Have you got a presence on more than one social networking site (e.g. mySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, Friendster, etc.)? Read on!
Each network within which we participate demands some time and attention. Much of the time this will be responsive (e.g. responding to others' postings/messages). Sometimes however, we wish to be proactive.
The epitome of the issue presents with regard to status. Most of us periodically change our status on our social network(s) of choice to reflect our current mood/activity. Indeed the Twitter network comprises little else. Once we obtain more than one network presence, we get multiple opportunities/needs to disseminate/maintain/reflect this status information.
Wouldn't it be good if we could change our status ONCE and have it reflected on all our social networks?
Enter a great tool designed for just this job - ping.fm.
Once you've signed up (free), you can select/configure the social networks that you use. Once done, any status updates/micro-blogs/etc. you post through ping.fm show up on all your configured, dependent sites with no further effort.
Type once on ping.fm, have MySpace/Facebook/Twitter/Other(s) (over 35 networks presently supported, more constantly added) automatically updated with no extra effort.
A super time saver.
Posted 7/07/2009 01:35:00 PM, Tuesday, 7 July 2009, by Faber Optimé. Post permanently located here. Click here to email the author about this post.
Geocaching (pronounced geo-cashing) is a worldwide game of hiding and seeking treasure.
In its simplest form, a geocacher places a geocache somewhere in the world, pinpointing its location using GPS technology, then sharing the geocache's existence and location online. Anyone with a GPS unit can then try to locate the geocache.
Enter your postal code (or your GPS co-ordinates) and click "Search".
Choose any geocache (try choosing a "traditional cache" at first, denoted by this icon , consider mystery (), multi- () and other, more exotic types of cache (, , , ...) after you've mastered the basics) from the list, then click on its name.
Enter the coordinates of the geocache into your GPS unit.
Use your GPS unit to assist you in finding the hidden geocache.
Sign the logbook and return the geocache to its original location.
Share your geocaching stories and photos online.
That's it in a nutshell!
Though doesn't really tell too much about the more interesting whole story...
You may well be surprised to learn how much is hidden so close to you!
Costs nothing to participate (though some premium services, such as some member only caches and/or txt message notifications, may require a subscription).
Integration with Google Maps/Earth (see the "Geocaching.com Google Map" links on cache/site pages) provides a great way to visually browse the world and find caches of interest. See roads, routes, terrain and satellite photos of a cache's geographic location and/or move the map around to find/see details of other caches nearby.
Cache listings have characteristics (such as Difficulty and Terrain ratings) and attributes (such as "Stroller Friendly" or "Available 24/7"), allowing sophisticated use to easily be made (e.g. "just show me caches within 5 miles that take less than an hour" or "show me all the difficult puzzle caches in the region that are wheelchair accessible and have a picnic area and toilets nearby").
Very family friendly (pets often too), with some caches especially designed for younger players.
Is a world-wide sport. On all seven continents and in over 100 countries, there are (at the time of writing) 661,996 active geocaches around the world.
Will take you to places and locations you may never otherwise know of or see. Caches are very often placed at areas with notable natural and/or man made features.
Exercises your mind as well as your body. Multi-caches typically comprise more extensive hunts, requiring the finding of multiple locations/things and/or solving some puzzle in order to get. Puzzle caches may involve a very diverse range of problem-solving skills. The Pandora's Box of geocaching - such caches intellectually stimulate, from easier ones to the very complex. Also, the actual caches themselves may be puzzles in their own right. E.g. a locked box requiring you to find a key hidden elsewhere.
Is more than just finding caches! Trackable items, such as Geocoins and Travel Bugs have a life of their own - moving from cache to cache, they have their own objective(s) (such as "get to the South Pole" (this one has!) or "just keep travelling East") and develop their own history over time. Here's one of mine.
Can be competitive.
Once you've registered on the geocaching site, your statistics are automatically maintained whenever you log activities. Advanced players may also use premium member services and/or additional tools to see/analyse their geocaching stats (e.g. average finds per week; best day's finds; number of FTFs; etc.).
Kudos always goes to the First To Find (FTF) a newly placed geocache. Sometimes hiders may also place higher value items in as a special reward.
Individuals and teams also compete for accolades such as most finds in a day/week/month (in territory/country/etc.)
Is environmentally friendly! Geocachers are always encouraged to CITO ("Cache In, Trash Out") - essentially litter pick whilst caching. Here's a good example.
Has social aspects. You may see "Event Caches" listed locally to you, where fellow geocachers will meet and share experiences. There are, at the time of writing, 62,452 active geocachers worldwide.
