Friday, March 28, 2008

Intuitive To Do List with Time Tracking.

A great (completely freeware) program is ToDoList Resources. It does time tracking through an on/off button for each task (the tiny clockface by the "Time Spent" field is the on/off button. Here's a screenshot of the main program, followed by a screenshot of the time options dialogue box:

Here's a complete review of this great program.

Allnetic Working Time Tracker is another favorite if you want your time tracking to be more automated. Read on, or visit the Allnetic Time Tracking page.You can download the most recent version as shareware (30-day limit) or purchase for about $30.

Time management vs. Time Tracking

I've always found lots of benefits to time management and time tracking in particular, but not found a tool that was both simple, intuitive and powerful enough for all my needs. Lots of people don't enjoy time tracking, and I think the tools are partly to blame.

I've tried online and downloadable versions of lots of similar programs off and on for years, and the AllNetic Working Time Tracker is my favorite. I even coded up a custom program when I couldn't find anything I liked (but this is better).
My review? I love how easy and intuitive this thing is. For example, it pops up "Looks like you stopped working a while ago; how would you like to account for recent time" and then gives you useful one-click choices. Of course, it also runs automatically, allows creating reports and invoices, and much more.
It pops up either manually or automatically from the Windows notification area (what Microsoft used to call the system tray), those tiny icons in the bottom right of your screen on Windows systems. And you can run it in it's own Window for working with reports or setting up projects with subtasks.
Time tracking is done separately for each task on a project. You choose a task you are working on and switch on the time tracking.
Just try it! You won't need the manual. Download the shareware version and give it a go. Here are a few screenshots:

Read more!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Puns from

Members on Digg often compete to contribute the best puns and jokes. Here are some highlights from a recent post on puns. The Diggers contributions are ALL better than those in the actual article, in my opinion.

I've put the longer ones at the bottom, and edited out any I didn't think were that good. I've also included a selection of my favorite spoonerisms from the fun with words site (at the end of this post).

Top short puns:

  • Feminine hygiene jokes are the lowest form of humor. Period.
  • I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.
  • Radio Shack is giving away dead batteries. Free of charge.
  • Q: What do you call a psychic fugitive midget? A: A small medium at large.
  • A termite walks into a bar and says "Where's the bar tender?"
  • Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He's all right now.
  • I couldn't quite remember how to throw a boomerang, but eventually it came back to me.
  • A three-legged dog walks into a saloon and says: "I'm here to find the man that shot my paw" This one also made it as a poster:
A nurse is making her rounds at the hospital, she goes to make a notation on a patient's chart and pulls a thermometer from behind her ear. Looking at the thermometer she exclaims "Some asshole has my pen!"

Longer jokes:

A bayman was walking home after collecting seagull eggs to throw at mating dolphins near his home. He sees a sleeping lion on the path and slowly steps over it. He is immediately arrested. "What's the charge?" The man asks. "You were transporting young gulls over a sedate lion for immoral porpoises!"

A cowboy walks into a bar and orders a whiskey. As the bartender pours it for him he sees the place is empty. He says to the bartender "I know I'm new in town, but this place seems dead."
The bartender says "I reckon everyone is up at the hanging."
Cowboy asks "Who are they hanging?"
Bartender responds "The law finally caught up with ol' Brown Paper Pete."
Cowboy: "Brown Paper Pete? What kind of a name is that?"
Bartender: "You've never heard of him? He's notorious around these parts! Wears brown paper pants, brown paper shirt, brown paper vest, he's even got a brown paper hat."
Cowboy: "Now ain't that a caution. What are they hangin' him for?"
Bartender: "Rustlin'."

There's this guy looking for a job. By the way, this guy has no arms. So, he's looking through the wanted ads and sees that someone is needed to ring the bell in the church. So he's like, "I can ring the bell in the church!" So he runs over to the church and asks this priest if he can have the job. But the priest is like, "You have no arms! How can you ring the bell?" So the armless man runs up a dizzying six flights of stairs. Then he backs up, concentrates, and runs headfirst into the bell and rings it with his face. So now the priest is stunned and says, "Well, I guess since you rang the bell, you can have the job..."
Three months has gone by and twelve times a day this guy has to run up six flights of stairs and smash his face into this bell. The guy looks like a pancake.... So like he normally does, the pancake man goes up the stairs and runs at the bell BUT--he misses. He runs straight past the bell and goes flying over the side of the bell tower; splattered all over the sidewalk. So this big crowd of people comes around and they're all shouting, "OH MY GOSH, WHO FELL FROM THE BELL TOWER?!" So this guy bends down and looks at his demented head and says, "I don't know his name, but his face rings a bell!"

