All posts by Brian

Fed Up with Blogger’s Upload Limitations?

Update: There’s now a third, very simple method available – who.hasfiles.com – see more info.

Google Blogger is a great and easy way to create your own blog, but one nagging problem is the limitations on uploads. Sure you can upload images and video, but not other common file types such as MP3, DOC, ZIP, and PDF.

There are a number of ways around this limitation. I’m going to show you two of them today.

I had three requirements in mind when finding a solution:

  1. None of the methods should cost a single penny!
  2. The method should allow for direct linking to files, not going through a middle-man.
  3. The process should be as simple as possible.

Method One – Google Sites

The simplest solution that I have found is to use another Google service – Sites. To enable Sites, just log in with your Google account and create a name for your site. Make sure to make your site Public.

Sites offers 100 MB of extra storage space where you can link directly to MP3s, PDFs, or any other type of file you wish.

Now let’s make a page where you can add some files. In Sites, click Create a New Page at the top.

Choose File Cabinet as your page type. Once you’re done, all you have to do is add a file on the page you created.

Once your file uploads, the last step is to simply right-click your file and Copy Link Location (Firefox – other browsers may say something like Copy Shortcut).

Paste that link into Blogger, and voila! You now have a direct link to your file! If you find that you cannot link directly to your file, make sure your Site is listed as Public.

This is the easiest method I’ve found, and I like that it’s tied directly to your Google account. If you run out of your 100 MB, you can create another Google Site, or consider method two below.

Method Two – DriveHQ

This solution is slightly more complicated, but offers much more storage space. DriveHQ has been around for many years, and they offer 1 GB of free space accessible by FTP. You can link directly to files provided that you create a True account – still free, essentially just requires verification of what they call a trustable, non-mainstream e-mail address. Accounts like Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail do not count. I just used my university e-mail.

Though there are other free FTP hosts, I recommend DriveHQ because they have been around for many years, and because your files never expire due to inactivity. I created an account with them four years ago, and I went for over two years without logging in. My files were still just as I left them.

DriveHQ Web Share

Once you create a free account with DriveHQ and upgrade to True status (free), you will have access to a website root folder (wwwhome). Anything you place in your wwwhome folder is accessible online (YOUR-USERNAME.drivehq.com).

Feel free to create folders, but for simplicity’s sake I strongly suggest sticking to all lowercase letters and omitting special characters in your folders and file-names.

Example 1 – If you put a file called sample-file.mp3 in your wwwhome folder, the web path is:

  • http://YOUR-USERNAME.drivehq.com/sample-file.mp3

Example 2 – If you create a folder in wwwhome called music and put your sample-file.mp3 in there, the path is:

  • http://YOUR-USERNAME.drivehq.com/music/sample-file.mp3

Adjust your links accordingly and paste into Blogger. Voila! You have direct links.

FTP Access

Once you’ve registered, you can use FTP to upload files if you do not feel like bothering with their web interface. Just connect to ftp.drivehq.com with your favorite FTP client (such as Filezilla or Cyberduck).

DriveHQ offers 1 GB of storage space, but one catch here is that free accounts only have 1 GB of download bandwidth per month. For most people, this is likely sufficient, but if you know your files will get tons of hits, this is not the best option. Or, you could use a combination of these two methods – use Google Sites for files that will see big traffic and save DriveHQ for seldom-accessed files.

Other Thoughts

Of course, the two methods I present here are not the only possible ways to host files for inclusion with Blogger. There are literally hundreds of free web hosts and file storage services out there. Finding a place to store your files is easy. Finding a good and reliable place to store your files is amazingly difficult.

The vast majority of online storage services either:

  1. Do not allow for direct linking, or…
  2. Expire and delete your files after a certain amount of time or inactivity, or…
  3. Have not been around long enough to be considered tried and true, or…
  4. Try to spam you to death with ads and optional services.

Concerning free web hosts, yes, many of them offer free FTP access. While I applaud this, you need to be careful. The vast majority of free web hosts have a clause in their Terms of Service stating that they are not to be used as file storage. Any accounts found breaching this clause will have their files mercilessly deleted without warning. These companies make the bulk of their money by putting ads on your free site, and file storage/direct linking is simply not profitable for them. You don’t want your files disappearing, do you?

That’s why I chose Google Sites and DriveHQ for this article. If you know of any other solutions that are free, reliable, simple to use, and allow for direct file linking, please let us know in the comments.

Quick Tip – Stop Firefox from Remembering Downloads

This one is by no means difficult, but I often forget about it. I see no reason why Firefox should remember what I download, and it bugs me to see a huge list of previously downloaded files whenever I open the Firefox Download window.

Disabling this feature is simple. Just go to Tools → Options, and switch to the Privacy tab.