Has yet to discover its limits.
The placing of caches continues to extend challenges to cachers. From physical challenges such as hard to get to places, some caches even requiring specialist skills/equipment (e.g. canoe or snowski) to get; to puzzles of ever increasing complexity and cunning.
Lots more of the world yet to go, explore and discover!
Posted 10/23/2008 09:18:00 AM, Thursday, 23 October 2008, by Faber Optimé. Post permanently located here. Click here to email the author about this post.
This article reviews the Logitech Squeezebox Duet (SD) - a great new product for digital music consumers.
For the MP3 Generation
iPod users listen up! In fact anyone who uses their computer for MP3/music purposes.
A common issue is that many of us have good home hi-fis, yet tolerate inferior computer speakers when listening to MP3s at home, often due to equipment placement/wiring-related issues. There's also an accompanying dearth of complications arising when considering multiple rooms/users.
Available solutions that meet requirements and are not excessively expensive (to date audiophiles have favoured Sonos, but that costs $750USD+) typically infer significant compromises.
Enter the SD, providing a first-rate, economic solution to all these problems and more.
The SD is the new flagship product of multimedia hardware company Slim Devices, recently acquired by Logitech.
Worth noting that this product comes in exceptionally nice packaging - the SD is perfect for gift giving, exceeding the usual, high Logitech packaging standards, the box is truly a pleasure to unwrap and explore.
The SD comprises three primary components - a remote control, a charging cradle for it and a separate ("player") box to connect to your hi fi.
Hardware set up couldn't be easier - connect the player box to power and to your stereo via either conventional stereo RCA jacks (with the lead provided) or digital output; plug in the charging cradle and drop in the remote to charge it. Job done.
The software set up proved to be a little more troublesome in my case (in no small part because this kit has such vast compatibility - works natively with PCs/macs/Linux/other computers and most networks), but should be relatively straightforward for the majority of users.
When you first power on the remote some set up is required to get the SD talking to your existing equipment. Essentially, you need to go through some simple steps on the remote to configure network settings (for the techies, the SD natively uses wireless 802.11G). If you connect the SD to a network that has a direct, wired internet connection, the SD can even playback internet radio/sources even when all computer sources are off. A wireless network isn't strictly required either as the player has a single wired ethernet port available.
You also need to install a small application on each computer from which you wish to play content. When you've got it all set up, all your sources (computers/internet sources) are selectable from menus on the remote.
The Squeezebox Controller
The remote control is the pièce de résistance.
Hard to understate this cracking bit of kit.
Communicating with sources (computers/internet)/player(s) via its built-in wireless networking, no line of sight is needed.
The controls are quite simple and intuitive, broadly consistent with iPod styling (i.e. it has a scroll wheel).
During playback/playlist composition, the controller displays track details and cover art where available. This is such a joy! It really brings one's collection to life. I enjoyed rediscovering parts of my collection from album covers long not seen (and surprised myself at the plethora of covers I had obtained from my 14,000+ MP3 collection over the years!).
On it's pleasant and clear (OLED) colour screen, you can browse not only your digital music collection, but also internet radio sources, internet music stores/sources, even newsfeeds.
I could rave for sometime about this remote control - to term it such really is to demean it - it is in fact a modestly spec'ed (Linux) computer in its own right, just dedicated to running the Squeezebox Controller software.
Squeezebox players can also be controlled (via web browser) from any network connected computer.
Today, Tomorrow and Beyond...
Of course when considering such hardware investments, one requires some confidence that not only the build quality is good enough to endure, but also that the purchase will not quickly become outmoded/outdated.
In this respect the SD excels. It is designed (not only to complement and integrate with any other existing Squeezebox/digital music kit but also) for expansion, adding extra players (to feed additional hifis in other areas) and remotes to suit needs is trivial.
New releases of the system software occur quite frequently and once your installation is correctly installed and configured, are automatically obtained and applied (for free). The delight at picking up one's stereo remote to find new features/functionality is truly exquisite.
Preceding Squeezebox products have also established an open software architecture, development platform and environment that many have been keen to utilise.
Thus a panoply of free, add-on applications ("plugins") are also available to address particular requirements. For example, by way of plugins, one can browse artists' biographical details (obtained live from the internet) whilst listening to respective tracks; see lyrics (karaoke synchronised in some cases); personalise look and feel; read RSS/sport weather newsfeeds; enhance audio characteristics and/or control other hardware; etc.
