Archive

education

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.

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.

Previously in Part 1* we looked at how RSS and Google Reader might help us put all the new information in a place for quick access. Today, let’s look at how we might be able to access the information on the go.

RSS reader apps and Reeder

I used to just use Google Reader in my browser, but I don’t have my laptop all the time; in fact, I read usually on the go when I only have my phone and iPad with me. Enter the need for a RSS reader app. Basically it’s an app that allows you to log in your Google Reader credentials so all the feeds that you have amassed will be found in the app. A good app should do the following:

  • Syncs with Google Reader (meaning it mirrors the feeds from Google Reader, and if I mark a feed as read in my app, it should be marked in Google Reader as well)
  • Allows for Read It Later/Instapaper integration – more on that later
  • Allows for sharing on FaceBook, Twitter and others
  • Allows me to mark a whole category as read (trust me, it’s useful when you are dealing with over a 100 feeds)
  • Allows me to read from oldest feed, or newest feed.

Previously I used NewsRack and it has worked fine for me. There’s also Pulse and Flipboard, but they work best for a small amount of feeds and leisure browsing (I’d admit they really look good); they are not built for fast skimming of 200+ feeds a day.

Then there’s Feedly, which I have been using for a while, and really loved. Except that there were several things I didn’t like about it, and switched.

I didn’t want to go back to Newsrack because it felt really dated. To be fair to it, it works really well and it actually allows you to manage feeds without logging onto Google Reader, meaning it is not a prerequisite to have a Google Reader account before using it.

Personally, I like to have my feeds managed on a Google Reader account and synced to the app, because when I change a reader app, all my changes stay; this will not be the case if I don’t use Google Reader. Nevertheless, it’s great for those who want an alternative.

So, what am I using now?

Say hello to Reeder.

The thing about Reeder is that beside being one of the prettiest RSS reader app out there, it’s very intuitive in the way it handles feeds: sort feeds by favorites, unread and feed sources; pinch in and out of categories; swipe to mark as read and to perform a special function (which I use to send to Instapaper). It also fulfills all I ask for in a good app.

There’s only one catch, and that is the inability to manage feeds subscriptions within the iOS app itself. Actually there’s two catches, with the second one being more expensive than NewsRack, because the iPad and iPhone apps are different, while the NewsRack app is universal. To overcome this, I bought the iPad app and read on my iPad solely (anyway I have my iPad with me almost all the time). Incidentally, I own the Mac app as well, and it’s equally gorgeous, and it can manage feed subscriptions.

Here’s some shots of how it looks like on the iPad.

IMG 0259

Reeder on the iPad

IMG 0260

List of feeds in Reeder on the iPad

Instapaper and Read It Later

Often we’d come across a great article that we want to keep for future reference, or simply further reading as we are kinda occupied at the moment. This is especially true when I skim through my feeds in the morning on the commute to sieve out things that interest me.

Here’s where Instapaper and Read It Later (RIL) come in. By the way, I was an RIL user but found instapaper to be much better with text, and switched.

As a care in point, here’s an example of how it all works out for me in a day.

As mentioned, I’d scan through my feeds in Reeder in the morning, and send those interesting-looking ones to Instapaper. When I get a reprieve in the day, I’d make a cup of coffee and sit down with Instapaper, reading through the articles that I have saved previously. This pretty much sums up my news reading for the day.

Here’s a primer on some nice touches in Instapaper; note that this is not a full review.

First, saved sites are formatted for reading (though sometimes it screws up because the page renders wrongly, but in that case I can just view the original site in a built-in browser). This is something RIL does as well.

IMG 0265

The original site in the in-built browser in Instapaper

IMG 0264

The same text as above formatted for reading in Instapaper

Second, Instapaper has quite a fair bit of options for customizing the reading experience, including a auto dark-mode (white text on black background) in accordance to your time-zone (it auto-switches at 7)

IMG 0266

Reading options in Instapaper

Also, In the main screen, there’s little dots at the bottom-right of each article to signify the length of the post: more dots, longer post. If I read the post halfway, the dots will be colored accordingly.

