Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Useful tools

Couple quick grabs here.

First, Medgadget mentioned a front end to PubMed that looks interesting called Ologeez (as in plural for the suffix "-ology" - those Stanford kids are clever). They basically apply the hive mind/social bookmarking/Digg/aggregator schemes that are all the rage right now to rate, recommend, and tag papers. I'll be messing with that more in a month or so, but it looks like a very beefed up version of CiteULike, which is kinda "Meh". Anyone have experience with Ologeez?

On the topic of PubMed, the is an iPhone App called PubGet which allows quick, on-the-go searching. It's actually just a mobile version of the PubGet site, but I didn't know PubGet existed and this brought my attention to it. It offers direct display of the linked PDFs, and is basically everything PubMed should be in a much more compact interface, but remember that you will have to be on your campus network to actually view full articles (or connected via VPN). I did a few quick searches and it was surprisingly good. I haven't tested whether it works at Brown (or any institutions not signed up through the site, which appears to total 7), but when I am back on campus I will test it out and report back.

Next, Microsoft's Live Mesh is now open to the public, at least as of right now there are spots, and it looks very very cool IMO. They did an incredibly crappy job of advertising it, but basically it is the same thing as Apple's MobileMe, but with a respectable history of actually working (neener neener neener). It takes the features of FolderShare, which I absolutely love, adds 5GB of online storage, public doc sharing, and remote access (in IE only for remote access) across any number of PCs, Macs, and mobile devices. I have an account, but haven't had time to set it up, so again, I'll report back when I do. Chances are that this will not remain free once released, but I would expect it to be bundled with every MS app purchase, and with so much competition in this particular market, I expect it to be cheap on its own (I'm thinking $40/year, if they don't have some type of tiered service where another $10 gets you 25GB and music streaming, or some such tactic).

Next up, two quick Windows apps. I have been on a hunt for the perfect launcher to help me declutter. If you want an OS X rip off with more functionality than Apple allows, RocketDock looks like the way to go. Low memory footprint, smooth, customizable. BUT, inefficient for my needs. I have really been liking SideSlide, which creates a little work area with different hide-able panes. Oh yeah, and they're both free.

If you deal with constant file operations, like renaming, selective copying, etc then you know that Explorer is limited. Xplorer2 is like Windows Explorer on steroids (free and pay-for versions). Think a million and one keyboard shortcuts, multipaned interface, saved layouts, and you've begun to scratch the surface.

Vista, for some ungodly reason, finds that copying files it tough. Part of this has to do with a bug that neither antivirus makers or Microsoft want to acknowledge, but you can avoid it by using TeraCopy. It basically copies. Yeah, you'd think a modern OS could accomplish that. Also, it will integrate into the shell, so you can just use it instead of the built in copying technique, which apparently requires a delicate combination of black magic, luck and celestial alignment for proper operation. Of course, it does do a good deal more, like batch jobs, schedules, and resumable/selectable jobs, too.

TrueCrypt is now on version 6. Major change? You can now boot into a completely separate, fake account which appears to be the primary account, hiding all evidence of the real partition. Good for when you are planning on leaving or entering good ole xenophobic USA. Get ready for SfN folks!

And lastly, a quick tip. If you have virtual stacks and stacks of audiobooks, but can't get them to show up in iTunes as, well, Audiobooks, the solution is simple. iTunes only recognizes .m4b files as audiobooks. That's the way Steve wants it, and you should want it like that, too. Really? No, not really. I'm being sarcastic. To convert those lovely gems, I like Easy CD-DA Audio Extractor, which converts every type of audio to every other type. I haven't looked around lately, but might, since the copy protection/licensing scheme keeps getting worse and worse with each version, bogging down the whole damn program. But, if you have a preferred program, go ahead and post it. Anyhow, re-encode those novels at 64kbps/mono and save yourself mucho space. You might be tempted to merge the files then, but don't. You'll have to put up with several files for each book due to a long-standing bug that Apple hasn't fully corrected that causes larger books to crash iPods and iTunes. You can use something like ReNamer to rename the files something convenient in the meantime, or TagScanner - my favorite IDv2 tagger - to tag and rename them. TagScanner is nice because it will add every type of tag to avoid situation where a program or device will first try to read IDv1 tags first or doesn't support IDv2 tags

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