How to Listen to Wikipedia on your iPod

ipodshuffle

We’ve previously taken a look at how to read Wikipedia on your iPod, but what if you wanted to listen to specific articles from Wikipedia rather than read them?

Pediaphon is a free service which translates Wikipedia articles into synthesized computer speech in the form of MP3 files.  This makes it easy for you to grab any article you want to delve into, and listen to it on any music player, mobile phone or directly from your PC. 

How did I like it?  Well for short articles, I found it reasonably useful.  For longer articles…. well, maybe it’s just me – but Pediaphon’s synthesized voice isn’t exactly the most pleasant sounding voice to listen to!  Nevertheless, if you feel like some quick e-learning on the way to work, give it a shot.

7 Mouse Tweaks Which Improve Productivity

mouse4

Want to squeeze more productivity from your mouse?  Here are 7 simple ways you can do just that!

1. How to Move a Mouse With Extreme Precision

Extremely handy when doing graphics work, a built-in Windows feature called MouseKeys allows you to move your mouse with your keyboard so it becomes much more precise than eve the most careful flick of the mouse.

  1. Open the Control Panel, and click ‘Accessibility Options’.
  2. On the mouse tab, and check the ‘Use MouseKeys’ box to turn the feature on.

Check out Microsoft’s MouseKeys Tutorial for more details.

2. How to Copy and Paste Faster

If you thought using keyboard shortcuts to ‘copy and paste’ was faster than a mouse, you haven’t tried True X-Mouse Gizmo.  More than just a funky name for a free app, it gives you the option of auto-copying anything you highlight, and pasting it simply by clicking the middle mouse button.

3. How to Add Extra Functionality to Your Right Click

ClickZap allows you to run a predefined action when you double right-click at your mouse.  Set up anything from locking your computer, to muting volume, or even minimizing windows when you double right-click.  Free of course.

4. How to Lock Your Mouse So You Can Clean It Properly

If you’re not using an optical mouse, but one with a ball – you know how annoying it is to clean a mouse.  One common headache is having the mouse active while cleaning it – where the cursor floats all over the place and you may click around unintentionally. 

ToddlerTrap basically intercepts any keyboard or mouse inputs and makes the computer think that the key was never even pressed. 

The mouse lock is automatically activated once the program is started, and it is disabled when the program is closed and the good thing about it is that it requires no installation.  Now you can clean your mouse without having to worry about accidentally clicking on something.

(Thanks CyberNetNews!)

mouse6

5. How to Control The Mouse More Intuitively

Mouse Gestures refers to a process where quick flicks of a mouse perform basic functions in a program. (Think of it as shortcut-keys via mouse).  For example, if you want to open a new window, just flick your mouse one way.  If you want to close a minimize a window, just flick your mouse another way.  (You can of course do many more things than that).

If you’re interested in a powerful Firefox browser mouse gesture package – check out ‘All-In-One-Gestures’.  For a less powerful package but one which works for browsers, Windows explorer and Itunes – try out Rocker.

6. How To Quickly Select Lines of Text and Paragraphs

Triple click on a paragraph or line of text and Windows will instantly select it.  This shaves off seconds right away, and really frees up a significant amount of time in the long run.

7. How to Scroll Without Using the Scroll Wheel

Clicking the scroll wheel on your mouse will give you a new interface to control your mouse.  Just middle click your cursor on a web page, or document and the mouse cursor should change to look like the below picture. 

mouse

Now you should be able to scroll by simply moving the mouse around, and you can click any button to return to normal mode.

Bonus tip #1: Get smarter just switching the side of your mousepad

Bonus tip #2: Historical look at the man who invented the mouse

Bonus tip #3: Increase size of text and graphics in a web page, or office document by holding down the CTRL key and using your mouse scroll wheel.

Bonus tip #4: A free application called Edgeless causes the mouse pointer to wrap around the screen instead of stopping at the edges.  Why you’d want to do that – I have no idea :)

In what other ways do you use your mouse?  Tell us in the comments!

[tags] mouse, tips, windows [/tags]

On the Go – How to Get Push Email for Your Mobile Phone

seven

Push email technology – is where email is pushed to a phone like an SMS rather than pulled by the phone upon user request.  It is this ability to read e-mail that is received in real-time, anywhere, that has made the BlackBerry devices infamously addictive, earning them the nickname “CrackBerry”.

In fact, the use of the term CrackBerry became so wide spread that in November 2006 Webster’s dictionary named “crackberry” the “New Word of the Year”.

Despite its undeniable success, one of the main issues with the BlackBerry was that it required you to own a propriety BlackBerry phone in order to use the service thus severely limiting its flexibility.

Fortunately, for the rest of us who don’t want to fork out cash for new phones – there are alternatives.  One of which I’ve played with is the SEVEN platform which you can also try by downloading the fully functioning free beta at the SEVEN community site

If you’re Malaysian, you can also get a paid version which comes with full technical support from Digi.

What’s good about SEVEN

Here are some of the features which I liked about the new SEVEN platform push email system.

