Saturday, January 12, 2008

Boot Your Mac into the Startup Manager

Hold the Option key during OS X’s boot to run the Startup Manager, a graphical tool from which you can select the volume you want to boot. If you’re a Boot Camp user, you can choose Windows from here, but you can also boot from external hard drives, thumb drives (perfect for installing Leopard from a disk image), or even network drives. In general you don’t need to do anything fancy to boot your Mac beyond pressing the power button, but there’s a lot you can do during with OS X’s advanced boot options (e.g., earlier today we discussed putting your Mac into target disk mode). You may not use these everyday, but knowing your startup options can come in very handy at the right time.

Startup key combinations for Intel-based Macs [Apple via TUAW]


Multitasking Versus Continuous Partial Attention

Ever at dinner with someone who can’t look away from the Crackberry? Technologist Linda Stone says this isn’t just multi-tasking, it’s a case of “continuous partial attention”: Continuous partial attention and multi-tasking are two different attention strategies, motivated by different impulses. When we multi-task, we are motivated by a desire to be more productive and more efficient… In the case of continuous partial attention, we’re motivated by a desire not to miss anything. There’s a kind of vigilance that is not characteristic of multi-tasking. With cpa, we feel most alive when we’re connected, plugged in and in the know. We constantly SCAN for opportunities—activities or people—in any given moment. With every opportunity we ask, “What can I gain here?”

Whenever someone’s checking their cell phone for new email while we’re in the midst of a face-to-face conversation, I always want to ask if the little screen is a better deal. Then again, I can’t say I haven’t been guilty of CPA myself from time to time. Got any unbearable CPA’ers in your life? How do you deal? Let us know in the comments. Fine Dining with Mobile Devices [The Huffington Post]


Quickly Switch Google Accounts with the Google Account Multi-Login

Firefox with Greasemonkey: Free Greasemonkey user script Google Account Multi-Login adds a simple drop-down menu to Google pages (including Gmail) for quick switching between your different user accounts. Just install the script, reload the page, and you can start adding your Google accounts to the drop-down. It’s simple to use and it’s a huge timesaver for anyone who actively uses different Google usernames and passwords. It’s probably not the most secure place to put your passwords, but if that doesn’t bother you, this script may come in very handy. The Google Account Multi-Login script is free, requires Firefox with Greasemonkey.

Google Account Multi-Login [Userscripts via CyberNet]


Make Mailing Lists in Gmail with Contact Groups

If you send email to the same handful of people often—like your softball team or foodie friends—create your own personal mailing list in Gmail using Contact groups. In Gmail, click on the Contacts area to name a new group. From there, you can add people to the group, or from any individual contact, click on the “Add to Group” button. When you’re composing a message, in the To: field, enter the name of your group to save yourself from typing out the list by hand. Looks like this feature is available in both the old and new versions of Gmail, so whatever you’re using, it seems like the best way to send frequent mailings to the same handful of your peeps in one shot. Create personal mailing lists through contact manager [Official Gmail Blog]


What's Your Favorite Workout Music?

The New York Times sets its sites on the workout playlist, discussing how a good playlist is proven to improve your workouts and explaining what kind of song makes for a good workout song. Generally speaking there is a science to choosing an effective exercise soundtrack, said Dr. Costas Karageorghis, an associate professor of sport psychology… One of the most important elements, Dr. Karageorghis found, is a song’s tempo, which should be between 120 and 140 beats-per-minute, or B.P.M.

Photo by Geff Rossi.


Snail mail

Still getting ton of paper mail? One year ago, you saved some trees and cleaned up and streamlined your incoming snail mail.