With this fertile software context, one must also question what constraints the SD's hardware infers. Again, on this front the SD provides very well. It natively uses industry standards (802.11G wireless networking and/or wired ethernet) and prior to release, considerable research was done to mitigate against additional (/emerging) requirements. Hence the hardware (the controller in particular) has significant, unexploited capabilities. The controller has an unused infrared emitter (allowing for future exploitation of "universal remote" possibilities), a headphone jack port (at release just providing controller sound effects, but potentially enabling the remote to act as a standalone network player) and SD card port (providing space for expansion/additional onboard controller storage).
Thus a reasonable expectation would be that the SD will remain compatible with (and comparably good to) state of the art solutions for a minimum of 3-5 years; with its continual development potentially, considerably extending its active life and usefulness.
To amply illustrate, since purchase, general, system software updates (primarily comprising enhancements to usability/functionality) have averaged every 6-12 weeks. When I observed a minor issue, I asked a question to the online user forums and a new fix was provided within 48 hours. Exempliary responsiveness.
The Tefal QuickCup presents the evolution of that most basic and everyday of kitchen appliances - the kettle.
This device heats just the requisite amount of water one needs, thus saving an estimated 65% of the cost equivalent of using a conventional kettle.
A custom "cup size" can be set - typically to the size of one's smallest cup (though any quantity limited only by the integrated 1.5l reservoir can be delivered on-demand), thereafter a single press of the red button dispenses the set amount.
From button press to hot water commencing takes just three seconds, so using this unit is also much faster than a normal kettle!
Though tea afficionadoes should note that the QuickCup doesn't actually boil the water - it's heated to just 90°C. There's no pre-heating nor power use when not heating/pumping - making it massively energy efficient.
Those chosing to not drink water straight from the tap are not forgotten either - an optional filter cartridge can be installed within the unit (as shown in the pic), so it can integrally dispense cold or hot filtered water.
Given the cost savings in operation, buying this unit "pays back" within two years from its purchase and is in any case a worthwhile investment in decreasing environmental impact and carbon footprint.
Posted 5/19/2008 08:42:00 PM, Monday, 19 May 2008, by Faber Optimé. Post permanently located here. Click here to email the author about this post.
How many times have you sent an email, only to realise moments later a typo/that you forgot an attachment/recipient address error (oh no!).
This tip provides an efficient, free remedy for Microsoft Outlook users.
In Outlook, open Rules (and Alerts) from the Tools menu.
Create a new rule.
Make it act on all messages sent.
Set the action to defer sending by your arbitrary choice of a number of minutes. 1 minute is the minimum, though I've found this insufficient to pick up on all my errors (as I, you do check all your emails prior to clicking on Send don't you?!) - I personally recommend 5 minutes to give enough "breathing space".
Add an exception for messages marked as High Priority. Thus any messages you flag as High Importance are always sent immediately. Whilst this effectively removes the safeguard period for High Priority emails, it provides a very efficient bypass as/when you may require immediate despatch (e.g. an email regarding an auction or some other urgent/time-limited event).
Save the new rule.
Now all your emails will linger in your outbox for the safeguard period you configured, prior to Outlook commencing their send. Thus you have opportunity to remove/rewrite outgoings before recipient(s) receive in error.
Posted 4/01/2008 04:12:00 PM, Tuesday, 1 April 2008, by Faber Optimé. Post permanently located here. Click here to email the author about this post.
Windows XP provides great support for sending pictures by email.
Here's the low down on how to quickly, easily and efficiently email pictures.
Open Windows Explorer (this can usually be found under the Start Button, All Programs, Accessories).
Select the pictures you want by left-clicking on them (hold down the CTRL key to select multiple).
Right click on the pictures and choose Send To..., then Mail Recipient.
Windows will ask if you want to make the pictures smaller. Choose Yes. Typically picture files can be quite big and email servers often struggle with emails many megabytes in size. Some emails (e.g. >10Mb in size) may not be sendable and/or receivable. Shrinking prior to sending ensures that the email remains of manageable size.
You'll then be presented with an email message having the pictures already shrunk and attached, ready for you to cmplete the body of the email prior to sending.
Posted 10/09/2007 02:38:00 PM, Tuesday, 9 October 2007, by Faber Optimé. Post permanently located here. Click here to email the author about this post.
Blogging is a bastardised term short for Web Logging.
A log, in simplest terms, is a collection of notes with respective times and dates; a Blog the same, but on the World Wide Web.
In evolution blogging technology now provides publication of HTML and images to multiple formats, including email and newsfeeds, as well as directly to the web.
