Sunday, November 05, 2006

Blogger via Picasa


This is an example of what posting by Picasa looks like. Posted by Picasa

2: StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon is a fun way to waste time online. They describe their site as a way to "channel surf" the web. By selecting categories of websites that you're interested in, you can visit randomized websites in those categories and rate them. Much like, there's a page showing you all of the pages that you've rated, and there's a social aspect as well.

9. Once you're on the site, decide if you're going to use the Internet Explorer browser or the Firefox browser by clicking on one of the icons as seen below. Register your information (it doesn't appear that the age is necessary, and feel free to use a pseudonym.)

10. Now, pick the categories that you're interested in viewing. There are a lot of possibilities, so pick topics freely and with abandon. It's much easier to pick topics here than to add them later, so click on the more topics button and view the additional options. (Note the picture below won't correspond exactly with the topics list that you're seeing as you register.)

Once you've selected all of the topics, click Download Now at the bottom. You might need to pick another username, if it's already been taken.

11. Now, you'll need to get the tool bar. Click the download button. You'll be taken to a different site to download the toolbar (this site is also reliable and trustworthy).

12. Click the Download Now button on the second site.

13. Run install.

14. Run the software.

15. The install wizard will appear. It will say that all of your open IE windows (if that's the browser you've selected) will be closed, so close and save your tabs if you want. The program will set itself up, and will open up a new browser with the new buttons already installed. (If they don't appear, right click on the toolbar area, and put a checkmark by the StumbleUpon option. Similarly, if you ever decide that you don't want to use StumbleUpon, you can uncheck it, and those buttons will vanish. Same with the buttons.)

16. Here are the StumbleUpon buttons. Pressing the SU button will take you to a random site based on your interests. Here, it selects a kitten site based on the Cats topic.

17. I decide that this is a cute site, and I like it. Now, I can press the thumbs up button stating "I like it!" to save this site onto my SU page.

Once you vote on a site, a little button offering reviews of this page (written by other SU users) will appear to the right of the down thumb.

Some of the more interesting menu options are to:
-stumble by keyword (search by specific topics)
-send this page to (an easy way to share interesting pages you find)
-my page (similar to the page which lists the pages you've found and rated)
-my friends (where you can find other users)
-inbox (SU messages)

18. My Page is a page where all of your positively rated sites will appear. You can even filter the results via pulldown menu. You can see when the page was added, and can go back to the original page you stumbled upon.

It shows the topics (similar to tags or labels) applicable to the page.

For more info on using StumbleUpon, you can click the mail icon to be provided with more explanations of SU features. The fun of the program is exploring.

One more perk of the SU toolbar, you don't have to visit the StumbleUpon website again to keep seeing random websites. You can click the button at any point in your webbrowsing, and it will find a site for you to enjoy.

1: Blogger resolutions, posting with Picasa

It's been a few months since the launch of this blog and Blogger beta, and both have seen great changes. Blogger is very stable and most of the issues and difficulties encountered with Blogger have been resolved.

-You can now delete images from blog entries, and rearrange them without encountering errors.
-You can post through Picasa to Blogger.

Before we examine how to post through Picasa, here's one little feature that will be useful to organize your blog. You can add labels (Blogger's word) to every post describing what that post's about. It's the same idea as tags, so when you click on a label, it will show every post you've tagged with that label.


Here's the step-by-step guide to posting with Picasa. It works, but there are still a few small issues.
-You have to turn off backlinks to post with Picasa (details to follow).
-There's currently a 4 picture limit - any more and the pictures won't appear.
-There's no confirmation from either Picasa or Blogger that a post has been created, but it will show up in Blogger.

We'll walk through the backlinks settings, and then go through a sample Picasa posting.

2. You need to turn off the backlinks. From the Settings tab, click on the Comments link.

3. Here are the settings that you should select to enable Picasa's posting. Hide the backlinks, and set no backlinks to your new posts.

4. Now save your settings, and log out of Blogger. Stay logged out of Blogger until after finishing up with Picasa's BlogThis! Open Picasa, and select a photo to upload from your Picasa library. Here, I'll demonstrate with a photo I've previously used.

Select this photo, allowing you to make choices in Picasa's bottom menu. Once you've selected a photo (up to four), click the orange BlogThis! button.

5. Picasa will launch a window (not your browser) that looks like your normal Blogger menu. It functions the same. Sign into the beta.

6. You will see the familar image upload menu with one difference. There's a new pulldown option, but if you only have one blog, it will just display the title of that blog. Click continue when you've selected the layout you prefer.

7. Now you'll see the slightly different Compose window. The same options are present, but they're in a different location. Once you've written, you can either save it as a draft or publish it on the bottom. Since it's a trial post, Save as Draft might be the best way to go. Picasa won't give you a confirmation, but the rainbow indicator (normally seen when importing pictures) will be seen.

