Dec 22

Chumby

My parents are in their late 80s, thankfully still in good health, but as you might expect, a little forgetful. They live on their own and are still quite independent but I thought I should look into some sort of reminder device which would be easy for them to use. I’ve already tried a whiteboard without much success. I had already heard about the Chumby on the TWiT podcast a couple of years ago but I came across a great post Dad vs the Chumby which convinced me it was worth getting one for my parents to try. So I picked up a new Chumby One on eBay and set it up with the apps I thought they would find useful – news, clock, weather, Flickr photos, etc. I’ve had it for about a week now and am still learning about it. The Chumby is a great little wi-fi device – it’s like a small TV screen but with a personalized, simple, always-on, multimedia internet. All the apps or widgets you’ve set up on it cycle through continuously so it’s great for the elderly. No interaction necessary. Even the alarm seems fairly straightforward to set up so they should manage that too.

But I couldn’t find a good reminder app for the Chumby – something which would, for example, pop up a colour screen with a big clear reminder message and an audible alarm at the event time. So I looked around the Chumby forum and hunted through all the apps available and this is what seems to be available as reminder apps at the moment.

Send2Chumby

Just add this app to the channel you want then visit the Send2Chumby URL shown at the bottom of the widget. This URL lets me send messages and reminders from my PC to the Chumby as shown in the image at the top of this post. Doesn’t seem to be any way to delete old messages though. It saves the last 10 messages you’ve sent then starts overwriting the oldest messages. You can tap the screen to cycle through the messages. In the link I gave above, the poster did much the same thing by using Twitter to send tweet reminders from an account set up specifically for the Chumby to monitor.

Toodledo to Chumby RSS Reader

This was a tip I read on the Chumby forum. First add the Chumby RSS Reader app to the channel you want on the Chumby. Then on your PC, sign up for a free account with Toodledo if you don’t already have one and add the tasks, events, appointments and reminders there. I found it better to enable the Start Date field rather than the Due Date field so you can suppress future events/tasks. You do that under Settings, Tasks, Fields/Functions Used. Then get an RSS feed of your tasks in Toodledo by going to Tools, More, scroll down to Other Tools and Services and under RSS you can enable the RSS feed and get the feed URL. I also checked Only Publish the Hotlist.  Now tasks with a future Start-Date will be hidden from the hotlist regardless of their priority, due-date, status or star so no reminders for future start dates will appear on Chumby. Then add the URL of your RSS feed to the Chumby RSS Reader. Now all tasks, events, appointments and reminders on your hotlist in Toodledo will appear on the Chumby.

Chumby Alarm

This is the best alternative if you want an audible alarm and short message at a particular time rather than a general text reminder which the first two methods gave. The Custom alarms are easy to set up and pretty customisable but the only downside is that the reminder text doesn’t really stand out too well on the screen. You can partly get round this by using different audible alarms for different events.

Well that’s a quick look at the benefits Chumby can have for the elderly particularly as a reminder aid. If you have any thoughts or know of a better reminder setup for the Chumby, please drop a comment below. Or what do you use to help elderly parents remember things?


Dec 14

Despite having a copyright notice at the bottom of every page, my blog posts have been stolen for several months now by a content scraping site. I was alerted to this as I use a free service called FairShare to monitor the web for content copied illegally from my blog. The scraping site is MakeMyComputerFaster and they’ve been copying not just part of my posts but the whole deal. Here’s an example. Strange thing is most of my posts aren’t giving tips on how to make your computer run faster so I don’t really see what’s the point. They’ve even copied the warning at the end of my post that it’s been copied without permission. Actually, I wonder if this post will appear there after I publish it? What I want to do here is go through the steps I’m taking to try and stop this and the difficulties I’m having.

Contact the owner of the site copying my posts

If you read any post on blog plagiarism, this is always the first recommendation. It’s worth a try but my first point is that any site serious about content scraping just isn’t going to make their contact details freely available. And so it is with my problem site. There you’ll find no contact form, no contact email, no contact details, and you can’t comment on any post. The owner calls himself James Brooks but I wouldn’t think that’s his/her real name. So what next?

