Tuesday, January 8, 2008
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Toggle Compiz Effects with One Click

Ubuntu blog Tombuntu shows Linux users rocking Compiz Fusion, the desktop effects package installed by default in Ubuntu 7.10, how to switch the effects on and off without having to mouse through two menus and flip a radio button. Using a little app named Compiz-Switch and another program to install it, anyone needing to flip off graphical effects for better memory or program compatibility can get there from a taskbar or system tray shortcut. The guide requires a little terminal cut-and-paste, but I had Compiz-Switch installed and working in less than five minutes. Compiz-Switch should also work on other GNOME-based distros running the latest version of Compiz Fusion.

Toggle Desktop Effects with Compiz-Switch [Tombuntu]

Do You "Back Up" Your Web Networking Life?

Over at PC Magazine, columnist Sascha Segan argues that many of us are going to have a big ol’ pity party down the line, when we realise that social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook make it difficult to look through sentimental memories and messages like you can with paper or email. MySpace is bad enough, he writes, but: Facebook is even worse, because so much Facebook information is metadata, a stream of “pokes” and “virtual gifts” and other non-e-mail-related information that adds up to a history of human interaction.

Segan raises an interesting point: How do we archive our relationships and significant moments when they happen on a social network? If Facebook, MySpace, and the like aren’t around in five or 10 years, will you miss the personal history you’ve stored up on them? If you did want to “back up” your social network information for later viewing, how would you go about it? Share your ideas in the comments.

Save IMs Across Clients (and Systems) with IM History

Windows/Linux: Free beta program IM History offers a web-synced way to store instant message chats across multiple computers, and operating systems, from a variety of chat clients. Right now, the service supports AIM, Yahoo, MSN, Skyp, Trillian, and a few other clients, but my pet peeve is Pigin supported only in Linux, leaving dual-booters like me in the cold. That aside, once enabled, IM History lets you access your chat history and contacts from a web interface, and being able to search chats from across platforms—to find, for instance, a link sent long ago— is where many users will find this app convenient. IM History is a free download for Windows and Linux.

IM History [via MakeUseOf.com]

Convert Any Audio File with MediaEncoder Audio Edition

Windows only: Free open source conversion app MediaCoder Audio Edition is like the audio-geek cousin of its easy-to-use, all-purpose brethren, MediaCoder. The main difference is in the sheer breadth of audio file types supported (including the iTunes default M4A, FLAC, and really esoteric stuff like “Enhanced 3GGP” and “OptimFrog Encoder”) and the many ways you can grab that audio—from DVDs, video files, or even web playlists. MediaCoder Audio Edition even supports the sound-tweaking DSP plugins made for Winamp, but offers a wealth of audio tweaks on its own. MediaCoder Audio Edition is a free download for Windows 98 and later systems, with 32- and 64-bit versions offered.

MediaCoder Audio Edition [via FreewareGenius]

Photograph Light Trails

The Digital Photography School blog has a great beginner’s guide to capturing an effect familiar to fans of middle-brow films and photo exhibits—light trails. Any camera with a full-featured “manual” mode that grants exposure control can capture light movement, and the guide helps you plan good trail shots. For instance:

Timing/Light – One might think that the middle of the night is the best time for light trail photography (and it can be) – however one very effective time to do it is just as the sun is going down (just before and after). If you shoot at this time you’ll not only capture light from cars, but ambient light in the sky which can add atmosphere to your shots.

With a little practice (and a healthy dose of patience), your street and nightlife photos will stand out. Photo by Waka Jawaka.

How to Shoot Light Trails [Digital Photography School]

Tips on Saving Battery Power in Linux

Tired of having the Windows side of your dual-boot system eat up more battery power? Want to simply do the right thing and stop sucking power for unnecessary power cycles? Linux power-saving site LessWatts.org has a wealth of tips and tricks for reducing the power needs of desktop and laptop systems. Among the intuitive power-savers: Stepping Ethernet ports from gigabit to standard 100/10 speeds when not at the office Disabling unnecessary Bluetooth radios Turning off Wi-Fi “auto-associate” behaviors that draw power when wireless is shut off

Check out the site for more power-conscious tips, helpfully organised by device type. How do you conserve battery (or just outlet) power on your Linux system? Share some hacks in the comments.

LessWatts.org – Tips [via Hackosis]

One year ago, Lifehacker alum Rick Broida ...

One year ago, Lifehacker alum Rick Broida compared CDs to music downloads and weighed the pros and cons. Guess which one came out victorious?

Build a discreet cat litter cabinet

The cat owners out there will probably be as impressed by this one as I was – it’s an Ikea cabinet which has been converted into a cat litterbox cabinet. With a discreet ‘side entrance’ for the cat, when closed it just looks like a cabinet. This would be particularly great if you live in a small place and would like to have the litter tray out of sight.

The hack uses an Ikea Akrum base cabinet with two arlig doors, a pair of shelves and 4 Ikea Tryggve shelves.

The bottom third of the cabinet backboard has been cut off with a box cutter – this makes the back entry for the cat. One of the shelves sits on top of the cabinet and overhangs about 6 inches at the back – so when it’s flush against the wall there’s a gap for the cat to walk in at the side.

It’s definitely worth looking at the article on Ikea Hacker as there are a few photos which show the nifty ‘side entrance’ the cat uses. 

A Kickass Litterbox Cabinet [Ikea Hacker]

Office 2003

On Friday we told you about a problem with a Microsoft Office 2003 Service Pack 3, which blocked a number of old file formats which Microsoft claimed were insecure. CNET reports that Microsoft has since admitted its previous security advisory was incorrect, and has responded to the issue by releasing four downloadable updates to unlock the file formats for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and CorelDraw file types. Microsoft had originally suggested a manual registry fix for affected users.

Cook in bulk to save time and money

Bulk cooking, also known as assembly cooking, means using mass production principles to save time and money in the kitchen. It also means that after putting in the effort to cook and prepare in bulk ahead of time, your freezer is stocked with lots of yummy meals or meal starters which can save you from having to cook every day.The Wise Bread blog today gave a rundown on assembly cooking for newbies which includes a list of starter materials and some tips for cooking in bulk:

*Use flash freezing for multiple items which you’ll cook in batches but don’t want sticking together when frozen. Examples could be chicken drumsticks, breaded veal portions, mozzarella sticks, or frozen breaded eggplant slices.Space them out lying flat on an empty freezer shelf until frozen, then stack them up to save space.

*You can use masking tape and a permanent marker pen to label containers such as freezer bags

*Ice cube trays – for freezing ‘single serve’ portions of a variety of things such as soup stock, pizza sauce or curry paste.

*Do themed prep cooking sessions for example if you have an adundance of potatoes make a whole bunch of potato dishes

While the thought of devoting 1-3 days a month to cooking in bulk might sound like a lot, this article gives you a good rundown to how to get started with assembly cooking. It also stresses that you should take things at your own pace – there’s nothing wrong with getting started by just saving leftovers as a base for other meals, or cooking larger meals with a view to freezing the leftovers. The article links to suggested recipes too.

Assembly Cooking for Newbies [Wise Bread]

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