Category: Tech Tip

Tips on using computers, other technology and devices.


Tech Tip: Convert audio files to different formats using media.io

By Nathan Vidal,

Convert Audio Files Online

media.ioThere are numerous different formats in which digital audio files are stored. These different formats have their individual advantages and disadvantages, but they also create a compatibility issue. Not all software can handle all audio file formats. One option for overcoming this challenge of incompatibility is to use an online audio converter. Media.io is a useful tool for converting audio files to different formats.

If you have an audio file that you need changed to a different format you can use media.io to convert the file without downloading or installing additional software. You will have to upload the file to the website though then download the converted file. Once you are comfortable with uploading the audio file to a third party site this can be a convenient option for converting an audio file into a more convenient format.

 

Tech Tip: Make video calls through Firefox

By Nathan Vidal,

Firefox Hello

Firefox HelloUpdate: Firefox Hello has been discontinued as of Firefox 49

There is an interesting new feature in the latest versions of Firefox that allows you to make video calls without installing any additional software. With Firefox Hello you can invite others to a video call right from the Firefox browser. You do not need to sign up for the service and the person being invited does not even have to be using Firefox either.

Simply click on the smiling conversation icon in the Firefox toolbar to start a conversation. You can then email the person that you want to talk to the link to the conversation. You could also copy the link and share it via an instant message.

This is a quick and easy way to get a video conversation started directly from the browser. Simply download and install Mozilla Firefox or update your Firefox browser to the latest version to try this feature out.

Tech Tip: Try Google Inbox

By Nathan Vidal,

Google Inbox

Google Inbox IconUpdate: April 5, 2019 8:43pm

Google Inbox has since been shut down. So links taken down. Find out more.

If you use Gmail but are not satisfied with the user interface Google Inbox may be the right alternative for you. It is a different interface for Gmail that is supposed to organize your email better and reduce the clutter in your mailbox. It is also more in line with Google’s new Material Design philosophy. Trying it does not affect your access to the traditional Gmail and you can easily use either service to access your email.

You can request an invite to use Google Inbox but you will have to download the Google Inbox app on your phone before you can get access to the web interface.

Material Design

Tech Tip: Simulate an Android tablet with BlueStacks

By Nathan Vidal,

BlueStacks Android Emulator

BlueStacks Android EmulatorAndroid is Google’s popular mobile operating system used in millions of phones and tablets. There are many Android specific apps that you may be interested in using even if you don’t own an Android device. If you are a developer you may also want to test out your app in a virtual environment. This can be done using an Android emulator such as BlueStacks.

BlueStacks allows you to run a version of Android on your computer which functions in a similar fashion to Android on an actual tablet. You can then download apps from Google Play or other sources.

Your computer does not have to be touch screen to utilize BlueStacks since you can use your mouse to simulate swiping and pressing. This may not feel natural for some apps or games that are touch intensive, but can otherwise be a reasonable alternative. Please note that BlueStacks may also utilize quite a bit of memory as do all virtualization software, so you may notice slower performance if you use it with many other programs  simultaneously.

Tech Tip: Use different profiles in Google Chrome

By Nathan Vidal,

Chrome differentt profiles

A limitation of modern browsers in recent times has been that you can only log into a website under one identity at a time. That means if you are logged in to GMail your friend would have to log you out in order to check his email in GMail. The two Google Accounts could not be accessed simultaneously unless you used an  incognito window or  used different browsers. Thanks to changes made in Google Chrome this is no longer the case.

The latest version of Google Chrome allows  you to manage multiple identities directly from the browser window. The advantage of this method is that different users can use the same browser without interfering with each other’s settings or tabs. History and preferences are remembered rather than being lost at the end of each session like incognito windows. This is also a great feature for those of us who have separate identities for work and personal use.

How to switch profiles in Google Chrome

To switch profiles click on your name on the button a the top right of the browser window.

Google Chrome Profiles 1

This will open a menu where you can choose to either switch user or go incognito

Google Chrome Priofiles

If you choose to Switch person the Chrome profile manager window will open where you can add another user profile, remove existing ones or browse as a guest.

google_chrome_multiple_profiles_3

Each profile uses its own separate window and once the user is done with the profile the window can simply be closed. This is an ideal feature for those who share computers or work with multiple email or social accounts.

