Category Archive for 'General'

A Small Tribute to “Ai Gu” (Daddy’s Elder Sister)

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

I was just about to get comfortable to study some languages again. Then, I find out my 90-something-year-old aunt died last night. Now, my brain is busy trying to remember something more concrete about her. Most of my memories of her are from my childhood. Those memories are pretty vague. :-(

This is the aunt who in her 80s would go to the casino by herself. (She doesn’t speak much English from what I recall.) A cousin of mine (my aunt is her grandmother) had told me this. My reaction at the time was “That’s just awesome”. :-)

Funny enough, the most concrete memory I have of my aunt (who is my dad’s elder sister) is from my dad’s funeral almost 18 years ago. His funeral hadn’t started yet. People were lingering around, then this lady comes in and starts wailing. It was my aunt. I’m pretty sure she startled both my brother and I. Later, my sister told me my other cousin had to tell my aunt to stop because she was scaring “the children” (lol). My sister then told me that the wailing is a Chinese tradition. Someone had to wail at the funeral so that the Chinese spirits could hear. It usually has to be someone really close to the deceased. Because this was my aunt’s younger brother’s funeral, she fit the role for that well.

Now, I’m wondering who will wail for my aunt.

Another Chinese funeral custom is the burning of “hell money”. This money supposedly pays off any spirits that block the passage of the deceased to the underworld/otherworld. I think it is similar to the Greek tradition of paying the ferryman so that the deceased can cross the river.

I wasn’t especially close to my aunt, but I recall her visiting my mom off and on during my childhood. I wish I knew more about my aunt, my mom, my dad, and my other relatives.  I wish I knew what it was like for them to leave their home country to immigrate to a new country. Language barrier and time seem to be the biggest obstacles in that regard.

It’s funny that when a relative dies, no matter how close you are or not (or how much you liked or disliked that person), you feel like a part of you dies with them. I think it’s the connection to the past and to a history that you never knew about that you end up missing. Next time I’m at my mom’s, I’ll have to get her to dig out her old photo albums. Pictures tell so much and yet so little, but they are better than nothing.

Temporarily Boycotting Twitter due to Censorship Issue

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

As a minor form of protest against Twitter suspending Guy Adams’ account (in effect censoring him), I won’t be signing into Twitter until I hear that they’ve reinstated his account. If they don’t reinstate his account, I will be considering deactivating my Twitter account. For now, my blog posts (from Pneumatised!), Tumblr posts, and Plurks will still auto-Tweet via those respective sites. People can also follow me on Google+, where I frequently post publicly.

What Guy Adams had to say about Twitter suspending his account (click the title link after to see his full article)

~~~C

London 2012 Summer Olympics: Waiting for Taekwondo to Start

Monday, July 30th, 2012

It’s Olympic time again. Like the last three Summer Olympics, I’m looking forward to the taekwondo sparring competition at the Olympics, which starts on August 8th (see the taekwondo schedule via the London 2012 site). While I wait to watch taekwondo, I decided to check out a few other Olympic sports that I never got to see much of in the past. Canada’s broadcasting on the Olympics in the past tended to focus on swimming, gymnastics, and athletics (not that I mind those sports; I like watching gymnastics, but I’d rather go swimming and running plus it gets boring watching those two events after a while; I just think they should air some of the other sports as well). However, since Canada won a bronze in women’s taekwondo back in 2000 (Dominique Bosshart was Canada’s only competitor for taekwondo at that Olympics), the Canadian media has in the past given some glimpses of taekwondo. Since Karine Sergerie‘s silver win in 2008, the Canadian media has gotten a bit more excited about taekwondo (though I’m not sure how well they will cover the competition this year).

Olympic broadcasting online in Canada this year will be done by CTV (RDS is the French name). I don’t watch TV anymore so using Sportsnet or TSN isn’t an option. (See London 2012 Broadcasters for how to watch the Olympics in your country.) Besides, maybe I can watch other sports using the online media. Of course, the CTV Olympic website (for the French site, it’s RDS Olympiques; the English and French sites are linked on each others) has proven to be a bit of a pain to use. You can avoid the CTV broadcast completely and use the “World Feed” instead, but you’ll have to go to the specific sport section and look for their “World Feed” video links. There’s always commercials before the video even starts (of course *eye roll*), and you’ll get more commercials if you jump around too much in the video stream. I’m not sure exactly how they determine when to pop up the commercials, but be warned they’re there. You can’t skip them. Just hit your computer’s mute button if they annoy you like they do me. The most annoying thing about the commercials is that after they run and your video resumes, the video defaults to mid-volume level again. You’ll have to adjust the video volume controls again. (I use the video volume so I don’t have to amp up the hardware volume on my computer – it sounds crappy if you do that.) If you miss the event live, CTV has full replay videos for some events. I’ve been taking advantage of this. The best way to find these videos is to go to the “schedule and results” section, click on the sport you want which should then pull up a listed schedule. There might be links to the full replay videos there. Having found my way around CTV site. I managed to get video streams for a few sports that CTV wasn’t airing during its “Watch Now” video broadcast.

Here’s what I watched so far at the 2012 Summer Olympics:

Day 1: Saturday, July 28

Archery – men’s team (bronze and gold matches)
Fencing – women’s foil (bronze and gold matches)
Judo – men’s -60kg and women’s -48kg (a couple of the quarterfinal matches; I couldn’t find the full video replay of the gold matches)
Shooting – men’s 10m air pistol and women’s 10m air rifle (finals)

Day 2: Sunday, July 29

Archery – women’s team (bronze and gold matches)
Fencing – men’s sabre (gold match)
Judo – men’s -66kg and women’s -52kg (gold matches)
Shooting – women’s 10m air pistol and skeet (finals)

Day 3: Monday, July 30

Fencing – women’s épée (bronze and gold matches)
Judo – men’s -73kg and women’s -57kg (gold matches)
Shooting – men’s 10 air rifle (finals)
Gymnastics – men’s team (finals)

You can see the results of Olympic events at the London 2012 site. They have also created some mobile apps. The results app is the most useful. (See the London 2012’s mobile apps page.)

For team sports, I’m mostly interested in basketball and soccer since I played those in high school. Canada has a women’s team for basketball this time (they did not have a men’s or a women’s team at the Olympics in 2008). For soccer, Canada’s women’s team is at the Olympics again. Canada’s men’s teams for both soccer and basketball didn’t qualify for the 2012 Olympics. If I have the time, I’ll watch some basketball and soccer. I also got to see a bit of handball and waterpolo. I’ve never really seen those sports in action before.

As for taekwondo, it’ll be interesting to watch Karine Sergerie again. At the 2008 olympics, Karine Sergerie won a silver medal in taekwondo for Canada. She’s back this time. Will she get the gold? (Sergerie’s silver is Canada’s second olympic medal in taekwondo. Dominique Bosshart won a bronze in 2000.) To find out more about taekwondo at the Olympics, visit olympics.org’s taekwondo section. There are videos of past competitors at the Olympics. Sergerie’s weight division is -67kg. She won the World Taekwondo Championships in 2007 in the -63kg division. The Olympics have only four weight divisions instead of the eight in standard taekwondo competitions.

As with past Olympics, there have been some controversies in competitions. See the following articles:

Controversy, Disappointment for Japanese Judokas (My comments can be found on my Tumblr blog.)

South Korean fencer in protest after controversial Olympic defeat (My comments can be found on my Tumblr blog.)

There’s thirteen more days of the Olympics left. Taekwondo starts in eight days. I think I’ll take a break from the Olympics for now – read a book (I’m reading Sherlock Holmes again; yes, all the novels and stories again) or maybe play a game (I haven’t played much Mass Effect 3 multiplayer in the past few weeks). I also need to get back to my own taekwondo and fitness training. :-)

