Monday, May 21, 2012

Afternoon of playing songs outside in the nice afternoon sun.

Robbie and I had a fun afternoon of playing songs outside in the nice afternoon sun (and shade) yesterday. We setup a couple of mics and record vocals and both our guitars running into a small mixer, and then into Robbie's Zoom H2. We also set up 3 cameras to video the whole thing.

Our goal, besides just having fun, is to capture at least one decent take of one song. Robbie and I chose a song we co-wrote together called "The Sadness".

Despite the intruder, we had a really good time.

I listened back to some of the audio and it's not that great, but it is what it is. The video looked OK, but the Flip camera file was corrupted, so it's only going to be a two camera shot instead of three. Oh well.

I started to poke around with the video in Sony Vegas. Vegas would not render the audio from the AVI from my camera. The Mp4 from Robbie's camera wouldn't render at all. So at this time, no video. Although I can view the individual files on my PC using VLC player. I will have to try to convert them to different formats until I find one that works. I tried "fixing" the MP4 from the FLIP camera. The program ran all night on a 1 GB file, so I'm thinking that's not working, but I'll check tonight. Who knows.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The 101 Most Useful Websites on the Internet

As we approach the dawn of a new year, here are my picks for the 101 most useful websites of the year 2011.

Update: A much expanded version of this list is now available as an eBook in Amazon’s Kindle Store.

Useful Websites Worth a Bookmark!

The sites mentioned here, well most of them, solve at least one problem really well and they all have simple web addresses (URLs) that you can easily learn by heart thus saving you a trip to Google.

01. – record movies of your desktop and send them straight to YouTube.
02. – for capturing full length screenshots of web pages.
03. – shorten long URLs and convert URLs into QR codes.
04. – find the original URLs that’s hiding behind a short URLs.
05. qClock – find the local time of a city using a Google Map.
06. – copy special characters that aren’t on your keyboard.
07. – a better search engine for twitter.
08. – create flowcharts, network diagrams, sitemaps, etc.
09. – the best place to find icons of all sizes.
10. – download templates, clipart and images for your Office documents.
11. – the easiest way to setup email reminders.
12. – scan any suspicious file or email attachment for viruses.
13. – gets answers directly without searching  – see more wolfram tips.
14. – print web pages without the clutter.
15. – reformats news articles and blog content as a newspaper.
16. – a search engine for RSS feeds.
17. – a simple online timer for your daily needs.
18. – if a site is down due to heavy traffic, try accessing it through coral CDN.
19. – pick random numbers, flip coins, and more.
20. – lets you can quickly edit PDFs in the browser itself.
21. – Preview PDFs and Presentations directly in the browser.
22. – simultaneously upload videos to YouTube and other video sites.
23. – your virtual whiteboard.
24. – share you email address online without worrying about spam.
25. – now get read receipts for your email.
26. – visualize and compare the size of any product.
27. – quickly determine the font name from an image.
28. – a good collection of open source fonts.
29. – find data hidden in your photographs – see more EXIF tools.
30. – broadcast events live over the web, including your desktop screen.
31. – helps you search domains across all TLDs.
32. – design from scratch or re-model your home in 3d.
33. – share you screen with anyone over the web.
34. – recognize text from scanned PDFs – see other OCR tools.
35. – Track flight status at airports worldwide.
36. – for sharing really big files online.
37. – a temporary online clipboard for your text and code snippets.
38. – check your writing for spelling or grammatical errors.
39. – easily highlight the important parts of a web page for sharing.
40. – work on the same document with multiple people.
41. – planning an event? find a date that works for all.
42. – a less confusing view of the world time zones.
43. – the perfect tool for measuring your site performance online.
44. – print music sheets, write your own music online (review).
45. – chat with your buddies on Skype, Facebook, Google Talk, etc. from one place.
46. – translate web pages, PDFs and Office documents.
47. – create paintings and sketches with a wide variety of brushes.
48. – discover new sites that are similar to what you like already.
49. – quick summarize long pieces of text with tag clouds.
50. – create mind-maps, brainstorm ideas in the browser.
51. – get color ideas, also extract colors from photographs.
52. – share your photos in an album instantly.
53. – when your friends are too lazy to use Google on their own.
54. – when you need to find the name of a song.
55. – automatically find perfectly-sized wallpapers for mobiles.
56. – send an online fax for free – see more fax services.
57. – get RSS feeds as an email newsletter.
58. – quickly send a file to someone, they can even preview it before downloading.
59. – transfer files of any size without uploading to a third-party server.
60. – setup a private chat room in micro-seconds.
61. – create text notes that will self-destruct after being read.
62. – track the status of any shipment on Google Maps – alternative.
63. – when you need to raise funds online for an event or a cause.
64. – find if your favorite website is offline or not?
65. – find the other websites of a person with reverse Analytics lookup.
66. – find the web host of any website.
67. – found something on Google but can’t remember it now?
68. – an online audio editor that lets record, and remix audio clips online.
69. – create a temporary web page that self-destruct.
70. – find definitions of slangs and informal words.
71. – consult this site before choosing a seat for your next flight.
72. – download stock images absolutely free.
73. – view very high-resolution images in your browser without scrolling.
74. – create custom Google Maps easily.
75. – quickly setup email reminders for important events.
76. – prevent your ISP and boss from reading your search queries.
77. – you can ask or answer personal questions here.
78. – an excellent layer-based online image editor.
79. – find if that email offer you received is real or just another scam.
80. – master touch-typing with these practice sessions.
81. – send video emails to anyone using your web cam.
82. – create timelines with audio, video and images.
83. – make a movie out of your images, audio and video clips.
84. – check the trust level of any website.
85. – a beautiful to-do app that looks like your paper dairy.
86. – you’ll need this when your bookmarked web pages are deleted.
87. – quickly capture effective notes during meetings.
88. – Watch YouTube channels in TV mode.
89. – quickly create a video playlist of your favorite artist.
90. – Send tweets longer than 140 characters.
91. – create a free and simple website using your Dropbox account.
92. – find the technology stack of any website.
93. – research a website from the SEO perspective.
94. – broadcast live audio over the web.
95. – bookmark online videos and watch them later (review).
96. – add QR codes to your documents and presentations (review).
97. – the easiest way to write short text notes in the browser.
98. – send rich-text mails to anyone, anonymously.
99. – hire people to do little things for $5.
100. – easily manage your online files on Dropbox, Google Docs, etc.
101. – create a connection between all your online accounts.

