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Preview: Ernest Svenson: Personal KM

Ernest Svenson: Personal KM

managing personal information in the Internet era

Last Build Date: Thu, 26 Jun 2003 15:05:13 GMT

Copyright: Copyright 2003 Ernest Svenson

The new Google Toolbar is here, the new Google Toolbar is here!!!!

Thu, 26 Jun 2003 15:02:14 GMT

I love that line in The Jerk when Steve Martin gets so excited about the arrival of the new phonebooks.  Well, I guess I'm a jerk when it comes to Google, which has now released a Beta 2.0 version of their toolbar (for Internet Explorer only).  Usually, I wouldn't recommend that you try a "beta" version of software unless you are really comfortable with computers, but I've learned that the Google Toolbar is not harmful, and in fact is amazingly useful.

Basically, it just makes it so you have a Toolbar in your Internet Explorer browser from which you can launch a Google search immediately without having to leave the page you are on to go to the Google page.  That feature alone (which was available on the previous versions) makes this completely free tool absolutely indispensible.  But now the Google Toolbar also has an autofill feature for websites that require you to enter personal information.  It will store your credit card information in a secure form, along with your other personal information that you have to enter when you do online shopping.  This makes it really easy to complete your order, without having to worry about your poor typing skills.

And, finally, the Google Toolbar has a pop-up blocker that will let you block annoying ads.  If you are visiting a site and want to click on a link that is a pop-up that you want to see, you can temporarily disable the feature by holding down the CTRL key as you click on the link.  The toolbar also has a little icon that informs you of how many pop up ads you've blocked since you installed it.  That will be interesting to monitor.

Trust me, if you use Internet Explorer as your browser you need this plug-in. Just click on this link and follow all the instructions.  It's quick and easy and painless.  And it will make your life a lot easier.

Wirelessly broadcast sound to your car stereo or other FM station

Sat, 24 May 2003 02:04:13 GMT

Gadgeteer review of the Digiana Wireless Audio Portable FM Linker from Audia X, which plugs into the headphone jack of any portable audio player and can broadcast the sound on an open FM channel so you can listen on your car or home stereo:

Some other FM audio linkers have the inherent problem of only allowing you a few pre-selected stations to choose from. While this might not be an issue in rural communities, it can be a huge problem in an urban setting, Fortunately, the Digiana does not suffer from this type of restriction. You can choose any station on the FM dial in tenth increments until you find a clear host.

From Gizmodo.

Tue, 06 May 2003 15:40:51 GMT

Gizmodo reports on The NetDisk.

(image) "A couple of new network attached storage devices from XiMeta. The NetDisk Portable and the NetDisk Removable are basically external hard drives with Ethernet ports that connect directly to a local area network rather than to a PC so that anyone on the network can access the files within. With home networks multiplying, network storage drives like these (and the wireless NetDrive from Martian) should prove to be pretty popular." Read

This is great in concept, but since it is a pure hard drive you wouldn't be able to load software on it that would "serve" files in the fashion that a lot of things like TiVo's Home Media Option require that the source storage be on a computer with an operating system.  So, this may not be as attractive a concept for storage of files that are being actively used on the network, such as MP3's and JPEGs and GIFs. 

Ask Google - Get Answers

Wed, 30 Apr 2003 19:55:47 GMT

Google Answers is pretty cool.  For a minimum of $2 you can post a question on just about any topic and get a quick response.  I just came back from Paris and was wondering if the French word for heart ("couer") had any relation to the origins of the word "court" as used in the legal sense.  Sure, I could go try to find the Oxford English Dictionary, but I don't have time.  So I posted the question and got this answer (note the subsequent comment by another person who adds to the discussion with more useful information).  And from the answers I learned about the Online Etymological Dictionary.  It's not the OED, but it's a handy tool nevertheless. 

And learning all of this cost me only $2.50.  Not bad.  By the way, I learned about Google Answers from my new friend A.J. Levy.  He's a lawyer here in New Orleans and is gearing up to start a weblog, which will be a great thing for those of you who want to learn about "lateral thinking" as applied to the law.

Later: someone sent me this account of a person who worked for Google Answers.  Interesting.  But so is this.

