New web host

I have successfully (near as I can tell so far) moved my blog from 1&1 to NearlyFreeSpeech.

I was not unhappy with 1&1, although they had recently made an unsolicited sales call trying to get me to add more expensive services.  They give you a pretty good plan for about $5/month, but I’m trying to pinch pennies, so I was looking for an even cheaper option.

NearlyFreeSpeech.NET doesn’t sell package plans like most other web hosting companies.  Instead, they simply charge you for the services you use.  For a small, low-traffic website like mine, their service should save me a buck or two each month.

So far, I like the simple but detailed configuration screens and support documentation.

Wordbooker

If you use Facebook and maintain a personal blog outside of Facebook, it may have crossed your mind that it would be nice if your blog posts were somehow linked with your Facebook feed.

I use my blog primarily for article-length posts that I want to save.  Short, random thoughts I’ll just post on Facebook, and I’m not worried about losing track of what I wrote.  Since the longer posts tend to be a bit more rare, and since few (if any) people are going to subscribe to my blog’s RSS feed, it’s nice to have a way to bring some attention to new blog posts.  Thankfully, there are several ways to have new blog posts show up in your Facebook feed.

Facebook provides a convenient way to import a blog into your Notes.  Just go to http://www.facebook.com/editnotes.php and paste in the address of your blog’s feed.  Then whenever you post something to your blog, it will also show up as a note in Facebook.  However, if someone comments on your note, the comment will only exist in Facebook; you may wish that comments would be reflected on your blog page as well.

Depending on your blogging software, there have been attempts to write plugins that attempt to import comments on notes from Facebook into your blog.  I use WordPress for my blog, and there was a Facebook Comments plugin that served this purpose, but it no longer seems to work.

If you don’t feel it necessary to have your blog posts imported into Facebook as Notes, but you want an update to appear on your Facebook wall when you make a new post to your blog, there are plugins for that too.  For WordPress, the Wordbook plugin makes it easy to to this.  This plugin will just post a little one-line story on your Wall with a link to your blog post.  If someone wants to read it, they have to click over to your blog.

Today I’m trying a new method, using the Wordbooker plugin.  This plugin purports to show new blog posts on your Wall without importing them into your Notes.  If Facebook friends comment on your Wall post, those comments are supposed to be imported into your blog page as well.  I’m not sure how it’s going to work, so this post is a test.

App Launcher

I want to say a few words about some useful software for finding and launching programs and files on your computer.

The old way to launch programs:

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  1. Click on the Start button.
  2. Move the mouse to Programs.
  3. If you’re using “Personalized Menus,” some of the Program folders may be hidden, so you have to click or hover on the two little arrows at the bottom of the list.
  4. Remember which of your many folders contains the program you’re looking for. You may have to browse multiple folders and subfolders to find it.
  5. Finally, once you find it, click on it to launch the program.

Alternatively, if it’s a frequently used program, you can put a shortcut on the desktop. This works fine if your desktop is showing, but if you already have one or more open windows, you first have to minimize those windows before you can click the icons on your desktop. You also have to decide in advance which icons to put on the desktop. Personally, I like to keep my desktop icons to a minimum.

Another alternative would be to create hotkey combinations (eg., Ctrl-Alt-M, Ctrl-Shift-W, etc.) for your frequently used programs. This allows you to launch selected programs without navigating through the Start menu or minimizing open windows to expose the desktop. However, in addition to deciding which programs are worthy of having hotkeys (usually only a small number of programs), you have to remember what all those hotkeys are.

I have come to prefer a specialized application launcher. My current favorite is Find And Run Robot (FARR). Another popular choice is Launchy.

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spamgourmet

Here’s a free service I use to help minimize spam on my primary email address.

http://www.spamgourmet.com

There are quite a few varieties of “disposable email addresses.”  spamgourmet happens to be the one that I use, and I find that it works very well.

Here’s an example of how it works:

You want to sign up for that free sample of Chocolumps cereal, but you don’t want your inbox flooded with more “free offers” from everyone and their brother.

Instead of giving the makers of Chocolumps your real email address ([email protected]), you give them a special “made-up” email address: [email protected] “Keyword” is your spamgourmet username, and is the same for any address you make up.  “Chocolumps” is a word you make up on the spot when you “create” a disposable email address.  “5” means that spamgourment will forward up to 5 messages sent to [email protected] to your real email address.  If the makers of Chocolumps keep sending you more email after that, or if they sell/give your email address to someone else, any additional messages get “eaten” by spamgourmet and you never see them.  You can pick a number from 1-20, use a letter of the alphabet, or another word instead of “5.”  For example, “1,” “a,” or “apple” all allow a single email to get through; “4,” “d,” or “dog” will allow four emails to get through; hopefully, you get the picture.

The advantage over other disposable email address programs is that you don’t have to go to a separate website or login to a separate account to get your email; spamgourmet forwards it to your real email address.  You don’t have to go to spamgourmet to configure a disposable email address; you just make it up on the spot (you do have to go to spamgourmet once initially to configure your account).  If you give someone a disposable email address, then decide you want to keep getting email from that source, you can do that too, and you can make it so a particular email address only accepts email from a particular address or a particular domain (for example, allow unlimited emails from generalmills.com to your [email protected] address, but email to that address from any other source gets eaten).

There are other features and ways to use the service; just go to spamgourmet.com and check it out.  If you are in the habit of signing up for things on the internet, I know you will find this helpful.  Did I mention that it’s free?