughs checking out his writings.

Funnies

  • The Oatmeal. Be warned: it is über crude, but otherwise entirely true and witty.
  • XKCD is a unique webcomic using stick figures. Brilliant stuff.

What do I do with all these links?

All you need to do is to click on them, and you’d be redirected to the feed page. If you have a RSS reader app installed, and has chosen it to be the default reader, the feed will open in the app and you can choose to subscribe to it.

Or you could sign up with Google Reader (recommended, if you haven’t done so), and add the subscriptions by copying in the link. A simplified tutorial on how to do so can be found in Part 1 (link at the end of post).

———-

Well, that marks the end of the this series of three posts. Hope you’ve enjoyed it, and are able to navigate better in the new information explosion! If you have any questions, just drop a comment, mail or tweet. Do that too for any feeds that you’d like to recommend to the readers!

———-

Part 1 on Google Reader and a primer on RSS can be found here.

Part 2 on reading RSS, and read-it-later services can be found here.

It’s no secret that I love Apple, to the point that my friend called me an ‘Apple slut’. I know that I like (or even love) Apple, but for some reason couldn’t really explain why. I mean, I love the designs of the products, the way the products worked — be it software or hardware — the innovative marketing and all that, but those reasons didn’t seem to be completely justifiable.

Then I bought the Smart Cover for my iPad, and made the comment that any company who bothered to etch a sentence (and not just any sentence, but a coherent marketing sentence that reads: Designed by Apple in California) is a company that will win millions.

At that point in time, it was the near-fanatical attention to details that made me truly impressed with Apple.

Then, Adrian Slywotzky gave me yet another reason to love Apple.

In his article, Steve Jobs and the Eureka Myth*, Slywotzky attempted to dispel the myth that Apple’s products were creations of magic; the truth is they are, except that the magic takes a discipline and effort that rivals most of any company’s attempts.

I quote:

Because Apple knows the more you compete inside, the less you’ll have to compete outside.

And yet another (emphasis mine):

Under Jobs’ leadership, Apple has done 10 times the amount of relevant homework of most companies — internal competitions, supply chain training, endless deal-making, endless recruiting, training, and generating and sustaining employee excitement that you just can’t fake.

It’s not that I am an Apple slut; or maybe I am. But the point of contention is not why I am a slut, but why I ain’t a HP or a Windows or a RIM slut or any others’ for that matter.

The reason why I love Apple more than any other, is because they don’t give me crap. Sure it’s mass produced, but at least its not mass produced crap.

So if anyone from the tech industry is reading this, let me offer you a piece of advice:

Stop thinking that Apple customers don’t know better. The truth is we do, and you are not showing us anything better than Apple.

Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed, Apple trash-talks the competition after shipping a product (complete with the testing and marketing and what-nots), not before.

————-

*The full article can be found here, and I highly recommend it.