Get Off Your Lazy *** and Set up Google Reader!

I often talk with people who spend just as much time as me (or more) surfing various blogs and sites to keep up on news in a broad array of areas. One complaint is usually that people miss material, or material is posted so rapidly that they feel overwhelmed. A solution to this is to use an RSS reader, a favorite is Google Reader, to read your news. When I mention this, I often hear  “No, that’s too much work” – quite a funny statement since once it’s set up, the RSS reader will actually save hours and hours of time wasted surfing to pages and refreshing them.

And it isn’t even a lot of work in the first place – you can be up and running with Google Reader in under 10 minutes, and here’s how.

1. Get a Google account if you don’t already have one.

2. Log in to Google Reader

3. Once in, it will look pretty empty. However never fear – you’ll soon have your news and blog posts show up. Click the “Add Subscription” button and enter the web address of the page you want to add. Most blogs and news websites now have their RSS feed links set up so that Reader can automatically find it:

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Once you hit “Add”, you’re done – the news items from that site will now appear. Occasionally you may need to track down a specific feed address (for example, some larger sites have feeds just for certain news items, like Science news or Entertainment news). If you need to find those, go to the site you’re reading and look for the RSS icon: image  – clicking on it should take you to the RSS link. You can then copy and paste it from your browser’s address bar to the Add a Subscription box in Reader.

Once you have reader set up, all you need to do to read your feeds is log into reader, and click All Items:

image

It will then display all items from all of your feeds in the right hand reading pane. You can spend more time reading and less time loading pages.

 

I estimate it would take a medium-to-heavy blog reader around 15 minutes to add all of their feeds to reader, and then most likely save them about 5 minutes per day in page load times, bookmark clicks, and such. So after 3 days, reader’s setup has paid for itself time wise, not to mention you’ll sound cool since you can actually tell everyone all of the cool things you’ve read – not have them say “Hey, didn’t you see that article on X blog about…”

Backup & Restore Android Apps Using ADB

Android is an interesting platform for a number of reasons, one of which is it’s openness to developer and debugging tools, and the fact that it runs a modified form of Linux as an operating system. If you’re like me and quite fond of jumping around from ROM to ROM on your Android devices, a quick and easy way to backup your program files (and even settings) is quite desirable. Here’s my solution, hopefully it will help you. I know there are easier ways, but for a diehard geek who has the setup ready, this is the fastest way.

First step: Install Android Debug Bridge (adb)

adb is a tool found in the Android SDK, which you can download here. Once you unzip the SDK, add the directory to your path so you can call adb.exe from the command line (or just always run it from it’s tools directory). Once the SDK is installed, you can connect your device to your computer and make sure you SKIP the driver detection Windows automatically starts. If you don’t, Windows will install a generic USB device driver and adb won’t work. If you accidentally do this, follow the steps outlined here to fix the problem. You may want to use pstools to run Registry Editor as System to fully delete out the entries that the fix tells you to delete, otherwise it’s a long process of taking ownership of directories, giving yourself permission, and finally deleting the directory. Repeat 15 times. Sounds like fun right?

So how do you know you have adb installed and working? Well if you plug in your device and run the following command:

adb devices

and you get back something that looks like this:

List of devices attached

HT845GZ67642 device

then it’s working. If you get a message saying that no devices were found, then it isn’t!

Second step: Backup the applications (and settings)

Now that you have adb working, open a command line and make a new directory. To backup the apk files (The package files that store the program’s executables and libraries), run the following command:

adb pull /data/app ./

and you should see a long list of apk files being downloaded to your computer. UPDATE: if you’re using a ROM that places your applications on the SD card for speed and backup purposes, the above command won’t work. Instead use the following command:

adb pull /system/sd/app ./

Settings are a slightly different beast. They’re stored under /data/data on the device, and you may have to hunt around a bit to find what you’re looking for. running the following command will let you access your phone in the same way you’d SSH into a unix/linux machine, or work at the Mac command prompt:

adb shell

Some examples are below of often-backed-up files you may want to grab off your device:

MMS/SMS data: /data/data/com.android.providers.telephony/databases/mmssms.db

Browser settings: /data/data/com.android/browser

System WiFi Settings: /data/misc/wifi

Once you have everything you want backed up, it’s time to restore!

