Subscribe to All-In-One-Event-Calendar feed: with your Android, iPhone, desktop …

All-In-One-Event-Calendar for Forest Park Civic Association

Have you ever wanted to subscribe to one of those neat Calendar feeds offered on sites such as the Calendar on Forest Park Civic Association? Then you can have it all right there — on your desktop or your mobile device.

Note that subscribing is not the same as importing. Importing gives you a snapshot of items on the Calendar at the time it is taken. Subscribing connects you to a live feed that will update itself when something changes on the Calendar!

The Calendar discussed here is run on WordPress with the All-In-One-Event-Calendar plugin. While specifics may vary, general principles will be the same with many of the calendars you encounter.

Here’s how you can Subscribe to a Calendar Feed.

All-In-One-Event-Calendar subscribe buttonFind the Subscribe widget, at the lower left part of the Calendar.

All-In-One-Event-Calendar Subscribe - expandedClick on it with the left mouse button – or mobile equivalent. You will see a drop down menu from which you can choose the best match for several types of calendars which you may have.

You will likely be automatically be directed to set up your Calendar feed in the appropriate application.

With some systems, you may need to get a little “geeky,” by right clicking (most likely on the on the “Add to other”) choice and copying the URL. This is in case you need to paste /enter this string into your particular calendar system. The string will look like this:

http://www.fpcivic.org/?plugin=all-in-one-event-calendar&controller=ai1ec_exporter_controller&action=export_events&no_html=true

[Some applications may prefer webcal:// to http:// … Either will work With ThunderBird/Lightning/Sogo (Iceweasel/IceOwl/Sogo in Debian)]

Bonus – How to Select only certain categories

All-In-One-Event-Calendar Categories - expandedAt the top of the calendar find the “Categories” widget.
Click on the “V” on its right edge with the left mouse button – or mobile equivalent. You will see a drop down menu from which you can select categories.

(They are “sticky” — You can select/unselect at will, but if you choose to clear all, you need to click the “X” at the left of the “Categories” widget.)

All-In-One-Event-Calendar Categories - [UN-]selectOnce your Categories are selected, you can (as above), choose an appropriate filtered feed. (You could also use this functionality to make separate feeds for each Category.)

Technical note: the string as noted above will append instructions for categories – e.g. &ai1ec_cat_ids=21,11 for Meetings and Blockwatch:

http://www.fpcivic.org/?plugin=all-in-one-event-calendar&controller=ai1ec_exporter_controller&action=export_events&no_html=true&ai1ec_cat_ids=21,11

References:

Exporting Events From Your Calendar

Using Social Media (vs. Being Used By) for Your Organization or Business

A few caveats regarding use of social networking. After reading the book referenced below, Social Media is Bullshit (B.J. Mendelsohn); I am coming to some evolving conclusions regarding the place of social media in a communication strategy for non-profits and small businesses (basically anyone not rich enough to drop dump trucks of dollars to purchase “preferred” advertising, etc. on these sites and media).

Social media companies are in business to sell advertising, and even more so to target advertising by aggregating (and often selling) information about their users. In other words, on most all of the social networking sites, YOU/WE are the product !!! … So, for the sake of privacy, we want to be careful what we hand to them.

Proliferation of these kinds of sites fragments the flow of information going out from our organizations, and fragments and erodes our control over information and lists of subscribers. Organizations and businesses need to keep control of our message, and our lists of subscribers!

  • If Facebook has my list of interested subscribers, they can take it away at any time — or use it to sell them junk, which may alienate them.
  • If we have a fragmentation of our communications, important things can get lost in the shuffle. People do not know whether to look on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, … or Where?

Once we ensure we are in control, then there are ways we can use social media sites — vs. them using us.

Probably the best overall policy for a business or organization is to seek to make our web sites a central focus for information and communication, keeping control of our own subscriber lists, and then syndicating information through RSS and social media. We should do this in such a manner that it reminds people that the authoritative source for information is our site. (Likely also the best place to “discuss” is our forums.)

