Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Introducing ClustrMaps from

I have just installed a nifty free graphics tool on this site called "ClustrMaps" from It shows a small map of the world and indicates - by means of clusters of red dots - where "hits" on the blog site are emanating from around the world.

I came across it being used on another blog and was so impressed that I put it into all the blogs that I maintain.
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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Introducing Snap Shots from

I have just installed an incredibly useful and free little tool on this site called "Snap Shots" from It makes for a more informative blog, and it makes reading the blog more efficient for the reader. I came across it being used on another blog and was very impressed. I initially tried it out on one blog, and have since put it into the other blogs that I maintain. What it does is this:
  • When you hover your mouse over a link in the blog (see the little icon to the right of the link?), it gives you more information about the link - maybe even a miniature display of it. i.e., it enhances some links by providing visual previews.
  • The further information allows the reader to choose whether they want to follow that particular link to find out more. This would seem to be a better alternative to following the link and only then finding that actually it is not very interesting/useful to you.
Sometimes Snap Shots bring you the information you need, without your having to leave the site, while at other times it lets you "look ahead," before deciding if you want to follow a link or not.

Should you decide this is not for you, just click the Options icon in the upper right corner of the Snap Shot and opt-out.

There's a good discussion about Snap Shots on the blog here. It's all about "drilling" links.
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Saturday, December 8, 2007

Tip - backup your work data

This may be one of the most important and valuable tips that you ever read.

If you had ever worked in IT on mainframe computer systems, then you would have had several professional best practice rules and lessons drummed into your head, often based on the hard-won lessons of other peoples' experiences. One of them was sure to have been: carry out data backups of your work data on a regular basis. The only time that you will realise exactly how valuable and important this rule is will be when you have a disk crash or similar, by which time it will be too late to help yourself if you have not carried out any backups.

Because the majority of laptop/PC users are not professional IT workers, they may not know any better. Those that are professional IT workers often:
  • have not been trained as professionals
  • may be rather slack in their work practices in any event
  • may have been meaning to get a round tuit
- so, this rule is often forgotten nowadays and regular data backups may have been ignored/omitted.

Data backup is actually quite a simple process, though rigorous double-checking and spring-cleaning the work data and its backups can be tedious and could consume quite a bit of time. Fortunately, such spring-cleaning, though useful in conserving storage space, is not mandatory. You need 2 things to make backups possible:
  1. A portable backup device.
  2. A system (software) to carry out the backups in an automated manner.
Backup device:
  • Forget tapes of any sort - not only are they expensive and not portable, but they are also unreliable in the recovery.
  • Avoid using CD-ROMs, unless your backup data really is minimal - they are too slow and not easily/safely portable.
  • Insist on using USB or Firewire (for faster data transfer) plug'n play portable or semi-portable hard drives. From experience - having tried CD-ROMS, ZIP drives, etc. - I recommend the use of 2.5 inch profile laptop drives in a pocket-sized (i.e., portable) metal case. These devices are robust, cheap, reliable and fast, and can hold large volumes of data - e.g., typically 120+GB, which are likely to serve most users' needs.
Backup system/software:
  • Go for something that is flexible and that enables you to automate and schedule backups on a regular basis. I would recommend that you try one of the many freeware and shareware products in the market. I personally have used Handy Backup since 1999, since reading reviews of it in computer magazines and on web sites. It is a brilliant and relatively inexpensive product.
  • Is it worth it? For cost-justification, the expense of doing backups needs to be compared to the expense, inconvenience, and loss of business/time in attempting to recover from a data loss if you have not done backups.
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Tip - selecting a laptop

If you have already bought a laptop, then you are likely to be committed to making the most of it. If you have not yet bought it and are wondering what to buy, then take this tip born of 30 years' experience of working in IT and 17 years' experience of using laptops as my main/only productivity tool:
Now I know that people could object to such a bald statement - so, why Toshiba? Well, it is because, after trying out or using Toshiba, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, NEC, ASUS, IBM, etc., I have been forced to acknowledge that Toshiba corporation are consistent. Their three most important consistencies are:
  • They consistently conform to relatively high production quality standards.
  • They have consistently been shown to be leaders in laptop technology (along with NEC) - i.e., always being farsighted in implementing features that other manufacturers only belatedly follow.
  • They have consistently implemented good ergonomics in their laptop design - including especially: large/full-size keys designed to assist touch-typing; keyboards with good feel and bio-feedback; good and consistent keyboard layout (the Del, Alt and pagination keys are usually in the same/similar locations on all models); good ergonomics in the screen design; solid construction (so they can put up with everyday knocks).
These are the most important simply because, if:
(a) you are likely to be spending a lot of time with your laptop and
(b) if it does not enable you to achieve optimal efficiency, effectiveness and productivity when it is being used as a working tool,
- then you will probably inevitably find that it is forcing you to waste time.
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