February 21, 2010

How To Turn A Netbook Into A Full Page eReader

How To Turn A Netbook Into A Full Page eReader

by Staff Writer – February 21, 2010

So, you have a netbook that you find handy for different computing tasks. Well, with a little effort, you may find it easy to use a netbook as a full page eReader. That’s right, full page – not just a section of a graphic novel on the screen at a time. Plus, being able to view material in full color is something that dedicated eReaders cannot do.

Screen Rotation

First, let’s do a little research – pick up a paperback or hardcover book, and look at the width to height ratios. Do you see how it’s taller than it is wide? Okay, now let’s look at your netbook. Well, this is no good, it’s just the opposite – the netbook is wider than it is tall. But we can fix that.

We are going to use an Asus 901 for our example, but you can check any netbook reviews, to find a suitable netbook – they tend to be very similar in their hardware.  Now, in order to get the screen to turn sideways, the easiest thing is to find a driver that will accommodate it. This is the easiest path, and luckily Intel provides a more than capable driver for these chipsets.

As you can see from the driver screen shot, I only have to assign a hot key to rotate the screen when needed. I use <ctrl><alt> + arrow keys so that I can rotate any direction at will, but you can map as you see fit. The important thing is that you want to be able to pull up the reader and then rotate your screen, and get back from it after your reading session is over.

Get The Reader

Okay, we now have the screen rotated, how about the reader? Well, for most graphic novel works, I like the cbr/cbz format, which is basically a zipped or rar archive of the book images. You can find many comics available on the web in this format. But for the reader itself, I suggest you look at the program Comical. From the readers I have tried, this is one of the fastest and most dependable.

Download Comical and install it. Now, you will need something to read, so as a test try downloading Cory Doctorow’s Futuristic Tales of the Here and Now. Download it, and load it into Comical. Go to view/zoom/fit height, and then right click/full screen. With a little luck, you will have the following on your screen:

As you may note, the screen is hard to read, and there is a lot of black dead space on the sides of the comic. But now hit your rotate hot key assigned above, hold the notebook rotated in your hands like you would a paperback,  and you should have the following:

While the Cory Doctorow image above is made smaller to fit on the page here, you can see that it is a full page image, and quite readable. Instead of having to scroll up and down to see the page, you just have to change pages.

Fix the Keys

And this is where the next detail of our task comes into play. Again, netbooks vary, but on the Asus 901 the page down key requires a function + down arrow to work. This is rather awkward when you are trying to read, so we need a better solution.

The answer is in a free program called KeyTweak, which can be found at This program will allow you to remap the keys as needed for a number of uses, which in our case is a simple page down mode.

Download and install KeyTweak, and set up your new key assignment. After you do that, it will be simple to hit a key to go to the next page while reading without having to hit the function key.

Beyond Graphic Novels

Of course, it can be used for more than just Comics. For example, below is a technical PDF shown full page on the netbook:

As you can see, the entire table is on the screen and readable in the actual size full screen view, something that would be impossible with the standard orientation.

So there you have it, a simple way to turn a cheap netbook on its side, using the screen in portrait mode for a full screen display, and even how to map a custom key to make it easy to navigate. Once you try using a turned netbook for full page reading, I think you will find it to be a capable eReader for a wide variety of material.  ingredients in viagra Even laptops would work great as an eReader, and as laptop reviews show, there are many from which to choose.

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February 20, 2010

How secure is your password?

How secure is your password?

With most websites requiring you to create an account, do you find yourself in a bit of a pickle when it comes to inventing passwords? Many people use the same password for all their online accounts and often forget the password they came up with months ago. Hands up who doesn’t feel like banging your head against the wall trying to remember the password you created months ago?

Let’s face it – everyone has problems with creating and remembering secure passwords. That’s why we decided to help.

Tips on how to create and remember your passwords:

Use the first letters of a sentence that you will remember,e.g. "I have 3 cats: Fluffy, Furry and Shaggy" gives: Ih3c:FF&S, or “Bouncing tigers have every right to ice-cream” becomes: Bther2I-C.
Take the name of the website and then add your personal twist, like your height or your friend’s home address (e.g. “AmazonOceanRd6’2”). Avoid using your own contact details like your phone number or house number.
info viagra Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; color: #666666; font-size: 12px”> Remove the vowels from a word or phrase e.g. "I like eating pancakes” becomes: Ilktngpncks”.
Use a phrase from your favourite book and then add the page, paragraph or chapter number.

