Category Archives: Technostuff

What’s that little elephant doing there?

Some of you actually visit this site and read it in person, so to speak, rather than through a reader or aggregator of some sort. Cheers to the old-fashioned way of doing things!

You might have noticed a little redecorating going on, particularly a little green icon with an elephant’s head, which only appears when you’re reading individual pages or posts on biblicalia, down at bottom. If one is only the slightest bit adventurous, one might let the cursor drift over to said elephantine icon and pause a nonce. You would be presented with the portentous: “Clip to Evernote”. The more adventurous might simply click it!

That might be the beginning of a new and beautiful, and hopefully long-lasting, relationship. Evernote is, essentially, an application for making, organizing, and sharing notes. But it is a distinctly versatile one, in that your notes can contain anything from writing, to files, to images, and parts of or entire web pages or blog posts. You can organize all these notes in notebooks, and organize those notebooks in stacks of notebooks. And perhaps the niftiest thing of all is that all of this information is synchronized in every place where you have Evernote installed, so that you can access all your notes from any of them. Currently, Evernote is available on a veritable slew of devices (Apple ones, Android ones, Windows ones, and others). So, in my case, I have Evernote on my iPhone, my iPad, my MacBook Pro at home, amd my iMac at the office. And I see all my growing collection of notes on all of them. Brilliant!

So, back to the little elephantine Evernote icon. If you, as I do, have an Evernote account, upon clicking that little icon, a dialogue box will pop up giving you some options by which to save the entire post or page. Now, I would find it very handy if this little guy were available on every site that I read. It’s a very handy shortcut. Another way to do rather the same thing is to install the Evernote webclipper in your browser (all the major browsers are covered). Click that, and you can create a note of either just a link to the page, or the entire page. And you can also access all your stuff on the Evernote website. Very handy!

And lest you think I’m trying to sell you something: perish the thought! The fully functional Evernote is available free. There is also a premium plan to which you may subscribe if you wish. There are certain benefits, the major one being a higher limit to the amount of synching you can do in a month. One that is kind of fun is that the OCRing of images is kicked to the front of the line for premium subscribers.

Anyway, I’m a big fan of Evernote now, as you, gentle reader, might have already perceived. If you have an interest in trying it, and you never have, click the icon, and you’ll be prompted to sign up for an account. If for some unfathomable reason you’re not interested, then certainly don’t click it, as it will do nothing productive for you. It only works if you have an account.

I think I’ll write a few more posts on various useful applications I’ve become fond of. Stay tuned for more!

Posted in Technostuff | 5 Comments

The Return of More Gadgetry Tomfoolery

In an earlier post I mentioned the free WPtouch plugin/theme produced by Brave New Code. One of the WPtouch authors even left a comment, which is fun. I really love their software. We should found a Mutual Appreciation Society, though I’d be doing most of the appreciating…ANYHOW.

I’ve since then upgraded to WPtouch Pro, which includes some better menu management (something that I use extensively on my parish’s website) and more potential for customization in the settings. I’m planning to poke around and customize some things.

For instance, rather than being able to access the entire Archives, the Archives page includes two sections: “Browse Last 15 Posts” and “Browse Last 12 Months”. That’s it. So, what I’m thinking of is a “Browse Latest Posts” (which would take the number of posts from the WordPress setting for number of posts per page, which then keeps this in the realm of the easily customizable for the future) and then the Archives, but in which you’ll click the year (2010, 2009, etc) and then it expands to a list of the months of that particular year, instead of just the last 12 months. That shouldn’t be too hard to do.

I’ve also got a number of pages and posts (particularly on my parish website) that will need some editing so that they show right in the smaller format. Things like a full-size embedded Google calendar that you can only see one day square of are not very useful. There’ll be some way around that, I’m sure.

From what I can tell, most of my readers are using an aggregator and just drawing on my RSS feed, so this site theming and such is irrelevant to that usage. But I still enjoy seeing what other people find to do on their sites in the way of aesthetic manipulation, and enjoy a particular kind of such myself, toward the leaner, less busy approach. So WPtouch (Pro or not) is really something I like and can appreciate. Particularly when (as on several nights this week), I’ve been caught for extended periods of time without a book. Some sites you simply can’t read on an iPhone, as they won’t even load. On others it’s a real trial (zoom in, pan around, get iSick, quit). But on many, there is in place either WPtouch or some other helpful theming for mobile devices, which is great. It’s interesting to note the differences. For instance, all the WordPress.com blogs have WPtouch available by default for mobile readers, but Blogger doesn’t, so you have to zoom and pan to read a Blogger blog on an iPhone. That’s kind of annoying, and somewhat primitive. There’s fun to be had with these mobile themes, and people should get with the program. I’d like to underline (and highlight and circle in red with arrows and exclamation points all around!) that such things are a matter of consideration for one’s users, and are therefore as necessary a thing as not using, say, dark grey text on a black background, or html email that locks the message into one size. Despite the unpopularity of such a concept, there really and truly is a moral import to all our decisions and actions in life, including (obviously) what we use these technologies for, but even to such things as the theme one uses for one’s blog.

