October 2007


This week’s treat is del.icio.us. Techapilla installed the del.icio.us Firefox extension back when it first came out. But the tagging icon, which is supposed to let users add new URLs wouldn’t behave, so Techapilla resorted to adding URLs to del.icio.us manually. Of course, this was more trouble than it was worth, so del.icio.us got metaphorically binned. And the Techapillian eyebrow has been oftentimes raised ever since, at hearing of yet another somebody singing the benefits of this troublesome software.

But Techapilla is always fair, and to prove it, gave del.icio.us another go. This time, the report is much more positive. The bug with the tagging feature has been fixed, so Techapilla can actually see some worth in this software now.

Some worth, that is. A bit. Not a lot. Techapilla doesn’t care much about websites per se. Except for work purposes, anyway. For everyday use, blogs are much more dynamic and interesting. And almost everything that del.icio.us can do in this respect, Google Reader can do so much better. del.icio.us probably is a little ahead in terms of social networking, but other than that, Techapilla is of the decided opinion that Google Reader comes up trumps in everything else.

It is always handy to be able to access your bookmarks when you’re idling time away on Stradbroke Island, far from your home computer. But even this feature of del.icio.us’s is easily replicated by carrying a version of Portable Firefox on a USB key. So Techapilla doesn’t need del.icio.us. All the things Techapilla would wish it to do are already being well done by tools that Techapilla already uses anyway.

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I like iGoogle. A bit like the Deakin portal, but much easier to use, and lots more widgets. Don’t know that I’ll use it regularly, though, as I’m pretty dedicated to my current home pages; but am giving it a fair chance by making it another of my home pages on my “at home browser”. So we’ll see how that shapes up. Most of the tools I normally use quite frequently, such as Wikipedia and Dictionary.com are available through a widget.

It would be nice if it was possible to customise the widgets a bit more; I might be able to get rid of my usual home pages in that case.

Was surprised to discover that only one of my favourite author’s books is available in Google Books in full text. A goodly proportion are now out of copyright, and many are available on Project Gutenberg.

There are a few other free ebook sites similiar to Google Books and Gutenberg out there on the Web, including one at UPenn. See also Bruce’s Oz Free Books page. You need lots of time to explore all the goodies on these sites. One day when I have more time …

Trying very hard here to keep up with the 23 Things. Anyway, latest task is Google Docs, which offers relatively basic word processing, spreadsheet and presentation apps. They are a bit slower and a little trickier to use than the standard Word applications; but I think the latter point just requires getting used to the different icons. The colours of the screens on my home computer are also a little hard to define; can’t really see the boxes, grids etc. very well. There may be some tweak I could make to my settings to improve that situation; but that can wait for another day.

Definitely these tools are a bit of a boon. Not quite as flexible as using software loaded on your own computer – what if you can’t log on to the Internet? But a great way to co-author documents with other people.

My test spreadsheet doc is here. Sorry it’s not the one I was supposed to create, but I didn’t think that would matter.

Google Maps is a pretty good tool, like most of the Google apps I’ve seen. The street directions are surprisingly detailed, and the mashup with Google Earth is a great feature. It could be made a little smarter – it would be nice if you could request directions between names of places, not just streets. And the directions given when two streets merge into one are a little vague. Some people are never happy, eh?! Still, am sure that these minor issues will fixed one day.

Of course, half the fun of playing with something like Google Map’s direction feature is in trying to catch it out. Am happy to report that I succeeded first try! Google Map isn’t quite clever enough to detect when no right turns are permitted into side streets. I haven’t tried to trick it with one-way streets, but would be interesting to know how it handles them.

What a change from the garish MySpace! I immediately felt much more comfortable with Facebook.

Haven’t done a lot with it yet, as time is pressing. But I did fulfill my 23 Things committment for this tool. Will try to get back to it when I have more time.

So far it has been quite fun exploring the various 23 Things tools. I was already aware of most of them, but hadn’t actually used all, including Facebook. So this was a good opportunity to explore further.

Gosh, there are some truly ugly MySpace pages out there. The Alexandian Public Library’s page made me feel as if I was at a nightclub (not that I’ve ever actually been to one!). Although, maybe that was the intention given that this page is aimed at teens. Picture me in the middle of the dance floor at that imaginary nightclub looking totally bewildered at what I should be doing and what was going on around me.

My comfort level clicked up a notch at the Clark County Public Library’s relatively staid site, but gotta say that some bewilderment was still there – how can it be that their librarian is an 18- year old female? Either an older somebody is trying to come across as young and hip, or somebody is truly a child prodigy. Thrown back into the pit at some other nameless library, with its garish pink psychedelic circles background; and wondering also why so many librarians – or is that their users – are so old? An astounding number of 80+ year old librarians and patrons seem to frequent MySpace.

OK, I know MySpace is aimed at teens, and I’m obviously showing my age by not fitting in here. But I came away from MySpace feeling distinctly uneasy. Some libraries are just trying too hard to woo those teens – why do librarians need to get emails or IMs about the “important things in your life”; I’m sure I’d love to hear all about our clients’ boy troubles and learn the best way to squeeze pimples. Not. A lack of trust seems to permeate the site, and duplicity actively encouraged. People obviously aren’t who they say they are, as their pictures and bios clearly show.

There are a few Deakin Uni MySpace sites out there, but none that appears to have any official affiliation with Deakin. Please keep it this way, Deakin!