Covered topics: life in general, personal productivity, life hacks, organization, software development, technology, etc.

Blogging with Microsoft Office Word 2007!

It seems a little strange, but I'm actually blogging using Word as a client for WordPress. This is actually kind of cool! I was considering investing in a rich-client Windows blog editor. I've had WordPress on the backburner for a while, but I may be marching forward now that Word supports blogging. In fact, this opens up some new possibilities for using Word as a client for more than just blogging. Here's a thought: how about Word as a Journal client?

Imagine journaling in your "favorite" (maybe) word processor and posting to a blog that serves as a personal, private journal. Nobody says that every blog has to be public—you can have private entries too. Just be careful to make sure they stay that way because Google has very prying eyes, finding things you might not suspect. I know, because I have found some things that probably weren't intended for general public consumption. You've been warned.

Nonetheless, it tickles the brain with new possibilities. I wonder how hard it is to write addins for Word 2007 in .NET.

By the way, upgrading to Office 2007 with Outlook 2007 has broken the synchronization with my Palm Zire 72. My version of HotSync with the Outlook conduits does not support Outlook 2007. No support information was available on Palm's website. Interestingly enough, Palm claims that the latest version (for the Zire 72 anyway) of their Palm Desktop software is not compatible with Windows XP Media Center Edition. Now, maybe I'm not running the exact same version (I have version 4.1.4 rather than 4.1.4E), but I'm skeptical about the claim about incompatibility since I am indeed running the software on Windows XP Media Center.

I do have a solution to my synchronization problem, however. It is Chapura's PocketMirror software, which claims to be compatible with Outlook 2007 and Windows Vista. I'll probably be dropping the $29.99 for the software soon.

New Year's resolutions - Blog! and Finish What You Start!

My blog has been terribly quiet for a couple of years, with posts popping up only every couple of months, if that.  I would apologize, but nobody really cares.  If I was saying anything important here, somebody would notice and investigate.

Nobody is investigating.

BLOGGER license plate

I still have the BLOGGER license plate.  I'm almost embarassed to drive around with it.  I feel like such a hypocrite.  On the other hand, it says "Hey! I was here first! I grabbed it before anyone else, before blogging was so popular!  I saw blogging coming before the larger masses!"

In some ways it's a lot like reserving a domain name--except you can't sell the really good ones for a higher price. :-( Believe me, I would have already done it if it were legal.  You can "squat" on a good license plate label, but there's no incentive, and you can only squat on one license plate per car.  With domain names, you can reserve as many as you like, so long as they're available.

By the way, I have switched to the WalMart of domain name registration: GoDaddy.com.  While I do not think their advertising is appropriate for their type of business, they do have much lower prices than my former registrar: Dotster.com.  Dotster charges $14.95 per year for registration, and DNS Management costs $10.00 extra per year.  GoDaddy.com throws in DNS Management for free.  Instead of $25 per domain name, I'm paying about $9.  Multiply that by the number of domain names I control (squatting again) and it adds up quickly.

In the past, I've squatted on some cool domain names:

PrayerChannel.com
HelpMeDonate.com
NoteBase.com (NoteBase is the old name for my long-envisioned vaporware product)
BlogHappens.com

All of these domain names represent ideas that never made it to fruition.  Inspirations that never made it to implementation.  Dreams that never made it to development.

So, my big focus, in this new year, is learning from those failed and fizzled efforts to improve my completion ratio.  Some things are OK to be abandoned because they really don't hold as much intrinsic value as we first think, but the really meaningful things in life take work and commitment.

Here's to a new year!

Blog Audio: Odiogo, FeedForAll, and TextAloud

iTunes decreases my blog consumption

After all this time, I'm finally blogging again. I think the issue has been the lack of time (other things are more important?) and the lack of motivation (i.e., burning desire).

Oddly enough, I think podcasts have taken me away from blogging. Since I no longer use NewsGator and FeedStation to download podcasts (I use iTunes instead), I spend less time in my news aggregator. Oh, I still consume blogs, and I think that they're still a great innovation, but I'm not using them like I used to.

A twist on blog consumption: Text-to-Speech conversion

One new product that puts a twist on consuming blogs is Odiogo. It's software that will "audify" RSS content to create MP3 audio consumable by your media player or portable audio device.

This is similar in concept to a combination of products I saw a while back: mixing FeedForAll, an RSS publisher, with TextAloud from NextUp.com. This combo allows you to create a "podcast" version of your blog. TextAloud also has other uses for text-to-speech conversion as a stand-alone product.

Odiogo, on the other hand, combines an RSS aggregator with a text-to-speech converter in one product. The price is fairly accessible at $29.99. I may try it. There are some sample audio clips of Odiogo available.

One thing I noticed is that Odiogo seems to offer only one voice (male). TextAloud, on the other hand, offers multiple voice options with a range of sampling rates from vendors including AT&T (Natural Voices), NeoSpeech, Cepstral, and ScanSoft (RealSpeak). TextAloud comes only in a Windows version and costs $29.95.

FeedForAll costs $39.95 and is available for Windows and Mac. They have an interesting set of partners offering complimentary products related to RSS feed consumption, RSS-friendly web hosting, and podcast creation.

Conclusion

I may try the audio blog content option. Unfortunately, most of my podcast solutions involve a lot of manual labor to put it onto my player (my Palm Zire 72 with an SD card). The other downside is that the text-to-speech output can sound somewhat bland, causing me to zone out instead of actively listening. I'll put it on my Someday/Maybe list (GTD).

