November 27th, 2014

It appears the posts from the last 8 years have disappeared. I’ll be working on restoring those at some point as they shouldn’t have gone anywhere. Suspecting an update has gone awry and hopefully they are not forever lost.

Calendars- managing the big and small stuff

August 19th, 2008

Who doesn’t love a calendar? They’ve been hanging on our walls for years and now they’re in our phones, laptops and websites. Never before have I been able to be so very accountable of my time. My calendar is very indicative of the sort of lifestyle I lead, where I travel to and how often, even how much in advance I plan things.

There are any number of calendar applications which suit various peoples needs and lifestyles. My calendar of choice is Google Calendar for reasons of flexibility, expansion and accessibility. Please feel free to comment with the calendars you use and why you love them. The things I love about Gcal may or may not be able to be done on something else better, who knows. This isn’t a Gcal push post, it’s a calendar love post.

So what calendars do you have?

I have a few calendars which I have feeding into my central calendar repository. I have my personal, health, rent and work calendars that I update. I also have subscriptions to my Facebook events, Sydney Linux User Group and selected friends calendars. Sharing of calendars among friends can be very useful if you all have very busy schedules but like to catch up often. When being a social organiser as I often find myself doing it’s wonderful to know at a glance who is free on what days.

There are quite a number of calendars I have for good reason, all are important and useful t me but I don’t need to see all of them all of the time. The thing I love is the ability to select which calendars I have in the current view. I only need to see the rent calendar once a week for approximately 30seconds to know who, if anybody, I need to be chasing for rent that week and who’s paid up for the next few weeks.

Wait, did you say health?

This was only a recent idea of mine to create a health calendar for myself. You know those ideas that as soon as you have them and then start to create and use it you wonder why you didn’t do it years ago? This is one of those.

In my years of moving around Brisbane and then to Sydney and in the age of doctors that are increasingly apathetic I’ve had some difficulty finding one that I like. Hence why it’s been quite rare for me to return to the same doctor or even practice. My medical history records kept on the other end are spread far and wide. It made more sense to me to keep a record of my medical history on my end which I can give to a doctor quickly and easily if needed.

The sorts of ways this can be useful is amazingly broad. Been struck down by the flu this year, how about keeping track of the number of days. Even better, you can remind yourself t get a flu shot next year. It’s not unusual for me to suffer from 2-3 throat infection during winter at various stages. This is a useful way to keep track of when I got them and how long they stuck around for. I can detail the doctors I have seen and for what. How about all those times you’ve been on a course of antibiotics an forgotten to take them on time. Using a calendar you can set yourself reminders. GCal can even send your reminders as sms so no matter where you are, provided you have your phone you’ll get the message. As a woman there are some evil but necessary things it’s useful to keep a track of and set reminders for. Similar sort of things apply to you men as well. No more excuses.

The more I use it the more I can see the value of a health calendar. It’s totally private and most likely more secure than any medical records kept anywhere else. The more I think about it the more it makes sense.

I don’t think it’s unusual for people to have a number of calendars. I daresay most would be in a similar position to myself. Maybe not all the same but there are no shortage of ideas for things that you want a separate calendar for.

Why I love Google Calendar

So I may have changed my mind and am going to pimp GCal a bit here. I love a few things about it which may inspire you to use a calendar, whether GCal or not, find tha suits your needs. The big things I love about it are:

  • ease of use, stupidly easy to create new calendars and only a little more difficult to subscribe to calendars. Drag and type to add events and there’s an additional screen to add more details, reminders and invite others.
  • Reminders. I love the reminders so much I should have listed them first. I can set notification, email or sms reminders from anywhere to 5mins to weeks. The best part of the sms reminders is that GCal was written for the US to use where over there they pay to receive sms messages. Here in Australia we don’t pay but GCal still sends them to us. So many Aussies don’t realise we can use the sms reminder service. We can, so do! I often set an sms reminder between 1-2hrs before an event and it has saved me a number of times. Especially if you put address or phone number details in the field that’s sent. Perfect example is the Girl Geek Dinner I’m attending tonight. I had it in my mind that it was at number 70 but in fact it’s 51. There’s a potentially big dilemma avoided.
  • Sharing and subscribing. I found this wonderful little application named FBCal that lets me share my facebook events with my GCal, more often than not I wind up putting those events in my personal calendar but it saves so much time avoiding having to flick backwards and forwards through tabs to copy details. It’s also simple for me to share my calendar with frinds who depending on my settings default settings and also for each event can see either the details of my events and appointments or only that I’m unavailable or free at a certain date and time.
  • Flexibility. I can access my GCal from either of my laptops, I can view appointments from my phone and I can receive reminders to anywhere. The only caveat to this incredible flexibility is that I need an internet or data connection in order to access the calendars however if this isn’t possible then the sms reminders pick up any slack for me.

