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Category: Technology

Picture the scene. You have spent all afternoon trying to figure out how to install a must-have app onto your smartphone, but get nowhere.

With defeat unhappily accepted, you jump onto Google to search for help. The results arrive milliseconds later promising to aid you in your quest, only to find that instead of finding a nice explanation of what to do, you are instead confronted with some stranger prattling on for 10 minutes in a YouTube video telling you how it should be done.

This scenario is not too bad if there are lots of regular text-based tutorials or webpages telling you what you need to know, since then you can just ignore the videos, but it gets really frustrating if there are no other results, and you are forced to sit through the agony of listening to this self-important guy drone on and on.

Video tutorials are very useful for practical demononstration of what they are talking about that. I think those are a great idea, and serve a purpose, so I not saying all video tutorials are a bad idea. It is just the ones that show a guy talking for however long you have to endure the video that add no value, so for anyone thinking of posting a video tutorial, here are the pros and cons to consider


  • Great for demonstrations (doesn’t count if you are just standing there talking)
  • Useful for people with nothing better to do


  • Take up a LOT more bandwidth than text tutorials (important especially for smartphone users)
  • Takes longer to find info you are looking for – you need to listen through the entire thing, including all the rambling. A text tutorial can be skimmed through
  • Difficult to jump around like in a text tutorial where you can refer to any part at any time.
  • Written text is often easier to understand than spoken text, especially for second-language speakers
  • Do you really think that people want to listen to your voice?

So, in conclusion, unless you think it could actually add value over a simple text tutorial, please don’t post a video tutorial. Write it down instead!


Much to my shame, I first came across a feature of web-browsers that had been developed way back in 2001 – the bookmarklet.

What a bookmarklet is, is a regular browser bookmark that has a piece of javascript for its address instead of the usual url, by using the javascript: prefix instead of the usual http: or http:. I had known for a long time that the address bar of most browsers support this, but did not even think that this functionality extended to bookmarks.

What this means though, is that you are able to insert almost any imaginable script into a bookmark.

Here is an example, which I found on the Wikipedia page on bookmarklets, which opens up the relevant Wikipedia article based on the selected text within your current document, which can be a great timesaver.

javascript:function se(d) {return d.selection ? d.selection.createRange().text : d.getSelection()} s = se(document); for (i=0; i<frames.length && !s; i++) s = se(frames[i].document); if (!s || s=='') s = prompt('Enter%20search%20terms%20for%20Wikipedia',''); open('' + (s ? '/w/index.php?title=Special:Search&search=' + encodeURIComponent(s) : '')).focus();

Having recently created an account on, I have been trying to find interesting titles to add to my library.

As most people would probably agree, it is always nice to get something for free, so I was rather eager to try out a suggestion I read in a Lifehacker article on how to use Google to search for free audiobooks on the audible site.

It is dreadfully simple. Simply enter the following search query into Google, and you get scores of results:

$0.00 -Excerpt -Interview -Chapter -Extract -Speech -Sample -"A Conversation" -"This is Audible"

It can also be modified to suite exactly what you are looking for.

One additional thing I did do though, is to use this query to create a Google Alert, so that whenever a new free title gets picked up by Google, I will be immediately notified, allowing me to take advantage.

How often I will get that alert is something that only time will tell now…


Google+ has been around for nearly a year now, and there have many conflicting news reports, some saying Google+ is a ghost town, while others saying that Google+ is growing at a phenomenal rate.

Well, having been an active user of Google+ since almost the beginning, I can personally say that Google+ is anything but dead. It is alive and well, with a very active community.

Each of the major social media tools has their own niche that they fill rather nicely, and are very successful in. Facebook is the way to keep up to date with your friends, Twitter works well for up-to-the-minute news and quick messages, LinkedIn is wonderful as a networking tool, while Google+’s niche is the trading of information.

It can be easy to think that Google+ is dead if you don’t see it for what it is – Google+ is NOT Facebook. People on Google+ are just not using it to find out their friends latest statuses, but rather to find out interesting information from the community they are involved in.

