Archive for January, 2009

Gumtree: Get Your Second Hand Stuff

gumtreeI recently needed an new monitor for my desktop computer but your average PC World charges well over the price that i can afford on my income. However i have managed to solve this problem (as usual) with technology.

Gumtree is basically Craigslist but for the UK (and some world city’s, but not the US), which makes it a lot more helpful to me (being a UK resident). The main advantage to UK residents is that it has support for a lot more towns/cities. On Craigslist my town wasn’t even listed, but on Gumtree there was even smaller towns listed in my surrounding area.

I found that the user interface was much more user friendly and easier on the eye than Craigslist. It’s easy to find your local location as most of the web addresses start with yourtown.gumtree.com, or the site has a location finder.

Gumtree’s services provide all the things you’d expect to find on a classifides adds site. The is support for properties and room, jobs, personals and (my favorite) free stuff! Gumtree allows contact to posters via a telephone number or e-mail address, and also has the ability to subscribe via e-mail to any updates in a catagories you might want to monitor.

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Monitter Twitter

In a previous post of mine i have already stated my fondness of using twitter for monitoring important information i want to know crossing the web. Well i previously was partially to using tweet scan for this, but thanks to a Make Use Of article, i have switched to using Monitter for this task as it is more feature rich, allowing for monitoring of 3 keywords rather than 1. Check out the article for more information.
clipped from www.makeuseof.com
Monitter is an easy-to-use application that allows you to monitor Twitter for any three keywords and see what people are saying about them. Monitter can be useful for many things such as finding Twitter users with similar interests as you or monitoring what people are saying about you and/or your website. Personally, I like using Monitter to see what other people are saying about some of my favorite sites and applications such as Digsby, Zenbe, and Feedly.
blog it
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Zemanta: Making Blogging Easier

While having a quick look around the Mozilla add-ons site the other day, i stumbled across a new a very useful little extension for Firefox that is helping me write this very blog post just a little bit easier.

Zemanta gives you suggestions for tags, links photos etc. for your blog post from right inside your blog dashboard. Currently im using it within the WordPress dashboard.

zemanta

This is exactly the kind of integration that i love. It’s feature rich, displaying related articles down the side, links that are auto inserted with just the click of a mouse into my post, tags auto generated and related images appearing next to my post editor. In fact the related images are filtered to take out any copyrighted images (very useful).

This saves plenty of time previously wasted on searching through Google for all that i wanted. Another good thing is that it auto-inserts a “Re-Blog” icon into the bottom of posts to allow fellow readers to blog articles to there own blog.

Zemanta also provides an API for developers to intergrate there service into there own projects.

You can get Zemanta here.

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4 Tools For Big Internet Releases

So, there’s a big program release coming up and you want to be first in on the action? You want to try and beat the rest to get to the file before the servers get clogged and you get the infamous “Server to busy”. Well here is my suggestion of tools and tips to get you through.

Update Scanner (Firefox Extension)

First off there are quite a few extensions for Firefox in this article so if you don’t have Firefox I’d suggest you get it because its one of the best browsers out there.

Update scanner is a a Firefox extension that allows you to monitor web pages while browsing the web for any changes that might occur. You can set the scanner to check for updates for a time bracket anywhere between 5 minutes and 1 hour. You can also select how big of a change you want to monitor, from very minor changes (just a few words) to very large changes (a whole paragraph).

This is one of my favorite Firefox extensions as its very flexible in its uses. When I used to use Digg a lot a while back I used this to keep me up to date with high priority sites like cracked.com. My most recent use though was to help catch my copy of Windows 7 beta a week or so back. Its pretty simple but very functional, a real essential.

Update scanner is available for install here.

Reload Every (Firefox Extension)

Again another extension for Firefox is reload every. Basically it adds a bit more functionality to your refresh button. You can set it reload the page you looking at at intervals of 5 seconds to up to 15 minutes, with the ability to add custom intervals.

This tool is great for reloading pages which are a bit swamped on the servers or as a alternative to update scanner. It’s also very useful elsewhere, like eBay for the final few minutes of a auction.

