22 October 2009

Thing #10 - Image Generators

ImageChef.com - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more I found an image generator that allows you to customize a birthday cake -- both with the numbers on the candles and with the text. "Jelly" is my mother and her 83rd birthday will be on November 1. She was born in 1926 -- the same year that Queen Elizabeth of England was born. The site I used was ImageChef and I was able to post the photo directly to Blogger using a button on the ImageChef site. I followed the "More" button under Send as E-Card /Share (which had an option to e-mail a greeting or to post to Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, or a social network) and then under "Quick post."

21 October 2009

Finishing Thing #9

Today I actually subscribed to a blog using the Feeds function of Internet Explorer. I was curious about how it would work from the viewpoint of a blog, also, so I chose my own GenealogyClassBlog as my test.

I had not enabled any kind of RSS feed on my blog, which is based on WordPress. Apparently that isn't necessary, because when I entered the URL of my blog, www.desktopgenerations.com/blog, and when the page had loaded I saw that the new Feeds icon in the toolbar of my browser was orange. When I checked, I found that my blog's name was listed so I clicked and the feed loaded in my browser window, showing the 10 most recent posts. I clicked a link to subscribe to the feed, so now I'm subscribed from my work blog to my personal blog -- pretty cool. Of course, I'll already know when there are new postings, but now that I'm subscribed, I may even be able to experiment with other functionality from one blog to another.

16 October 2009

Thing #9 - RSS Feeds

This was tough. But at the same time, it was interesting. It was tough because there were so many temptations. It was difficult to remember my objective. I posted earlier about my experience with Bloglines.

Sindic8 didn't really work too well for me. There was too much peripheral information relating to the status of the feeds, I guess. And, the first topic I used as a search term brought several audio feeds when I wasn't really interested in audio.

I had used Technorati before and had some good results with it.

I had a problem with clicking on the Bloglines icon to subscribe to two different feeds. Both times Bloglines would load, but the feed's URL didn't load. I had better success using a "Sub with Bloglines" button that I'd added to my browser.

I'm still working on learning to use Internet Explorer to subscribe to feeds. At least now I have a "Feeds" button!

Quick Trips: Eppingen, Germany, offers a bevy of half-timbered buildings | Stars and Stripes

Quick Trips: Eppingen, Germany, offers a bevy of half-timbered buildings Stars and Stripes

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Well, I am learning about subscribing to RSS feeds, which has always been somewhat intimidating to me. And now, in my first attempt I have accidentally created a blog post instead. I used Bloglines' Search function to find a posting, but instead of finding a colorful list called, "Subscribe," I found Bookmark & Share, a very long colorful list with some familiar icons, including Del.icio.us, Twitter, Google Translate, and the one I chose -- Bloglines. But, since I have this opportunity to post this link, I decided to follow it through.

Eppingen is a small town that my daughter and I visited in Germany in April, with the help of our new friend, Werner Zwickel, from nearby Berwangen. He knew that Eppingen was an attraction to visitors so he led us over by road (he on a motorcycle and we in our rented Picaso) and gave us a tour on foot.

21 April 2009

RSS Feeds

Today I completed Things #7 & #8. Actually, Thing #7 was accomplished by my previous post about trying to use technology on my trip to Europe. So, I dove into Thing #8 -- learning to subscribe to RSS Feeds.

I had actually already set up an account on Bloglines many months ago. I think Mike Meisenheimer had suggested it. Today I subscribed to several more feeds, bringing the total to 27.

I haven't visited my Bloglines account very often. Maybe the reason is that I tend to want to save all of the posts rather than just read them, and I am already saving much of the same thing through email. I think that I will use it more now, though, since I've added a feed for comments on my blog and a feed for posts to my daughter's blog. It really will save me some time in checking to see if she has posted anything new.

I subscribe to several of the TCCL email lists about what to read, and I added some of those so I'll be getting them two ways. I'll need to get rid of one or the other, or else I'll be wasting the time I saved, reading the same thing twice.

I think TCCL has the right idea about using RSS to push information to our customers through RSS feeds. Now I need to find out where else we provide feeds!

Safely Back Home, and Back On the Internet

During the rest of my European vacation I had little opportunity to get back online for anything other than travel planning and emailing home. Lisa and I continued to cram as much into each day as possible, and any time I tried to spend with the Internet was much shorter than I needed.