The Most Useful Websites – Expanded Version

If you enjoyed this list, do check my book – The Most Useful Websites – that has a collection of 150 undiscovered and incredibly useful websites to enhance your productivity.

Here’s are some comments from people who have bought my book.

Changelog: The following websites were part of the original list that I published in December, 2010. Unfortunately, these sites are no longer available and hence have been removed or replaced with alternatives.

01. – scan any suspicious file or email attachment for viruses.
02.– when you wish to share a NSFW page but with a warning.
03. – the best place for searching web videos.
04. – your favorite blogs delivered as PDFs.
05. – you’ll need this when your bookmarked web pages are deleted.
06. – generate temporary email aliases, better than disposable email.
07. – send an email without using your own account.
08. – find whether a photo is real or a photoshopped one.
09. – get word meanings, pronunciations and usage examples.
10. – unzip your compressed files online.
11. – when you need to find the name of a song.
12. – use email on your phone to find sports scores, read Wikipedia, etc.

You can download the above list as a PDF document for printing or offline reading.

Also see: Best of the Web

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Milton Friedman - Another old dead white guy? Yes. But he got it right.

"There is all the difference in the world, however, between two kinds of assistance through government that seem superficially similar: first, 90 percent of us agreeing to impose taxes on ourselves in order to help the bottom 10 percent, and second, 80 percent voting to impose taxes on the top 10 percent to help the bottom 10 percent -- William Graham Sumner's famous example of B and C decided what D shall do for A. The first may be wise or unwise, an effective or ineffective way to help the disadvantaged -- but it is consistent with belief in both equality of opportunity and liberty. The second seeks equality of outcome and is entirely antithetical to liberty."
- Milton Friedman

By the way, I also think Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell got it (and still get it) right, and they are very much ALIVE black guys.

Discovering The Dresden Dolls. Ben Folds meets Regina Spektor meets The Breeders.. or something.

1969s rehearsal last night. We rocked so hard...

Went over some old tunes, went over some new tunes...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Josh Hamilton hits 4 HRs against Baltimore. Damn!

Simple program to trim MP3s []. Very useful to cleanup Spotify captured tracks.

A List Apart: Articles: Responsive Web Design

The English architect Christopher Wren once quipped that his chosen field “aims for Eternity,” and there’s something appealing about that formula: Unlike the web, which often feels like aiming for next week, architecture is a discipline very much defined by its permanence. A building’s foundation defines its footprint, which defines its frame, which shapes the facade. Each phase of the architectural process is more immutable, more unchanging than the last. Creative decisions quite literally shape a physical space, defining the way in which people move through its confines for decades or even centuries.Working on the web, however, is a wholly different matter. Our work is defined by its transience, often refined or replaced within a year or two. Inconsistent window widths, screen resolutions, user preferences, and our users’ installed fonts are but a few of the intangibles we negotiate when we publish our work, and over the years, we’ve become incredibly adept at doing so.
But the landscape is shifting, perhaps more quickly than we might like. Mobile browsing is expected to outpace desktop-based access within three to five years. Two of the three dominant video game consoles have web browsers (and one of them is quite excellent). We’re designing for mice and keyboards, for T9 keypads, for handheld game controllers, for touch interfaces. In short, we’re faced with a greater number of devices, input modes, and browsers than ever before.
In recent years, I’ve been meeting with more companies that request “an iPhone website” as part of their project. It’s an interesting phrase: At face value, of course, it speaks to mobile WebKit’s quality as a browser, as well as a powerful business case for thinking beyond the desktop. But as designers, I think we often take comfort in such explicit requirements, as they allow us to compartmentalize the problems before us. We can quarantine the mobile experience on separate subdomains, spaces distinct and separate from “the non-iPhone website.” But what’s next? An iPad website? An N90 website? Can we really continue to commit to supporting each new user agent with its own bespoke experience? At some point, this starts to feel like a zero sum game. But how can we—and our designs—adapt?