Reload every is available to install here

Tweet Scan

As a wrote in an earlier post, some of the most up to date information on what is happening in the world can be found by monitoring twitter. Just look at the Hudson incident last week and how news spread across the internet is about 10 minutes of the plane going down.

tweetscan

Now how about harnessing the awesome power of twitter to help you in your hour of need when servers are crashing around you and all routes seem blocked? Tweet Scan does exactly that. Just type in the keyword that you want to monitor tweets for and it gives you a real time display of what people are tweeting about your keyword.

This is such as useful tools as information on the quality of the servers, to direct file links, and to useful articles being published across the net. Never underestimate the power of twitter.

Visit Tweet Scan here.

Google Reader

Google reader is another one of my essential tools for use of monitoring blogs across the internet in one place for an sign of what I’m after. Blogs are the best place to find the some real informative information, but there are sometimes a little late in the day as it takes time to write a post. The information is a lot more reliable than that of the twitter community so blogs are still worth monitoring, and Google reader is one of the best online readers I’ve found, but there are many more. I personally prefer Google reader because of some of the many Greasemonkey extensions that are available for it which make life just a little bit easier.

Here are some here scripts for Google reader

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Iphone App: Live Poker

A friend recommended to me the other day this excellent little application for both iphone and ipod touch. It is called (as many of you observant readers may have noticed) Live Poker, and it does pretty much what it says on the tin.

Originally it started out as a Facebook app, but the good people at zynga.com have blessed use with a very addictive iphone app. First you’ve got to buy it, but don’t worry it’s only a mere 59p (about 86c to you Americans), and to start you off they give you 2,000 chips free with another 2,000 chips everyday form then on. You can buy extra chips and become a high roller, but personally i would just save my money and play on the little tables for a while.

As for the app its self, the interface is very simple. You load it up, select your chosen table stakes and off you go. The application its self connects into the same games that Facebook users are using which means that you are able to sign on with your Facebook account.

There are however a couple of glitches in the game. There have been instances which i haven’t been able to sign on, and the occasional time when it has crashed my ipod. But the game is so fun to play that i just look past the faults and onto the positives. Certainly worth the 59p.

Turning That Old Laptop Into a Xubuntu Netbook (Part 2)

Now that we have the operating system all nice and loaded up (see part 1) it’s time for us to take a look at the different software available for turning your old laptop into an Xubuntu netbook.

Pre-Installed

The default Xubuntu install has a number of programs pre-loaded onto the OS to get you started. These include many of the average web users familiarities such as Firefox 3 and Thunderbird e-mail client. There are also a couple of other programs such as Abiword for word processing, GIMP for image editing and Pidgin for IM.

These are all very good programs, but lets take a look at some of the other software out there to do your various everyday tasks that new Linux users may not of heard of.

Installing Software

There are two different ways that any new Linux users should know about, one is Add/Remove applications and one is through the Terminal. Both are equally as good, but you should know both ways.

Add/Remove: this is the simplest option for many ex-windows users. Simply go to:

Applications –> System –> Add/Remove Programs

A window will pop-up giving you a whole library of applications that are ready to install on your computer. Simply search for the application you want, or look through the categories till you find what your looking for and then hit the big install button, it couldn’t be simpler.

Terminal: The terminal is a very new and strange thing to new Linux users, but sometimes it is the best way to get things done. It is my personal preference as the Add/Remove programs menu runs a bit slow on my old laptop and the terminal keeps it to a minimum.

To run the terminal simply go to:

Applications–> Accessories–> Terminal

You will then get a big black window open up with the text

username@computername:~$

to install any new program simply type:

sudo apt-get install nameofprogram

you will then be prompted to enter the administrator password, type it in and hit enter. And that’s all there is to it, the program your after will then be found and installed on your computer. Just look around in the relevant applications menu until you find it.

Now, as promised lets have a look at the sort of programs available to perform all the different jobs that you could want:

Web Browsing

As standard, Firefox 3 comes pre-installed with the operating system. This has always been one of may favorite browsers for a long time. But on the older laptop sometimes it can run just a little bit too slowly for my taste so i often find my self substituting it for Midori.