Google's First Impressions

A recent Google search for a company in my area yielded some surprising results. I saw a former coworker's employer on LinkedIn.com and decided to check out the company. Well, it turned out to be an information technology consulting company. The first few hits were all from third-party job posting sites. Note: all of the postings were for mainframe positions--Yuck!

Anyway, I kept looking for the company's home page to show up. It didn't--well, not at first. It wasn't until page 2 of the Google results. Here's the kicker: the first page to show up for the company in my Google search was not the home page--it was the company's online exit survey!

The first presentation I receive from the company is an automated exit survey! How much turnover do they really have that they would need an online exit survey? At least they're somewhat organized about how they process exiting employees.

Don't like "Podcast?" How about "Syndicast?"

Some people are confused about what the term "podcast" really means. While it originally involved a reference to Apple's iPod, the term has expanded to mean much, much more. I heard somewhere that Microsoft was trying to find a way to refer to a "podcast" without calling it a "Pod-cast." "Blogcast" was the substitute I heard offered. However, that was only a rumor.

I think there's a better word, still: syndicast. Syndication and broadcast combined. Jason Dunn of PocketPC Thoughts describes several alternative names for podcasts in his article on Microsoft's site.

The problem with coining a new term and supplanting the old term is difficult. "Podcast" is already a powerful meme. I don't suspect that it will make much difference proposing it, but I couldn't keep a clever idea to myself.

And for another perspective, Chris Pirillo says some people think it's "not important": "This is Simply Smarter Broadcasting."

It's nothing more than Internet radio at its core, folks. It's audio, on-demand, that's easily synchronized with your computer system / portable media device...

Podcasting, or syndicated downloadable content, by whatever name, is definitely here to stay.

Welcome

This is my first post using Wordpress.  I'm debating about using it as the default system for my home website: http://www.outpost516.com/.  In fact if you are reading this now, you are probably looking at outpost516.com.

Anyway, I plan on converting all of my Xagronaut blog entries (http://www.xagronaut.com/) to either Wordpress or Drupal.

Welcome to my new Drupal website

Well, here it is. I'm experimenting with Drupal to make it meet my informational needs. I'm trying to capture a mix of structured and unstructured content in one place with the ability to relate it to other items.

The ability to index, search, and organize is essential. I hope I can find a suitable way to do this. Some of these modules may help:

  • Wiki
  • freelinking
  • flexinode
  • I'm hoping to use Drupal to capture knowledge and information in a major way. Let's see what happens.

    Palm Zire 72 camera review

    Here's a picture from the camera on my new Palm Zire 72.

    What I like about the camera:

  • I can capture pictures when I need to (sort of).
  • I can moblog (sort of).
  • I can take short videos (sort of).
  • I say "sort of" on the above items because the quality is not so great.

    What I don't like about the camera:

  • Taking pictures is slow. You have to be very steady with the camera and wait several seconds for a shot to "take." If your hand isn't totally steady, your pictures blur easily
  • Low light situations cause poor picture quality. The camera doesn't have a light or a flash, so taking a picture inside can be difficult.
  • Sunlight washes out pictures taken outside. Yeah, that cuts down on your optimal picture taking conditions, doesn't it?
  • It's a feature I was convinced I had to have. It was either the Palm Zire 72 with a camera and no WiFi or a HP RX3115 Mobile Media Companion with WiFi and no camera. Now, I think I might have opted for the WiFi instead with all other things being equal (which they never are).

    With WiFi, you can sync wirelessly over the network, surf the Web, and check email. The Palm Zire 72 only has Bluetooth. You can sync over Bluetooth, but I haven't tried it yet because my desktop doesn't have it. The problem that I see is the physical range that is required with Bluetooth. I don't have the specs, but Bluetooth is definitely more localized than 802.11b. My computer is in the basement, and I like the idea of charging and syncing without ever going down there. Oh well, that's opportunity cost, right?

    Apprehensive? Not exactly

    I've been reading Douglas Bass's blog, Apprehension, initially because his blogroll link to my blog showed up on my Technorati list.

    It's been a pleasant surprise. Douglas is "assistant professor in the Graduate Programs in Software at the University of St. Thomas." I checked out the Certificate programs with some interest, and I found one that I would enjoy having, given the time. A task like that is indeed daunting, especially with my current full-time job and other life responsibilities. Plus, St. Paul is geographically distant (I didn't check on the distance learning option).

    Douglas covers a range of topics, including computing (like the sudoku puzzle - neat!), Christianity, higher education, and combinations of the same. But, above all, the title and theme is "Apprehension," not the negative emotion, but that kind mentioned by Paul in Philippians 3:12-13:

    12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

    13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

    I will definitely be visiting again. You can check out Douglas's smooth-sounding voice in his podcast, "Belief Seeking Understanding." You can subscribe to his podcast here. You can subscribe to Apprehension here.

    Podcasting Peeves

    Michael Lehman's BuzzCast kept the music loop for the running for an entire ten minutes while talking to Jeremy Mazner about Microsoft's PDC 2005! Dude, kill the music! It's sooo distracting!

    Even worse than that, MSMobiles.com released an hour-and-a-half podcast rambling about cellphone news, with opera-style music playing in the background almost the whole time! Dude, the music has to go, and I'm not going to listen for an hour and a half. Sorry.

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