Friday, 15 August 2014

How To Make Disqus And Blogger Work Well Together

Blogger and Disqus work well together - once you've got it configured correctly.

I recently posted about changing Timbo On Tech over to the Disqus comments system.

I'm happy to report that it is working well.

I'm not sure whether I am receiving any more comments than before, but the quality of comments appears to be going up and I since the change, I have had zero spammers (long may that continue).

Installing Disqus into Blogger was simple and it was up and working within a few minutes.

However, I did come across a couple of minor issues in the first 2 - 3 weeks, which might catch other people out, so I thought I would share them here.

Photo credit: MBE Small Business Stakeholder Meeting (cropped), courtesy Flickr.

Blog Author (Me) Appearing As The Commenter

I noticed the first issue when I was sent my first automated e-mail from Blogger to say that I had received a comment.

Although the comment was clearly from someone else, Blogger thought that I had written it.

I checked new comments in the Disqus dashboard and Disqus knew it was me, so what was going on?

It turned out that the problem was due to my Blogger comments settings, which were somehow interfering with the synchronisation between the two.

To correct this, all I had to do was update the Blogger setting for "Who can comment?" to "Anyone - includes anonymous users" (see screenshot below).

Blogger Settings

This seems a little counter-intuitive to me, but it works.

I must also report that Disqus support were good, responding reasonably quickly when I emailed them about it.

They also took the extra step of updating their online help.

Merging With My Own Comments

Disqus is an interesting system, because as well as providing an administrative interface for blog writers, it also provides a central location to view all your comments as a reader.

I was keen to see how this would work, as I regularly comment on Squidoo as well as on other blogs where Disqus is also used.

Once again, the initial setup was simple enough: I went to my account profile and checked the Merging section (see help article).

Sure enough, there were some comments listed there, so I clicked the button and a short while later, all my blog comments were listed in my profile.

...Except for my Squidoo comments.

Initially, Disqus support indicated that there was no way to merge in those comments.
They thought that it was because Squidoo was hosted within Wordpress, but with its own authentication method.

So I thought that was that. - Not terrible, slightly irritating, but liveable.

Fix My Comments

To their credit and unprompted, Disqus support came back to me several weeks later with a solution:

The issue was that the merging of profiles is based on e-mail address - and I had registered with Squidoo under a different e-mail to the one I use for Blogger.

The fix was simple:
1. Temporarily change my Disqus profile to the "Squidoo" e-mail
2. Validate the address via the automated e-mail from Disqus
3. Go to my Disqus profile and perform the Merge
4. Change the e-mail address back to the original and re-validate

Worked first time!

Have you had any issues integrating Disqus into Blogger?
What did you encounter and how did you fix it? 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Blog Changes To Disqus Comments System

Timbo On Tech is now using the Disqus commenting system, making it even easier to take part in the conversation.

Comments Please

You may have noticed that the comments area at the bottom of posts on Timbo On Tech looks a bit different to how it used to be.

That's because I have changed the comment system over from the default Blogger comments to Disqus, a popular third party application.

In this post, I will explain why I made the change and what it means for you, my dear reader.

Don't Panic!

First of all, don't worry if you have participated here previously.
The full history has been migrated across to Disqus, so your contributions are all safe in the new system.

Don't Leave Me This Way

So why have I changed things over?

The main reason is that while the Blogger comments system works, it is a little restrictive.

From an admin point of view, it is awkward responding to people under the default set-up, as I can only write replies by viewing the live post first.

When I have written replies to people, then sometimes my comment has appeared as though it was a general comment, not a reply to the person I was talking with.

There are other details I won't bore you with, but all in all, it was rather disjointed and not very conducive to a proper conversation.

From a user perspective, it wasn't always clear how to take part and to my mind, was all rather impersonal.

Join The Disqus-sion

With the Disqus tools, it is easier to see where everything is and who has responded to who.

You can login to Disqus using whatever profile you like, including your Google+ and Facebook/Twitter identities.
Or you can set up a separate Disqus profile, if you prefer.

As an added bonus, you can keep your Disqus profile across other blogs and websites that use the system.
- Disqus is the most popular 3rd party comment system on the web, so this can be a huge help.

However, if you're not comfortable with logging into Disqus, you can still leave a message as a "guest".

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has contributed to this site.

I value all your comments, feedback and encouragement.
I hope you'll like the change and continue to take part.

I couldn't do it without you!


What do you think about the new way of doing things?
Do you love it, loathe it, or somewhere in between?

Let me know the comments.

Want to know more about Disqus?
Then check out their website.

Photo credit: Discussion, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Over 20,000 Visits!

Summary: 20,000 pageviews is a real achievement for me. Thank you all for reading!

