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Thoughtbox.es: Organising Your Life, Your Way

Thoughtboxes is often billed as a brainstorming tool without the markers and butchers paper. But it’s so much more than that. Thoughtboxes can be used for organisation, to do lists, brainstorming, collaboration, list making, and anything else that works in a linear fashion. Not only that, but Thoughtboxes is appealing to look at, with color coding, a grid structure, and an easy to use interface.

Now a lot of the time, blogs and other know-it-all people will tell you what the brilliant features are, where the flaws lie in the product, and other tip-of-the-iceberg information. How useful is it, really? Sure, if you’re deciding if you want to use the product, but once you’ve seen just how amazing it is, how do you know where to start? That’s my aim today. Read More…

Using Dropbox for More than Storage Purposes

There is little doubt that you have heard of the cloud-storage app Dropbox, unless of course, this is your first time on the Internet. If this is the case, you should take a look at the features page on the website. There’s no use telling you how awesome Dropbox is, because at the end of the day, you will either be passionately loyal to it, or prefer a different app for cloud-based storage, like Box.Net, SkyDrive, or Apple’s soon to be released, iCloud. What’s important is not what you use, but how you use it.

Read More…

A Challenge: Google Docs

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last decade, you will have heard about Google. You might even have come across Google Docs. If you have a Gmail account, you’ll be able to find it in the top bar, the third item. Residing under the oh-so-many-syllables name of Documents (Docs sounds cooler anyway, don’t you think?), Google Docs is Microsoft’s Office Suite without the hefty price tag and incompatibility.

I’m quite sure you know how a word processor works, and how you can use it as a student. I mean, you’re not monkeys. But why go with Google? Don’t they have enough information about you, without being able to access your school assignments as well? Well, you don’t need to worry, because Google’s privacy policy is sufficient, so don’t worry. So your concerns are folly, now what?

Google offers a multitude of advantages over its opposition. For a start it’s Google. They aren’t going to go bankrupt tomorrow, and leave you stranded without your assignments. And your documents are going to disappear off the face of the earth either. In fact, if half of the earth just fell away from the rest, you’d still be able to view your documents.

One of the other benefits of being online is that regardless of where you are, you can collaborate with anyone, anywhere in the world. It doesn’t matter if they’re down the street, or on the other side of the world. You can have their thoughts at your fingertips.

It’s not just text documents. You can upload images, and videos, or create spreadsheets, presentations, drawings or PDF files. What you can do in Google Docs depends on what you need to do. Your whole assignment can fit inside this single window.

Hang on a second, I can hear you say. All of my documents are online, in .doc files. Not a problem. Google have implemented an import function for .doc, .docx, .odt, .swx, .rtf, .txt, .html, .htm, .ppt, .pps, .xls, .xlsx, .ods, .csv, .wmf, ,jpg, .png, .gif, and .pdf. Don’t worry if you don’t know what all of them are, because it really doesn’t matter.

So Google Docs is awesome, right? Just give it a try. For two weeks, that’s all I’m asking. And so will I (Yes, despite what I’ve been saying,  I’ve never used it properly). We have a deal? For the next two weeks, we will only use Google Docs, and banish other office suites to the closet. Good. I will see you soon.

How to Set-Up a Killer Learning Journal on Your Computer Part I

I told you yesterday that I’m a lazy slacker. Well, to make up for that, I’m going to be starting a new series in the TechSavvy category. I’m really excited about this one, because I’m all for new technology. So what is it? I’m going to be teaching you how to set up a blog, using PyroCMS, on your own computer (not on the internet), that you can use for a Learning Journal [link to post]. We’ll take it slowly, and you can definitely contact me using the form if you need some help. I’ll try to be as clear as possible, but I can’t guarantee anything.

First of all, we need to set up XAMPP on your computer. This is pretty much a web server, but it’s not connected to the web. It will allow PyroCMS to run. But wait, what’s a CMS? A Content-Management System pretty much allows you to publish a website without writing a single-piece of code. However, for this you need a database, and a server-side programming language. You won’t need to worry about any of these. Just know that you need them, and XAMPP provides them. Let’s get started then.

Navigate to the XAMPP homepage and scroll down till you find your system (Mac, Windows, Linux). Then download the installer from the page it links to. It’s a really simple download, I’m sure you’ll be able to complete it.  If you need help, there are instructions on the download page, or contact me using the form. Or Google search.

