All posts by Brian

AT&T, Verizon, and Flickr – Good and Bad News

If you pay for broadband Internet through AT&T or Verizon, I have some good news and some bad news for you. First, the good news:

Good News

You have a Flickr Pro account. Congratulations! Perhaps you already knew about it, but if you did not, then YES, a Flickr Pro account is complimentary with your broadband package. Just sign in with your AT&T or Verizon credentials.

So go start uploading your unlimited number of photos. Enjoy! But wait, it’s time for some bad news.

Bad News

Don’t enjoy your Flickr Pro account too much, because you won’t have it for long. Come the first of February 2009, your Pro status will be revoked unless you chalk up and pay the required $25 per year.

From AT&T (requires login):

Beginning January 31, 2009, AT&T Internet members will no longer receive Flickr Pro free of charge. These Flickr Pro accounts will be converted to free Flickr accounts which are similar although with some limits. The free Flickr account lets you upload up to 100 MB of photos per month and allows you to view or share up to 200 of your most recent uploaded photos. Don’t worry, if you have more than 200 photos or videos, they are still stored and will not be deleted unless you delete them yourself. You can easily renew your Flickr Pro account at any time.

Here’s a screenshot of the text. Sad, isn’t it? I blame the recession.

I was just getting used to my complimentary Flickr Pro account, too. Oh well, back to Google Picasaweb I go.

Taking Screenshots on a Windows Mobile Device

In case you are wondering how to take screenshots on your Windows Mobile Smartphone or Pocket PC, let me show you. In my experience (with WM5), Windows Mobile has no built-in way to take screenshots, but there are a few free utilities available that can provide that functionality.

Here are three free tools for taking screenshots on Windows Mobile:

  1. vSnap, by Mobile-SG
  2. Capture Screen Utility, by Fann Software
  3. Screen Capture, by Illium Software

Of the three, my personal favorite is Screen Capture, by Illium Software.

Download and Install

There are two ways to install Illium Screen Capture. The first is to download and run the complete installation file on your Windows PC (with your device connected). But what about Mac and Linux users who also happen to own a Windows Mobile device (like myself)?

That leaves us with method two – download the CAB file directly to your Pocket PC or Smartphone. The original download links on Illium’s site are way too long to type manually, so here are TinyURL links instead.

Type those directly on your Pocket PC or Smartphone to download. Install as you would any other CAB file.

Usage

Using Illium Screen Capture is simple. To launch the program, look under the Start menu for Screen Capture.

When the program is running, hit the default keystroke to take a screenshot. On my Smartphone, the default keystroke is the asterisk (*), but you can change it if you want. If your sound it turned on, you will hear an audible shutter sound.

All screenshots that you take will show up in My Documents on your device, numbered sequentially. Easy as pie.

Hint: Be careful not to hit the Exit button for the Screen Capture program until after you’ve taken your screenshots. If the program is not running, it cannot take any screenshots, right?

Sync Your Phone’s Contacts and Calendar with Google for Free with NuevaSync

Many moons ago I wrote a beefy article on Sycing Your Windows Mobile Contacts and Calendar with Plaxo, Thunderbird, and Google for FREE.

Since I wrote that article, NuevaSync, the free synchronization hub, has added a few features. Notably, NuevaSync now supports syncing directly with Google for Contacts, thus eliminating the need for Plaxo.

Today, I’m going to show you how to simply sync your phone’s Contacts and Calendar with your Google account. Since I have a MOTO Q, this tutorial will be from a Windows Mobile perspective, but NuevaSync also works with iPhone and iPod Touch 2.0.

Tools Required

That’s it. There’s nothing to install on your phone or your computer.

As always, please back up your current mobile data before you proceed. This tutorial should work flawlessly for you, or it may drink all the eggnog in your refrigerator. Always keep a backup.

Step One – Configure NuevaSync

To get started, first create an account with NuevaSync. The main NuevaSync configuration area is quite spartan. All you need to do is click the change button next to Contacts and Calendar and select Google for each of them.

The Contacts area now offers Google in addition to Plaxo. Note: NuevaSync will sync with your real Google contacts, not your suggested contacts.

When you click setup, NuevaSync will ask you to enter your Google ID and request authorization for access to your account. You do not need to give NuevaSync your Google password.

Step Two – Configure Your Phone

Now that NuevaSync is configured, let’s move on to setting up your phone. On Windows Mobile:

1. Launch ActiveSync (Go to Start → ActiveSync)

2. Go to Menu → Add Server Source (or Configure Server)

3. Configure your Server Settings. For the Server Address, enter www.nuevasync.com. Check the box to enable SSL encryption.

