July 2009 Archives

links for 2009-07-30

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links for 2009-07-29

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links for 2009-07-22

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  • Seems to be one of the best overall sites with travel info on Amsterdam. Some nice 1, 2, and 3-day sightseeing itineraries, good practical info on transportation, etc. Wish I'd found it before I left, since it has a nice section of printable resources.
  • Excellent guide to how train tickets work in Amsterdam. Better than what the Eyewitness guide offered. (I really wish Offbeat Guides would let me add PDFs to my printed guide, so I could grab pages like this to include.)
  • This worked like a charm. (I also disabled a Microsoft .NET related addon that I doubt I need.) Firefox 3.51 on my Asus went from slower than mud to downright zippy.
    (tags: firefox)

my road warrior arsenal

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I don't travel nearly as much as some of my international jet-setting friends, but I do travel enough that I've assembled a nice collection of portable tools to make traveling more productive and less stressful. Since many of them are currently making my five-hour layover in Newark more tolerable, I thought I'd share the list with you, my faithful readers.

Computing Devices

iPhone: 'nuff said, right? phone, iPod, portable computing with always-on networking.

Asus 1005ha netbook: My newest toy. Less than 3 pounds, nice bright screen, reasonably workable processor, wifi/ethernet, video out, 3 USB ports, 170GB drive, 10 hours of battery life. Did I mention it's less than 3 pounds? Fits neatly into the side pocket of my camera bag, which means I can bring my camera (see below) when I travel, and still not have to check a bag. And it cost less than $400!

Canon EOS 30D camera: Gerald bought me this camera two years ago, and because it was so hard to carry it and a big-ass 17" powerbook I didn't take it with me nearly as much as I would have liked when I traveled. I'm so happy to be able to bring it with me on this trip, due to the reduced bulk and weight of the netbook vs the macbook. I have the 18-55mm kit lens, and a 70-300mm IS telephoto lens.

Accessories

XBrand Laptop Desk: I bought this back when my first-gen MacBook Pro was burning my lap through my clothes, but even with the netbook it's useful--it keeps the computer from sliding off my lap, and, more importantly, gives me a little mouse shelf. I get a lot of wrist pain if I work exclusively with a trackpad, so I always use a mouse when I can. This makes it easy for me to do so even when there's no desk nearby.

Microsoft Wireless Notebook Mouse: I've been using this mouse for years, and it continues to be my absolute favorite--not just for traveling. I have fairly small hands, and many "standard" mice are just too big for me. This fits my hand perfectly, and the ergonomics are just right.

Apple Airport Express: I still have two of the first-gen versions of these, and I always bring one with me when I travel. It's particularly useful if my hotel room only has wired access--I plug in the airport express, and have instant wifi. If I'm traveling alone I can use the computer from bed instead of being tethered to a desk, and if I'm traveling with someone else we can share the wifi while only paying for one computer's connection. (It's wise to bring an Ethernet cable, too, whether or not you have the airport express; you never know when the hotel's "free internet" might require you to buy an $8 ethernet cable from them.

Monster's Outlets-to-Go Portable Power Strip: I love this bit of "social hardware", which allows me to share scarce outlets on the road with others--and also means I spend a lot less time unplugging lamps in hotel rooms so that I can charge my computer and phone simultaneously.

Etymotic ER6i In-Ear Earphones: I bought these several years ago, and I still love them. Perfect for traveling, since they're less bulky and power-hogging than sound-isolating headphones, but still block out a huge amount of background noise in airports and airplanes.

Software

TripIt: This amazing website and iphone app combo is a traveler's dream. You can simply forward your travel confirmation emails to it, and it automatically builds a detailed itinerary for you on the website. The itinerary is then available on the iPhone app (even when you're not online), and can be shared with others. Useful for both me and Gerald when I travel, since he has all my travel details in one place. (Free, with a paid pro version that I don't need or use.)

Evernote: This is a really lovely note-taking application for Macs, Windows, and iPhones. It syncs your notes to the web, allowing all your devices to easily share and coordinate notes. I can take a note on my Mac, access it on my iPhone, and edit it on my NetBook. Once notes are sync'ed they're available offline. I keep all my frequent traveler numbers in this, instead of carting around all the cards. When I get to a hotel or airline desk, I can easily retrieve the relevant number whether or not I'm online. Evernote's coolest feature, however, is its ability to extract and index text not just from your typed notes, but also from images--so I can take a photo of a whiteboard with my phone, add it to Evernote, and then be able to search based on the text written on the board (or the napkin, or the business card, or anything else that I've captured an image of). The basic version that I use is free; a paid version gives you an ad-free interface on your computer (I don't find the ads intrusive), and more storage space.

Boingo Wireless: I signed up for Boingo last year, back when it was $9.95/month for three months and then went to $21.95/month. It was still worth it--on a given trip, I typically save $40-$50 because I almost never have to pay for airport or hotel wifi. The problem is they don't allow you to use it on your iPhone, which is an issue for me only if I'm traveling overseas (because data roaming internationally is ridiculously expensive). When I logged onto Boingo's site last night to sign up for a month of mobile access for my phone I realized they'd lowered their monthly price for the laptop service to 9.95, but I was still being charged $21.95--happily, they changed it as soon as I called them. That means that if I add the mobile, which is $7.95/month, it would still be less than I was paying. However, I really don't need the mobile unless I'm traveling internationally, so I doubt I'll keep it after the 30-day free trial that I'm using for this trip.