Blogging is actually really easy to do (hence the article classification).
Blogger is the granddaddy of blogging and technically provides all you need in an easily accessible/usable web interface.
Five minutes is required to set up a (free!) functional blog of your own.
As with many things, blogs can be developed to provide a great deal of sophistication, some of which is demonstrated in the Faber Optimé web site. Note that the News; Faber Technicus; Inspiratio Optimé; Effluvia and Linx sections are all based upon Blogger technology.
Posted 5/07/2006 11:49:00 PM, Sunday, 7 May 2006, by Faber Optimé. Post permanently located here. Click here to email the author about this post.
So you've discovered web pages on the Internet, but how best to go about making a web site?
Even the most negligible of exposures to the World Wide Web reveals that web pages usually appear in some organised, more complex context, that usually being its Web Site.
Manually constructing a web site (though a valuable learning exercise) is not recommended. The greater a site's content (in terms of both number of pages and semantic composition), the greater the implied ongoing management overhead to maintain.
Better to use tool(s) that provide effective, collective means of managing a site's contents, including: look and feel; structural organisation and navigation; and access to resources.
Three key, underlying technologies that provide web sites via the Internet are:
An acronym standing for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol.
This is the key, low-level, underlying protocol used by computers for Internet communication.
An acronym standing for HyperText Transfer Protocol.
This protocol is used to provide files over the Internet (using TCP/IP), most typically web pages, though can also be files of other types.
An acronym standing for HyperText Markup Language.
Is a computer language defining the structure and layout of a web document by way of a variety of tags and attributes.
The lingua franca of the World Wide Web.
Pretty much all web pages comprise HTML. It is a relatively simple computer language, programmed in plain text. As such its basics are easy to learn, though it is capable of a great deal of complexity.
Readers are recommended to refer to other good web sites for further info on the basics of web page creation. With the basics in hand, the world's your oyster.
The Faber Optimé site includes many examples of more advanced HTML-based technologies and techniques, though its basic composition is still good old HTML.
Tip: Using your browser's "View Source" command (in Internet Explorer, click on "Source" in the "View" menu) you can see the HTML making up any web page.
This is a great way to learn how other authors have achieved things for use in your own web pages!
Q: Can I send SMS messages from/using my Outlook contact phone numbers on my computer?
All you need is a GSM mobile phone you've configured your computer to connect to; a copy of Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 and the free Microsoft add-in, (LATER - read on first!) downloadable from the above link.
The tricky bit is getting your computer "talking to" your phone. Of course pre-requisite is a phone capable of such connection, so if it's 3-4yrs old, you're probably flat out of luck, though connections may be possible with relatively inexpensive interface cables (USB is best but may not be an option), if you've no nice, wireless infra-red or Bluetooth handset options.
In any case your phone manual should provide the substantive instructions on how to set up a connection in Windows. That's what you're after. Though the procedure of setting up a connection in Windows is prerequisite to (and often detailed in the context of) connecting to the internet, you'll not be using the internet with this software solution. Once you've got a connection to your phone configured in Windows, you can select it in the Outlook SMS add-in and that's it all ready to go.
You can compose/send SMS messages and reconfigure your settings from your new Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 Add-In toolbar, as shown opposite.
Since SMS infers short text messages via mobile only, it's not a bad idea to set the toggle to ignore contacts w/o mobile numbers to save time adding message recipients, though this does rely upon your contact's mobile numbers having been correctly specified in Outlook as such!
You'll find the message compose and send dialog self-explanatory.
Set messages are retained in a discrete "SMS" Sent Items sub-folder.
Advantages in using Outlook in this way include: automatic retention, archiving (as determined by your own Outlook auto-archive settings) and searchability of messages; as well as ergonomic and efficient use of your contacts' phone info in Outlook on your PC. Price is right (free), light on additional resource requirements and is robust. For best effect ensure that you're also regularly synchronising your phone data to Outlook.
Drawbacks are pre-requisite requirement for Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 and limited functionality of the free Microsoft add-in, inferring that messages are only sent, not received back into Outlook. Also got to have Office 2003 - doesn't work with preceding versions.
Happy SMSing :)
Posted 5/01/2006 06:43:00 PM, Monday, 1 May 2006, by Faber Optimé. Post permanently located here. Click here to email the author about this post.
Welcome to Faber Technicus! This posting marks the launch of Faber Technicus - an online repository for the sharing of technical knowledge. This Blog contains a diverse array of assorted technical articles, tutorials and answers to questions thought to be of possible interest to a wider audience.