I've wanted to get rid of my post box because all I get there is junk mail.1 Now, apparently, the self-titled "inventor of email" wants to make my digital life just as bad:
He proposed that the post office create a new form of e-mail, one that was safe, private, and subject to the same federal regulations that protect the bills and junk mail that are delivered to our mailboxes.
via Boston Magazine
Amazon packages are delivered to my door and will soon be delivered inside. The post box is in a separate location. ↩
The most freeing thing you can do, is be yourself unapologetically - go after what you want, be who you are & don't let anyone stop you.— Dr. Julie Gurner (@drgurner) December 11, 2012
So people who really want to rape or murder should just be themselves and not let anyone stop them? And those suicide bombers, they certainly don't seem to be apologetic.
I watch TV on my Macbook Air on the weekends when I'm ironing. Sadly, commercials are becoming more popular with CBS airing 4 in a row, often the same exact commercial over and over. There's no way to skip them, but I made a quick macro with Keyboard Maestro that mutes the sound until the commercials are over and then turns the sound back on.
You have to toggle the macro manually when the commercial starts, but otherwise, it works great.
The macro is a very simple three steps.
The picture I used to monitor:
Now I don't have to listen to annoying commercials.
Update: Same macro with a slightly different picture works for Hulu. Also, now I'm occasionally seeing 5 commercials in a row.
If you want to create a podcast, Squarespace is recommended as a complete solution for domain registration, hosting, bandwidth, and syndication. They even have a dedicated instruction manual. Update: The lack of analytics regarding total number of downloads for each episode of a podcast is a weakness, especially if you want to get sponsors.
I recently decided to make a podcast. This was to be a small hobby, a minor side project, and so the technical aspects of the project couldn't take up much of my time and energy. As I was preparing the content and looking at the best ways to turn this into a reality, it appeared that Squarespace could possibly be able to handle all the hosting, bandwidth, and even the domain registration. It turns out that this is correct and for the most part was quite easy.
I've used Squarespace before for several sites. Mostly I've used version 5 and haven't quite gotten into version 6 yet. My past experience has been that they are very helpful with tech support the few times I've needed it, are very generous with long, free trials to test out the service, and are not pushy sales people. In fact, I'm not sure if they have sales people. They don't even ask for your credit card number up front! These are decent folk.
Before I got started, I did have one question related to doing a podcasting site. On their pricing page it stated that the maximum file size is 20mb; however, on another page specifically about podcasting, it stated the maximum size is 120mb. Well, which is it? This is the kind of straight forward question that if I normally ask a support person, they have no idea what I'm talking about, and if they even bother to compare the urls I send them, then never know what I'm talking about. My experience with the Squarespace support was the exact opposite.
I clicked on the support chat link on their website, was immediately helped by someone pleasant whose name I don't remember and told simply that the normal limit is 20mb, but specifically for podcasting, it increases to 120mb. Perfect. With that verification, I was ready to go.
First, at least mentally, I needed a domain. Squarespace gives you a free domain if you sign up for a year. Check.
Second, I needed a website. Well, that is the basic service of of Squarespace. I picked a template that was close to what I had imagined. It didn't take me long to have a working prototype and over the next several days was able to turn it into something I was happy with. Honestly, I have no design or artistic sense, so it is a real testament to Squarespace's platform that I was able to do this.
Third, I needed an RSS feed for my podcast that I can serve to podcast apps and to iTunes. Simply, Squarespace has already handled that. All you do is create a "blog" page, i.e. a single page that you can add sequential entries to. Then, when you have a podcast episode to publish, you create a blog entry and in that entry add an "audio block" which automagically creates a podcast feed. Squarespace takes care of the syndication and even puts a streaming player into that post. In addition, they have a preference to enable iTunes options so that it can be compatible with and submitted to iTunes.
Fourth, I needed hosting for the podcast files. You can host them elsewhere such as libsyn or it may be possible depending on the size of your episodes and the number of downloads to get by with their cheaper plan with 500 GB of bandwidth and 2 GB of storage1, but I wanted to splurge so I went for their unlimited place with unlimited bandwidth and storage2. The storage is relatively easy for the most part. You upload your podcast audio file in the previously mentioned "audio block" and save it like you would any normal webpage.
And just like that, I have a podcast.
If I had to do it again, I wouldn't even look for another alternative. It was great. Still, there are some rough edges that could be honed.
