Louise Brooks

When silence is golden

Posted by | Lifestyle | 2 Comments
Ever noticed how much noise there is in our everyday life? While I'm typing this I can hear the white noise of traffic on the major road half a kilometre away. I don't, for once, even have the radio on. It's usually in the background, quite gentle, and tuned to ABC Classic FM; soothing stuff for the most part. I need peace and quiet when I work, which is why I work alone. Surrounded by people I can feel my annoyance rising. A trip to the post office will take me into a noisy mall, all tiled floors and hard surfaces. It's only when I walk out and head towards home (I walk to the PO rather than take the car for environmental and health reasons) that I realise how awfully loud it was in there. And it IS awful, a cacophonous din of doof doof music from the fashion shops, kids crying, people talking loudly so they can be heard over the music. Noise can affect our moods. Shopping mall noise - any constant, loud noise really - can make us short tempered, or in a work situation, decrease our concentration. It's no surprise that people are addicted to their iPods, choosing their own music over the noise forced upon them. Having had the house to myself for a few days with my husband on a business trip, I haven't even turned on the television at night. I have rejoiced in peace and quiet. I've spent two nights painting pictures, and the third, last night, I watched silent movies on YouTube on my iPad.
Louise Brooks

Louise Brooks

I had to laugh at myself when I considered what I was doing. I had purposely sought out 1920s movies (Pandora's Box starring the sublime Louise Brooks and It starring bubbly Clara Bow) as an antidote to the workdays I have, when technology bombards me from 8.30am to 6.00pm. In the 1920s the telephone was as technological as you got and not every home had one. But... I was watching on a very 2012 invention. There's something strange about that! There are times when I curse technology. Computers were supposed to make our lives simpler but we are flooded with emails, with requests to network via our computers or other technology; often we are so overwhelmed with the amount of information, requests and data we receive that our productivity is worse than it was twenty years ago, and we are working longer hours just to get the workload done. Clients expect instant results, everything is 'urgent'. I now turn the sound down on my Mac so I don't hear the 'bong' of emails dropping into my inbox as it's distracting, and when I'm on an urgent task, depressing. And as for mobile phones, yes, smartphones are wonderful and I would hate to go back to life without some of my favourite apps. But it seems there is no escape from people wanting to contact you 24/7 and then complaining if you don't answer the phone. Sorry folks, the phone goes to voicemail when I'm driving or in a meeting. Get over it. But when technology gives me the means to escape to a less frenetic time, I embrace it. I don't even have to turn the sound down. Silents are golden.

New CamCard app could make saving business cards a thing of the past, unless you’re an iPhone 3 user

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I read this article in the Australian today about a clever new smartphone app that could make hoarding cardboard business cards a thing of the past.  This clever little chap is called CamCard. To quote The Oz, "This app streamlines the tiresome task of taking contact information from cards and entering it into an electronic contact book. It uses a smartphone's inbuilt camera to capture an image of each card and then applies clever character recognition algorithms to extract details and store them in the phone's address book.   "During a test, CamCard recognised a variety of business cards, including some with dark backgrounds and dominant logos. After taking a photo of a card, the software took about three seconds to process it and populate a new contact book entry. Occasionally the app struggled to differentiate between titles and company names, however its character and number recognition capabilities are excellent. The app also allows you to dial, send a text or email a contact while viewing their card's image. The "lite" version retains a limited number of cards, a full version is available for $11.99." I like a new gadget, I do. So I downloaded the CamCard Lite version (saves three contacts in the first week and one per week thereafter) and set to work with my iPhone 3. Everyone who has an iPhone 3 knows the worst thing about this phone is its camera. Try as I might, I couldn't take a decent photo of a clean, clear, white background business card with my phone. One has to have the phone close enough to fill the screen with the card. The downside of this is that with the iPhone 3 it appeared to be too close to focus on the card. CamCard told me the text on the card was unrecognisable at every attempt I made. I was taking the images in clear light, too. So it's back to typing in contacts manually for me. I'd be interested in hearing from really truly users who have downloaded this app and are trying it on their smartphones. Drop me a line if you think it works just fine. Especially if you too have an iPhone 3!

Does your website work well on a mobile device?