Target Disk Mode Turns Your Mac into a FireWire Drive

Mac OS X only: If you need to transfer very large files from one Mac to another, instead of waiting for the copy to crawl over the network, turn one Mac into a FireWire drive using what’s called Target Disk Mode. Here’s what you do: shut down one Mac and connect it via FireWire cable directly to another. Then, hold down the T key and start it up again. The Mac will show up as an external hard drive on the other Mac’s desktop, and you can quickly copy files to it like any other drive. Alternately, from System Prefernces, under Startup Disk you can hit the “Target Disk Mode” button.

Target Disk Mode: transform your Mac into a firewire drive [Hackszine]


Steal Download Music From Any Shared iTunes Library with OurTunes

Windows/Mac only: Freeware application ourTunes downloads music from any shared iTunes library on your network to any folder on your computer. There’s a good chance you’ve heard of ourTunes (or a similar app, myTunes) before, as it used to be the go-to app for sharing music with your peers using your iTunes library, but every time Apple updated iTunes, ourTunes would die another death. Well, it’s back, and it works with iTunes 7. I hadn’t used ourTunes in a while, and things seemed to be working differently, so to get you up and running, here’s how it works.


Get Things Done Over the Phone with Jott

US-centric: At its most basic level, webapp Jott is a voice to text transcription service: you call Jott, leave a message, and Jott transcribes it and emails you or your contacts the text. That alone can capture the big idea that pops into your head on the drive to the office, but Jott can do a whole lot more than send you email. With Jott’s built-in links and tools that capitalise on its email-sending abilities, it can give nearly any personal organization system a go-anywhere, add-anything boost. Today we’ve got a quick primer on how to turn your phone into a ubiquitous capture tool that zaps info into all your favorite organisation apps by voice.

Getting Started

If you don’t already have a Jott account, have your cell phone handy and head to their sign-up page. Fill in the forms, confirm your email, add 1-866-JOTT-123 to your contacts and/or speed-dial and make the confirmation call.

Once you log in, head right to “Contacts” and add “My Phone” (first name, last name) as a contact with only your own phone number. “Wait,” you might ask, “doesn’t Jott let you have all your messages sent to your phone as a preference?” Precisely—that’s every single Jott, which isn’t something I want to deal with. By having “My Phone” as a contact, you can skip your email inbox and leave yourself notes on your cell phone—which comes in handy when trying to remember a number or address while driving.

Next, hit up “Groups” and think of any sets of emails and phone numbers you might want to message all at once using one phrase, such as “Co-Workers” or “Family.” After that, head to “Jott Links” and enable any the growing number of Jott-enabled webapps—including Lifehacker favorites like Remember the Milk and Google Calendar—you use.

You owe it to yourself to check out Jott’s simple How To guide before calling, but the basic technique is simple. Dial the number, wait for the “Who do you want to Jott?” prompt, and then say either “myself” or one of the contacts, groups or “Links” you set up. After the confirmation and beep, you can speak clearly for less than 30 seconds, and your message will be translated by a mix of computers and humans (your privacy, they say, is assured) and then sent to the right inboxes, phones or web apps. I’ve had pretty decent luck with both the accuracy and turn-around on the service, but your mileage may, of course, vary.

Filter and customise your Jotts

Sending yourself email from a dial tone can be pretty handy, but only if your Jott messages don’t get lost amidst your other messages. You could filter all of them into one folder or label by the “@jott.com” sender, but why not organise your messages by topic? If your email server allows the common [email protected] format (detailed here), simply add that extended email as a Jott contact and set your filters accordingly (like I’ve done to record my feature ideas). If your can’t accept “+” emails, think of a unique phrase you can say in your messages—like, say, “gigantic awesome idea”—and have your email client file accordingly. If you find yourself using Jott a lot, and you can use this method to set up a Gmail/Jott to-do list.

Group and print projects/ideas

If you’d rather not mingle your wandering thoughts with your email inbox, you can create folders to store specific memos to yourself on the “My Jott” page. Say “Home,” “Work,” or whatever else when asked who you’re Jotting, and the messages will end up inside folders that have easy printing tools. iGoogle users can also go email-free with the Jott gadget.

