Teaching Trending Tech Topics since 1996!

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Natalie Coughlin: World Record in Omaha

If you wander over to the ESPN site and look for a story about Natalie Coughlin on the front page, you won’t find one there. You won’t find a Natalie Coughlin story on the front page of Sports Illustrated either. However, you will find a Natalie Coughlin article here, on the front page of Lockergnome. She deserves the recognition.

In the Olympic qualifying meet in Omaha, Natalie Coughlin is lowing the world record:

“…Coughlin, a Cal graduate, qualified for her second Olympic Games in world-record fashion, powering to the wall in 58.97 seconds and lowering the bar on a record she set the day before.

“This is such an emotional meet,” said Coughlin, already donning a dark blue USA hat. “It feels so good to finally be on the team. Now I get to take a breath and enjoy the rest of the meet.””

link: Coughlin earns Olympic berth

She is a world class athlete who is setting new standards in her sport. Some describe her as the ‘American girl next door’. That is only if the girl next door is an Olympic athlete with a laser focus to succeed. The editors of ESPN and Sports Illustrated should have this story as their lead sports article of the day. It speaks volumes that they don’t.

Catherine Forsythe

YUDU Freedom

I create and view a number of documents each day, and I have to say, sometimes I get tired of viewing documents in the same way each and every time. If you’re not messing with documents very often, then you probably won’t be bothered by this, but people like me are exposed to documents so much that we want a different experience. I’m a big fan of books and magazines, and I like the format that they’re presented in. Even if your documents aren’t like books or magazines, you can certainly make them seem like they are with YUDU Freedom.

To get started, select a PDF to upload, enter your e-mail address, and provide some additional information. When your online publication is ready, a link will be sent to you, and you can then view it and share it with others. Your readers can add bookmarks and notes to the publications, and they can also view the content in a variety of ways. Don’t get me wrong, a boring document is a boring document, but YUDU Freedom will make viewing these boring documents a little more interesting.

TTSReader v1.2

TTSReader is a full-featured, text-to speech software package that allows reading text aloud as well as to wav or mp3 files.

Main Features: Intuitive user interface design; automatic highlighting of currently read text; reading to wav; reading to mp3 with adjustable settings; pronunciation corrections; support for both SAPI4 and SAPI5 voices; support for rich text formatting; skipping of sentences or paragraphs while reading; auto-reading the clipboard; reading with control tags; global hotkeys; documentation provided for all features.

[2.28M] [Win98/2k/XP/Vista] [FREE]

Reducing The Email Tax On Life

For the past several months I have had the pleasure of improving my communication effectiveness while at the same time reducing my reliance and the massive amount of time I used to spend on email. Tools like Twitter, blogging, and – yes – actively making sure I am using the telephone (remember that thing?) have all contributed to my big picture of improvement: Use better tools where they make the most sense, rather than relying on the cumbersome and often ineffective email medium.

What prompts me to write this? Luis Suarez works for IBM and a recent NY Times online contained a piece written by him where he discusses his change away from email. I can relate and have had many of the same experiences.

Email is often chastised for a variety of shortcomings, among them the frustrating fact that often people come across (or are perceived) in a way they do not intend. Maybe the reader perceives the writer is angry or being short when that’s not the intent. If I had a dime for every email-miscommunication I’ve observed (or been a part of), I’d be a rich man.

Systems like Twitter (assuming you can forgive that app’s famous reliability and availability issues) allow community information sharing in a manner you can never get with email, and which classic instant messaging doesn’t quite do. Post your thoughts, questions, or whatever you’re up to and others who want to follow your thoughts can read then in your “tweets.” And if they wish they can respond, either publicly (called replying) or in private (called direct-messaging). Twitter is basically a public broadcast communication system of short messages, with private messaging capabilities also available. All Twitter communication is (hopefuly) archived for access and reference later on if you like. The signal-to-noise ratio, however, can be quite high, especially when people use it like an instant messaging client (which it is not really suited for, in my opinion). You can tune the SNR of your tweet feed by choosing whose communications you subscribe to. Too much noise from Joe? Just stop following his tweet stream.

Instant messaging is well-suited for casual, right-now conversations where archiving in the “cloud” is not as important. I can archive all of my instant messages locally, but I have to be on the archiving computer where I was writing to read the archives. It makes it easy to do provate chats with one person and add another person(s) if needed, although my use is almost always 1:1.

Of course, email works well – even best – for some things. I try to avoid using it as a filing cabinet, or at least limit it to specific critical uses. But by pulling all the real-time conversations out and using the real- or near-real-time tools, by email bloat has been significantly reduced, hence the amount of time I need to spend in it is less than the quality of the time I do spend there is higher.

