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My biggest passion - anything relating to general technology and gadgets...

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Danie van der Merwe

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Why and how following a Google+ Collection gives you only posts that you want to see

I see there is still a lot of confusion around following a Profile vs a Collection vs a Community on Google+. The key advantage to following just a Collection, is that you only see posts in your steam that relate to that topic that the Collection deals with eg. just cat photos, just tech news, just green technology, just yellow flowers, etc. A Collection is a place where just the owner posts on a particular topic. You cannot post there, but you can usually comment, reshare and respond on any posts.

Whereas following someone's Profile will show every single public post in your stream that the persons posts. This has little focus but you may interested in everything they post, or it could be a family member or friend where you want to see everything.

A Community is a shared area where the owner, as well as members of that Community, can make posts. It could be a public or private Community, depending on what the owner has set for it. Communities can have additional admins managing them, as well as filtered areas of interest. You can also switch notifications on/off (where you get alerted via an e-mail) or opt to have their posts show up, or not, in your stream.

But back to Collections.... the point is if someone posts a lot about various topics and not all of those topics interest you, but you do have a real interest in one or two topics that they post about, then go to their Profile on Google+ and check whether Collections show up.

You can follow the two screen shots below to see how you would unfollow their main Profile, and then just click on a Collection or two which interests you. Believe me this makes your Google+ experience far more relevant, pleasant and focussed.  You do NOT have to unfollow the main Profile, unless you only want to follow a Collection without seeing any public Profile posts.  If you unfollow a Collection or two, those specific Collections will no longer appear in your stream.

So there are two main scenarios now for Collection filtering:
1. Follow just a Collection - Public Profile is unfollowed, Collection to follow is followed (or more than one).
2. Follow all posts except a specific Collection - Public Profile is followed, only specific Collection is unfollowed (maybe it is a topic that you really don't want to see, or more than one could be selected to be unfollowed).

The advantage of option 2 above is that you will still see all general Public posts, and by default would see posts for any new Collections that the person creates. But for some people who are highly focussed, option 1 could still be their best bet where they only ever see the posts made in that Collection or two that they have selected. It certainly does give a lot of granular control to followers.

You can also get a good idea of the really interesting Collections that can be found on Google+ at https://plus.google.com/u/0/collections/featured. Remember that Google+' s real niche lies around interests and hobbies. This is where excels. Although it can do plain social media too, many people may opt to use Facebook for family and friendship based socialising, and Twitter for breaking news. An example is that I post the same posts across Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Tumblr and whilst I get 100 +1's and say 50 comments on a post on Google+ I rarely get more than one or two Likes on Facebook or one or two reshares. 

I hope this short explanation will give you a more enjoyable and cleaner experience on Google+

#tutorial   #guide   #collections  
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Danie van der Merwe

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How I find and process my Technology Blog Posts

Funny thing was that as I was sitting down to start writing about this, I actually changed two of the tools I have been using for more than two years. My process remains the same but after some glitches with Feedly's website yesterday I just had a fresh look at what was on offer for RSS readers and I switched to +Inoreader  (a paid subscription). Chief reasons were masses of customisation, full dark theme, useful feed stats, and a more iterative subscription model.

So I'll break my process down to into its stages:

Where I find my news
Chiefly I use the News360 website (which suggests more of what you read about) and a good RSS reader (now Inoreader as per photos below). For the RSS reader I subscribe to over 100 feeds (which collect updates news from specific websites as they are published, all in Inoreader). These are feeds that cover my various interests. Within Inoreader I can skim down the posts that came up that day and I see what catches my eye. On average this is about 450 individual post titles that I skim through. I'll open the post and if it is interesting enough, I'll click a button to send it to Pocket (used to be called Read It Later). Also if I'm reading other sources such as G+, News24, Google Now alerts, etc I'll push anything straight to Pocket. I also listen to audio podcasts while I'm driving to and from work, and anything interesting there I dictate to Google Keep to remind me to check later on.

Processing in Pocket
Pocket (because everything shares to it) is my central sorting house and sometimes I'll hold something for a day or two to see if it is fake news or if the story changes, or sometimes on reflection I don't find a story very interesting. Everything is saved to Pocket with tags, so already they are grouped as tech news, Environment, Health, Education, etc. +Pocket  also saves an archive copy of the original post in case it ever disappears. Within Pocket an article has three outcomes - Deleted, Post immediately to Google+ or Schedule within Friends+Me for automated posting at a later date. I try to spread my posts across my Google+ Collections so that there is no sudden rush of posts in a single Collection. If there are too many for one day, I'll either hold them in Pocket, or I schedule for later in Friends+Me.