Make your organising tools more accessible

Great organisation systems provide a single place to drop all your to-dos, events and thoughts, but what if you’ve just remembered a task while you’re walking to the store? Jott has you covered. The site provides built-in Links for many web-based systems previously mentioned on Lifehacker—including To-do manager Toodledo Expense tracker Xpenser Calendar and task organizer 30 Boxes Vitalist, a frequent commenter favourite

If you have Google Calendar hooked up your own preferred scheduling app, just add it to your Links and you can call in your quick-add items (like, say, “9 p.m. Sunday Watch The Wire“) for easy posting. But perhaps the strongest Jott integration tool is Remember the Milk, which already can seamlessly insert itself into Google Calendar and Gmail. Put them all together and there aren’t too many places where you won’t be able to record your thoughts and ideas for later use.

Keep Sandy close at hand (platonically)

Sure, she’s technically an organisation tool as well, but the integration of Jott and Sandy deserves its own mention. For one thing, it’s the most stress-free way to set a reminder or task for yourself, as you can speak your reminders in nearly any form, give them GTD-like “@whatever” labels, export everything to an iCal feed, and, even more than with Sandy’s email interface, feel the weird/reassuring sense that you truly have a personal assistant to watch your forgetful back. Bonus: Those irked by the app’s gender assumption can change its Jott name to “Michael” or “Jeeves” or anything else, for that matter.

Use Twitter to make a Jott RSS feed

Jott itself doesn’t offer a helfpul RSS feed for your memos, but it’s easy enough to create one using its direct Twitter link. Those who don’t have an account could create one solely for the purpose of sending occasional items to their feeds, and those who do could combine a filtering tool like Feed Rinse with keywords to pull their important items out.

More handy Jott uses

Remotely control your computer—Follow these instructions on shutting down Windows or controlling your Mac, and you can save power, automate tasks and show the IT guy in a not-so-subtle way just how strong your Sysadmin mojo is. Send snail mail from anywhere—Using email-to-snail-mail service Postful, you can set up unique email addresses to have paper copies of received messages mailed out to a specific addresses—whether to poor, web-less Uncle Bif and Aunt Marge, or as a can’t-be-deleted note for yourself. Add that Postful email to your Jott contacts and you can send a short note, albeit with a little free print advertising for Jott. I haven’t tested this myself, but it seems like it has mash-up potential. Update del.icio.us—If you use Jott’s Twitter feed, Twitticious can grab links from Twitter feeds and paste them into del.icio.us accounts. Great for noting web sites that people tell you about, even if you have to spell out some of the wonkier URLs. Record short messages for anywhere playback—If you’ve got a short message or sound you want to access later, try setting up a Jott for yourself and holding your phone up to it. You only get 30 seconds and the transcription almost certainly won’t work, but you’ll get an audio file you can play back later on the Jott web site, and dialing Jott from speed dial is often much faster than finding a cell phone’s record function or keying into voicemail.

How have you used Jott (or its recently-launched competitor reQall) to keep yourself organised? What Jott/email mash-up tools can you conjure up? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments.

Kevin Purdy, Lifehacker associate editor, doesn’t mind the stares when he says “Remember The Milk” into his cell phone. His weekly feature Open Sourcery appears every Saturday on Lifehacker AU.


Boilerplate Text and Images in Outlook

Microsoft Outlook 2007 only: If there are certain phrases or images you put in email messages, Outlook 2007′s Quick Parts feature saves those up for easy reuse. The Productivity Portfolio blog explains how to save email bits—like a company logo, directions, company policy or signatures—to your Quick Parts gallery and drop them in email messages quickly to save typing. Of course, our homegrown application Texter can do global text snippet insertion (not just in Outlook), but Quick Parts sounds like a nice solution for quick image reuse in Outlook.

Outlook 2007 Quick Parts | Outlook Building Blocks [Productivity Portfolio]