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Savvy Tech Tips

November 11th 2008

Google Announces Video and Voice Chat for Gmail.

Google today announced that they have added video and voice chat to Gmail, their popular email program. The free service will work through a simple plug-in.

Computers running Windows XP and Vista, as well as Intel-based Macs running operating system OS X 10.4 or later can take advantage of the feature. Gmail’s Video chat and voice chat do not currently work with PowerPC Macs, however.

Download the plug-in here.

March 16th 2007

Motivational Posters: Make Your Own Digital Version

parody_motivator.jpgTime for some Friday fun! Despair, Inc., which makes entertaining “anti” motivational posters, has a neat Parody Motivator Generator on their site. This page allows you to create free digital motivational posters, using your own photos and text. You can then save the poster as a JPEG file. Cool!

Creating a poster is straightforward, but here is a brief set of directions if you get confused:

  • Use the “browse” button to find an upload a photo from your computer.
  • Choose from the three options of placing the photo on the poster (center will work best in most cases)
  • Choose the poster orientation, based on the type of photo you have.
  • Change the title/border color, the motivational text color, and the background color if you like, by clicking on the little squares to left of the appropriate words. The defaults generally look great, by the way.
  • Type your poster title and text. Change the font if you like.
  • Click “Create Poster”. Done!

fear.jpgIf you’ve got a photo you want to use and know what you want to write, you can make a poster in about two minutes.

After you create the poster, you’ll have an option for saving it to your computer. Very slick!


Edit: To the left is my first attempt. Click to see the larger image.

February 12th 2007

Update: Fair Ads Network

Fair Ads Network CEO and co-owner Kevin Lam was kind enough to post some extensive and helpful comments to the post I made a couple of weeks ago concerning his upcoming company’s attempt to provide some competition to Google’s AdSense/AdWords. You can read his entire post here.

On the whole, Fair Ads Network seems to be picking up steam. Rumor has it that they have established working relationships with some large websites, such as and I’d argue that selling advertising is the trickiest part of their endeavor, so we’ll know a lot more as things progress over the next few months, but so far, so good.

Advertisers and publishers can still sign up for the Beta test as of this writing.

February 7th 2007

Reduce Spam Email: Spam Gourmet

spamgourmet.jpgComputer: All • Level: Novice

A couple of weeks ago I posted about two outstanding anti-spam temporary email services that can help get you through obligatory email fields with little hassle and keep the spam from piling up in your mailbox. Spam Gourmet is another free anti-spam email solution, but one that requires no software and takes a different and very useful twist on temporary email.

Simply put, Spam Gourmet is an email forwarding service that allows you to create an unlimited number of email addresses that will automatically forward to your real email address. Furthermore, each forwarding address has a customizable limit on the number of emails that will be forwarded. Even cooler, you may never have to return to the Spam Gourmet’s website once you set your account up.

It works like this. You register at the site using your real email address, and create a user name for the account. Once you’ve done that and confirm your email address, you’re Spam Gourmet account is set to go. The format for creating forwarding emails is like this:


This may look a bit intimidating, but it’s actually quite straightforward. “Anyword” is any random word you decide to use. “Number” is the number of emails (up to 20) to this address you wish Spam Gourmet to forward to your real address. “Username” is your Spam Gourmet account user name. So say I go to a website that asks for me email to register for interesting software bargains. I’m not sure if I trust this company yet, so I decide to make up a Spam Gourmet forwarding email address. I type the following into the email field:


“Softwaretest” is a random word I created on the spot. “Johndoe” is my account user name. The way I’ve set this up, the first five emails sent to this address will pass through Spam Gourmet and will automatically get forwarded to my real email address. Any subsequent email sent to this address will get blocked by Spam Gourmet’s anti-spam filter.

But now you’re thinking, “What if I decide I like the email I’m getting from a particular address, and I don’t want it to stop?” Aha! For this you actually do need to return to Spam Gourmet’s website, log in to your account, and click on advanced mode. Once there, you can make all kinds of modifications to any one of your Spam Gourmet email addresses, whether to simply increase the limit (max is 20 though), or set a sender’s address or website to “always trust”. What an excellent feature!

One neat side feature here is that Spam Gourmet’s website keeps track of the number of emails eaten by a particular address. If you are willing, organized, and a little bit obsessive, you could probably keep track of which websites and companies would be turning your trusty email address over to spammers, had you not been fighting it with Spam Gourmet.

I’ve tested the service, and everything works perfectly. Emails are forwarded quickly to my real account, and each comes with information in the title telling me the number of the emails sent to that particular Spam Gourmet address and the currently set limit. Once past the limit, the anti-spam protection kicks in and blocks subsequent emails. Very slick.

For more details, check out Spam Gourmet’s FAQ, which goes into greater depth on almost everything in this article.


February 1st 2007

File Acronyms Explained

Here’s a link to a simple site that lists almost all the different type of computer file acronyms and file endings:

Almost Every File Format in the World

From what I can tell, everything looks accurate and on target. Handy page to bookmark.

January 30th 2007

Google Categories

Computer: All • Level: Novice

categories1.gifThree short years ago, when I was doing introductory training seminars on using the Internet, I would often have to explain to people what Google was. I would say that it was a site dedicated specifically to helping people search the Internet, much like Yahoo. Once I would mention Yahoo search, people would get it, and we would be on our way. How times are changed. Now when I run training sessions on using the Internet efficiently, everyone knows what Google is, and everyone knows how to search for information.

