Next week, Google is set to retire Google Reader. When I wrote this post (back in March), almost 75% of the subscribers to my feed (already dwindling, partly as a result of Google algorithm changes that seem to penalise independent views in favour of branded content) came via Google Feedfetcher (used by Reader to grab RSS or Atom feeds), suggesting that lots of you use Google Reader.
Hopefully you’ve all found a way to move forward but, if you haven’t, I recommend checking out Feedly.
If you migrate before Google turns off Reader, it’s a one-click migration (just log into Feedly with your Google account) – I did it weeks ago and haven’t looked back since!
This week I’ve mostly been… working in pre-sales. Consequently, this is perhaps not the most exciting blog post I’ve written… but hey, it’s a post and there haven’t been many of them recently!
First up: searching Outlook
Since I changed jobs in April, my email volume has increased by 300x. My mail archive has more messages in it as we approach the end of June than it did for the whole of 2012, and most of them have been sent/received in the last three months. In short, being able to quickly and accurately search Outlook is important to me.
If someone sends you a spreadsheet that you need to complete, and there’s information to pull from another spreadsheet, it can be a nuisance to keep switching back and forth between windows inside the application. The answer is to use Task Manager (taskmgr.exe) to open a new copy of Excel so you now have two running processes. Each one can be used to open a different workbook (e.g. on different monitors) and contents can be copied back and forth.
Then: merging revision comments in Word
Perhaps you work in a team where instead of collaboratively editing one document, people each create their own versions with their own comments? Thankfully, Word 2010 (and probably other versions too) can merge the comments and changes into a single document. That single feature saved me hours this morning…
Finally: wildcards in Salesforce.com reports
My final tip from “Mark’s exciting week in pre-sales” (I jest) was gleaned whilst trying to create a report in Salesforce.com to show my team’s pipeline. I can’t rely on opportunities being correctly tagged, so I needed a report that used searches on a number of fields (and a filter to apply Boolean logic) but was picking up some false positives. The problem was that one of the search criteria was also a partial match on some other results. By changing the “contains” criteria from thing to thing*, I got just the results that started with “thing” and not the ones that included “thing” (like “something”).
A few weeks ago, we were visiting friends who have a teenage son. He’d received a Raspberry Pi for Christmas but was struggling to understand what to do with it. You see, he’d loaded Raspbian, fired up Scratch, etc. – but still had a pretty big question: what could he do on the Raspberry Pi that he couldn’t already do on his Windows laptop?
That made me stop and think. You see, for as much as I think the Raspberry Pi is a fantastic device for low-cost computing – and a great entry point for those who have a TV but not a PC; many UK families already have at least one PC – indeed I used to think I was in the minority with my assortment of computing devices but even non-geek friends have multiple laptops (kids need them for school work, parents for their professional work), smartphones/tablets, and games consoles.
So what can the Raspberry Pi do that a PC can’t? For starters, the GPIO pins mean it’s (potentially) easier to interface with other hardware. Secondly, the lower price point means that, if you blow one up, it’s less of a problem than a PC. Also, as someone whose computing education started out with logic gates and boolean algebra, it allows one to get a lot closer to core computing principles – you can directly interact with a Pi in a way that’s not possible (or at least not as simple) with modern PCs.
That didn’t help my friends’ son much – although I did help to configure their router to allow him to run a Minecraft server, which scored me a few Brownie points…
Even so, I decided to buy a book to investigate further – partly with my friends’ issue in mind but also out of interest for myself. The book I selected was Getting Started with Raspberry Pi (Make: Projects/O’Reilly) by Matt Richardson and Shawn Wallace and it really is a pretty good introduction. In a handful of easy-to-read chapters it skims the surface of getting up and running, understanding some Linux essentials, Python, Scratch, interfacing with other boards like Arduino, basic I/O, and working with webcams and Internet resources. Plenty of food for thought, to develop ideas for new projects (I still want to explore options to control a train set with some sort of Pi/Arduino setup when I find the time…). It doesn’t go deep, but nor should it – as one Amazon review says “You will need to be comfortable with computers in general, but if you’re, say, happy installing software on your standard Windows machine, you’ll be fine”.
I’ll be handing my copy over to my friends’ son – to see what a 15 year old makes of it… in the meantime, if you’re struggling to see the purpose of a Raspberry Pi (except as a small, inexpensive general purpose computer), this book might help to generate some ideas.