Because I'm Happy

I'm Happy
This week has been a great week for me.
I have fulfilled one of my goals to become a published author with my debut short story on Amazon.
Even better, Timbo On Tech has surpassed 20,000 visits in the time it has been running.

I know from the Google stats that a number of you have come back to the site on multiple occasions.
So I want to thank you all for reading and being a part of things here.

Top 5 Posts

To celebrate, here is a list of my top 5 most popular posts of all time for your enjoyment.

It seems those hard disk file transfers have got no easier for Xbox 360 owners.

The ultimate mouse is vertical - or is it?

These little beauties may help stop your hands hurting.

Everything for the desktop, from break timers to app launchers

Flip a mouse on its head and what have you got?

So as you can see, there's a bit of a theme here.
On the one hand, it saddens me that so many people suffer in this way.
On the other hand, I guess my original vision (to help people) must be happening somewhere along the way.

Which is your favourite article?
Leave a comment to let us know.

Meanwhile, here are the links to my new book (shameless plug ;).

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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

SwiftKey Note Review - and Top Tip!

SwiftKey logo copyright, SwiftKey
Summary: SwiftKey Note is an iOS app for quickly getting notes into Evernote via predictive typing. What they don't tell you is that you can get your notes out of Evernote too.

Slow Note To China

As much as I love Evernote (and I do), one of my frustrations with it is how slow it is to write notes from my iPod Touch.
I don't have an iPhone, so I take my Touch with me wherever I go and if I think of an idea or need to jot something down, then I would naturally want to do it in Evernote.
However, it takes Evernote such a long time to open, then synchronise my notes, then add new new note and finally allow me to actually start typing that I'm sometimes left hanging.

To be fair, Evernote recently updated their synchronisation engine with some massive performance improvements, but I'm still left with an app that displays the loading "splash" screen - a bright green background with a white elephant silhouette - for far too long.

Previously, I have managed to get round this by using the built in iOS/iCloud Notes app, which opens almost immediately and allows me to get typing.
If I really needed to keep and categorise those notes, then I would copy and paste them into Evernote later.

This works fine for short notes, but what if I want to write longer notes?
I'm thinking specifically about the text of my blog articles, which are easy to update from a desktop PC, but not so easy to add to from my iPod.

Enter the Dragon

Enter SwiftKey Note, an application for iOS which appears to kill two birds with one stone.
The app itself is deceptively simple, giving you access to your Evernote notes, notebooks and tags, with a replacement text editing and keyboard screen.

It's the sister of a similar app that SwiftKey has for the Android phone, although "Note" doesn't have the same bells and whistles as its sibling yet.
It starts up quickly and after authorising the app to access your Evernote account, lets you add a new note and get typing extremely quickly.

Predictive typing in action
Nonetheless, speedy typing alone is not enough to get me to move from Evernote over to another application, particularly when they are installed on the same machine.
But SwiftKey has another ace up its sleeve: as you type, it tries to predict what you want to write and displays 3 words in the area between the keyboard and the text (see right).
Simply select the one you want and the program puts that word in the right place, so you can carry on typing.

The app is intelligent enough to place spaces and punctuation in the right locations and is supposed to get better at guessing what your next words will be, the more you use it.
In addition, when it links to your Evernote account, it analyses the text in your existing notes, so that should place me at an advantage with nearly 3000 notes in my account.

Return To Sender

I have only just started using it in the last week, so I can't promise amazing results as yet.
However, I can report that it is already learning and on a few occasions has successfully predicted 2 words in a row - that means 2 taps to write 2 words, where it would have been a tap for each letter before.

The downside to all this, as an iOS user, is that SwiftKey Note only works with one app at the moment.
While it taps into Evernote, there is no integration with the built in Apple apps, such as Notes or Mail, or any other apps for that matter.

This is in stark contrast to SwiftKey's Android app "Keyboard", which I understand will work with any 3rd party application.
One can only hope that they will update Note to mimic Keyboard - and that they do it soon.

There is obviously much promise here, but not much indication as to where it will lead.
I will update this article later to let you know how things go!

Top Tip

In the meantime, one oddity I have found with SwiftKey Note is that it is easy to get a note into Evernote from SwiftKey (just add a note in SwitKey and will magically be there when you next sync Evernote), but it's not so obvious how it can work the other way around.
Even the help text doesn't explain it, or at least, I couldn't find anything that told me.

The answer lies in the tagging that is used in both SwiftKey and Evernote.
When you first open up SwiftKey, it grabs all your existing Evernote tags and notebooks, so you can add them to new notes that you create.
If you watch closely, you will also see that any new notes you add are also given the tag "SwiftKey" automatically (see Screenshot, below).
SwiftKey Note adds "SwiftKey" tag to all notes

It turns out that this this is all we need to do: just go into Evernote on any device, add the "SwiftKey" tag to any notes you are interested in and then sync.
After that, go back into SwiftKey Note, sync it by swiping down on your screen and voila, the tagged notes will appear in all their glory, ready for you to wreak havoc.