Sun, 02 Feb 2003 20:49:49 GMT

Text Information made into audio - KiMformation asks Is audio the way to go? - has some amazing audio products, including TextAloud MP3 ($24.95/20-day free trial), NewsAloud (beta release, $19.95/15-day free trial), WeatherAloud ($19.95/15-day free trial), Stocks Aloud ($14.95/15-day free trial), and Groups Aloud for USENET newsgroups (beta release $19.95, later $29.95/15-day free trial).  Some of these products can also be purchased in bundles, at a savings.

So, in theory [one could use this this to] proofread my work (hear my own words) or read my email or snippets from web pages while doing other things, like running a Google search or opening snail-mail.  Hooray for multi-tasking!  We're a part of an information explosion, and our dilemma is too much information and too little time.  Could audio, then, be the way to go?  It remains to be seen whether any of these programs have a practical application for me that would warrant the expense, but the idea is definitely intriguing.  And, yeah, the speech needs to be a lot better, but I was impressed at how good it was and how many voice settings and options there are.  (These products also support AT&T Natural Voices, which is sold as an add-on for $25.00.)  [via KiMformation]

Thu, 30 Jan 2003 22:15:07 GMT

Amazon sale on Viking memory cards - (image) All Viking memory cards are on sale at Amazon. After rebate 128MB CompactFlash cards are $29.99, 128MB Secure Digital cards are $54.39, 256MB CompactFlash cards are $64.99, and 512MB CompactFlash cards are $154.99.  Amazon [via Gizmodo]

Thu, 30 Jan 2003 22:14:29 GMT

Bluetooth GPS module for handhelds  - (image) New GPS module from Emtac that connects to a PDA over Bluetooth and comes with a year subscription to Mapopolis mapping software.  Read  [via Gizmodo]

Wed, 29 Jan 2003 17:17:10 GMT

Inside Palm's new Graffiti 2

(image) Brighthand looks at Graffiti 2, the new handwriting text entry software for the Palm operating system that's based on CIC's Jot software, explaining the reasons for the switch and the advantages and disadvantages of the new software.
Read [via Gizmodo]

Thu, 05 Dec 2002 21:30:58 GMT

Google Tricks & Tips - Ev William's discovers and shares "the Google Toolbar's anti-popup feature. It will deactivate the onUnload javascript function, which won't eliminate all pop-ups, but it will get those annoying ones that happen when you're trying to leave somewhere. (To get to the feature, click on the Google logo, go to Toolbar Options, and then Experimental Features. [screenshot]. There's some other interesting stuff there, too.)" [via evhead].

Thu, 07 Nov 2002 03:38:39 GMT

Netstumbler - Shareware that lets you find wireless access points.  Cool.

Thu, 07 Nov 2002 03:12:16 GMT

Manhattan thousands of points of wireless access - Only a few of the thousands of points on the map discussed in this story are intentionally meant to be shared, but Manhattan is already a pastiche of almost 100 percent coverage -- south of Harlem. [via 80211b News]

Thu, 07 Nov 2002 03:11:05 GMT

USB Key-Sized MP3 Player With LCD Display  better than Muvo [via Slashdot]

Thu, 07 Nov 2002 03:09:59 GMT

MusicMatch unveils new jukebox-to-go -  The company plugs in new online jukebox technology that will enable subscribers to easily transfer music files onto portable devices, including Apple's iPod for Windows.

Mon, 04 Nov 2002 19:49:22 GMT

Organize your digital photos - I have recently had the chance to try two cool products for organizing photos, which some people liken to iPhoto for Windows computers.  Of the two, I like Picasa the best.  It lets you quickly assemble photos into albums and keeps a chronology of all of your pictures.  Reorganizing photos is very easy and intuitive.  Not many editing features, which is a bummer (although you can rotate pictures, fix red-eye & contrast).  But the slideshows are crisp and just what you want for viewing pictures and sharing them with friends and family.

If you are less interested in displaying and organizing your pictures, and more interested in editing them then try Photomeister.   Photomeister lets you crop, resize, adjust brightness and contrast, and the fix for red-eyes seems to work well and create natural looking results).  You can also easily create a slideshow.  But it is a more time-consuming process with this program compared to Picasa.  One thing that is cool is it lets you export a group of pictures to your Palm device.  Also, you can create a PDF album (the quality of the PDF album I created came out poor).  And Picasa lets you use GIFs, BMPs, and TIFFs.  Obviously, you can use JPEGs (Picasa handles only JPEGs, which is not a big limitation in my view since most digital pictures these days are JPEGs).

