Tag: howto (page 2 of 4)

HOWTO: Google Scholar email alerts

I’ve explained beforeย how to use Google Scholar to do some of the heavy lifting for you when doing academic work. In this post I want to show briefly how you can get email alerts on ย specific search terms. It’s easy! ๐Ÿ™‚

Once you’ve done that, simply fill in the boxes:

You can access Google Scholar at http://scholar.google.com

***BONUS*** I found out after writing this post that the Google Scholar team have launched their official blog. Their first post covers what I’ve mentioned above. But I still think showing rather than telling is better… :-p

Surviving to thriving: 10 steps to ensure you remain productive after a rough night.

Introduction

Whether it’s being woken up several times by our children, the eternal racket of noisy neighbours, or simply going to bed late and sleeping restlessly, we’ve all been in the situation where we need to be productive after a rough night.

These 10 steps help me be productive after a rough night. I hope they work for you too! ๐Ÿ˜€

1. Don’t snooze

The likelihood is that if you’re having a rough night you’ll probably wake up half an hour to an hour before your usual waking-up time. Get up! Whilst it’s tempting to stay in bed, snoozing actually has a worse effect on your productivity than getting up and getting on with your day.

You can always go to bed early at the other end!

2. Have a cold(er) shower

I remember reading in Men’s Health magazine that having a cold shower after running or a work-out helps your muscles to recover more quickly. It also stimulates your skin. In fact, I end every shower that I have with a quick burst of freezing cold water. This means that even in the middle of winter the bathroom seems warm…

In terms of our current focus, a cold (or colder) shower stimulates your skin and makes you feel a bit more alive/human. It gives you a jolt similar to a double espresso… ๐Ÿ˜‰

3. Bounce!

My wife’s got a mini-trampoline. It was a bit of a fad: she’d bounce during watching Friends back in the day. I noticed that she would always seem happier afterwards, but attributed this to watching comedy.

In fact, research shows that bouncing stimulates the brain and releases endorphins. You may not have a trampoline, but you can bounce on the spot. Aim for 100 bounces – it’s enough to make you slightly out-of-breath and feel a lot better!

4. Focus on others

The chances are that if you’ve had a rough night then anyone else you live with will have done as well. Focus on them. Make sure they’re OK. The last thing you want to do is have an argument with people you live with and care about because you’re both tired.

Do something nice for them – make them breakfast, iron their clothes, smile at them – whatever. The very act of focusing on someone other than yourself will make you feel better.

5. Eat carbs

If you’re anything like me you’ll be tempted to head for something sweet for breakfast the morning after a rough night. It’s the sugar your body’s craving. Instead of heading for the leftovers of last night’s dessert, choose something that will stand you in good stead for the day.

Try some muesli, perhaps with some fruit. Not a big fan? Eat lots of toast. The carbohydrates will release energy slowly, keeping you productive until you next meal. Choose sugar, and you’ll suffer from blood sugar spikes and troughs, making a bad situation worse.

6. Write down two things to achieve today

You might have a to-do list as long as your arm, but focus on just two things to achieve before you get back into bed for that much-anticipated next sleep. Perhaps during your breakfast write down something to achieve before lunch and then another thing to achieve before you head home for the day.

Slimming down your to-do list and focusing on just a couple of goals means that you will feel the sense of achievement experienced when you complete something worthwhile.

7. Clear your mind during your commute

If you usually listen to the radio or your favourite music, it’s worth abstaining today. Silence is best but repetitive, fairly nondescript music works as well. Think about the two things you need to get done today and think about how to achieve them.

Another thing to do is to let go. It’s easy to be overcome with negative emotions when you’re tired. Let go of frustrations, anger and other negativities that would otherwise affect your productivity.

8. Stick to routines

It’s tempting to try and cut corners when you’re tired, to avoid doing the routine so you can get to the things you’ll be judged on and held accountable for. But those routine tasks are there for a reason: they underpin everything else that you do. So don’t ignore them. Stick to, for example, keeping things tidy, in order, email answered and making your presence known.

The idea is to move from surviving to thriving. Without the routines and workflows that underpin your productive system, you’ll end up in productivity ‘negative equity’. Which is not a good place to be. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

9. Take a caffeine nap

I’ve written before about how useful caffeine naps can be. The idea’s a simple one: drink a cup of coffee, close your eyes and relax for 15 minutes, wake up and get on with the rest of your day. I find they work best early afternoon an hour or so after lunch.