~~~C

Links:
Olympic News via the London 2012 site (In case you’re tired of the news stream from your country’s Olympics broadcaster, check out the news page from the London 2012 site.)
Olympic Schedule and Results (London 2012 site)
Taekwondo at the 2012 Summer Olympics
CTV’s video snapshot of Karine Sergerie

Articles:

Yi Siling wins first gold medal of Games (China won a gold and a bronze. Nice shooting. ;-))

Republic of Korea claim another gold (Korea not only excels in taekwondo, but in archery as well! :-D)

Canada Olympic Women’s Basketball: Team Loses 58-53 To Russia(Russia makes a comeback against Canada, who failed to hold a 10 point lead. Canada, this is why it’s hard to root for you in team sports (aside from ice hockey, and oh yeah, curling). (Sidenote: “Russia is missing star centre Maria Stepanova. The six-foot-eight star, who has played in the last four Olympics, tore her anterior cruciate ligament at the Euroleague final eight in late March.” The ACL tear is a common injury among female athletes. It can be career-ending if it’s not fixed.))

Canada Makes the Team Final… (About damned time!)

Peng Peng Lee’s Olympic Journey (At least she’s doing the right thing – surgery, recover, and get stronger first.)

Peng Peng Lee – One on One (A short interview with Canadian gymnast, Peng Peng Lee)

Sleep Bot (Android App) – A Short Review

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Review of Sleep Bot Tracker Log (also see Sleep Bot app on Android Market):

I’ve been using this app for the past few days. I like that it lets me know how much sleep I’m missing (“sleep debt”) because then I’ll try to catch up (I guess it’s almost a game to try to get rid of your sleep debt). It also charts and graphs your sleep data to help you understand your sleeping patterns. The past few days, I’ve been waking up after about 6 hours. I do better with at least 8 hours a day. Some days, 9 hours are good. I configured the app for 8 hours optimal sleep. You can make notes on your sleep entries. Back up to SD card as text file is available as are share options to share summarized data. It also offers sleeping tips including stuff like get better mattress to stuff about what you should or shouldn’t eat before bedtime. Some tips you may have heard before, but maybe forgot about. I forgot tryptophan helps with sleep because it’s connected to melatonin somehow. Tryptophan is in dairy products, but also in shrimp (yummy! explains why I get sleepy after eating shrimps) and other foods.

If you have sleeping problems, you might want to check out this app. (If you have a sleeping disorder, you probably need to see a sleep specialist. I think I have Non-24 from trying to fix DSPS, and I haven’t seen a sleep specialist, but that’s just me. I have no problems trying to diagnose myself, but I am not qualified to diagnose others. So go see a sleep specialist if you’re concerned about maybe having a sleep disorder.)

˜˜˜C

Canadian and American Humour: A Comparison

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Canadian

Great White North: Beer Nog (featuring “Bob and Doug McKenzie” as seen on SCTV)

“You hoser! Take off to the Great White North, eh? Get some smokes and beer while you’re there, eh?”

American

America Fuck Yeah! (a fan-made video featuring theme song and clips from the movie, Team America: World Police)

“Team America, fuck yeah! Coming again to save the mother fuckin’ day, yeah!”

