Find a home for used books

bookmooch_logo I hate throwing out books. My wife says it’s like throwing out knowledge. I can’t agree more. Consequently, I have accumlated a large pile of books which if put in order would allow an anthropologist to track my career and life.

Recently, I decided to start decluttering my office. Of course this meant doing something with all of those books. I made a conscious decision to get rid of any book I haven’t looked at in the last year. The challenge became finding out *how* to get rid of them.

I started on but the hassle of putting them on, figuring out pricing then waiting until someone buys them didn’t seem that fulfilling. Anyway, I wasn’t getting rid of these books for the money.

It was then I stumbled across Book Mooch. Book Mooch is a service that allows users to swap books. It works like this:

I have a pile of books I put into the Book Mooch inventory, if someone a copy of a book, they ask me for it. I then ship it to them. This in turn earns me credits that I can use to mooch a book from someone else. The book owners pay the shipping cost and no money changes hands.

I may still go the route but Book Mooch appeals more to my altruistic nature. If you have a pile of books accumulating in your house, Book Mooch ’em.

Save Driving Time – Avoid Left Turns

Interested in cutting down on your driving time? It’s easy. Avoid left turns. At least that’s what UPS is doing.

according to Heather Robinson, a U.P.S. spokeswoman, the software helped the company shave 28.5 million miles off its delivery routes, which has resulted in savings of roughly three million gallons of gas and has reduced CO2 emissions by 31,000 metric tons. So what can Brown do for you? We can’t speak to how good or bad they are in the parcel-delivery world, but they won’t be clogging up the left-hand lane while they do their business.

[tags]economics, environment,software development[/tags]

Boost Your Willpower by Exercising your Mental Muscle

All of us have struggled to maintain self-control. Whether it is to have that last drink at a party, or a a cookie before dinner. An interesting article today in the New York times seems to suggest that self-control is a form of mental muscle that can improve with training.

Studies now show that self-control is a limited resource that may be strengthened by the foods we eat. Laughter and conjuring up powerful memories may also help boost a person’s self-control. And, some research suggests, we can improve self-control through practice, testing ourselves on small tasks in order to strengthen our willpower for bigger challenges.

In order to improve our self-control, the authors suggest working on smaller easily attainable goals. Obtaining small success will help improve your will-power making more difficult goals easier.

[tags]Lifehack, psychology, self-help, productivity[/tags]

Easily Import Song Ratings to iTunes

iTunes IconA few years ago I was given an iPod. Like many, I loaded all of my songs into iTunes and used it as my primary music player. At some point iTunes stopped working and nothing I did would get it working again.

At that point, I switched to an alternate music player, JRiver’s MediaCenter. While this software served my purpose, I recently had a need to move back to iTunes. The only challenge for me was how to move my song ratings into iTunes. No big deal you say? Well, for me, song ratings are the key to all of my playlists (a subject of another post). If I had to start from scratch, rating my 5000+ song library, I would be working straight through the new year.

My initial thought was to do it with some software. However, thinking about it some more, I came away with a better solution – playlists.

The idea I have is to create playlists based on song ratings inside of MediaCenter. These are “Smart Lists”
that automatically update as songs are rated. MediaCenter allows you to export these playlists into various formats. One of them M3U is supported by iTunes. Here is what I did:

  1. Imported all of my songs into iTunes. This took some time.
  2. Created the following playlists in JRiver MediaCenter
    • 1 Star
    • 2 Star
    • 3 Star
    • 4 Star
  3. Exported each playlists as an M3U file
  4. Start iTunes
  5. Select File->Import and open the playlists you just saved. When you do, iTunes will
    import the playlist and display it under the iTunes playlists.
  6. Click the newly created playlist
  7. Highlight all of the songs in the playlist
  8. Right mouse click over the songs and rate them
  9. Repeat the import process for each of your playlists

Since iTunes can import M3U files, migrating your song ratings will work with any other player that also support M3U playlists. Most do.

There are a couple of caveats to this tutorial which are rooted in the M3U file format. The M3U file stores both the filename and the path to the file. There are two (at least) potential problems.

