Dale Dietrich
friedman: always supply your comparative advantage
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Category — web apps

Evernote Review – It Has Become an Integral Part of my Life

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imageWhen I first purchased my Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, several years ago, I dabbled with an earlier stand-alone version of Evernote. It presented a never-ending scratch-pad of sorts that I could write on with the tablet’s stylus. It was nice, even useful, but it didn’t supplant OneNote as my primary note-keeping software, until recently.

Evernote is the latest of several cloud-based service that I have been experimenting with. See my prior posts on  Google Apps Gmail with iMap, xmarks (formerly Foxmarks) and Dropbox.

The new cloud-based Evernote blows both the old Evernote and OneNote out of the water.

Evernote Benefits

  • It’s free. Free accounts permit up to 40 Megabytes of new notes to be added / synced per month. I haven’t come close to using my monthly capacity in the two months I’ve used it (I have used, perhaps 1/4 of that).
  • More than Text Notes: With the free version you can keep text, photo, audio clip and handwritten notes (in my case, written with a stylus on my tablet laptop). You can also import PDF files into notes in the free version.
  • imageMultiplatform Syncing: These notes are continuously synced, accessible and editable across my three primary PCs (Thinkpad tablet, Dell XPS desktop and my iMac) and my iPhone.
  • Accessible from the Cloud: I can access and edit these notes through my Evernote account in the cloud.
  • Notes Backed Up: By virtue of its syncing across multiple platforms and a copy of all notes residing in the cloud, my notes are continuously backed-up across my systems and off-site.
  • e8fbda733b7f1ac3f333410a6e35dfe3Tagging & Search: You can tag notes, structure the tags in a hierarchy (if you like – see the picture of part of my tag hierarchy on the right) and sort them how you chose. Or don’t. Instead, you can rely on its formidable search engine to find your notes. Either way, notes I wrote years ago (imported from OneNote) are as easy to find as notes I wrote yesterday.
  • Indexes Text in Images: Surprisingly, Evernote can index text in images. If I take a picture of a bottle of wine, a business card, a plane ticket, or even hand written notes on my tablet, it will scan and index that text. That text then becomes searchable when looking for the note containing the image at a later date.
  • Clip From Anywhere: Evernote adds toolbar icons in Firefox and IE that allow you to clip webpage contents, text, columns or images into a note. You can clip entire pages or just a few paragraphs. Additionally, pressing Print-Screen on a PC (Control-Command-C on the iMac ) fires up a screen ‘Clipper’ app that can grab a screen shot of any running app or the entire desktop (or portion thereof). You can cut and paste from any app on an iPhone into the Evernote app.

See this ‘What is Evernote’ page for more details on what it does.

CONTINUE READING →

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I’m Using Dropbox to Sync Key Files Across My PC, Laptop and iMac

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dropbox logo

I have recently been experimenting with various cloud-based services. Among the best are EverNote, Google Apps Gmail with iMap, xmarks (formerly Foxmarks) and, now, Dropbox.

As described in more detail below, among other things Dropbox: (i) allows me to securely sync office documents between my PCs and Mac at any location; (ii) unchains me from my office PC; (iii) liberates me from coding on a single PC; and (iv) allows me to draft and maintain my Windows Live Writer blog posts from any of my PCs situated anywhere.

Dropbox Benefits

  • Sync: Dropbox synchronizes your key files between any number of Internet-connected PCs, laptops or Macs, effortlessly and instantaneously.
  • Access Your Key Files Anywhere: Synced files are also maintained on the Dropbox servers. You can login to your account from any web-enabled computer to securely access your files (download or upload).
  • Security: All file transmissions occur over an encrypted SSL channel. All files stored on Dropbox servers are encrypted using AES-256 encryption accessible only by you with your account password.
  • Backup: Because your files are synced across at least two PCs, your files are effectively backed-up.
  • Real-Time Offsite Backup: Because your files are also copied to the Dropbox servers, they are effectively backed-up, off site, in real-time.
  • Undo/File Recovery: Remarkably, Dropbox maintains a 30 day history of every change made to your files so you can undo changes or undelete accidently deleted files.
  • Shared Files & Folders: You can share files and folders with other drop-box users. For example, you could set up a shared folder of photos accessible only by friends and family through their Dropbox accounts.
  • iPhone App Coming Soon: You can view all your Word, PowerPoint, Excel, PDF, etc. files  using the free Dropbox iPhone App coming soon (see iPhone, Blackberry and other Dropbox mobile details here).

