Aug 29

Golden 5th anniversary

Our first post here was on 26 August 2008, so we’ve made it to 5 years with 275 posts now in the archive here. I’d like to thank all my regular readers and subscribers for their support over the years. As I’ve said before, I run this blog in my spare time so page views, subscriber numbers and reader comments mean a lot. If you’re new here, have a look through the archives and categories in the side bar or search for a topic that interests you. Please subscribe if you can.

What sort of things are covered here? Well, I’m currently looking at moving to Linux from Windows 7. I’ve written three posts in that series and there are more to come. I have a Google Nexus 10 tablet and will probably soon change my HTC Legend smartphone for a Google Nexus 4 given the price drop announced yesterday so I’ll be blogging about that and useful Android apps for both. I chose the domain name Tech and Life so it allows me scope to cover stuff outside tech so you’ll occasionally get some posts about my philosophies on life.

Finally, just to leave you with something useful, what else was happening 5 years ago? I came across a post on Reddit recently about catching up on news if you’ve been away for a while. Just search your chosen month and year in Wikipedia. You can use this to check out what was happening for example 5 years ago as this blog was starting up. The Summer Olympics were on in Beijing, and Illinois Senator Barack Obama accepted the nomination of the Democratic Party, becoming the first African American to be nominated by a major party for election as President of the United States.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Jul 26

Feed readers are great for getting all your news delivered to one place. Now that Google Reader has gone, we’ve all had to find an alternative reader. I’ve been using Feedly for some time now. I can set it up pretty much like Google Reader used to be, but the one thing I find most annoying is that keyword filtering is not built into feed readers. Filtering out stuff I don’t want is the feature I want most and I could do it in Google Reader with the Google Reader Filter extension. However, thanks to a recent post on Addictive Tips and Lifehacker,  I’ve discovered that I can use Reader Filter for keyword filtering in Feedly and The Old Reader using Chrome browser. I’ve found it also works fine if you’re using Feedly Cloud.

Once installed in Chrome, go into the settings and add your keywords and phrases in the ‘What to hide’ section.

Reader Filter

You can set up Reader Filter to filter out keywords or phrases occurring in the post title only or in the title and body text which is very useful. You can also choose if the keyword is to be case-sensitive or not. You can also add a list of feeds never to filter. You can change your Feedly layout too but that doesn’t really bother me. I don’t think there’s a Feedly filter userscript for Firefox yet but from what I read here, that may come soon.

So if you want to hide blog posts you just don’t want to read in Feedly, try Reader Filter.


Apr 24

MakeUseOf

I took a keen interest in all things tech back around 2007 when I wanted more than just music on my mp3 player. Initially, I tried news podcasts then searched around for something different. As a PC user, I looked for a PC related podcast and hit on the Mike Tech Show first off. A great show with great tips, links and recommendations and it was from a listener email there that I found out about MakeUseOf. Yes, it’s not obviously apparent what this blog is about from the name, but in effect, it’s really about making use of tech software and web services. From their website

The aim of MakeUseOf is to guide you through the web and tell you about hot websites that you have never heard of, best software programs, and all kinds of “how to” tips for Windows, Mac and Linux computer users.

From very early on, this has been one of my top tech blogs for tips and recommendations on great software, apps and web services. And not just me; they have around 450,000 active subscribers.

As I browse through the latest tech posts in my couple of hundred feeds in Google Reader, I’m constantly finding that, for me, MakeUseOf is number one for posts which catch my attention and which I have to read through, bookmark and ‘make use of’ as they say. I’ve learned so much from these posts over the years. Not only do they have great tech posts, but they’ve also published a number of tremendous free pdf format guides available for download. These cover everything from Linux to Reddit to WordPress. Or ask a tech question and get it answered at MakeUseOf Answers and find the best websites, software and apps at MakeUseOf The Best Of.

Let me say I’m not sponsored by MakeUseOf or affiliated to them in any way, just as always trying to pass on great recommendations. So subscribe to MakeUseOf in your RSS reader or follow them on Twitter, Facebook or Google+. You’ll find all the links at the bottom of their home page. And coming back to the subject of tech podcasts, three members of the MakeUseOf team put out a regular informative tech podcast called Technophilia which I now subscribe to. Check it out as well.


Jul 27

I love getting comments on blog posts and I’ve already blogged my arguments for keeping posts open for comments. Thankfully, most posts I make receive mostly positive comments and I haven’t had to deal with too much negative stuff. Obviously I listen to the negatives and try and improve if I’m at fault. But I think we can all learn something from negative comments on tech advice blogs – and that includes the commenter, the audience and myself. Here’s two general examples based on comments I received recently.

