Archive for the ‘tools’ Category

Fire FTP

This is the best FTP client I’ve ever seen. Works fast, and allows directory comparison and syncing directories while navigating. More importantly, it is just an add-on on Firefox! Install the add-on here in a second, and you can go to Tools in Firefox and open th FTP client in a Firefox window! Best Firefox add-on I’ve ever seen. (Even better than the ad blocker and Web developer add-ons!)

I was so happy with Fire FTP that I donated a very little amount of money to its developer, just to show my appreciation. Maybe you should do that too if you are as happy as I am with their service. God bless Firefox. 🙂

p.s. Check out this great easy to understand Fire FTP tutorial Mindy McAdams has put online for us.

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Maps that can help tell more accurate stories

At the time of California fires this October, I read in the news somewhere that an area in San Marcos (a small town near San Diego) is one of the places that is burning. One of my childhood friends whom we hadn’t talked for a while lives on that area. I tried to reach her but her cell phone was strangely busy (It was strange because cell phones have call waiting and should not be busy.) So I got really worried. I saw in Mindy’s blog that LA Times has set up a Google Map application which shows the exact location of the fires along with some details. The map even had an option where you could get directions to or from the location of each fire. So, I put my friend’s address there and found out that they are four miles aways from the fire. That was really calming. Then I put the address of all my friends’ houses who live in the burning areas and found out that they are all safe, without the need to call like crazy everyone I know in California.

An article in NY Times in July 2007 talks about all the amazing new things you can do with Google Map and other online map applications that are now available, thanks to the competetion among search engines and some corporations to attract more users. These new services help us to have “a much richer description of the earth” as John V. Hanke, director of Google Maps and Google Earth, says in the mentioned article, since each user can now “geotag” various locations on the maps, by adding details and photos of each place, a sort of Wikipedia of places on earth.

But Google Maps and services simillar to it are not just useful for creating personalized geotags. These new services provide a great opportunity for journalists to offer vital information and details about a place that is covered in a news story. In the case of California fires, nothing could help me and so many other concerned people more than a map that exactly and accurately tells you where the fires are and how far they are from the location of your loved ones. Before seeing the LA Times map, I searched any news website and county websites I could find, to see if I can find out whether my friend’s house is under fire or not, but I couldn’t. A news story about the fires couldn’t help me and many other people at that time either, no matter how powerful those stories would be.

So, considering all the amazing things you can do with online maps, (such as this map that tells you about the places, times, and details of arsons in Chicago), many stories can offer much more additional – yet detailed and important – information. These maps can’t act as a replacement for news stories, but they would be great complements to put the news into a different perspective, most probably a more in-depth one. And of course, they are great tools to let you know if your loved ones are safe at the time of emergency.

More on Site Meter, Technorati, and FeedBurner

Site Meter:

Site Meter lets you see how many people have visited your blog, how long they have been on your page, which ISP, browser and Operating System they use, and what their screen resolution, IP, and location is. You can set it up in a way that it ignores visits from your computer and browser, so that the stats will be more realistic, and do not include your numerous refreshing of your own blog. You can also make it private, so that nobody except you would be able to see it (like my Site Meter!)

Now, how can you do all that with Site Meter? Sure I can tell you very quickly how it works if you don’t know it already, but I won’t! (I’ll explain at the end of this post why.)

Side Note: You can’t use one of the best features of Site Meter on your wordpress.com blog, which is seeing the referrals of your blog (the blogs and websites that have linked to you.) Site Meter referral tracking works with JavaScript, and wordpress.com does not allow JavaScript on its blogs. But you can still find out about the blogs or websites that have linked you through WordPress.com’s stats, technorati, or Google.

Technorati:

Technorati tells you what the ranking of your blog is among thousands of blogs registered there, lets you browse blogs by tags or categories, and tells you which blogs have linked to you. It let’s users choose their favorite blogs – which everybody can see – and that give you the chance to create a social networking system. It does a lot of other things too. But I won’t tell you what they are!

FeedBurner:

You probably know what feed, RSS, and syndication are, since we are using it to see the title of the latest posts of our classmates’ blogs on our class main blog. You don’t need to get into technical details of how feeds work. It’s just enough to know that, by subscribing to the feed of the blogs and websites you are interested in, you will be able to automatically get notified about their new posts, without the need to visit them constantly. Most of the blogging services automatically provide you with a valid feed. If you want to subscribe to a blog, you just need to add the URL of that blog’s feed to a feed reader you use, such as Google Reader.

Now, you might be wondering why we need FeedBurner, since we already have the feed of our blogs set by wordpress.com. Well, the advantage of FeedBurner over the normal feed system our blogs offer is the statistics it provides. You can see how many people visit your blog through your Site Meter, but you can’t see how many people are reading your blog through a feed reader.

For example, the number of times I read your blogs will not be counted in your blog’s stats, because I always read your blogs in my Google Reader, and just come to the actual page of your blog when I want to leave a comment! FeedBurner has a system to track how many people have subscribed to the feed of your blog, through which feed readers, and a lot more! This feature of FeedBurner is included in its “pro” section, but this “pro” section, unlike what it might suggest, is free!

It’s all about reading the instructions

Now I mentioned some of the features of these widgets and tools that you might already know or not know. There are also a lot more to them that I didn’t mention. Why? Because they are all explained in details in the websites of each of these tools. It’s actually the same case for almost any other tools or widgets for the blogs (or many other things related to web developing.) When you see a new online tool or service which seems useful to you, don’t bother yourself to find somebody who is web savvy to ask for instructions. Read the instructions yourself. They are usually explained in a very simple and comprehensive way.

By following the instructions, you usually can add any widget in 10-15 minutes. So try to make yourself used to reading the instructions. If you get used to that, you’ll later see that a whole new world is opened to you; a big world of open source tutorials and HOW-TOs.

(My experience is that, sometimes, if a person explains to you how a widget works and how you should put it on your blogs, it will sound so confusing or complicated to you. But when you look at the instructions and follow them, you can have your own pace, and can even concentrate more on what your are doing.)

As Prof. McAdams has mentioned in our class blog:

A person who works on a Web site at a news organization needs to learn how to learn, how to find instructions, how to make things work.