  • Easy installation and administration – Setup from scratch took a few minutes for me
  • Secure – Supports 128 bit encryption
  • Works with Outlook Exchange, Lotus Domino, and other webmail services which support IMAP or POP like Gmail.
  • Access to calendar and contacts and corporate global contacts (enterprise edition only – also free for beta)
  • Ability to accept meeting requests (enterprise edition only – also free for beta)
  • Capability to work offline (then send and receive when online)
  • Attachment download process which can resume in case download is interrupted before completion
  • Capable of working on a large variety of devices

What needs improvement

  • Cannot view HTML objects – Images which were embedded in HTML emails went missing when I read it from my phone.
  • Lack of auto-complete for adding contacts to a recipients list– I’ve grown so accustomed to typing in the 1st 3 letters of someone’s name and have gmail or Outlook and having the email address just appear.  Now I’ve got to do it the traditional way and use my contacts list!

Should you switch to push mobile email?

Before you may the switch consider the following:

  1. Be aware that if you want to use Gmail with this, the official Gmail mobile software can make use of Gmail specific features like starring, labeling, and grouped conversation threads.  Services like SEVEN cannot replicate this same user experience.
  2. Are you willing to get an unlimited data plan for your phone?  Bandwidth usage for services like this would be significant, and you need an unlimited plan or face empty pockets at the end of the day.
  3. How much does keeping connected via email mean to you or your business? – given that it WILL take up your personal time outside the home/office.

Recommendations

If you’re a business user: and don’t want to take the risk with a beta system (which works fine – but may be buggy and does not offer professional support), you may want to try hooking up with a service provider and paying a small fee.

That way the more complex setups like hooking it up to an exchange server and global contacts lists can be handled by trained professionals.

SEVEN has a list of mobile service providers you can choose from.  In Malaysia the only player is Digi with their SmartMail offering running on the SEVEN platform and on EDGE mobile infrastructure.  Maxis pulled out a few months ago. 

If you’re a home user: and still want push email, I would try the Seven community beta instead as it is a free, and fully functional and you have nothing to lose by giving it a run out. 

What are your thoughts on mobile push email?  Let us know in the comments!

[tags] mobile, email [/tags]

7 Ways to Save the World Using Your Desktop

“…Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”  – Steve Jobs

How do you make the world a better place without ever leaving your computer?  Here are 7 things you can try:

1. Plant a Tree in Africa

treenation  

Tree-Nation is an ecological project with a focused objective: To plant 8 million trees in the Sahara to fight desertification! Large-scale plantation of trees will increase the land’s productivity and re-generate the soil.

It is basically an online community in which you can buy your own tree and become it’s guardian.  To top it off, it even comes with photo and blogging facilities, and a GPS tracker (!!!).  Even if you don’t make use of all the fancy bells and whistles, helping plant a tree in a vital area of Africa will leave you with a fuzzy feeling in your heart.

2. Simplify Carpooling

goloco

Want to get a carpool or want more buddies for a road trip?  Use GoLoco to share rides for free, or share trip costs quickly and easily online before the trip without the awkward money discussion or exchange in the car.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Post a trip — want to go to the beach? shopping? daily commute? out of town? — for your friends, colleagues, or classmates to see (Integrates with Facebook)
  2. View profiles of people whose trips match your own. Decide if you’d like to travel with them.
  3. Accept a trip as is, or negotiate changes online.
  4. Meet up at a specific location and time.

Use GoLoco to make carpooling a whole lot easier, and do your part to reduce CO2 emissions and lessen traffic congestion.

3. Get Answers to Environmental Questions

answers 

Yahoo! Answers is an online community where you can ask questions on a range of topics, from the serious to the purely fun, and get answers from real people – Or you might help others by answering their burning questions instead.

One thing I like about it is that it offers is a dedicated section to the environment.  Here you can discuss anything from alternative fuel vehicles to green living to conservation. 

4. Spread a Good Cause Easily on Your Blog

carebadge

There’s nothing many bloggers love more than a cool looking badge on their site.  Most do fun little things like tell the time, display where site visitors come from, etc.

Carebadges is a site where you can get badges to put on your blog that help a specific cause.  Pick any cause you’d like to help – from Unicef, to the red cross, to global warming… or even start your own cause if you want to.

5. Save the World One Click at a Time

ripple

It’s simple. When you click on a give button you will be shown some advertisements. Ripple passes the revenue from these advertisements onto your chosen charity.  It ranges from 1c to 20c. It doesn’t sound like much but it adds up quickly!  To give you an idea of the difference you can make, one SINGLE click:

  • Gives 6 days access to clean water
  • Gives 2 days access to education
  • Finances a USD$100 loan for a day

6. Watch Grassroots Videos on Environmental Conservation

countdown

It’s like YouTube, but for tree huggers.  Environmental Countdown is a free online video streaming service that allows users to view, share and upload videos about the environment and public health.  Although limited in number of videos right now, it is a good resource to learn about what others are doing in their own communities to help out the environment.