The hostel in Dublin was a very large one, called Avalon House. This photo is from their website. There where six PCs and a sign asking you to limit your use to twenty minutes when others were waiting. Twenty minutes just isn't very long. Lisa and I were trying to make her final travel plans. Would she meet up with her friends from school to finish the week, or should she head back home? Was there available space in the hostel they'd chosen in Edinburgh? Could she get a train from London (where we would be when I took a plane back to the US), and then transportation back to her town in France for a reasonable price? When would her friends be arriving and departing Edinburgh, London, Paris and arriving back at school? Lisa e-mailed one of her friends and had to wait for an answer, and we tried studying transportation route websites, but twenty minutes, even on two PCs, again is really brief.

We found Google or Rick Steves' website to be the most helpful for locating information about transportation or places to stay. There is a graffiti wall on his site where other travelers post their opinions about places they have stayed. We used one of these recommendations to locate the hotel/B&B where we would stay in London. The names of two B&B's, including the Blades Hotel, were given at Rick Steves' website, and we were able to locate the two facilities' websites using Google. The websites told us where the places were located (both not far from Victoria Station in London) and I copied the information and phone number into my little journal/notebook (a very helpful tool), since the PCs at hostels have no printer. Then we got out the international calling card that we'd bought (and that Kevin had added money to, from home), and we called them up. We found that when we got to the pay phone at the Avalon House that it had cheap rates for calling other countries, so we emptied our pockets of coins (in Euros) and placed two calls. Lisa helped me with the country code and plugged the coins (her eyes are better than mine and some of the coins look too much alike), and I did the talking.

The first place had no vacancies for the nights we needed, but the Blades Hotel had a room for £85 a night -- not bad for London; about $119. I took down directions for us to get there from Victoria Station, which we would reach by train after our plane landed at London Gatwick Airport on Monday, 13 April.

If I'd had more lead time we could have done this by email, but when I'd tried to check availability of some places in Germany several weeks before we would be in Germany, I found that the email replies would come days after I'd written, which made that process somewhat frustrating. We couldn't afford to wait a few days when making these London arrangements. The same had happened when we were in Paris and decided to try making reservations in Germany. We ultimately reached a woman who spoke no English and then another who spoke little English, but we secured a reservation with the second (I think the first was telling me that they weren't open yet for tourist season). Again these two places in Germany had been recommended by Rick Steves. The Tulsa City-County Library carries his books, and he updates them each year so that his details are pretty reliable.

Another source for our booking places was hostelworld.com. Lisa found the 3 Ducks in Paris and the Sudfanne Hostel in Heidelburg, and Kevin found Avalon House in Dublin, using hostelworld.com. The 3 Ducks had been extremely noisy, but we'd been warned at the hostelworld.com website that it would be. So we can't fault them for that.

I had my iPod Touch with me, which has a little bitty screen, but which will connect with the Internet using Apple's Safari browser. It's a little slow to enter words into search boxes or to zoom in and out of various web pages, but there is no twenty minute limit. While I did laundry at the hostel early one morning, I found a sofa not far away and typed some emails to send home.

I was continually trying to fix a problem on my iPod with the Mail application. We use Macintosh computers at home and each of my daughters have MacBooks (and so does my mother), and on these we use the standard email application called Mail. I composed some emails and a blog entry to email using Mail on the iPod, but never could get it to "go." I use Cox for my Internet service provider and so I needed to interface with their system properly, but my iPod reportedly had issues with the outgoing server settings. Doesn't sound much like vacation, does it? So I sent an email to Cox asking for their help, but even when they sent an email with the settings (for a Mac, not for an iPod), my emails couldn't be sent. So, those emails are still stuck in my "Out" box.

I was able to email, though, using the web-based Cox Webmail. Through the tiny browser I can call up the cox.net website and login to my email accounts. So, I could see my incoming messages, reply if I wanted, and compose new emails. I could even delete some of the numerous emails that had been arriving while I'd been away from home. I use Cox's Webmail at other times when I want to access my email and I'm away from home.

Lisa checked her email the same way -- either her OU email or her other web-based email account. She posted some to her blog, too. We had no way to post her photos to her blog or to our emails, though, because that would have involved downloading the digital pictures from her camera to a computer. That would have to wait until she got back to her computer. She was using SD cards -- tiny little memory cards that hold maybe 700 pictures each. She ultimately took them back to school with her and will be sending them to me now that she has copied all of the pictures to her MacBook. So, I have had to tell everyone asking to see pictures that I don't have them, but that they'll be coming.

