Sep 132017
 

Leaf: Simple Notes is another small notes or reminder extension for Google Chrome. Installing the extension follows the familiar permissions based method and the extension’s icon is added to the right of the address bar.

Click on the icon and the interface is shown. Simply type any text and optionally add relevant details. Notes are stacked to the right of the text area. Click on the header or title of an existing note and the few available options become visible.

Notes can be dragged and re-ordered. Any note can be moved to the top of the stack. Information on the note’s creation date is also available. A note can be edited by clicking the fourth icon (see screenshot) or by double clicking on it. Notes can of course be deleted.

A needed more recent addition is the search function. It is also helpful that is a find as you type search.

Leaf: Simple Notes is not the first minimalist notes extension and perhaps it is too simple but it serves its purpose well.

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Sep 112017
 

Simple Gmail Notes is a useful Google Chrome extension. It keeps permissions to a minimum and uses the user’s own Google Drive to store all data. For this alone it is a very good choice.

Although given the ‘notes’ name it is somewhat awkward to use for storing personal or random notes because one has to use a gmail email for the notes. An email that exists in one’s inbox is presumably sent by another person. For the purposes of this review and for using the extension later I sent myself an email.

Once the extension is added to Chrome reload gmail and click on an email to see the text area for the notes. One must log in to Google Drive and allow Simple Gmail Notes access. This has to be repeated on other computers where the extension is used.

There is no text formatting. The text area itself only features the text background color option but the extension’s settings page includes options for font color and text size. The title of the note can be configured here as well and titles appear much like a gmail label when viewing the email list.

Notes can be searched and notes history or revisions are enabled by default. These two features use the Google Drive page, when using these a new tab is used to navigate to the user’s Drive page. In a similar fashion there is an Add to Google Calendar option.

There is also a way to share notes, this requires signing up for a gmail account and all those sharing notes accessing it. Again, as mentioned earlier, this is not the most intuitive way to work with notes but Simple Gmail Notes is an interesting extension that works well inside a popular tool that many use.

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Feb 212017
 

KStars is a an open source freeware planetarium program from KDE, the linux platform group. KStars is available for Windows, requires the Microsoft Visual C++ 2015 Redistributable to run on PCs and it will automatically download it if it is not installed.

The program features 100 million stars, 13,000 deep-sky objects and thousands of comets, asteroids, satellites and other sky object in its catalogue. Objects can be added manually or via other downloaded add-ons (see the Data menu).

As with other similar programs choosing a location is the first task after running the program. The program can import and use .fits images for detailed imagery. Moving the mouse object names are displayed as tool tips and right clicking on any provides a wealth of information about the object including viewing images and the option of adding it to a wishlist for observing.

The program window can of course toggle on and off display of horizon, stars, deeps sky objects, planets, milky way, equatorial grid, constellation lines, names and art and also supernovae and satellite positions.

Besides viewing the sky from any location one can also chose a time to view the sky, choose any set time or move in steps to the past or the future. The passage of time can also be sped up to view the changing sky faster. The Pointing menu can change the view based on which direction the viewer is looking at and also center on an object and keep tracking it.

The Tools that come with KStars are really useful for both the amateur sky watcher – with an ‘auto suggest’ tool in the works – and the professional. The calculator provides a lot of information such as object positions, coordinates and radial velocities, Julian dates and sun and moon rise and set times. The Observation planner displays information based on a chosen object, a list can be created and saved for any upcoming sky viewing. The planner includes a ‘What’s up tonight’ tool and the objects added to the wish list can be viewed here. The Sky calendar displays or plots planets’ tracks in the sky.

The program also supports interfacing – using INDI and KDE’s own Ekos platforms – with telescopes to drive the viewer to an object and capture images.

A KStar handbook is accessible from the help menu that provides a wealth of info on every feature available.

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Feb 172017
 

Hallo Northern Sky is an educational, fun and fascinating planetarium program for windows and linux machines. It features around 30,000 objects and many more stars in its catalogue and can find any of them, provide descriptions and high resolution pictures with planets ones showing surface features. It can retrieve updated information online for more objects such as asteroids and comets too.

