After months of sitting on my computer on a backless settee, I began to realize that my back has a spinal cord, and that it's made up of individual vertebrae.But that's not what this is about. While my new chair does indeed improve my posture, this is a new posturing using Posterous.com. I am writing this email using Gmail, sending it to email@example.com and attaching the photo of my new chair. After I hit the send button, I sit back in my chair. I expect Posterous will:
- Post this email and the photo to my Posterous blog http://socialgeek.posterous.com
- Post my photo to my Flickr photo stream
- Post my photo to my Picasa web albums
- Post this update to my Facebook account (I want to see how it does that, whether it just links, or uploads the photo, etc.)
- Post this email and photo to my WordPress.com blog – An Unquiet Mind
- Post this update to my Friendfeed, which will then tweet an update on Twitter as @SocialGeek
- Post this update as a tweet on Twitter as @Palsule
Just 1 Email. Now, let's see how it works!
I have been chosen to contribute to MakeUseOf.com on a trial basis. I have loved MUO since a long time, and I am eagerly looking forward to writing about “Cool Websites, Software and Internet Tips”.
MakeUseOf.com has 54K+ subscribers, and is part of PC Magazine’s “Top 50 Blogs”.
This is my first foray into professional writing since 1996. Wish me luck!
PS: Do you like the new About Myself?
I am not a graphic designer and do not have the dedication required to learn complex graphic applications like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. However, I do have an artistic itch. Hence when my wife endeavored to set up a business partnership for a corporate psychological training service firm, I endeavored to design their logo. It was a perfect opportunity for me to scour the graphic design application landscape on Windows for amateurs like me (or like myself?).
Paint.net is sometimes positioned as a free and better replacement to built-in Windows Paintbrush, but it is really something like Photoshop Lite. Packed in a tiny 1.6 MB package, this is truly great software considering that it is completely freeware. Check the screenshots here for a sample of what it can do.
Using its support for layers, unlimited undo, some special effects, and some great tutorials in their forum, this is what I came up with:
I know it’s not that good-looking, but hey, I’m an amateur!
Professional designers will tell you that logos should be designed as vector graphics, not as raster images like with Paint.net. This is so that they can be easily manipulated and scaled to suit different applications like web, print, etc. Adobe Illustrator and Coreldraw for example, are vector graphic imaging software. So how do you start without spending a penny on such expensive software?
Inkscape is a great open-source vector graphics application that was originally designed for Linux, but now runs on Windows too. Most of the digital graphics you see on Wikipedia are designed in Inkscape by volunteers. It takes some time getting used to working with vector graphics – for example, there is no ‘Eraser’ tool to quickly obliterate your mistakes and tweak your pixels, because there are no pixels here, only lines and curves – but it’s not difficult at all.
I also decided to get a bit creative on the logo concept. U Turn’s services all have their base in psychology. Now, the Greek letter Psi (Y) is the symbol of everything ‘psy’ – psychology, psychiatry, etc. So I wondered if I could make up Psi using U and T of U Turn:
So above are examples of some of the designs I’m proposing to the entrepreneurs. Would love to hear your feedback and suggestions as well.
If you do not want to install or learn any software, but are simply looking for a quick and dirty way to come up with some text-based logos primarily for use on the web, the following sites may interest you:
Note that logo design is a profound and complex subject. I have only focused on easy to use logo creation tools here. The design concepts, art, philosophy, and marketing strategy behind logo design is a fascinating topic by itself, and is out of bounds for this post.
Very few people I know blog about death. It is not a pleasant subject, and essentially, one reads blogs to be happy. But let’s face it, death is very real. Though cyberspace was once known as the virtual world, it is becoming increasingly real, and the overlap between online and offline is getting increasingly complex.
As bloggers, gamers, sellers, artists, online community participants – we are increasingly living very real online roles. We have our own avatars. Our own bookshelves. Our Facebook personae. Our LinkedIn profiles.
So what happens when we die? Death is sudden and unexpected for most people. What happens to their blogger friends? How do their Facebook or Orkut friends know? What about items they have put up on sale on eBay? What if they’re part of an open-source development community and are actively contributing to projects?
Don’t take this lightly. Sudden disappearance in the virtual world can cause a great deal of concern and have a wider impact than one may suspect. Our social world and legal systems take care of the eventualities in our offline life, but what about our online life when we really go offline? Who are the legal heirs of the copyrights to our creative digital content that we so meticulously safeguard?