Both programs can be downloaded and tried for free for a limited period of time (30 days for Photomeister, and 15 days for Picasa).  Picasa is only $29.95, and is simpler and seems to work faster.  I got a free copy when I went to PopTech, but I can tell you that I would pay for Picasa in a heartbeat.  And I'll probably buy Photomeister too; it's $35 for the standard edition, and $55 for the "professional" version that lets you create the Palm snapshots, and some other supposedly advanced things.  I don't think I'm willing to pay $55 for the "advanced" stuff , although I wish that the Palm transfer feature was included in the $35 version. 

Picasa is definitely the better deal, especially if you don't tend to edit your photos much, but just want a quick, easy way to organize them and view them.  And, like I said, it seems to move faster in displaying the images.  Quick, easy and cheap.  That's a winning combination for me.

Update: See my later review here.

Mon, 04 Nov 2002 03:43:28 GMT

Palm Stylus be damned (image) -  Do you hate text entry on the palm?

I do, and so when Chris Smith pointed out that a friend of his had created a program called FatFinger that lets you enter text or numbers on the Palm without the stylus I was keenly intersted. I downloaded the program and tried it for a couple of hours (you can try it for 15 days for free).  Later I happily paid the $14.99 for the unlock code so I could use it forever.  Big improvement.

Check it out.

Sat, 02 Nov 2002 01:11:25 GMT

Panasonic DVR/DVD - Rick Klau's review:

(image) This is the first entrant into what will surely be a bigger retail category: the combination DVR/DVD player. DVR is digital video recorder - it's essentially a bare-bones TiVo (it can do the live TV pause, record programs, etc. but doesn't include the recommendation feature, program guides, etc.) coupled with a DVD player and a DVD burner. Yes - that means you can record something from the TV, then burn it to a DVD. Check out the early review at C|Net.

Mon, 14 Oct 2002 17:38:07 GMT

If you want to be bad, you gotta be good - And apparently if you want digital in your car, you've gotta have analog.  What am I talking about, you ask?  Well, it starts like this.  I want a simple thing.  I want an 1/8" input jack on the front of my car stereo that will accept the "line out" of my portable MP3 player.   That way I can have tunes while I walk, but can also pump them through my car audio whilst I drive.  So it was with great glee that I saw Creative's website mention "how to play your MP3 music through your car."  But their solution is bizarre.   You use the cassette deck (analog world, hello?) in your car to receive the input from your MP3 player.  Great!  Now I know what to ask for for Christmas.   A cassette player for my car.

Sat, 12 Oct 2002 04:04:59 GMT

Palm Pilot Sux - I have an m500 and while I like having a PDA I hate using the pen to input text.  I never really thought about it being a problem until I started seeing PDA's with mini keyboards.  Like the Treo 90, which uses the Palm OS.  I have used Palms for about 4 years and have become fairly proficient with grafitti, but I'm ready to throw in the towel.  Unless you write very slowly and methodically, you are going to make mistakes.  Unless Palm creates a PDA with a built-in keyboard I'm gone...

Tue, 08 Oct 2002 13:58:59 GMT

News Aggregation - I think that news aggregation is wonderful, and so do most of the people who have discovered it.  But it is hard to explain to those who don't use it.  Being able to select the news that you are interested in and have only that news routed to you is a great thing.  News Aggregation is central to any "personal KM" effort, and one day soon I hope to write about this topic.  But until then, read Al McIntyre's post.  And also read  this explanation of RSS, which is at the heart of news aggregation.  And Dave Winer has a nuts & bolts explanation here.

Mon, 07 Oct 2002 15:04:41 GMT

PVRs - TiVo or Replay TV? That is often the question -  and if that's your question, then read what John Robb has to say:

"My TiVo woes continue.  Last week, my TiVo lost it's programming guide.  All efforts over the past week to reload it haven't been successful.  One thing we did find is that without the programming guide, TiVo is essentially useless.  It doesn't have simple VCR controls that allow you to pick a channel, a time, and a recording length.

My friend recently set up his Replay TV to connect to his PC over Ethernet.  He allocated a 120 Gb drive on his PC to his Replay device.  He also spent a couple of hours converting a couple of dozen of his DVDs and tapes he owns over to this PC hard-drive.  This now makes it possible to play them on demand.  

