on Friday, February 27, 2009

Pitaschio is a neat, free, extremely lightweight program that allows you to make odd little tweaks to your desktop, to customize mouse clicks, mousewheel movements, shortcut keys, and window behaviors.

A few of it's many features:

"Snapping" and resizing. You can set windows so they'll snap into place next to other windows, and set resizing options to allow you to more easily resize open windows.

Disable keys. You can disable certain keys you often hit by mistake, such as the Caps lock key and the Insert key. You can also temporarily disable your entire keyboard to allow you to clean it.

Autoraise. If you have multiple windows on the desktop, Pitstachio will bring to the forefront whichever window you move you mouse over (as opposed to clicking the window). You can set a time delay on this function.

Shortcut keys. Easily create you own shortcuts to many common Windows tasks (e.g. Ctrl + double click brings up the Control Panel, mouse wheel turns down the sound).

You can even find out how many days old (i.e. past the new moon) the current moon phase is, with a screentip next to the Pistachio icon. Weird.

It is easily customizable. The screenshot below shows many of the functions available. Give it a try.

Download Pictachio here, or click the link to learn more.

Thanks to Loretta Lohman for the tip.

20 Free Flash Galleries

on Tuesday, February 24, 2009

These 20 Free Flash Galleries provide an almost overwhelming set of tools to allow you to build an on-line Flash slidehow for photos and other images. The formats vary from the conservative to the whimsical, and are geared toward varying degrees of technical literacy. So, read the blurb describing the gallery, and explore the one that makes the most sense to you. Some of them use on-line photo galleries like Flickr, Picassa, and Photobucket, others rely on manually loading the images or using scripts downloaded to Photoshop or GIMP. Documentation is provided with every gallery.

Here's a Flash slideshow for the 4-H Truck Giveaway made by Darrin Goodman using Airtight Interactive's Autoviewer. A screenshot is below.

Here is a demo family album I made using Airtight Interactive's SimpleViewer and Photoshop. Cute! A screenshot is below.

Multiple IE

on Friday, February 20, 2009

Whether you are a web developer, or simply managing a single web site, it is important to test and preview your pages in several browsers, from Firefox and Safari to all the different versions of Internet Explorer out there. The problem with Internet Explorer is that you can generally only download the most recent version from Microsoft. And, when you do, it will attempt to overwrite the older version.

Tredosoft has come to the rescue with Mupltiple IE, a fast, lightweight program that installs Internet Explorer versions 6, 5.5, 5, 4, and 3 onto your machine. So, when previewing pages on your site, you'll be able to test it on all the versions of Internet Explorer out there, and not simply the latest. These are all stand-alone versions of the IE browser, so they won't overwrite other versions of IE.

Multiple IE works only on Windows XP. It won't run on Windows 2000, or on Windows Vista.

Use this link to download Multiple IE, or simply to learn more about it.

Embedding PowerPoints

on Monday, February 16, 2009

You can easily embed PowerPoint presentations into a blog or website using Google Docs. Upload the document to Google Docs, open it, and then click the "Share" button in the upper righthand corner and choose "Publish/Embed." Cut and paste the supplied code into the body of your website or blog and you're done! A simple four slide example is shown below.

For a step-by-step demonstration of the process, as well as a live demonstration of setting up a site in Google Sites, please feel free to join our Connect session from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. this Wednesday, February 18th. For more information, check the email sent out Monday about the session (entitled "Connect session: Google Docs and Google Sites") or email me at jeffrey.wood@colostate.edu.

Free Recorded Conference Calls

on Wednesday, February 11, 2009

You can host an unlimited number of free conference calls at the easy to remember FreeConferenceCall.com (http://www.freeconferencecall.com/). The only charge involved is the normal domestic long distance rates charged by the participants' long distance carriers. The teleconference can have up to 96 participants for a 6 hour period of time per session. You can record the conference call for playback and download as well.

Like so many on-line services, you register for the service with only an email address and a password. They send you a dial-in number, a host access code, and a participant access code. So all you need to do is email the participants the call-in number and the access number and the time the call starts. You don't even need to schedule the call with FreeConferenceCall.com.

To record, hit *9, then a PIN (also emailed to you by FreeConferenceCall.com). To stop the recording, hit *9 again. Other button-activated features are shown in the screennshot below. To listen to the recording, you call the provided phone number, enter an access code, and you're in. You can rewind and fast forward using the buttons of your phone. The only limitation is that it will only archive one recording at a time (when you make a new recording, it replaces the old one). But, and this is very cool, you can download the recording in either .wav or as an RSS feed through the website.

Give it a try! Let us know how it went.

Thanks to Ruth Willson, Mark Platten and Judy Barth for letting us know about this service.


on Monday, February 9, 2009

I thought I'd post three items recently referred to me by readers of this blog.