Posting on Google+ and to Elsewhere
I only post on Google+ within a relevant Collection so that followers there can receive posts relevant to what they are interested in. I do not push notifications at all, so it is upto followers to decide whether they get notifications or not. I'll usually extract short excerpts from the news article and add some comment or opinion of my own relating to relevance to myself or others. The +Friends+Me  service picks up all of my public posts I make on Google+, and replicates them to LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter (there may be more). If comments are made, I'll always respond on the relevant social network. Friends+Me does a good job of taking the links, photos, tags, etc over to other networks.

Scheduling G+ Posts for Later
Friends+Me fulfils another very important role in scheduling posts to G+ Collections, Profiles, etc. I can compose the post in Friends+Me and set it to be posted to any Collection at any date and time in the future. This allows me to spread posts out through the night or even the day while I'm at work. Thee are really not many services that will schedule posts to G+ like this (and especially to Collections).

Monitoring and Responding
The most engaging comments certainly come from Google+. Not everyone agrees with my posts and we often have some heated debates going on. I've been wrong more than once and have learnt quite a few things from comments and feedback given. But on the more negative side there is also quite a bit of spam (nonsensical characters or plain repeat comments), and also some trolling. These I do flag so that they disappear from the comments otherwise everyone would have to wade through a page of nothing to find the next sensible comment. Trolls and abusive language are just plain blocked and reported to Google. This does take me a good hour to two hours every day though. The more difficult area is lots of "OK", "Hi", "Nice", "Good" comments and also lots of Than You's. They don't add a lot to the conversion so I do delete the "Hi" as it is not a personal chat forum. I'm leaving the others for now but I'm never sure if everyone wants to wade past 15 OK's.

So Why Do I Do it, if it Takes 4 to 5 hours a Day?
Well it's a threefold reason:
1. I love sifting through tech and other news. It keeps my brain active and I love finding new knowledge like this every day.
2. I also love to share knowledge (like I already do with colleagues and clients at work). If I can make tech news simpler to understand and relevant to people's lives, that makes me happy. There are a few people who have discovered wet shaving, electric vehicles, Raspberry pis' etc because I shared the knowledge with them. There are are many more that never comment or say anything, but I know they are reading what I post (I have personal acquaintances that tell me this - and that's fine as not everyone wants to comment).
3. It's useful searchable repository for myself to go back and find out where I heard about something, or to check facts (something I also do at work where I can search massive archives of what I have documented and shared with others).
4. And I suppose a fourth bonus reason is - after I'm gone the knowledge I had is at least shared and out there for anyone to use.

Why don't I post about X or Y?
I've had these requests and the best answer is because of my first reason above. I do this as a hobby, in my own time, about what interests me. So it's what I find interesting and I don't want to feel that I owe anyone else anything, or receive incentives where I can't speak my own mind. It is really just what catches my eye as I skim news posts.

I hope the explanation above may also spur others onto starting their own blog or podcast. The one important piece of advice I have is, do something that you are really passionate about. Don't do it for the sake of money or for someone else. It must be your passion and your outlet. If it works out well you will have options to consider later on. If its something you are passionate about (be it knitting, first aid, fish, stamps) you'll put time into it and make it really interesting for those who have a similar interest or who want to learn more about it.

So despite all the time I put in, every second has (and still is) a lot of fun for me. I've not made a cent out of it, but I've learnt a tremendous amount about the topics as well as about people. This to me makes it priceless.
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Danie van der Merwe's profile photoBlood Keeper's profile photo
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I like technology, I find it amazing an I'm glad someone else out there understands me :) 
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Danie van der Merwe

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Trackr - Find lost items in seconds #trackr  

After a just over two month wait (SA Customs) the devices arrived today. The idea is that the devices are paired to my phone (Android or iOS) by Bluetooth, and if the distance increases and the signal is dropped, you can configure either device (or both) to emit an alarm. This helps prevent you leaving your phone behind somewhere or otherwise leaving a device somewhere.

You can set the duration of alarm per device, and you can set safe zones (by WiFi hotspots) where the alarms will not sound.

I bought the Trackr Bravo devices which are slightly thicker than a coin, but I found one fits fine into my wallet. They can attach to a set of keys or, with the provided sticker, they could be stuck anywhere. I stuck one onto my mobile hotspot.

