Archive for the 'Howto' Category

DRM woes- when free isn’t

June 19, 2010

I am sure others have sorrier tales than this. I don’t even have an eReader yet. I use my iPhone. And I am a tightwad so I don’t tend to buy much . But I did succumb to a free book offer from Audible. I signed up and downloaded the book but then didn’t continue the membership. As I said I am a tightwad and anyway talking books put me to sleep.

But it was a free book offer so its mine right? Well only until I get a new computer (which I did last week) and want to retain the book. I have to reauthorize the account on the new computer. Only I didn’t continue it. So I can’t.

I can’t even retain it on the phone as it wont sync.



Saxophone practice- story of an embed

June 6, 2010

Today I wanted to share with you a typical weekend sound from my home. My husband plays a baritone saxophone for a big band and, as he doesn’t get much time to practice during the week, he practices on weekends. (Be kind when listening. He is just practicing and the “barra” is not a normally solo instrument.) Any way this post is about to turn into a ‘How to” because it wasn’t that easy straightforward. I like to document these infrequent tasks so I can remind myself how to do it next time as much as anything.

I had recorded the audio using the default “Voice memo” app on my phone. There are only 2 ways to “share” from that app – MMS or email so I emailed it to myself. That gave me an .m4a file on my lappy. Next step was to work out how to get it into a blog post.

First discovery was that I couldn’t just upload to the site. I am using the free hosted so I saw the message below when I selected “add audio”.

My first puzzled thought was that there was no audio formats listed as allowed file types. I didn’t actually notice and read the finer type below that tells me I need a paid space upgrade to upload audio file type but did go off to read the help files which told me exactly the same thing. (There are lessons there for us writing manuals or web sites. People don’t read below the first couple of sentences. )

So one possibility was to pay for an upgrade. Another was to look for another site that hosts audio files. I had already signed up to Audioboo on my iPhone so they were the first site I thought of but hadn’t played with the site much. They do allow uploads but not m4a files.

So, solutions so far:

  • pay for the space upgrade.
  • record the playing with the Audioboo app in the first place.
  • convert the file to mp3 and host it on Audioboo. This is pretty easy with iTunes.

    Then I could use the audio code found on these directions to link to the file. (I found the right link in the Audioboo embed code). This is what I have done below. This “audio” code only works with mp3 files.
  • host the file elsewhere. We could be hosting it on our space with our ISP and my husband did FTP it there to test this solution. It worked and I could probably link to it there. Or I could have used someplace such as Mediafire. But I would have only been able to link to it not embed it unless I had done the conversion to mp3.
  • Use Posterous. Posterous allows posting by email and converts the m4a to mp3 on the fly. It worked but I can only link to the post not the file (I think- perhaps Posterous gurus could comment).

There are probably many other solutions. Perhaps readers can suggest some?

Anyway, finally, here is “Saxophone practice”:

Gripe 1: Inappropriate Email attachments

June 2, 2010

Thank you all for the suggestions in the comments of the previous post and I will try to address those large issues in future posts.

But first a more minor gripe:

Event notifications to librarian email lists where the information is in the attachment. Only the attachment. And the attachment is a .pptx file. And the powerpoint is a one page flyer for the event.

Now you may think that this is a very particular gripe but I have seen it enough times – with variations – that I feel the need to gripe.

What is wrong with the practice?

  1. Putting the information that you are trying to communicate only into an attachment effectively buries it. Your reader will need to open the attachment before getting the information wasting their time (shall I invoke Ranganathan?). This also means they are less likely to read it at all- wasting your time composing and sending the email.
  2. Putting the information only into the attachment also hides it from my email search function. Maybe I do read it but then lose it and am trying to find it again.
  3. It also hides if I want to mark the event in my calendar. I use Outlook and can drag and drop and email to the calendar to create an event. If the information is in the body of the email it also becomes the body of the event which is convenient but not if its only in the attachment.

So maybe you put the information in the email as well as the attachment? Better but still problematic.

  1. I have worked in a small library where my total email box limit was 30Mb. Any attachments inflates the size of the email you send. An attachment in a file format that is naturally large increases the chances that your email will not even reach me.
  2. Maybe I don’t have the software that will open the attachment. I can only open a .pptx easily with the Office 2007. I only got an upgrade a couple of months ago and many people still have not. I may be reading your email in an environment that doesn’t use Microsoft at all.
  3. Maybe I am reading your email of my mobile device? Much less likelihood of downloading the attachment in the first place and of being able to open it.

So why send an attachment at all?  I wouldn’t but as most of them seem to be “pretty” versions of the information I would guess the senders are perceiving a need to provide the information as a flyer that people can put on a notice board. I would question that need but what would be a better format?