You can get SwiftKey Note from the App Store.

Do you have a top tip for SwiftKey Note or Evernote?
Let us know in the comments.
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Friday, 24 January 2014

Squidoo Stories: I'm The Video Game Rockstar!

Summary: Squidoo has invited some of their members to be Contributors in a number of niche areas - and I'm one of them!

We Blog

In a previous article, I discussed the merits of writing on Squidoo, versus your own blog and came to the conclusion that it is worth doing both.
Well, now I have even more reason to continue with that policy.

One of the problems of writing a blog is that you are pretty much on your own.
You write articles about the things which interest you and hope that readers will come and well, read what you've written.
If you've written something really interesting then your readers may even participate by leaving a comment.
This is great, because all of a sudden, what started as a monologue becomes a conversation.
However, it does take time and a lot of effort to get to that point and there is no-one there to tell you if you are doing it right or not.

Squidoo You?

Squidoo is different because it is a website created by writers for the community of writers and since it has been around for a while, it already attracts a large audience.
I have been writing on Squidoo for just over a year and am at the stage where I am earning a few dollars here and there.
In that short time, I have become a "Giant Squid" - a trusted member of the Squidoo community - and have over 35 articles to my name.

More importantly, I have made friends with a number of other writers from all sorts of backgrounds who I can ask to critique my work, discuss the latest Squidoo developments with, and so on.
I have been able to take the lessons I have learned and apply them back to my blog and other writing.
In short, I'm loving being on Squidoo and would recommend it to anyone.

Super Niche
See my reviews on Squidoo...

But wait - there's more!
Squidoo HQ (the team that run the site) recently announced a new program where Giant Squids can become contributors to a specific niche areas.

The idea is that the Contributors will become leaders in the Squidoo community within their niche area.
They will build up and promote their niche with articles and reviews and create opportunities and challenges for others to join in too.

There are all kinds of niches, everything from Country music and knitting to "Spot on UK".
And I'm now the "Video Game Rockstar" contributor!

I'm planning on covering as many aspects of games and gaming as I can over the coming weeks and months.
I'm an Xbox 360 man myself, but will endeavour to give fair coverage to all platforms, from Playstation to PC to Steam box.

If you are at all interested in video games, then check out my page "I'm The Video Games Rockstar Contributor"
If you would like to write a review, then why not join Squidoo here (just click the "Join Us" button at the top of the page - it's free) and then try out penning an answer to my challenge Review Cut Price Video Games?

I'm an official Squidoo contributorHave you written an article on Squidoo yet?
Do you want to join the Video Games community on Squidoo?
Then let me know by leaving a comment below.
Update: now it's even easier to take part in the Squidoo community - just click "Join Me" in the image to the right!

Photo credit: all photos mine and you can see them over on my Video Game Rockstar page too!
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Friday, 3 January 2014

How To Reset "Furthest Page Read" On Kindle

Summary: you can keep your reading position synchronised across all your Kindle connected devices, even when re-reading a book you have read before. 

Mark My Words

If you have a Kindle device (and even if you don't), you may have been curious about the ability for it to remember your place on multiple machines - an automatic electronic bookmark, if you will

This works very well the first time you read through a book. I have started books on my Kindle, read little bits from my iPod, after syncing it over the wifi at home, and occasionally read some from my desktop PC, via a browser window.

Each time, my progress has transferred perfectly from one place to another and the only thing I had to do was make sure  my device was synced once more before opening the book up again.

Even when I have forgotten to sync manually, there have been several times when I have opened the book, only to be reminded that I had read a little bit further and would I like to go to the "furthest page read"? Well, yes I would, thank you very much! How kind of you.

Photo Credit: My Fire by KCXD

Read It Again, Sam

The problems start when I want to re-read a book that I have previously finished. I have a couple of books which I like so much that I want to read them again ...and again. And in this situation, it seems like the system suddenly falls apart - at least, that is how it appears at first.

Once or twice I've been offered to "move to the furthest read location", only to find  myself at the very end of the book and then struggled to get back to where I was before.

Looking on the Kindle itself, there is nothing in the menus that allows you to set it back to the start (as though you have downloaded it for the first time).

Mr Fix It

However, there is a fix for this and you can find it on the Amazon website. Hopefully, Amazon will see fit to include this option directly on the Kindle device by upgrading the software at some point in the future.

in the meantime, you can reset your progress, by following these simple steps:
  1. Sign in and go to "your account" on Amazon and find the "manage your Kindle" area. 
  2. Find the book within your list in the Kindle library.
  3. On the right hand side you will see a button next to the book, labelled "action".
  4. Hover over the action button and you will see some options. Select "clear furthest page read..." (see screenshot below).
  5. Next go to the place where you most recently read from that book (most often, this will be on the Kindle device itself). Open the book, check you are in the right place, and then synchronise.
  6. That's it! Try opening the same book from somewhere else, such as your web browser, and it should open in the same place.
Clear furthest page read

Now you can enjoy your book - again!

