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Monday, April 21, 2008

Lightning quick update

The awesome Lightning plugin for Mozilla's Thunderbird mail client recently received a really nifty update. The full list of changes is impressive, but the three that I'm most chuffed about are:

An event list or 'unifinder' that shows a table view of upcoming events based on a date and word filter. It's sort of like a persistent inline search that can be sorted by a number of fields.

Category colors are now shown next to an event box, which really neatens up the whole look of the summary view, and makes it easier to immediately focus on the stuff relevant to your current context (work, home, etc). I mostly use this lightning view and my events come from various different Google calendars, so I'm really chuffed with what is actually a relatively small change.

Several performance improvements, which seem to be quite obvious in the main calendar view. It definitely seems like my events are being pulled from Google a lot faster.


I don't use the task functionality, but considering some of the improvements I really wish someone would develop Google Notebook integration for lightning notes (or that Google would launch a standalone Notes product), similar to the Google Calendar provider because I'd love to use some of this stuff:

A full-on task mode with filtering similar to the calendar mode, and previews similar to the mail mode.

Easy conversion of mails, events and tasks into each other by just dropping items onto the mode toolbar buttons.


Why this plugin isn't yet a standard part of Thunderbird is beyond me..


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Revamped and rearing to go

I've installed a new template (as you've most likely noticed if you aren't reading this in a feed reader). This has taken quite some time, so I won't have anything 'useful' to post before next week-when I hope to post on the use of RSS feeds to control your browsing. I do have two short notes though:

I have been diligently practicing my Tai Chi since February and I'm really enjoying it, though I'd really like to start taking lessons again. As luck would have it, an actual Shaolin monk has taken up residence in Benoni and is offering martial arts lessons-including Tai Chi. How cool is that.

The other thing is less positive. I have been doing a lot of reflection and realized that I want to become an active environmentalist-a passion of mine when I was younger that I lost touch with. Do you think I can find an organization anywhere nearby that I can work with? Not a damn! So yeah, suggestions would be welcome.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Scary story

The Story of Stuff is a concise, well written mini-documentary that exposes the true nature of the shopaholic consumer lifestyle many of use lead. It shows in an easy to grasp, straight-to-the point way why this culture of consumption is unsustainable, and how the droves of stuff we buy on weekend shopping trips -and most likely dump within six months- is destroying not only the environment we ultimately depend on to survive, but also the people that help to create it. The video provides some really eye-opening statistics and is bound to have you thinking twice about your next purchase (and hopefully every purchase thereafter). The full video can be downloaded from the site, and some teasers are available on YouTube, including this one:

Friday, April 04, 2008

Effective Internet Lockdown: Browser applications

When I discussed Internet Lockdown habits, one of the major practices I mentioned was to kill online applications when not in use. Email and instant messaging are obvious culprits in this regard, but a web browser has even larger time wasting potential. This can be a problem when your everyday workflow involves the use of web based applications or HTML based documentation. My solution is to run these applications in a browser that strips down all potential for stumbling from your tool or reference site to other, potentially time wasting, sites.


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Prism is a Mozilla labs webrunner application that strips the browser down to it's bare essentials. After installing prism, setting up a new web application simply involves specifying the URL and a name for the application and deciding where you would like the shortcut to be placed. Clicking on the new shortcut opens a completely minimal browser with no address bar or tool bar, containing your web app as if it were running normally in Firefox.

Click for full size image

I use this approach for everything from our SourceForge installation to Google Notebook and documentation for Lua and Ant. I've found it has made an enormous psychological difference allowing me to safely use web applications without negatively affecting my focus.

GooSync adds task 'sync'

The Google calendar synchronization tool GooSync has had a new feature added to it's premium service: Task synchronization.  The naming is somewhat misleading, in the same way as the "contact synchronization" feature, since neither of these actually synchronize any data with any Google service. What they do is store the information on their own servers, acting as an easy to use backup service.

GooSyncAlso like the contact tool, the lack of real synchronization is compensated for with the ability to manage tasks on the GooSync website, allowing a user to add new tasks or edit or delete existing ones. This is a nice convenience, however it doesn't quite make up for the need to still enter tasks manually into Google calendar. No additional setup is needed on a device already configured for GooSync use, which makes utilizing the new service as simple as carrying out a normal Sync.

Task synchronization/backup is hardly a feature that would convince someone already on the fence about purchasing a premium subscription, but it is a nice bonus addition for those that are already paying for the full service.


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