Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Ways to Make Things Easy

   I have made a lot of changes over the past year in just how I use computers, especially to accommodate small mobile computers (even cell phones) and travel, and above all to make things easier for myself.

    The idea has been to make it so that I could work anywhere quickly from any computer, large or small, and without risking my data from a computer crash.  Here is how.

    I switched to the simplified Google Chrome for browsing on PCs, and to Opera for some very small screen browsing.     I still use IE Explorer for online Netflix movies.     I use both Windows and Linux machines, depending upon the computer I am using and what I want to do.

    My EMail is Google Gmail, which is kept on Google's server and is accessible anywhere.   Get it here:

    Once signed up for Google, I have access to the rest of Google's armada of applications which run anywhere: Docs, Reader, iGoogle, and the like.   Here is a video on these:

    And here is how to add them:

    Docs is a word processor which can also edited by others with permission.  Docs is compatible with Microsoft Word.  Here is a video on Docs:

    Reader summarizes from media so that you do not need to go to many websites to get updated on the news in all sorts of subjects.     Other software updates podcasts or "feeds" to me to access when ready.     iGoogle puts all kinds of web activity on a single page, such as my calendar, todo list, bookmarks, and so forth, even Picasa to show pictures on the handheld.   Here are explanations of Google Reader:

     Bookmarks provide a simple way of accessing webpages frequently.   Bookmarks (also called Favorites) can also be kept on a server.   I have the ones I use all the time on Google's server, and also on Delicious, and Mobilicious.   More info is here:

     Very often there are two web addresses for the same website, one for large screens, and one for handhelds.    The small screens best display information in newspaper column format, in a single column scrolled vertically.   That helps ease of use with a small screen.  You scroll up and down a newspaper column width screen.

    My computers also now use Skype for telephoning, so that I do not need a cell phone where there is WiFi.  Plus I have a speaker phone and conferencing thru Skype.

    My bookmarks give me access to internet radio and TV, and to my music library, such as Orb, which accesses my home computer for music.     There are bookmarks for Amazon, YouTube, and Google search features.  The latter reminds me how to use Google for definitions, calculations, and the like,   I use Youtube to find out how to do things and access music. not just video.    

    With my handheld, I can access music or podcasts thru a wireless bluetooth headset while exercising.   For more on such tech, check my blog here:

    I recently moved my mail list to Gmail, so that I can get anybody's EMail address and phone number wherever I am.

    If I don't have access to a computer, I can phone Jott to leave a message by voice which later is accessible from text on any computer.   I am just starting to use Jott.
    The bottom line is that I am no longer dependent upon any single computer for most things, and not dependent on any operating system, such as Windows.   I need for the computer to help me do things, not to become focus of my activity.

     If you want to try some of these, a quick search on internet will find where to download and install them.  If all this is too complex, try this site for more help:

    Here is some advice on passwords


Monday, January 19, 2009

Internet Radio

Internet Radio is still quirky, even though there are a huge number of stations broadcasting across internet, certainly most of those broadcasting over the airwaves, plus many exclusive internet stations, usually dedicated to a genre.

Access is best through a "clearinghouse" website such as Reciva or vTuner or Shoutcast websites, which find and connect most quickly, although you can connect with a bit more trouble through the station's website.     

You don't need a computer,  just internet service and an access point, and a dedicated internet radio, or mobile wifi device.   A number of radios are out there, mostly off brand units.   All have their strong points and weak points.   Amazon's reviews help you compare.

It is a strong point and benefit to be able to access your computer as a media server, not just to access your mp3 library, but also podcasts, so that you can listen to a broadcast when you want.

Judging from Amazon's reviews of internet radios, not many listeners use this capability.     To provide access, you need to make sure the radio can get through the firewall, on PCs easily done with the Windows Media Player 11 by adding a library (such as the iTunes Folder) and giving access.

Then, to add specific podcasts, best is to use iTunes on the server (your main computer) and simply subscribe.    It is desirable to set iTunes settings to update frequently, such as every hour, probably for the 2-3 most recent podcasts, then make sure iTunes is "on" to receive the most current podcasts.

Podcasts can be handled in different ways, but easiest with iTunes, which is a "catcher" which actually downloads, as opposed to  just listing the latest podcasts and  streaming then when played.

The Aluratek internet radio accesses your media server and plays podcasts well.    You can skip ahead or skip back.   Not all internet radios do that.

At the top is a flowchart showing how the Aluratek is tuned.

With it you can play podcast radio shows, such as talk shows, like "The Dolans", whenever you want, and skip ahead or back at will.

Some radios are limited to the clearinghouses (above), while others allow you to access through URLs.    Those URLs may be hard to find.    A search of internet can provide the tricks of finding internet radio audio sites.

With Aluratek you can add many stations outside of the vTuner "clearinghouse" through the vTuner website.   I make the point because reviews have stated otherwise.

All this may sound a bit complicated, which it is without a few cautions, but really not technical.    It is not complicated to listen to access what comes from the "clearinghouse", only to extend beyond that to other stations and podcasts, which greatly broadens the usefulness of internet radio to you.

The end result is to have an easy to use radio which accesses almost any broadcast whenever you want it, quickly and easily.   You get to hear what you want when you want it.    If you want it where you want it, the altenative is a portable or mobile wifi device, such as a few new mobile phones.

The latter devices work best with "podcatcher" software and players which can keep your place.  Since most are not either Windows or Mac based, and are often Linux or other operating system, it is desirable to check that out before purchase.

With my mobile device, a Nokia n800, my latest podcasts of interest are automatically downloaded with an n800 podcatcher and I can stop and resume playing whenever I like.   I also use bluetooth, so that all I need for listening is a bluetooth earphone or a bluetooth stereo headset.     The stereo is not always supported with such bluetooth equipped mobile devices.   Also, bluetooth stereo is not of the quality of a wired headset, but fine for talk and Ok for much music.