Have an opinion? Did this work/not work for you?
Then let us know in the comments.
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Friday, 25 October 2013

The Best Thing About Evernote 5 - Review

Evernote (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
SummaryEvernote version 5 is now available for Windows and hidden amongst a long list of new features and tweaks, has been given a much needed performance hike.

Evernote 5 Scores Big

If you go to the Evernote website and have a good long look at all the new features they have introduced in version 5, you'll likely be impressed with what they've packed in.

They've changed the whole look and feel of the application, they've added smarter shortcuts, updated the note editor and improved the ease with which you can access your notes via a cleaner and more logical sidebar.

You can now "slice and dice" your saved notes more easily by notebooks, tags and even locations where you made the note.
And if you've had enough of that, you can just click the "Notes" icon to see all your notes in one long list.

Search is easier than ever with several improvements, including a list of recent searches and quick access to searches you saved for a rainy day, right there in the search bar.

If you want the full run down, have a look at their infographic 100 Reasons To Love Evernote For Windows

Flat And Trendy

In common with the current trend (see Microsoft's Windows 8 and Apple's iOS7 if you want to know who to blame), Evernote 5 introduces a "modern" flat look to the screen.

Personally, I'm not a massive fan of the idea of flat icons on our screens. Why did we spend all that time and effort making things look all 3 dimensional over the past X many years, only to change it all back?

It just seems to be change for changes sake, but now that I have it in front of me, I've been surprised: I'm actually very happy with what the team at Evernote have done.

It all seems so much easier to read and easier to find what I want out of my copious notes.
Dare I say it, it looks almost elegant?

Strong Performer

However, once you've upgraded and got past the new look and the all those improvements across nearly every aspect of the application, I think you'll also be impressed by its performance.

Back in June I received an e-mail from the Evernote team celebrating their 5th Anniversary.
It said that out of their current 65,000,000 users (yes, you read that right), I was one of the earliest to sign up - number 482,522 which made me laugh.
Nowhere else but in the software world would being the 482 thousandth user be considered to "one of the first"!

I see myself as a low to moderate user of the service and have accumulated approximately 2,700 notes over that time - I know there are users who have well over 10,000 notes stored in their accounts.
I also have a large number of notebooks. I try to reorganise them every so often, but I can't seem to reduce their number that much.

Similarly, at one point I went through a phase of attaching multiple tags to all my notes.
This was an attempt to categorise everything in my life, before I found out how good the search function was.

I also tend to download the PDF manuals to every electronic gadget in my home.
And yes, I get a little bit OCD with this stuff.

Loadsa' Stuff

My point is that I have lots of notes, in lots of notebooks, with lots of tags.
While I don't use all the features of Evernote, I think I have given it a decent run for its money over the years and pushed it pretty hard.

Up until now, the result has been that Evernote sometimes took a while to open on my PC (I have it installed at home and work) and sometimes was slow to respond.
I would create a new note and have to wait while it sat and thought about it before I could actually type in the editor, or I would change back to the Evernote window from another application and find that it would fail to respond for several seconds.

I put up with this because Evernote has otherwise always been so easy to use.
Once or twice I came across competitors and tried them our for a little while, but each time, they seemed to lack something and I always returned.

Smooth Operator

All that has changed with version 5.
It starts up and shuts down quickly, it synchronises quickly and the search, ah, the search is wonderful. Finding old hidden away things has just become a joy again.

It gives me one more reason to return to the program and use it as the digital repository of my life.
This may even be the best time to reorganise those notebooks once more.

In conclusion, I'm genuinely surprised that they haven't advertised performance as a feature.
It makes all the other features 'just work' as they were intended and makes everything so much more productive.

There's only thing I would now ask of the team:
Make the apps on other platforms (particularly iOS) respond as well as the Windows application and I will become an Evernote evangelist overnight.

*Update January 2014*
It seems that Evernote Sync is now 4x faster, according to their blog.
Apparently, the team has been working quietly on the server side for the past few months and the latest changes are now live across the whole network.
I just tried it out on my iPod Touch and the sync does indeed appear to be faster, which in turn means that Evernote itself is quicker to respond after I open it (individual notes that have just synced seem to be faster opening too).

There will be further changes over the next few months as they update the client side apps to make it even quicker.
All I can say to them is, "well done" and I look forward to Evernote being even better than before.
Now what was I saying about becoming an Evernote evangelist???
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