Posted by | Services, Social Media, Websites | No Comments
A mobile phone isn't just a mobile phone any more. Smartphones and other mobile devices give us tools and abilities to enhance our daily life - we can check our email from anywhere, surf the web, pay bills, use social media... add an iPad or other tablet to that, with its word processing and other office apps, and you have a device that can, for the most part, be a notebook/laptop replacement when you're out and about. These devices are growing in popularity so quickly that website design technology now has to take them into account and change to allow for the limitations and capabilities of these devices. There is an excellent article here by Siobhan Ambrose on making your WordPress website mobile-friendly. The advice in here is quite applicable to any website, not just one driven by WordPress. Siobhan cites some big predictions from Gartner Research on the rapidly increasing use of mobile technology. These include: "By 2013, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide. According to Gartner’s PC installed base forecast, the total number of PCs in use will reach 1.78 billion units in 2013. By 2013, the combined installed base of smartphones and browser-equipped enhanced phones will exceed 1.82 billion units and will be greater than the installed base for PCs thereafter."  Wow! And also, "Mobile Web users are typically prepared to make fewer clicks on a website than users accessing sites from a PC. Although a growing number of websites and Web-based applications offer support for small-form-factor mobile devices, many still do not. Websites not optimized for the smaller-screen formats will become a market barrier for their owners — much content and many sites will need to be reformatted/rebuilt." Websites that use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) rather than tables have the advantage. CSS can expand and contract as you zoom on your mobile device. Tables can look awful on mobile devices, so if you've got a site you designed yourself a few years ago using FrontPage or similar software, it's time to think of updating and moving to a Content Management System (CMS) site driven by Joomla! or WordPress or similar software.  (There's also SquareSpace, but I don't believe it offers the same value as WordPress as there is a monthly charge to use it and limited templates at this stage.) IoS for WordPressWordPress makes it easy to update on the go with a free WordPress app for iPhone and iPad.  There are also versions available for Nokia, BlackBerry and Android from Automattic. I've been testing IoS for WordPress and find it easy enough to use on both an iPhone and iPad. See the website here for IoS WordPress. This app works whether or not you have a blog hosted on WordPress or your own website. If you manage multiple blogs, you can manage them all from your mobile device - how easy is that! The pic at right shows it in action, courtesy of the IoS site. I'm still investigating a Joomla! mobile editor, but if you want real flexibility for updating anywhere, anytime, head for WordPress and its mobile editing apps.

Switching off – reducing the ‘technology overload’

Posted by | Books, Lifestyle | No Comments
Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, and yes it does, but I've noticed when chatting to people that more and more of us have trouble 'switching off'. Not just turning our phones and computers off, but mentally tearing ourselves away from our work. With smartphones and tablet computers such as iPads becoming more commonplace, it's hard to separate work time from our own time, particularly for small business owners who work in service-related industries. Georgina Laidlaw has an excellent article here which has some ideas for those of us whose brain is still working on work stuff long after working hours are over. Getting out and going for a walk works for me, particularly now in springtime when I can let my mind wander over the sun on my back, or the scent of flowers like jasmine and wisteria, which always bring back a memory of childhood; comforting, carefree. Books do it for me too. When I want to have some technology-free time I often head for something written or set in the first half of the twentieth century. Yes, a time when computers and mobile phones weren't part of our lives. A slower time, to slow my mind down and make me relax. E. F. Benson's Mapp & Lucia books are favourites and I re-read them annually. Likewise mysteries from detective fiction's Golden Age: Josephine Tey (Brat Farrar is a longtime favourite)  and Agatha Christie's Miss Marple are marvellous antidotes - Murder at the Vicarage, anyone? Last weekend I bought two very battered Girl's Own Annuals at Rozelle Markets. It cost me $10 for the pair of them. One book was missing its rear cover and the other had its covers and spine but they weren't attached to the book. I had an enjoyable hour last night rebinding them and making a new rear cover. Purists might say I'm lessening their value but in the condition the covers were in I doubt each one is worth more than a fiver anyway. They make fascinating reading, a snapshot of British middle-class life in the early 1920s; articles by worthy ladies, fiction that never features more than a chaste kiss between lovers, chocolate-box village photographs and wonderful line drawings of the current fashions. Now I look forward to switching off in the evenings and delving into a world of bachelor girls, camisoles, good wives and a day in the life of a prima donna. How do you switch off? Answers on a postcard please (or leave a comment below).