Well a PDF version of your file would be a much smaller size and a more universally accessible. Most people have Adobe Reader. You don’t even need the expensive Adobe Acrobat to convert Office documents to PDFs. There are many free PDF converters or “print to PDF” utilities on the web. If you don’t have admin rights and need to make a case to your IT for installation I would think that there are enough times that a librarian needs to create a PDF that you should be able to do that.

There are some larger issues raised in this minor gripe. A librarian regularly doing this shows:

  • inconsideration for the information needs of the email recipient
  • unawareness of the issues of using particular file formats and of inflated file sizes
  • unawareness of the multiplicity of email environments and digital divide issues in our professional community

and maybe that’s what really gripes me.

Outlook issues

October 28, 2009

I thought I would document this one in the interests of others as it took several man hours (IT help, colleagues and me) to resolve.

We frequently scan bits of paper and email the PDFs to ourselves and others.

Suddenly about a week ago I suddenly wasn’t able to receive the scans from the MFD (multi function device- or big machine that copies, prints and scans) that is in the library. I could receive from any other machine but it was a pain to walk up to the other end of the building to do it. I logged a call with our IT people for help.

After a bit of testing it arose that I was the only one with the issue. My colleague in the desk next to me could get scans emailed from the same machine just fine. It was getting very weird. the first thing I thought of was the junk email folder but that was empty.

A bit more testing from IT at the exchange resolved that it wasn’t an MS exchange issue either but somehow the emails were getting auto permanently deleted. (Thanks Jeremy). If a scan was sent to me while I was shut down the email went to the web mail just fine so the issue was my local setup.

Then I  got worried.  Around the time the problem started there were several updates to key bits of software. I started looking at what I could uninstall and also looked around at any Outlook add-ons that I had.

All this testing was a pain to my colleague (thanks Aimee) – I had to change sites and was ringing her every 5 minutes to ask her to try sending me another scan from the questionable machine.

I don’t know what made me look but I found it.


In the “Junk email options” I had ticked ON “permanently delete suspected junk e-mail instead on moving it to the junk email folder”. Now I remember turning that on several months ago after seeing nothing but true junk in the folder and getting sick of deleting it. Clicking it off and getting yet another test sent proved it. The test went straight to the Junk folder.

The mystery is why Outlook suddenly decided that the MFD address was junk. Adding it to the exceptions has, hopefully, now solved it. But I am also now worried that there has been other emails that I have missed in the intervening months.

So this is a warning. However well you think Outlook is handling your junk email DO NOT be tempted to select the “permanent delete” option as “permanently” in this case does NOT mean “move to the delete folder” and you can’t see and monitor what Outlook is deciding is junk.

How many WiFi connections?!

July 19, 2009

Hubby was asked by son to “help” configure his and his mate’s Nintendo DS Lites to hook up to our home WiFi network. After much research (including one site which stated incorrectly that our router was incompatible)  we finally found the answer that worked on a router support forum. The key, we think, was that our network passkey had to be in ASCII not Hex. We chose the opportunity to strengthen our network passkey. We also protect our network by MAC address filtering.

Of course then we had to reconfigure every other connected device in the house.  I thought that I would document the list and the issues.

  • 2 laptops running Windows XP- one using a Dell wireless utility- no problems so far a reboot didn’t fix (these are our work supplied machines).
  • 1 XP laptop (our son’s) using a Belkin PMCIA slot wireless card.  The utility wanted a hex passkey so we entered a hex translation. We restarted the card by physically removing and reseating it, then it accepted the hex version of the passkey and connected.
  • Tablet running Kubuntu Jaunty. A lot of problems. Turns out there is a documented bug where it won’t accept an ASCII passkey. Installing WICD worked here.
  • iPhone- no problem
  • Nokia E71- no problem
  • Nintendo Wii- no problem
  • 2 x Nintendo DS Lite- they started it

Occasional visitors (B-I-L and daughter) yet to be re added and tested:

  • a laptop running Vista
  • a laptop running Ubuntu 9.04

I know we could have more, e.g. if we had other internet connected gaming consoles, but I think this is a lot of WiFi networked devices for one small household. And this list doesn’t include the two desktop PCs that use cable for their networking (one is our media server running MythTV on Ubuntu 7.10).

How does your household compare?

How to: Tasks with notifications for iPhone

July 3, 2009

As much as I love my iPhone it has been as backwards step for me from my Palm Treo for certain productivity functions.

Top of the list was a todo or task management system that synced with Outlook and gave me an alarm when something was due.