However, Google has evolved tremendously over the past three years. They update and change stuff so quickly that I have to revise my documents every time I teach a seminar on the Internet, even if they are two weeks apart. And one area that Google has expanded incredibly in the past two years is how they categorize the information they gather. In short, Google realized that they could make searching the Internet much more efficient if they cluster the information they gather into various categories, and then allow people to perform searches within those various categories.

By default, Google’s classic page defaults to a “web” search. You can see the more common alternative categories listed across the top of the search bar. However, there are many more. To get to them, click the “more” link at the right end of the alternative categories line. This will open up an entire new world of alternative categories.

Not all of the categories may be useful to you, but here are some of the details on a few of the more helpful Google categories:

By far the most popular alternative search, Google Images allows you to search image files on the Internet. Looking for a picture of a duck? This may be a great way to get it, but as always, please consider copyright laws when handling other people’s intellectual property.

YouTube may be the most popular, but Google Video has a great collection of videos as well. Search, watch, and enjoy!

The News category is often overlooked, but it can be a great help in many situations. When working with educators, I often get the question, “How can I help my students find reliable websites?” The issue here, of course, is that students will do web searches on sensitive topics, but not have developed their crap detector skills well enough to know which sites are reliable. The News category can be a huge help with this, in that it culls the web of anything that isn’t a media source, and lets people search the only thesecategoriesmaps2.jpg major media sources. This is not to say, of course, that CNN or the Star Tribune always has reliable information, but at least your screening out Joe Extremist in his basement. The News category can also be helpful, as you would expect, in finding the latest information on a current event.

Maps is a great source of getting printed directions. Personally, I like it much better than Yahoo Maps, whose now infamous inaccuracy has been the source in our family of two Car Trips from Hell.

Google has folded over the “Local” category into the Map category, which means that you can also type in things you are looking for into the Google Map search bar, and it will put up a neat set of clickable markers—complete with contact information—right on the map for you. This is great for looking for pizza, parlors, golf courses, movie theaters, restaurants, etc., as you can go right from the location information to getting directions. The specifics of this feature are beyond the scope of this post, but at some point I’ll try to write a full article on Google Maps.

categories2.jpgOne other neat feature with Google Maps is the ability to look at your map in satellite photo view. For actually getting somewhere, this satellite view is generally useless, unless you plan to travel to your destination in a helicopter. However, it has one awesome use: impressing the hell out of your less computer savvy co-workers. The key is to have a window with Google Maps open on your computer at all times, then when the “target” walks in, click on the little “Satellite” button, look at a spot on the map, nod a few times, and write something important such as “We’ve found Neo now!”

One other use: If you’ve got a particularly gullible co-worker that you dislike, zoom in on your current address so you can see the building you’re working in. Then tell your co-worker that if he runs outside, looks up, and waves, you’ll take a screen shot of him and save it for his desktop. When he comes back, tell him that there was a problem categories3.gifwith the screen shot function, and ask him to do it again. Be sure to spread the word around the office as to what you’re doing. Lather, rinse, repeat until you get bored. Or fired. But don’t blame me.

Other secondary categories that may be of use to you:

Search academic journals.

A shopping search engine that returns price information.

Patent Search
Search US Patents

Blog Search
Search blogs only for your search terms.

Book Search
Search the contents of books for your search terms.

There are quite a few more, so it can be worthwhile to take some time to explore the “more” link on your Google Categories page.


January 28th 2007

FairAdsNetwork: Competition for Google’s AdSense/AdWords?

Topic: Blogging

If you’re a blogger, you’ve likely considered adding AdSense ads to your blog. If you’re an advertiser, you likely have looked at Google’s AdWords as a way to drive traffic to your site. AdSense/AdWords, and to a lesser degree, AdBrite, are the two easy options for advertising on the Internet.

However, newcomer FairAdsNetwork hopes to take on Google’s leading position. With ads that directly target Google’s program, this upstart program has gone into Beta as of January 27, 2007. They are accepting 10,000 publishers and advertisers for their beta run, so if you are a blogger or advertiser and would like to be a part of the trial run, you can sign up now.

The FairAdsNetwork’s site looks professional and clean. They are aiming to offer advertisers a wide range of ad types. In looking over their terms and conditions, they do have some interesting twists on their service. For publishers, whereas Google doesn’t pay until you have earned $100 in revenue, Fair Ads Network will pay from $50. They are also much more upfront about payouts. FairAdsNetwork states that publishers will receive 60% of the advertiser’s cost per click. So if an advertiser pays 20 cents for a click, the blogger would receive 14 cents. Very straightforward. For advertisers, rates look comparable to AdWords.

One confusing element of their service is the option for becoming a “Master Marketer”. It’s tricky to piece together at this point, because the information on their site seems to have both advertisers and publishers info all mixed together (it is beta, after all). But for big publishers and advertisers, it seems that you can pay $19.95/month for extra statistics about your ads and 70% commissions, among other benefits.

All in all, if you are an advertiser or publisher looking for an additional alternative to AdSense, AdWords or AdBrite, FairAdsNetwork might be working taking a look at.

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