Even if you don’t go to sleep properly, you will experience moments where you’re not completely awake and you’ll certainly rest your eyes and relax. Then, just as you open your eyes the caffeine will be kicking in and you’ll be ready for the rest of the day! ๐Ÿ˜€

10. Read before bed

The biggest thing to avoid when you’ve had a rough night is not to have another one immediately afterwards. Whilst bouncing back from one rough night’s sleep is eminently do-able given the advice above, two in a row can kill your productivity until the next weekend.

Don’t look at screens for the hour before you go to bed. Hit the hay earlier than usual. Read something that will take your mind off things. Relax.

Conclusion

Do these work for you? Do you do anything different? Share you experiences and advice in the comments section below! ๐Ÿ™‚

CC BY-NC-SA crashbangsqueak

Using a Sony Reader PRS-600 to make notes on academic articles.

I’ve been very impressed with my Sony Reader PRS-600 since I got it last week. It’s a great device for reading, highlighting and taking notes on academic articles. Since before I couldn’t find much useful video on how the highlighting and note-taking functionality works, I’ve quickly put together the above two minutes by way of demonstration.

Hope it helps. ๐Ÿ™‚

Note: those reading via RSS/email may need to click through to see the video – or view it on YouTube!

HOWTO: Create iTunes audiobooks from MP3s

I’ve been getting into audiobooks recently, but have been frustrated that they’ve been in MP3 format. I want them in iTunes audiobook format!*ย This article explained most of what I cover in the screencast below, but I’m delighted to have figured out how to use Automator on Mac OSX to make the file-renaming a whole lot less tedious… ๐Ÿ™‚

*As I explain in the video, having them in audiobook format rather than MP3 allows you to ‘bookmark’ a chapter if you don’t finish it. With MP3s you would have to start from the beginning again or fast-forward…

A quick way to add a ‘sparkline’ to your blog.

See that little graph thing at the bottom of this blog? It’s called a sparkline and shows the number of visitor over the last month. Here’s how to add one to your own blog, courtesy of Google Analytics and a WordPress plugin!

The only slightly tricky bit is replacing:

http://www.google.com/xxxxxxxxxx

with

http://chart.apis.google.com/xxxxxxxxxx

It shows you how to do it here, but it over-complicates things and is slightly out-of-date.

If you want to brush up on your HTML, you could do worse than this guide! ๐Ÿ˜€

Got a blog? Do this simple thing to boost your readership.

Image CC BY derrickkwa @ Flickr
Image CC BY derrickkwa @ Flickr

I tried to do something very simple yesterday. Surprisingly, it caused me a bit of a headache. What was it? I just wanted to subscribe to some blogs via email.

Why would I want to subscribe to blogs via email? Well, for all I love Feedly, I have to go to a different location to access this. This involves a physical and conceptual shift. Making blog posts (or links to them) appear in my email inbox means I can’t really ignore them. In other words, I’m more likely to keep up-to-date.

However, when I went to subscribe to some blogs the option to subscribe by email wasn’t available to me (necessitating the use of xFruits) or seemed to be available but then didn’t work.

It’s trivial (and free!) to enable readers to subscribe via email to your blog. Here’s how:

1. Go to Feedburner and login using your Google account.

Feedburner login page

2. ‘Burn’ (i.e. add) your feed to Feedburner (you can find your feed URL by clicking on the RSS icon to the right in your address bar when you visit your blog):

Feedburner - burn feed

3. Within Feedburner, click on the ‘Publicize’ tab and then on ‘Email subscriptions’ on the left-hand side:

Feedburner - Publicize tab

4. Follow the (clear) instructions as to how to proceed. It shows you how you can add the option to subscribe via email to your blog’s sidebar.

Feedburner - Email subscriptions

5. Click on the ‘Optimize’ tab within Feedburner and then ‘BrowserFriendly’ on the left-hand side:

Feedburner - Optimize tab

6. Follow the instructions, enabling the BrowserFriendly service.

Feedburner - BrowserFriendly option

7. Make sure all the links to your RSS feed on your blog point towards the new Feedburner feed. If you’ve got a self-hosted WordPress-powered blog, the easiest way to do this is to download the relevant plugin to do this for you!

The result, if you follow these steps, will be that if users click on your RSS they should see something like this:

Feedburner-powered RSS feed

If you need any extra help or have some tips please use the comments section below! ๐Ÿ˜€

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How to restore a very large MySQL file without errors.