Hmmm…

Some Personal Thoughts on Human Rights and Space Travel

Monday, November 21st, 2011

I’ve been reading astronomy all weekend. I’ve kind of missed it since I first took astronomy in university (and with all the changes in spaceflight going on – space tourism, woohoo! – I think I’d better brush up). Somehow I got an A in astronomy (no, not just staring at stars all year long) and nearly flunked accounting (even though I aced accounting in high school – university level accounting and high school accounting are NOT the same). Okay, well, I was under “extenuating circumstances” the year I was studying accounting. Still had to re-do accounting though because less than a C grade was not acceptable for the program. :( (The business school was actually wondering why I didn’t just do a math degree. Lol. I did get accepted into the math program, I just opted for business for some insane reason.)

I’ve been wanting to go back to school (for the third time now), but have been torn between law school overseas (because all the law programs in North America now seem to be business focused, but some law schools in Europe have programs on international human rights law) or maybe astrophysics (if I can hack the science now that I’m older and not lazy like I was in high school). Then again, I’m not keen on going into debt again to pay some institution for subjects I can learn on my own, so I might not go back for anything at all.

Lately though, I’ve been leaning towards studying astronomy and astrophysics because law (particularly human rights law), for the most part, seems too easy in a way. Not to sound conceited or arrogant, but a lot of the issues in human rights seem to have straight-forward, logical, sane solutions. The problem though is that people en masse aren’t sane or logical or straight-forward necessarily. Work in human rights dwindles down to plain and outright politics (which I understand, but don’t love; frankly, I think politics is b/s, and I never even played office politics when I was working). Funny enough, as a teenager my family told me I should probably go into politics because I’m passionate about some issues and I have strong opinions on most things. My response was “Hell no”. ;) It seems like with human rights, being involved in politics is unavoidable. At some point, you get dragged into it. Human rights work is also terribly emotionally draining and exhausting. Even just reading and writing about it can zap you for a few days. I can only imagine what it’s like if I was dealing directly with a human rights case. As rational as a person can be, some cases will just get to you because you will feel helpless at times and you will feel frustrated because you feel that you just can’t help so-and-so or some group of people.

Why astronomy and astrophysics? For me, it’s clear. It’s time for humans to be able to get off this planet. It’s time to colonize (moon, Mars, Jupiter’s moons, etc.), and I really plan on being one of the first to go. (Leave me to my dreams people!). Sure there’s some politics involved with convincing governments to fund space programs, but those politics are arguably less stressful than the politics in most (probably all) human rights cases.

I’m not saying I’m going to ignore human rights issues. Even if humans do begin to colonize other worlds, inevitably these issues will come along for the ride (get too many people in one small boat and inevitably some will start fighting). It’s important to understand these issues, so we do not make the same mistakes over and over. In some distant future, if we manage to be able to travel “to the stars”, I also think that space travel should be a human right (so long as it is feasible, as under our current economic system, it may not be feasible for a long time). This idea stems from the opinion that travelling today should also be considered a human right. Human rights law as it exists now allows nations/countries to have border controls. I think this is an obsolete idea today. Border controls are tools of nationalism. Nationalism has no place in the today’s world – certainly not in a world where we can communicate all over the world in an instant making friends who live on the other side of the world; and also travel to anywhere in the world in less than a day. People should be able to freely travel with no fear or chance of being unreasonably held in a foreign country; and to properly ensure that, border controls need to be eliminated. World travel should be a human right and, in the distant future, space travel should be a human right.

In my opinion, if humans want to survive and if we want to see our civilization last, it’s important that we look beyond Earth as a place to live. Not saying that everyone has to race to get off the planet. Certainly, there are some people who might want to stay here; and definitely, there should be a population remaining on Earth, but I do think the option to live elsewhere is important for our civilization. As our world population continues to grow, we are more pressed for space to live than when humans first landed on the moon 42 years ago. (You’d think humans would have landed on Mars by now! But well… it was really politics that got us to the moon… another rant, another time.)

Throughout history, humans have proven to be adventurous and there have always been explorers. What happened to this sense of adventure? Where are the explorers now? Are some people (*cough* politicians *cough*) just self-satisfied with life as it is that they don’t want to know more about the universe? Have some people just given up on the idea of space travel? Why don’t we put more pressure on our governments world-wide to emphasize space programs? (Note: has anyone else besides me noticed that there are no political parties devoted to promoting space travel and continued studies and research in the relevant fields? I may not like our political systems, but sadly you have to work within the framework that’s already in place to make the changes you want. I dislike politics and I don’t want to start my own political party, so someone please start a “Space Party” or something like that. “New Millennium Party”, maybe? Something!)

That being said, space programs like NASA’s should be open to everyone, not just U.S. citizens. More accurately, it should be turned into an international program. Failing that, we need to start an international space program. The European Space Agency (ESA) is a good start. Maybe they could merge NASA and ESA and start including other countries. (Note: It looks like they may have started this process. See “International consensus on joint space exploration”.)

There is also commercial spaceflight and space tourism. As pessimistic as I can be about putting the future of human civilization in the hands of a few corporations, I think that commercial ventures in spaceflight will get us into space sooner than government ventures alone. Governments no longer have to contend with other governments, but also with other corporations – corporations that have more money than governments to spend on building spacecrafts. My hope is that the corporations and the governments will be able to co-operate on space ventures in order to bring the reality of space travel to humans sooner. (If you read various articles on space.com, it does look like this process is starting.)