IMG 0267

Subtle dots to signify the length of a post in Instapaper

There’s also folders to organize your readings, and a “like” button which you can customize to send to services like Evernote or Twitter (note that if you send to Evernote, the URL will not be the original one but an Instapaper one. If you need the URL, save the article from Reeder or any RSS reader app and not from Instapaper).

Incidentally, Apple’s Reading List in the Safari 5 works pretty much the same (and coming soon to iOS 5), except that it cannot save out to external services yet. Also, unlike Instapaper or RIL which supports offline reading after loading, Reading List requires you to be connected as it’s just a list of sites.

A note about RSS

Recently, Jacqui Cheng wrote an article on Ars Technica about the problem with RSS**, and Marco Arment, the creator of Instapaper chipped in***.  Ben Brooks then responded to both posts****.

All posts are worth a read, but in summary, Cheng’s argument is that RSS creates too much clutter for us, and having to (note the words) keep up is driving us insane. Arment takes a more balanced view, saying that

RSS is a great tool that’s very easy to misuse. And if you’re subscribing to any feeds that post more than about 10 items per day, you’re probably misusing it. I don’t mean that you’re using it in a way it wasn’t intended — rather, you’re using it in a way that’s not good for you.

Then Brooks made what I felt was the most important statement:

If you don’t like RSS don’t use it. If you want to use it but don’t want to have thousands of items, then use it like Marco does. Or use it like I do and check the feeds more often…

But don’t blame RSS.

My personal journey with RSS is somewhat like Cheng’s. Initially, I subscribed to news sites like Channel News Asia, The Straits Times, Reuters, CNN etc, but was quickly overwhelmed with the number of feeds a day (almost a thousand). Then I realized I don’t even read the papers; what makes me think I’d appreciate a boatload of feeds?

Then I killed the news feeds totally (apologies to my teachers who always told me to read the paper), relying on friends and the occasional news on TV to stay updated. One good thing about this is that if it’s a big enough news, sooner or later I’d know it. As a case in point, I knew about Michael Jackson’s death not from the news but from a friend’s Facebook feed.

I then subscribed to major tech news sources like CNET and PCWorld etc as I was well, a geek. Soon, I noticed that there’s a wealth of independent tech writers out there like John Gruber (Daring Fireball) and Ben Brooks (The Brooks Review), and added them to my RSS subscriptions.

Over time, I realized that the major tech news sources were duplicating each others’ news and similarly, when it was a big enough story, all independent writers would be writing about it, so I killed most of my major news feeds, and relied on independent writers more.

To make my skimming better, I created a few folders (you could create a ‘when I am free’ folder to the same effect) where I’d file RSS feeds which I could just mark all as read if I didn’t have the time, and hence focused on those I needed to read to get the best updates.

That’s the state of things for me now. In short, I’m mostly following independent writers with more original writings and regular, but not oppressive post schedules.

What it means for you, our reader

Try out RSS if you haven’t to follow even things like Manga updates. Start with Google Reader that is free, and move to dedicated apps when you are totally sold on RSS and need a more seamless and intuitive platform.

For tech news, follow us on Twitter where we repost curated news items from many major tech news sources (yes I still follow them, but only on Twitter). If you would like to stay updated on our posts, you can either subscribe to our RSS, or like us on Facebook (Tech bOOZE) to get our articles in your news feed.

That’s all for Part 2. In the last part to come soon, I’d post a list of (most of) my RSS subscriptions to get you started on RSS.

———-

*Part 1 can be found here, and Part 3 here.

**Why keeping up with RSS is poisonous to productivity, sanity

***Sane RSS Usage

****RSS Usage

Hacking

Image source: stock.xchng

With the recent media showcase on the hacking antics of the very 2 prominent groups Lulzsec and Anonymous, some of us here may wonder, “How safe am I actually?” “Is my password secure?”.

The main thing to password strength is a combination of length and entropy, which is a fancy way of measuring randomness in a password.

Despite this, even if you have the world’s most awesome hard to remember super password like “$%#SMVrt43TGt09%^^#@342608$@#%SDFY” which requires you to roll your face over your keyboard in the same pattern each time, I believe many of us fall into the very easy trap of using ONE single password for many of the websites we log on to. Just think about it, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Yahoo!, random internet forums, your bank account, your blog, Photobucket, etc etc…

This following webcomic should pretty much sum up the dangers of such a practice.