Un-check the box next to Remember what I’ve downloaded. Problem solved.

While we’re on the subject, you can also suppress the Downloads window from showing at all when you start a new download. Just switch back to the Main tab and un-check the box next to Show the Downloads window when downloading a file.

Create a Mobile Version of Your Site for Free with Mippin Maker

Want to create a mobile-friendly version of your website or blog, but don’t feel like coding a version by hand (or paying someone else to do so)? Take a look at the free Mippin Maker service.

www.mippinmaker.com

Creating a mobile version of your site is a simple process, and it only takes a few minutes. Best of all, it’s completely free.

Any site with an RSS feed can be mobilized with Mippin Maker. Yep, that means Blogger, WordPress, and most any other services are eligible.

First, just enter the URL of your site or RSS feed to get a preview of how the mobile version will look:

Mobilize:

Next, choose any custom colors for your mobile site, or upload a logo:

Customize:

The final step is to create a Mippin account and verify that you’re the rightful owner of the site. To do so, Mippin will ask you to post a string of data as a post title, but you can delete that post once you’ve verified your ownership.

As a bonus, you can even opt to include mobile ads and earn some revenue with your new mobile site. Unlike competing services, Mippin allows you to keep 100% of the revenue.

Of course, we have to practice what we preach, so TipsFor.us is now mobile. You can access the mobile version at:

http://m.tipsfor.us (no www)

Switcher 2.0 РA Free Expos̩ Clone for Vista/Server 2008

There are number of utilities available that mimic the functionality of Apple Exposé, but my favorite that I’ve tried so far is Switcher.

Switcher 2.0www.insentient.net

Though Switcher has been out for a while, version 2.0 was just released a couple months ago. It adds a number of cool features and is even available in both an executable and a non-installer format.

Here’s the main screen:

Once Switcher is running, call it into action by pressing Win (left) + Tab. If you don’t like that key combo, you can easily create your own.

By default, Switcher is set to Tile view:

Hovering over a tile with your mouse highlights it, and clicking it brings the window to the foreground.

You can also switch to Dock view, which lines up all the windows at the top with the current tile enlarged below:

Pressing Tab will cycle through the available windows.

The third view type is Grid view:

Pretty simple, really. All available windows are lined up straight across your desktop in an orderly fashion.

Switcher works well as an Exposé clone, but it also has a few extra tricks up its sleeve. Here are a few:

  1. Call up a window by number. Just hit a number (1-9) to bring that window number to the front. This works especially well with Grid view.
  2. Quickly close a window by middle-clicking it (mouse wheel button).
  3. Too many windows? Hit Ctrl-F and start typing to quickly search for a particular window.
  4. Hide any window with Ctrl-H.
  5. Only show windows of a particular program by pressing Ctrl-W. This is similar to the F10 button in Apple Exposé.
  6. Want to minimize all windows except a certain one? Just right-click on it. Neat.

If you have Exposé envy on your Windows machine, Switcher is best free tool that I’ve found. Plus, I love that it does not even require installation.

Get Switcher 2.0 – Requires Vista/Server 2008 plus Aero.

Add Gmail IMAP to Thunderbird Without Breaking a Sweat

As you may know, Gmail IMAP and Thunderbird form an awesome combination. As you may also know, setting up and configuring that combo is a time-consuming process. First you have to look up and enter all the required port information. Then you have to look up and follow the IMAP recommended client settings for things like sent folders, drafts, junk, and trash. It’s a hassle, but the end result is worth it.

While I don’t object to anyone going through that process manually for the hands on experience, I’d love a way to do it in seconds rather than minutes. I’m reminded of one of my favorite Garfield quotes – You can bet it wasn’t an exercise freak who invented power steering.

Alas, there IS an easier way. just use the Gmail IMAP Account Setup add-on for Thunderbird. When you install this extension, it adds a couple extra entries to the account setup wizard that will automatically configure recommended settings for IMAP Gmail. Nice!

Here’s the simple, sweat-free process:

First, be sure that you have enabled IMAP in Gmail. Go to the Settings page and click Forwarding and POP/IMAP. Near the bottom, enable IMAP.

Download the Add-on XPI file from the Thunderbird Add-ons page. Now open Thunderbird and go to Tools → Add-ons. Click the Install button.

Browse to find the XPI file that you downloaded and install it. Restart Thunderbird to finish installation.

Now, when you create an new account in Thunderbird, the New Account Setup Wizard has a couple new options.

Next, just add your Name and E-mail address.

And that’s it! The last page of the wizard will simply display your setup information, including SMTP.

That was easy, wasn’t it? No more fooling around with ports and managing folders. I’ve tested Gmail IMAP Account Setup on Windows and Linux, though I assume it also works on Mac OS X.