When we do this our site becomes the “canonical,” “go to” source for information. With this established we can then choose to use social media in a targeted manner: we target the sites that are useful to getting our message out by feeding info to them that brings people back to us. People know that our site is the place to get the whole scoop — about which they learn via the feed.

I’m still sorting out the way to focus forums for discussion. These can be done on a web site, or through associated Forums. I think the chief objective here is to avoid the fragmentation of having our conversations spread out among Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. in such a manner that none achieves critical mass. (In many respects, the old LISTSERVs (like OAGC lists) work very well here — although threaded web forums are often easier to read!)

References:

Social Media is Bullshit (B.J. Mendelsohn):
Social Media is Bullshit | St. Martin’s Press
Social Media is Bullshit book site
B.J. Mendelson’s Blog/Site

One good way to syndicate to social media from a WordPress based web site:
Jetpack plugin
“Integration with and automatic posting to your favorite social networks including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Path, and LinkedIn.”

RSS: Wikipedia.org “RSS”

What’s One to do without Java? for webmail email

In case you haven’t heard it, The Homeland security Dept. has issued a warning about Java:/

CERT Releases Oracle Java 7 Security Advisory

ZDNET: Homeland Security warns to disable Java amid zero-day flaw

The recomendation is to remove or disable JAVA! This creates a severe problem for web mail users. I just tested and found that the following do not work at all without java:

  • Microsoft Outlook Mail / Hotmail
  • AOL Mail

Google’s GMail and Yahoo Mail will work, in a backup mode – missing some features.

One can access Outlook/Hotmail and AOL, as well as GMail through a client such as Mozilla Thunderbird.

Privacy on Business and other email systems

Some recent conversations I have had brought to my attention the need to clarify for my friends and neighbors the situation regarding privacy when using various email systems.

The short version: Do not send anything personal or sensitive in nature to anyone at their employer’s email system. Likewise do not use your own work account to send or receive anything of personal or sensitive nature.

The fact of the matter is that a person generally does not have any privacy rights on the corporate email system. Even the minority opinion that suggests there are some rights suffers the point that it could be cumbersome, expensive, impossible to enforce such.

There is an increasing trend in many businesses to establish policies which greatly restrict people’s freedom when using company-owned machines – or even your own equipment (e.g.) on their network.

Of course, corporate email practices may vary widely. In some cases the policy is on the books for “CYA” purposes, so if you are caught selling child porn the business has a clear right to action. But in other cases there may be snooping up to the point that any normal person would consider creepy. You might have:

  • automated scanning of message content for key words — e.g. your shopping or investigation of medical issues, even things like “union” and “civil rights” (It’s not just prurience they seek!) … AND this scanning can go beyond email to sniffing the very packets of information that show where you browse, your passwords, etc.
  • a supervisor that can log in to your account and see everything that you can see
  • a nosy IT person who delights in finding people’s secrets (beyond the necessary function of administering the network, etc., where ethical IT folks deliberately turn a blind eye to specific content)

Some recommendations for email:

  1. Don’t send anything to or from a corporate account that you wouldn’t like on the supervisor’s desk – or posted on Facebook
  2. If you need to use email at work for anything of sensitive nature, use your own account. This might be a webmail account, or an email client application on your own device. You might want to make sure that you connect in a secure manner – e.g SSL/TLS settings for your application, or the same so you have the “padlock” in your browser. (GMail now prefers https by default). These measures can encrypt content between your device and the server or site to which you connect. Generally that makes your communication secure unless someone has physical access to your device.
  3. If you’re really paranoid, use encryption: GPG or similar. For this you likely need to be using a client program/app.

Plus, if you don’t store large amounts of data in your corporate account, you’ll make it easier for the poor IT person who has to archive all that stuff to comply with regulations for accountablity, etc.