In the meantime, I’m going to refresh my knowledge of basic astronomy and physics. My personal home study curriculum now includes anatomy, physiology, astronomy, physics, some languages (Korean and Spanish; for Chinese, I’ve decided to concentrate on the reading and writing instead of the oral language) and a few other subjects of personal interest. All this on top of taekwondo training right now and my other personal goal of writing at least one novel in the science fiction and fantasy genres (oh yeah, another reason why I should refresh my knowledge of astronomy). Eek! Loads to do.

˜˜˜C
Your local knowledge junkie

Call Itself What It Wants, It’s Still Just Another Aggregator

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Link: A Review of Paper.li: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

While the reviewer in the above link seems to be fair in listing the pros and cons, I think the cons far outweigh the pros (I think the reviewer was thinking of the number of pros versus cons while I’m thinking about the value of each pro and con). It’s not just “buggy” if something is attributed to the wrong person, it’s an issue of “moral rights” of the author/creator. (Side note: Do people not remember the ban on plagiarism in school? It’s closely related to moral rights.)

“Promotes the paper as something you created”

I have a problem with this. The “newspaper” created by paper.li is done using your Twitter account (people can also sign up using their  Facebook account, which I think is cause for great concern considering that most people do not post publicly on Facebook), but the paper itself isn’t your creation as you didn’t write the content (if you’re lucky, maybe some of your tweets will be in it) nor have you personally selected each “article” in the paper. Paper.li calls its users “publishers” and “editors”, though the job of a newspaper editor is more involved than just selecting a feed. An editor has to actually read the content first before publishing (also editing the article for typos, grammar, spelling, and appropriate content).

To be fair, I did set up a paper.li account. I don’t like their Privacy Policy, but seeing as I don’t have a lot of information about myself on my Twitter profile, I don’t have much to worry about really. Since the review (see link above), paper.li did put in the ability to remove content off of a paper as well as add some additional content filters in the initial setup for a new paper. An example of a paper.li “newspaper” is one set up by HBO for the series Game of Thrones (which I have seen before, but didn’t bother reading since I was more interested in following @GameOfThrones on Twitter directly) – see Game of Thrones. As you can see, most of the “articles” are related to Game of Throne or A Song of Ice and Fire.

Despite the added controls, I still don’t see a good reason to use paper.li. Paper.li can dress itself up and call its aggregated feeds “newspapers”, but they really are still just aggregated feeds, albeit published feeds versus private feeds like in Google Reader. I guess that’s where my problem really lies with paper.li. It’s just a glorified content aggregator, especially now since they’ve added the ability to include RSS feeds into your “newspaper”; however, unlike something like Google Reader, people aren’t reading these feeds before they are published in aggregate as a “newspaper”.  I have to question why I would want to read someone’s paper.li “newspaper” if chances are they haven’t read everything that’s being put into their “newspaper”. Removing content from the “newspaper” after it’s been published still doesn’t help because I could have read the content before it was removed by the “publisher”.

At least when I see stuff on someone’s Tumblr, I know that that person has monitored what he/she posted. Even if some people get a little carried away with reblogging pictures and animated gifs, at least I get a sense of what that person likes.

It just seems that the content on any “newspaper” created on paper.li can be found elsewhere. Paper.li would like us to think that it’s a great way to share stuff that you’re interested in, but how is it actively sharing when technically its users are passively sharing stuff they haven’t necessarily even read yet? Paper.li just feels very impersonal and hardly social. As nateonthenet.com commented on my Google+ post about paper.li, “yet another service trying to make money on the back of an existing service without bringing anything particularly new to the table.” Paper.li does indeed put ads on every “newspaper” that’s created.

The other thing about paper.li that is unsettling is this feeling that I could be spending huge amounts of time on that one site setting up different “newspapers” hoping that people will actually read them, but the truth is that the users on there are busy setting up “newspapers”, not reading them. Paper.li makes no distinction between a user who’s a “publisher” versus a user who’s a reader. Like I said, paper.li feels very impersonal, but on top of it, I feel like there’s no real audience. (And I feel like I wasted some time today, but then again I ended up writing a blog and me writing something is always a good thing).

I’d much rather blog and micro-blog. :D Yay for blogging, where bloggers can be publishers, editors, writers, and promoters of their own content; and for micro-blogging where you can actively share stuff with others.

˜˜˜C

See also an older review of paper.li: Paper.li: Create your own Twitter newspaper.

The Shared Items Archive and Sharing on the New Google Reader – A Solution

Friday, November 11th, 2011

As mentioned in my previous post, I failed to find a decent replacement for Google Reader. Honestly, I didn’t think there would be a feed reader that would do what I wanted it to do (but I still wanted to look around). Thus, I had to keep in mind alternative solutions for maintaining an archive of interesting items I’ve found in Google Reader.

One option that some people seem happy with is a web browser extension called Reader Sharer. There are two versions of this extension. The second version is Reader Sharer (Original Style), which retains the styling of the new Google Reader. Other than the styling differences, Reader Sharer (Original Style) does exactly the same as Reader Sharer. You can install either version of Reader Sharer depending on which style you prefer.

ReaderSharer Restores Sharing Options For New Google Reader [Chrome] reviews Reader Sharer, which includes styling changes to the new Google Reader. There has been a recent update to Reader Sharer since that review, so I’ll note what you can expect to see if you install Reader Sharer.