Third step: Restoring data

Assuming you want to restore APK files, and you have all of those in 1 directory, you can run the following command on a mac to install all those apk files:

find ./ –exec adb install {} \;

If you’re on a Windows machine, your command is a bit longer, and this assuems your apk files are in c:\backupapps

for %%f in (“C:\BackupApps\*.apk”) do adb install “%%f”

Alternatively, from a command line window in the directory you have your backed up apps, you can run the following on a Windows machine:

adb install *.apk

After the applications, you can restore whatever data files and settings you backed up. Oh, and for you apps2SD users that may have a really bloated extended partition and want to wipe clean, try the following to clear the EXT partition on your SD card so you can move new apps over (useful for those who are doing completely clean installs on SD cards that were previously used with apps2SD). You should do this from the Recovery image, not the actual live running version (e.g. reboot and hold Home to get to recovery image.)

mount /system/sd
rm -rf /system/sd/*

Hopefully this little walk-through was somewhat helpful for you! If so, leave a comment!

Amazing what we can do these days eh?

Automation is pretty crazy. As I type this, I’m unsure what is actually going to happen when I hit Publish. You see, up until a week ago, I had a pretty jury rigged system where I posted something to a Joomla based CMS that was rather clunky, and then I twittered about it, and that twitter post went to my facebook status. Along the way a component for Joomla would download entries from my other blogs and Pocket PC Thoughts and dump them into the database. This seemed to work out pretty well, but I thought perhaps a more up-to-date system would be nice. Especially with all the changes coming up in the next few months, why not have a better site?
So I’m typing this in the backend of WordPress (Being on a Linux laptop I’m unable to use Windows Live Writer or Word right now), and I have a bunch of gizmos turned on to do various things. First of all, I’m tagging this with a Twitter tag, which I THINK is supposed to trigger some plugin I have to push this out to Twitter and a bunch of other websites (e.g. statuses on Facebook, Myspace, etc..). I’m not sure if it will work. At the same time, the same plugin should push this out as a note on Facebook, but who knows if it will (If you’re reading this there, then I guess it worked).

Now Twitter poses a bit of a problem for me because when this publishes out, I don’t want it sucked back in. Why would it do that? Well, my status updates need to be archived for glory on JonWestfall.Com, and if my status update advertises my blog item and then the status update actually upstages the blog item, it just creates a self-referential storm of junk on the homepage. So I hopefully found a solution using Yahoo! Pipes that should block from my twitter feed any items with [JonWestfall.Com] in them from EVER appearing back on the homepage. Ugh.

If this sounds confusing, that’s because it really is. All I want is everything I write to A) appear on JonWestfall.Com in some form and B) my friends to know I’ve posted something (in whatever medium they’re using or accessing). I guess those two are mutually exclusive to some extent. So what will happen when I press “Publish”? Who knows, but hopefully something good.

Take The Internet With You When You Go!

About a year ago, I switched from Direcway Broadband Satellite internet to a Sprint EVDO Rev A card for my home internet service. The choice was easy – the Sprint card was cheaper and had better speeds overall than the satellite. For awhile, I put my broadband card into a spare computer and had it share the connection via Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) in Windows XP. Then I found a router online (The WRT54G3G-ST) that would let me pop the card right into my router and avoid the ICS hassle. The best part about using a broadband card for your internet service is that when you leave, you can simply take the internet with you when you go. However unless you want to install the broadband card drivers on every laptop in the family, there is no easy way to share (Unless you think setting up an adhoc network in Vista and sharing the internet – reliably – is easy!). My Solution? A cheap and easy rig that will let you pack “The Internet” with you when you go!

Step 1 – Parts

You’ll probably want the following (At least my rig is set up like this). My rig allows for the internet to be powered through AC or DC, depending on if you’re in a car or hotel room. Here are the parts:

  • Broadband card (Duh…)
  • Broadband Router (The WRT45G3G-ST in my case)
  • Short power strip (Optional, I suppose)
  • Some sort of Power Inverter (DC to AC). Mine is 400W, however you may be able to get away with less!
  • Box (Either an actual project box from somewhere like Radio Snack, or in my case, two Avon box lids)

 

Step 2 – Construction

You’ll probably want to plan out your rig before actually constructing it. I did mine visually, however for the sake of easy explaining, I’ll do up a small diagram (Click on it to see it a bit clearer!):

Next you’ll probably want to cut holes for vents, ports for cords, the hole for the antenna to stick out, and the power strip access. I used a simple swiss army knife as it cuts through cardboard quite nicely (What doesn’t…) and used masking tape to secure each item to the base of the box (I do want to disassemble this when I get home to put everything back where it normally goes). Feel free to improvise here – you may want to add more power ports, etc..

