Have you noticed your friends posting news articles on Facebook recently? Have you clicked on said news article and found yourself suddenly asked to give an application access to your personal information? And have you noticed that when you do click yes, every time you read an article about Snookie’s new underwear choices it is plastered all over your facebook wall?
If you haven’t experienced this (or don’t use facebook), good for you. If you are a facebook or social media user and have been trapped in this invasion of privacy, I have a cool alternative. It takes a few steps to set up, but once you do, I honestly think it is WAY better and more functional.
A little background: Personally, I read a ton of news articles in a given week and I like to share the best with friends and followers. I don’t flood my feeds, but there may be three or four items in a given day that I think are worthy of attention. I don’t engage my friends via facebook’s social reader, instead I use a few tools that all talk to each other. Here is how to do it.
1. Gather your news via Google Reader:
I have detailed instructions on how to set up Google Reader, so read that first (and get a gmail account if you don’t have one).
You can populate your RSS Reader with just about any popular new source (including this blog). These are the articles you will share with your audience.
2. Connect Google Reader with Twitter:
a. In Google Reader, look at the upper right corner, you will see a gear icon. Click on the icon and a “Reader Settings” option will be available:
b. At the top of the next screen, there is a tab “Send To”, click on it to select different social media accounts:
c. At this point, you have a few options. If you use both Twitter and Facebook, click on just the twitter check-box. If you only use Facebook, click on that check-box and hit the return to reader link at the top.
NOTE: If you are using only facebook, you are pretty much done. If you want to make automatic posts to both twitter and facebook, keep reading.
d. In your reader, you will now see a “Send To” option at the bottom of each post:
NOTE: I added both Facebook and Twitter, but if you want to use both, you only need twitter here.
e. If you click on the twitter button, a twitter box will open with your post:
You need to do one more thing to make this all work…
3. Connect your Twitter account with your Facebook Account:
a. Go to this link to sync your two accounts: https://apps.facebook.com/twitter/
b. Click on the button that takes you to your account settings.
c. At the bottom of your twitter settings, there is a button that allows you to connect the two services. Push the button and follow the on-screen prompts:
You should be all set! Now you can share posts that you read (without any requests for information via RSS). I know there is a little bit of work up front, but once you get all of this set up, it is a much better way to read, save, and share news that is important to you.
UPDATE: During the writing of this post, I may have come up with a next level method that can allow for metrics and some other custom tweaks. Check back for that post.
( #Skype, #GoogleTalk )
I have been meaning to do a post about video conferencing for the last 2 months but school and work have gotten in the way. With the news about Microsoft buying Skype for $8.5 billion, people are talking about the service and video conferencing in general, so I thought it would be a good time to do a tutorial.
I tried Skype a few years ago and didn’t like it. I was not into the software and I always had problems with the video; but I will accept that things have probably changed a great deal over the last three years (and I suspect Microsoft will add many new features including Xbox functionality). Video conferencing never held much appeal to me until recently: I have a few friends who don’t live close and we video conference a few times a month (or we will let the cameras run while we are watching the same movies so we can see each others reactions).
Since I don’t use Skype, the service I have been using is Google Talk. Besides a small plugin, you don’t have to install any software and works on almost any computer. Additionally, if you have a gmail account, there is no need for additional logins. While this is a really simple set up, I will still walk you through it.
Before we get started, you obviously need a gmail account, if you don’t have one, go sign up and come back.
1. In order to video conference, you need a camera. Most laptops have built in cameras, but if you don’t have one, logitech seems to be the go-to brand for all things web-conferencing. I am currently using the C510, but the C310 is a little cheaper and will work well.
2. Once your camera is sorted out, you need to download the Google Talk Video Chat Plug-In. Click on the “Install Video Chat Plugin” button. Follow the directions based on your operating system (should only take a minute).
3. Once the plugin is loaded, go to gmail and log in. On the left side of the screen you will see the chat section. If you don’t have friends in your chat list, you can invite them by putting in their gmail address (in the text box shown below). If you do have friends in the chat list, look for a video camera icon next to their name – that means they have a computer that can video conference.
4. Click on the person’s name and a new window will pop up (usually in the bottom right corner of gmail). If the person is available for video chat, a button with a video camera will appear in the upper left corner, click on it.
5. You can now video chat:
Skype’s purchase is going to bring attention and improvements to all of the services—this is good news to consumers. I hope this tutorial was helpful and you find excellent ways to video conference. Try to stay off of Chat Roulette!