I like being organised, often I have to budget my time as carefully as I budget my finances, I also don’t like to disappoint people and try to make sure that I have adequate time for myself, work and socialising. I’m very fortunate in that at present my work hours are very flexible so that if needed I can work during the night, on weekends and from anywhere I have an internet connection. This leaves my time very open to events and also travel which can happen on very short notice or be planned months in advance.

My life is great fun and I’d like it to stay that way for a while yet. Planning and scheduling is often I do well naturally but sometimes it’s good to have calendars to pick up where I may forget things. Don’t forget the other basic things that everybody uses calendars for, remembering birthdays, anniversaries, holidays.

Have fun with your calendars and find the one, or selection of many, that works best for you.

Kill Anything Immune-boosting Chicken Soup

July 14th, 2008

Plurk-friend Rori sent me this recipe via email after I commented about having come down with yet another pesky throat infection. This makes my second this year, I usually average about 2.5/pa. After some quick searching I found a version on a website too but the original came in an email. Find it here under the Staying Healthy this winter sub-heading.

It sounded rather dangerous and I excitedly gathered all in the ingredients today after work. Skipped the onion as they don’t like me a terrible lot and despite my initial reservations did include 2 chillis. I’m something of a wimp when it comes to facing down with anything chilli.

As the whole idea of making soup came from my Plurk community I decided to post pictures to BrightKite of the process and crosspost the same pictures back to Plurk. It was a bit of fun for me and I got to combine two things which I find a lot of fun, being a geek and cooking. The results were spectacular, all the garlic was either softened to the ‘melt in your mouth’ point or had been absorbed into the broth, chilli was flavoursome but only very minor burn inducing. Anticipating it burning a lot more I made toast which wasn’t needed at all.

For all you people who are too busy to get sick, I can highly recommend spending 1.5hrs making this up. It’s delicious, potent, and will make 4-6 meals depending on portion size. I’m not sure who Becky-Lee Reed is but I’m thankful for her recipe and Rori for sending it to me.

Maybe Schnubbs can give it a try next time one of his housemates is unwell or starting to feel that way.

Geek Girl Blogs Podcast

July 13th, 2008

I’ve been asked by the lovely Catherine whether I’d like to take part in the upcoming Geek Girl Blogs Podcast on Recruitment and Women in IT. As I’m presently looking for industry-relevant work after spending around 18 months in the workforce but not doing jobs directly derived from my degree, Catherine thought I would be a good addition to the group. I’m being joined by 2 others so it should make for a great discussion though I’m as yet a little uncertain where the discussion will go. I will post links when the recording is up.

Recording will be taking place on Tuesday evening after weeks of trying to co-ordinate the hectic schedules of the 4 people presenting. I’m pleased to be doing something again that raises awareness of women involved in IT.

We need to get more girls involved with technology and I’ve enjoyed being involved in things like Girls and IT days and the WIT Regional Tour which I went on in early 2006 just before I started Honours.

PubCamp- Sydney and Melbourne

July 10th, 2008

This event occurred quite some time ago and due to delays with getting internet connected and the sporadic ways I’ve been accessing the net while in the churn process I haven’t been able to post this until now. Thus it won’t be an overly comprehensive entry as there are other entries about the highlights of PubCamp and various presentations already published by Kate, Stephen and Michael.

I attended both the Sydney and Melbourne PubCamp events which were organised by Jed White of itechne. Sydney was a very polarising experience, the room was even physically divided between Old and New Media. There was lively debate, and plenty of unspoken communication going on in the room as the two seemingly different worlds and views faced off against each other.

My Sydney presentation was quite structured, I presented a modified version of the widely recognised Twitter talk from BarCamp Sydney and Canberra. Instead this time I added more about social networking in general to spark discussion about not only the tools, applications and sites that integrate with Twitter but other social networks too and the different ways we all use them. Slides for the Sydney talk can be found on my slideshare.