Now, you can log into Blogger. From there, you can edit and publish your posts as usual.

8. The blog entry looks the same, with the addition of the Picasa logo and link.
known issues for picasa

Monday, October 30, 2006

Part III: Technorati, Lifehacker, Wikipedia

To continue our exploration of interesting sites to browse, we're going to touch upon Technorati, Lifehacker, and Wikipedia, each of which offers a great selection of new ideas and fun.

Technorati is a collection of blogs. Think of it as a for blogs, showcasing popular and much-discussed ideas. It provides a measurement of different popular blogs and articles.

There are a number of categories of interest - the favorites:
top favorited blogs (those blogs added as favorites to Technorati accounts)
top searches and tags
top blogs
popular internet videos
top news
top books.

Any of these categories could provide inspirations for blog postings, tags to use, new things to read, and the internet videos category provides a useful way to see what's popular on YouTube without being deluged with videos.

This site is aimed for serious bloggers, but is fun to skim through in search of new content as well. Again, searching for specifics can be difficult.

For more browsing fun, Lifehacker is a fun, and informative site. It's useful to find random facts, and it's a good addition to a Bloglines account. The content tends to be aimed at computer users with advanced understandings of Linux and operating systems, but it can offer tips for the casual computer user too.

The whole focus of the site is to make life, and computers, easier to use (which is where the site's name originates). The content varies wildly from offering screenshots of yet-to-be-released products, shortcuts to avoid voicemail greetings, to a way to easily scroll through Firefox tabs.

The site draws upon other popular tech blogs, but manages to keep their content interesting and (mostly) accessible to anyone, with the exception of some of the software and hardware "hacks." (This site defines hacks as anything that's done in an unconventional, and not necessarily detrimental, way. The example of faster movement through Firefox tabs would be considered a hack because it's useful.)

Wikipedia is another widely known site offering just about every subject imaginable. It's also often controversial since anyone can edit content on the site, which means that incorrect facts can be posted. If you're curious about both sides of the debate, Wikipedia's coverage of itself (search for Wikipedia) is fascinating to read. The article goes into far more depth than the average user might want to know, but it's still informative.

This site is a great starting point for information-gathering on nearly any subject. But, beware, the content tends to be quoted and requoted verbatim on other sites. You might have to search for an alternative means of verification if you're researching a topic.

Undoubtedly, this site is the definitive resource available online.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Part II: YouTube

YouTube is probably one of the most talked about websites in existence now. After its acquisition earlier this month by Google, it's received a tremendous amount of media attention. YouTube is a collection of videos uploaded by...anybody. There's a dizzying amount of content available from people singing along to their favorite songs (often badly) to videos of pet tricks. Of course, there are scores of videos featuring teenagers talking at the camera.

YouTube has also been the place to view clips from popular tv shows, although (although copyrighted materials are being removed presently.)

This clip of a Welsh Corgi is popular, and contains nothing more than two minutes of a puppy walking around.

YouTube separates its content into categories, but since the videos are tagged by the people uploading their videos, it's not always helpful. Consider the categories suggestions instead of actual, definitive categories.

This appeared in the Science & Technology category.
Rube Goldberg S'more Machine

inside of hard drive

Different movements of the hard drive are shown as different actions are taken. It might satisfy a curiosity that you didn't even know existed. YouTube is good for that.

According to an article in Forbes, teenagers aren't the only ones using YouTube. Adults can even entertain and amuse themselves on the site with a lot of patient browsing.

Part I:

If you see a site you like, or a webpage that you want to revisit, it's probably automatic that you bookmark it. If you want to organize your bookmarks, it's time to break out the folders, and subfolders, and subfolders of subfolders, until your saved items are hopelessly lost in the efficient filing structure. Sound familiar? provides a clever online solution to the tangled bookmark problem. It takes the same concept of bookmarks and adds a social element. Bookmarks are publically viewable (if you'd prefer) and accessible from any computer with internet access. Instead of a labyrinthian tangle of folders, each site or article can be given a tag, which is a short label about the contents.

If you had an article saved on reducing credit card debt, you might tag it as: financial, debt, credit card, budget, to-do. In fact, with, you can tag it with all of those labels and see what other people have tagged the same article with. Then, when you're trying to access that article again, you can use the tag as a trigger for your memory. You can even click on a specific tag, and bring up every article and bookmark that you've associated with that tag.

1. From the home page, click on the get started link as shown below. Their explanation of tags in on the right hand side of the page.

2. You'll be taken to a series of registration screens. Feel free to use a pseudonym on the name section. You will be required to verify your email, and opening your Gmail account now would be wise.

