Tech, Tips, and Tutorials.
Reviews, News, and Rants.

140it reduces your Tweets to 140 characters

Continuing with the Twitter coverage, new service 140it promises to compress your tweets to squeeze them in the 140-character limit default in Twitter.

Let’s see how they convert the above paragraph, which is 11 characters over the limit:

Continuing wth the Twitter cvrg, new srvc 140it prmss 2 compress your tweets 2 squeeze them in the 140-character limit default in Twitter

140it did a great job, getting it to 3 characters less than the limit. The service is useful if you frequently extend the limit set by Twitter. It also will shorten URLs (using as part of the tweet shortening process – a handy tool.

There are other tweet shortening tools, but they all required you to visit their website. Often you either forget or find out it’s faster to do this by hand. 140it is available as a bookmarklet, which means that you can simply drag it to your toolbar and click it to do its work there and then.

Here’s the demo:

140it Demo from Vinicius Vacanti on Vimeo.

[140it – via TechCrunch]

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Interviewed about Apple's 2008 Success

I’ve been interviewed over at Matthew Mizzi’s blog. I was asked a few questions about Apple’s amazing financial success (pdf) over the year 2008. For the first time ever, they’ve made over $10b. Read a little about how they made so much money in 2008 in... the interview.

For any company, that’s a lot of money, but for a computer company, that’s phenomenal. It’s a combination of great products, great design, but also excellent marketing and branding.

[Apple’s success explained – by Matthew Mizzi’s Blog]

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Updating to OpenOffice 3.0 in Ubuntu 8.10

Unfortunately, even though Intrepid Ibex (Ubuntu 8.10) shipped quite a bit after the release of OpenOffice 3.0, the developers hadn’t quite finished testing Intrepid with the latest version. As a result, Ubuntu 8.10 ships with version 2.4 of the popular, free office suite.

The latest version of OpenOffice adds many new features, including an enhanced user interface, compatibility with Microsoft Office 2007’s XML formats (docx, pptx), and improved speed and reliability all round.

Softpedia outlines the proper way to update your OpenOffice suite. You just have to add the following to your list of software sources: deb intrepid main and then update via the Update Manager:

[How to Install 3.0 on Ubuntu 8.10 – Step by step tutorial with screenshots!Softpedia]

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Twitter Heralding New Age in Reporting

Taken by @jkrums with his iPhone less than 5 minutes after the Hudson River plane crash

Twitter and the "real-time web" as a whole are heralding a new age in reporting. This new age really fulfills the potential of the Web 2.0 promise of a few years back: user-generated content.

What is the real-time web? This term refers to services like Twitter and FriendFeed - micro-blogging services - short, instant updates letting people know what's happening, instantly.

Consider two very recent examples: Steve Jobs' extended stay away from Apple, and the plane crash landing in the Hudson River. Citizen reporting on a scale we've never seen before is likely to become the new standard.

As Robert Scoble put it:

What happened? While CNBC was reporting it on TV, the real-time-web
was going nuts. Passing along little tidbits. Stories. Links. Rumors. And all that. It was interesting, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

The Future of Reporting?

It seems likely that citizen reporting is going to increase dramatically in the next 5 years or so - as more and more people become technology-savvy and micro-blogging services (like Twitter) become increasingly mainstream.

As for me, speaking as someone involved in student journalism, this is very, very exciting. Your thoughts? [Scobleizer]

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iTweet: Twitter on steroids

iTweet iTweet is a web-based client for the popular micro-blogging service Twitter. The service was built by avid Twitter user colbypalmer. So what makes iTweet so special compared to the dozens of Twitter clients already out there?

Well, for one thing, it's web based - meaning all you need to run it is a tab in a browser. Despite the default Twitter client also being web-based, iTweet one-ups it in many ways. It has super-useful features built in, such as: url-shortening via, native and automated re-tweeting, auto-refresh, main-page searching, unicode symbol support, and support for hashtags, and much more.

It copies the basic layout of the main Twitter site, but with obvious provisions for the added features. The site has a utilitarian look that definitely has its draw (you can change it to your default Twitter colours).

itweet screenshot

The interface is heavy in its API usage and you can run down to your limit of 100 requests per hour really quickly. However the client has options to cater for this.

All in all, iTweet is a comprehensive Twitter client that can fully replace the default web interface.


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Installing Flock in Ubuntu 8.10 in 3 easy steps

This article will help you install the popular social web browser Flock on your Ubuntu  computer. The instructions are tested on Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex, but they will probably work on most recent versions.

The instructions on the official Flock FAQ are outdated, so use this guide instead.

1) Download Flock. It should end in ".tar.gz". Place the fle in your home folder i.e. ~/

2) Open up a terminal window and type in:

tar -C /home/USERNAME -xzvf FILENAME.tar.gz

Substitute USERNAME and FILENAME for the real thing (case-sensitive)

3) We now need a nice launcher for Flock. Type in:

gedit /home/USERNAME/Flock.desktop

A new text editor window should open up. In the new window, copy and paste the following:

[Desktop Entry]
Comment=Flock Web Browser
GenericName=Flock Web Browser
GenericName[en_US]=Flock Web Browser
As before, replace all 3 instances of USERNAME with your actual (case-sensitive) username.