7. Recycle Your Electronic Waste

greendisk

“Electronic waste represents 2 percent of America’s trash in landfills, but it equals 70 percent of overall toxic waste”Wikipedia

Throw out an obsolete computer, CD or old phone in your dumpster, and you add to the statistics.  Many recycling centers are not equipped to handle electronics wastage – so what do you do then?  Try out GreenDisk, a service dedicated to helping the recycling and proper disposal of techno-trash.

There you have it – 7 things you can try out today, and make that difference right away. 

Why?  Because good planets are hard to find.

Do you actively participate in environmentalism?  Tell us in the comments!

Note: This is part 4 of an ongoing series of posts based on technology and the environment.  If you liked this post, you would enjoy the following posts as well: Part 1, Part 2, Part3

[tags] environment, green, trees, charity [/tags]

Top 20 Unconventional Ways to Use Wikipedia (Part 2)

Continuing from where we left off in part 1, here are 10 more creative ways to get even more out of Wikipedia!

11. Simplify Complex Wikipedia Entries

simple

Originally intended for people whose first language is not English, this simplified version of Wikipedia has gained a strong following among native English speakers (including myself) who just want a more readable version of complex articles. 

Simple English Wikipedia uses easy words and shorter sentences so people who read little English may easily read them.

12. Surf Wikipedia with nothing but your keyboard

All heavy Wikipedia users should know at least a few keyboard shortcuts that you have at your disposal.  Here’s a Wikipedia entry which gives you the complete list of every shortcut in existence!

13. Darken Wikipedia and help save the world

dark

We’ve talked about how Google on a dark background could help save tons of energy.  This is how to pull the same thing off for Wikipedia.  Unlike blackgoogle.com, you’ll need to be running

  1. Firefox – the ultimate web browser
  2. The Stylish Firefox extension to modify page style displays on your PC
  3. Dark Wikipedia style file to get the desired effect

A long process indeed, but hey – you’ll be helping to save the world…

14. View Wikipedia by date

future

This series of Wikipedia pages shows you everything interesting which happened in a particular year… and more.  What’s interesting here, is that it goes beyond historical events, listing down events which are scheduled to happen in the future – all the way up to the year 2100!  You can sort through interesting events by centuries, decades, or years.

15. Explore Wikipedia Sister Sites

One aspect rarely explored by many people would be the Wikipedia sister sites. 

  • Meta-Wiki – Coordination of all Wikimedia projects.
  • Wiktionary – A collaborative multilingual dictionary.
  • Wikinews – News stories written by readers.
  • Wikibooks – A collection of collaborative textbooks.
  • Wikiquote – A compendium of referenced quotations.
  • Wikisource – A repository for free source texts.
  • Wikispecies – A directory of species.
  • Wikiversity– Where teachers learn, and learners teach.
  • Commons – Repository for free stock images and other media files (My favourite)

    …Also useful is the Wiki for dedicated special interests – Wikia.

    16. Put Wikipedia on your iPod

    Imagine carrying the world?s most comprehensive encyclopedia – in your pocket!  Well imagine no more – check out my past review of Encyclopodia -Wikipedia on your iPod

    17. Search Wikipedia directly from your browser

    This tip should be second nature to anyone using the Firefox browser. 

    Just go the the top right of your browser, and click on the button next to the searchbox to reveal all the different search providers you can use – including Wikipedia

    For those of you using Internet Explorer 7, do not despair.  Simply go to the top right of your browser and ‘Find More Providers’ to add Wikipedia to your search options.

    ie7 

    18. Track Wikipedia entries through time

    For the sake of proper administration Wikipedia will keep all historical records of edits made to any given page.  What this becomes however, is a time capsule.  It becomes a way to track product development, or how people viewed a certain topic at any given time. 

    To get to this option, go to any Wikipedia entry – then select history, and then select any point of time.

    19. Find Wikipedia entries that link to any web page

    links

    Want to know if Wikipedia is already citing a certain source?  Wikipedia has a special page where you can enter any web page to find Wikipedia pages linking to it.  

    20. Download a constantly updating offline version of Wikipedia

    Webaroo is a free mobile technology designed to bring your favourite content along with you, demonstrated the best use case of its offline search with Web Packs technology recently. Webaroo introduced Wikipedia Web Pack that compresses the Wikipedia to 6GB. 

    The Webaroo Web Pack provides you with all the Wikipedia text, but strips out all images contained. 

    If you are interested in particular topics available at Wikipedia, Webaroo provides individual Web Packs for them.  The best part – Webaroo will SYNC content – so you will get a live updated version whenever you sync up!

     

    …and that’s it!  20 unconventional ways you can use Wikipedia – the greatest source of information ever created! 

    Bonus tip #1: Want a suitable wikipedia alternative?  Try this list of the best online research sites you’ve never heard of!

    Bonus tip #2: Errors in the Encyclopedia Britannica that have been corrected in Wikipedia

     

    [tags] wikipedia,webaroo, wikimedia, wiki, wikia [/tags]

    Check out part 1 for more creative ways to stretch Wikipedia.  Have an unconventional way of using Wikipedia?  Tell us in the comments!