Today I have that functionality but it isn’t perfect. As with most iPhone work arounds it involves third party web services.

I decided on the Toodledo app some time ago. It has a lot of functionality, was getting good reviews and has a third (fourth ?) party application that syncs with Outlook. Today Toodledoo updated their iPhone app so it uses the new iPhone 3.0 push notifications.

So my system involves:

Once you have these things in place follow these instructions. The key things are to allow notifications on the phone when asked on startup and sync THEN go to the web site Reminders/Alarms page and select the iPhone as your reminder location.

I took some time to get this to work.

My problems were:

  • I was creating a task with a reminder on the phone and not realizing that it the app only auto syncs on startup not exit.
  • The task has to exist on the website.
  • When I was getting to the point that I was about to give up I checked my account settings ON THE WEBSITE and realized that the time was set for 2 hours ahead of what it should have been. Once I fixed that my next test worked fine.

The other thing to know are that Toodledo has two service levels- free and pro. With the free account, such as I have, you only get one notification choice, i.e. iPhone or email or SMS, and one choice of alarm time- one hour before the due time. Don’t rely on the exact time – they state that its actually 1 hour +/- 5 minutes.

The other not ideal thing is that I choose to manually sync with Outlook. My Outlook file is vast and any auto syncing (including Google Calendar sync) was slowing it further. Between that and that fact that the iPhone app only syncs on startup I have to remember to consciously sync everything.

I would be interested to hear of other iPhone users experiences setting up tasks with Outlook sync and notifications.

Easy blogrolls

September 4, 2008

One of my 23 things colleagues has just started her own blog (Yay Anne). She was talking about how difficult it was to add her blogroll by typing them in one at a time. I remembered that I didn’t do it that way but had to then remember just how I did do it.

This is how.

How to import links

In the add link section in the dashboard is an “Import Links” link. If you click on it you will see an option to import an OPML file either from a web address or locally.

To get your OPML file from Google reader go to “manage subscriptions” at the bottom of your feeds list. Then you will see an “Import/Export” tab. If you click the “Export your subscriptions as an OPML file” you can save all your feeds which you can then import to your blogroll. Unfortunately at neither end of the process to you get to choose a subset of your links to display. The only way would be to categorize your links or delete the ones that you do not want to show. A painfull process when I have 110 subscriptions.

I did mine from Feeddemon which allows you to select a particular folder to export. A very useful feature.

There is another way which Google Reader provides that you may see used. In the “Settings” under “Folders and tags” there is an option to make a folder public. If you do you will get a link “add blogroll to your site”. This gives a handy script for a widget which you could paste into a text widget to display a dynamic blogroll from just one folder. Except if you are using who do not allow javascript to be used for security reasons. 😦

Sharing bookmarks and clipped posts

June 11, 2008

One of the things we want to be able to do as librarians is quickly and easily share our newest discoveries with our clients and each other. I wanted to add a display for my shared, bookmarked and clipped items to this blog.

Sharing from an RSS reader
Social bookmarking like is an obvious choice but how about from my feedreaders. Google Reader makes it easy providing an RSS feed for both starred and shared items. But I recently shifted to Feeddemon, a desktop reader because Google Reader cannot see firewalled feeds such as those generated by our internal wiki. Feeddemon has a “add to clippings folder” which acts much like “starred items” in Google Reader. The trick to sharing them was to synchronize with Newsgator – Feeddemon’s online partner.

Problems along the way
Initially I synchronized all my feeds making them available to myself at any computer. The trouble was that for some reason a great number of my feeds stopped updating all at the end of May. It was a busy time for me so I initially didn’t notice. A trawl through Newsgator’s support forums indicated I wasnt alone but that Newsgator were treating incidents on a one at a time basis. I wanted my feeds back quickly. When you use Feeddemon the request for an update for a feed comes from your own PC. When you synchronize via Newsgator they come from the Newsgator servers then are downloaded to the PC. Switching off synchronization updated my feeds again.

However, thankfully, turning off synchronization doesn’t turn off synchronizing the “Clipping folders” (don’t ask me why). And there is a RSS feed for it (very hidden but they give you the URL in very tiny font right down the bottom to the page). There is one last step. I wanted to have one place where everything I bookmark online can appear and I use for items I come across not in a reader. I took the RSS feed for my bookmarks and the RSS for my Feeddemon clippings and added both to a  Google Reader folder. I went to (confusingly) “tags” under the Google Reader settings and there made that folder “public”. Then going to “view public page” for the folder gives me the RSS feed for the mashed up feeds which I could add to a widget to display in the sidebar of the blog.