Tala Ko

Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

One of our consultants installed two FOSS Content Management Systems in his own server so we could play around with them. Here are the notes I took while doing just that:

MODx: Manager users cannot log in from the front; Web users can’t log in from the back. Moderators/Admins need both a Manager and a Web account.
WordPress: No need to switch between accounts when working in front or out back.
MODx: Supports Page Parents and Children, with a nice tree that shows the numbering of each page.
WordPress: Also supports Page Families, but without a numbered tree. HOWEVER, it more easily allows URL customization.
MODx: Has an Import HTML function, which might make transition from static to CMS-based easier.
WordPress: Does not have Import HTML. :/
MODx: Requires you to learn MODx tags to add certain things.
WordPress: As far as I can tell, you’ll be fine with the usual languages.
MODx: Need to write a template.
WordPress: Need to write a template.
We’ve decided on MODx upon the consultant’s recommendation, though. The interface could be a little easier to navigate, but the overall system makes it easier to do what we want to do. Anyone here who’s got experience using these CMS’s?
Of course, we’ll be back to square one on the search for a free CMS if the server doesn’t support SQL (I already know that it supports PHP). :p It isn’t a Linux server, that I know for sure. :(
The funny thing is, I found out that most of us younger people on the web team are pretty supportive of FOSS. But IT ordered us computers that run Windows, because the rest of the office uses Windows. *sigh*
Maybe one day, I can tell someone in Admin how much money we could save if we all just used Ubuntu. :D
People at the office are starting to ask us how the website is coming along, and when they’ll be able to see it. I don’t have the heart to say that it’ll take a little longer, as we still have to figure out the CMS stuff. And we’re also redesigning!
Hmph. I wish I had something for Tala other than work stuff, but most of the tech I encounter these days is encountered at work. I’m going to go look for Clips. :p
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Okay. Been working for over a week now, and I haven’t had time to blog. I have the rest of my lunch break to finish this post, though. :)

I started using Google Notebook today and found it to be a great way for me to stay organized.

The little planner that I bring along with me has turned out to be too little to contain everything that I have to scribble down. It’s gotten messy, too. The other thing I did before Google Notebook was to create all these text files, and that got messy, as well.

The first thing that turned up in my search was a blog post about Google Notebook. I actually thought, ‘Not another Google thing.’ I wanted a little variety, and besides, the description didn’t match what I thought I needed – a web-based form of Post-It notes. But after bookmarking websites kept turning up in the search results, in the end, I found myself back at Google Notebook.

Screencap Google Notes

As you can see, I have two Notebooks in my Google Notebook account: one for work things and one for personal, when-you’re-not-at-work things (including topics for blog posts, haha). And inside each Notebook, I have notes, of course.

Organization is pretty simple. With a few simple clicks and drags, they can be reordered as I like. Each note can be labeled ala GMail labels, so that I can view all notes of one label at a time, regardless of which sub-Notebook it’s in (In WordPress terms, Categories:Notebooks as Tags:Labels).

After a while, I realized that its system would keep me a lot more organized than a lot of little yellow squares on the screen. I’ll be using it to

EDIT:

I have no memory of how that sentence was supposed to end. This post was all but done. But when I clicked Publish, the next screen I saw was something from a URL filter telling me that I wasn’t allowed to access the site because it was a blog. I’d been typing away for a good half hour till then. >:p When I logged on again here at the house, I saw that the draft hadn’t been saved completely.

I know that the Webwasher thingy is a program, not a person. But come on. It was break time. :p

Not only blogging, but also chatting, instant messaging, and web radio are filtered out. For a little over a week, I was able to use Twitter every now and then, but that, too, was eventually blocked. I understand that URL filters keep people from looking at dangerous or distracting sites. I just wish that the one at the office would get its ratings/definitions right.

Plain-text lyrics websites are blocked because they’re “Entertainment/Movie.” Wikipedia is blocked, because it’s a “Newsgroup/Blog!” Twitter was blocked because it was a “Dating/Relationships” site. It’s not. Technically, it’s more of a “Chat/Instant Messaging” site, but that’s not the point. Now I’m wondering if they’ll accuse me of online dating on the job. :p

I’d also like to use Chikka to send business texts, because I don’t want to pay to do part of my job. :/

I think what smarts the most is that using a filter implies that we can’t be trusted. Why not just get a simpler porn and mal-ware blocker? Sure, every now and then, I might look up someone’s blog or fire off a Tweet. But I’m not going to do that all day; after all, “no work, no pay” is an actual phrase in my contract. Just knowing that my computer faces a wall, and that anyone passing by can see what’s on my screen, is enough to make sure I don’t change windows for more than five minutes. What’s more is, I actually don’t want to do any blogging myself, at the office; it’s something I want to save for my own time. But it’s nice to know I’d have the option on, say, a slow day.

I know Portable Apps has been around for a while. In February, I wanted to present my thesis using OpenOffice.org Impress – to Impress them with Impress, so to speak. Because my thesis was about FOSS, I wanted to go from start to finish using FOSS. But because I didn’t have a laptop from which to give my slide show, I had to borrow my roommate’s Windows-running unit.