3. After you've verified your email address by opening the email sent, and clicking on the appropriate link, your account is created.

To use, you'll need to install two buttons into your browser. If you're using IE, the first link is the one to click on, and click Run when prompted. (I left my browser open while installing, and nothing dire happened.)

4. This is what the installed buttons look like with Internet Explorer 7. They're positioned slightly differently than the tutorial shows with Internet Explorer 6.

5. The button tutorial is very helpful.

6. If you prefer to use the mouse and right click instead of clicking on a button, you have that option.

7. To accomplish the notes taken directly from the article as shown on the tutorial, select the text you want, and THEN click on the tag button. Your selected text will automatically appear in the notes section. (If you forgot to select text before you hit the button, you can always copy and paste text into the notes section.)

8. If you have lots of time to while away, click on the popular section under the homepage. You'll be able to see the articles that people are saving, and what kind of tags they're using. It's a fascinating way to learn all kinds of random facts.

9. Now your email's verified, you're ready to start.

10. After finding an article that you want to bookmark, click the Tag button, and a new tab will appear.

11. The new tab will show the url (web address) of the article you've selected, the description (which is the title of the article), any notes that you want to add, and tags. Separate the tags by a space. The blue links at the bottom show tags created by other people that might be relevant. Click on one of these if you'd like to apply the tag to your tags.

Now, you've created your first bookmark. Click on the checkboard button (on your browser) to return to the homepage.

12. You'll see your homepage with your recently added article. You can edit or delete the article's information or bookmark by clicking on the edit/delete to the right of the article's title.

It's worth remembering that you might have your bookmarks neatly organized, but sometimes online content has a finite life online. Bookmarks do become obsolete, and if you positively cannot live without a piece of information, consider printing it out or copy/pasting the text (with proper references of course) into Word or other word processing program.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Automated Content: RSS & Bloglines

Your blog's up and running well. You're using a template that interests you, your images are uploaded easily, and things are fantastic. Except....

What else is there to write about?

There are probably websites that you read regularly, to check for breaking news, and other interesting topics. It'd be nice if you could find a way to bring all of these disparate webpages together. It'd be even nicer if by bringing these things together, you could find more topics to write about.

An RSS feed combined with a feed reader can accomplish these wishes.

Every website contains content, which is why you'd visit. In order to see if the site contained new content, you'd have to type the address or click a bookmark. Even then, there's no guarantee that the site would have been updated in which case, it'd be a waste of time.

An RSS reader (like Bloglines) collects your favorite websites and displays their content on a single page, while notifying you when new articles are updated. An RSS feed is a website's announcement that new content has been posted. It's received by the RSS reader and from there you can read the new materials. This saves you the effort of regularly visiting your favorite blogs or sites. For breaking news, though, it's easier to go directly to the news source since feed readers are usually updated at intervals.

Bloglines is a web-based RSS reader that's easy to use and doesn't require a download. It can also be accessed from any computer.

1. The sign-up process is fairly standard, and begins in the center of the Bloglines page.

2. After you you provide your email, and password, you'll be asked to confirm that your email address is yours and is valid. Wait for the Bloglines site to email you, click the link in the email they send, and then Bloglines knows that your email address is yours. (Sometimes, people will sign up for different free webservices using someone else's email address in hopes that that address will be spammed. This is a polite way around that practice.)

3. Under the welcome box after you confirm your registration, you'll see two boxes on the right hand side of the screen. Of the two boxes, the box on the left is where we'll start. This is the Quick Picks box, and Bloglines has sorted a few popular feeds into categories. Click on the Plus sign to expland the category, allowing you to see each blog within that category, or click on the check box to subscribe to every blog within that category.

Bloglines uses the subscribe/unsubscribe terminology for deciding that you want to be notified that a website's been updated.

Select as many of the interesting websites as you want, but know that each of these sites will likely update more than once a day with multiple articles. This can lead to a very large selection of things to read once you're using Bloglines fully! I'd advise to select no more than 10 feeds until you're more familiar with the way things work.

4. The selections you made from the left box will be selected in the right box, which is a collection of the most popular feeds from that day. Select the feeds you're most interested in, and then click Subscribe to My Selections.

5. This is your feed list. The folder at the top tells you how many feeds you're subscribed to, and offers the handy Mark All Read option in case you get overwhelmed with unread articles.

Notice that all the links are in bold with a number behind them. The bold shows that the feed has been updated since the last time you checked. The number refers to how many articles exist in the feed. (At first, Bloglines will provide you with a great many articles from your selected feeds, because it assumes that you'll want to read past articles as well.)

6. Click on a link to see the articles display in the right hand pane of the screen. This is where your articles will be displayed, and you'll always have access to the Bloglines menus on the left pane.