First, the file upload process for non-picture/audio/video files is so well hidden, I didn't think it existed. If you want to upload a file like a PDF to your site, it is possible, but I doubt you'd ever find it on your own. When you are editing a page, the normal behavior is to click a plus sign button to add a block (widget). There are blocks for text, picture, audio, video, horizontal rules, and even blank space. There is no block for generic files. I clicked around for quite a while trying to figure it out. The answer is you first choose the text block, click on the "link" button as if you were going to make a text link, and in the next dialogue box is a place to upload a file. This seems to me to be a very unintuitive and misleading place to burry the file upload function.
Second, but related, there is no place to easily manage all your files. While you can access some of them from that same dialogue box, you cannot access them all. For example, after creating a podcast episode, I wanted to create a direct link in that post to the file for some that were having trouble getting it to play (IE 6, seriously?). There was no way that I could find in the interface to get access to this file in order to link it, or even just get its file name. I had to look at the source code of the rendered webpage to grab it.
These are two small, but significant problems that were so glaringly bad functionally that I have a hard time believing that they came from the same people who made the rest of the site so good.
Third, when selecting text to be edited in the "edit post" window, if the cursor went outside of the box after selecting text, the window exited the editing mode.
Fourth, when editing text in the "edit post" window, there are certain keystrokes that will cause the window to suddenly and glaringly jump to the bottom right of the screen for a 1/2 second and then return to the center. This happens, for example, when you type some text and hit the backspace key. This must be a frequent sequence of events unless no one else makes typos like I do. Again, this seems like an obvious bug that I'm surprised it hasn't been fixed.
Again, overall, a great experience, I'd do it again, and I'm looking forward to using their platform for my podcast. Also, I think I'm finally ready to upgrade by Squarespace 5 site to version 6…next weekend.
Truthfully, this would probably have been more than enough for me too. ↩
The smartest answer is probably to go with the cheap plan and upgrade if you need to. You can upgrade at anytime and in the past when upgrading or downgrading, the process has been seamless and prorated without any issue automatically. ↩
Scan documents with your smartphone, sync to your home computer with Dropbox, and have them automatically OCR'd so they're searchable later.
Yesterday, I mentioned that one of the consistent apps on my home screen is Scanner Pro. It is a simple and elegant app with a straight forward purpose: take pictures of documents, save them as PDFs, and upload them to cloud-based services.
In the digital age in which many of us are trying to live a Paperless lifestyle, converting paper documents to digital ones is a necessary evil. Scanners of various types are necessary for this task. There is a continuum of power versus portability when it comes to scanners. The more powerful are less portable; the most portable are usually not that powerful.
At work, where I don't need to be portable, but need lots of power to scan hundreds of pages of double-sided documents and auto-rotate the occasional upside down page, I use the Fujistu ScanSnap S1500M, and I wouldn't want to use anything else. At home, where I'm a bit more portable, and typically am only scanning a few pages at once, I go with the Doxie Go, which I can also take with me on trips if needed.
But then there are all the times when I'm not at work or home but want to scan something and that's when I turn to the power of the modern smartphone camera and Scanner Pro.
I have three requirements when I scan documents.
First, all documents must be in PDF format. PDF is a universal standard that will not be going away anytime soon, and if it does every become obsolete, there are so many people that have depended on it, there will be many options created to convert PDFs to the next standard. Scanner Pro saves all images in this format.
Next, I need to be able to access to my documents from any of my devices. This means uploading them to Dropbox. If you don't know what Dropbox is stop everything now and go learn. Seriously. Stop! Don't read another word. GO. GET. DROPBOX. Scanner Pro can upload to Dropbox (and a bunch of other Cloud services I don't use) and can be set to upload automatically.
Finally, all my documents must be OCR'd. Basically, OCR is the process by which software is used to analyze the image of a document and figure out what the characters are. Without OCR you have an unsearchable document that you can't even copy and paste text out of. With OCR you can search for any words inside the document and copy and paste text from it elsewhere. Scanner Pro does not OCR, and frankly, I'm suspicious of any mobile OCR app at this time. I really want quality text conversion and so I prefer to use the more powerful software and processor on my desktop machine.
To OCR documents uploaded to Dropbox, I have my home computer watch the folder I upload PDFs to from Scanner Pro, and when a new PDF is added, an Applescript is called that uses PDFpen Pro to OCR the document. All credit goes to David Sparks, AKA MacSparky, author of the aforementioned Paperless ebook, for the technique to do this. He wrote about using something called Folder Actions that he used to do this. In the comments of this post1, there was a link to another site that did a similar thing using Hazel. I use the Hazel method, because I actually have many folders that are watched and OCR'd in a similar way, and having them all together in one application makes them easier to monitor.