( #Kindle, #Amazon )
I bought a Kindle over the weekend. I have been thinking about buying one for about two months. I went back and forth between Amazon, Barnes and Noble (Nook), and Apple (iPad) before I just said screw it and went with the Kindle.
The reason is the e-ink. I thought it would be easier on the eyes and it is. On Friday night I bought the device at Target. I opted for the $189.00 version because it has free 3G connections for downloads and for things like Wikipedia. I thought that would come in handy. Once I turned it on, I was immediately impressed with the screen, size, and weight of the device. It is super light and small, but doesn’t feel cheap. It was very simple to connect to Amazon and once I did, I purchased and downloaded my first book which took a few seconds to download.
The book is 600 pages in paperback form and I read it in less than 24 hours. My eyes feel great. I love not having to turn pages, the Kindle remembers the last spot you read, so no more bookmarks, and it even highlights quotes people thinks are memorable (but it can be turned off). I spent the morning searching Amazon’s free selection of classic books. I downloaded a few I own in hardcover that I haven’t read in a long time. I can see impulse book shopping becoming very dangerous for me this year.
The Kindle has a built in web browser, but I didn’t mess around with it too much yet. I went to this website and it rendered well for black and white, but I wish Amazon would have a Google Reader applet for RSS feeds, but they are trying to get people to spend 2 bucks a month on their own bullshit RSS feed subscription plan, so I don’t think it will happen anytime soon.
My initial thoughts are that I am really impressed with the device, it is easy on the eyes, and I am very worried about my wallet since they make it so easy to download books.
For those technically inclined, this may seem a little rudimentary, but I cannot tell you how many times I tell people “I found this article in my RSS reader and I thought you would like it” and I get a blank stare back. My motivation for this article comes from Facebook’s ever increasing privacy violations – I am prepping to get away from the service and I plan on taking everyone with me.
Personally – I don’t need Facebook. I have a website where I can publish whatever I want and control how it is viewed. I know most people don’t want to run their own websites and are perfectly content with Twitter or Facebook, but I want to make sure you can keep in touch with… me!
My own ego aside, RSS feeds are a fantastic way to read news, keep tabs on your favorite musicians, and much more. Another great feature is you can mark them as saved and go back later or even share them with friends in a variety of ways.
For this tutorial, we are going to use Google Reader. Yes, I know Google does some semi-creepy stuff with your data, but at least they don’t force you into sharing things you don’t want to (first week of Buzz aside).
1. You need a Google account. If you don’t have one, go to Gmail.com and sign up for a new account. If you have a Gmail account, skip to step two.
2. Once you have signed up, go to Reader.google.com. You will be see a welcome screen…
3. In the top left side of the screen, you will see a button that says “Add a subscription”. Click on that button…
4. Type your favorite blog or website and then click the add button (SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT!)
5. You will see that once you hit add, the blog or website will be added to your “Subscriptions” section
As you read through the posts, the RSS reader will mark that selection as read and the number of unread items highlighted in bold will decline.
6. By default, Google Reader shows all items in your RSS feed all the time. You can change that setting in the upper area of the article window. By clicking on “Show: New Items” the reader will only display new posts. This can be changed back and forth at any time.
7. At the bottom of each article, there is a control panel that will allow you to star, share, email, and do other things with the post. You can look at your starred items in the left side control panel, there is a “Starred Items” Folder (the same goes for shared items)
8. If you look at the left side control panel, you will see “People that you follow”. Click on “Search for some people”. This will take you to a screen where you can put in your friends Gmail addresses and be able to easily see what they are sharing and visa-versa.
That takes us through the basics of setting up RSS feeds. Have fun finding sites to add to your reader.
Before I go – one last hint. Several websites like LifeHacker and even the New York Times have different RSS feeds formatted in different ways. Some sites only give you the headline of the article, other sites give you the full article. Most sites offer both, but you will have to find the link to the full feed. Don’t get frustrated, you should see an RSS feed icon that looks like this:
That should give you the link to the properly formatted RSS feed. But give it a try, you will get the hang of it very quickly.
About the author: Joey Lombardi owned and operated a computer repair store named “Computer Joey” for several years. He has an “Information Technology” degree from Drexel University and several Microsoft MCSE certifications. Basically… he knows his shit.