File this one under ‘geeky’ and ‘stuff that took me a while to find out so I’m sharing it with others’.

I *Heart* MySQL

Image CC BY-SA Kevin Severud @ Flickr

During the couple of days I’ve been off work ill this week I’ve transferred teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk from a UK-based webhost to Bluehost (which hosts this, among other sites). It was about time my former blog (active 2005-2007) had some TLC as it was becoming progressively broken.

I had a 42MB MySQL database backup – the file that contains all of the blog’s important information (post and comment text, etc.) – but every time I tried to import this into a new database at Bluehost I kept getting timeout errors. It was then that I remembered I’d had this problem before and I’d managed to solve it with some sort of script that breaks the file up into smaller chunks to feed to the database incrementally.

After a while searching, I came across it again. It’s called BigDump and the process, if you’re familiar with installing WordPress manually, is fairly straightforward:

  1. Go into phpMyAdmin and execute DROP_TABLES on your target database.
  2. Download bigdump.zip from http://www.ozerov.de/bigdump.php and extract the zip file.
  3. Open bigdump.php using Notepad, TextEdit, or similar. Edit the relevant lines to point towards your database, username and password.
  4. Create a folder called dump on your web server and upload both bigdump.php and your MySQL database into that folder.
  5. CHMOD the folder recursively to 777 (i.e. give read/write permissions when accessed via the web)
  6. Access the script via (e.g.) http://yourdomain.com/dump/bigdump.php
  7. Follow the instructions!

This should lead to your database backup being successfully inserted into your new database. You can then use the data in whatever web app (i.e. WordPress) that you want! ๐Ÿ™‚

A video introduction to using Google Calendar for timetables and meetings

I pushed out a new video to all staff at the Academy today. It’s 6 minutes long and demonstrates how to use Google Calendar in conjunction with Google Docs for lesson timetables and meetings. Although there’s unfortunately no RSS feed for it, you can catch these kinds of videos and general E-Learning stuff I produce over at NCEA E-Learning Updates.

This can be seen as an update to the following posts I wrote a few years ago:

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HOWTO: Tether an iPhone to a netbook running Jolicloud

Introduction

I mentioned in an earlier blog post my favourable early impressions of the ‘cool new operating system’ Jolicloud on my Acer Aspire One. One thing that I wanted to be able to do with it is to ‘tether’ my iPhone to it for 3G internet access. This was easily done under almost any operating system when I’d ‘jailbroken’ my iPhone (through PDAnet) However, it’s not so easy with an iPhone running the standard firmware and a netbook running Jolicloud. This is for two reasons:

  • An unjailbroken iPhone can only tether by USB or Bluetooth, not wi-fi.
  • Jolicloud does not come with access to Synaptic Package Manager, trading this for ease-of-use.

Tethering an unjailbroken iPhone to Jolicloud is still possible, however, if you’re prepared to copy-and-paste some lines into the Terminal. Here’s what to do…

How to tether your iPhone under Jolicloud

1. Activate tethering on your iPhone. You should really go through your contract provider for this, but if you’re naughty – or feel overcharged as it is – then try emailing to your iPhone and then running the relevant .mobileconfig file found at http://www.benm.at/help/tethering.php

2. Install ‘jolicloud-netbook-config’. To be honest, I’m not actually certain this step is necessary. But it can’t hurt! On your netbook, open up the Terminal (found under the ‘Accessories’ menu in Jolicloud). Copy-and-paste this: sudo apt-get update (then press ‘Enter’) followed by sudo apt-get install jolicloud-netbook-config (Enter). You may get errors. Ignore them. ๐Ÿ˜‰

3. Install Blueman. Whilst still in the Terminal, copy-and-paste this: sudo sh -c "echo 'deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/blueman/ubuntu $(lsb_release -sc) main' >/etc/apt/sources.list.d/blueman.list" and then hit Enter. Follow this typing sudo apt-get update (Enter) and then sudo apt-get install blueman (Enter). You’ll get errors, but don’t worry!

4. Configure Bluetooth Manager. Make sure you have Bluetooth turned on your netbook and both Bluetooth and Tethering on your iPhone. The ‘tethering’ option is found withing Settings / General / Network on your iPhone. On your netbook, go to the Preferences menu and then click on Bluetooth Manager:


4. Connect to your iPhone. Click on Search within Bluetooth Manager. Your iPhone should be listed. Click on it, then Bond. You’ll have to do the usual thing of setting a passcode to be entered on both devices, etc.