I’ll have some book reviews up soon, and some other fun things, switching from these days of wine and technoblather back to something redolent of the finer attractions to be found on the grounds of Biblicalia Manor, which some will likely label the more important. But they should say that only with a twinkle in their eye, lest they be called out, verily, for silliness in finding one kind of ridiculously complicated technology more acceptable than another, or talk about it to be innately unedifying or divorced from moral or spiritual concerns. One might, in such a case, as well be blowing dolphin bubbles out yer blowhole.

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More gadgetry tomfoolery!

Since I’ve gotten an iPhone and I’m somewhat old-fashioned in that I enjoy visiting individual blogs rather than using an aggregator, I’d noticed that some sites (particularly those hosted on WordPress.com) automatically detect that I’m browsing on an iPhone and then load a theme optimized for reading on that nifty little screen. I thought that was a great idea, so I’ve gone ahead and added that same default mobile theme/plugin used by WordPress, WPtouch. I’m very pleased with the results.

Desktop users aren’t going to see a difference, but if you’re one of those oddballs who visits sites individually (as opposed to using an RSS aggregator of some sort) on a mobile phone, you’ll notice a very nice, sleek, and user-friendly interface. No zooming required to read! The theme will work well with iPhone, iPod touch, Android, Opera Mini, Palm Pre and BlackBerry Storm mobile devices, they say. Others will be hit or miss, I suppose. It looks very nice on my iPhone.

WPtouch is the free plugin version. I may actually go ahead and buy the fully-featured WPtouch Pro version from the authors, Brave New Code. It looks pretty spiffy.

If you’re using a mobile browser other than the iPhone, iPod touch, Android, Opera Mini, Palm Pre or BlackBerry Storm, please take a look and let me know how it looks. I’m curious as to how it might not work on other mobile readers than those mentioned by the authors as being compatible.

UPDATE 8:20 PM:
Nick Norelli asked for some screenshots of what this looks like on my iPhone (which is a very good idea I should have thought of, so thank you Nick!). Here they are!

First, here is an image of the home page of biblicalia with the new mobile theme on my iPhone:

Next is an image of the menu that appears when you click the down arrow to the right of the biblicalia blog title:

Here is an image of how the Categories look, which is the option next to the menu that you see when you click the down arrow:

Now back to the menu. Here’s what the Archives look like:

And here’s what the Links page looks like:

And last but not least here’s what Nick’s comment below looks like:

I may be making some cosmetic changes here and there, but I like the overall look already.

Oh, one more. This is an example of the default settings. Here’s what Esteban’s blog’s home looks like:

Posted in Technostuff | 8 Comments

Sorting in iTunes and iPod Classic

I spent some time this weekend figuring out how to get stuff to sort in iTunes and on my iPod in a way that pleases me: namely, the apparently long-desired but long-elusive accurate sort by artist and then with albums (or individual songs or whatever) in their actual release order in Cover Flow and grid view of Albums in iTunes, and in the Cover Flow and Albums list on the iPod. In the end, it’s actually rather simple.

Before anything else, sit yourself down and think about how you want your stuff sorted. You’ll need to be clear on how you want things sorted not just generally, but specifically. That is, there may be some exceptions to your general sorting rules. This whole process is, after all, about making the order in which these items are displayed most useful to you. You can apply the information below to achieve your own goals.

We begin with the beginning: the data. Your media files are likely, like mine, from different sources: some purchased, some downloaded free from the internets, and some loaded from CD. In most cases, track information is automatically located (which never ceases to amaze me) and to all your media files. But it’s necessary to say that this information is basic, and is occasionally even incorrect. In every sense, it is invariably incomplete for the sorting scheme I will describe below. Thus your generic sort based on the incomplete and/or incorrect information attached to your files is going to be somewhat unpredictably accurate, which is frustrating. You’ll want to make sure the information in your files (dates, song names, etc) is all correct anyway at some point, so you might as well do it (if you haven’t already) before you fix your sorting. Those are all accessible in iTunes through, on a Mac, ctrl-click (or like me, lower-left-corner-touchpad-click) or on Windows right-click an album in iTunes, and pick Get Info. The easiest and quickest way to do this for an album is by ctrl/right-clicking on an album in Grid View, picking Get Info, and going from there as described below.

The Sorting options are your friend. In Get Info on iTunes in Windows, Sorting is a tab; on a Mac, it’s one of the option buttons. Whichever, click it. You’ll see these listed:
Sort Artist
Sort Album Artist
Sort Album
Sort Composer
Sort Show
These are where you’ll set your sorting up. These fields are where you can specify for iTunes (and the iPod) how you want your media to sort, overriding the defaults extrapolated from the information of the individual files. “Sort Album Artist” and “Sort Album” are the important fields here. “Sort Artist” actually is the Artist field for all the songs on the album, so you need to be careful with that. You could wipe out and screw up some compilations (more on which below) if you’re not careful with that field. But for an album by a single artist, “Sort Artist” and “Sort Album Artist” will very often both be the same. “Sort Composer” is important for those who want to sort that way, and “Sort Show” is used for multiple episodes of video media, and not applicable here.