My design was specifically made to allow for AC or DC powering, and it works like this. When using AC, the power strip’s cord runs straight out the port to the right of it, and into a wall outlet. When on DC, it loops around the inverter (and plugs into the outlets at the bottom of the inverter. The Inverter’s cord then comes out the port to the right of the power strip, and into a car cigarette lighter. I’m planning on bringing an extension cord for the DC cord, as it is shorter than the power strip’s.

Step 3 – Complete & Accessorize

Here are some pictures of my completed rig. Note the snazzy title I gave mine (The Internet, complete edition, in color!). Accessorize to your heart’s content, just don’t block the vents!

(Edited to remove SSID – I’m paranoid…)

That’s all folks. Feel free to register and post your comments or suggestions!

Jon Westfall is a research psychologist and confirmed techno-geek. He’s a contributing editor for Pocket PC Thoughts, as well as a Microsoft MVP for Windows Mobile. This blog is where most of his longer articles reside, however jonwestfall.com also has other goodies and more than you want to know about him.

Registered and Ready To Go

Well, I’m registered, checked-in, and now the proud owner of a Microsoft MVP shirt. Unfortunately since my body is still thinking it’s on the east coast, I’m up extremely early for my normally sleep-loving self! It’s 8:54 local time now, but feels much later (Perhaps around noon?). Our first official meeting is “Lunch” which is scheduled to start around Lunch time, e.g. later than I’m thinking lunch should be. Anyway I had a breakfast sandwich to hold me over, and am psyched about getting to meet some MVP friends (Although not sure how I’ll meet them, I figure I’ll seek out Jason sometime in the next few hours, once I’m relatively sure he’s gotten in as he was flying down this morning).

Seattle weather is the norm – rainy, and around 45 degrees. Now this is different from 45 Degrees in Ohio, as there is no frickin wind to whip you around. 45 Degrees here isn’t bad, and I’m quite comfortable with my vest and sweatshirt.

I’ll be posting pics pretty much all week and they’ll all end up on the homepage at jonwestfall.com (Even though this blogging is being done to my Confessions blog – it just works nicer sometimes, especially for editing posts in Word). The pics usually get rotated screwy, but I’ll try to log in and change the rotation as best as possible.

Stay Tuned!

Ubuntu 7.10 Taking FOREVER…

Arcane Code has a nice write-up about installing Ubuntu 7.10 in Virtual PC. He’s right about one thing (among many others..) – it take FOREVER to install. Not Forever in the sense of 1990 386-processor forever, but forever in the sense of 2007 dual core with 2 GB of Memory FOREVER… it’s been 10 minutes already, probably around 15 more. Way too long

Device Change!

OK, I do this often enough that I figured I’d start blogging about it more so I can see just HOW often I do it, and my reasoning.

Since I received it in early September (The 7th I believe), I’ve been using the awesome HTC TyTN II. Tonight I decided to put it to rest for a bit and switch to the T-Mobile Dash! The TyTN II therefore logs 42 days & 7 hours or so of work.

Why the switch, well for a few reasons

  • The TyTN II’s initial ROM is a bit buggy, and no patches have been released yet. Once one is released, the TyTN II will most likely come back out for a bit.
  • In my daily life, The Dash is actually a bit easier to carry (lighter) and use if I’m not doing anything too complex. I’m pretty sure before I head off to Long Beach next month for JDM that I’ll switch back to a touchscreen device!
  • I am a gadget Junkie and own several Windows Mobile devices for a reason – so I can switch!!! So switching doesn’t always need a big reason.

So Dashy gets back in business for at least a few weeks probably, or maybe a few months, or maybe a few days – who knows. It was a tough call between the Dash and the Treo 750v. Perhaps the Treo will get some love before the end of the year. Oh, and for sure the JasJAR will make an appearance when JDM rolls around for gaming on the plane and composing emails on the go.

I Was Tagged!