4. Next, add your user information. Enter your NuevaSync user name (full Gmail address) and your NuevaSync password (NOT your Gmail password, unless they are the same. If they are, shame on you).

Under Domain, enter nuevasync.com. My phone automatically added the www, but it still works fine. Be sure to check the box to remember your password.

5. On the Options page, only check the boxes next to Contacts and Calendar. NuevaSync does not yet support E-mail and Tasks.

Hit Finish, and you’re done. To start the sync process, go back to ActiveSync and hit the Sync button. If you configured everything properly, your phone should connect to Google through NuevaSync and update your Contacts and Calendar accordingly.

Hint: You can adjust the scheduling frequency in ActiveSync by going to Menu → Schedule.

Final Thoughts

I really like NuevaSync. Though it’s still in Beta, it works surprisingly well, and I appreciate that there’s nothing to install. Of course, I’m patiently waiting for them to support IMAP e-mail and Tasks. With the recent inclusion of a Tasks To-Do list by Gmail labs, it seems like a logical inclusion for NuevaSync to support Gmail Tasks. I would love to see this happen.

Happy syncing! I don’t have an iPhone, but maybe one of my iPhone-toting co-authors could provide iPhone-specific instructions. Stay tuned.

Mount Multiple Disc Images for Free with Virtual CloneDrive

Please insert disc! I mean it! Insert the disc now!

If you grow tired of programs that demand the presence of a physical disc, you can bypass that requirement by running the disc virtually.

Virtual CloneDrive, by SlySoft, is a free program that allows you to mount and run disc images so that your computer will think they are physical discs. This is handy when an application checks for an inserted disc, such as installing/running software or playing a video game.

Virtual CloneDrive supports most popular image formats, including ISO, IMG, BIN, UDF, and CCD files. You can choose which file types to associate by default upon install.

You may have to reboot after installation (or after adding additional virtual drives). As of the most recent version (5.4.1.1), Virtual CloneDrive supports up to 15 virtual drives. Wow!

To mount an image, just right-click on one of your virtual drives and browse to the Mount option. You may then choose your desired image.

If you need some help determining which of your drives are the virtual ones, you can enable the Virtual Sheep option to give your drive(s) a nice sheep icon.

Virtual CloneDrive works with every version of Windows from 98 through Vista 64. I haven’t tried it yet on Server 2008, but I suspect it will work fine.

I really like this free tool, but if you want to try an alternative, I suggest MagicDisc. Daemon Tools used to rule this roost, but they upset a lot of people with the bundled inclusion of spyware in version 4. I’ll stick to Virtual CloneDrive.

Oh, and if you need to convert Nero NRG images to ISO, see my tip on using IZArc2Go.

Defeat the ‘Oops. An unknown error occurred’ Message When Importing Contacts to Gmail

Lately I’ve been working on consolidating all my Contacts into Gmail. During this process I ran into this maddening error message:

Oops. An unknown error occurred while importing your contacts.

Grrr! It’s enough to make a pacifist like myself want to pummel baby penguins! Just kidding, PETA.

All I want to do is import a CSV full of contact information, and that error message drove me crazy until I figured out a workaround. Here are two possible ways that I’ve found to work around this problem:

1. Try Google Chrome

After my first dozen, error-prone attempts to import the CSV from Firefox, I decided to simply try another browser. What better browser to communicate with Gmail than Google’s own browser – Chrome!

I have no conclusive evidence to prove that this method works, other than it worked for me. Simply switching from Firefox to Chrome to import the CSV into Gmail worked the first time. It may be a bug with Gmail (or Firefox), or it may be the alignment of the stars in the heavens, but it worked for me.

If it works for anyone else, let me know in the comments.

2. Switch to the Older Gmail

If method one does not work, try this: click the Older version link at the top of your Gmail window.

Now go back to Contacts and try to import your CSV file again.

The older version of the importer worked for me without that @*%^ error message. Hopefully it will work for you, too!

Weekend Fun – Kill All Productivity with Free Tower Defense Games

If you had any thoughts of entertaining productivity this weekend, kick them to the curb with these two amazingly addictive, flash-based Tower Defense games.

Bloons Tower Defense 3

You’re a monkey. No, wait, you just control a bunch of monkeys. No, wait, you control a bunch of monkeys, cannons, spike shooters, frost towers, and an assortment of other wacky tools in a desperate attempt to pop balloons (or bloons). Lots of them. MILLIONS of them.

There are eight different tracks and three difficulty levels. Can you survive to round 50? If you do, you can continue on in free-play mode until you run out of lives.