So, the trick to setting up sorting is simple: it’s alphabetic. In “Sort Album Artist” you will put the artist’s name in the way in which you want it to sort within your collection. For instance, you would put “Beatles” rather than “The Beatles” because you don’t want all your stuff to show up alphabetized by “The…” but rather back in the Bs, according to “Beatles.” So, also “Gabriel Peter” instead of “Peter Gabriel” and “Keyrouz Marie” instead of “Marie Keyrouz” or “Soeur Marie Keyrouz”. All that is up to you, but keep it in mind that the “Sort Album Artist” is purely alphabetical.

After you have established your “Sort Album Artist” names, to put things in an order determined by you, simply use the same name exactly that you put in “Sort Album Artist” followed by a two-digit number: “Sylvian 01″, “Sylvian 02″, “Sylvian 03″ and so on. That’s it. That’s the whole trick. If you put the actual album names in that “Sort Album” spot, all it will do is sort them alphabetically by name. Note that in putting these things in the various Sort entries, these don’t at all effect the display of the Artist or Album names in any of the displays. They’re solely for sorting. And solely by patiently tinkering can you fine-tune the sorting to make the display of your media perfect for you. Hopefully the above hints will help in some little way toward that.

In Cover Flow in iTunes, ctrl-click/right-click in the Cover Flow display itself and pick “Change Sort” and then “Album by Artist”. In Grid View, select the View menu, then Sort Albums, and select: “By Artist” and “Ascending” and “By Title”. Then all your media will sort in the order you just set up. Sync up your iPod and check the results there in the Cover Flow and Album list. Fix any oddities. “Rinse and repeat” as they used to say.

It must be noted that there is a difference in the way that iTunes and the iPod sort compilations. Compilations are albums that include songs which are from more than one artist. In the iPod Cover Flow, all compilations appear at the very end, but in the Album list they appear in their alphabetical position. In iTunes, in both Cover Flow and in Grid view by Album, they appear alphabetically. So, the oddball here is Cover Flow on the iPod. That’s something to keep in mind.

I should say that the above instructions are accurate as of this date, for iPod 2.0.1 and iTunes 9.2. Who knows what an upgrade might bring?

I hope all have enjoyed this short interlude of geekoutishness. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming….

Posted in Technostuff | 6 Comments

AT&T 3G MicroCell

I just installed one of those AT&T 3G MicroCell units a couple of days ago. What this thing does is basically set up a 3G hotspot at your home, hooked up to your broadband internet. Setup time varies from the different accounts I’ve read, with mine taking about thirty to forty-five minutes. The online part of the setup was really quick, basically just registering the unit with your physical address (for 911 calls) and entering the phone numbers you want to be able to use it (you can enter up to ten, but only four connections can run simultaneously). When it starts up, it takes a few minutes to get a GPS lock and much longer for the 3G to initialize, and it downloaded a firmware update, and restarted the whole process. It was relatively painless. The only pain involved my iPhone not immediately connecting to the thing initially because I’d forgotten that I’d turned off 3G on my phone to save power at some point. As soon as I turned that back on, it connected in a couple seconds.

It’s unfortunate that this thing is necessary, but it really works well. Berkeley is known for being horrible at allowing the installation of cell towers and antennas (there are some few on various buildings, mostly downtown and on campus). The Berkeley people involved are probably the same ones going on and on with conspiracy theories about contrails and whatnot, so that’s not surprising. I am a well-practiced eye-roller. Anyhow, even the UC Berkeley campus isn’t sufficiently saturated. At my work, far uphill from downtown and the campus, reception is terrible, but it’s terrible for everyone. There’s talk of some antennas or repeaters being installed for us, and throughout campus, but it’s so far just talk.

AT&T also unfortunately gets a bad reputation for the state of the network, which I’m sure is only about to get worse, judging from all the people buying new iPhones. They really are great tools, and I’m very happy with mine. And it’d be nice if AT&T could somehow jump ahead of the demand and have some super-network in place that’d work everywhere that I went. And then we can ride to work in chariots of gold pulled by unicorns! People go on about how Verizon is much better in our area, and it certainly is, but I don’t see that lasting at all if they also started carrying the iPhone. It’s immense popularity will be the bane of whatever network carries it. That’s simply the nature of the situation. I read somewhere that they’re expecting the year’s sales of iPhones to be around 40 million units. Nuts! It would certainly be wiser to spread the support over several networks. We’ll see what happens.

Anyhow, I’ve got a great connection at home now. No garbled voices, no dropped calls, and five bars throughout the house. I actually spent a long time talking to a friend on the phone and found it a pleasant thing! I used to hate talking on the phone, because the signal was always so bad and I just couldn’t hear what was being said well enough (yes, that bad!) that I thought I was missing half of what was being said. So this will be a definite improvement in the Ministry of Communications at Palazzo Biblicalia!

Posted in Technostuff | 6 Comments