So, when I'm returning the rental car at the end of a business trip, rather than saving the receipt for scanning at home fraught with the perils of trying not to wrinkle it in the carry on bag and also remember to scan it in the first place, I take a quick picture of it with Scanner Pro and forget about it, because it will be uploaded and OCR'd without any more input from me. The next time I need the receipt, I just search for "car rental receipt" in Spotlight and all those kinds of receipts appear.
I know there aren't any there now, but I swear, there used to be comments there. ↩
PDF Expert for iPhone is a great app, and for today is free. Get it.
I'm a big fan of the iOS development company Readdle because I use their apps constantly in my personal and work life. Their apps are beautiful, consistently updated, and insanely good. I've also bought other company's competing apps but due to various problems, I stick with Readdle and both PDF Expert and Scanner Pro are have long-standing positions on my home screen.
I have used PDF Expert on my iPhone and iPad to study for boards, read journal articles, and complete applications for medical licensure, hospital privileges, condo rental, and private school for my son.
There is way too much to talk about with regards to how great some of their apps are, and I have several blog posts planned to discuss how I use some of their apps in my workflow, but I do want to share one small aspect of PDF Expert that demonstrates the attention to detail in these apps.
I read a lot of science articles that are in 2 column PDF format. On the iPhone, and even the iPad sometimes, the screen is too small to read more than a single column at a time. A lot of PDF readers screw up the scrolling when going from the end of one page to the beginning of the next. Most of the time, when you are zoomed in on the bottom right corner of the page, when you scroll to the next page, you are either looking at the top right corner of the next page (if scrolling to the next page vertically), or the bottom left (if scrolling horizontally). PDF Expert gets it right by going right to the next text you'll be wanting to read at the top left of the page in either vertical or horizontal scrolling.
This is better understood with a picture:
Papers scrolls horizontally and goes to the bottom right of the next page--area 6 in the above image. While it is the top app for scientific article management, and I highly recommend using it, I don't recommend using it for reading PDFs.
PDFpen's behavior changes based if you've ever been on the page you're scrolling to before. If you've never been there, it actually zooms out to look at the whole page. If you have been to that page before, it goes back to whatever zoom at whatever location you were at before. This inconsistent behavior is annoying. I would like it if it just zoomed to the whole page view and this was a preference you could toggle, but as it is, like most of the implementations of PDFpen, I find it unusable.2
So, if you need to read PDFs and even edit them, including signing documents and mailing them back, go get PDF Expert today.
I would have bought it before today, but didn't know it existed. Only a few months ago I was looking for exactly this kind of app and couldn't find one I liked. ↩
I do actually own over $100 worth of PDFpen software and use both it and other software by Smile every day, but the PDF viewing/editing software has never meshed well for me. ↩
Mr. Ferrozzo was determined to have died of asphyxiation from being crushed between the club's ceiling, a nude dancer, and a moving velvet-covered piano.
Truth is stranger than fiction.
I've used the Apple Genius Bar twice.
Once, in the summer of 2011, picture taken with my iPhone 4S were so blurry they were basically useless. Looking back at my photo stream, I could tell that this problem had been slowly building up over time. Since I lived 2 hours away from the nearest Apple store, and I didn't want to be without my phone, I went to the local AT&T store. The guy there looked at it and said it was water damage. To my knowledge, the phone had never been exposed to water or even high humidity. I asked if the water damage stickers had turned positive. He told me no, but that's what it must be. Clearly, he was not going to be helpful.
A few months later, I moved to a city with an Apple Store, so I gave it another shot. The Genius reported that there was no water damage but that the screen had a lot of micro scratches. To fix, I would need a complete back screen. He took it into the back room and returned a few minutes later with it fixed. Apparently it wasn't under warranty, but he declined to charge me. I believe the cost would have been $30.
The second trip to the Genius Bar was about a month ago. The battery on my year old Macbook Air didn't seem to be holding a charge long enough. I was frequently running out of juice during a half day of clinic whereas in the past it would last all day. I also got a few service battery warnings. They plugged the machine into their diagnostic machine and the only problem they found was that the battery, while still in the green was on a downward trajectory that was far below what they expect. He recommended that we swap out the battery. It took about 15-20 minutes and since they, it's been perfect. I don't remember if they charged me.
So, why the boring story? Because of this exchange on Twitter this morning in which @praveenkvma stated that the Apple Geniuses never fix anything.