An alternative while in the workplace is to use a webmail service such as GMail, but caveat: “Reading someone’s Gmail doesn’t violate federal statute, court finds

Quickly Find Unread Messages on GMail

Have you ever had a hard time finding unread messages on GMail? This is especially a problem if you have many “labels” (equivalent to folders), like I do.

While you can go to the search box at the top. pull down the menu, and select “Unread Mail,” there is another alternative.
You can make a Quick Link for unread messages.

  1. Go to “Settings” / “Labs.”
  2. Look for “Quick Links.”
  3. Enable “Quick Links.” REMEMBER to hit “Save Changes” at bottom of page.
    You will see an added area on the left, under labels, for “Quick Links.
    (Click the three dots at bottom for “Gadgets” if necessary.)
  4. NOW do a search for “Unread Mail” as above,
    OR just type “is:unread” into search box
  5. Now you can click on “Add Quick Link” at left to create your saved search
  6. Name it something simple like “unread”

Handout from O.A.G.C. Parent Day 2010 Tech session

Below is the handout from October 17, 2010 at O.A.G.C. Parent Day:
(printable PDF of original)

O.A.G.C. Parent Day Handout 2010



Web Presence for Parent Groups, … and More

Web Hosting, and some “lighter” options:

  • Dreamhost – www.dreamhost.com – free hosting for verifiable 501c3 organizations! Dreamhost has convenient 1-click methods to setup WordPress, and much more
  • 1and1.com – “Linux hosting” 1&1 Beginner inexpensive. 1and1 has a number of preloaded WordPress templates
  • others … see wordpress.org/hosting/ for some possibilities, Yahoo is expensive
  • WordPress, Blogger, etc also have possibilities – e.g. see www.blogger.com cahspta.blogspot.com // WordPress.com (vs. org) hosts blogs. None of these are on your domain.
  • Google sells Google Apps service where own domain is used with Gmail, etc. … appears might have a free option for 501c3 nonprofits!
  • Google Groups, Yahoo Groups – good for forums, but such can be subsumed into WP

Web Hosting particulars:

  • WordPress (WP) – wordpress.org – Is a blogging/CMS (Content Management System) platform that runs on a server with PHP and MySQL
  • Latest ver’s WordPress include automatic update of program and plugins
  • other CMSs are available:
  • Other items of note
    • phpBB – Forums, “Bulletin Board”)
    • Gallery Photo Gallery … can be integrated into WordPress
    • Moodle is the free! Open source version of Blackboard. (It is available or installable on web hosts, included in EdUbuntu, openSUSE Education-Li-f-e)
  • Akismet (Automattic Kismet) is a necessary WP plugin if you allow posting comments, to block spam. It is incredibly effective! You need an API key, see http://akismet.com/personal/.
  • Subscribe2 is also useful to allow people to sign up for email – see Open Source Apostle Blog (https://blog.osapostle.com/subscribe), or ColumbusPACE.org Subscribe pages to see Subscribe in action.
  • Other plug ins help obfuscate email addresses of posts and posters. There are many ways to fight the harvesting of addresses by spammers. Some of these may be included in the hosting services default setups of WP.

Other Items of Interest, and Privacy Soapbox:

  • Free and Open Source software can provide much of what our school districts spend endless dollars upon (possibly at expense of funding GT programs and staff), for lower total cost. The options are often cheaper, more efficient, greener, more versatile, and just better! Tools are available for just about any kind of computing activity, from basic word processing to programming and highly specialized scientific tools. Opportunities even exist for gifted students to participate and contribute to ongoing global projects. Visit my web site and drop me a line if you are curious. (This interest is why I call it Open Source Apostle.)
  • I know you wouldn’t send highly personal mail on a postcard, so why do people send email “naked.” I almost despair of encouraging people to use encryption as an “envelope.” Indeed, there are some rough edges in using it with popular web mail applications – though it is pretty seamless by now in traditional email clients as Thunderbird, using Enigmail. I wish we’d all use GPG/PGP.
O.A.G.C. Parent Day 2010 – October 17, 2010


Please Do Not Send ANYONE docx files!

