Google Voice is a very useful service by Google, adding features to your phone like voicemail transcription, call recording, and call blocking. Strangely missing from Google Voice’s main features is the most important part of the telephone: making calls. In order to do that, you have to use your regular phone or use Gmail’s calling service. However, there’s an app that allows you to use that Gmail calling service and use it on your iOS and Android device to make calls: Talkatone. Now instead of using your phone minutes (or if your device doesn’t even have a cellular connection), you can use the app to make calls over wi-fi or 3G. It’s very handy if you say lose a phone or are running low on minutes and need to make a call. The app even came in handy when I was in Japan and needed to make a free call to the United States (probably routed my call through the us servers, but your mileage may vary).
The “What most schools don’t teach” video on Youtube has gone viral fairly quickly, having amassed 8,711,609 views (as of Monday, March 4 at 12:34 AM). Anecdotally, I’ve seen it shared on Facebook by programmer and non programmer alike,and influence a few people to take up learning how to code in their spare time. Featuring a diverse cast of Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Chris Bosh to name a few, it seems to make a compelling case for getting people interested in programming.
While I fully endorse the message, it however made me think of another person who asked us all to learn programming: Doug Rushkoff. He is the author of the book Program or Be Programmed, and frequent speaker on how important it is to learn coding in the 21st Century. Yet, I’ve heard of only 1 person who was inspired to program from Rushkoff’s message even though it’s been around much longer:
This got me thinking about why saying things one way resonates with us and why it saying it another does not. Code.org’s mission is more optimistic in tone, and features celebrities and people from industry espousing what is great about programming. Rushkoff, however, seems more pessimistic and anti-industry, revealing the hidden subroutines of the code we use everyday. Both methods carry the same message and yet the more optimistic video seems to be the one that is clearly winning people over to learning to program. It doesn’t mean Rushkoff’s message is any less important, but it reminds us that perhaps a hopeful message gets through better than a scary one.
The Twitter ecosystem gets bigger with each passing day and developers are building more and more great tools to use with it. Listed below are some of my favorite ways of using these developer tools with Twitter.
- Natter– The official Twitter app for Facebook has not been updated for a while (not for a lack of trying on Twitter’s part either). Fortunately, Natter improves on the official app in a couple of ways. First, it will actually take links you tweet about and put in a Facebook like preview box with a thumbnail as well. Second, Twitter names get translated to real names listed on their profiles, so you don’t show off the @username notation. Lastly, comment replies on Facebook are sent back to your Twitter stream as @mentions from Natterapp, which means you can track your conversation on Twitter. The one improvement I’d like to see from Natter is to have retweets posted on your Facebook profile like LinkedIn currently does. Still, if you were looking for a better way to integrate your Twitter and Facebook accounts, this is the app for you.
With the long 4th of July Weekend, I thought it was time for my yearly site refresh. After upgrading to WordPress 3.0 (which has a number of advanced features like Custom Post Types and Multiple Sites installations), I decided to make two major cosmetic changes to the site.
- I decided to change the site’s theme to Thirty Ten, a three-column version of the new WordPress default theme, Twenty Ten. Like all of the times I change themes, the old theme is still pretty good, but I just felt the need to experiment with a new design. I especially like that asides have been given their own style and that it’s easy to place my own header images (which I hope to do in the coming weeks).
- Since I recently joined up with an online advertising company, I wanted to understand more about the business. So I reactivated my Google Adsense account, and decided to place ads on my site and feed. I had resisted putting ads on my site since I first started it (which when I think about it seems odd, since I was making less money then I do now), but it felt right to try this out. We’ll see how this experiment goes.
So check feel free to check out my new web site at allen.alew.org.
If you have a First Name and Last Name in one column in Excel, here’s a tutorial on splitting them into two separate columns (without VB macros) from LauraJ’s blog. It involves using the Data to Text feature. Very handy.
If you haven’t been able to install Adobe Flash Player on your Ubuntu 7.10 install, Jayson Joseph Chacko wrote an excellent post with a set of terminal commands to get Adobe Flash installed. Thanks Jayson.
George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media has been really putting out some great online academic tools. They’re the ones behind the Zotero research extension for Firefox. Now they are developing some software for web sites like Omeka, an open source content management system for museum collections and exhibits, and ScholarPress, plugins designed to make WordPress more usable for college classes.
ScholarPress has two plugins right now, Courseware, for adding syllabi and assignments, and WPBook, a way of converting your WordPress blog as a Facebook Application. The two developers, Jeremey Boggs and Dave Lester, also host a podcast called THAT podcast and have posted a tutorial on using the Scholarpress plugins along with an interview with Matt Mullenweg as the first episode. I certainly admire them for the impressive amount of work they have put in to all of these projects and look forward to trying their tools out in the future. (via Photo Matt)
So I just got a Palm T|X from work at Los Angeles Urban League. One of the downsides of working in this part of LA is there isn’t a lot of free wi-fi points to make use of the Internet capabilities. Meanwhile, my current favorite app for the handheld so far is Google Maps for Palm. It’s application built on top of the web based maps, and works quite quickly. They also have a Pocket PC edition as well.