People who make derogatory blanket statements without proof need to be called out.
This is one of those "grouchy old man" posts in which I complain that the noobs are ruining the game. It should be read with a healthy skepticism and sympathy for the senile.
Noobs and marketing suits are ruining hashtag timelines for following conference news because the timeline looks more like my spam folder than the Atlantic. Create lists of the best Tweeters to keep your timelines clean and informative.
Social media is the democratization of publication but also of subscription.
I'm an early adopter, well beyond the cutting edge and more at the bleeding edge were it's not that you have to be careful because you might get cut, but rather are constantly bandaging all the wounds you're sustaining daily.
I've been tweeting at the ACR since before the ACR had a Twitter account. In Philly in 2009, I was tagging my posts with #ACR09. In the years since, Twitter has become more mainstream mostly for the better and because of this **I've met some great Rheumatologists and learned a lot. No question: the benefit has vastly outweighed the risks. **
But with the change has come problems. Many of the new Twitter users are not aware of basic internet and Twitter customs. They
#tag #every #single #word #with #hashtags. They
RT @ retweet so that instead of one tweet with a +100 retweet marker on it, you get 100 individual tweets in the timeline you have to scroll through.
They tag every single post with the meeting's hashtag, even when it has nothing to do with the meeting.1
They're new. They'll learn. But in the meantime, someone needs to be pantsed.
Success has also brought the vultures: the Brands, the "SEO gurus", the numerous "advocate groups", and everyone else vying for attention. You want to hear about the choice bits of scientific knowledge but in their mind their bit of spin is the important bits of scientific knowledge you must hear.
Patient's with RA have less fatigue on steroids?!?!?! Who knew?!?!?!? So awesome you did a double blind placebo controlled trial comparing steroids to nothing in RA. That's never been done before! /sarcasm
And then you even have the attention-seeking, self-appointed experts like myself going around whining in the official timeline2 that everyone is doing it wrong.
I remember being the only one tweeting about this meeting. Now it’s all social media spam.— Michael (@nuclearzenfire) November 9, 2012
Yes, the noobs, vultures, and jerks are ruining it. It is tempting to decide that the space is dead and flee to the suburbs, and in some ways I have. I've moved a lot of my social media activity over to App.net, a paid, gentrified social media site mostly for tech nerds. And yet, within the original structure of Twitter and social media is the very answer to the problem. Social media is the democratization of publication but also of subscription. I choose who I follow and what I see. 3 So while the official (and ridiculously chosen) hashtag #ACR2012 timeline looks worse than my spam folder, my cultivated ACR12 list is a clean bounty of useful information. I accomplished this by a slightly more difficult but far more rewarding technique of finding top-self Tweeters and putting them into a list. Instead of following a hashtag, I follow a list timeline of the best Tweeters.
Lists are a great functionality of Twitter. Admittedly, I didn't originally understand their use and that was in large part probably due to the fact that I only followed a few people and the rarely used hashtags of the technocrati. Once my playground opened to the masses, the noise to signal ratio dropped radically.
Lists are useful when you want to see all the tweets from a select group of people in single timeline, especially when you may not want to be a regular follower of all of the people the rest of the time. Since I pick who I follow, I select for those with the humor, intelligence, and Twitter etiquette I like. No brands or SEO gurus can force themselves into my view.
This is still the original model of your main Twitter timeline. I feel silly that I missed this fact which is the very reason it was so successful to begin with. Getting back to the roots, if you will.
I view social media as a bar.4 I have no interest in listening to every drunk at the table tell me about their Area 51 conspiracy theories, or brushing off passes from over the hill barflies, or getting into and endless debates about politics. I certainly don't want some guy to pretend to be here for a friendly conversation and then well me about this great insurance product he "doesn't want me to miss out on."
I want to drink my yuppie local microbrew in peace, chat with old friends, and maybe, just maybe meet some new people. As long as the bar is mostly regulars who behave within the social norms, it's my kind of place. When they install a mirror ball and a karaoke machine, I'm out. As far as how to meet the new folks, I'll let the other regulars in the bar pre-screen them. After I see a few retweets that valuable, I'll add them to the list.
All 50,000 attendees don't need to know you're going shopping at Nordstrom's after the plenary session. ↩
On review, I've not actually complained in the official timeline, but close enough. I'm a jerk. And many others have. ↩
With the important exception of advertisements, which is one of the reasons the tech nerds are so wary of recent policy changes at Twitter. ↩
Others prefer the water cooler analogy, but that seems even more sad. ↩