Recently a friend innocently sent me a DOCX file. People sending these appears to be a growing problem. Thus I must post some thoughts on the use of Microsoft’s closed file formats – especially the latest travesty: the “X” files.

Please Do Not Send ANYONE DOCX files! The same applies to any of Microsoft’s newest file formats from Office 2007: XLSX, PPTX.

[If you just want the HOWTO at this moment, you may skip to Suggestions.]

While there has always been a concern about sending people Microsoft’s older formats (e.g. Word 97-2000-XP), the problem has been raised a quantum level higher by the new formats in Office 2007!

If you have Microsoft Office 2007, you may not even know you are sending problematic files. Without intervention, this situation is the default if your brand new computer has MS Office 2007! The application uses the —X file formats by default, and the file manager by default turns off viewing extensions. So you innocently think you are just sending a “word” (word processor)” file! … Once you are aware of the issues concerning file formats and Microsoft monopoly shenanigans, you may follow my suggestions to do your part for interoperability – and freedom!

Most recent office suites can read and write the older DOC/XLS/PPT files (sometimes better than MS Office: OpenOffice.org can often open “broken” Word files!). … But … The only people who can read DOCX (or anyX) natively are those with the very newest version of MS Word (2007). Many people. even with MS Word 2003, won’t know what to do with these “X” files!!

Now there are ways to read these, but even then, the “X” files may not display as you intended, particularly if the same fonts (1) are not available on the receiver’s machine.
Users of some older Microsoft Office products can apply compatibility patches. Those of us who use the newest OpenOffice.org (orLibreOffice.org -2010) can read them. Still, fonts and formatting may vary: and there are problems with Microsoft’s formats even being incompatible with their OOXML “standard” which they forced through the international standards organization!

A Little Background

At one time there were many and various file formats. Do you remember WordPerfect? How about XyWrite, WordPro, Nota Bene, PFS:Write, Volkswriter? There were hundreds. (And woe unto one who needs to decode an old file in a proprietary format no longer used!)

Of course, through strategic marketing (i.e. monopoly practices), Microsoft eventually came to dominate the office suite software market, pushing aside even the arguably superior WordPerfect. Their formats became a de facto standard, in that competitors had to at least reasonably be able to work with them. Then being a shrewd monopolist, Microsoft saw that the best way to perpetuate their monopoly was to:

  • periodically change their formats
  • do not release their code, so competitors would have to play “catch up”

This aggravated many people – businesses, governments, and citizens, who found themselves forced to purchase repeated expensive upgrades, with nominal increases in utility – most of which were of no use to most users anyway. Some hung on to other vendors’ software, and dreamed: “Oh that we could have a standard format that any software could use, and share freely!” Until the rise of OpenOffice.org, there really was little alternative, though: it was just a dream.

With the rise of OpenOffice.org, a little space started to open and the idea of interoperability got some momentum. Microsoft even signed on to the bandwagon somewhat — once they realized that certain businesses and governments (particularly in the European Union) were going to demand open formats. People set to work to establish an ISO-approved (International Organization for Standardization) open file format standard, the OpenDocument Format (ODF). The intent was to have formats with open standards, so all who followed the standards could inter-operate and share files. For more information, see:

While Microsoft initially cooperated in ODF, they eventually decided that it was in their interests to advance a competing standard, OOXML. Then they could continue to add undocumented “features,” and continue the “catch up” game with competitors. They then played many tricks to force their competing “standard” through the ISO: such as recruiting selected businesses in small countries to “join” solely to vote in favor of their “standard. It was close but they eventually got their way. Ironically, the market may well have moved too fast for them, as many governments and businesses are embracing ODF! (Ironically, the implementation of the OOXML “standard” in Office 2007, does not even fully conform to that which actually was forced through!) … Can you trust this company?

More Reasons to shun even Word (DOC) formats

From Richard Stallman, We Can Put an End to Word Attachments:

Receiving Word attachments is bad for you because they can carry viruses. Sending Word attachments is bad for you, because a Word document normally includes hidden information about the author, enabling those in the know to pry into the author’s activities (maybe yours). Text that you think you deleted may still be embarrassingly present.