Apart from the alarm on separation, you can also find either your phone (long press button on a Trackr item and the phone will ring) or you wander around the house until the item shows it is in range and you can get it to set off its alarm to show where it is.

What if you have lost the item (could even be your pet if a tag is attached to its collar) somewhere outside the house and you don't know where it is? Well the app will show you where it was last tracked on the map with the date and time. There is no live GPS or anything (as that would cost a monthly fee) so basically you go to that last seen spot and walk around until it is in range, or you get a bunch of friends to install the Trackr app and also walk around until it is found (they don't need to have a device to participate in the Crowd GPS network). If the item happened to walk to another town, then as soon as someone with the Trackr app come sin range of it, it will report its location with the date and time to you. The battery does last a year.

It may not be the most effective live tracking type of service, but there are no expensive monthly costs, the battery lasts for ages, and it provides useful functionality in terms of preventing loss. I'll need to play a bit with the actual ranges. So go ahead and install the Trackr app as you will be helping others out util you get your own one ;-)

I have taken a few screen shots and posted them at https://flic.kr/s/aHskSzEDEV. You can also visit the Trackr website at https://www.thetrackr.com/?ref_code=jsT7s and if you use this referral code you & I will each get a free extra Trackr. Disclaimer: I bought all my own devices and anyone else who purchases gets the same referral codes to share with others.
My Trackr devices arrived finally on 13 Jan 2017. I'll post any interesting photos here about them.
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Danie van der Merwe's profile photoJeff Moretz's profile photo
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Waste of money. Mine barely worked at all. 
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Danie van der Merwe

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Fitbit just bought Vector - another smartwatch startup

One of the more surprising smartwatches of 2015 was from Vector, a Romanian startup led by former Citizen executives. Its 30-day battery life, Pebble-esque UI and classic watch design made it a great device for someone seeking a less ostentatiously geeky wearable. Now, the company has revealed that Fitbit has purchased its assets, and its employees will be joining the fitness wearables firm.

Unfortunately for Vector owners, Fitbit will be integrating Vector's hardware and software know-how into its own organization. That means that Vector, as a brand, will die off, and while its watches will remain operational, you can kiss any hope for software updates and new hardware goodbye.

It's the second low-power watch brand that Fitbit has purchased in recent months after rescuing Pebble at the end of 2016. The fact that Vector drew, uh, inspiration from Pebble means that the two teams will have plenty of common ground.

Is Fitbit just killing of competition, or are the Pebble and Vector acquisitions pointing towards something?

See https://www.engadget.com/2017/01/10/fitbit-just-bought-another-smartwatch-startup/
It now owns Vector, which made a classier version of the Pebble
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Derik Davis's profile photoFrank Delventhal's profile photo
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Hi Derik I opse that a bit. I found some of the funktions of the pebble really useful and I use them a lot. Just right now to mute the music ... but in general I agree that most of the functions have been overrated in real life value.
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Danie van der Merwe

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Proof wristband measures your blood alcohol level while you’re drinking

Milo Sensors recently unveiled its Proof wristband. Proof is a wristband which monitors your blood alcohol content by tracking chemicals in your perspiration. The band uses disposable cartridges which can track blood alcohol levels for over 12 hours.

The device then connects to a user’s phone using Bluetooth, powered by a rechargeable battery which provides up to four days of usage.

It is due for release in 2017. Would be interesting to use something like this and test out drinking different drinks over a period of an evening and then comparing it with friends. Most drinking "estimates" are based on standard drinks and standard bodies, and what is not taken into account is individual differences. With something like this reading actual outputs over a period of time, it could be really interesting and a good way to manage your "evening". Of course we also need to know the price of those cartridges.... but if you don't use it every night, and consider the cost of a drunken driving charge, hopefully it is reasonable.

See https://mybroadband.co.za/news/gadgets/193996-proof-wristband-measures-your-blood-alcohol-level-while-youre-drinking.html or Milo's own website at https://www.proofwearable.com/
Milo Sensors recently unveiled its Proof alcohol-tracking wristband.
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Hossein Qaemi's profile photoBernard Mashapi's profile photo
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Let it come but pipo stop taking too much alcohol

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Danie van der Merwe

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How To Browse Hidden Categories In Netflix [Chrome]

From the article: Netflix has more content than immediately meets the eye. If you open the ‘Browse’ drop-down you see a rather limited choice and some truly odd genres listed under it. For anyone new to Netflix, and given its recent expansion there’s probably a lot of us, Netflix has what are called ‘hidden categories’. These categories aren’t directly accessible from the ‘Browse’ drop-down but they offer a genre classified look at Netflix’s lineup. Netflix Super Browse is a Chrome extension and Firefox add-on that lets you access the hidden categories as easily as you can the default ones.