Click here for a detailed list of Dropbox features.

Dropbox Demo

How I use Dropbox

  • Office Document Use: As a lawyer I access, edit and annotate Word documents and pdfs all day, every day. When I move from my PC to my laptop, I save the file I’m working on and by the time I shift to my laptop, the changes made to that file are synced to my laptop. Similarly any edits made on the laptop are instantaneously synced back to the desktop. No longer do I have to email the document to myself, save it to a USB key, copy to/from network drives. I simply open and save files on whatever PC, laptop, or Mac I’m using, and the latest version is instantly available on the other synced devices.

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Eric Schmidt’s Definition of Web 3.0

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Eric Schmidt is the CEO of Google. In the 2 minute video below he describes what he believes Web 3.0 applications will be.

 

In summary, he defines, Web 3.0 as:

  • Applications that are pieced together.
  • They are relatively small.
  • The data is in the cloud.
  • The application can run on any device, PC or mobile phone.
  • Applications are fast and customizable
  • Applications are distributed virally via social networks and email.

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How to Host Your Email on Your Domain using Google Apps’ Gmail– for Free!

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google apps' gmail - sent mail screen With Google Apps’ Gmail you can set up personalized email addresses for yourself, up to 50 members of your family or 50 employees in your business, using an Internet domain you own and control – for free! Your email address will no longer be chained to your ISP or your web-based email provider such as Hotmail, Yahoo! or Gmail.

I have been using Google Apps to host my personal and professional ‘@daledietrich.com’ email (pictured above) for about a year now. In this post I provide detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to do this.

While Google Apps’ Gmail is completely free, to use it you must register your own domain. If you haven’t yet, you can register a domain with a Domain Host (‘DH’). I use GoDaddy. As of the date I write this, GoDaddy charges $9.99 U.S. ($9.99 on sale) for a one year registration of  a DOT COM domain ($6.99 to transfer in an existing .com domain) and $10.69 for annual renewals.

Screenshots below were taken when I set up my ‘daleipshere.com’ domain to use Google Apps Gmail using GoDaddy.com as my DH.

 

Why Google Apps for Email?

A. Email Hosting for Any Domain – for Free: I used to pay $65 a year to have my @daledietrich.com email hosted by Elehost (a terrific ISP by the way). Now my @daledietrich.com, @daleisphere.com and @wishhh.com email is hosted on Google Apps for free!

B. Freedom from ISP Domains: Most personal email accounts use the ISPs domain – eg: yourname@comcast.com, yourname@rogers.com. This artificially locks users into a given ISP. If you wish to change your ISP you may be reluctant to do so because you’ll have to change your email address. If a move results in a change of ISP, you’ll have the additional hassle of changing your email address. But, when you set up a Google Apps Gmail account with your own custom domain, email accounts you set up for your family or business can be used forever – regardless of your ISP.

CONTINUE READING →

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Facebook Connect Glitch with Disqus

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disqus - facebook connect - not logged in

[Update: As of April 18, 2009, the Facebook Connect glitch under Disqus discussed in this post appears to be remedied. As you can see, I have re-activated the Facebook Connect option on The Daleisphere.

I also note that commenters using Facebook connect have the option (when leaving a comment) to allow that comment to be posted back to their Facebook feed.

Finally, I have updated my ‘Why and How to Integrate Facebook Connect with Disqus’ post to reflect recent Disqus/Facebook implementation changes.]