Sending people Word documents puts pressure on them to use Microsoft software and helps to deny them any other choice. In effect, you become a buttress of the Microsoft monopoly. This pressure is a major obstacle to the broader adoption of free software.

Suggestions

1. Send your document as ODF!

In an ideal world, you probably should be sending your documents in Open Document Format (ODF). These formats include: OpenDocument Text (ODT), OpenDocument Spreadsheet (ODS), OpenDocument Presentation (ODP); as well as OpenDocument Graphics (ODG), and OpenDocument Database (ODB).

To do this with a document generated in Microsoft Word, you may need to

2. Try PDF for WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)

If you want your recipient to see your document the way you do, and editing is not needed, send it as a PDF. Though a proprietary format, PDF is well documented, and free readers abound. (The latest Office has finally incorporated PDF generation, as OpenOffice.org has done for quite a time. Otherwise, there are programs to “print” PDFs, that work like a printer driver.)

3. “Just the Facts, Ma’am!” with HTML, TXT,

If the words are all that matter, try a simple common format like plain text (TXT). Or if you want it a bit fancier, try HTML. (RTF is no longer recommended, as there are many varied implementations, and many new readers in phones/tablets do not support).

To convert the file to HTML using Word is simple. Open the document, click on File, then Save As, and in the Save As Type strip box at the bottom of the box, choose HTML Document or Web Page. Then choose Save. You can then attach the new HTML document instead of your Word document. Note that Word changes in inconsistent ways–if you see slightly different menu item names, please try them.

To convert to plain text is almost the same–instead of HTML Document, choose
Text Only or Text Document as the Save As Type.

4. Go with the Flow: DOC, not DOCX!

Of course, you always have recourse to the “standard” Microsoft formats (without the X!) While this does not address the monopoly issues, it at least provides a document that your correspondent is more likely to be able to read faithfully. Just save it as “MS Word 97/2000/XP *DOC*” format, or however the DOC files are called. You may even choose to set this (or ODT) as your default file format.

5. Use OpenOffice.org! or LibreOffice.org! — and ODF!

This is probably best implemented when you get a new computer, but you can use OO/LO at any time – even on a machine with Word installed! But when you are buying a new computer, you have an opportunity to steer away from the Office bundles. (You pay for them in a stealthy way with bundling – just as you pay for the Windows Operating System!) Refuse the deal that’s loaded with bundled software that you don’t want. In the days when inexpensive machines perform quite well, the cost of bundles is an ever larger percentage of overall cost. … “Just say no!”


(1) The “C” Fonts (Calibri, Cambria, Candara, Consolas, Constantia and Corbel), introduced in Office 2007 and Vista, introduce subtle differences in formatting when the receiver does not have them – and have incompatibilities in some mathematic symbols. (This seems like another attempt to make a nuisance for non-Microsoft software!)
The previous long-used font set (“Core fonts“: Arial, Times New Roman, etc.) was initially offered openly for download by Microsoft (during a time when MS was building its market share). It was then withdrawn from MS downloads, but still legally available elsewhere.
The new “C” fonts have a more restrictive license, although there are workarounds. … If Microsoft were really worried about interoperability and making better fonts available, they would release the “C” fonts under a less restrictive license!

MS Word/Excel/Powerpoint ODF (OpenDocument Format) converters

Currently for those who have paid the big bucks for MS Word/ MS Office, there are two ODF converter projects. You need the ODF converter to be able to read and write the ISO standard document formats. Despite Microsoft’s efforts to force their competing OOXML “standard” upon the world, ODF is preferred. Think of a world where one could use the word processor, spreadsheet, or presentation application of your choice, and seamlessly exchange data with anyone!

Since I do not run MS Word, I cannot personally vouch for how these ODF converters compare. There are some reviews out there: some like Sun’s plugin, others the Sourceforge effort. (Let me know what you think!)

