Sophie’s Big Swim

Sophie has been doing lots of swimming recently, encouraged by a British Gas promotion. The culmination of all this swimming was her participation in The Big Swim at Salford Quays Manchester on Sunday Sept 26th. I won’t say much at the moment as I want Sophie to explain the ‘journey’ that she went on from not being able to do the front crawl at all to completing the swim in 1hr exactly, knocking 39 mins off her previous attempt!

Here is a map of the route she swam…

View Sophie’s Manchester swim in a larger map

Summer 2010

Emily did really well in her GCSEs. 6 A*s and 5 As. Well done Emily! All that hard work in the last couple of months paid off. All her friends had excellent results too. Money well spent.

Emily is away getting covered in mud this weekend at the Reading Festival before starting the next phase in her education next week at Esher College.

Regeneration

My blogging software, WordPress, has just been upgraded so I’ve installed it and it has this new look.

It’s a bit like a Doctor Who regeneration really, the content is the same but the packaging has been changed.

Family Tree

Yes, it’s true! Another post!

I found some Bluhm family tree information that had been lurking on my web site for years and which had been indexed by Google. Although the information is still valid I don’t have the program that I used to create it any more so it is impossible to maintain.

I have uploaded the raw data into a database on my web site and it is viewable from here. To be honest the format is not as good as the original but it’s the best I could do without spending my whole life on it.

I hope it’s of some use to someone.

Lee

Passwords

Online security is obviously an important issue and passwords are the first line of defence.

Recently the company I use to host this web site and my emails was hacked so I had to reset a large number of my passwords, just in case the hackers managed to get hold of any useful information. This made me think about what my passwords should be and where I should store them. I have been guilty of using the same, or similar, passwords for many different web sites, so that once someone knew one password they could have a good guess at some of the others. This meant that I had to have a way of coming up with unique and hard to guess passwords for each site.

To cut a long story short I have decided to use Passpack. Passpack is an online password manager that can generate random passwords and store them so that you can access them securely from any browser. This is handy if you travel a lot or use a number of different PCs. I did consider using a simple encrypted spreadsheet, or a PC based password manager, or storing some data on a USB memory stick but, IMHO, all of these have problems if you use multiple PCs or you lose your USB stick. Obviously you’ll need a userid and password to log on to Passpack so you’ll need to remember these all on your own. Passpack also uses an additional pass phrase so if someone gets hold of your password then they will still need to know the pass phrase. Don’t write them on the same Post-It note! The session uses https so all the data is encrypted over the internet.

I have now used it to generate and store new passwords for all my key web sites. It has a handy feature where you can add a button on to your toolbar so that when you go to the logon page for one of the sites stored on Passpack you can press the button and it will automatically log you in. It can’t log you in to web sites that use multiple passwords or PIN numbers spread over multiple pages, such as banking web sites, but you can use it to store all the information so that you can refer to it when you need to.

I’ve been using it for a few days now and it seems to do the job.

If you don’t want to use an online password manager then you could just do something relatively simple like using an encrypted spreadsheet and back it up on to a USB stick that you can carry around with you. My USB stick has the PortableApps application installed on it. This allows you to install and run other applications directly from the USB stick on any PC (assuming it runs Windows). You can install OpenOffice on your PC and on the USB stick and then use the Calc (Spreadsheet) app to create an encrypted spreadsheet (save the file with a password) that you keep a copy of on the stick. Just make sure that you have multiple copies of the spreadsheet and that you keep them in sync. You could also keep a copy of the spreadsheet on one of the many online storage options available now. Microsoft will give you 25Gb for free using their SkyDrive offering. Use your Hotmail ID to log in. Skydrive explorer allows you to view the online storage as if it was an extra disk on your PC.

OK, I think that’s enough about passwords for now.

RSS Feeds and Podcasts

Here’s a rather geeky overview of how I subscribe to various RSS feeds and Podcasts.

“What is an RSS Feed?” I hear you ask. RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and it is a way of monitoring your favourite web pages or blogs or Podcasts for any changes. Rather than have to visit your favourite sites on a regular basis to find out if new articles have been posted you can use RSS feeds to alert you when a change has been made.

First things first, you need an RSS reader program that you use to keep track of all your subscribed RSS feeds. There are many of these available but I use Google Reader.

The next thing is to add subscriptions for your favourite pages to Google Reader. When you visit a page that supports RSS you will see (in Firefox) a symbol in the address bar. Other browsers will handle it in a different way but you should find it somewhere. What you want to happen is that when you click on this icon Firefox will automatically add the RSS feed to Google Reader. You can ensure this happens by going to Tools, Options, Applications and setting the Web Feed option to ‘Use Google’. Now when you click in the icon you will be shown a ‘Subscribe to xxxx Feed’ option. Select this and the feed will automatically be added to your Google Reader account.

You can do the same for Podcasts. The Podcast page will either have the RSS icon or, in some cases, it will give you a list of possible RSS readers and Google Reader should be one of them.

Having subscribed to some RSS Feeds and Podcast your Google Reader page should now show them all in a list. You can group similar feeds in to Folders by clicking on the small down arrow beside each feed and either creating a new folder or selecting an existing folder.

By default Google Reader will show all the entries for each feed, both read and unread. You can set it to show only the unread entries by selecting ‘Show updated’ on the Subscription heading. I have also selected ‘Show unread count’ here so that it shows how many unread entries there are for each feed.

When you select a Podcast feed you can either listen to the podcast via streaming or you can download it to listen to later.

I use iGoogle to create my home page. There are various gadgets that you can add to show your RSS feeds on your home page but none of them appeal to me. Instead I have set up a new Tab which enables me to show the Google Reader page in full. To make this work, first create a new Tab, next add the Any URL gadget and then customise this Gadget to show the Google Reader URL http://www.google.co.uk/reader/view/?hl=en&tab=wy#overview-page. I find that this method works best for me as it enables me to have a Home Page with a number of tabs that I can easily switch between.

Here is what my Google Reader home page tab looks like at the moment..

RSS Page
RSS Page