The Do’s and Don'ts of creating passwords

Do:

Mix letters, numbers and symbols, and use case sensitivity (upper and lower case letters)
The longer the better. Use passwords that are longer than 6 characters.
Change your passwords at least every 60 days, cycling the numeric values up or down makes the new password easy to remember.
Try copying and pasting at least some of the characters in your password that way keyloggers won’t be able to track your keystrokes.

Don't:

Don’t use words or phrases or numbers that have personal significance. It is very easy for someone to guess or identify your personal details like date of birth.
Avoid writing your password down, use a reputable password manager to manage all your passwords.
Don’t use the same password for several logins, especially if they involve sensitive financial or other personal information.
Don’t tell anybody your password.
When registering on websites that ask for your email address, never use the same password as  your email account.
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Create Your Own Cloud with Opera Unite

how long does viagra stay in your system align=”center”>Tech Tips - 255

Create Your Own Cloud with Opera Unite

by Scott Nesbitt – February 14, 2010

Cloud computing. It's one of the big buzzwords in the tech world. And whether you're excited by it or turned off by it, cloud computing has the potential to change the way we use our desktop computers, laptop computers, and netbooks.

The idea behind cloud computing is to move applications off your desktop and on to the Web. That opens a very large digital can of worms, though. While you get access to your favorite applications no matter where you are, your information is in someone else's hands. You don't get much control.

Why not create your own cloud? Under normal circumstances, this is difficult even if you have experience programming Web applications. You can do the deed on your desktop computer or laptop computer for free using the Opera Web browser and a feature of that browser called Opera Unite.

What is Opera Unite?

A feature of Opera version 10 or later, Opera Unite is a file and application server. Whereas a traditional server can be difficult to set up, you can get up and running with Opera Unite with just a few mouse clicks. More on this in a moment.

Using Opera Unite, you can share files and collaborate with anyone. And, for the most part, they don't need to be using Opera. The files and applications that you're serving can be accessed with any Web browser.

With Opera Unite, you get a a unique URL that gives you and your collaborators access to your Opera Unite server. With Opera Unite, you can:

  • Share files and photos
  • Run a basic Web server
  • Have instant messenger chats
  • Play music files on your computer
  • Share notes
  • Back up files
  • Use Twitter

And more.

Note: If you have more questions about Opera Unite, you might want to check out the very detailed FAQ.

How does it work?

Opera Unite is built into the Opera Web browser. You need to enable and configure it. That's a surprisingly simple process that only takes a few clicks.

To get going, download and install Opera. Start the browser and then select Tools > Opera Unite Server > Enable Opera Unite. This will start a wizard that will walk you through the process. Two things you'll have to do are sign up for a My Opera account and create a name for your computer.

Your Opera user name and computer name identify your PC to the DNS server run by the folks at Opera Software. The DNS server directs all traffic  to your Opera Unite server using a specific URL. When you or your friends want to access the Opera Unite server that you're running, you'll type http://yourcomputer.yourname.operaunite.com – for example, http://zen.scottnesbitt.operaunite.com.

If you want to stop Opera Unite, click the Unite icon in the bottom left corner of the browser window and select Stop.

It's all about the applications

You've got Opera Unite running. Now what? The best place to start is with the built-in applications. You can access these applications by clicking the panel button in the top left corner of the Opera window, and then clicking the Opera Unite icon (the third one from the top).

There are six applications bundled with Unite:

  • File Sharing – exchange any type of file with your friends and colleagues
  • Web Server – host a Web site
  • Messenger – exchange text messages with other people in the My Opera community
  • Fridge – A collaborative sticky note system
  • Media Player – Play the music files on your computer, anywhere you are
  • Photo Sharing – Displays a directory of your photos as a gallery

By default, the applications aren't running. You can start them by double-clicking the application in the panel.

Remember that you can make the applications visible to everyone, or just give selected people access. For the latter, Opera Unite assigns the application a password. You might want to change that password – the default is four or five characters. Not the most secure passwords around.