The most common “nerd” activity I do on the internet is set up custom domains for small business and friends. Over the years the cost of running your own website has dropped to almost nothing, so there really isn’t an excuse not to have a website – plus would you rather point someone to facebook or your own sweet customized domain that helps get your name out there – doing whatever it is that you do.
[Getting a Domain]
The first step in a personalized website is getting a domain name. There are a million sites to register at, but my personal favorite is Weblaunching.net. They aren’t the cheapest ($8.00 for registration and an additional $5.00 for advanced DNS which you will need) but the site doesn’t do anything shady like lock down the domain for 7 days if you don’t buy it from them – unlike NetworkSolutions.com (who are assholes).
Try to snag your own name, because it looks good for resumes and also personal business. If you are running a business and it’s name is taken, try hyphens and different domains like “.net” and “.org” and some of the new ones like “.ms”. Once you have found a name you like, register it and then sign up for advanced DNS settings.
I have built countless websites, and I have reached the point where I am just tired of doing the coding. There is ALWAYS going to be a newer better way to code a site but for normal end-users who just want a basic site there are plenty of free templates that will do just fine. My favorite? Google Apps Standard Edition. Google Apps (standard) is free and gives you: web hosting, emails, calendar, and document management.
You will need to add a CNAME record to your DNS management site, which is very easy (just follow the directions from google). On the weblaunching site, go into DNS Management and “create CNAME record”. When you add all your custom CNAME records, it should look like this:
If you are planning on using the custom mail that Google Apps offers, you will need to set up your MX records. In advanced DNS, go to the MX records section and make it look like this:
After a few hours, the DNS changes will propagate through the internet and the site should start working.
When it comes to websites, you have two options with Google: you can use their “Sites” service or you can use “Blogger”.
If all you want is a blog, you can easily set one up at Blogger (which is a Google owned site). Once you sign up for an account, go into your SETTINGS tab. Click on the PUBLISHING tab below and you will see an option to set a custom domain. If you don’t want to do anything special, just set it to www.(yourdomain).com. You will need to go back to your domain management company (hopefully weblaunching) and add a CNAME for www. You will need to set it to “ghs.google.com”. After a few hours the site should start working under your domain. If you plan on doing a customize home page, I recommend setting the blog to “blog.(yourdomain).com” – the other directions apply, but the CNAME will be “blog” instead of “www”.
If you want a more “robust” webpage but still easy to use, I suggest using Google Sites. I have my issues with the way some of the template system works, but overall, you can’t make it any easier to make a basic website. Select a template you like and start writing. In order to get the “www” to work with the sites engine, go to your Google apps dashboard and go into the sites section. There will be a mapping tab. When you create the site, you will give it a name, add that name to the mapping form, and put “www” (or whatever you want your site to be named) in the other section of the form. Go to your DNS management page and add the CNAME (for this example “www”) and within a few hours, your website will be up and running (just make sure you make the site public if you want everyone in the world to be able to see it).
This is how to get into the mapping section of Google Apps
Here is how to Map:
I think this is a good place to stop for now. Having your own custom is a fun and easy way to get your name out there, promote yourself for a new job, and share your knowledge with the world. Don’t be afraid of the website controls, mess around with all the settings, you can’t hurt anything – HAVE FUN.
Thanks for reading, I hope this was helpful.
About the author: Joey Lombardi owned and operated a computer repair store named “Computer Joey” for several years. He has an “Information Technology” degree from Drexel University and several Microsoft MCSE certifications. Basically… he knows his shit.
I probably fix 5-10 computers a month for friends and family since I closed my computer shop. I don’t mind doing it because it forces me to keep up with the latest tools (for whatever reason, I am interested in it). With that said, I decided to put this information post together so I can point people to this and get them going before I really need to get involved. If you have a Mac or running Linux, you are too cool for school and probably don’t have many issues, but some of these tricks might still apply.
The best way to avoid a problem on your computer is to never put it in a harmful situation. There are several free tools available to protect you before you even have a problem.
1. OpenDNS (Works for all computers)
DNS stands for Domain Name Server/Service and if you are on the internet, you are using it. DNS masks a web site IP address which is a series of numbers (example: 18.104.22.168) with a website name that everyone is comfortable with (like JoeyLombardi.com). Your internet provider probably has a DNS service and it’s probably just okay. There are a few organizations like OpenDNS and GoogleDNS that offers free enhanced DNS services.
