Preparing for Thanksgiving with Technology

Find the perfect recipe
Whether you’re handy in the kitchen or not, online recipes can not only save the day when you have no idea where to start, but they can also give you new ideas to try out. If you make a good pumpkin pie, why not find new ways to edge closer to a great pumpkin pie? There’s a ton of recipes online, but here’s a few key starting points:
http://allrecipes.com/
Food Network
Epicurious

Keep contact information handy
It happens every year. Most people are at the host house, catching up, helping set the table, etc., when someone asks where Uncle Bill is. Inevitably, someone ends up calling him to make sure he’s safely on his way and not lost. You can help out by just having everyone’s number handy in your phone. It’ll help if you’re the one lost or running late, as well.

Don’t starve your family
While preparing for this post, I came across something I hadn’t even thought about. It’s a Turkey Calculator provided by thanksgiving-corner.com. After punching in a little information about how many children and adults you’ll be feeding, it helps you plan your meal. Based on the information I entered, I would need 16.5 pounds of turkey and 33 cups of stuffing if I were going to host T-day at my place for my family. It also says I should have started defrosting (in the fridge) my bird this past Saturday morning. Good thing I’m not cooking this year.

Say “Happy Thanksgiving” face-to-face from far away
If your loved ones are far away, you can still give your “Happy Thanksgiving” message a personal touch by delivering it with streaming video. There’s a few ways to do this. The most rewarding is to have a web cam at both locations and connect live. This usually requires some forethought and a little experience (or luck), but if you and someone on the other end are comfortable enough with computers, it shouldn’t be too hard to set up ahead of time. If either of you don’t have a web cam, you can pick one up from Best Buy or a similar electronics store. Just about any web cam should work with many of the instant messaging client programs to stream video. Even if only one side can have a camera set up, it’s much warmer than just a phone call. If your family member isn’t very computer savvy, you could always record a small video and post it on YouTube, Flickr, Photobucket, or any number of sites that allow you to post a video and easily send a link to that video to your family member.

Find your camera and juice it up
I have a Flip video camera, a DSLR, and a point-and-shoot digital camera, and I’ll have at least the smaller ones with me. You never know when someone will fling a turkey leg across the table or do something equally camera-worthy. The only thing worse than forgetting your camera is bringing it and then running out of batteries on the first shot. Make sure this doesn’t happen. If you have rechargeable batteries, recharge them the night before. If not, have fresh batteries on hand. Personally, I’ve always liked Energizers, but that’s me. Whatever your brand preference, it’s best to have at least one set of new batteries per device.

How is technology going to make Thanksgiving better or easier for you and your family?

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Who Won the Warnlaser Green Laser?

Those of you who have been paying attention know that I posted a review of the green laser that Warnlaser sent me. Then I followed that up with a contest to give away my green laser, and all you had to do was comment, favorite, tweet, or stumble for entries.

WarnLasers laser packaging

There were only a handful of entries, but I still saw some avid participation. It should be noted that there were a lot of comments on various photos, on Flickr, when only comments on the single laser photo counted as entries. So here’s the breakdown of entries:

Comments on either post (12):
Comments on the one Flickr photo (3):
Fav on Flickr photos (2):
Tweeted post (2):
Stumbled post (8):

As always, I headed over to random.org to pick a winner:

RANDOM.ORG - Integer Generator_1225293496241

Our winner is MarixD. Get me your address privately and I’ll send your new laser out.

Don’t worry. If you didn’t win this contest, I’m sure I’ll have another very soon. If you can’t wait, check out some of the other cool contests around the web:

ShoeMoney is giving away the all new Macbook AND a Macbook AIR, courtesy of MarketLeverage and QuickSprout, respectively. Hurry, though. There’s only a couple days left.

– Kid Tech Guru is celebrating 3 months of blogging with over $400 in prizes

– MiniSpace.com is also giving away a Macbook Air in their design contest, which I will be entering for sure.

There’s tons of contests out there and lots of free stuff to be had, so search the web for them, or just subscribe to my blog and I’ll mention more when I do another contest.