CNET’s Technically Incorrect blog post inspired this post. It describes two website services that send out emails you’ve composed after you die. Deathswitch has a free account option with one recipient and no attachments. With a tagline of “Bridging Mortality”, it encourages you not to take your secrets to the grave. SlightlyMorbid does not have a free account, but has a “Free Trial”.
Startup Concept – WebGraveyard
- My GraveSpace – automatically imported social networking profiles like Facebook and MySpace
- My Memoirs – a diary of your blogs on Blogger/Wordpress
- My Graveiti – comments on your blog and by visitors to your eGrave
- My YouTomb – the videos you’ve uploaded to YouTube
- My Gallery – automatically imports your Picasa web albums, Flickr photos, etc.
- My GraveRoll – links to eGraves of your friends
- My Graveatar – automatically imported Gravatar
- GrMail – automated email reminders of significant events in your lifetime like anniversaries
- Users can import your birthdays and anniversaries into their Google Calendar or Outlook
- High-resolution gallery of Tombstones
- Templates for great Epitaphs
- Users can drag and drop flowers on your eGrave from an abundant gallery of beautiful arrangements
- GPod – automatically import and create a replica of your iPod
- Your favorite last.fm playlist plays in the background when visiting your eGrave
Any takers for funding this startup? Any more ideas how it can be made more ‘user-friendly and productive’?
For fun, I decided to add my restaurant in Google Maps. I found out there were two things I could do – add it as a Local Business via Google Maps, or use Google Mapmaker.
Adding Local Business to Google Maps
After logging in to my Google Account, Google Maps let me add a business listing from the left sidebar itself.
I could correct the location marker position easily by dragging it on the map. After entering all the relevant details like contact information, restaurant details, etc., I am done. Now comes the funny part – how does Google verify that I am indeed the owner of this business?
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that Google – the symbol of our high-tech age, the epitome of cloud computing – will send me a postcard via snail mail! I get a radio button (option button) but there’s no other way to choose. Can’t they verify simply by calling up on the telephone numbers I’ve provided?!
So now, I’ve to wait for “2-3 weeks”, and after receiving the PIN via snail mail, I get to verify and add my listing. I remember the last time I had to register for Internet Banking after opening a bank account in India!
Curiously, there’s a nice little feature that’s not prominent while using the Local Business Center site – Coupons! Coupons are not as popular in India as in the US, but because of the booming IT sector and entry of multinational (read American) pizza-majors, they’re gaining widespread even if limited use. Using Google’s Coupons, you can add a few lines of text, set an expiration date, and you’re good to go. Neat stuff.
Adding to Google Mapmaker
Adding to Google Mapmaker is simpler. Google Mapmaker seems to have a Wikipedian content authoring and moderating system.
After adding all the details, I now await for the moderator to approve my entry. Phew, no snail mail this time!
Now, I wonder if there is anything like Google Analytics to find out how many ‘hits’ my restaurant had on Google Maps – that would really be an interesting proposition…
In The Writing Meme, I had mentioned about using the right tools. Here are a few tools I’ve recently found.
Readability is a bookmarklet you can add to your browser toolbar to make web pages easy to read. For example, here is Thomas Friedman, with all the clutter of the NYTimes site:
Here is the same page with Readability:
TidyRead is very similar to Readability, but offers an ‘Option Bar’ at the top, where you can change display settings at will – this makes it very convenient and easy to use:
Practice Speed Reading
Free Online PDF to Word Converter
PDFToWord is a really cool site, when you want to easily convert PDF documents to word for editing. It retains all the formatting, tables, graphics, links, etc. making it quite indispensable if you often use both PDF and Word file formats. Oh, and you should have the Save as PDF extension to Office 2007.
Text Analysis Tools
There are a few shareware programs for analyzing text in terms of word counts, word frequency, etc. It is not-so-easy to find truly free programs, so here are a couple of options:
Text Statistics Generator is a bare-bones tool, giving you quick analysis of number of word occurrences. Here is the CPI(M) manifesto for the 2009 elections analyzed:
The excellent UsingEnglish.com site has an Advanced Text Analyzer, which I think is more useful. The caveat: to use the advanced features, you have to be a registered member of their site (registration is free).