XAMPP Home Page

Once it’s installed, you’ll be able to open something like this up. It’s the XAMPP Control Panel, and will be wherever your other applications are.  All you need  to do is start Apache and MySQL. Once again, don’t worry about what these are. If at any time you can’t open your web page, make sure that these are both running.

Just to make sure everything is working, type http://localhost into your browsers address bar. Leave out the www. and the .com, otherwise it will get confused. If everything has run correctly, you should see the following page:

Next, you need somewhere to store your data on your website. Navigate to http://localhost/phymyadmin . On the home page, you’ll see this. Input something like learning_journal_db , and leave everything else. Also, make sure to take note of this for later.

Now, we need to create a user, in the privileges section (top bar). Simply add a new user. Input the data as so, and check all the global privileges. The rest of the settings can remain as they are. Hit go, and you’re done. Make sure to save your username and password as well. That’s all for the database stuff. Now you can install PyroCMS.


Open up http://pyrocms.com and hit the huge download button. Save the zip file anywhere. Unzip it to the following location: C:\xampp\htdocs\pyrocms (Create the last folder). Give it time to load, then zoom on over to http://localhost/pyrocms. This will take your through the install process.

Use the settings from before for step 1, easy.

Step 2 just tells you what you do and don’t have. As long as the mandatory requirements are there, you don’t need to sweat.

Step 3 is just making sure it can make changes, and it’s usually already done. If not, access the folders stated here, and using right-click> properties, set the folders to writable.
The first section of step 4 is from before (learning_journal_db), and the second bit is just like any other normal sign up form.

Easy as pie, right? If you want, you can go to the control panel, or the website, and get familiar, but we’ll be going over that in the next post. I’ll also show you how to install a theme, and give you one that I’ve designed specifically for you guys. Oops, I think I said too much. Oh well, the cat’s out of the bag now.

I hope you’ve learnt something new, see you next week,

Katie

Digital Flashcards

Studying on the go is one of many activities students are forced to do because they’re too busy, or too busy procrastinating. Today, we’re going to look at a few of the best tools, and discuss some ways to optimise your learning in a crowded place, such as public transport.

iOS Apps

Whether you’re an Apple Fan-Boi, or a casual user of technology, it’s highly likely you have some sort of iDevice. There are a multitude of apps available in the Store for you. Here are a few of my favourites.

  • Flashcards Touch

    The thing that makes Flashcard Touch stick out is its great interface, combined with over-the-air syncing, through Quizlet.com and Wi-Fi. It’s also great for learning vocabulary, as it provides an in-built definition-finder.
  • Flashcards Deluxe

    It really is deluxe. There aren’t many other flashcard apps that allow you to add text, images, and audio to both sides of the card. While it’s not the greatest looking app, its functionality certainly prevails.
  • Study Buddy

    This isn’t really a single app, but a collection. They come in two varieties, free and paid, but the free editions work fine. The subjects range from state capitals, to Spanish idioms, to Morse Code, to Latin, and everything in between. Admit it, the owl catches your eye, doesn’t it?

Android

It’s really catching on, isn’t it? Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any decent study apps for you guys.  I think it has something to do with my location: some apps don’t show in the market. So, if you have any awesome apps lying around in your drawer, why don’t you share them with the world? Let us know your favourites in the comments.

Tips for Studying in Cramped Spaces

As a student, it’s likely that you will be studying on the go in very cramped, noisy and possibly smelly places. How are you supposed to study with all this surrounding you? By following these tips.

  1. Take Headphones
    You don’t have to be listening to music, either. A pair of sounding reducing headphones, or at least a set of in-earphones like these. The great thing is, you don’t need to spend an arm-and-a-leg. You can’t often find a fairly good pair for $20. You might also want to try a white noise sound track, or even app.
  2. Water
    It’s going to get hot in there, so make sure you pack some water. Just be careful to keep it away from anything digital!
  3. Be Prepared to go Analog
    Using your tech may not be practical on a cramped bus, or in a dodgy coffee-house. Be prepared with a notepad and pen. Besides, you might need the change to help you deal with that difficult assignment.

That’s it from me, now it’s up to you. Do you have any tips for public transport users, coffee-house studiers, or on-the-go students? Are you using an awesome app, and want to share it with the world? Let us know in the comments.