Descriptive Wordpress URLs

In WordPress, when you first set it up, your urls when you post look something like this: http://www.chrisrat.com/blog/?p=123.  Not entirely the most descriptive!   I have to thank my friends over at BrainPOP UK for the tip here to turn that into a descriptive URL.

This is a short post, as it is super easy to sort.  In your WordPress control panel, go to ‘Settings’ then to ‘Permalinks’ and you will see something like this:

If you have never been here before, then the ‘Default’ radio button will be selected.  Simply select ‘Custom Structure’ and copy what I have put in above, and it will make it a lot more usable!

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Remember everything

When I made my debut Teach Meet presentation at Teach Meet East (from about 1 hr 16m 30s), one of the services I talked about was Remember the Milk. I use RTM often, and although it isn’t new, and a lot of people have used it before, there seemed to be quite a few people who had never heard of it when I spoke.

So what is it?

Remember the Milk is task management software…a funky to-do list if you like, that you can share. The example I gave at TMEast was that I can tell it to remind me to do my expenses tomorrow, and tomorrow I will get an email telling me to do my expenses.  Simple, but effective.

How do you use it?

There are a number of ways to get things on the list (email, Android app, chrome widgets etc.) but the main way I use it is through the desktop app and the web interface.  Type in what you want to do, and when to do it like this:

and it appears in your to-do list with the time set for when it is due like this:

When you have finished compiling the list (and my house moving list needs a lot of work!), then you can start to set up folders and notifications etc.  I have my reminders sent to me three different ways, so I can’t avoid them!  I get them to two different email addresses (work and home), and via skype. There are a host of other ways you can be reminded as well, but three is fine for me!  One thing that does work really well, is that it synchronises with your Google Calendar.

Why go pro?

RTM is free unless you take out the pro version.  I wanted to use RTM with my BlackBerry, as it can take any tasks that I have set up in Outlook, and turn them into to-do’s in RTM.  To be honest, I didn’t use that feature that much, but now that I have an Android phone, I am using it a lot more.

So, I mentioned sharing, how does that work?

This is where RTM becomes really powerful, and where you can get people to work together toward the same goals.  In RTM, you can share any one of your lists with a colleague, and then allocate a task to them (and therefore receive tasks from them!).  I have used it a few times this way, but you have to ensure that the people that you are using it with, know and like web2 tools – otherwise you are going to have a battle on your hands to get people to use it!

In conclusion:

I like it a lot, it has never let me down, but you have to remember that it is only as good as the content you put in.  If you make a habit of using it, your productivity will go up – if you use it sporadically, as with anything, it will only be sporadically useful!

Instantly get photos from camera to web with Eye-Fi

Back in May, I started a series of posts that look at desktop apps, and namely productivity.  So far, I have covered Evernote and Dropbox, and rather than being obvious and moving onto Remember the Milk, or Tweetdeck, I have plumped for Eye-Fi next.

There are a three reasons I wanted to try Eye-Fi

  1. The thought that I can take a photo, and without doing anything it appear online appeals.
  2. Everything I take will be geotagged.
  3. I am falling into a big hole of geekiness and everything shiny appeals.

So how have I used it?

When you get the card, you have to connect it to your laptop and set up a wifi network on the card…this is slightly annoying, as you have to do it for every wifi system you want it to work with, but it is a small price to pay for the time it saves.

The first time I used it was at Teach Meet Hampshire where I used a slightly convoluted route to getting the photos online.  It went like this:

  • Camera – auto synched with laptop – auto imported to picasa – moved to synced web folder – link grabbed from web folder – pasted to Tweetdeck and posted…

At TeachMeet East, I was slightly more organised:

  • Camera – auto synced to Picasa web albums – posted to twitter via Tweetdeck (slightly better eh?)

What I hadn’t figured was there are some pretty cool settings in the programme that comes in the Eye-Fi Centre that allow you to configure it to auto upload to places such as flickr, picasa, facebook etc. etc.  Now, all I need is a way to auto tweet when photos are uploaded to picasa!

One other cool feature of the card is that you never run out of memory. If you take a photo, and it auto syncs to your preferred online photo sharing service, you can set it to delete it from your card…which means you never run out of memory!

One last thing – if you have an Eye-Fi card, and an iPhone, check out this link.

Dropbox – share and collaborate

Funky monkeys

Talking earlier on Twitter, I was asked how I use Dropbox for work.  This is how I do it, and although it may not answer the questions, it certainly works for me!

  • I have Dropbox set up on my home and work laptops.
  • I have a few folders at work set up with SyncToy (thanks to @iteachyear4 for the tip)
  • I have shared a number of folders with staff – meaning every file that I save into those shared folders, automatically gets shared with them.

