As you can imagine with universities breaking up for the summer, it's been a slow news week. I subscribe to Lifehacker on my list of favourites (as well as many others as you'd imagine) because it has some mindblowingly good tricks, tips and technology news. I would like to show you a few they've talked about in the not-so-near-past, because every one of these has transformed how I work.
Non-intrusive background music whilst studying I'm one of these people who loves to listen to music whilst I work - right now as I write this, I'm listening to "Panic" by The Smiths (you'll love it), but when I'm revising and studying, I can't deal with the distraction of lyrics because it throws my mind off track. The problem is, I can't stand the deafening silence either, usually because you've got some numb-nuts playing "library hide-and-seek" and making lots of noise.
The trick to this is to listen to calming, relaxing, non-intrusive music with little or no lyrics, which gently sway you along to a calming rhythm, enabling your mind to think and take in information without frying it to a crisp. SonaFM has a number of online radio stations which broadcast a variance of music I just described, all with a different style. I'm personally into the Drone Zone, but take your pick and listen online from a variety of different sources and devices.
Even though most organisations and businesses seem to turn away from Windows Vista, the "complementary" Office suite, Office 2007, seems to be taking off, where even my own University are rolling the software out soon. When you're writing your essays, one of the harder things to get just right is the bibliography, because every department wants their own style used, every essay has to be different, and people get confused very easily, and I don't blame them - I've been there many a time.
By using the References tab in Word 2007, all of the citations and sources are held in the source manager, holding all of your online and offline links in a database, instead of you manually going through each source over and over. There's more details on this on the Office Word Team blog, which explains how to do this all the way through.
Save your instant message conversations (student meetings) online Instead of meeting up on campus over a hot cup of tea, it's more likely you'll end up using an instant messenger or a Facebook thread to discuss things, projects, assignments or general studenty stuff. Instead of copying and pasting from a group conversation window, pasting it into Word, saving it in a suitable format for everyone, emailing it to everyone and then your done.
Using Dexrex, it automatically saves your conversations to your little space on the web, and with no sign-up page, you simply "log into your instant messenger" through the website. It's all stored on a dashboard - your links, your conversations, and the best thing is you can share your conversations with other people.
So ultimately, you've shared your instant message conversation, and you can then share it with your instant message contacts so making minutes for that meeting is done automatically. Once you've finished using the service, you can easily hit the "Delete account" button and you disappear; privacy at its best.
Run Windows applications in Linux No doubt there are some Linux fans out there, and often is the case where you have to use specialist software for your degree, and it's usually only available in Windows format. Linux fans rejoice, as Wine emulates (somehow) the Windows backend jiggery-pokery, to enable you to run a vast number of Windows applications on Linux. The Lifehacker blog states:
"All three of Microsoft's major Office creator tools—Word, Excel, and PowerPoint—have free "viewers" that let anyone without a full Office suite open and copy data from Office documents. All three of the 2003 versions happen to run great in Wine, making them pretty helpful to anyone who simply needs to occasionally see or copy from a document or spreadsheet with tricky formatting."
I won't begin to try and explain how this works, because it totally evades me, especially considering I've just been to the pub (around 10:40pm UK time), but according to many, it does and it works pretty damn well.
Public PC's - remove any trace you were there Some networks aren't really as secure as you'd like them to be; granted, most university networks have been designed and are maintained by students - present and former, so you know there's at least an element of thought behind them. However when you come to use a public library machine for example, you might want to check your Facebook or your bank accounts online, and there's nothing worse than someone else (maybe even a system administrator) seeing some of your private details, passwords and the like.
NirSoft in all their genius, have created yet another simple yet astounding application [Edit] called "CleanAfterMe" [/], making your life easier. It cleans any details, any element and trace you were there, even to the degree it removes things from the system's Event Viewer. It works under any version of Windows above 2000 including Vista, and appears to even be able to map to your local drives - networked and otherwise. I've added this to my flash drive already...