Melbourne was an entirely different story, the debate between Old and New Media was significantly muted compared to Sydney. However there were very valid points raised and discussed which was good to see. People in Melbourne were quieter but no less passionate.

For my unconference presentation in Melbourne I took a different approach. The laptop wouldn’t work with the projector so I decided to do away with the slides and just talking about Twitter. We talked a bit about Twitter but also about other social networks, how we all use them and the place they have in our lives. I had an audience of approximately 30 and the room buzzed with discussion. It was pretty great as I’ve never had anything like that happen before and I really liked it. This time it wasn’t about me talking and them discussing later, the discussion was now and I can thank a few key people who started speaking up and then that inspired the others. There were a few new people who’d never heard of Twitter or considered using social networks before. I hope they took something away from the talk. It was my absolute pleasure to be involved in something like PubCamp.

There is a big post about social networks which I will write and publish in the very near future. I’ve been using them for long enough now that I feel I can articulate the motivation and effects that using them has had on my life to date and potentially what the future may hold.

Huge thank-you must again go to itechne and Jed who very generously sponsored my travel and accomodation in Melbourne. It would not have been possible without their support and I had a such a good time meeting all the Melbourne Twitter people who came out and ran amok with us who travelled down for PubCamp. I look forward to going back there soon and catching up again.

Spreading the Firefox love

June 17th, 2008

Mozilla is launching Firefox 3 and they’re doing so in style, by attempting to set a record for the most number of downloads during a 24hour period. This is a great idea to spread awareness and love of a browser that has gained quite a significant amount of awareness over time. The thing us Australians should pay attention to is the date, while stated everywhere on the website as June 17. The official launch time of 10am on June 17, Pacific Daylight Time is actually 3am on the 18th of June here in New South Wales. You can check the official start time for wherever you are here.

To get involved you can pledge your bandwidth by clicking the banner below.

Download Day 2008

I’ve been using the Firefox 3 beta release candidate since I upgraded to Hardy Heron and it’s grown on me. I’ll like it even more when they start supporting more of the extensions I used to use with FF2. On the other hand, it’s been good to clean out the extension collection to determine what I really use and what I can live without.

PubCamp- Web 2.0 Media Day

June 15th, 2008

Mid week I received an offer from Jed White of itechne to speak at PubCamp in Sydney and Melbourne. Despite my initial hesitation, I accepted the opportunity to join such speakers as Stephen Collins and Bronwen Clune. I will be presenting a version of the Twitter talk I delivered at Sydney and Canberra BarCamps.

Nobody was more surprised than I when Jed originally contacted me; however I am pleased to have the opportunity to talk about something I’ve become increasingly passionate about, namely social media. The talk won’t be exactly the same but it will contain similar content. I’m still reeling a little by it all, having never dreamt that I’d become known as a speaker but somewhat pleased with the small ways I’m building a reputation.

If you’re going to be in Sydney or Melbourne and have an interest in the future of media and the web then come along. Attendance is free so register at the event pages for Sydney and Melbourne and we look forward to seeing you there. In the meantime if you’re on Twitter follow @pubcamp for all the latest information and speaker teasers.

Follow-up blog post covering both the Sydney and Melbourne events will be posted after I return from Melbourne. My trip to Melbourne would not have been possible without the generous sponsership of itechne. Thank-you! I’m very excited by it as I haven’t visited Melbourne for many years and also because I’ll hopefully get to meet more of the Melbourne Twitterati.

Off the Grid

June 10th, 2008

For the June long weekend I’d planned with my Mum to pay a surprise visit to her parents who live in Trundle NSW. Where you ask? Here is Trundle, home to only a couple of hundred people and my grandparents. It took approximately 6 hours to drive there from Sydney even though it’s only around 430km. There is no mobile signal for my Optus phone once and there is no internet at my grandparents place. I volunteered to deprive myself of my technological addictions for the weekend, mostly. I also thought I’d go one step further and not drink coffee until I get back to Sydney.

