FEAC2006: technical notes

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Since last year, I have been actively moving files that I need to access anywhere online, in an experiment to “make the network my computer.” This served me well during the recent Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace conference in Manila.

The greatest benefit is that the files I needed for things I was working on was accessible whichever computer I was using. I host all my files with Box.net, the best online drive I’ve tried so far. Streamload is a close second and I use it for backup.

I used one of the newsroom’s laptops in the conference and it was a plain vanilla installation. In a few steps, however, I turned it’s Firefox into the browser that I use at home and at the office. When I used one of the laptops set up by the organizers at the conference hall, I was also able to turn it into my familiar Firefox installation (after they installed Firefox): with the same bookmarks and bookmarks toolbar. I did this using Foxmarks, a Firefox bookmarks synchronizer. Foxmarks synchronizes all your bookmarks into a central server, so you essentially have the same set of bookmarks and bookmarks toolbar for each browser that uses your account.

I know you can do this with social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us but I find doing it with Foxmarks better because you also get to synchronize your Firefox bookmarks toolbar, a feature I use heavily. I started using Foxmarks when del.icio.us still did not have a private bookmarking feature and I did not want just anyone to know certain types of sites that I bookmark.

Another must-install software that I extensively use, especially when I’m in a conference, is Float’s Mobile Agent. It is a software that allows you to run and manage your Sony Ericsson phone via your PC. It’s infinitely better than the bundled software that comes with your phone. With FMA, you can just turn your phone’s Bluetooth connection on and set it aside because you can send, read and archive messages in your computer. Heck you can even call someone using your standard PC headset, but only for certain models. FMA is a huge productivity booster as you can send and read text messages faster and still continue listening to conference discussions.

For instant messaging, I never bothered installing a client. I just used Meebo to communicate with my Yahoo messenger and MSN contacts and GMail for people I chat with in GTalk.

I also had no problem synchronizing notes as I keep my notes online using a ZiddlyWiki in a free Zope hosting account. I am an extensive ZiddlyWiki note-taker. It’s fast and very easy to use. ZiddlyWiki is a server-side implementation of TiddlyWiki. I was set to write about TiddlyWiki as a great introduction to wiki formatting for the Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace blog but I never got to finish the article. One of the technical sessions during the conference discussed wikis, particularly Wikipedia.

Conference organizers asked everyone to use the full conference title in their blog entries so that these can be tracked by Technorati. It would have been great, though, if everyone agreed on a tag, as Ethan Zuckerman mentioned in his presentation. A tag is better because you can also use it for Flickr photos. What I did was I searched for Flickr photos of the conference and found that Portnoy was using FEAC2006 as a tag and I just followed it.

Ethan discussed a bit about rolling out your own blogs aggregator. He’s using reBlog, a nifty piece of software I’ve long been wanting to try. It would have been great if the conference had set up a temporary aggregator of the blogs of all participants. Setting one up with Suprglu would have been very easy. This way, people need not search for tags or phrases in Technorati, they can just visit the Suprglu aggregator site created for the conference. I had wanted to suggest this to Alecks Pabico but listening to great discussions on blogging and technical tools made me forget this.

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