I usually use the File Sharing and Media Player applications the most. But to create your own cloud with Opera Unite, you can install any of the available ones from the Opera Unite Web site. There were only 42 applications out there at the time this TechTip was written, but there probably will be more coming down the pike in the near future.

Applications: interesting and useful

Not every application will be of use to everyone. Here are a few of my favorites.

My business partner and I have different schedules and work in different parts of the city. A lot of our collaboration and brainstorming takes place online. When we brainstorming ideas, the Whiteboard application comes in handy. It lets us sketch out ideas and add corrections or comments. All without getting marker on our hands or shirts.

While the File Sharing application is good, it's download only. I often work away from my home office using a netbook. Running Opera Unite on my main computer with the Document Sync and Document Courier applications, I can exchange files between the computers and synchronize any changes. Sort of like the online file sharing services that were covered in a previous TechTip.

Like everyone else, I have a lot to do. Keeping up with all of those tasks requires a lot of work on my part. The Task Manager application makes that a lot easier. I use it as a simple online to-do list, and often share it with my wife so we both know what we're up to and can fit things into our schedules.

Finally, as someone who co-owns a small business I often have meetings with multiple people: my business partner, people I'm collaborating  with, clients and prospective clients. It's tough to nail down a date and time where we can all meet. That's why I find Meet so useful. It's a meeting calendar, but one which allows invitees to vote on the date and time of a meeting. It sure beats juggling a bunch of emails and phone calls .

If you want to install an application, find it at the Opera Unite Web site, (in Opera, of course) and click the Install Application button.

Final thoughts

Opera Unite is definitely useful. In the short term, it might not replace your favorite desktop or Web applications. The lack of applications available for it could be a turn off. But remember that Opera Unite hasn't been around for all that long. Its application ecosystem is small but it is growing.

In fact, it might be the start of the next step in using the Web: giving the average computer user a quick and simple way to create their own little clouds.

Thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment or to post in the forums.

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Skype on Verizon!

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February 11, 2010

Shorter is Sweeter: A Look at URL Shorteners

TechTips 254

Shorter is Sweeter: A Look at URL Shorteners

by Scott Nesbitt – February 7, 2010

PullquoteOnce upon a time, URLs (Uniform Resource Locators, which most of us know as “Web addresses” or “links”) were short and simple. Often, they looked something like http://www.geeks.com. If you had a personal Web page, your URL might look something like http://www.facebook.com/ComputerGeeks

Times change, and URLs have expanded. A lot. Just do a search at the Web site of a large corporation or your favorite online retailer. What often comes back is a long and convoluted URL. And that becomes a problem if you're into microblogging. Services like Twitter limit you to 140 characters. Some long URLs exceed that limit by quite a bit.

So, how can you tame those impossibly long URLs? With a Web-based service called a URL shortener.

How they work


As the name implies, a URL shortener shrinks a link – sometimes as much as 90%. With a couple of URL shorteners I've used, 160 character URLs were whittled down to 14 characters.

Obviously, you need to go to the site of a URL shortening service and paste a link in a field. The service checks its database to confirm whether or not that link already exists. If it does, the service gives you the short version that it assigned to the URL.

If the URL is not in the database, the service first adds it to the database. Then, the service runs the URL through a piece of software or a function called either a random alphanumeric generator or a sequential alphanumeric generator.  Those are just fancy names for a process that creates a short string of numbers and characters that the service associates with the URL – for example, http://bit.ly/7xCFKq. As you can see from the example in the last sentence, the URL of the shortening service appears in the smaller link.

Note: If your inner geek wants to know about this process in more depth, check out this article.

Clicking on a shortened link triggers a short series of events. The shortened URL points to the site of the service that originally shrunk the URL. Using the name assigned to the shortened URL, the service checks its database for the corresponding longer URL. Then, using some back-end Internet trickery called redirection, sends your browser on its way to the site in question. This all happens very quickly, and you don't really notice much (if any) of a delay.

Uses and problems

The most obvious usage is with microblogging sites like Twitter. As I mentioned at the beginning of this TechTip, some long URLs exceed the length of a tweet. A good URL shortener not only lets you add a link to a tweet, but also leaves plenty of room for a comment.

Shortened URLs are just more convenient for sharing in emails, blog posts, messages on social media sites like Facebook, or even when sending a text message from your phone. In fact, shortened URLs can appear anywhere – I saw one in an ad on the Toronto subway!