While Lisa was in charge of taking the pictures (after all, her major is Photography), I borrowed my dad's camcorder and tried to capture the experience through video. I would stand in an open area, turn on the camera and start recording, turning in a full circle while random strangers did whatever they do. I especially enjoyed capturing the sounds, including the various languages spoken. I taped the loud buses, the traffic signal beeps, the street performers' music, and occasionally the chimes of a cathedral. Lisa could capture the detail in the sights we were seeing -- castles, monuments, flower gardens, and whatever her artistic eye spotted in a bit of graffiti or a brightly-painted door -- while I tried to capture the feeling of the place where we walking, hearing, seeing. Lisa didn't really agree with my choices of subjects, so I hope that my pans turn out to be good anyway. Be sure to read Lisa's blog posts, too.

I also tried to take video through windows or from the top of a double-decker bus. These are bound to be poor, especially those taken through dirty windows, but I really wanted to show what I was seeing. I even took some video from a few airplanes. The countryside of Ireland, seen from the train we took from Dublin to Cork and then back again, may be a blur, but hopefully there will be a little that will show what I was seeing. When I was on a train and I saw something that I'd like to film, it would be gone by the time I got the camera in place and the record button pressed. And, if the train came upon some good scenery and I wanted to pan from side to side, invariably the train would enter a section with a high embankment or a row of dense trees, which obstructed the view. Oh well, it'll be raw footage that may contain some sections worth using in an iMovie that I hope to create with Lisa's pictures and my video. I know that at least Kevin, Erin, and my parents will want to see it. Maybe it'll be short enough that I could share it somehow at work, too. I know that Lisa and I will want to see it later, to remember our wonderful trip.

As we were walking across one of the bridges in Paris my first video tape was near the end. Lisa snapped pictures of the street performers in the middle of the bridge -- a five-piece ensemble including some string instruments (or maybe all strings?) I'll have to see if I have the answer to that on the video tape.

I think I ended up taking a second video tape and much of a third. I haven't watched and labeled all of them yet, now that I'm back home. I'm still catching up on sleep and spending some time with Kevin, Erin, my parents, and friends.

10 April 2009

In Dublin For Good Friday

Lisa and I are safe in a hostel in Dublin for the next three nights. Between my last post and today, we spent three nights in Paris, taking the Metro (subway) and visiting the Louvre and Notre Dame the night before Palm Sunday and found a mass in progress. The service was beautiful, even though there were hundreds of tourist shuffling through the catedral during the mass.

On Sunday morning, we attended mass in a small Catholic church across the street from our hostel. It was all in French. I am still carrying around the branch they had available for those filing into the service.

We took a train to Mannheim, another train to Heidelburg, and then a bus to our hostel in Heidelburg. We found access to the Internet in Heidelburg, but had to spend our time making travel arrangements and dealing with a German keyboard. Heidelburg was pretty and the weather was great. We rented a car in Heidelburg and drove out to the little village of Berwangen, where my great, great grandfather, Johann Georg Mayer had been born and was christened in 1826. We met a wonderful man and his mother-in-law. He has been watching a language program weekly to learn English. Between his English and my German we communicated fairly well. They made lunch for us -- and the dish turned out to be cow's stomach!

We drove from Berwangen to a little town on the Mosel River called Zell, where we had an apartment reserved. While in Zell we drove up to the Burg Eltz, a castle belonging in the Eltz family. Back at the apartment, the owner, who also had a wine cellar/winery, gave us a quick, personal tour. The next morning we drove to the Frankfurt Hahn Airport and flew to Dublin.

Once in Dublin, yesterday midday, we took a train to Cork where we found a B&B with a nice little bedroom for the two of us. This morning we took a bus to Blarney to see the Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone. We took the bus back to Cork, walked around some and returned to get our things from the York House B&B, and headed back to the train station. On the return ride we saw lots of Irish countryside -- nice and green. The weather was both sunny and drizzly.

Back in Dublin this afternoon, we walked to another hostel, which Kevin had booked for us. We arrived at about 7:00, moved our stuff into our room and headed out to find dinner. Lots of places were closed because they aren't allowed to serve alcohol on Good Friday, but there were lots of people looking. Instead of eating Irish food, we found an Italian restaurant, but at least we had a table.

Tomorrow we plan to take a ride on an on-and-off Dublin bus to see what all is here.