Quickly, I’ll review what you see in Google Reader’s new interface. On the left-hand side, there are links to ‘Home’, ‘All Items’, ‘Explore’, and ‘Subscriptions’. Using the drop-down arrow on ‘All Items’, there’s links to ‘Starred Items’, ‘Trends’, and ‘Browse for Stuff’. Click the drop-down on ‘Explore’ to see recommendations. Clicking the drop-down on ‘Subscriptions’ will let you see your subscriptions. On a new item, you’ll see a star, the +1 button, the Google+ share button (this is new as of writing this blog article – see Send Stories from Google Reader to Google+ with the New Share Button), ‘Email’, the ‘Mark as Read’ checkbox, ‘Send To’, and ‘Add Tags’.

Installing Reader Sharer will add these links back to the left-hand side of Google Reader – ‘Your Shared Items’, ‘Notes’, ‘Your Liked Items’, and ‘People You Follow’. The first three are found between ‘Your Starred Items’, and ‘Trends’. ‘People You Follow’ appears before ‘Explore’. Click the drop-down to see the people you were following. A link to the ‘Sharing Settings’ is located there as well. On each item, Reader Sharer adds back the ‘Like’ button, the ‘Share’ button, and the ‘Share with Note’ button. Using ‘Share’ or ‘Share with Note’ will put the item onto your ‘Shared Items’ page. Thus, you have your archive of interesting items back.

While some people are happy with Reader Sharer installed, I see this as a temporary fix. Reader Sharer is a good extension as it does what it says it will do. However, I do think that this ‘fix’ will work only as long as Google maintains the archive of ‘Shared Items’, ‘Followers’, ‘Liked Items’, etc. As for the public pages, there’s no guarantee that Google will maintain those.

Regarding the new Google+ share button: There is one glitch I’ve noticed. After marking an item as ‘read’, I can’t go back to that item and uncheck the box. The ‘Mark as Read’checkbox is there for unread items only. Basically, I can’t mark the item as unread. Problematic if the automatically marking as read option is on for expanded view or if you just marked the item as read by accident.

Although Reader Sharer adds back the old ‘Share’ button to Google Reader and I can continue to add items to my ‘Shared Items’ public page for now, I’ve decided to find another way to publicly archive interesting items. I realize that since the +1s show up on my Google+ profile page, this is actually a public archive of things I’ve found interesting all over the ‘net. However, I want something that just publicly archives the interesting items from my Google Reader. Basically, I’m trying to find a way to replace my ‘Shared Items’ public page in case Google does eventually take down those pages. I decided that my best options for a replacement were blogging sites.

I currently use a WordPress blog, so naturally I thought I could make another WordPress blog. I also thought of Blogger since Google owns Blogger. I wasn’t interested in Blogger before because I’ve been pretty happy with WordPress. I should point out that my WordPress is not hosted on WordPress.com, but it’s the downloaded WordPress on a server that I use. I use a Linode server to which I have admin access. Basically, I have pretty good control over my WordPress blog. I decided to check out Blogger in comparison to WordPress. Blogger does allow you to export your blog as well, but it’s still not as good as WordPress in many ways. For one thing, WordPress has plugins you can install to do a variety of things. While Blogger has a layout and design interface you can use to help you skin your blog, actually writing CSS to skin your blog gives you more flexibility than any layout and design interface. However, the layout and design interface has the benefits of being fairly quick in comparison to writing code for a web page. I note that Blogger allows followers, which makes it a social blog, while WordPress is more of traditional blog. Since Blogger is owned by Google, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s integrated into Google+ at some point. Maybe it won’t be, but I just wouldn’t be surprised if it is.

Lastly, I could set up another Tumblr blog. I’ve been using Tumblr for a while now as something in between traditional blogging like I do on here versus micro-blogging like I do on Plurk and Twitter. Tumblr offers features that WordPress does not have and that’s followers and reblogs. Tumblr is a social blogging site like Blogger, but the reblogs like the retweets on Twitter adds a more social environment. Thus, I’ve found it useful to have both a WordPress blog and a Tumblr blog. Via a plugin to WordPress, my blog posts to Tumblr when I publish an article on here. Tumblr does have a way to export your blog posts, but it’s via a Mac app they’ve created. I do happen to have an old MacBook, so I do have a way to export my Tumblr posts.

I decided to set up another Tumblr blog to use as my public archive of interesting items from Google Reader. I decided to use Tumblr because like WordPress, I can skin the site with my own CSS. I still need to get around to skinning my WordPress blog and my main Tumblr with CSS. For now, I’m using Tumblr themes, which are frankly nicer than the themes on Blogger. My main Tumblr is Pneumatic Blogging and my new Tumblr for feed items is Pneumatise Your Brain. I posted a few items onto ‘Pneumatise Your Brain’ that I had already shared on my Google Reader.

A lot of people have been upset about the ‘Shared Items’ archive and not having access to it. With Reader Sharer, they do again for now. All of the data on a Google Reader account is available to the account holder to download. Unfortunately, aside from the subscriptions, everything else is saved in json files. I spent some time looking for a way to output the json files as html, but the best I could find was json to html. The output wasn’t pretty. The information is there, but then again the information is in the json file readable along with the code in a text editor. Plus, I didn’t see how to copy the html into a file I could save (it really wasn’t pretty). I ended up just going to my ‘Shared Items’ public pages and manually saving each page as html files onto my computer. It actually took me a shorter amount of time than trying to find a way to output the json files in a way that was nicely readable. Tedious as hell manually saving each page, but at least I have the information in a format that is easier to read.

Back to Google Reader. With my new Tumblr set up as my public archive, I can now send items in my Google Reader to my Tumblr. This won’t be as easy as using the old ‘Share’ button. It really was convenient. Just one click and presto, the item in my Google Reader was on my public ‘Shared Items’ page.