That's it! Flock is now installed on your computer! You can also copy and paste the shortcut to the desktop for easier access. If you want it in your Applications menu, right click the menu and edit it.

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Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex

Today I installed Ubuntu 8.10. Ubuntu is a Linux distribution. The move came a few months after I was severely burned by v7.10, losing all my photos in a failed install.

Below are my first impressions from a Windows-user perspective…


A quick note on how I installed it

A lot of time has passed and I feel ready to jump back in to the wonderfully open and customisable world of Linux.

I didn’t actually physically install Ubuntu on my computer. The scars of 2 years’ worth of lost photosstill hurt.

So I used the excellent Wubi installer instead. The installer uses some sort of magic commands to install Ubuntu inside a Windows drive.

First Impressions

First impressions are mixed – the interface is undoubtedly pretty, but I’m feeling a little lost.

I’m considerably eased by the little commodities – like a preinstalled PDF viewer, it automatically detecting my printer and also automatically connecting me to the internet.

I can tell that whoever designed the UI really wants to appear warm and welcoming to migrating Windows users. After a couple of hours the strange disorientation disappears and I’m fully immersed in the experience.

Installing applications is extremely different to how I’m used to on Windows. Ubuntu’s way is undoubtedly more difficult, but it does bring most programs under one centralised location (making updates and new programs more prominent).

Installing applications

It’s also very easy to get lost playing with new applications and changing all the system settings. Everything is presented very nicely and graphically. Ubuntu is trying very hard to hide its command-line underpinnings.


The font rendering is very different from Windows. There’s no ClearType here in Linux land so it’s up to you to decide how you want your fonts. I found a way how to get font rendering to roughly resemble Mac OS X’s beautiful font rendering. In this regard it’s advantage to the free OS (more on that in a future article).


I wasn’t expecting miracles. My machine has a very modest 512MB RAM chip installed. 64 of that 512MB is reserved for video, since I also don’t have dedicated graphics.

The operating system itself, with all fancy features turned off, is not significantly faster than Windows XP. It does use a little less RAM though and Firefox is remarkably efficient on Ubuntu.

That’s all for now. Look out for future articles about my Ubuntu and Linux adventures.

[Ubuntu download page]

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Create your own Fonts, Symbols, & Characters

(Windows only) MakeUseOf exposes a hidden tool within the Windows directory that enables you to create custom fonts, symbols, and characters.

The tool is located deep within the Windows folder. To get to it, press the Windows key plus R to open the run dialog, and enter: c:\windows\system32\eudcedit.exe.

The Private Character Editor is available to users of both Windows XP and Vista.

[Create Your Own Fonts, Symbols, & Characters (Windows) by]

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Differences in Style: Apple and Microsoft (Macworld & CES 2009)

January is normally a very exciting month for the gadget lover. For the first time in recent memory, Microsoft had more exciting stuff to show off than Apple.

I’ll start with Macworld ‘09 and Apple. For Apple’s last ever Macworld appearance, Phil Schiller gave the keynote instead of the Steve Jobs – partly because of some health problems, and no doubt partly due to the fact that they barely had anything to announce.

They introduced new versions of their iLife and iWork software, announced the new MacBook Pro 17” (with an 8-hour battery), and announced removals of DRM from purchased music on iTunes.

Phil gave an admirable performance, not quite as good as Jobs, but considering what he had to work with, congrats Phil – you had a lot to live up to.

Now on to CES ‘09 and Microsoft.

It’s the first time Steve Ballmer gave Microsoft’s annual CES keynote since becoming CEO in 2001. Microsoft had some very exciting news regarding Windows 7, and Ballmer went on to explain Microsoft’s exciting (and probable) visions for the future of computing.

Microsoft had some excellent points to make – and some exciting announcements. However like every other year, I ended up preferring the Apple keynote. It was much simpler, engaged the audience much more effectively, and conveyed their messages much better.

Microsoft, despite having better content than Apple, just couldn’t perform as well. The demos of Windows 7 showed off the new OS pretty well, but the person actually giving the demo sounded very stiff and robotic.

Apple’s employee, on the other hand, gave a much better impression of iMovie. This is despite iMovie not being half as noteworthy as the new operating system from Microsoft.

The screens behind Ballmer weren’t perfectly in sync with what he was saying. In terms of presentation style, the screens were way too busy and overcomplicated. These things work best when they’re really simple.

Overall I wish Microsoft present their products in a better way, because they too have a lot to offer the world of computing.

Apple have some great products, and probably their greatest gift is some very good marketing and positioning for these products.


I am a huge fan of Microsoft’s vision for the future of computing, with touch based interfaces and mobile computing – it reflects some real forward-thinking on their part. Microsoft Labs are also innovating and showing off some really cool, if somehow vague, software.

Apple: you just keep on doing what you’re doing to drive the whole industry forward. [images via Engadget and Apple]

[Phil Schiller’s keynote for Apple at Macworld ‘09]
[Steve Baller’s keynote for Microsoft at CES ‘09]

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