Kindle Reader for iPhone: I have no intention of buying a Kindle (even less so after the ironic and enlightening episode last week where they removed purchased copies of two books--Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm, believe or not--from customers' devices. And I won't buy DRM versions of books I might ever want to share with someone else. But for trashy airplane reading, this is a great way to avoid the bulk of paper copies. I find it very readable, despite my rapidly aging eyes.

links for 2009-07-21

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  • Side-by-side search for information about the sleeping pill Ambien. The bing results are considerably better, because the sidebar offered me a direct link to information on side effects, and the top result was an informative Mayo Clinic article.
  • Took me forever to figure out how to find my "web services password" so I could have delicious post links directly to my blog. This site finally told me the secret: you have to click on your user name in the MT dashboard, and then "reveal" your webservices password on that screen. Not intuitive, and not well documented at all on the MT site. >.<

across the pond

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Tomorrow morning I'm headed to Amsterdam (the one in Europe, not the one in New York) for an ACM CSCW conference program committee meeting. I haven't been there since I was four years old, so I'm excited to get a chance to see the city a little bit before the meetings begin.

I'll be able to travel lightly on this trip, since I recently purchased a new Asus netbook (the 1005ha, if you must know). The netbook fits neatly into the side pocket of my camera bag, so no need to bring my ginormous 17" macbook pro. The Asus supposedly has a 10.5 hour battery life, which makes it perfect for taking on the road. As a result, instead of a camera bag and a computer bag as carryons, which necessitates a checked bag, I'll be traveling with a camera bag and a carryon suitcase...thereby speeding up the airport time considerably.

I won't have a lot of time to sightsee, since I arrive on Thursday morning, and the meeting begins Friday at 5pm. I assume I'll be exhausted when I arrive, which means about a half day of exploring on Thursday after I nap, and then another half day of sightseeing on Friday (where a friend of a friend who lives there has graciously offered to show me around).

We finish on Sunday at midday (we hope), which means Sunday evening might be good for exploring as well. Then I fly home at midday on Monday, and return immediately to the hustle and bustle of game development crunch time. (More on that when I return.)

automated delicious link posting

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Now that the blog's all shiny and brand-new again, I feel bad that I'm not regularly providing content. To help a little, I've decided to start having my delicious bookmarks get posted daily to the blog--that will happen automatically at midnight every night (if I set it up correctly).

Automated links aren't as good as thoughtful posts, I know, and I'll try to provide those more regularly as well. I promise!

new templates! functional comments! oh my!

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mamamusings.net has been sporting the same template for a very long time now. Longer than I'd really like to admit, in fact. I've upgraded the underlying Movable Type engine multiple times, but haven't tweaked the templates in forever.

However, the old templates were showing their age. Commenting was basically non-functional, and even when it worked, the typepad registration requirement I'd implemented to cut back on spam meant very few people bothered to post comments.

This weekend I finally upgraded my MovableType to 4.x, which (as I suspected) broke some of the custom elements of my templates. Rather than trying to fix them, I ditched them entirely, and started from scratch with one of the default template sets included. I haven't modified the graphic design aspects of the template yet, but I have tweaked the sidebars a bit to provide the drop-down menu functionality, flickr widget, and "about" information that I had before.

Functionally, the most important part is that you can now comment without registering! Yay! I've used MT's built-in captcha technology to help in reducing spam, and if you don't want to deal with the captcha you can also log in using OpenID, Google, or Yahoo! credentials.

If you read this via an aggregator, you shouldn't see any changes whatsoever; it should all be the same as it was.

Let me know if something isn't working for you.

shared calendar solution

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I've been struggling for a couple of days now with how to create a shared calendar that family members can use to coordinate care for my grandmother--especially while my mother, her primary caregiver, is out of town.

Google Calendar seemed like the best choice, so I created a new calendar under my primary Google account, which I could then share with others. The problem with that, however, is that I really need this calendar information to be available on my iPhone (which is my primary scheduling tool). GSync will allow you sync multiple Google calendars with your phone, but it can't co-exist with an Exchange account, so that wasn't an option.

Happily, the iPhone 3.0 software also supports the CalDAV protocol, and Google supports that protocol as well. But because Google calendar will only support your primary calendar via CalDAV--and not any additional calendars you create/share--I wasn't able to use CalDAV to access the shared calendar I'd created.

What I ended up doing was creating a new Google account specifically for this calendar sharing project, and then sharing the resulting calendar with my primary Google account so I could add/edit the content without having to log in and out of different accounts. Then I set my iPhone up to access the new account directly, so it could get the data out of the primary calendar.

Success!

For the rest of the family, I can simply share the new calendar with their Google accounts--or, if they have devices or software that can subscribe to a CalDAV calendar, I can give them login info directly.

It was a little harder to figure this out than I would have liked, but I have to say calendar sharing is a lot easier now than it was a few years ago. The fact that more and more software is using sharing standards like CalDAV is a huge step forward.

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