Normally, I share items in my social media sites by copying and pasting the url of whatever it is I’m wanting to share. Thus, I’ve never really used the ‘Send To’ button, but I probably should now as it is more convenient than copying and pasting the urls of dozens of web pages (depends on how many items I read in my Google Reader each time). The ‘Send To’ feature isn’t new on Google Reader, it’s been there for a few years now. It’s also customizable. Google has some sites set up on there already such as Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. The other sites I don’t use. MySpace I haven’t signed into in ages. You can check mark the ones listed already to have them appear in the ‘Send To’ drop-down menu. Other sites you have to add manually.

Since I was considering using a WordPress blog as an archive, I checked to see how to add a WordPress blog to the ‘Send To’ in order to show my blog as an option in the drop-down menu. Follow the instructions on Using Google Reader Sent To with WordPress. It works. :D Since Tumblr and Blogger were already listed, I didn’t have to add them manually.

If you have other sites you want to send to, you can use ‘Add to Any’ as mentioned in this article, Google Reader’s Send To Feature.

I tried adding Plurk to the ‘Send To’ as well, but I’m not sure what the post url would be. If anyone knows, please comment!

With the ‘Send To’ feature set up, I’m ready to share stuff from my Google Reader again. (Hopefully they’ll fix the missing ‘Mark as Read’ checkbox or I might have to use Feedly instead.)

Here’s a quick review of my sharing options now:

1. +1 the item (the item will show up on my Google+ profile +1 tab; all +1s are public)
2. +1 the item and share on Google+ (can select Public, Extended Circles, Circles; or can list names of Circles; or can list names of people)
3. share the item on Google+ (like #2 above)
4. send the item to my WordPress blog (I can save the post as a draft)
5. send the item to my Blogger blog (if I ever decide to use it; I set one up while checking out Blogger’s features; can also ‘save as draft’)
6. send the item to my Tumblr blog (if you have more than one Tumblr blog, the pop-up window has an option to select which blog; you can also ‘save as draft’)
7. send the item to my Twitter account
8. send the item in email to a person or persons (note that you can email the item to yourself at another account if you want to privately archive it; why is it people seem to forget about email?)

I didn’t bother checking the box to add Facebook to the ‘Send To’ drop-down menu since I’m not planning on sharing on Facebook.

With Reader Sharer installed, I have the option again to ‘Share’ or ‘Share with Note’ for now, but I think I rather like sharing on Tumblr.

(There is an alternative to using Reader Sharer and setting up a blog as an archive. Lipsumarium has written a script, called Google Reader Share, that will add a ‘Share’ button to Google Reader as well as allowing people to follow their friends again by typing in their email addresses. I haven’t tried this script and I’m not entirely sure I would trust just anyone on the ‘net. I mention this only in case others are willing to try it. I don’t necessarily recommend it.

I was never a big user of ‘Following’ others on Google Reader, but I know some people were. In the old version of Google Reader, your ‘Shared Items’ did not have to go onto the public pages. Some people opted to share their items with specific groups of people as set up in their Gmail contacts. With the new Google Reader interface, they couldn’t do this anymore (not unless they install Reader Sharer). How to Share Privately With the New Google Reader briefly discusses this issue.

Here are the ways you can share privately from Google Reader:

1. Email. I’m guessing this is a not-so-attractive option for some people because they might know people they want to share with, but they don’t have the email addresses for those people. People are still generally private about their email addresses which is one reason why social media sites are popular.

2. Share on Google+ to a specific Circle, Circles, friend, or friends. (You can create a Circle of just your Reader friends and share only to them.) To be clear, +1s are always public. So, if you want to share privately with someone, don’t use the +1 button. Unfortunately for people who weren’t already signed up with Google+ when Google Reader’s interface was changed, people were actually missing a way to share the item aside from the +1 button and the ‘Send To’ feature. The ‘Share’ box in the top black bar was missing since they weren’t Google+ users. That likely explains the trouble for most people. Google has made it more obvious how to share on Google Reader now with the new Google+ share button shown next to the +1 button. Some people might still be miffed at having to use Google+ if they weren’t intending on using it. They will have to privately share using email or the ‘Send To’ feature.

3. Use the ‘Send To’ feature to share to a social media site that your followers are using.

Another way you can share items privately with others is through IM. Like email, it seems like people have forgotten about IM. If people are using Google Reader, they all can use Google’s chat feature in Gmail. Copy and paste the url into your chat window to share privately with someone.

Next, I’m going to look at Feedly again in comparison to Google Reader – just in case they don’t fix the missing ‘Mark as Read’ checkbox on already read items. Maybe I’ll also play around with the layout of it. I do admit it looks prettier than Google Reader. Makes reading fun. :)

I’ll also go through some more ‘Shared Items’ on my Google Reader and post some of them to my new Tumblr blog. Note to self to find time to do some CSS for my Tumblr blogs.

˜˜˜C

Searching for a Google Reader Replacement with Archiving Features – Fail!

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

As mentioned in my previous post, New Google Reader Interface Pushes Google+ Sharing, I mostly used Google Reader’s old ‘Share’ button as a way to archive interesting items I had read in Google Reader. I mentioned that while I liked the ability to quickly share to Google+, I did like having the public ‘Shared Items’ page as an archive.

One of the first things I did was embark on a search for a potential Google Reader replacement that had an archiving feature. There are a ton of feed readers available, both web-based and locally-installed. If all you want to do is read new articles and be kept up to date with a favourite site, any feed reader will suffice really.