Personally, I follow a lot of people in the science, astronomy and tech communities on Google+ and my stream is always filled with interesting things to read. If I had only added my friends my circles, then I would have a rather boring time checking out Google+.

So, as a message to all you Google+ doubters out there: use it the way it is intended to be used, and you will find Google+ full of life. Use it like Facebook, and you will be disappointed.


Having my own Android-based phone now, I have been unable to resist the temptation to try my hand at writing an app for it. Deciding on what app I should write, however, required a bit of thinking.

Firstly, if you have ever browsed the Android Market (and if you own an Android phone, no doubt you have), you will have noticed that it has literally hundreds of thousands of applications available for download (either free or for purchase), so finding an application idea that hasn’t been done a hundred times before becomes a bit of a challenge.

The second thing, is that my Java is a little bit on the rusty side. The last time I have written anything at all in Java was around 11 years ago, and even then my jaunt with Java was rather brief.

This means that to ease myself into the Java development environment of Android, I wanted to go with a relatively simple app, leaving more ambitious projects for later.

So, out of this, I came up with the Dutch Public Holidays app, which all it basically does is give you a dropdown of years (currently only 2011 and 2012), and then displaying the public holidays in the Netherlands for that particular year. Very, very simple!

The actual code of the app is largely based on the spinner tutorial on the Android Developer site, but instead of updating a toast, the application updates the TextView with the info we want, and I rearranged how some ofthe code worked.

If you would like to download the package for the app, I have uploaded it to this site.

Just run the package from your phone, and it should install fine. This package requires Android 2.1 or above to work.

I intend to write more apps to learn more about Android, and at some stage get my apps onto the Android Market, but that is something for another day…


I have had my new Samsung Galaxy for almost two weeks now, and it is the most incredible phone I have ever owned.

The best thing about the phone though, is the combination of GPS and accelerometer, which enables me to enjoy a wealth of really useful applications that make my phone seem like advanced technology compared to Star Trek communicators – I mean all they were good for was talking to their ship in orbit!

The Android market has hundreds of thousands of apps on it, and I have had fun trying a lot of them out.

I make liberal use of my gmail, twitter, linkedin apps, which provide nothing really new to my cellular experience, as I have been able to do that sort of thing for years on my phone. Most of my fun was had trying out the new toys I have never been able to do before.

Things like using the on-board camera to read barcodes is a really nice feature. There are apps that can find books on Amazon, or find prices on products by merely scanning the barcode.

Then, using the accelerometer, I have played with several planteriums (or is it planetaria?), which using the phone’s accelerometer shows you the section of the skymap at which your phone is currently pointing. This is a sheer astronomical delight.

And while I am talking about the accelerometer, other useful apps using this is a protractor, Smart Protractor that measures the angle at which the phone is lying, at long last giving me the means to check to see if the paintings in my lounge are really hung up straight or not.

A related app, Smart Measure uses the phones camera and angle-finding abilities to calculate the distance to a particular spot. It only works in a fairly short range, but cool none-the-less.

Moving on to the GPS apps, the phone ships standard with a full-on GPS navigation system, as well as Google Maps, meaning I never need a separate GPS unit again.

Using the GPS, augmented reality apps such as Layar are showing up. This uses the GPS, camera and accelerometer to inform you of nearby things of interest interactively. By simly moving your phone around, you can see the image through the camera, with the extra data overlaid over that, so as you move around you will what your camera is looking at, with whatever interesting items the app can show you in that direction.

Oh and did I mention that my phone can also make phone calls……


Over the weekend, my old Se Xperia X1 decided to seriusly give up the ghost, so I went out and got a new phone, and settled on the Samsung Galaxy S.

Ah, the just-bought-a-new-toy feeling!

It is one of the more reasonably priced phones, not quite competing with the big boys, but it is an awesome phone none-the-less.

This is my first experience on an Android phone, and I can sincerely say that it is the best cellular experience I have yet had with a phone. It far outshines any Windows Mobile or Symbian phone that I have used in the past in every category.

The phone responds quickly, has decent hardware, and ample storage space (well for me anyway).

I am really looking forward to playing around with this phone…