Run an eWhoIs search

Plagiarism1

As you can see the eWhoIs search brings up the information that the site has been registered through WhoIsGuard to protect the owner’s real identity. No surprise there. The only other info of note is at the bottom of the page:

Plagiarism2

So the site is hosted by pipeDNS servers.

I’ve also read that it’s possible to track anonymous bloggers by using their Google Analytics code. Unfortunately, this content scraper didn’t use Google Analytics as it didn’t show up in the eWhoIs report so a Reverse Google Analytics ID Lookup wasn’t possible. But it’s worth bearing in mind for the future.

Contact the host of the site copying my posts

So I’ve emailed the agent for pipeDNS who deal with claims of copyright infringement (justHOST.com) pointing out the position and giving examples of my plagiarized posts and asking if they can contact the site owner to see if the illegally copied posts can be removed. So far my email to pipeDNS and 2 emails to justHOST haven’t got a response and the illegal content is still online.

What next?

Well, looks like I have four options:

1. Just ignore it. The site has PageRank 0 so there’s little likelihood that the copied posts are going to outrank mine in a Google search.

2. Submit a DMCA takedown notice to the host pipeDNS asking for the illegal content to be removed. Looks like that’s the only way they will take any action unfortunately which is a pity. It would have been nice if they had made some effort to police the content scrapers they host without having to resort to a DMCA notice.

3. The domain expires on 27th January 2012 as seen in the graphic above. Wait and see if the owner renews the domain or just lets it lapse.

4. Hope that the bad publicity of this post gets a response and he/she takes all the illegally copied posts down.

What do you think I should do here? Drop a comment below. I’ll write a Part 2 to this post when there’s more to report.


Dec 6

thunderbird-logo

Leaving Eudora

I’ve been using Eudora as a desktop email client since around 2002. It was a computer mag recommendation that got me started with it. I didn’t like Microsoft Outlook Express and this seemed like a great free alternative. But now it looks a little dated, development on it stopped for quite a while but now an open source version has been released built on the Thunderbird codebase. I’m running the old Eudora version 7 .1 and I’ve been finding it won’t send out some emails recently – it’s giving SMTP server errors about the From addresses I use so I thought now would be a good time to change to a new desktop email client.

Why choose Thunderbird?

Judging from what I read on tech blogs and hear on tech podcasts, Mozilla Thunderbird seems to be a well recommended desktop email client with lots of add-ons but what really interests me is that it is multiplatform. I have an Acer Aspire One netbook currently running Ubuntu and I want to be able to use Thunderbird on that too with all my emails synced on Windows and Linux platforms. So I’ll give Thunderbird a go, but I may go back to the new open source Eudora if I don’t like it.

I do use Gmail too in addition to having several old POP3 email accounts. Everything including my Gmail comes down to my desktop client. Yes I know I could probably deal with it all in Gmail but I like having my emails on my desktop and backed up to an external drive in case anything goes wrong.

Moving from Eudora to Thunderbird

I’ve shied away from this move in the past as I thought it would be a nightmare importing 10 years worth of emails to a new client. So I tried to minimise any problems by taking it in stages.  I decided it would be a good idea to make the move over a weekend when no business emails were coming in and I had a chance to test that everything was set up okay. Here’s what I did.

On Friday morning, I installed Thunderbird. During installation, I chose not to have it as my default email client. I also didn’t import anything when it asked. I just wanted to have a look around the interface and get familiar with it initially. When it had installed, I manually set up one of my email accounts and tried sending a test mail out from Thunderbird to another of my email accounts in Eudora. Everything went fine so on Friday evening, I imported all my emails and account profiles from Eudora. Surprisingly this only took around 10 minutes. Everything went fine and I was soon sending out test emails from all my email accounts to my other accounts. I just had to manually tweak some of the SMTP settings with correct usernames and passwords in Thunderbird.

I’m slowly getting to know my way around the Thunderbird interface – it’s a lot different from Eudora 7.1. I still have lots to learn, add-ons to install, etc so I’ll blog again about Thunderbird later when I have some tips and trick to pass on. But perhaps you have some Thunderbird tips to share? Drop a comment below on Thunderbird. I’d love to hear your experiences.

Getting up to Speed with Mozilla Thunderbird is a post from Techandlife. If you’re reading it elsewhere, it’s been copied without permission. Please visit the original site. Thankyou.


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