This is getting closer to what I want:  a simple device (and remote control) that connects my entertainment center to my PC.  Nothing fancy, just hardware and some light software.  This would allow me to easily store all the content that is delivered to my house or any movies/music I play on my DVD/CD player on an inexpensive drive for personal use later.  I could select from a variety of extremely low cost programming guides via the Internet (this competition would allow the guides to get better, faster, and more powerful quicker).   The interface doesn't have to be that different than a standard PC interface (on HDTV at 1080i, a PC interface is extremely nice and 30-40"!).  If this was built into a home theater receiver, that would probably work too (it would only require that a couple of input jacks -- for all three major modes of input -- that route through the computer's PVR hard-drive). John Robb's Radio Weblog

I have TiVo and have been happy with it, but I'm interested in Replay TV's ability to network. There are potentially useful implications like the ones that John outlines above.

Sun, 06 Oct 2002 19:45:25 GMT

Catalogue shopping made easier - my wife and I get lots of catalogues.  We buy a fair amount of stuff from catalogues because it's convenient, and a lot of the stuff we buy comes from companies that have brick and mortar stores.  Even if we like to browse the physical store the catalogue is a good way of tagging stuff that we want to buy.  My wife keeps them in a pile with pages bent over at the corner to mark potential purchases.  I do the same thing, but it just doesn't seem to work.  Eventually the catalogues pile up and I don't want to keep hundreds of pages of paper for just a few wishlist items.  This problem has plagued me, but I just came up with a better solution.

Most of the companies that send us catalogues have websites.  So if I'm interested in the product I visit the website and find the page with the product on it and bookmark it.  In fact, I have even created a folder in my Internet Explorer "Favorites" called "wishlist items" and I save those items in there.  Oh, and you can export that browser folder if you want, and then you can send it to your spouse or other family members. Then they can import it into their browser and visit the webpages for the products that you are interested in.  I think this is a great idea.  I just got rid of about 10 catalogues that were by my bed.  But I've kept the information that I'm interested in.  Hurray!

And I'm going to use this trick to keep track of product manuals for stuff that I buy.  Increasingly, manufacturers are starting to put their manuals online.  When they do I'm going to trash the manual and bookmark the manual's webpage under a browser folder called ... "manuals."  And then all I have to backup is my browser favorites file.

Sun, 06 Oct 2002 19:25:39 GMT

Backup your data online - My hard drive crashed recently and I have resolved to prepare for the next time that I have to recover all of my critical data.  I'm going to make backups to disk, but recently I found something that I'm going to try out that I think will be even more useful: online backups.  Connected TLM has an affordable service that lets you backup about 100 mg's for about $7 per month (I think you can get 1 GB for about $14 per month if you think you need more).  That seems like a lot of money for not much storage, but as one who just went through a disaster (total loss of 30 GB hard drive) I can say that the money is worth it and the storage is pretty hefty if you are judicious about what you backup. 

Remember you aren't going to back up everything, and it is an online backup.  So I propose to backup only the stuff that I need desperately.  Like my Radio data, and my key documents.  Think about it.  What stuff would you want to have access to very quickly if your hard drive totally got wiped out. You aren't going to save the programs because you will have to reinstall those from the disks anyway.  But if you have a lot of "favorites" in your browser, or your Quicken files, or whatever.  You know what you can't live without.  Or if you don't, wait until you have a total hard drive crash and you'll figure it out the hard way.

Sun, 06 Oct 2002 19:16:34 GMT

Product Manuals & Accessories - Everytime I buy a new gizmo it comes in a box with lots of paper that I automatically throw away.  The warranty or product registration card, for example.  I don't have the patience to fill that stuff out.  How about just giving me a web address where I can register the product online?  I'd do that in a flash using my roboform utility and it would take about one minute at most, and I be assured that my registration was accepted.  Why use snail mail?  The Internet is just sitting there and I have an always on connection and wireless access in my house so there is always a computer around with Internet access.  Increasingly, this is going to be the norm for most people.

Then there is the product manual.  I read it quickly only to get the product set up.  Maybe I have a few questions about how to configure something so I keep it around for a day or two...but then it goes in the garbage.  Or it gets lost.  How about if the manufacturer sets up a page that walks you through the various set up and FAQ's?  Wouldn't that be convenient?  You can visit the page whenever you want.  Or, if you are clever, you would bookmark that page in your browser (under a folder labelled "Manuals").

Does the product have accessories that you might want to buy later?  Then the manufacturer should put that all on one page along with the manual.  In other words there should be a web page just for that product that has all of the useful information about the product.  Then the manufacturer can update it.  Convenience for you, and possible future sales for the manufacturer.