Locally-installed feed readers are fairly simple and straightforward. They don’t have any sharing features. Because these feed readers are installed onto a computer, there are no ways to sync between computers – you have to set up all your subscriptions on all computers you use. I use more than computer depending on what I’m doing (I like flexibility in my day-to-day life), so a locally-installed reader isn’t ideal for me.

I did check out a feed reader for my Linux Debian netbook. Liferea is popular and is fairly simple and straightforward. Not ideal for what I want to do. For Linux Debian, you can also use Icedove (the mail client) and set up a ‘Blog and News’ account where you can add your subscriptions. It’s not as nice as Liferea though.

If you use Mac, you can try Net News Wire (by Newsgator). I haven’t tried it, so I have no comments.

Moving on to web-based feed readers, I found a few articles reviewing some.

Top 5 online RSS readers This is an outdated article. Rojo doesn’t exist anymore. It’s changed to blogs.com, which doesn’t seem to be a feed reader, but a site that ranks blogs. I went to the Newsgator link, but I didn’t see an online feed reader. It looks like it’s only providing locally-installed feed readers, like Net News Wire for Mac.

Top Online RSS Readers Like the above link, this article is somewhat outdated as it mentions Rojo and Newsgator. I’ll comment on MyYahoo, Genwi, and Feedshow a little later in this article.

Top 10 Web Based RSS Readers, Plus Some This article is a little over a year old, so not terribly out of date. Lazyfeed has apparently been down for maintenance for a long time. Some users have tried contacting them, but got no reply. In one of the comments to this article, someone mentioned that Bloglines was going down. As it turns out, it didn’t – it was bought by MerchantCircle.

Now begins another of my rants.

Apparently, MerchantCircle is known to be a ‘data harvester’. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that. Unfortunately, I was a tad tired and decided to sign up with Bloglines “just to check it out” so I could review it. “Besides, I should be able to delete my account afterwards.” Or so I thought. It turns out you can’t delete your account from Bloglines. Not easily anyway. Despite what it says in its Privacy Policy, you have to email Bloglines to close down your account. Seriously? There are better ways to ensure that an account doesn’t get closed down by the wrong person. I really shouldn’t have to email them. And they really should update their Privacy Policy before implementing any changes to how the account can be managed (or not in this case).

I’ve had experiences in the past with companies that would not delete an account except by email, notably Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft. I was one of the first people to use Hotmail, then during some weird updating to their new Hotmail, all my emails were deleted from one or two of my accounts. I still had the account for a while, but had already started moving to Gmail at the time. Later, I decided I wanted to delete my account with Microsoft. That was a nightmare. I could not simply delete my account; I had to go to a variety of pages to find the ‘proper’ account services. I also had used that account with a paid mobile MSN a few years prior (back when there was no data, only SMS), so I had to make sure my ‘billing account’ was properly closed. I haven’t used Microsoft online services since then, really, and that account has, as far as I know, been deleted. I haven’t used it. I created a new Windows Live account after that and now I use it for Xbox aside from IM (I use Pidgin).

Based on my past experiences, I really should have known better about Bloglines. Then again, Google (despite their little faux pas from time to time) has been pretty upfront with how they use your information, how to delete accounts, how to maintain your information, and how to remove your account from one of their online sites. Basically, Google has been, for the most part, fair. (See Google’s Privacy Policy.) I guess I half-expected other companies to be as well, but I guess I really can’t expect that.

I did email Bloglines. I got an auto-reply. *grumble grumble* At least I didn’t give them a lot of information. “Oh, go ‘data harvest’ this, Bloglines! You suck.”

Rant ended.

Bloglines isn’t great in terms of design. Their ‘new’ interface isn’t really better than Google Reader, or a local feed reader for that matter. You can make tab boxes and organize your subscriptions, but there are other feed readers that look better. You also have to remove Bloglines’ cookies from your computer to sign out. Ah well, maybe Bloglines will just shut down its feed reader. It seems like they lost a lot of users anyway, since users thought it was going to be shut down.

Going back to Top 10 Web Based RSS Readers, Plus Some, I briefly looked at the other free feed readers listed there keeping in mind “Oh yeah, I really should look at their Privacy Policies.” No Privacy Policy means I’m not signing up, especially with the services provided by corporations. For smaller sites, it’s important that they have good admin support.

MySyndicaat didn’t seem to have a Privacy Policy. If a link to the Privacy Policy isn’t displayed somewhere on the main page of a site, it kind of says a lot about that site’s attitude towards users’ privacy. About the site’s features – I personally didn’t like the design. The interface doesn’t look like it’d be any better than Google Reader’s. Doesn’t look like there’s any way to archive interesting items.

MyAllTop seems too ad-focused for my tastes. They’ve included “MyAllTop collections” created by “famous/cool friends” for users to see. I don’t necessarily care about this, never mind that I have no idea who these people are: Christina Warren? Fred Wilson? for example. I’m not comfortable with AllTop’s Privacy Policy. To view it, click on ‘Legal’ at the bottom right of their main page. “We retain your MyAlltop account information and the aggregated non-personally identifiable information we collect from you indefinitely. We also retain the comments submitted by users of our blog indefinitely. We do not currently have any purging policy.” MyAllTop does show you how its site works before you sign up, which is nice. See its tutorial page. It doesn’t seem to have a way to archive items either.