Soon after another armless man inquires if he can fill the now vacant role of bell ringer. The priest asks why yet another limbless man wants to be climb all those stairs and smash his face into the bell. The man replies that the original bell-ringer was his brother and he continue his brother's work. The priest grudgingly accepts. As before, the man runs up the six flights of stairs and smashes his face into the bell. All is well until the new man also misses the bell and tumbles to his death.

Aghast, the townsfolk ask the priest for the identity of the mysterious deceased stranger. "I don't know," replies the priest, "but he's a dead ringer for his brother."

Spoonerisms overheard (from Fun With Words):
  • Cat flap (Flat cap)
  • Bad salad (Sad ballad)
  • Soap in your hole (Hope in your soul)
  • Mean as custard (Keen as mustard)
  • Plaster man (Master plan)
  • Pleating and humming (Heating and plumbing)
  • Trim your snow tail (Trim your toe nails)
  • Birthington's washday (Washington's Birthday)
  • Trail snacks (Snail tracks)
  • Bottle in front of me (Frontal Lobotomy)
  • Sale of two titties (Tale of two cities)
  • Rental Deceptionist (Dental Receptionist)
  • Flock of bats (Block of flats)
  • Chewing the doors (Doing the chores)
And ... a great collection of humorous sayings.

Read more!

Build community around topics of importance with Drupal

This is about creating a site that lets people submit news and links and let visitors vote on which should gain the most visibility. It's a way of building a community around a topic of significance.

Many hosts will set this up for you in literally seconds (free: it's open source) with a one-click install (typically of Pligg).
You can use a site like this as a step beyond blogging, where you submit synopses on topics of interest, and link to sites with news or information.

Recommendation on how to start:

Install Pligg, then upgrade to Drupal with Drigg if you get popular. Drigg (in early 2008) will import your Pligg data.

If you're more savvy, start with Drigg running on Drupal. Here's an excellent site built with Drigg running on Drupal. I could provide a lot of the competing recommendations on this, but I decided instead to cut to the chase. I did several hours of research. Your main choices appear to be:

There are lots of other choices as well, these are the main ones. Summary: Pligg is buggy but widely available as a one-click install, Joomla not enough useful modules for this purpose and more challenging to customize compared to Drupal (though Joomla is a little easier "out of the box").

Why use Drupal?

Drupal is also one of the best documented open-source projects out there, won an award for Overall 2007 best Open Source CMS, was overall winner of the Webware 100 Awards, etc. Also, Drupal is an old-timer; Drupal began just as the internet was heating up. Drupal is more secure than WordPress (for comparison).

Okay, who am I kidding? Wordpress is hacked and hacked. Because it's too popular, and follows what is essentially an insecure upgrade process. Automatic (the name of the group that provided Wordpress developers) don't provide bug and security patches for previous releases --Drupal does. Upgrades often break or change things, and need to be tested first (and users need training on changes), so security patches need to be provided for previous versions. Updates affecting users need to be in addition to security patches that let technicians secure the software without affecting users or plug-ins. Wordpress needs to leave the Update or Die philosophy. You can harden Wordpress against attack, but it's a lot of work.

Plus, who wants to fail when they become a success? Drupal can handle your site and community becoming as successful as you can imagine. (If you start small, never grow and then give up--it really doesn't matter where you start.) Drupal powers major sites such as:
  • United Nations
  • Warner Bros
  • Discovery Channel
  • AOL
  • Sony
  • NATO
  • MTV UK
  • BBC
  • the Onion
  • NASA
  • Greenpeace UK
  • New York Observer
There are books written about using Drupal too. You can read excerpts from books about Drupal at Google Book Search. Here are many examples of sites using Drupal, an even larger list of sites, and information about using Drupal in academia.

