Saturday, February 28, 2009

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Amazon Associates vs. Google AdSense for Your Blog

You want to make a few dollars from your blog, now what? Most bloggers think first of Google's AdSense program, but that is not the only alternative. One interesting possibility is Amazon's Associates program. Which to choose, and why?

AdSense and Associates are both very easy to begin. Signing-up for either just requires filling out a simple form. The only other step to get started is copying a small chunk of HTML into a widget to display in your blog's sidebar. For Blogger, click Add a Gadget under the Layout tab, and select the HTML gadget.

If your only objective is maximizing current revenue, you could try to estimate whether AdSense or Associates will provide more income, but that is basically just guessing. Instead, put one of each on your side bar for a couple of weeks to compare results. Then choose.

A much more important consideration than current revenue, however, is the long term future for your blog. This is where the choice between AdSense and Associates becomes really important. Although you can specify a list of products, services, and brands that you don't want AdSense to advertise on your blog, the best you can do is minimize the harm that the ads cause to your blog's integrity and reputation. Maybe the revenue is worth the impact on your blog's character, maybe it isn't.

In contrast, Amazon's Associates program can actually enhance your blog. If you want, you can specify exactly which products will be advertised. For example, I write a book review and place an Amazon ad for that book next to the review. Or I talk about my favorite camera and place an Amazon ad for that camera on my blog.

If you do have Amazon choose the ads for your blog, their algorithm for selecting products makes amazingly perceptive selections - in my experience. I have found their choice of books to be a great complement to the content of my blog - adding interest rather than being just another commercial.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

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Apple Continues to go the Wrong Way with Glossy Screens and Mini Displayport

I love my last generation Macbook Pro and my last generation 23-inch Apple Cinema Display - both with matte (antiglare) screens. Mostly, I think Apple does a great job with product innovations, but last Fall they made what I consider to be HUGE mistakes, and they have still barely begun to dig themselves out.

The new 15-inch Macbook Pro is still only available with a glossy screen - worse yet, the screen has an extra sheet of glass in front of it, so you don't just get reflections, you get double reflections. At long last, the 17-inch Macbook Pro has a matte (antiglare) screen option - but at extra cost on top of a $2800 base - that's a crazy price and it's not so portable.

Last fall Apple discontinued their matte screen 23-inch Apple Cinema Display with DVI connector, and introduced the glossy screen 24-inch LED Cinema Display with Mini Displayport. That broke just about everything. Previous Mac owners now have NO option for an Apple display in that size range - even if they would settle for a glossy screen, as Apple still doesn't offer a DVI to Mini Displayport converter. For buyers of new generation Mac's with Mini Displayport, the choices are limited to buying a glossy external monitor or ponying up extra for a Mini Displayport to DVI converter to allow them to connect to a non-Apple monitor. It's all ugly, and no word of help from Apple.

What's so important about an antiglare matte screen? While game players, movie watchers, and many casual users prefer glossy screens, surveys show that 2 out of 3 serious graphics, document, and business users - the typical user base for Macbook Pro's - prefer antiglare matte screens. Many, like myself, refuse to use a glossy screen at all - it's just too fatiguing.

Monday, February 23, 2009

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Exercises to Keep Your Mouse From Biting You

If you use your computer a lot and you are of that certain age, you recognize when your mouse is beginning to bite you. It may be your mouse hand cramping, your lower or upper arm muscles, your shoulder, or perhaps the opposite shoulder knotting in sympathy. Don't wait until you are suffering, try these hints to avoid "mouse shoulder" and its cousins.

1. Take a break every hour, if only for a minute. Many short breaks are more effective than a single longer one.

2. Stretch your arm tendons. Extend your arms straight out to your sides, forming a cross with your body and arms. Start with your palms facing the floor. Pull your hands up and back, tightening your arm tendons. Repeat 10 times slowly. Now, pull your hands up and back, and twist your arms clockwise and counter clockwise - remain in the cross position while twisting your arms like wringing out a wet towel. Do NOT do anything that hurts - even a little.

3. Perform the same towel-wringing motion with your arms extended overhead, then in front, finally extended straight down.

4. Take a short walk. Exaggerate swinging your arms as you walk.

5. Get two light weights - perhaps five pounds each. Raise the weights with your arms extended to your sides, then with your arms extended to the front. Raise the weights over your head. Finally, lower the weights behind your shoulders and raise them back to overhead.

Even if you only take a minute's break, and even if you only do the first of these exercises, do it every hour.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

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Blogging With Your iPhone Camera

Keep your personal blog up to the second with your activities by taking photos on your iPhone and emailing them directly to your blog.

Enable your Blogger.com blog to accept posts via email by clicking Customize, clicking on the Settings tab, clicking Email, choosing an Email Posting Address, and choosing "Publish emails immediately."

Take a photo with your iPhone, view it, click on the curved arrow icon in the bottom left, and choose Email Photo. You have a place to type a subject before you send the email to your blog's Email Posting Address. In a few seconds, your photo and one-liner are visible on your blog.