————–

Disqus is in the process of enhancing their Facebook Connect feature. However, for the last day or so, with the feature enabled, only logged-in Disqus users were able to leave comments on The Daleisphere and on my iMedia Law blog. Neither Facebook users, nor regular commenters could leave comments here.

I recently updated sections 4.6 and 4.8 of my ‘Why and How to Integrate Facebook Connect with Disqus’ post describing the changes that Disqus recently instructed me to make on the applicable Facebook developer pages to facilitate the latest enhancements.  Clearly, they are not working.

For more information on the problem, I wrote a detailed description of Facebook Connect / Disqus problem here in the Disqus forums.

So, as of March 18, 2009, I have shut off Disqus’ Facebook Connect functionality on my Daleisphere and iMedia Law blogs. 

I will update this post when this problem is resolved.

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Pixlr – Terrific, Free, Web-based Image Editor

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pixlr in operation in full screen mode I discovered a terrific new web-based image editor called pixlr.com. It works like Photoshop Elements, Paint.net and other popular image editors – but from inside any browser, with nothing to install.

It’s free. No sign-up or user account needed. No downloads or installs required. It just works – instantly.

Remarkably, If you have Adobe Flash 10 installed, it works like a desktop app, but, still, in your browser. Load and save images from your PC via typical desktop pull-down menus. Press F11 to make it go full screen. It looks and feels like you are running a desktop app.

It works on the Mac or a PC – anywhere you can install Adobe Flash. This is particularly attractive for Mac users given that there is no useful image editor built into OS X.

CONTINUE READING →

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How to Migrate Feedburner Feeds to Google Adsense

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move Feedburner feeds to your google adsense account

Google’s acquired Feedburner back in June of 2007. Feedburner has since been integrated into the Google Adsense platform. Bloggers can now place adsense units into their RSS feeds. In order to take advantage of of this service I needed to migrate my three Feedburner feeds into the new Google adsense feeds system.

According to this Google/Feedburner FAQ, February 28, 2009 is the deadline to migrate feeds. After that users will no longer be able to access their Feedburner accounts.

The migration process is simple for regular Feedburner users.

I use the MyBrand service – see my earlier ‘Google Turned Feedburner into ‘Free’burner Without My Knowledge’ post.   A few more steps are required to migrate MyBrand feeds.

General Migration Steps

You can initiate the migration process from inside of Google Adsense or Feedburner. I initiated the transfer from within Adsense.

Note: You’ll need to set up an adsense account before you initiate the migration.

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Why and How to Integrate Facebook Connect with Disqus

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 Using Facebook Connect with Disqus
The primary reason I switched from Intense Debate to Disqus, is Disqus’s integration with Facebook Connect. Below I describe why this is important. I then provide a step-by-step ‘how-to’ guide on how to integrate Facebook Connect with Disqus.

[This Post was Updated on April 18, 2009 to reflect the changes made to the setup process, both on Disqus and the Facebook developer pages.]

1. Why Facebook Connect is a Big Deal

Discussion via comments draws users back for repeated visits to their site while engaging them in conversation with the blogger and other commenters. Bloggers want traffic to drive more ad sales and, frankly, they want more people reading their content. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Users are understandably reluctant to leave comments on blogs. Most bloggers, including myself, require users to leave a name, email address and an optional URL. The reason for this, at least in my case, is to weed out spam commenters and to develop a sense of community among commenters. Requiring such information has the unfortunate side effect of dissuading most readers from commenting because they don’t want:

  1. the ‘sign up’ hassle just to leave a comment; and
  2. to provide personally identifying information.

Facebook Connect solves these two problems and provides other terrific benefits.

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How to Integrate Disqus within WordPress 2.7 Blogs

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disqus logo

Earlier this month I described How to install Intense Debate in WordPress 2.7 blogs. In my ‘Why I switched from IntenseDebate to Disqus’ post [coming soon] I describe why I made the switch.

The Disqus installation instructions are out of date (written for pre WP 2.7 blogs) and surprisingly difficult to follow.

Happily, both Disqus and IntenseDebate mirror/sync comments within a blog’s databases (though there are still problems with threaded comments not retaining structure – see part 6 below). This makes it possible to switch back and forth between the two at will.