The first action after installing the program is to save a location, the program prompts the user to do so on first start or if there is no location saved. The only input type requires the user to know his/her location’s longitude and latitude (as opposed to a program like Stellarium that can set a user location by name). The program settings is where one can download or update the aforementioned additional or newer lists and images. Within the same settings (File —>Settings) the program interface can be tweaked to use bigger fonts, different fonts (instead of the default Comic Sans) and different colors. The Settings tab of the Settings (!) has options to change local file settings, use different equinox epochs and make corrections for atmospheric effects.

The program has multiple editors to load or edit astronomical data including images (.fits) files and asteroid and comet databases manually. The Search menu loads object (planets, moons, deep space objects, stars, constellations) names and can center on an object’s location. Supplementary or extra databases can be downloaded from the developer site and searched as well. These include additional galaxies and stars. The Objects menu is like loading specific supplements or databases and acts as a filter to view certain objects, for example to filter magnitude or use other deep sky maps that show farther objects. The Date menu can show the sky as it looks 1 hour from now, 1 day from now, tonight or any date.

Moving the mouse on the program window and left clicking on an object provides information about it on the upper left side of the window. Name, brightness, right ascension, declination, magnitude and more is given. Right clicking offers more like centering on the object, downloading images of an object and if no object is selected using one of online resources to search that chosen area of the sky. The Animation option (Screen —>Animation) lets the user visualize movements in time increments and follow planets or star movements.

Use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out or Ctrl+R for the aforementioned animation. The program has many hot keys built in. The extensive help file on the same page has lots more info.

Information can be copied to the clipboard when it is displayed on the status bar, just left click on the status bar to copy information about the clicked on area. ASCOM is supported, Hallo Northern Sky can interface with compatible telescopes and direct them to point to objects.

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Jan 192017
 

LazLock (version: 2.4.2) is a freeware password manager, it is portable and available separately for 32bit and 64 bit computers as well as Linux ones. Just unzip and run the executable.

On first run the master password is chosen and confirmed with the usual disclaimer that it can not be recovered as it uses 128 bit AES encryption. When the program starts empty URL, Username and Password fields tempt the user to start entering and save after typing but the only ways to add an entry is via the menu or icon.

An entry can belong to any one of the 10 categories that are Banking, Education, Email, Media, Other, Shopping, Social Media, Software, Web or Work as seen in the screenshot. Associate an icon with the entry and then enter the details, optionally use the password generator and set parameters for the password. Here the length of the password can be set and it can include any one or all of uppercase, lowercase, numbers, symbols, brackets, or even spaces! The password generator can be used independently of an entry by clicking on its icon in the program’s main window.

Other features include changing the master password (File —>Change password) and strangely Create backup, (File —>Create backup) which exports entries into a plain text file.

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Jan 142017
 

When Last Android App

When Last a simple activity tracker Android app by DonationCoder that helps keep track of things done. As with everything else from DonationCoder this app stays true to being clean and in this case the permissions are the minimum of read the contents of your USB storage and modify or delete the contents of your USB storage. Network connections and access will also kick in when using the optional sync feature.

The app comes pre-populated with several activities and categories. Each category is in its own tab, that is how activities can be organized. Create a new event or done activity by clicking the + sign, adding a label, choosing or creating a category on the fly, adding an optional remind in and overdue in and clicking ok. The time that it was done will be listed and shown under its label. The next time it is done click the Now button and the last done time will be shown. Click on the pencil edit button to the left of the title and a history of the activity is shown.

The app supports sorting activities by modification date, performed date, alphabetical or time overdue. These are set either in the preferences or using the button to the right of the +. Using the same button one can toggle hidden items or to provide more screen space and toggle the revise (the edit or pencil) button’s visibility.

The aforementioned hidden feature is a choice made when creating an item. Also the aforementioned sync feature is disabled by default and can be enabled in the app preferences (scroll to the bottom in the preferences). The three available options are using dropbox, public folder and your own sync tool and private folder and you own sync file. In each case a sync app needs to be pointed towards the folder and as mentioned in the When Last’s help file the public option is a subdirectory of the device’s downloads folder and the private one is a subdirectory of the app’s folder.

