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)

An Overview of Free Online Invoice Software

I got tired of tracking invoices for clients using an Excel spreadsheet. I knew there must be some good solutions for on-line invoices, so here’s what I found. All of these had a paid counterpart, and some of the free versions were too limited for all but experimental use. E.g. when they say there’s a limit of managing only 2 clients, that means you have to delete one and create a new client (entering name and address) each time you have to send an invoice to someone new.

Billing Manager lets you easily create invoices
Billing Manager lets you easily create invoices

Billing Manager

Link – https://billingmanager.intuit.com

This is the only service I found that offered unlimited invoices and unlimited clients for free. They are iPhone compatible, which means their site is iPhone friendly (it’s relatively fast), but they don’t have a standalone app yet. I had some serious problems importing my OS X Address Book contacts (see below), and their documentation didn’t help, but they responded promptly to my emails. In order to use Credit Cards and Electronic Checks, you have to set up an account with QuickBooks merchant service, which will run $15/month. One other irk with this software is that it requires you to disable your pop-up blocker for the preview functions to work.

Freshbooks

Link – http://www.freshbooks.com

The free version gives you one login and lets you manage only 3 clients. They have auto-bill gateways so you can charge credit cards using Paypal (yes, even using a basic Paypal account). This looks to be a nice and professional service… they even sent me a nice snail-mail sample invoice welcoming me to my trial account.

Lite Accounting

Link – http://liteaccounting.com

With the free account, you cannot use a custom logo on invoices, and you are limited to 5 invoices per month. They boast the “most affordable” solution, and yes, their full membership is almost as cheap as some of the others’ entry level membership.

Invotrak

Link – http://invotrak.com

They actually have an iPhone app and an OS X Dashboard widget. The free service limits you to 2 invoices per month and 2 clients per month.

Greener Billing

Link – http://www.greenerbilling.com

Their free (dirt cheap) plan offers you 3 invoices per month. Unlimited clients and unlimited staff access is nice… but you can’t send unbranded emails to clients (in other words, when you send an email invoice, it’ll somehow reference Greener Billing… which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).

In summary, I thought that Billing Manager was the best deal out there for those users who need a basic service (and who aren’t simply evaluating). Billing Manager was the only one that offered unlimited invoices and unlimited clients.

Outlook Address Book CSV Fields

As I mentioned, I had trouble working with Billing Manager’s address book importer. It worked fine for my Outlook address book, but it did not work well with with my OS X Address Book. This is probably because I’ve got it synced with my 10 year old Yahoo! address book (yikes!), and there are some real messy fields in there. So here are the steps you can use to get your address book into Billing Manager’s format:

  1. 1. Unfortunately, OS X’s Address Book Application does not allow for you to export your addresses into a CSV format. There is an Address Book to CSV Exporter linked on the Apple web site, but it won’t work for this task. You need a program that enables you to export a header row. Download the Address Book Exporter by David Martin & Gwenhiver.net. It allows for far greater flexibility. Download it.
  2. Once inside the Address Book Exporter, click on the “Configure Settings”. Check the “Write column titles as first line” — this is your header row.
  3. Check most of the fields (see image). Outlook doesn’t seem to have columns for any Instant Message addresses, so I left those out of my export.
  4. Open the resulting file in Excel (I know I know… groan… I don’t know another way to do this). Open another blank workbook and paste Outlook’s Header Row values (below) into the first row. Two tips here: first remove the commas. Also have a look at Excel’s “Paste Special…” feature. There’s a checkbox in there to “transpose” the paste. This will paste rows into columns or columns into rows.
  5. Copy the columns from your OS X Address Book Export into the matching columns in the Outlook-friendly workbook.
  6. Save the workbook as a CSV file.
OS X Address Book Exporter
OS X Address Book Exporter

Outlook’s Header Row

For the record, when you export your Outlook contacts, these are the fields that show up in your header row:

Title, First Name,Middle Name, Last Name,Suffix,
Company,Department, Job Title,Business Street,Business Street 2,
Business Street 3, Business City, Business State, Business Postal Code,
Business Country, Home Street, Home Street 2, Home Street 3,
Home City, Home State, Home Postal Code, Home Country,
Other Street, Other Street 2, Other Street 3, Other City,
Other State, Other Postal Code, Other Country, Assistant's Phone,
Business Fax, Business Phone, Business Phone 2, Callback,
Car Phone, Company Main Phone, Home Fax, Home Phone,
Home Phone 2, ISDN, Mobile Phone, Other Fax, Other Phone,
Pager, Primary Phone, Radio Phone, TTY/TDD Phone,
Telex, Account, Anniversary, Assistant's Name,
Billing Information, Birthday, Business Address PO Box, Categories,
Children, Directory Server, E-mail Address, E-mail Type,
E-mail Display Name, E-mail 2 Address, E-mail 2 Type, E-mail 2 Display Name,
E-mail 3 Address, E-mail 3 Type, E-mail 3 Display Name, Gender,
Government ID Number, Hobby, Home Address PO Box, Initials,
Internet Free Busy, Keywords, Language, Location,
Manager's Name, Mileage, Notes, Office Location, Organizational ID Number,
Other Address PO Box, Priority, Private, Profession,
Referred By, Sensitivity, Spouse, User 1,
User 2, User 3, User 4, Web Page

Did I miss any free invoicing products? Let me know in the comments.

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.

Introduction to Bash Scripting

Here’s a great tutorial for bash scripting: http://www.linuxconfig.org/Bash_scripting_Tutorial

Linux and OS X: Harness the Power of Bash
Linux and OS X: Harness the Power of Bash

If you’re doing any work with Linux or OS X computers, knowing even a little bit of bash can save you a whole lot of work. You can write automated backup scripts, you can scan for faulty permissions… the list is endless. You’ll end up building a toolbox of common scripts that you will use in multiple places.

Only one thing wasn’t given much attention on that page, so I thought I’d point it out:

for next Loop

Usually, your programming syntax is cleaner if you avoid the for next construct and stick to the for each construct instead, however, with bash scripting you often need to work with that crazy little numerical iterator for changing things like file names (e.g. backup1, backup2, …). So you should get familiar with the seq command. It creates an array, going either forwards or backwards, and then bash’s for next loop iterates over that array.

Here’s the seq syntax:

seq [OPTION]... FIRST LAST
seq [OPTION]... FIRST INCREMENT LAST

And here’s how you might iterate backwards over an array:

LIST=`seq $NUMBER_OF_ROLLBACK_FILES_TO_PRESERVE -1 1`;
for I in $LIST; do
echo "I is $I";
done

Now get over to http://www.linuxconfig.org/Bash_scripting_Tutorial and start learning.

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.