Just south of Trundle is another town called Bogan Gate. Australian readers may be amused by a town named after a somewhat derogatory named social class. To my great surprise and delight Mum told me there was actually a gate which the town was named after. She elaborated that it was in the middle of a field nowhere significant. None the less I insisted that I had to get a photo on the Bogan Gate else nobody would believe it. So here it is:

on the Bogan Gate

Saturday evening, we’d had dinner at 6pm and by 7.15p I was yawning and musing about going to bed. Feeling very isolated I had to repeatedly tell myself that checking my phone was a pointless endeavour and to stop thinking about what conversations may be happening on Twitter, Plurk, IRC and IM. It was odd once everybody had gone to bed and I was sitting up alone at 10pm drinking tea and reading a book I’d been meaning to start for a number of weeks.

It’s very dark and quiet out there. A stark contrast to the ‘not quite night’ darkness and noise that is part of living in Newtown. The air is cold outside but the house was centrally heated, so despite bemused friends commenting about how I’d freeze on my trip west, it wasn’t the case at all.

On a Sunday daytrip I did have signal for a couple of hours and checked my email, Twitter replies and managed to catch up with a few people who were around at the time. It amazed me quite a bit how much I depend on the feeling of connectedness with people who are located both locally and all over the world. I don’t need to be talking to these people all the time, but I do feel most at ease knowing that I can. Instead I found other ways of passing the time, listening to my Mum talk to her Mum about the people who grew up and currently reside around the area. It seems that people out here are getting married and having children but doing little else. Perhaps its the rural setting, with little else to do. But it isn’t a technological black hole. The exchange in Trundle ADSL2 capable, people out there probably have a better internet connection than I do. There is no reason why somebody out there couldn’t be as active online as anybody in a capital city.

Admittedly there isn’t the same opportunity to network face to face but that shouldn’t stop you. My friend Fiona is based in Cairns and is a very active member of a number of online communities. She’s travelled to cities and met with several other people. While I’ve never actually met Fi face to face, we regularly communicate through social networks, have text conversations, call each other on mobile or Skype and send each other sms’. In other words, we’re not different to any other people who are friends and living 1600km apart.

I’ve taken some photos around Trundle, I think fondly of this place after spending a great deal of my childhood visiting here. There are a couple of heritage listed locations and Trundle also boasts the widest street in the west. The reason its so wide is that ‘back in the old days’ there needed to be sufficient room to turn the bullock-drawn wool wagons. It’s a saying here that you can tell the difference between locals and visitors by who walks and who drives from one side of the street to the other. You can see some of the larger photos from around here on my Flickr account starting from here.


June 4th, 2008

BrightKite logo

Self-described as “location-based social networking” BrightKite encourages you to check-in to a location and then post notes or pictures. I’ve been using it for several weeks now and have become quite fond of the ability to instantly photograph and share things occurring around me with others. The whole premise of the location-based social networking phenomenon is to be able to locate and communicate with other users in person as well as via the site. BrightKite is still in beta and membership is invite-only, however there is a growing user-base. Unlike many other sites in alpha or beta, invites are topped up so should you run out it’s only a matter of time before you acquire more to distribute as you see fit.

What can I do?

At present you are able to check-in, post photos & notes and a new feature unveiled just today allows you to comment on posts from others. In terms of friends list control you can opt to add others and also set a trust level for each friend which will determine what level of detail they can see regarding your location. There are a number of ways to set privacy options should you wish to give the site full address details such as street, or even street number. Personally I’ve locked down my posts so that un-friended and casual observers can only see my city, whereas friends can see the suburb and trusted friends the street details. When at home or the homes of others I check into only the street whereas if I’m at a restaurant or cafe I’ll use the full address and usually post a note identifying where I am.

How do I do it?

Checking in and posting can be done through the website and by sending MMS messages to your personal BrightKite email address which can be found in your Settings. Once becoming familiar with the symantics of MMS messages it’s very easy to post check-ins, notes and photos while on the go which is where I feel BrightKite really is the most fun. To make life much easier when on the go you are able to specify placemarks which can be used instead of sending the full address of places you frequent; common placemarks would be things like home, work, SydneyCBD, VicPark, and perhaps the names of favoured places to eat out. To check-in via MMS to King Street, Newtown I’d send a picture message containing the following text: @King St, Newtown NSW 2042, Australia. BrightKite is an international service so mentioning that you’re in Australia is useful, if you’re not sure of an exact address you might find yourself checked-in somewhere strange indeed. Of particular note was when a friend checked into Central Australia while trying to check into Central Station, Sydney. If in doubt create a placemark first then it’s as simple as MMS’ing @<placemark name>, eg @home.

