Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Picasa is working again

I don't know why it should work again, but a full install of Picasa yesterday resulted in all my photos returning... captions and tags - all back. The result is I've decided not to go with Flickr, but now that Picasa has web-based storage, I'll move everything across to Google.

Not sure that I like all my digital life being in one googlebasket though. I may use Flickr as backup. (23 December 2007 : Still not used Flickr. It's hard moving away from familiar territory! And I've gone off using Google for everything for security reasons. More about that later).

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

the vanishing keyboard - still sticking around

At the end of this recent post I talked about hoping to eventually quit my keyboard.

Since all my work is dictated, I thought a keyboard would be of little or no use. Well, after trying to do without it over a couple of hours, the result showed that I was way out in my thinking. Actually, it's very unlikely that I'll be able to quit the keyboard just yet. And here's the main reason... a program I find essential...

ShortKeys. It's an absolutely essential utility containing a large number of text shortcuts, and I use it constantly.

There's 660 of these shortcuts I have built up over the years. You can see about 50 of them in the graphic here.

If you didn't know the advantages of ShortKeys, let me tell you that there are hundreds of URLs that I use frequently, but have never typed but once. That's because with a shortcut for each of them, ShortKeys does the rest.

Those shortcuts also apply to long paragraphs, signatures, passwords, HTML code, and dozens of other exceptionally useful pieces of text. It's fair to say that ShortKeys is one of the most valuable software programs I own. Everything else on my desktop can be duplicated in some way - except the myriad of shortcuts I use to automate and hugely speed up my digital life.

So eliminating the keyboard would need mean that I would have to dictate each of the shortcut keys. That's actually harder than it sounds. I've never been able to get my dictation program, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, to any sort of accuracy dictating a single symbol, even though it's 99% accurate with everything else. In fact, I don't even know how to dictate single letters... I'll have to go to the ShortKeys' support page to find out, when I get some time.

Looks like the keyboard is here to stay for a while!

Another advantage of ShortKeys is increasing security. I use a large number of detailed, complex alphanumeric passwords that are identified only by a small number of ShortKeys letters. But since these initial letters are in code, and are known only to me - it's impossible for anyone to identify the program they come from.

There is no way that a keylogger or trojan program - should they get past the large number of virus protection programs I have - would ever be able to identify them.

In short, ShortKeys is an essential part of automating my digital life. And I see now they have an associated macro program called Macro Express. If it's as good as ShortKeys, it'll certainly be invaluable.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Will Microsoft's new display catch on?

The Microsoft Surface tabletop PC is straight out of the film "Minority Report." It looks really interesting.

But there's a catch... it requires large arm movements to manipulate the objects.

My mouse pad - in contrast - measures about 5" in diameter, and I don't even use 50% of that space. Micro-movements allow me to get the mouse pointer to any of my three 19" triple screens.

Will we get tired using the huge surface that Microsoft has developed, or will it just become an interesting way to exercise? Will the next generation of kids start looking like gorillas with overdeveloped arm and chest muscles?

I think not. But the Surface concept is exciting and innovative, and I'm looking forward to using it in the future.

Though I'm more interested in brainpower as a way to interact with a computer. Less effort - more promise. Surface is a step in the right direction.

babysitting the Roomba

My Roomba hasn't been working very well lately. It would vacuum for about a couple of minutes, then stop with some of the indicator lights blinking. When I pressed the "clean" button on the remote, it would work again.

So I've taken to check on it using my lounge security camera. I have a wireless cam set up high in our lounge, and it overlooks most of the area.

The screen sits next to my 4 screen setup in my downstairs home office, and it's easy for me to check whether the Roomba is still going - or whether I have to go up and reset it again. Fortunately it seems to be working for up to 10 to 15 minutes at the time now, but just in case it doesn't, I'm able to keep a beady eye on it. (OK, since I wrote this it has been a trooper - carrying out the full 40 min clean without stopping).

You can see it arrowed in the photo above. When it disappears behind the sofa and I don't see it for a while, I turn the webcam sound on and listen for it.

One day I'll send it in for servicing, but the main problem is that my second backup Roomba isn't working either. In their favor, I have to say that of the 5 Roombas I have owned, they all seem to work quite well for up to a year, and I use them each day. It's certainly worth the $599 a year (the cost of a Roomba in our country), to replace a cleaning service or the time we spend vacuuming our house ourselves.