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PicLens is Now CoolIris and Much Cooler AND iPhone-ready

If you are familiar with PicLens, then you’re probably familiar with CoolIris. If you’ve never heard of either one, you’re in for a real treat. When one of my employees showed me PicLens some time ago, it was one of the coolest improvements to my browsing experience that I’d see in a while. With the name change to CoolIris, comes more features, cool shopping search, and a much appreciated iPhone version.

Let’s drool over CoolIris for a minute
Before pagination (click for the next page of whatever) was invented, you’d have to sit there on your 2400 baud modem, waiting three hours for a page full of images to load up. Then, as faster modems were challenged by larger images, pagination was introduced, allowing us to load up ten or twenty images per page, but you couldn’t get a quick glimpse of everything anymore. Then came CoolIris (then PicLens).

Scrolling with CoolIris

If you have the plugin installed and the site you’re viewing supports the technology (most of the big ones do), you’ll see a new little watermark in the corner of each image you hold your mouse cursor over. Click that watermark to launch CoolIris and you get a full-screen image gallery like the one shown above. If you click anywhere and drag, you’ll be dragging the whole gallery to see more images.

Click on any image and you get a closer view like below, which you can double-click to view full screen:

Viewing a larg image with CoolIris

Search, shop, and share easily
Seraching with CoolIrisOne of the features I’ve always been fond of from day one is the search. As a web developer, I’m constantly looking for images for use or just for comparison. Traditionally, I would head to Google and search, but Google’s image search is very clumsy when it comes to getting at the actual image. With this, I just search, scroll, and double-click.

I don’t recall seeing shopping in the early versions. Frankly, I’m not sure how much I’ll really use it, but there are times when you want an item and the appearance is critical. Sometimes you know it’s a watch, but not the brand or model number and a gallery of men’s watches would be perfect for finding it. How about Laptops and accessories? I searched for “laptops” for my example below, and CoolIris dug through its shopping sources and handed me a ton of laptop and laptop-related images.Sorting store items with CoolIris If you mouse over any item in the search results, you get a peek at the price. If you choose a “Store” from the top left, you can then sort by price (high-to-low or low-to-high) or by whatever that other search option is. I’m stumped.

Sharing images with CoolIrisThe latest version also provides a slick way to share images and other media with friends and colleagues. Create a CoolIris account (just so it has your name and email address) and log in when you start CoolIris. At any time while logged in, just click the little right-arrow-in-a-circle icon at the bottom and the sharing panel will appear. In that panel, you can type in the address you want to send to as well as a message. Below that is a space for you to drag images and videos. Drag them in and send. Mine showed up lightning fast.

Tips and shortcuts
– You can navigate the gallery and slideshow with your arrow keys
– Use the ENTER key to zoom in on an image
– Hit the space bar to start the slide show
– You can send multiple items at once. Just drag more items into the little sharing box.
– Just like your browser, CoolIris remembers where you were. Use the little left and right arrows at the top left to get back to previous searches.

Wish List
– The ability to ALT+TAB from CoolIris to another application and back. 90% of the time, I have to force FireFox to quit because it becomes unresponsive.
– I would love to search multiple sites at once. I know that can be tricky development, but I’d love it.
– You know everyone wants to save images directly from the CoolIris interface. My suggestion: Allow us to set up a default download directory and then add a watermark in the bottom right corner (maybe a little floppy disk icon?) that, when clicked, drops the full-size version of that image in my download folder.

Finally, CoolIris for my iPhone?
CoolIris finally came out with an iPhone application bearing their name and, well, coolness.

Thumbnails with CoolIris on the iPhone

The basics work pretty much like it’s big brother. You can browse or search images, scroll with a thumb-flick, and email the ones you like to a friend or just visit the image’s page directly. The iPhone version has a few glaring empty spots where you might expect to search YouTube or shop like you can with its desktop counterpart, but it’s still the coolest way to find images on your iPhone. If you have any doubts, search for that perfect iPhone wallpaper with it.

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