Sharing graduation with technology

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My oldest child is graduating from high school in a few weeks. I don’t yet know all the emotions that will come over me, but I’ve started to feel some of them as I prepare for the event. Technology is playing a role in how I prepare for the event. But it’s just an enabler of sorts for a few things. The real event will be based on relationships, sharing experiences with others, and ceremonies.

The graduation letter

One tradition during the last week leading up to graduation is the presentation of a letter to the graduate. We sent invitations to family members and friends who would thought might like to leave a letter for her. The letter can be about anything, including advice, memories, congratulations, and well wishes.

I used Google docs to draft my letter. In part because it gave me an editor to draft, read, make adjustments, etc. But it’s also easy to share the letter with my wife through the Google share feature. We’ve started using Google docs for other documents that we want to share and edit together. I like the flow and portability of the feature and then we can access the document no matter which device we are using. For my daughter’s letter, this is just a staging area. The final copy I’ll ink by hand to give it more of a personal feel. Technology has a it’s place but for this occasion, I want the note to feel more crafted and created.

The memory deck

Graduation wouldn’t be complete without a slide show recapping her life! I plan to use this during her celebration party with friends and family. I haven’t finalized the layout or presentation just yet, but I’ve picked the technology tool. It’s Picasa because I use Picasa to manage our digital photo and video library locally. Then I sync to cloud for backup storage.

I’m already learning that the joy in this exercise is looking through years of photos and remembering the events where they were taken. Isn’t it wonderful that digital media is so readily available in our lives? I hope it will have an impact on my daughter when she sees it. She’s been blessed and has much to be thankful for in life.


Onward to the next steps and phases of life. Long live technology. Long live daughters.


How to create an archive of Google+ blog posts

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There’s a growing movement that supports Google+ as a next generation blogging platform due to it’s built-in interactive aspects, audience reach, search indexing, and digital capabilities. One of the biggest proponents of the movement is +MikeElgan and he recently posted about his support of Google+ as a blogging platform. Traditional blogging platforms provide methods for auto-generating an archive of posts. Archives can be chronological or topical and provide readers with a quick way to link or search into the contents.  For writers using Google+ as a blog publishing platform, +ShawnHandran posted a way to create an archive of the Google+ blog posts.  Handran’s method was to manually maintain an archive in a public Google doc spreadsheet.

That made me think about my recent post of automating my digital life with the tool from If This Then That. Using this service, it’s possible to automate a RSS feed into a Google doc spreadsheet.

So putting the automated service together with Shawn Handran’s idea, here are the complete steps to create an archive for public Google+ blog posts.

1. Create an RSS feed for your Google+ public posts.
There are many tools to do this. One that +MikeElgan recommends is Pluss Feed Proxy for Google+. When you visit the site you can choose the option to “Login with Google”. This will generate a URL for your RSS feed.

2. Create an account on If This Then That.

3. With the ifttt profile create a recipe that uses the RSS feed from step 1 as the trigger.
There are two options: a) All RSS posts b) Posts that contain specific keyword phrases.
I recommend using the option for keyword phrase matching because you may want to create public posts that are not blog posts.

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4. Then for the output choose a Google Doc spreadsheet.
Note: You don’t have to use Google Docs as the output. There are a variety of platforms that provide service to make a document accessible via URL (Evernote, Sky Drive, etc.)

5. Share the google doc spreadsheet.
Do this by clicking the share button in Google docs and making the file publicly viewable.  Get the URL of the file.

6. Add the google doc archive to your Google+ profile.
On your Google profile in the links area add an entry for Blog Archive and put the URL of the public Google Doc.

That’s it! The recipe on IFTTT does not trigger automatically. But if you create a Google+ post and share with public using your keyword, then you should see the archive within 30 minutes or so.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Free computing and Internet tools

Here are some easy ways to lower what you pay for computers and software.

There are some secrets that market giants Apple and Microsoft don’t want you to know;  You don’t have to pay them a dime to get a good operating system and productivity software for your personal computer. This is good news for individuals on a tight budget or for small businesses owners that don’t want to spend a large amount of money on computer software.

As an example, I am composing this story on a netbook that runs an operating system that cost me $0 and with a word processor that cost me $0. My total cost was $200 for the netbook itself.  I don’t pay for upgrades to the operating system or productivity software. My total cost will remain $200.

Linux Tux
Have you tried Linux?

There are many pieces of software that are free to use today and the following is not an exhaustive guide for each category. But it’s a good sampling of some of the most popular choices.

Operating Systems
Linux is a free alternative to MacOS and Microsoft Windows. It’s been around since 1991 and comes in multiple variations. The user interface has the look and feel that consumers are used to with Apple and Micosoft and upgrades are free. It’s a great choice to install on older computers because the hardware requirements are light. So it’s a good option to install on older hardware as well if you want to keep the machine in service to you as a backup or for special use situations.

Linux comes in multiple variations, but the two most popular are Fedora and Ubuntu. To give it a try visit the sites and download a copy of the software to CD or thumb drive for the installation.

Office Productivity Software
There are a few options for free software for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. OpenOffice, like Linux, is free and is maintained by an open source community. It comes pre-installed with some Linux versions as the default software. There is also a Windows compatible version available for download on the OpenOffice site.

Google Apps offers a full office productivity suite as well. What’s different about this option is that the software is not installed locally to your machine. It’s a cloud software service, so you can access it anywhere that you have internet access (machine independent).

Zoho, like Google apps, is a cloud based service that offers an office productivity suite.

Don’t be fooled to thinking that the email address provided by your internet service provider is free. It’s part of the package you receive for the monthly subscription. The problem with these internet addresses is that if you change ISPs then you also have to change email addresses.

A better choice is to use a free service such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or Hot Mail. With these services you can keep your email address even if you change ISPs.

The growth of cloud based computing has spawned several new services that provide storage space for documents and photos. The providers give a base amount of storage for free each month and then offer additional space at very reasonable prices. That’s good news for consumers looking for a backup location for valuable files or for a primary storage location for files.

It also allows consumers to access their data from multiple devices. That’s important because many consumers today are using PCs, tablets, and phones to access internet based services.

Popular services today include Amazon Storage, Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive, and Apple iCloud.

Computer Reuse
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I’m not just writing about this topic, but I’m a user of free and open source software as well. The computer hardware I have for personal use was purchased. But I use Ubuntu Linux, Google Docs, Gmail, and Google Drive as primary software for personal productivity and writing. Occasionally I compile video for my articles and I use a free software that runs on Linux for editing and rendering the video files.

I’ve also converted several computers that were over five years old to a Linux based computer. Those machines now use up-to-date software and I didn’t pay a dime to re-fit them for use for their second life.

These tools are not a fit for everyone. But the next time you are in the market for a new computing device you should consider some of the free options available to you.

This post is from my column on technology and business from the Suwanee Patch. I cross-post the entire contents here for the Merchant Stand audience. You can find the Suwanee Patch version here:

Free Computing and Internet Software