Four Easy Ways to Keep Your Passwords Syncronized

If you’re like me, you have a ton of different passwords to try to remember, and you definitely do not want to recycle the same username/password combo over and over. To this effect, perhaps you use a free password manager such as KeePass.

For anyone who hops around between multiple computers, however, there still remains a problem: how to easily have access to the latest versions of your passwords. While KeePass does a great job of keeping my passwords organized, I still need easy access to my passwords from any current computer. Imagine this scenario:

You’re at work (or maybe at a coffee shop) and you decide to update your Internet banking password. Every time you make an update, you have to dig out your flash drive and e-mail the database to yourself, or else you will end up wondering which version is current. It’s a hassle.

Here are four different methods for keeping your commonly-used passwords in sync and readily available.

Option 1 – Foxmarks

Several months ago I wrote an article on Foxmarks, and it does a splendid job of keeping Firefox bookmarks synchronized across multiple computers. In addition to bookmarks, Foxmarks now has the ability to sync passwords. In FIrefox, just go to Tools → Foxmarks → Foxmarks Settings, and browse to the Sync tab.

Check the box next to passwords, create a strong PIN, and you’re done. Your saved Firefox passwords will now stay in sync for every computer on which you have Foxmarks installed.

If you tend to rely on Firefox to store your passwords, this is a simple way to keep them updated. Since Foxmarks does not require admin privileges, you can use it at work, too. Hint: you can create multiple profiles in Foxmarks if you don’t necessarily want ALL your passwords synced to your work computer.

Option 2 – Dropbox / Syncplicity

If you rely on a password manager (such as KeePass, 1Password, or Password Dragon), here’s a handy trick to keep your database synchronized. All you have to do is sign up with a free online storage and syncing service (such as Dropbox or Syncplicity).

Place your password database file in a folder that will automatically stay updated. Whenever you open the database to make changes, just open it directly from the synced folder. Any edits that you make will automatically stay in sync across your computers.

Better yet, you can even drop the entire portable ZIP version of KeePass into your Dropbox or Syncplicity folder and run it from there. New version of KeePass available? Just overwrite the existing files with the new ZIP version and all your linked computers will automatically receive the latest version.

Option 3 – LastPass

LastPass is both an online password manager and an automatic form filler. It has a ton of features and can easily allow multiple computers to access stored passwords. There’s even a plugin available for both IE and Firefox (Safari support coming soon).

If you’re on a public computer, you can always use the portable LastPass pocket version that does not require access to the LastPass toolbar.

Worried about the availability or security of an online password manager? Yeah, so am I, but LassPass does a pretty good job of addressing these issues.

Option 4 – Passpack

Passpack is another free online password manager. No, it’s more than that. It’s a privacy vault that allows you to store pretty much whatever info you want. Like LastPass, Passpack can automatically generate passwords and fill in your saved information without typing. There’s absolutely nothing to install.

Again, if you’re worried about the security of an online password manager, Passpack claims that not even they can read your stored passwords. Plus, there are two portable versions of Passpack available:

For the ultra-paranoid, the portable versions of Passpack do not even require a Passpack account. Instead, they function like a standalone password manager (similar to KeePass).

There you have it – four easy ways to keep your passwords in sync. If you have any other suggestions or strategies, let us know in the comments below.

Running Out of Cell Phone Minutes? Get Notified with OverMyMinutes.com

Use your mobile phone a lot? How many times have you gone over your alloted minutes? It can get expensive, I know from firsthand experience.

Web service OverMyMinutes is designed to monitor your remaining minutes and notify you before you run out. All it requires is that you create an account and register your phone with them. There’s nothing to install on your mobile phone or computer.

And the best part – OverMyMinutes is free for home and small business users.

Usage

To get started with OverMyMinutes, just fill out the simple signup form.

The following carriers are supported (at the moment):

  • Alltel
  • Cingular/AT&T
  • Nextel
  • Sprint
  • T-mobile
  • Verizon
  • Virgin Mobile
  • Vodafone

In order for OverMyMinutes to monitor your minutes usage, you must give them the login information that you use on your carrier’s website. Though they emphasize that your login information is absolutely secure, I still suggest changing your carrier’s password to something unique before you hand it over to OverMyMinutes. I used KeePass to automatically generate my password.

Once you register your phone, just choose any custom alert settings that you desire. OverMyMinutes can alert you with an e-mail or text message (or both) if you are close to running out of minutes.

Once your registration is complete, OverMyMinutes will monitor your remaining minutes and notify you if you start running low. Say goodbye to overage charges!

I appreciate that there is nothing to install. Unlike similar programs that run on your personal computer, OverMyMinutes will still work if your computer is off.

Join OverMyMinutes for free.