Talk about being out of the loop! Nearly 10 months ago, Doug over at Just Another Mobile Monday, Tagged Me! In this wonderful virtual-tag game, you give 5 little known facts about yourself, and then tag 5 other people. So since I’m already tardy, I’ll get straight to the facts!

1. I’m a closet Star Trek: The Next Generation fan. When I was younger, I was an extreme Trekker. I mean winning-trivia-contests-had-my-own-captains-uniform-watched-ever-show type of Trekker. Now that I’m a bit older, and not to amused by subsequent Star Trek efforts (e.g. Enterprise), I just quietly sit back and keep my little geeky secret hidden. However I do fall prey to watching re-runs of favorite episodes, from time to time!

2. I’m really anal about organizing SOME things and not others! Those who know me will probably find it amazing (given the way my bedroom and home office look most of the time) that I keep my office at work organized meticulously. My files are in order, and my computer’s hard drives have organization all of their own. I can find 99% of all files I’ve ever looked for. Now if I could only say I can find 99% of all socks I’ve ever looked for, i’d be in business!

3. I’m into music, just not in the same way as others! Most people I meet like certain genres of music, or certain bands. I like music too, but in a weird way that just screams “Yea, he once played violin, poorly, in school”. I’ll listen to a song from any genre and find the oddest things about it to like (e.g. the way its mixed, the way two instruments happened to sound together). I get the feeling most of my quirky musical likes are accidental by the artists. A good example is the song Eminence Front, by The Who. When the first line of the refrain is sung, the original mix has an error in mixing that causes a wonderful syncopation effect (Sorta like you’re hearing “Eminance Fron-Front”) that I love. Too bad they corrected in other mixes!

4. OK, I guess the secret is out in #3 – I have played Violin for a substantial part of my life (4th grade through 11th grade). I was awful at it. Really bad. The kind of bad that keeps you second-to-last-stand of second Violin for 3 years (And I’m convinced this was just because my teacher felt bad for me so she threw some underclassmen behind me). I still pick up my fiddle from time to time (Modern music isn’t too bad to play compared to classical), but not enough for others to notice.

5. And lastly, something that only a few people know about is the fact that I revel in the mundane things in life! It’s the little things that make me very happy. If I can beat a traffic light because I drive the same route and know exactly how fast to accelerate so I beat the light a mile down the road, that makes me happy. If I clean out an old file and move things to archives, that makes me happy. Backups make me happy. And having a kick-ass gel pen that writes well makes me happy. I suppose this is why I’m pretty laid back – I don’t look for an exciting life, just a mundane one with small joys!

OK, enough about me! Now it’s time to tag 5 other people. Since I have a pretty low-traffic blog here (I actually have 2 low-traffic blogs that are syndicated to a low-traffic homepage named after myself…), I guess most of these people will wait 10 months or longer before finally getting around to posting their own questions. And the game of tag will go on and on and on due to mutual procrastination and lack of obscure knowledge!

Here’s my list:

1. Karey Westfall (My Wife). She’s had a WordPress blog at karey.org now for a few years and NEVER written in it. Lets see if this gives her the impetus to start! She and I do have a pretty good cookbook over there though…

2. Jason Dunn (From Thoughts Media). I’ve recently started regularly checking out Jason’s personal blog (With a kick-ass theme created by Darius Wey) and figure he doesn’t have enough to do in his life so I thought I’d add this tag game to his list ().

3. Vijay, from XDA-Developers and his own site, Vijay555.com. He’s coded a half-dozen and more pretty useful little programs for Pocket PC and shares his knowledge over on XDA-Developers forum to a great degree. Plus, I’d love to know 5 little-known facts about him!

4. Ed Hansberry from Pocket PC Thoughts. Ed is the resident voice of sarcasm and wit at PPCT, and his K-JAMMING blog could really use an updating. So Tag – you’re it Ed!

5. Hal Goldstein, THE main man at Smartphone & Pocket PC Magazine! Another person whom I’m sure has Way too much freetime and would love to fill out this tag game! Hal works pretty hard (as does the rest of the Magazine team) to put together a quality product I’m proud to read and contribute to.

So there you have it. I’ve completed my tag, and tagged 5 others. Now they’ll find out when they invariably google their own names (Come on, we all do it) or hear about it from someone, and perhaps they’ll post a comment here letting me know they’ve decided to keep the tagging game alive!