Comparing Drupal to Joomla

Here's two detailed comparisons of Joomla vs. Drupal from late 2007 (here's the second Joomla-Drupal comparison). Here are some quotes I found around the web:

"Drupal, [is for] web sites that are "highly dynamic" in nature, "community-driven," with lots of interaction. Whereas Joomla is for what he calls "brochure web sites", that are more static in nature (less dynamic)."

"Joomla provides a good first impression, which tends to wane as you dig deeper into the program. Drupal is just the oppsite. It provides a poor first impression ("initially left a bad taste in my mouth"), yet becomes more appealing the deeper you dig."

"1. Drupal is a 'developer's' CMS. You'll find that the Drupal community is packed full of php geeks, but you'll rarely find good designers. That's because Drupal offers incredible possibilities in terms of what you can do with modifying the code. Less designers involved means less beautiful themes...and as a designer, myself, I too find this frustrating. My solution has always been: just build your own themes.

2. Joomla is easier to use, involves less coding, and is more popular than Drupal. This means that coders don't flock to it...but designers do. This fact yields more beautiful stock themes because there's more designers working on the project, and it's a bigger market for them to work in. "

Comparing Drupal to Pligg

Here are few quotes from around the web that I found useful:

August 12th, 2007
Drupal has already modules to set up a social news /bookmarking plattform and it is great! We tested pligg but it was too buggy. No problems with Drupal.
April 18th, 2007
You can install Drupal (as a designer or non-programmer) and have a feature rich site in under an hour. Developing for Drupal takes me less time than fixing the issues in Pligg that managed to escape testing. I’ve been working with Drupal long enough now to jump into developing my own modules and features quickly.
The downside? Drupal requires learning, experience and clean PHP development. You don’t just install Drupal and start coding.
April 20th, 2007
Unfortunately, we soon found out how beta Pliggs code truly was and ended up having to almost completely rebuild the way pligg handled voting, searching, tag handling, URLs, live viewing, tag clouds, multimedia and stories. Some of these issues revolved around Pliggs inability to support usernames with spaces, something VBulletin allows. Our implementation authenticates using the VBulletin system so many functions that display the username had to be tweaked in order to allow for spaces.
It is of no fault of Pliggs and we would still recommend the software to anyone that simply wants to clone diggs features. In fact the crew over at are constantly adding new feature sets and fixing bugs so I’m sure it is only a matter of time before they release a truly stable and semantic version.
Our biggest struggle was with Pligg and its instability. Running a few releases of the Pligg beta proved to be a large amount of work when it came time to update to a later revision. All of our code had to be migrated (in some cases line-by-line) because of the dramatic changes. In the end, old bugs were fixed but new bugs arrived that we had to handle.
What else can you do with Drupal?

At last count, there were almost 3,500 modules in over 30 categories.
One of my favorite modules is CiviMail, which provides advanced mailing list management. This is an example of how there is powerful free software you can only use when operating on a CRM platform such as Drupal--you can buy standalone software to do this, but there is nothing else as powerful that is free without using Drupal.

Beyond modules in categories you'd expect to find (at bottom) there are categories such as:
  • Organic Groups
  • Evaluation/rating
  • Event
  • Location
  • Commerce / advertising
  • Mail
  • Media
  • Syndication
  • Community
.. and expected categories such as Developer, Import/export, Javascript Utilities, Paging, Administration, CCK, Content, Content display, Filters/editors, Multilingual, 3rd party integration, RDF, Search, Security, Taxonomy, Theme related, User access/authentication, User management, Utility, Views, e-Commerce, and File management.

Read more!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Freedom: Work for yourself, or work for others?

I think you'll find this contrary compared to most of what is written, but that's because most of what you'll find is either a sales pitch or written by the top 1% of entrepreneurs. (Just by being successful as an entrepreneur you are in the minority.)

Most entrepreneurs are definitely very unsmart about what it takes to succeed. Self-defeating habits and ignorance take them down. Which means when writing about how worthwhile being entrepreneurial is, you have to explain problem-solving better than most articles do.

Lack of stability is a huge impediment to freedom. Sure, working for someone else has its frustrations, but for most people, there is more freedom in working for someone else. Stability, health care, etc. Be careful selling "freedom: as the reason for entrepreneurship.