When Last has also very recently added a search feature.

The app includes a widget with settings for widget title, border, background color and the category to show. Check all DonationCoder Android apps and the newest edition of the N.A.N.Y. (New Apps for the New Year) for other programs available.

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Jan 072017
 

One of the many plugin types used to extend a WordPress site are calendar ones. Many free and premium ones are available in the repository and elsewhere with a whole set of functionality from displaying simple dates to client booking for example. XO Event Calendar is a free plugin on the simpler side of the spectrum.

After a normal plugin installation the Events menu is added in the WordPress backend. XO Event Calendar adds its own custom post type and taxonomy (category). Each category can have its own background color on the calendar. In a similar way any number of holidays can be created and assigned background colors with ‘day-off’, ‘morning-off’ and ‘afternoon-off’ presets available. Add new events by entering a title, description and optionally an excerpt. Pick a start and end date and choose or create its category on the fly. The event title will be displayed on the calendar and linked to the detail page.

 

To display the calendar on a page or post use the [xo_event_calendar] shortcode. The shortcode includes the option for displaying holidays, somewhat surprisingly showing holidays are not “true” by default. Other options include showing previous and next month arrows and ability to limit the number of months one can move to, for example previous=”1″ and next=”6″ will only display the previous month’s and the next six months’ dates. It is possible to include only certain categories by naming which to display using categories=”slug”. One can also display different versions of the calendar using the id option (“xo-event-calendar-2”, “xo-event-calendar-3”, etc.), this requires a different page for each calendar displayed.

All in all XO Event Calendar is a clean and minimalist calendar for WordPress, it is relatively new on the scene.

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Jan 052017
 

ToDoList (version: 7.1) is a task or to do list freeware that can help organize and track tasks. The interface and features may be excessive for a to do list.

Upon installation the program displays several prompts asking where (registry or .ini file) to store settings, whether to prepare a network sharing set up, which columns or type of user interface to show. It will also offer to display its sample task list to give the user a start.

The program window is divided into several parts and can seem “busy” but each section can be hidden using View —> Task View Visibility or View —> Bar Visibility. The filter bar can be used to narrow down tasks down to the very specific. When tasks are created they can have all of title, start date, due date, priority (numbered and colored from 1 to 9), completion status, tag, category, allocated to, allocated by and many other attributes or columns including custom ones (View —> Custom Task Attributes) and displayed with their own icons or background colors. Each can be shown or hidden via right clicking on the task view heading. Tasks can have subtasks with their own attributes. Existing tasks can be subdivided into subtasks too. An item can be linked to a file and have a comment attached to it using rich or simple text and the comments will be visible to right side by default. The aforementioned attributed can be set or edited in the attributes section on the bottom of ToDoList’s window.

There are, of course, several methods for adding new tasks such as using the top menu, the toolbar, right clicking in the task views area. Each task can have a reminder with or without recurrence as well and like other features there are the same several methods of adding a reminder.

The main feature of ToDoList is the multiple views available and each user will probably see one as most intuitive. Task Tree displays tasks with subtasks clearly marked, Task List presents a linear list, Calendar is of course a calendar, Gantt Chart in a horizontal series spanning dates and Kanban (new in 7.1) in a white board style. The Burndown view is a visual representation of the number of tasks in the list, displayed per date, it is basically a simple but depressing graph of how much a user has to do!

The programs preferences are massive in number and detail. Each view has its own preferences too (look for the gear button). For example an option to choose a default view at program startup probably exists but is buried in the preferences – however ToDoList does remember the last view between sessions. Examples of options are the program’s behaviour when inactive, program theme, the position of the task comments, default priority color/number, which attributes are inherited by subtasks, backup and autosave.

The program can import and create tasks from .ics, .csv, .txt, outlook, .mm (Freemind), .gan (GanttProject), .ml (My Life Organized) file and export to the same plus .html.