File Replicator
Loretta Lohman brings the File Replicator to our attention. It's free, fast, and does just what it says it will: find and update multiple versions of the same file. You pick the file you want to be the "master," and File Replicator looks for other versions of the document and changes them to replicate the version you pick. File Replicator includes safeguards to keep you from accidentally deleting the wrong thing: you choose a root folder for the search, you can choose to search only and not replace, and before you replace, you're shown a list of the files to be replaced. It's a good tool to to make sure that all copies of an important document are up-to-date.

To download it from PC World, go to http://www.pcworld.com/downloads/file/fid,75897-order,3/description.html

Google and the Dangers of Monoculture
Perry Brewer sent me an article about the dangers of monoculture. With our increasing reliance on various Google tools--G-mail, Google Docs, Google maps, Google Reader--the article poses the question "What would happen if Google went away?" The deeper issue is the problem created by near-complete reliance on a single vendor for a solution to a problem, and is equally applicable to Microsoft as well.

The whole article can be viewed at ZDNet.

Remember the Milk
Finally, Mary Snow sent me a link to a nifty little on-line gadget called Remember the Milk, which is reminder list, quite similar to the task list on Outlook, but with the added benefit of being on-line, and thus accessible from anywhere. Plus, it's free! In it's most basic form it's a simple to-do list, but it can also send you daily or one-time reminders on task status and future appointments. Tasks and task lists can be shared with other Remember the Milk users. You can use it for tasks ranging from grocery lists to project management.

Register for Remember the Milk at http://www.rememberthemilk.com/

3 Ways to Increase Your Google Juice

on Thursday, February 5, 2009

"Google Juice" is that magical substance that allows your site to show up high in the Google rankings when people use the Google search engine to search for a specific subject. The higher your ranking, the more likely people are to visit your site. Here are three basic tips on how to increase the Google Juice, and thus increase website traffic, on your site.

1) Use keywords that are often used in the text of your site. In particular, use keywords that show up in heading tags and links. Use keyword phrases, not just keywords. Be sure and include colloquial expressions ("lameness" in addition to "laminitus") and common misspellings ("foriegn" in addition to "foreign").

2) Embrace the hyperlink! Link to other sites. Not only does this increase your ability to show up higher in Google rankings, it also allows you to put a great deal of information in a very small space, by allowing the end-user the option to pursure a particular subject or keyword in more detail. The NASA Astronokmy Picture of the Day is an excellent example of this: a short explanatory paragraph provides a wealth of information simply by using hyperlinks liberally.

Other sites linking to you will also increase your Google rankings, so get to know sites that write about related topics. Link to them, and suggest they link to you. This is an excellent strategy to increase website traffic.

3) Optimize your keywords. There is a great tool called the Google Keyword tool that allows you to search and sort actual Google word and phrase searches, and choose keywords based on those listings. You input either your URL or a list of keywords, and it gives you the monthly traffic rate and advertiser competition for those keywords. The goal is to find keywords and keyword phrases with relatively a relatively high number of searches (3rd cloumn in the illustration below), but low advertiser competition (2nd column). This will often involve "long tailed" keyword phrases, meaning very specific - and often longer - keyword phrases not as commonly used on webpages. For more information, visit the recorded Connect session on Google Search engines and Keyword optimization. The session is about 45 minutes long.

Xenu Link Checker

on Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Xenu is a free download that allows you to simply, quickly and accurately check the links on a website. It will verify almost any link which appears in anchor tags, as well as images, frames, plug-ins, backgrounds, local image maps, style sheets, scripts and Java applets. The program follows links to other pages, and checks the links on those pages also, so it is possible to check an entire site for broken links in one session.

A broken link is reported with a simple "not found" in the status column (see the screenshot above; double- click it to enlarge). In my tests of Xenu, the only links it was unable to check were "mailto:" links (links to email addresses), and occasional links to web pages created by Microsoft Office.

The report Xenu generates is fast and can be sorted by web address, status, page type or directory level. Sorting by status will give you a list of all broken links found by Xenu.

Use the following link for more information on Xenu, as well as the download itself.

Pixlr, a Free Online Image Editor

on Monday, February 2, 2009

In the recent past, Jeff Wood has been offering trainings to county offices in the usage of both Photoshop and its open source counterpart, The Gimp. Another great tool for photo editing/manipulation that you may want to look at is called Pixlr. It's free, and all you really need in order to access the service is a Web Browser (IE, Firefox, Opera, Konqueror, etc...) and a relatively recent version of Adobe's Flash Player. Check out their FAQ if you have more questions. To begin using Pixlr, go to their website and click on the picture to get started. http://www.pixlr.com

- click images to enlarge -

You will see a series of menus appear near the bottom of your Web Browser's tools and bookmarks. Select File > Open to quickly upload an image and begin editing. I found that tool is fairly intuitive (especially if you are a Photoshop or Gimp user) and is easy to use.

- click image to enlarge -

The folks at Pixlr have expressed that the tool is geared more towards the amateur user rather than the professional, but if all you need to do is some basic photo editing, this tool might just do the trick. Have fun!