These projects may be found:

Sun ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office
formerly recommended as overall best option (see April 22, 2010 NOTE).
latest version is indicated in “Spotlight — ODF Plugin X.x for Microsoft Office Released” on this page:
http://www.sun.com/software/star/odf_plugin/
download link is on “Get It” tab.

Sourceforge OpenXML/ODF Translator Add-in for Office
http://odf-converter.sourceforge.net/index.html
(N.B. This one requires some rigamarole where you have to save newly opened ODF as DOCX before you can resave it as ODF! Must be because MS is involved! This might be a reason to try the Sun plugin first?)

I encourage all Microsoft Word users to install one of these plugins, and use the ODF format for sharing files with other users. … Of course, if you don’t want to hassle with MS Office, just use OpenOffice.org, or another option!


NOTE: On April 28, 2009 October 25, 2011, Microsoft released service pack 2 for Microsoft Office 2007 service pack 3 for Microsoft Office 2007 (download link). This now includes support for ODF text documents and spreadsheets, featured prominently on the ‘Save As’ menu. One can also configure Office applications to use ODF as the default format for new documents. … now the easy option!

updated March 7, 2012

For Spreadsheets especially, there still are some big issues with MS’s implementation(1). There are also concerns for word processing documents (2), so you might want to use one of the above solutions for a while, until Microsoft catches up with the world. Given the alleged technical capacity of Microsoft engineers, compared with some of the others compared in the first article link, it almost seems deliberate! (A summary of the state of affairs, from Jeremy Allison, one of the lead developers on the Samba Team.)

updated May 2009


NOTE: Oracle, after having acquired Sun, has perplexingly decided to charge for the Sun ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office that was my former recommendation. Yet they actually sell a version of Oracle Open Office (nee Star Office) for the same or less than the plugin?! (See Oracle’s ODF Plug-in Pricing: What’s up with That?) … It might be easiest to just use OpenOffice.org, NeoOffice (forMac OS X) , or another suite that uses ODF.

updated April 22, 2010

Subscribe2 plugin for WordPress

I am testing the Subscribe2 plugin for WordPress … more info

ver. 4.1 corrects the problems below! The re-publishing trick still applies, though. Pages or Posts that are simply re-edited and saved will not generate a notifier email. To have an email sent, one must save as draft, and then re-publish.
Regarding PAGES

Presently it seems that ver 4.0 of the plugin (in WP 2.3.1) sends a message with blanks for the TITLE and POST content when a page is edited. Subscribe2 works fine when publishing a new page, or when re-publishing an existing page.

  • The trick then for editing a page is to save it as “draft,” then re-publish when all edits are completed!
  • Unresolved issue: When creating or editing any page, it will generate an extra email with blanks – but at least a proper one will be sent in addition for a new or re-published page!
Regarding POSTS

These fields also work fine when dealing with a new post. … Edits of existing posts, however, generate no email (even when timestamp is changed)!

    BUT! … As with pages, one can employ the same trick: save the post as draft, then republish, and a notifier email will be sent!

N.B. For wordPress in general: “Private” Pages are equivalent to Drafts. “Private” Posts can be seen only by registered users who are logged in.

Using RSS to read posts

Did you know that you can use RSS to read the “headlines” of posts in this or any other Blog?

If you are using the Firefox web browser, look for the icon RSS icon. You can usually find it in the address bar above, as well as in the side bar under Subscribe. (It may be a different color, but the design is usually quite similar.) Click on the icon, and it will give you the option to “Add Live Bookmark!”

I like to add my “live bookmarks” to the a folder in the main “Bookmarks Toolbar Folder.” Then I can just click on that folder and slide my pointer down over the desired feed (“live bookmark”). The feed will then expand to show all the lastest posts on that blog or RSS-enabled site. I can click on any “headline” and go right to the posting!

There are other special programs that can collect your RSS feeds, but I like the convenience of reading them right from my Firefox browser.