Midori is pretty much your average web browser. No special bells or whistles attached just simple browsing where you want to go. The reason i like it so much is not because of its simplicity, but because of the fact that it goes like a bullet, even on older machines.

Blog Editing

If like me you just so happen to be a blogger, you may want to try a desktop blog editor rather than online editing. This allows you to save posts directly to your desktop and can let the older technology run a bit faster due to not having to load up a editing interface such as WordPress has.

The best one that i have found (and regularly use) is BloGTK. Again not to much in the way of advanced features, but it gets the job done pretty well. It provides support for most modern blogging platforms (Blogger, WordPress, Movable type etc.). You can select which categories are relevant to your post, add tags, perform basic editing, import posts from online etc. Simple and well rounded.

Office Equipment

Xubuntu comes preloaded with just a basic word editor called Abiword. While this is all very good im much rather prefer the very popular Open Office suite.

Open Office provides most of the tools that you would expect to find in Microsoft’s Office suite. The Open Office includes a word processor, spreadsheet editor, presentation creator, database, drawing pad and calculator all rolled into one package. The best thing is for new users is that i looks very much like Microsoft Office but is only a small proportion of the file size and is free of course!

The other good thing about Open Office is that it is compatible with loads of different file types including just every version of Microsoft word. Just click “save as” and select the file type.

BitTorrent

I’m not a big BitTorrent user, but if you are then i would recommend Azureus/Vuze. I haven’t used it too much on Linux, but on Windows it provides excellent support for finding, tracking and downloading content form various torrent sites.

Development

This really depends on what type of language you are trying to program in but my preference has always been towards the Netbeans IDE from java. I provides some additional support for other languages also so check it out, but otherwise very functional and well rounded.

If web development is what your after then id certainly suggest the Bluefish editor. Its not exactly an extensive tool like Dreamweaver but i think its miles ahead of Frontpage, but make your own opinion.

And If You Still Really Need Something From Windows…

…use Wine. is an excellent little program that allows for compatibility with many different Windows programs. Of course its not possible to get every program from Windows on to Linux, as a lot of programs have different dependencies outside of Wines control. But hey, nothing perfect and it just gives you a few more options to work with. So please don’t say nothings compatible with Linux.

So there you have it, enjoy life on Linux with your new (or should i say old) Laptop updated to breath new life into it. It’s never going to be as good as actually going out and buying a netbook, but i found that if you have a small, old laptop it more than suffices for those on a budget. If you still need advice on more applications for Xubuntu i would suggest http://linuxappfinder.com/ or have a browse through the library in Add/Remove.

And if your a new user and your having problems adjusting to Linux try one of these forums with your query, they helped me a lot in the beginning:

http://www.linuxforums.org/

http://www.linuxquestions.org/

Tweet Scan: Monitor Twitter!

Do you remember the day that Firefox 3 was released? And how a fair few people (including myself) had problems trying to get through to the servers? Well i finally managed to get through due to a direct link posted on Twitter. And now Twitter (or rather Tweet Scan) has done it again.

I and just about everyone else had problems ascertaining our copies for Windows 7 over the past few days. What with the server failures, product keys not being delivered and stuff just not going right, it was nearly impossible to keep track of what links were working and what weren’t.

This is where Tweet Scan enters. I found that the most clear up to the minute advice on Windows 7 came from the entire community of Twitter sharing what was working for them and what wasn’t. Tweet Scan enables you to enter a few keywords and search for and Tweets with your query in them (in my case it was “Windows 7 download”). Tweet Scan then gives you an automatically updated time line with all the tweets relating to your query, effortlessly allowing you to monitor whats happening in the Twitter world.

tweetscan

When you load up the Tweet Scan homepage, you are given a very minimalistic Google like search box with a tag cloud for the most popular tweets at the moment. Once you have submitted your query, you get a very resemblance to the familiar twitter time line with the incoming tweets updated regularly. Tweet Scan also gives yo the ability to search for tweets by user.

tweetscanwin7

This tool is one of my favorites for understand just what is going on during large events such as major beta releases. You get information that is more up to date than any blog could dream of keeping up with. The only downside is of course that the information may not be accurate 100% of the time. But if you need to be in the know, and you need to know now, the information is priceless.