There had to be some way for me to use the program short of actually installing Impress (she didn’t have that much hard drive space left). First, I tried PenDrive Linux, but the window displayed was too small. Then, I tried a portable version of Impress, but it ran too slowly on my roomie’s laptop. I was forced to use her PowerPoint. The presentation went fine, but I can’t help thinking that it would have made more of an impact if the panelists had seen an actual FOSS program at work.

Anyway, last bit of backstory yakking. My mom has me do simple graphic design work from time to time. Recently, she asked if I could whip something up for her Ladies Club back home. I couldn’t seem to find enough time at my relatives’ desktop PC (there are four of us competing for time) to do the work, but I knew that I’d be hanging out at my uncle’s office for most of the day. (Job interview at a building near his office.)

The same dilemma came up as I copied my files into my flash drive. My uncle would need his computer, but in the past, he’d let me use a spare laptop at the office. There wasn’t a lot of space left in its hard drive, though, so I couldn’t install the GIMP. Anyway, I didn’t like the idea of installing a program on a computer that wasn’t mine – even if I cleaned up afterwards. What was I to do?

After a quick search for a portable version of the GIMP, I found myself back at Portable Apps. I installed GIMP Portable, popped my flash disk into the spare laptop’s USB drive, and voila! The GIMP was running just as smoothly and as quickly as it did on my own CPU, without a hiccup. I finished the design in a few hours, and I left my uncle’s laptop clean.

Portable GIMPing

The ease and speed of everything has me wondering next about what other applications I should bring along with me. I can’t help remembering, though, how slow the portable Impress was on my roommate’s laptop. How do I know it won’t happen wherever I bring my portable programs?

Also, I can’t seem to find any information on the site regarding RAM. I can’t remember whether I got that version of Impress from Portable Apps or whether I’d simply used the installer at OpenOffice.org. Is Impress a larger program than the GIMP? Or did GIMP Portable run fine on my uncle’s laptop simply because he had 1Gb of RAM? I can’t remember how much memory my roomie had on her laptop, but my own desktop has only 384 Mb.

Be right back. To check these things out is the perfect excuse to download Firefox Portable. :)

… and whether it’s a great speaker.

The Story

My dad decided to take my CPU with us when our family went home from Manila. The initial idea was to just take my hard drive – to keep it safe, he said – but when he had trouble removing it from the case, he decided that we should just take the whole thing along. :p

I’m glad, because at our house, one computer’s not big enough for all of us. With a spare monitor and some spare peripherals, my computer was soon up and running. This decreased arguments over who got to use the sala terminal first by 100%, hahaha.

We didn’t have spare speakers, though, and I missed working with music on in the background. I had earphones, but because I wanted to preserve my hearing, I opted not to use them as often. Also, I wanted to listen to some old cassette tapes, but the cassette player wasn’t working.

The Actual Review

I spotted the DKNH MD-305 or Mini Sound Box in a mall kiosk. This lightweight speaker is just a little bigger than a ping pong ball, making it extremely portable. It comes in two colors: yellow and orange. It fits my PC, MP3 player, and old Walkman just fine (yay – my cassettes aren’t dead yet). And, it has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Most importantly, the sound quality is decent: 3/5 or 4/5, depending on whose ears are in the room. For the PHP 290 price (roughly USD 6.50), I’m pretty happy.

Connected to the portable cassette player

The only trouble I’ve had is with the instructions on the package. The product is numbered MD-305; the package is numbered DK-305. More importantly, it doesn’t say where the product was made. The only clue – not a very good one – is that the instructions themselves are in poorly translated English. It took me a while to realize that my speaker was recharged via USB.

This brings me to battery life: there’s nothing in the instructions about it. On the speaker itself, there’s a little green light bulb, but it hasn’t gone off in hours. No, I haven’t road tested the thing, but my hunch (if you know better, please guide) is that the sound quality degrades as the battery dies. Most of the time, it’s connected to the USB drive, anyway.

Hooked up to the CPU

Ah, yes. Recharging the speaker is troublesome because of some poor design: the jack for the sound is perpendicular to the speaker’s USB connector. Unless you’ve got a short extension cable for your USB drive (thanks, Dad), you won’t be listening and charging at the same time.

Overall, I’d give the Mini Sound Box (not at all box-like, haha) a 3.5/5. It does the job well enough, and that’s the important thing. But its manufacturers would do well to clear up the labels that provide basic and necessary information.

Check this out!

CleVR (created before Flickr, in case you’re wondering) is a free, online host for panoramic pictures. Upload your pan, then wait for the Flash viewer to load. You can scroll in different directions, zoom in and out of the pans, and embed them ala YouTube in other sites.

Unfortunately, WordPress won’t let me embed a sample in this entry. You’ll have to see for yourself at the main site. :/

You can also explore the site to look at other people’s panoramas, so it’s a great, fun way to share and see the places you’ve been. Just take care that your panoramas are safe for work and children, because there aren’t any privacy options in case you’d like to restrict viewing. :p

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