This is not new on Netflix, but this is a new extension which makes it easier. Note though that the link below takes you to this extension but it is an annual paid service. A good free alternative to try otherwise is this one at https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/findflix-netflix-secret-c/njgopmododdceghkcgbmgfffamnjbjno/related.

See http://www.addictivetips.com/web/how-to-browse-hidden-categories-in-netflix-chrome/
Netflix has more content than immediately meets the eye. If you open the ‘Browse’ drop-down you see a rather limited choice and some truly odd genres listed under it. For anyone new to …
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There's a thing called "Super Browse"? Woah!
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Danie van der Merwe

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Glympse brings its location sharing to connected home devices

With FamilyMap, Glympse allows a group of people to privately share location details not only through an app, but with the help of connect devices like smart appliances, smart TVs or a home assistant like Alexa.

What's more, Samsung is a big partner in the push. In fact, Glympse FamilyMap works with the company's Smart Hub 2.0 software that it announced last week for its 2017 lineup that includes 10 new connected refrigerators. Those appliances have a large display in the door where you can access news, weather and your family schedule with ease. Other companies integrating FamilyMap in their devices include Logitech, General Motors, Volvo, Logitech, Garmin, Navdy, GoGo and Mojio.

See https://www.engadget.com/2017/01/12/glympse-familymap-location-sharing-iot-devices/
Glympse is partnering with Amazon, Logitech, Samsung and others to bring the location sharing to IoT devices.
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Robert Petrarca's profile photoDanie van der Merwe's profile photo
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+Robert Petrarca it is not public, just sharing with your family group. Better than calling your kids to check why they are not home, and find they are just playing at a friend's house around the corner. It's not for everyone but some families do keep tabs on themselves, especially if it is not safe. It's an option for them.
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Danie van der Merwe

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GRIPsher Compact Rugged Multi-Tool

Well it has been funded on Kickstarter and is in production. Quite a nifty tool but the blade does render in non-TSA complaint (seems they may release an alternative tool to fit there when travelling).

The thickness gauge is a nice touch you don't see elsewhere. It may not replace my Leatherman but then this could be a lot cheaper and lighter to carry for many.

See http://www.geeky-gadgets.com/gripsher-compact-rugged-multi-tool-05-10-2016/
The team over at Outsmarting Technologies have created a new rugged compact multitool which has been aptly named the GRIPsher. Which as you can see
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+Niven Redfield well yes, but the cutting part is not a major function. It is really is a multi-tool device.
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Danie van der Merwe

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Showing two Rockbox themes running on my old iPod Classic music player

These themes really breathe life into a 10 year old music player!

See the retro cassette theme at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyYHYCNk9IM as well as the Pen & Paper theme video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9V6WAvcJ1M
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Apostolos Syropoulos's profile photoGopindra Hannigan's profile photo
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Rockbox runs on other hardware too.  I'm using Sandisk Sansa Clip right now.
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Danie van der Merwe

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C.H.I.P. computer for US$9 even has 4GB of onboard storage

Really not sure how they can sell a single board computer like this for only $9. It's not for high end work and is more of a competitor to the Raspberry Pi, but has a 1Ghz CPU (ARMv7 Processor), WiFi B/G/N and Bluetooth 4.0 Built-in, 512 MB of RAM, has composite video output (but you can add an adapter for VGA for $10 or HDMI for $15), and will run Linux (already installed). It will run of a 2 Amp 5V power supply (most phone chargers with a mini-USB plug).

What I like about this little device is that it uses composite video and sound output for the $9 price. That means it can be connected to most old TV sets, and with its built-in 4GB storage, it can be booted up and used as a basic computer. Yes it needs a keyboard and mouse but those can be obtained very cheaply. Televisions are the most commonly available screen in the world and the vast majority of them have a composite input.

See https://getchip.com/pages/chip. They are an open source project and all the code and details are available at https://github.com/NextThingCo/.
Get C.H.I.P. and C.H.I.P. Pro - The Smarter Way to Build Smart Things.
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Jeff Murri's profile photoDanie van der Merwe's profile photo
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+Jeff Murri actually had not heard of it. Will look into it a bit.
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