OpenDNS and GoogleDNS provide faster name resolution and a few neat tricks like custom short cuts to web sites, but it also blocks websites that are known to contain viruses and other malware. If you have children at home, you can also set the service to block pornography at the router level, so the kids cannot bypass any of your crappy controls on the PC. Currently I am favoring OpenDNS over Google because it allows more customized services and is easier to use.
To use OpenDNS, go to the website and sign up for an account. Once you sign up, follow the set up directions for your router or home PC and you can even test your settings to see if they are correct.
Doing this also fixed an odd issue I was having with Facebook where I was getting re-directed to other sites like MySpace.
5 years ago, this program was the only excellent free tool that mattered. While others have improved the scanning feature, Search and Destroy does one thing the others do not: it protects the windows host file proactively which prevents shady re-directs. This is normally one of the first things I install when I get a new computer or a fresh rebuild of an existing PC.
Download and install the program. Perform the updates like it asks and then perform an immunization. Make sure do this every month or so for the latest protection.
If you are running McAfee on your computer, uninstall it right now. It is a total piece of shit. If you have Norton on your PC, make sure it didn’t expire 2 years ago (Norton works well, but overall I don’t like it because it is a total memory pig). There are some great free anti-virus programs (I used AntiVir for years), but Microsoft has a free, light-weight anti-virus program that works well. Since they built the damn OS, I am going with them.
Firefox is the best browser available right now. I am starting to really love Google Chrome, but Firefox is secure, customizable, and works well. If you are using IE or Safari – don’t (PS – Safari is the LEAST secure browser of the pack).
Let’s say you didn’t see this post until after you are infected with something, how do you fix your computer once it is infected?
If you still have an internet connection that is sort of working OR (if you don’t) go to a working PC, download the following programs and copy to a thumb-drive:
1. SUPER Anti-Spyware: Every time you download it, it comes with the newest definitions, this little bastard is light and mean on the malware. All you have to do is double click and it starts running.
2. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware: Go to the site and download the free version. This is the program of the day and works very well. Some spyware knows how to get around it, but overall it works like a champ.
Try installing the anti-spyware on the infected computer normal style. If you can’t, reboot the computer in safe mode (while the computer is starting up before you see the windows logo, hit F8 and you will have the option to start in safemode). Try running the programs in safemode. This should correct your problem (most of the time).
Once you get the computer to a healthy state, do the stuff I mentioned in the prevention section. Scans can take hours so be patient and make sure if you are using a laptop it is plugged in.
One final note. So many people use digital camera and don’t print out their pictures. You may have thousands of pictures and music files that you can lose if you don’t have a proper backup. For pictures, I upload all of my files to Google’s Picasa but there is also Flickr. I pay for extra storage so I can upload the best quality pictures I can, I would suggest doing the same.
Regarding music/MP3s, I copy my music to a spare hard drive in my computer and every 6 months I back that up on an external drive. For my documents, I have been using Google Docs to keep most of documents (in fact, I write them there now, so they are never on my PC in the first place).
I highly suggest you have a method to back up your personal files because you don’t want to lose it if you have to totally reformat your PC due to a virus or corrupted operating system.
It’s the American dream: roll out of bed, put on your slippers, and start your work day. Your commute can be as short as reaching over to your night-stand, grabbing your laptop, and turning it on. Almost any worker would love to be able to work from home and an ever increasing number of companies are allowing their workers to do it. Being a frequent remote worker, let’s talk about the pros and cons for corporations and for the workers
The last two years I have found myself working from home more often and it is most definitely a perk to my current job that I enjoy a great deal, but with great power comes great responsibility. Many managers fear that their employees are sitting at home and performing personal tasks and errands instead of working. I cannot speak for other remote users, but allow me to share insight into my remote work day:
6:45 AM – 7:30 AM: Eat breakfast, catch up on personal email, get my mind ready for the work day
7:30 AM – 9:00 AM: I start my day and catch up on emails and paperwork
9:00 AM – Noon: I am in a block of teleconference meetings during this period – EVERY DAY
Noon – 1 PM: Assuming I don’t have a lunch time meeting, I will go to the gym
1:00 – 2:00 PM: This is the witching hour for project managers – I don’t know why.