Below I provide a step-by-step guide for integrating Disqus within a WordPress 2.7 blog. I first make some preparatory recommendations. Then I describe the steps needed to set up with Disqus, download and install the Disqus WP plugin, how to import your historical comments into Disqus and, finally, how to reclaim straggler comments.

CONTINUE READING →

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Scoble Convinced me to Join friendfeed

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friendfeed logo

Since joining Twitter a few months back, I have wanted to understand how it overlapped/interacted with the web-content aggregator friendfeed. I looked at friendfeed at least two or three times and never quite ‘got it’ – until today.

Robert Scoble was a guest on the recent episode 81 of net@night. This guy is quite the friendfeed evangelist (Arrington suggests he’s addicted to it). So much so that the net@nite discussion made me want to take another look. Leo mentioned that Scoble had done a ‘how to’ type video on friendfeed. A quick Google search lead me to this very informative 26 minute video: ‘Robert Scoble: 20 Things About Friendfeed”:

CONTINUE READING →

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How To Install IntenseDebate in WordPress 2.7

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intense debate logo

Since listening to this net@night podcast back in May 2008, where Amber and Leo interviewed Daniel Ha, the founder of the Disqus, I have been interested in implementing this kind of a community-oriented, commenting/discussion system on my blogs.

Early on, I had compared the feature set of Disqus and its competitor, IntenseDebate (“ID”), and Disqus’s feature set and looks won. Concerns surrounding the ability to import, export, sync and otherwise control my comments, held me back. I was not going to join any system where I lost ownership/control of my users’ comments.

In the interim, both Disqus and ID have added dynamic comment importing, exporting and synchronization features. I became comfortable that I would not be locked into any commenting system if/when I chose to leave. Scot Jangro’s December 30, 2008 post, ‘Comment System Review Redux’, compared the the two systems afresh and gave me substantial comfort that ID’s feature set had evolved to near parity with Disqus (see other comparisons: inquisitr.com | Mashable).

But the clincher came on Sept 23, 2008 when Automattic, the owner of WordPress, purchased IntenseDebate. (See: Matt Mullenweg’s commentIntenseDebate’s commentDisqus’s comment). I expect Automattic to integrate IntenseDebate’s community comment / discussion system into the WordPress core at some point. So, as a WordPress user, it seemed a no brainer to go with IntenseDebate.

[January 23, 2009 Update: Despite what I wrote above, I ultimately switched to Disqus not long after implementing Intense Debate. In my ‘Why I switched from IntenseDebate to Disqus’ post [coming soon] I describe why I made the switch.]

IntenseDebate’s WordPress Plugin features are discussed here.  The newest WordPress Plugin (v 2.0.18) has been completely overhauled, making the installation and comment import/export/sync process much easier than it was.

Below I describe why I installed ID. I then walk you, step-by-step, through the IntenseDebate installation process in WordPress 2.7.

CONTINUE READING →

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Synchronize Firefox 3 Bookmarks with foxmarks

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foxmarks logo

[July 7, 2008 Update: I discuss the foxmarks beta version below. Foxmarks is now out of beta and available as a normal add-on for Firefox 3.  You can download it here.]

[May 2009 Update: Foxmarks is now named xmarks and can be downloaded here.]

Last year I became an enthusiastic user of Google Browser Sync (GBS). It effortlessly synced my Firefox bookmarks, passwords, browsing history and cookies across my several desktop and laptop computers.

When I tested Firefox 3, beta 4 in April I was saddened to discover that GBS didn’t work with Firefox 3. Mozilla has completely changed how the bookmarking system works in Firefox. As far as I can tell, Google has not announced plans to update GBS despite numerous bloggers and forum participants beseeching Google to do so (see for example here and here).
[July 7 Update: Google announced several weeks ago that it will no longer provide GBS for Firefox.]