I made it to round 61 in this screenshot, but got it handed to me soon after that.

One word of warning – beware the MOAB (Massive Ornery Air Blimp).

Play Bloons Tower Defense 3. Crave more? Try your hand at the previous version 1 and 2.

Desktop Tower Defense

DTD is without a doubt one of the most addicting free games ever created. You’ve probably heard of it by now. Perhaps you’ve even played it once, twice, or 500 times. Play it again. Just one more time….

All you have to do is build a maze to prevent the creeps from making it to the other side. Much easier said than done, I assure you, especially in Hard Mode.

Have fun killing your productivity this weekend!

Play Desktop Tower Defense

An Introduction to Podcasting with Blogger and iTunes

Podcasting is the practice of distributing media files online for subscribers to view. Since it is Internet-based, it is similar to simply posting on a website. Many podcasts are distributed as episodic content – such as weekly radio or television shows.

This brief tutorial is focused toward people who have never created an audio podcast before. I put it together for an electronic music class that I teach, and thought it could be of use here on TipsFor.us.

Required Tools

Software

  • Digital Audio Workstation Software

If you’re only recording speech with little or no music, you likely won’t need software like this. Something like Audacity will suffice. For more complicated editing and mixing, you’re going to need digital audio workstation (DAW) software.

The big-boy software titles include Cubase, Sonar, Digital Performer, Pro Tools, Logic, and Samplitude. They also come with a big-boy price. For more modest uses, consider Tracktion or even FREE offerings such as MU.LAB. Use Linux? Try Ardour.

  • Audio Compression Software

You’re going to need to compress that audio file for the Web, and free tools such as Audacity, iTunes, and BonkEnc will do the job with aplomb.

  • FTP Client

Use a free FTP client such as Filezilla or Cyberduck to store your files online on a file/web host of choice (more on that below).

  • Podcast Catcher

To take a look/listen at your newly created podcast, subscribe to it with a tool such as iTunes or Google Reader.

Web

  • Online Web Space

You need a place to store your files on the Web that allows for direct linking. If you already own web space, fantastic. If you do not, don’t worry. There are free workarounds.

  • A Publisher

Though not absolutely required, a free publishing account with a service such as Blogger or WordPress is highly recommended. Podcasts require an RSS Feed (allows podcast catchers to subscribe), and services such as Blogger generate the feed for you automatically. The other option is to write the XML file yourself… tedious.

Create Your Audio File

When you have finished composing and mixing your masterpiece, you need to prepare it for the web. The issue here is to make the file small enough without sacrificing too much quality. You will need to to compress your hi-res audio mix (*.aif) into a lossy format. Most podcasts use either MP3 or AAC. See our digital audio primer.

I suggest using Audacity to compress your audio. No matter what software you use, set the bitrate to at least 128/k (up to about 192/k). Make sure the resulting file has all lowercase letters and no spaces or special characters. Also, make sure your file has an extension (*.mp3).

The compressed audio file is what your subscribers will hear, naturally.

Storing Your File on the Web

The next step is to upload your file to a storage host. The aforementioned free services such as Blogger and WordPress do not currently allow for storage of audio files (legal/piracy reasons). Instead, I suggest using some web space to store your files.

If you do not pay for any webspace, don’t fret. Take a look at our article on overcoming Blogger’s upload limitations. Though the article mentions Blogger specifically, the solutions can apply to any other service.

Publish your Podcast

Now it’s time to publish your podcast so that the world can listen. This section of the tutorial is specific to the Google Blogger service. If you use a different service, please consult their Help section for podcast-specific tips.

The site that my class used is: http://ku-electronic.blogspot.com

To set up a Blogger account for podcasting, do the following:

In your Blogger dashboard, go to Settings → Formatting. Enable the Link Field to enclose audio in your posts.

Now, when you create a New Post, you will see a field for Enclosures.

Add the full link to your hosted audio file (including the http://).

Voila! When you publish your post, it will instantly become a podcast. All RSS Feed requirements are handled automatically.

Subscribe to the Podcast

If you want to subscribe to the newly created podcast, just enter the full URL to your Blogger site in your podcast-catching software.

Example (Google Reader):

Subscribe with iTunes

iTunes is slightly different. To subscribe to a Blogger feed in iTunes, go to the Advanced menu, then click Subscribe to Podcast.

Add the full URL to your site, plus /feeds/posts/default

Click OK, and your podcast subscription will show up like this:

Anytime you write a new post on the site, it will show up in the feed reader.

This concludes the tutorial. Happy podcasting!