Your tech tip didn’t work for me

This particular post had about 10-15 positive comments. People really liked the tech tip I gave and it worked for them all. Then one person left a comment just saying that it didn’t work for them. Fair enough. But it would have been nice if the commenter had given a bit more info on what he had tried before leaving the negative comment. If the tip worked for me and the first 10 commenters then perhaps the problem may not be the tech tip but a conflict in that person’s system causing it to fail to work. If they had access to another computer, they could try running it on that for example. The main thing is just try your best to figure out why it doesn’t work for you and eliminate your set-up before leaving a negative comment then we can all learn if there are particular set-ups where the tip won’t work.

Criticise, but at least offer an alternative

In another post, I reviewed some free software which I thought was pretty good. Again a number of commenters liked it. Then one person accurately pointed out some failings in the software and said he was disappointed. Again fair enough, but it would have been nice if, instead of being completely negative, the commenter had recommended a free better alternative or one that they used themselves so again we would have learned something. But there was nothing.

So if you leave negative comments on tech tips blogs, help us all to learn from your comment and take something positive from it.

Any comment on blog comments? Drop a comment below.


Apr 14
My top 5 tech bloggers
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Tech blogs | icon4 April 14, 2011| icon33 Comments »

hands on keyboard

After several years of reading RSS blog feeds, you get a feel for the authors whose posts you most look forward to reading and who rarely disappoint. I’ve picked out 5 tech bloggers who you might want to follow. I could easily have picked out 10 more but I’ll leave that for another day.

David Pierce

David writes at his blog Digitizd and covers topics from web tools and organization to writing. He aims to help you make the most of technology but yet is never too technical, always thought provoking and always a good read.

Matthew Guay

Trying to make tech simpler, Matthew blogs at Techinch but can also be found at Web.AppStorm, How-To Geek and Digital Inspiration, all excellent tech blogs. Covering mainly web apps and software, like David, he’s never too technical and always willing to help out with questions in the blog comments.

Lee Mathews

One of my favourite bloggers, Lee has put me in touch with many really useful web apps and software over the years. If Lee blogs about it, it’s generally worth trying. He got me started with LastPass some years ago and Chrome more recently. Lee used to blog at DownloadSquad but unfortunately, this site folded earlier this week much to my great dismay. In the meantime, you can follow him on Twitter. I’m sure it won’t be long before he’s actively blogging again and when he does I’ll update this post.

Rich Menga

Rich blogs at PC Mech and covers PC hardware, software and the internet. I find his posts on PC hardware, routers, networking, etc particularly useful and well written. He clearly know his stuff.

JL Beeken

JL blogs at JLog with the strapline ‘Simple computer technology for genealogists’ – but don’t let this put you off. I’m not interested in genealogy but find many of his posts incredibly useful and insightful. JL covers photo management and tagging, file organization, and backup among other things. Here’s a great recent post A Simple Backup Plan explaining file backup using the free utility Syncback.

So if you’ve enjoyed reading posts on my blog, I encourage you to look at these five tech bloggers – you’ll probably like them too. And of course if you really enjoy reading a particular blogger, I’d love to know in the comments.

Image credit: Gregory Szarkiewicz / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Dec 20

Delicious Xmarks

If you use either of these services and you follow the latest tech news, chances are you’ll know that both have been in the news recently. Xmarks was to close down but found a buyer in LastPass. More recently, Delicious has been the subject of feverish rumours that its owners Yahoo! were to shut it down. In the event, it looks like Yahoo! will try to find a buyer for it.

The blogosphere will pounce on rumours and ‘bad news’

Unfortunately, much as the old print media used to do, many tech news bloggers pounce on early rumours or perceived ‘bad news’ and blog about it despite the fact that it’s just a rumour and everyone else is doing the same thing. I follow quite a few tech blogs and the amount of posts on both stories was quite staggering, all trying to present the early rumours, how to export your data from the ‘sinking ship’ and any viable alternatives to the services.

The future is bright

There’s no question that the internet is still in its infancy. Services will come, go or be bought up in the inevitable shake-down that will see the cream rise to the top. Despite the initial ‘bad news’ of a possible shut down, any really great service with a poor or non-existent business plan, like Xmarks, will surely be snapped up and continue in some form. Other services like Delicious which haven’t progressed much in years in terms of new functionality and innovation, face the very real prospect of being overtaken by newish kids on the block like Diigo which notably allows you to cache bookmarked pages making them searchable in your bookmark archive. So don’t panic. If it’s a good service, it will probably be bought up or be replaced by a better one. The site AlternativeTo lists software and applications you might want to replace and gives great alternatives, based on user recommendations. It lists a number of excellent alternatives to Delicious including Diigo.