Weave Didn’t Work for Me

So I downloaded Mozilla’s newest beta software, Weave, that promised to synchronize my bookmarks (latest version 0.1.28 available here – ars technica setup instructions here – poorly reviewed here – but working for this guy and this blogger). Despite hours of frustration I couldn’t get it to work – at all.

Lastly, I looked to foxmarks but, at the time, the Firefox 3 version was in private beta only.

So, without a means to synchronize my bookmarks and given the Firefox 3 ‘Open in Tabs’ Overwrite Bug that I previously wrote about, I fell back (tail between my legs) to using Firefox 2 – memory leaks and all.

Firefox 3 logo With the release of Firefox 3, RC1 I couldn’t wait any longer. I installed it expecting to use Firefox, for a time, without synchronized bookmarks – quite dispiriting given how I’ve become reliant on it for cross-system synchronization.

foxmarks for Firefox 3 Now Available in Public Beta

After installing Firefox 3, RC1 [Update: download current version here] I was happy to discover that a public beta for the Firefox 3 version of foxmarks was now underway. I installed it on my computers and it worked. It continues to work without incident across all of my Visa x64 and XP PCs.

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Animoto – Professional Quality Videos From Your Pictures and Music for Just $3

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animoto logo

In Episode 49 of the net@night podcast, Amber MacArthur and Leo Laporte interviewed the co-founder of animoto, Brad Jefferson. animoto is a web service that generates professional quality, customized videos from your images and music. FYI, here’s Leo’s video.

I decided to give it a whirl. I am impressed. So far I’ve ‘produced’ three videos including this one of my 2002 trip to Thailand (turn on your speakers for this).

The images in this video were taken from these Thai locations in this order: Bangkok (including the backpacker Mecca of Khao San Road), Ko Samui,Ko Tao, Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, Rai Leh, Ao Nang Krabi, Kanchanaburi (Bridge Over River Kwai), Phang-Nga then back to Ko Samui

Except for the uploading and processing time, assuming your pictures are generally ordered on your computer or hosted web service in the order you want them in your video, the process takes only about 10 minutes of your time.

Animoto ‘How To’ Summary

  • Select Images: Upload your pictures to animoto (one picture per second or two of music worked well for me). Alternatively, you can select pictures from your flickr, facebook, smugmug, picasa or photobucket account
  • Arrange Images: Arrange the photos in the order you wish. You can tell animoto which pictures to highlight in the video
  • Select Music: Select one of their canned tracks or upload an MP3 file from your computer
  • Payment: Pay either U.S. $3.00 per video, or $30 for a year long unlimited all-access pass, with Paypal or Google Checkout (unfortunately no credit cards yet). Note: See the referral program info below to get $5 off the all-access pass
  • Processing: animoto will churn away for an hour or two analyzing your pictures and chosen music and then create a customized video. animoto will email you a link to the finished product when done

Below I describe what you can do with the resulting video and provide a step by step guide, showing how I made the Thailand video.

CONTINUE READING →

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Google Turned Feedburner into ‘Free’burner Without My Knowledge

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feedburner logo Until two days ago, I was blissfully unaware of the fact that Google had purchased Feedburner back on June 3, 2007 and in the process made two of its key services, FeedBurner Stats Pro and MyBrand, available to bloggers for free (see announcement).

[February 3, 2009 Update: Google has integrated Feedburner into its Adsense platform. See my new post ‘How to Migrate Feedburner Feeds to Google Adsense’.]

FeedBurner Stats Pro provides bloggers with detailed statistics about how often their RSS feeds are being used, which posts are being read/accessed the most, what feed readers are being used etc.

MyBrand allows the blogger to use a blog-branded RSS feed URL (in my case http://feeds.daleisphere.com/thedaleisphere) rather than a Feedburner-branded URL (eg: http://feeds.feedburner.com/thedaleisphere even as Feedburner continues to manage the feeds in the background. The obvious advantage of MyBrand, aside from the branding aspect, is that bloggers are no longer locked into Feedburner and can seamlessly transition their feeds to a competitive service without requiring their readers to update their feeds. (More details here)

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