If you're sharing links with someone who uses screen reading software, a shortened URL makes is easier for the reader to process. And, obviously, it's easier for the person to type into their browser.

Of course, there can be problems with shortened URLs. Links on the Web are known to change or disappear. A shortened URL will always point to the original location. And not every URL shortening service allows its users to change URLs.

On top of that, it's not unknown for a shortened URL service to die. When a service dies, the shortened URLs created with it become useless.

Both spammers and malware writers have been known to use shortened URLs to drive traffic to less-than-savory sites. There are ways to avoid the potential problems of following such poisoned URLs. More about this in a few paragraphs.

What's out there?

There are literally hundreds of URL shortening services out there. URL shorteners come and go, but the ones discussed below are quite stable. If you want a list of all of the URL shorteners available on the Web, go here.

First up, one of the more popular and venerable services: TinyURL. This service has few frills. You enter the URL that you want to shrink into a text box at the site, and click the Make TinyURL! button. TinyURL spits back just that. You can even create your own custom URL – instead of http://www.tinyurl.com/3rE2t you can name the shortened URL http://www.tinyurl.com/mySite.

A service that's stolen a lot of TinyURL's thunder is bit.ly. That's partially because the output from bit.ly is shorter than that of TinyURL and because bit.ly also offers some interesting and useful tools. You can shorten URLs just by visiting the site. But if you get access to some useful tools if you sign up for a free account. What kinds of tools? A full list of the URLs that you've shortened. You can check how many people clicked a link in a given day. On top of that, bit.ly is now the default URL shortener for Twitter.

tr.im is a lot like bit.ly. You get the basics just by visiting the site: shrink a URL and optionally create a custom link (just like TinyURL). You can also automatically post the link to Twitter. If you sign up for a free account, you get a list of all the URLs that you've trimmed and how many times a trimmed URL has been clicked.

If you like your software a little more open and bare bones, then you might want to give ur1.ca a peek. Made by the folks behind the identi.ca microblogging service, ur1.ca only lets you shorten URLs. Not editing or deleting, or anything else. But if you're a developer you can download the source code and add the shortener to your own Web site or Web application. And you can download the entire ur1.ca database as a tab-separated file. Careful, though, it's a big database – a 25 MB archive, and growing.

Browser tools

Of course going to a Web site specifically to shorten URLs can be a bit of a pain. If you use Firefox, Google Chrome, or Opera then you can shrink URLs at the click of a button without having to visit a URL shortening site. This is done with an extension (also called an add-on or widget, depending on the browser).

Firefox has almost 30 URL shortening add-ons. The best of the lot is Shorten URL. It works with dozens of URL shortening services. All you need to do is select the URL in the browser address bar, right click it, and choose Shorten This Page URL. You can also shrink the URLs to images and to links on a Web page.

how do i get viagra title=”http://www.geeks.com/techtips/2008/techtips-05OCT08.htm”>Google Chrome has over 40 URL shortening extensions that work with a variety of services. Most of them only work with a single service, though. My favorite is  Bit.ly Shorten URL. It's very simple: go to a Web site, and click the bit.ly icon in Chrome's address bar (it's a small blowfish). You're taken to the bit.ly site, and you have your shortened URL. No muss, no fuss.

Opera only has one URL shortening widget: Simple URL. The widget only works with a service called simurl. But don't let that hold you back. You enter the URL that you want to shrink in the Simple URL widget and then click Make Link to get a 22-character URL. You can also specify an identifier for the URL, up to 10 characters long, that lets you track the URL later. Just click the My URLs tab on the widget, type the identifier in the field, and click Get My URLs. Of course, you'll have to remember your identifiers.

Earlier, I mentioned that some shortened URLs may point to unsavory sites or sites containing malware. LongURL helps you get around this by expanding a short URL and giving you information about it.

If you use Firefox, you can download an extension that will expand a short URL without having to go to the LongURL Web site.

Summing up

URL shorteners aren't for everyone. But for anyone who needs to use one, a URL shortener is an invaluable tool. It makes using microblogging services a lot easier, and makes it more convenient to share interesting links that might get broken when you copy and paste them into an email or anywhere else.

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