References

Manage multiple Chrome profiles

Tech Tip: Manage multiple Twitter accounts with TweetDeck

By Nathan Vidal,

Tech Tip: Manage Multiple Twitter Accounts with TweetDeck

TweetDeckAnyone who uses Twitter for business may have a separate account for work and personal use. If you do social media marketing you may even be in charge of several Twitter accounts. TweetDeck is a useful tool for managing  multiple Twitter accounts on the web via a single intuitive user interface.

TweetDeck allows you to configure the appearance of your various Twitter feeds using a column layout. You can add or remove various views including Home, Notifications, Mentions and Activity to name a few. TweetDeck also allows you to schedule tweets to ensure that the right content is tweeted at the right time.

If you were not previously a TweetDeck user all you need to use TweetDeck are your Twitter credentials. You should sign in with your personal account then add your other accounts. You can then choose which account that you want to be your default. This is a great way to manage tweets for different accounts in one location as well as view the activity of these accounts.

Tech Tip: Read news & blog posts with Feedly

By Nathan Vidal,

Feedly

Feedly LogoFor those of us who read a lot online it can be cumbersome and time consuming to navigate to all our favourite websites searching for updated news and articles. It is much more convenient to get these updates all in one place. Feedly is an RSS aggregator that allows you to subscribe to feeds from most blogs and news sites online.

Using Feedly you can subscribe to feeds that provide the headline and a summary of  articles  which are automatically updated as new content is published. You can organize your feeds into categories, called collections, to keep related content together. This is a good way to ensure that you keep up with content that would otherwise go unnoticed because you were not on the source’s website when it was published.

Feedly provides a similar function to that of Google Reader which was discontinued on July 1, 2013. Feedly is also available as an app for Android, iOS and Kindle.

Tech Tip: Use TeamViewer from a USB drive

By Nathan Vidal,

TeamViewer Portable

TeamViewer PortableThe portable version of TeamViewer brings the useful remote computer access features of TeamViewer to a USB flash drive. This allows you to use TeamViewer without having to install it on the computer you are working on. This is great for situations where you may not have administrative permissions to install programs. It also saves time from having to go through the installation process.

TeamViewer is a useful tool for troubleshooting computer problems remotely and this portable edition is a great addition to any computer technicians arsenal. You can find TeamViewer Portable on the TeamViewer download page. Simply scroll down to the version labeled for mobile use. After you have downloaded the zip file extract its contents to the USB drive you would like to use it on and you’re all set.

Tech Tip: Find a color from a website with ColorZilla

By Nathan Vidal,

Tech Tip: Colorzilla

Colorzilla IconEver wondered what the exact color of a company’s logo is or what background color a website is using? Colorzilla is an extension for Chrome and Firefox that allows you to get the hexadecimal value of any color on a website.  This is useful if you are incorporating these colors in a design. There are many situations when this may come in handy:

  • When incorporating website branding into a presentation
  • Creating similar graphics
  • Getting examples of color schemes
  • Quick reference on your own sites without delving into CSS or image editing programs

ColorZilla includes a color picker and CSS gradient generator in addition to the eye dropper tool which can identify the colors used on the website.

Tech Tip: Manage Podcasts with Player FM

By Nathan Vidal,

Tech Tip: Manage Podcasts with PlayerFM
Player.FM screenshot

Player.FM screenshot

Podcasts offer you the option of listening to discussions on topics of interest at your convenience. You simply subscribe to the podcast you are interested in and your podcast playlist is updated whenever a new podcast is published. This is easily done with iTunes, Winamp and other media players but you can also subscribe to podcasts online without the need of additional software using Player FM. You can listen to podcasts right away from the site but in order to subscribe to them you  will need to log in by either signing up for an account or using a Google or Twitter account.

Once you have logged in to Player FM you can search for podcasts to subscribe to and save your subscriptions into your own collection. You can then sort this collection by date published, length or randomly. You can also change the layout of your subscriptions by choosing either a list, card or table view.

If you are interested in specific topics (aren’t we all?) podcasts are a good way to stay updated on them. From, shopping, website design, sports or music you can find podcasts that may interest you. Many people listen to podcasts while they are doing other things in the same way that they listen to the radio. Player FM provides a great central location for both managing and playing your podcasts with a simple and to the point user interface.