Go crazy with your new toy. Post pictures of everyone you meet, post photos of what you eat for lunch.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

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Kindle file formats

I want to elevate a comment on my last post into its own post:
Jim said...

I'm not sure about compatibility, but a site like the Gutenberg Project (http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page) gives you access to a dizzying array of content for free.

Jonathan Lockwood Huie said...

Jim, thanks for the link. That's a ton of free stuff just waiting to be read on a PC or Mac. Most of it is in PDF format.

Kindle won't accept PDF directly. Here's another blogger's take on the trials and tribulations of converting a PDF for Kindle use.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

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Kindle-2 - Are E-Books the Future of Reading?

This post is not as much about Amazon's Kindle-2, which premiered today, as about reading preferences - the what, where, and why people read.

The Kindle-2 is now even more compact, and it has the same $359 price and ability to be read in bright sunlight as it's predecessor. In my opinion, the Kindle-2 is good technology, but I'm not rushing out to buy one because it doesn't address any of my personal reading needs or preferences.

The greatest market for eBook readers so far has been traveling professionals, but when I'm on a airplane, my MacBook Pro provides a fine reading screen, as well as a great movie theater. The Kindle's "read in bright sunlight" feature doesn't hold a lot on importance on an airplane. And then there are the times I want to snuggle in my corner and hold a real book. There's no warm comforting feel to any e-gadget.

There are lots of titles available for Kindle, but it never seems the one that I want is among them. This is changing, but...

The reader isn't all that expensive, but the content is. Sure, new releases cost the same or less than physical books, but where is the 99 cent closeout, free neighborhood library, or hand-me-down.

Between my MacBook Pro, my iPhone, and a stack of dog-eared paperbacks, I think I'll wait another few years to try any eBook reader.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

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So How Will They Find My Blog? Four Really Easy Ways

So How Will They Find My Blog? Four Really Easy Ways
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

You just started your first blog - probably at Blogger.com. You have written a few posts. You have told your close friends, and now you you would like a few more people to find you blog.

You have seen hundreds of articles, posts, and even whole web sites devoted to "search engine optimization," but it all sounds so complicated. Are there a few REALLY easy ways to let people find my blog?

1. Write a lot of posts. Especially if you are using Blogger, each of your posts will be indexed individually by Google and the other search engines, giving you more exposure with each post you write. There are two Blogger settings that you must leave with their default values in order to get indexed: Enable Post Pages under the Archiving tab must be Yes. Let Search Engines Find Your Blog under the Basic tab must be Yes. You also want to leave Add your Blog To Our Listing, also under the Basic tab, as Yes in order to be linked from Blogger.

2. Use Google's FeedBurner - feedburner.google.com - to make it easy for people to subscribe to your blog or receive it via email.

3. Add your blog's home page and at least a few of your individual posts to a few of the bookmarking sites. There are hundreds, but just focus on a few. StumbleUpon.com is probably the most important. Unless your blog targets a specialty audience, reddit.com and digg.com would be the next two that I would recommend.

4. Add a universal bookmarking button to your site so your visitors can easily recommend you to their favorite bookmarker. Several universal buttons are available, but I use the one at addthis.com

You can see each of these suggestions in action on Blogging Tips and Techniques.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

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The Future of Computing is Google - Should We be Worried?

The Future of Computing is Google - Should We be Worried?
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

I didn't just say that Google is the future of the Internet - that is scary enough - and virtually true today. I said, The Future of COMPUTING.

Google has always been a gentle giant - unlike the bravado Microsoft. No rantings and ravings - no pronouncement that "our way is best," or "we know what is good for you." No, Google's way is to welcome open standards and actively promote their competition. For example, their tool to move a blog off their (free) Blogger service is fully as complete and usable as their their tool to transfer a blog onto Blogger. Try getting your data out of a Microsoft product such as Outlook or Hotmail.

Perhaps Google has learned from Microsoft's mistakes. Gentle wins in the long run. This is really good for Google, but is it good for the rest of us. Because Google take such great pains to offend no one, because it is so capable, and because it now has tremendous momentum, Google is taking over more of the world of technology every day.

Google completely dominates my own professional life as an author and blogger to an extent that is more than a little concerning. Google search and Gmail are the least of it. My blogs are on Blogger, but I could use another service. It's not even Picasa, or YouTube, or FeedBurner.

AdSense/AdWords - that's the stranglehold. Google is essentially the only channel for a small business to either advertise of receive advertising revenue on a website or blog. Yahoo and others aren't even on the radar. If I had to, I could use Yahoo's search engine, but if I lost AdSense/Adwords, 80% of my professional activity would vaporize.

In its own gentle giant kind of way, Google is now creeping up on computing and enterprise information sharing. Shared calendars and shared documents for starters - moving quickly toward a complete collaborative computing environment. Just watch - for most users, personal and corporate, the only local software will be a browser, perhaps Google's Chrome. Google's individual and collaborative on-line productivity and authoring applications will dominate for all but the most demanding users.

Should we be worried? Perhaps not, but don't become too complacent.