The program’s wiki details all the features in more detail including more advanced features best suited for multi user environments like task dependency where a task’s status (for example its completion) is dependent on another task, reference task where a task watches another for changes and command line options which include working and interacting with external programs such as emailing tasks.

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Dec 272016
 

At first look DocusTree (version: 3.2) might look like a notes organizer. The interface and look is of the two pane outliner or organizer where the focus is on writing, jotting down and inserting various media or documents. While this is true of DocusTree it is more geared towards organizing existing documents or websites in a central location.

As the demo (see screenshot) shows when right clicking on a node DocusTree is mostly about adding. Of course a user can include a new document and start typing – for keeping a list for example – but this freeware is built in a way that is best suited for inserting documents.

DocusTree supports pdfs, urls, text documents, rich text documents, doc files, XML files and image insertion. It can import individual or a folder of these documents. It can also link to files or folders and therefore not directly show them.

The additional features are the activity tracker and note calendar. The activity tracker presents a six months calendar view where one can click on days to highlight days where the activity is done. There is no flexibility in individual days’ descriptions. As can be seen in the demo screenshot the “3 fruits per day” is either true (for any given day) or not. The note calendar present a single day view calendar with a text area for general notes and separate area for each hour of the day.

The built in search, using either the top right text field or the Edit menu did not find expected results. For example searching for jogging while the Jogging node was open did not return any results. The software also became slow to unresponsive after a pdf node was loaded/clicked on. The program interface is not fully bug free either (see right side of screenshot). These are not good signs, especially since this is at version 3.2.

A password can be set via the program options (Tools —> Options) to prevent access to the program. DocusTree should work on Windows XP and newer but is unfortunately too unpolished.

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Dec 232016
 

Forums or message boards are not the attraction they once were. In the earlier internet era the likes of Ikonboard, vBulletin and phpBB were the leaders in providing a gathering place for users. With the proliferation of social media the forum in its traditional sense is mostly left behind. WordPress, the blogging platform, itself has its own forum options in its vast plugin repository with bbPress being the best known. Other options, the once free SimplePress for example, exist with the built in advantage of using the WordPress database and share the users. Another newer options is wpForo.

wpForo tries to replicate the more feature complete and attractive look of standalone forums in contrast to the more minimalism of bbPress by providing more options and features out of the box.

After installing the plugin much the same way as any other WordPress plugin a Forums menu – whose position in the wp-admin menu can be edited – is added and it consists of Dashboard, Forums, Settings, Members, Usergroups, Phrases, Themes, and Addons sub menus.

The “community” directory is used as the forum index page by default but this can be edited and there is an option to make the forum a WordPress site’s front page. Three different layouts are available which serve slightly difference purposes (see screenshot). These are Simplified, Extended and Q&A.

Add categories –  via the ‘use as category’ check mark when adding a new forum – forums or subforums and reorder them if needed, each forum can have a meta description and of course individual access permissions. Forum wide permissions can be set from the Forum accesses tab of the Settings submenu. The administrator can also control how many topics and posts are displayed per page and if the user can edit or delete his or her own content or add attachments.

wpForo features front end moderating – close, make sticky, report, move, edit and delete – and includes most of the typical usergroups built in. It is possible to add new usergroups in addition to the existing Admin, Customer, Guest, Moderator and Registered groups and control the permissions of each. One useful additional tweak could be the option to use an existing permission set for a new usergroup as a starting point. Member titles and ranks can be added or edited. The existing ones range from New Member to Illustrious Member and are based on post count. Email templates are available for events like notifying admin(s) of new posts or topics or for those sent to users.

The Features tab of the Settings provides a long list of options that one can enable or disable. These include displaying breadcrumbs, displaying forum statistics, disabling new registrations, enabling custom avatars, using the WordPress media library for uploaded attachments and many more. The Styles tabs allows more custom control of the forums’ colors,  this is somewhat confusing because the Themes submenu is where the look and template can be edited safely using new template folders that are not lost when upgrading.

The built in Phrases make it easier to control the displayed language and to translate (11 are currently available) wpForo. As of version 1.1.0 and this post there are two paid or premium addons available. They are Advanced Attachments and Embeds.

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