Credit: xkcd.com

And if that is not enough to scare you, a recent article over at Tom’s and PC Pro tells us of the possibilities of using our GPUs to crack a password.  A CPU such as the core i5-2500k  (recommended in our previous build a PC post) can churn out about 28 million passwords per second for a brute force attack, where a hacker just tries every possible combination of text and numbers. A gamer with a recent GTX or Radeon card with either Nvidia’s CUDA or AMD’s Stream GPGPU cores can utilize those cores on the GPU which are optimized for parallel computing to break passwords at a blazing speed. The TL;DR version is a decent graphics card, or worse, in SLI/Crossfire can churn out passwords at a rate of over a billion passwords per second. The Whitepixel project running 4x HD5970s is already pushing 33.1 billion passwords per second!

So how do I protect myself then? Stay tuned for our follow up post!

———-

Check out our followup posts: Part 2, Part 3.

The Web is a massive information horde, and generator. I currently follow* about 70 over sites and blog and that translates to a lot of information in a day; yet I know some friends who access much more sites than me. How do we keep up and make sense of it?

This is the first of a three part-er post to help you aggregate the information.

RSS and Google Reader

Say hi to RSS and Google Reader.

I’d leave the technicalities of what RSS is to Wikipedia; let me talk about the implications of using RSS. Let’s say there’s you frequent TOOZE but don’t want to always have to visit the site to check if there’s new articles posted; you want to be notified of the availability of new posts in a convenient manner. Extend that to 70 sites and blogs and you’d realize how convenient it would be if I could access all the headlines in one place, so I can quickly decide on what I want to read and what I want to skip.

That’s what RSS and Google Reader do.

Here’s how it works. I go to a site (say TOOZE), like it and want to be kept updated on new posts. So I log into Google Reader (with my gmail/Google credentials; create one if necessary) and click on “add new subscription”.

Screenshot of Google Reader

Then I type in the home URL for the site I’m interested in (or the RSS link shown on the site) – in this case tooze.wordpress.com, and the subscription is found in the left hand column of Google Reader.

Now, whenever I’m free and want to check out the new posts on the site, I log into my Reader and I’d be alerted of all new posts (shown in bold with the numbers representing the post count). As you can see from the screenshot, I’ve got a few new articles to check out.

The best part about this is that I have all the websites I’m interested in in one location, which allows me to skim through on average 200 feeds (headlines) a day without being overwhelmed. So check it out and suddenly you’d find yourself reading more in less time; furthermore you are able to focus on the things you are interested in, while having the freedom to skim through everything.

That’s all for Part 1! Stay tuned for how we can manage it better and access these information on the go.

———-

*Not in the sense of Twitter’s follow, but rather in the sense that I refer to them on a daily basis, and read those that interest me.

Web.AppStorm is a regular hangout for me as I learn more about the huge amount of web apps* available out in the vast world of the internet. To make things easier, they released a compilation/roundup of their 100 favorite apps, arranged by the following categories:

  • Files
  • Presentations
  • Bookmarking
  • Diary
  • To-Dos
  • Coding
  • Learning
  • Music
  • Entertainment
  • Writing
  • Email
  • Communications
  • Office
  • Images
  • Notes
  • Project management
  • Money
  • Reading
  • Dashboards
  • Websites
  • Profile pages

Whew that’s a lot! Some apps featured that I use personally (and highly recommend) are:

  • Dropbox (see my previous post on what is it, and how it can be used)
  • Sliderocket
  • Prezi
  • Simplenote
  • Instapaper
  • Carbonmade
  • Be sure to spend a little time to check out these apps and see if they fill a gap in your work or life.

    ———-

    *Web apps are apps/programs that run on the web via a browser, meaning that there’s no installation needed, and hence you don’t pay for the software (though you might need to subscribe to the service; and it’s usually subscription based, meaning it’s not a once-off payment). The caveat is that many of these apps require an internet connection and Flash, and if you don’t want Adobe Flash installed (read: John Gruber and Ben Brooks), use Google Chrome to access these sites.