5. Set up your iPhone for ‘tethering’. Within Bluetooth Manager click on the Trust button to save time in future. Then click on Setup and keep pressing Forward until your iPhone is ‘tethered’ (i.e. set up for 3G internet access with your netbook).


Your iPhone should now have a blue bar at the top that says Internet tethering (see image at top of this post). Open up a browser and surf away! ๐Ÿ˜€

Finally…

To reconnect on subsequent occasions, make sure that Bluetooth and Tethering is active on your iPhone. Then go back into Bluetooth Manager on your netbook, right-click on your iPhone and select the option to re-establish a Bluetooth connection. An icon should pop-up indicating you’re connected and, of course, the blue ‘Internet Tethering’ ribbon should appear to the top of your iPhone! ๐Ÿ™‚

Many thanks to the author of this blog post (which has some additional steps you may want to try which forces Ubuntu Netbook Remix – on which Jolicloud is based – to configure the connection as an ‘official’ Mobile Broadband connection)

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HOWTO: Present using Cooliris (advanced)

As promised in HOWTO: Present using Cooliris (the basics…) this post outlines more advanced options when using Cooliris as a presentation tool. It covers the following:

  1. Using a Nintendo Wiimote to control your presentation
  2. Customising the HTML page
  3. Adding titles to slides
  4. Linking to websites from slides
  5. Adding a ‘branding image’

1. Using a Nintendo Wiimote to control your presentation

WiimoteThe Nintendo Wiimote is a wonderful thing. It (potentially) connects via Bluetooth to any suitably-equipped computer. I use a Macbook Pro and a program called Darwiin Remote (free) and it couldn’t be easier to both use the buttons on the Wiimote as well as the motion-sensing element to control the cursor. If, however, you’re using Windows you’ll need Wiin Remote (free) but good luck getting your ‘Bluetooth stack’ working (try BlueSoleil – or better still, buy a Mac!) Linux users need WiiLi.

If you have no joy with the above, simply invest in something like the Kensington Si600 Wireless Presenter which will do the job – albeit in a less cool way… ๐Ÿ˜‰

2. Customising the HTML page

PicLens Publisher does all the hard work for you in terms of creating the HTML page, thumbnails and RSS feed you need to present using Cooliris. However, if you want to customise your presentation to look a bit more like mine, then you’ll need to edit the HTML page produced by the program.

In keeping with my love of all things free and Open Source, I’d recommend the cross-platform program KompoZer for this. It’s got a WYSIWYG editor and is very straightforward to use! If you look at my presentations, I add the following:

  • my avatar
  • title of my presentation
  • details about me
  • link to HTML version of presentation
  • details about the presentation method (feel free to link to my posts!)
  • Creative Commons license information (at bottom)

3. Adding titles to slides

This is the bit that involves delving into code. Don’t worry though, as it’s very straightforward. You need to find the file entitled photos.rss and open it with a text editor. You should see something like this:

Piclens RSS - title highlighted

The part of the RSS feed that I’ve highlighted (between the <title> tags) is the title of each slide. This is what you need to change in order to alter the title of the slide. They’re in the order you specified when you made the presentation.

Result:

Title

4. Linking to websites from slides

This is very much like the above process of adding titles to slides, except you edit a different part of the RSS feed:

PicLens - link

The highlighted section above (between the <link> tags) is where you need to put the link to the webpage you wish to display when the relevant icon is clicked during your presentation:

Cooliris link icon

5. Adding a ‘branding image’

This is perhaps the least useful of the advanced tweaks – yet in some ways the most satisfying as it gives you ‘ownership’ of your presentation.

Cooliris - branding image

The branding image needs to have a transparent background (I used a PNG file but I suppose you could use a GIF) and no more than 26 pixels high. There’s no real limit to its width. You can add anything in there – as you can see I put the shortened link to the presentation for people to go back to. Need an image editor? Try the GIMP!

Put the image you have generated into the images sub-folder of your presentation folder. You then need to add the following to the bottom of the photos.rss file:

Cooliris - branding image RSS

I’ve highlighted the section you need to add – although of course you’ll need to change name_of_your_file.png to whatever you decided to call your branding image! ๐Ÿ™‚

Conclusion

I think Cooliris is a great presentation tool. It’s engaging, free to create and access, and enables people to re-use parts of your presentation (if you CC-license it!)

I’d like to thank Alan Levine for pioneering this method. The blog posts he wrote that guided me are below:

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