What can we learn

1. If you do keep up with the latest tech news with a blog RSS reader, don’t let the blogosphere ‘freak you out’ when shut-downs are rumoured. If you use Google Reader, try using Google Reader Filter to filter out the flurry of activity when these rumours or ‘bad news’ stories arise. Do this by adding terms like Xmarks or Delicious to your Excludes list. Then switch the filter off after a week or two to see what’s actually going to happen after all the rumours have died down. If you don’t follow tech news closely, you may just miss all this and wonder what all the fuss has been about. Indeed, tech news does seem to have a very short shelf life.

2. If it’s a great service used widely, chances are it will be bought up and continue in some form, possibly freemium,  so don’t panic.

3. The internet is still in the great shake-down. Many services are starting up to rival more established services and offering more bells and whistles. There are alternatives out there, or one will quickly emerge to fill the gap. For example, there are plenty of tech posts out now listing Delicious alternatives and how to export your bookmarks.

4. Make sure you can export your data from any service you rely heavily on and would miss if it were to fold so that if the inevitable does happen, you can quickly move over to a new service.

Any thoughts on this? Drop a comment below.


Dec 1

Headline2

It doesn’t matter whether your article title is being seen on an RSS reader, on Twitter, Facebook or Delicious,  those few words in your headline are vitally important. They’re the difference between attracting a potential reader to click and find out more or pass over to another article. So you have to get it right first time.

I work in list view in Google Reader so when I’m browsing new posts, all I see is the article title and perhaps part of the first sentence so I know how important the first impression of the title is. Here’s some points to consider when composing your title.
Read the rest of this entry »


Nov 23
Top tech blogs – November 2010
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Tech blogs | icon4 November 23, 2010| icon3No Comments »

I’m currently following about 330 blogs in Google Reader and learn an awesome amount from reading great posts there.  I’m mostly interested in blog posts about new online applications and services, tech how-tos and tutorials, PC troubleshooting, Windows and Linux tips and tricks, learning Linux, learning WordPress, SEO, web design, and social networking. I star and tag the best posts that I find really useful and that I may want to refer to again.
Read the rest of this entry »


Oct 5

tweeting links

Since I signed up with Twitter about two years ago, I’ve been using it mostly to share the best tech links I’ve come across during the day, and I also see some of the tech news stories tweeted by people I’m following. But Twitter isn’t my number 1 source for finding news stories – no, it’s still Google Reader. And for me, Twitter may not be the best place to share links any more as we’ll see below.
Read the rest of this entry »


Jul 22

RSS leaves

It’s common knowledge in SEO circles that not posting frequently and regularly will decrease your blog page rank and probably lead to a drop in RSS feed subscribers. What I don’t accept is the advice I’ve occasionally read on some blogs that if you’re suffering from feed overload and looking to prune back your RSS subscriptions, you should unsubscribe from blogs which don’t update frequently and regularly.

As I see it, the most important consideration in unsubscribing should be content. If a blog is offering interesting fresh content, even if on an irregular basis, I would keep my subscription. Having said that, if the blog is clearly stagnating with no posts for the previous 3 or 4 months, I might just drop it, unless the blogger has posted good reasons for taking a break.

Lighten the load

When you think about it, cutting back on blogs which update only occasionally isn’t going to have much effect on your blog overload. What you should be aiming to do is cut the blogs whose content isn’t interesting to you anymore, or the blogs which are pushing out poor content just to achieve a daily post target. In addition, in the tech space there are quite a few blogs which just reblog tech news and press releases. You don’t need this duplication so cut out a few of these. All these are the culprits in overloading your blog feed.

Spare a thought for the blogger

If you’re blogging in your spare time and aren’t a full-time blogger, it certainly isn’t easy to push out good fresh content on a daily basis. I blog in my spare time and put out posts when I can. And good unique blog ideas don’t come daily. In addition, the research which goes into make a good post may take a couple of days in your spare time. I only manage to post at most 3 times a week, but it can be as little as once a fortnight. So far I haven’t put adverts on my blog so I get no monetary reward for blogging. I do it for the enjoyment. So don’t penalize the part-time or occasional blogger who hasn’t taken the step to full-time blogging or perhaps just doesn’t want to.

And if you are a full-time blogger, take a few days off now and again to recharge. You’ll almost certainly return with fresher content and have developed a few ideas in the meantime.

Content is king

This should be the main focus on whether to unsubscribe from a blog feed. If a blogger is pushing out good fresh content which is of interest to you, keep subscribing even if they do post on an irregular basis. And if you do like a post, try and thank them in the blog comments or share their post in your social network. It may be the only reward they get for their efforts.

Update (11th September 2010): Here’s an interesting blog post backing up the premise that less is more and that it’s quality that counts: Why posting less can improve your blog

The case for continuing to subscribe to blogs which don’t update frequently and regularly is a post from Tech and Life. If you’re reading it in full elsewhere, it’s been copied without consent. Please go to Tech and Life to read the original post and many others in the archive.


« Previous Entries

` `