Finally, the telephone. When it comes to making personal connections, nothing beats hearing the other person and them being able to hear you. It’s real time in the most “real” sense. You can argue that voice and video capabilities of IM applications fill this need, and you’d be right. But there is something about the phone that really works well.

One other side effect of the technology growth I have noticed (and it’s also probably a result of life changes for me as well) is that I don’t blog quite as much as I used to. A lot of the quick thoughts that I used to turn into blog entries end up being tweets on Twitter or IM messages (or just left sitting on my brain’s virtual table).

How have you changed your communication habits as a result of technology? Or have you?

Schoolhouse 2: Open Source Boogaloo

Gnomie John Connors writes:

Hello Chris,

I am a student and have been looking for an application with which to schedule my schoolwork. Just recently my friend Ian sent me a message about this Open Source app called Schoolhouse 2. I found it to be extremely helpful — especially with long term assignments (the ones that need the most planning).

You can create an order in which you will complete each part of a project and then use a checklist to make sure that you are on your way to completing the work. There is also a notes feature where you can keep track of notes and scan the notes that you have taken from that day.

This program will also allow you to keep track of your grades and prepare you to do better. I think that this application is really cool so give it a try (I know you are not a student, but just for kicks; it is free, after all)!

Quickly Create A New Folder In Explorer In Vista

I’m always looking for keyboard shortcuts to complete common tasks in Vista. They are particularly helpful for me when I’m working from my laptop and not using a mouse.

I recently discovered that there is quick and easy way to create new folders in Windows Explorer using a series of keystrokes. Instead of going through the motions of clicking the File menu, pointing to New, etc. I can simply press F+W+F while holding down the ALT key and my new folder is created.

European Court of Human Rights Rules for Privacy

In a lengthy litigation process, the European Court of Human Rights has recognized that the surveillance of telephone communication tramples privacy rights:

“Government phone-tapping practices have violated the right to privacy, the European court of human rights ruled yesterday. It described the legal discretion granted to the government for intercepting communications as “virtually unfettered”. Procedures covering the use and storage of intercepted material should be set out in a form which is open to public scrutiny and knowledge, it said.”

link: Security: UK phonetap laws breach privacy

This ruling places limitations on measures that can be taken in the name of security. It will have repercussions in countries like Sweden, which has passed recent legislation allowing email and telephone surveillance.

The matter of public scrutiny is fundamental tenet for accountability. For example, it is easy to be placed on a security / terrorist watch list. Who is on the list is classified information. How one removes oneself from such a government security data base remains mysterious and unspecified. South African President Nelson Mandela was on a U.S. security check list. It required President Bush’s intervention to have President Mandela removed from that list.

The argument is that public scrutiny undermines security. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that security does not always trump privacy rights and civil liberties.

Catherine Forsythe

Thank you Thunderman Gary Vaynerchuck

  I would never have taken one of my best friends to Bokka, it’s a fine wine bar, but we’re beer guys.  Listening to you at your book signing was my idea, I love wine library TV, and I thought it would appeal to Rick as well.    Beer talk at a wine bar with one of my best friends was something I didn’t expect to happen, you can thank yourself and wine for bringing us together again.  Well done.

Thank you


Greg Birch DDS

BetterGmail2 – another great firefox addon

I was told about this add on from a colleague and have been hooked for good. I use the Gmail domain services for my email and have loved it since I was accepted into the beta program. I like the way that Gmail “just works”. It is simple in design and every feature always seems to just do what I need it to.

Until now I never thought about changing the interface. I like to play around with options if they are there but simply because they weren’t, I didn’t give it much thought until now. Bettergmail2 is a Firefox add on that allows you to customize the look and feel of the interface. If you play with it a little you can get your Gmail to look quite similar to a stand alone email client. Something that some of us are used to and liked from the past. In the end there are 3 skins plus other options to change the feel of Gmail.

It also has many other features including the forcing of HTTPS (secure HTTP) when accessing your account, force mailto links to use Gmail to send and automated showing of the CC and BBC fields.

So… go get it! You won’t be disappointed. Remember that you need Firefox and you also need to have a Gmail account to use this add on. If you have your own domain email with Google, click on the advance button on the tool and put in your domain as indicated. It works great!

PC Crashing

Well as most of you know I own a PC as well as a mac. was about to complete a level in Ship Simulator and this happened. I eventually had to unplug the thing after getting a blue screen. This just makes me remember why I payed so much for a mac.