2:00 – 4:00 PM: More Meetings
4:00 – 5:00 PM: People don’t seem to set meetings at this time as they are leaving the office, I typically catch up on emails
5:00 – 6:00 PM: I cook dinner and eat with my wife
6:30 – 8:00 PM: I typical check emails, speak with my manager who is finally coming up for air, and do any reports/paper work that I need to get done.
10 hour work day every single day. Some days I don’t leave my desk for 8-10 hours. Slacking? I don’t think so. Now let’s review a day in the office.
NOTE: I car-pool with my wife unless there is a situation that would warrant me driving another car to the same location, because of this, I am on her schedule the days I go into the office because she has more specific requirements around when she has to be in and when she can leave.
5:50 AM – 6:30 AM – Wake up and get ready to go to the office
6:30 AM – 7:10 AM – Traveling to the train station (this can take 20-40 minutes depending on traffic)
7:10 AM – 7:45 AM – Take train into the city, walk to office building
7:45 AM – 8:15 AM – Get PC started, open email, run down to the cafeteria to get breakfast (oatmeal if you were wondering)
8:15 AM – 9:15 AM – Conversations: either in the cafeteria or people coming to their desks, the good morning hellos and water cooler talk starts. I am usually 5 minutes late to my 9 AM
9:00 AM – Noon: Same block of meetings
Noon – 1:00 PM: Lunch (typically at my desk answering emails)
1:00 PM – 4:00 PM: Same block of meetings
4:00 PM – 5:15 PM: Travel home
5:00 PM – 6:15 PM – Gym
6:15 PM – 7:15 PM – Dinner
7:15 PM – On: Veg out on the couch
I am much less productive on the days that I go into the office and I am far less inclined to come home and sign in after a long day (and I don’t have kids to deal with – which is another point I will get to). A major productivity impact is the office environment itself: I have to be concerned about volume control (I am loud, everyone around me lets me know…), who is overhearing sensitive job related conversations in the isle (which often forces me into hiding in conference rooms or un-used offices). When I don’t put myself in a private location, I am often interrupted on calls from people stopping by to ask questions or just to say hi – this is a perspective that people who have had offices for years tend to forget (it’s easy to have an open door policy when you know it can be closed and people will respect that). All that complaining aside, working from home is most definitely a privilege – and like any privilege, it shouldn’t be abused. A worker shouldn’t run out for 2 or 3 hours at a time and not be accessible without telling anyone. W@h shouldn’t be used for daycare: to this point, when I have children, I will be going into the office every day. A child cannot understand why you can’t talk to them during a teleconference and I don’t want to have to explain it, that’s when it’s time to give up the dream (at least until they are in school).
The managerial fear of workers abusing the remote office is strong. In my experience, managers seem to think that if a worker isn’t in the office, they aren’t working. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure there are people who abuse the system, but I am willing to bet they would have performance issues in or out of the office. If someone isn’t getting their work done, revoke their right to work remotely – its that simple. The same managers who worry about their employees not being on-site are usually stuck on the phone all day themselves, barely leaving their offices and most definitely not out shaking hands and kissing babies, what value does it add to manager or worker? Managers need to resolve their trust issues and have confidence in their ability to adjust to managing remote workers. There has been a 74% increase in remote work since 2005,there are now 17 million people telecommuting at least once a week and 20.7 million people working part time and starting business in their homes, remote work is not a fad, and should be a means for a company to reduce costs to off-set rising operational increases and health insurance costs.
Just because you can work from home all week, doesn’t mean you should. Assuming you don’t live hundreds of miles from your home office, you should set up a schedule with your team and manager so you are all in the office at the same time. Once or twice a week is really enough to “feel like part of the team” and getting the benefits from remote office. The hybrid approach allows companies to save on real estate if they go to a “hotel-office” set-up, where people come in and work in unassigned cubes. In my opinion, this is absolutely the best possible work arrangement.
The corporate world is at an interesting crossroads: Personal and home-based technology is surpassing the tools available in the work place. Companies that need to lock down their employees due to security risk concerns are not keeping up with productivity and communication tools that are revolutionizing the way people function in the other areas of their lives. In many cases these tools are free (I know this is a security issue for most companies), or have very low cost secure pay models that have little to no downside (I am looking at you Google apps). The corporate world needs to get a handle on what is going on with technology and how people work because they are letting money fly out the door by paying for tools that just don’t work as well as low-cost alternatives. I am mentioning these tools because they will only further-enable the remote worker revolution.
More to come true be-loggers.