Put this into a school context, if you have a folder on your school server that has your school planning in, it can be synced with a shared folder within Dropbox that is shared with every teacher in the school/team. As long as every teacher has Dropbox installed on their laptops, they can open, amend and save those files.

This way, you won’t need a separate Dropbox account for work and personal, you can use the same one.

Grrr… How to use bitly.pro step-by-step

bitly.pro home page

So there I was, shrinking another URL in bit.ly and I saw a mention of bitly.pro.  I had seen it a while back, but then it disappeared, and there it was again.  It wasn’t an easy process as I am not yet a fully certified web geek, but with some help and that dreaded word ‘patience’ I made it through.  Before I go into a step-by-step guide, you may be wondering why on earth I need a short URL.  Well in short (sorry!) I don’t really, but I do like a challenge.  The official reasons behind having one are:

  • Every time you copy a URL, it will be shortened, but instead of bit.ly/xxx appearing it will be (in my case) chrisr.at/xxx
  • You get a real-time view of how your links are being spread across twitter/facebook etc.

Here is the step-by-step guide…

1. Go to bitly.pro and sign up to get an account.  If it is still there, it is by invitation, so you may require some patience (if you are holding a ‘patience’ sweep stake, this is number 2!).

2. In the mean time, there is nothing stopping you getting your own vanity, sorry I mean short URL.  I used the extremely easy-to-use domainr. Head over, type in a keyword such as your web address and it will suggest available short URLs and even better, the places where you can go and register them with. My preferred web host is GoDaddy they are very reliable, and you can get 10% off with this link!

Head to domainr for bitly pro

3. Once you have done that, and you have got our invite from Bitly.pro, you are ready to go.  And here is where you need to have some patience.  I didn’t do the above in the order I recommended.  I got the invite, then registered, and one thing I have found is that online, nothing is quick!  Next step is to head back into Bitly.pro.  In there, you will be given instructions on how to verify your accounts. It looks a bit like this:

Bitlypro A record info

Now, here to the first of the warnings.  Ensure you change the record of the short URL, not your own website URL – it is almost as if I don’t need to mention it(!).

Head into your short URL domain records and amend the A Record to 168.143.174.97.  When you have finished, it should look something like this:

Setting up A Record for bitly.proThe important thing is that you need to make sure that you set the A Record to @ and then put the IP address in. Otherwise it just doesn’t work.

4. Next you will be asked to verify your tracking domain.  For me that was chrisrat.com.  To do this, you have three options.  To put a chunk of html into  your home page (difficult with a blog), download an html file and upload it so that it is available in your public directory, and the third was to do with the CNAME (although I can’t remember the last one as I did the html file…

So, download the html file to your hard drive.  And this next bit is important.  The file is in a zip…unpack the zip before you upload it again. Inside the zip file is the html that you need plus the readme.  Once  you have unpacked it, then upload it into your website/blog as part of the public_html section. It can’t be within a folder, it must be the html file on it’s own.

5. Go back into bitly.pro and click on ‘verify’. If you have done everything you need to (and have had the patience to wait between actions so that the interwebs catch up), it should verify pretty quickly.

6. Sorry, but you have to wait again. Once it has been verified, it looks as if  you will be able to shorten the URL’s with your shortened URL at the beginning, but for the first 24 hours, the link will work for some, and not for others.

7. You should now be done. I have to say I got a tad frustrated, and it showed really how impatient I am (plus I have to say thank you to Rex at bitly.pro for his unerring patience with me – but we got there in the end!

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My top lovely desktop apps

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago, called My top lovely web apps which has been the most read of all of my posts since I switched to WordPress. Looking at that, I checked back and looked at Posterous, and the most read posts there were all the how-to’s for Google Wave, Google Alerts and other web apps I was trying out (actually the most read was this one, but we shall forgive it for bucking the trend!)

I then wrote a post yesterday on Evernote, which in a day became the second most read post I have written, and got a stack of feedback on twitter with people saying they were off to download it.  Thinking about it then, and I guess it is pretty obvious, it isn’t the tools you use, it is what you do with them (!) and how exactly they fit into your workflow.  There are some pretty amazing things out there, but if you can’t work out when you will use them, or you don’t force them to become part of your daily working life, they will never really catch on (take Google Wave as an example – an excellent free app, but it hasn’t changed the world overnight).

So, take the Evernote post yesterday as a preview of the next set of posts – I will take a look at a few things that I use on a day-to-day basis, most of which are contained in my shortcut bar:

As you can see – nearly half of the programmes I use most are Microsoft – I do use a PC, so there is no shock there.  There is little point talking about them (in short, they are great for what they are intended for, all have their bugs and foibles, but we live with them). I will talk in more detail though about Mappoint, as I have a rant up my sleeve. The rest do, to a greater or lesser degree, require some thought… Most likely, starting with Dropbox.