I’ve configured my BrightKite account to sent notice of new posts and photos as Twitter messages which allows everybody in my timeline to see when I’ve posted a new photo. For an idea of what my personal BrightKite timeline looks like you can view it here. Timelines are also fully able to be configured in terms of friends and what you wish to see from each in terms of check-ins, posts and photos.

The other side of the fence

There have been a number of people who have raised concerns about the idea of publically identifying where you are, or more importantly, where you are not. This is a valid concern and if it troubles you to identify to a public or self-selected audience where you are then perhaps you might not enjoy what BrightKite has to offer. There have been a number of discussions about whether checking into a website is a privacy concern or not and how it might differ to the more traditional ways of informing people of your whereabouts.

Some things to keep in mind if you are interested but wary are:

  • You only need to provide as much or little information as you are comfortable with. Checking into “Sydney CBD” is fine, if you wish to say you’re at “270 Pitt St, Sydney NSW 2000” then that’s alright too. This information is used to place a map pointer, obviously the more accurate your check-in, the more accurately the pointer placement is going to be.
  • Only add people as friends if you know and trust them and are willing to share with them your whereabouts.
  • Don’t have an open timeline just because everybody else seems to.

BrightKite isn’t going to suit everybody, but that’s true for any web application. Majority of the people who are involved in BrightKite or even just look at the pictures others post seem to enjoy the experience. Feel free to just look at postings from others and comment to them in Twitter. It’s all accepted behaviour.

Additional things to note

In my experimenting with the site I’ve found you can upload pictures of any dimensions you wish, to see a picture in fullsize from the picture page then click the image again. It is also possible to post notes and pictures to a location without being checked into it. Just search for the location or go to the relevant placemark and you will be able to post, however I have noticed that if you’re not checked into a location then BrightKite won’t post notice of pictures/notes that you’ve added to Twitter etc.

Already I’ve noticed a fellow, as yet unknown, BrightKite user who works in the same building as me from the pictures they’ve posted to the street I work on. Its very easy to swap timeline views from friends timeline, those around me, and everybody. It’s a fun way to see what others are posting and who else is checked in around you.

I have a few invites if you are interested in seeing what all the fuss is about. Otherwise have fun and I’ll let you all know when the site is released to one and all.

Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04

May 31st, 2008

First impressions

The upgrade took place the evening Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04 was released. The upgrade took a long time primarily as the result of a slow internet connection. Total download size came to 830Mb of packages. Majority of the installation occurred while I slept, stopping only to ask me about modified configuration files and completed pretty quickly after. Following a  reboot, I found in the tradition of Ubuntu upgrades all my settings had been remembered; such as what applications were open, tabs open in FireFox and desktop effects.

Below are my very first impressions from the hours immediately following the upgrade, symbols indicating what I didn’t like, was uncertain about and liked.
– much, much longer boot time
– weak stability, crashed twice in a matter of hours after upgrade.
– current graphics card insufficient for advanced desktop effects.
~ FireFox 3 beta – url bar bulky, some beloved extensions aren’t supported,
+ better management of system resources, CPU less busy.
+ power management when using battery seems better – need to do more testing.
+ normal desktop effects more stable.

A month later

After a few minor updates the system has stablised considerably and I haven’t experienced any further crashes akin to the first few immediately following upgrade. I’ve discovered some very useful browser extensions which have somewhat replaced ones not yet supported by FF3.

Discovered that there are difficulties getting sound to work everywhere; I must choose whether to use sound in a browser or everywhere else. This is an ongoing annoyance which is somewhat circumvented by using Miro to watch youtube videos and downloading pod and vodcasts instead of streaming from websites. While not dissimilar to how I’d usually deal with such media, the limitations have changed my behaviour somewhat. I’m also required to restart X when I have to watch or listen to something in my broswer in order to be able to have sound in VLC, Miro or Rhythmbox after. Need to seek assistance with getting the sound problems fixed. I suspect if I change my audio server settings I can recify this problem. PulseAudio installation and configuration may demand a separate blog post.

Overall I’d have to say I’m reasonably content with Hardy, some of the limitations I’m experiencing are a result of my mildly dated hardware and not the operating system. I’ve also discovered applications that are equivalent to those enjoyed by my fellow Windows and Mac user friends. Expect a joyous update when I solve the current audio frustrations.