A flexible foundation

Let’s consider an example design. I’ve built a simple page for a hypothetical magazine; it’s a straightforward two-column layout built on a fluid grid, with not a few flexible images peppered throughout. As a long-time proponent of non-fixed layouts, I’ve long felt they were more “future proof” simply because they were layout agnostic. And to a certain extent, that’s true: flexible designs make no assumptions about a browser window’s width, and adapt beautifully to devices that have portrait and landscape modes.

Huge images are huge. Our layout, flexible though it is, doesn’t respond well to changes in resolution or viewport size.
But no design, fixed or fluid, scales seamlessly beyond the context for which it was originally intended. The example design scales perfectly well as the browser window resizes, but stress points quickly appear at lower resolutions. When viewed at viewport smaller than 800×600, the illustration behind the logo quickly becomes cropped, navigation text can wrap in an unseemly manner, and the images along the bottom become too compact to appear legible. And it’s not just the lower end of the resolution spectrum that’s affected: when viewing the design on a widescreen display, the images quickly grow to unwieldy sizes, crowding out the surrounding context.
In short, our flexible design works well enough in the desktop-centric context for which it was designed, but isn’t optimized to extend far beyond that.

Becoming responsive

Recently, an emergent discipline called “responsive architecture” has begun asking how physical spaces can respond to the presence of people passing through them. Through a combination of embedded robotics and tensile materials, architects are experimenting with art installations and wall structures that bend, flex, and expand as crowds approach them. Motion sensors can be paired with climate control systems to adjust a room’s temperature and ambient lighting as it fills with people. Companies have already produced “smart glass technology” that can automatically become opaque when a room’s occupants reach a certain density threshold, giving them an additional layer of privacy.
In their book Interactive Architecture, Michael Fox and Miles Kemp described this more adaptive approach as “a multiple-loop system in which one enters into a conversation; a continual and constructive information exchange.” Emphasis mine, as I think that’s a subtle yet powerful distinction: rather than creating immutable, unchanging spaces that define a particular experience, they suggest inhabitant and structure can—and should—mutually influence each other.
This is our way forward. Rather than tailoring disconnected designs to each of an ever-increasing number of web devices, we can treat them as facets of the same experience. We can design for an optimal viewing experience, but embed standards-based technologies into our designs to make them not only more flexible, but more adaptive to the media that renders them. In short, we need to practice responsive web design. But how?

Meet the media query

Since the days of CSS 2.1, our style sheets have enjoyed some measure of device awareness through media types. If you’ve ever written a print style sheet, you’re already familiar with the concept:

In the hopes that we’d be designing more than neatly formatted page printouts, the CSS specification supplied us with a bevy of acceptable media types, each designed to target a specific class of web-ready device. But most browsers and devices never really embraced the spirit of the specification, leaving many media types implemented imperfectly, or altogether ignored.
Thankfully, the W3C created media queries as part of the CSS3 specification, improving upon the promise of media types. A media query allows us to target not only certain device classes, but to actually inspect the physical characteristics of the device rendering our work. For example, following the recent rise of mobile WebKit, media queries became a popular client-side technique for delivering a tailored style sheet to the iPhone, Android phones, and their ilk. To do so, we could incorporate a query into a linked style sheet’s media attribute:

The query contains two components:
  1. a media type (screen), and
  2. the actual query enclosed within parentheses, containing a particular media feature (max-device-width) to inspect, followed by the target value (480px).
In plain English, we’re asking the device if its horizontal resolution (max-device-width) is equal to or less than 480px. If the test passes—in other words, if we’re viewing our work on a small-screen device like the iPhone—then the device will load shetland.css. Otherwise, the link is ignored altogether.
Designers have experimented with resolution-aware layouts in the past, mostly relying on JS-driven solutions like Cameron Adams’ excellent script. But the media query specification provides a host of media features that extends far beyond screen resolution, vastly widening the scope of what we can test for with our queries. What’s more, you can test multiple property values in a single query by chaining them together with the and keyword:

Furthermore, we’re not limited to incorporating media queries in our links. We can include them in our CSS either as part of a @media rule:
@media screen and (max-device-width: 480px) { .column { float: none; } }
Or as part of an @import directive:
@import url("shetland.css") screen and (max-device-width: 480px);
But in each case, the effect is the same: If the device passes the test put forth by our media query, the relevant CSS is applied to our markup. Media queries are, in short, conditional comments for the rest of us. Rather than targeting a specific version of a specific browser, we can surgically correct issues in our layout as it scales beyond its initial, ideal resolution.