  1. If you want to move from Windows to OSX
  2. If your music file locations have changed

If you have either of these problems then a little Script-Fu should do the trick. It wouldn’t be too hard to write a quick parser in Perl/Python/Ruby which changes the path and filename to the new locations.


Easy way to track time spent on projects

I’ve used a few different project management programs, my current favorite is Basecamp. However, Basecamp wants to treat everything as a project and gets in your way if you want to track time spent on tasks that are not bound to a specific project. Slim Timer Logo

Today, for example, I need to track some time spent on a one-off task for a client. It’s pretty close-ended, I’ll do the work, send the hours spent to accounting and I’m done. Creating a Basecamp project for this would be overkill.

As a software nerd, the thought of just using a stop watch seems sacrilegious so I opted to search for an appropriate piece of software that would allow me to time unbounded tasks.

Enter SlimTimer. SlimTimer is a web application which allows you to quickly create time bounded tasks. Sign-up is quick and (as near as I can tell) free.

Once you create an account, you can begin creating tasks in a tiny (think Slim) pop-up window. When tasks are activated, a timer starts. Close the window, the timer stops. So far this seems to do exactly what I need.

If that was all the application could do then all I did was find a web 2.0 stop watch. The really cool thing is the reporting. SlimTimer allows you to generate invoices, timesheets or more generic reports showing the time spent on a series of tasks.

You can then take these reports, and print them or export them to CSV, handy if you need to send this to someone else.

If you need a quick way to time tasks, give SlimTimer a test drive.

[tags]productivity,project management,web2.0[/tags]

Great site for picking website color schemes

Nice pleasing color palette
I have a hard time with colors. I don’t know if I’m actually color blind but I will admit that from time to time I’ve left the house with two different color socks. I know my inability to ascertain color can hamper my ability to create visually pleasing web sites but I don’t want to stick to black and white. However, finding color designs to steal (ahem, borrow) is extremely tedious.

However, for those who are also color scheme challenged, choosing a great eye pleasing color palette is made easier with the COLORlovers website. COLOURlovers is a community driven website which provides color palettes which you can use for your website. The content is nicely laid out, and if you have a palette theme in mind (tans, blues, etc) you can drill down into dozens of different pallettes.

The next time you are looking for a great color palette take a look at COLOURlovers.


Organize your bookmarks efficiently with tags

In the stone age of PCs (circa. 2001), files were organized by filename and a hierarchy of file folders. If you wanted to retrieve a file, you needed to remember the filename and where you placed it. If you’ve ever tried to find something over a month old you quickly came to realize what an inefficient method of storage this is. In this post, I’ll discuss tagging, a fairly new method of organizing your data, and explore how to use your tags in an effective manner.
Continue reading “Organize your bookmarks efficiently with tags”

Simple command checks for secret Internet connections.

Has you PC been turned into a zombie? One way to find out is to log your internet connections to see what activity has occurred.Night-of-the-Living-Dead-Poster-C10080079

There are a number of tools available to do this, however, Windows comes with a free command line utility which is described here. The program, netstat, displays active network connections into and out of your box. To turn it into a network logger, follow the steps below.

Make sure, if you are running this that you close any known network applications like Firefox or your favorite web browser. Otherwise your log could fill with unwanted information.

  1. Open a command prompt, click Start->Run and type
  2. type netstat -b 2 > netlog.txt
  3. Let this run overnight then open the log file in notepad.

The command line option -b tells netstat to display the name of the programs initiating the network connection. The number tells netstat to dump to the log every 2 seconds.

What you will see in the netlog.txt is a list of all network connections with the name of the program making those connections in brackets []. If you see something you don’t recognize, you can use a website like to identify it and see if it is a virus or malware program.


Nearly Free AA Batteries from a 6 Volt Battery

6 Volt Battery Hack! You’ll Be Amazed!The top video clips of the week are hereIf you are like me, most of your electronic devices are powered by AA batteries. My kids go through AA batteries like candy, costing me a small fortune. This video, found on Metacafe show’s that inside 6 volt battery you can find 32 AA batteries. This hack could potentially save you hundred’s of dollars each year!