Superfeedr isn’t technically a feed reader, that much is clear. As for exactly how it works, I’m a little unclear on that. Seems to have something to do with push notifications. Since it’s not even a feed reader, it’s doubtful it has a way to archive interesting items. Its Privacy Policy is okay – not as good as Google’s though. I can’t find anything precise that makes me say, “Oh dear.” Throughout, the policy makes it clear that if you don’t provide information, you may not be able to use some of their services. (I’m guessing most of their services.) I guess that’s somewhat fair – “don’t use our service if you don’t want us to use any of your information”. Better than not saying anything at all.

Netvibes is partners with MerchantCircle. Run! Okay, okay, I’ll add some more comments on Netvibes. I don’t like using sites that have the “basic features” versus “premium features”. I try to avoid these sites as much as possible, though not all of these kinds of sites are bad. Some do include nice features in “basic” at least. Netvibes is more than just a feed reader. It seems to be like iGoogle or MyYahoo. Unfortunately, you cannot delete a Netvibes account, except by email. It says so in the Privacy Policy, which is somewhat decent. I just don’t like playing email tag in order to try to delete an account. (Here I thought trying to delete Facebook was the worst these days.)

Collected looks like it has potential. The site is relatively new, being only a couple of years old (see Collected’s blog and its Twitter account). There is no Privacy Policy and no Terms of Service or Terms of Use, however. The site allows you to browse other ‘collections’ and that will give you an idea of how it works. The blog hasn’t been updated in about a year, so I’m hesitant to give this site a try. No Privacy Policy, don’t know if I can delete my account, and it’s sketchy how much admin support there is available.

MyYahoo always felt like information overload to me. I used Yahoo in the past when I had a Geocities site. I’ve also used their Groups services before. I still have a Group there that I set up. I’m also apparently still an Owner of a Group I set up for a semi-public community. (I probably should get them set up on their own server or something, but I don’t have the time and haven’t been around that community in a long while. As little as I know about servers and computer programming, I still know a lot more than the people in that Group. I might feel a tad bad for them if Yahoo shuts down Groups or something and they’ll have to find something else.) The other Group I created is pretty much dead because I never had the time to dedicate to it. I also would much rather set up a message forum on the Linode server I’m using for my websites and this blog, but again just don’t have the time to do this. Consequently, I’ve not signed into my Yahoo account in ages. Occasionally, I’ve signed into IM via Pidgin, but that’s about it. As mentioned on Top Online RSS Readers: “MyYahoo can be a great reader. But once you fill up a couple of tabs, it might be time to move on to a true reader.” I probably have enough subscriptions already that reading them on MyYahoo would be more of a headache than the site already gives me. (I think it’s something about the design of it. Too bright for my tastes. I like bold colours sometimes, but sometimes I like subtlety. I think it just feels like everything on a Yahoo page is competing for attention and I can’t just focus on any one thing.) I’m actually surprised Yahoo is still around.

Genwi used to be free – it isn’t anymore. It’s more business focused. Its Privacy Policy is worse than Google’s. I don’t see why I should pay for a service that has a worse Privacy Policy than a free service, especially if all I want to do is read stuff from other websites that happens to be pulled into another site. Here’s a few problematic items in Genwi’s Privacy Policy “We link information gathered using Non-Personally-Identifying Information to Personally-Identifying Information.” Having done marketing analysis before and also having worked in the marketing industry for a time, I know you don’t have to link information to personally-identifying information in order to help improve a service or website. I would like to know what information are they linking. “We may use the Personally-Identifiable Information that you submit for any purposes related to our business.” Any purposes? Uh, no thanks. I’d like details please. Supposedly you can delete your Genwi account at least.

Feedshow is like Collected, except it’s been around longer. It doesn’t have a Privacy Policy or a Terms of Service/Use. It does have a forum, but it doesn’t seem to have recent activity. The link to the blog doesn’t work. I hesitate to use a site if I can’t find admin support for it. With no Privacy Policy, at least have good admin support. You know, someone who actually answers the emails – no auto-replies like Bloglines, thank you. At least Feedshow provides a demo for how their site works. Feedshow looks promising, but it’s possible it didn’t catch on so the site admins just gave up on it. The same could be true for Collected. Sad really, both sites looked promising.

Lastly, there are two feed readers that are based off of Google Reader. You have to have a Google account to use these feed readers.

Helvetireader is not being developed further. Says so on the website. “Sorry!”

Feedly is a browser app/extension that takes the RSS subscriptions from your Google Reader account and allows you to organize and display the articles your way. It can also integrate with your Twitter and Facebook accounts. (Of course, that means Twitter and Facebook will be linked to your Google account.) Simply use a Google account to sign in. While I’m not sure I’m going to use Feedly, some people like it for it’s nice design. There were some privacy questions about Feedly, which have been patiently answered by one of the creators of/people working on Feedly. It’s nice to see good admin support for Feedly. There’s a tutorial on the site and they’ve updated Feedly recently to include the +1 button and sharing to Google+ (read about Feedly6). Doesn’t seem to have a way to archive interesting items though. If you’re interested in Feedly as a design-friendly way to look at your Google Reader subscriptions, you can follow them on Twitter as well for updates.

So, there you have it. A review of some alternatives to Google Reader. None of them satisfy my criteria for a suitable replacement (i.e, decent Privacy Policy or admin support and a nice interface that allows me to archive interesting items.) If you’re interested in looking at more feed readers, you can check out this list of feed aggregators on Wikipedia. I didn’t bother with that list mostly because there’s only so many I can look at before I just don’t care anymore, and that list looks a bit outdated.

Next, I considered different ways of creating an archive of interesting items to share publicly. Read my next blog article if you’re interested in what I’ve decided to do.

~~~C