Here’s the CPI(M) Manifesto word cloud:
Why use text analyzers? Website designers using SEO techniques need to identify keywords that they can use to maximize site traffic and ad revenue. The SEO philosophy is use targeted keywords as frequently as you can to improve your search engine rankings.
As a writer, I find these tools useful the other way around. Often, I find myself overusing a word in an article. Word frequency analysis can help identify which words and phrases you’re overusing in your writing. Maybe that’s the time you need a thesaurus!
If you find any of these tools useful, or have other ones to share, please feel free to comment.
If you’re like me, you’ve been fingerprinted when entering or leaving the United States as a foreigner. Then you knew that the US government had you identified by everything you ever touched in the US. Whether it be a snack bar in a supermarket or your touching your date’s face before he/she was found murdered.
Now, the anti-criminalization policies have gone one step further. Forget foreigners. If you are a suspect in a crime and are arrested, the US government has the cheek to swab your inside cheek to take a sample of your DNA to add to their database. Forget if you’re guilty or not. That is apparently immaterial.
I’m surprised that all the privacy groups who worry about Internet data gathering, browser cookies, browsing history, online search history records, etc. by Google and other software companies are keeping mum about this issue. This is your DNA we’re talking about – nothing can be more personal than that. And to let the government collect and store your DNA even if you’re innocent – what more intrusion of privacy can there be? Is that how socio-cultural issues work – the Internet makes news, conventional stuff doesn’t?
In other news, you can now (apparently) check if you suffer from bipolar disorder by ordering a test “spit kit” from Psynomics. They will test your DNA and will mail you the test results. We already have pregnancy tests for women, sugar-level tests for diabetics, and blood pressure checkers readily available even in third-world countries like India. Is technology moving diagnosis more and more from physicians to consumers? Will consumers be able to assess if they need a cardiac bypass surgery or an appendectomy by themselves? Will physician’s diagnoses become obsolete some day in the future? Something to ponder about.
A grand idea, considered improbable by most. Gaining publicity last month, was the proposed plan of German entrepreneurs to build the world’s largest structure – a pyramid shaped tomb to contain the remains of millions of people of all faiths from all over the world.
The Friends of the Great Pyramid say:
The Great Pyramid can potentially be any human being’s grave or memorial site. As monumental as it is affordable, it serves those of all nationalities and religions. Individuals who are either unwilling or unable to have their ashes buried there can also opt to have a memorial stone placed instead. Stones can be custom designed with any number of colors, images, or relief decorations. The Great Pyramid will continue to grow with every stone placed, eventually forming the largest structure in the history of man.
And regarding it becoming the largest building in the world:
The Great Pyramid grows brick by brick; its structure of rock-solid concrete receptacles and memorial stones is set to outlast the coming millennia. Each tomb container will contain an urn with the ashes of a deceased, while memorial stones hold capsules containing other remembrances.
All stones are identical in size and are positioned at random in the Great Pyramid. After only few thousand stones have been laid, the Great Pyramid will have reached massive proportions. Even if only a small percentage of all current and future living decide on a Great Pyramid stone, the monument will outsize the Giza Pyramids very soon. In only a few decades it will be the largest structure our civilization has ever built.
They have secured $122,600 (£60,000) in state funding, estimate it would take about 30 years to be completed, with each burial costing about $960 (€700). Pritzker-winning Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas is heading the jury for choosing a final design for the project. Not everyone is optimistic about the proposal though.
The Washington Times says:
The improbable plan is based on the idea that people will pay to have their ashes encased in the concrete blocks used to construct the monument. Millions of people would have to sign up to make it viable, though if the team behind it is successful, they will be rich beyond the wildest dreams of even the most ambitious pharaoh.
However, the pyramid idea has not been universally welcomed by residents in the next door village of Streetz. “We don’t want to live next to the world’s biggest graveyard,” one inhabitant was quoted as saying last week.
Gizmodo also contemplates that in 30 years, who would want to fly their remains to Germany when one could fly them in space?
I actually liked the idea in some ways, though it is true that it does seem improbable. If mankind were to extinguish itself by nuclear holocaust or climatic destruction, there would hardly be any signs left of its existence on planet earth. The larger the structures we build, the larger the probability that alien probes would sense man-made structures on earth after our demise. Ah! But that’s romanticizing, just like Friends of the Great Pyramid!
(Image Credits: Friends of the Great Pyramid)