Another sales pitch for entrepreneurship is the fear of your stability being in someone else's hands if you work for someone else. But losing your job and looking for another job is basically the experience of entrepreneurship. Tons of startups fail. Having a job in this sense is neither better nor worse than entrepreneurship.

If you're really, really good at finding another job, you have demonstrated entrepreneurial skills. (Possibly by using this great list of Resume Action Verbs.) But why not keep putting them to use giving yourself the greater freedom of working for someone else?

Quick test before going into business for yourself: are you running away from something, or running toward something? Very, very few people make changes for something better. Most make changes to get away from something they don't like, and end up throwing out the baby with the bath water. If you are setting out on a major life change and don't have gratitude for what you have now, you'll likely be ignorant of both what you're losing, and what challenges you'll be facing.

If you're facing major changes (unintentionally or intentionally), a great resource is How to Master Change in Your Life: 67 Ways to Handle Life's Toughest Moments by Mary Carroll Moore. Joan Borysenko reviewed it as "Real-life help for everything from spiritual crisis to changing careers - all given in a humorous, down-to-earth manner."

Read more!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Get (and give) free help on computer issues

If you have a friend or family member you would like to help with computer issues (Mac or PC), get a remote connection to their computer and insist they let you help them by connecting remotely. It means you will have a screen that allows you to operate their computer as if you are sitting in front of it. Who hasn't tried to help someone over the phone with a computer problem at one time? Now it's much easier.

My opinion? Family members that keep in touch with each other should set this up immediately, and encourage others to do so. You never know when a computer emergency can come up.

SUMMARY: Set up a free connection to anyone you help with computer issues, Mac or PC, allowing you to operate their computer as if you were sitting in front of it. Great for family members to help one another. Also allows you to OPERATE YOUR OWN COMPUTER WHEN YOU CAN'T BE THERE IN PERSON.

The problem with computers is that it's very hard to help someone when you aren't at the computer with them. Accidental misunderstandings are so common as to be the nail in the coffin for most people trying to help, but different experience levels, and poor understanding about how support is best provided are also factors.

But nowadays you can connect to a friend or family member's computer for free, and operate their computer as if you were sitting in front of it. You open a special window in your browser, which shows you the remote computer screen.

Options for getting started

I prefer LogMeIn Free for this, although Windows XP users can use Remote Desktop, which is built into XP, and can be accessed from Windows 95 or later. It runs in your internet browser and lets you see the remote computer on your screen. Typical uses include :

  • Helping a friend with a program you use but they are new to;
  • Something you know how to do but they have yet to learn;
  • Experienced user helping a novice user with computer skills;
  • Friends and family helping one another figure things out together.
Most importantly, LogMeIn Free has excellent security (best among alternatives -- whitepaper). Either create a new account and add computers to it, or add your computer to someone else's account. Part of the security is that you will need one username and password to log into, and then a second username and password to connect to a remote computer.

Sign up and usage tips
  1. Be careful not to sign up for a trial of a product costing money, if what you want is the free version. Click this link for the free version of LogMeIn. Uncheck any boxes offering free trials. You just want free, period. You can always switch to a for-pay product later if you want to.
  2. Have the most computer savvy person in the family sign up first, and put everyone else in the family on that same account. (You will still be able to let "outsider" experts access computers if you wish.)
  3. If possible, have someone familiar with LogMeIn show you the ropes. There are buttons on the interface that allow you to Ctrl-Alt-Del and to speed up the internet connection by using less colors.'
  4. Read these tech tips for fixes to some common annoyances.
  5. Don't forget to let people who want to help you connect when you need it!
Are you giving up too much of yourself? Or will you do more with less?

An inevitable question: are you becoming more, or less of an over-connected techno-addict by doing this? Answer: less. I spend a LOT less time on the phone helping folks, even though I actually help them MORE often. I encourage people to call me so I can fix things BEFORE they get out of hand. A couple minutes connecting remotely is much better than confusing, hour-long calls that don't always even resolve anything. So, yes, I do encourage people to call for smaller things, and so far that has meant I spend LESS time and am MORE effective.

As always, click the big blue call me button in the sidebar, or leave a comment if you'd like some help. Once you are comfortable with the LogMeIn interface, encourage others to get connected. It's a better world when we all help one another!

Read more!