Now you have a list of the articles available for you to read, distinguished by alternating grey and white shading. At the bottom of each article, the same information appears: the dates show when the article was posted, when Bloglines added the article (under updated), and provides you with options to email, clip, or blog the article. The Keep New check box allows the checked article to be displayed every time that you click on the feed name. (I've had problems with the items displaying reliably, so it's recommended that you email the articles that you're most interested in.)

This article is about the top songs on iTunes, and shows a number of links within the article. Not every article will be displayed fully in Bloglines - some are designed to just show up incompletely on any feed reader, and you'll have to click on the article's title link to read the rest of the article on a separate page.

This article is complete, but if you want more information on the band displayed, you can click on any of the provided links to see a separate page.

In essence, Bloglines acts as a ringmaster for the great Internet circus. It's a way to organize and view the pages that you like best from the chaos.

7. You can add more content by clicking the Add button from the top left pane of your feeds list. Once you're there, the right hand pane will show a number of options. Bloglines will try to find the feed for you if you're unable. A growing number of websites display some kind of badge showing that they're providing an RSS feed. Some even have a little button saying Bloglines, so you'd only have to find and click that link to add their website to your Bloglines feeds. Other sites provide a link showing where their feed's located. Enter this address into the Blog or Feed URL space.

Once you've entered the address, Bloglines will (try to) find the feed for you. If it does, you'll be presented with this screen. Don't worry about what it means - just preview the feed with the link underneath, and if you like it, subscribe to that particular feed with the subscribe button on the bottom. If the feed has a lot of different variations, you may be scrolling for a minute.

The standard settings are: folder - toplevel, updated items - display as new, and display preferences - default. These are good to leave as they are.

8. Now, go to the Options link in the top right of your screen. Here, you're able to change your account settings. In the basics tab, you can change your email address and password. The blog settings will allow you to set up a blog with your saved articles, but that's not as useful since you've already created a blog. The user profile link will allow you to fill in completely optional information about yourself. The feed options link is the one that you want to check. The settings should be defaulted to these, but feel free to experiment with these settings. I've found that these display articles in a pleasing and helpful way.

Get creative! (Just remember what settings you used so you can revert back to them, if necessary.) If you get overwhelmed with posts, you can always unsubscribe from the feed.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Image Manipulation with

Picasa isn't the only program to offer helpful and free photo editing. A Google search will reveal many programs with varying abilities and features. Lifehacker recommends PXN8, which in addition to having an amusing name, has a variety of interesting tools and effects. Also, this site requires no software to be downloaded, and is completely free (although ads are prominently placed.) One fantastic feature of this site is the integration with Flickr.

9. Clicking on the Choose your image link will bring up the standard browse and select window. Find and upload your image. I'll be using the same flower from Zuleyha which is available for derivative works by the Creative Commons license.

There are different options available on this menu. Feel free to experiment, and make sure that you've saved the original of your image to Gmail.

Mousing over the buttons will show what each option does. Notice the prominent Undo option.

10. Click on the Fun Effects link, and then click on the Lomo option which darkens the corners and brightens the center of the picture, focusing attention on the middle of the image. I used 60% opacity with this result. I like the way the circular shape of the colors highlights the already winding pieces of the petal.

On top of the photo, the size of the photo is displayed in pixels.

11. If you press Undo, a small text line will appear at the top telling you what changes are being undone. If you decide that you'd like to keep the changes, there's always Redo.

I've now decided that the intensity of the colors isn't dramatic enough, so I'm going to select Enhance from the top menu.

12. Because I'm experimenting with this image, and want to make it look not only dissimilar to the original image but also the Picasa-edited image, I'm going to rotate this version. Once.

13. Twice.

14. Three times. The size has now changed from 232X240 to 240X232. This picture has now been fairly well edited, and I'm satisfied with the results. Except, it seems a little dark....

15. After using the Fill Light option twice.

Now that I'm done with this particular variation of the image, I can either save the file to my computer or upload it to Flickr, which is what we'll do. Click on the Upload to Flickr option, and log into Flickr with your account information.

16. After you've signed in, you'll be asked to verify that PXN8 is allowed permission to upload your photos to your Flickr account.

17. After you've accepted, you'll see this screen with confirmation that your photos were uploaded. PXN8 automatically uploads and autofills the photo title, description, and tags, all of which can be deleted if you'd rather not provide that site with free advertising. You can now use Flickr to upload to your blog, or just organize your collection.

18. This shows a few more fun options from PXN8. This is the culmination of the:
-spirit horizon
-interlace (with white) options.

19. To make this collage, I used Picasa's collage feature and added several of the edited photos to the photo tray. Voila!