Author Archives: Amrit Hallan

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Productivity tips to get you by any lean period

Productivity is an enigma to many. What exactly is it? What makes you feel productive by the end of the day? What did you achieve in order to be able to feel productive? The answers might be as unique as there are individuals on this planet, but there is a universal trait that everybody needs to follow. One needs to create a conducive environment in order to be productive. You cannot suddenly decide one day that you are going to embrace productivity and lo! you are on your way to stardom. Doesn’t happen that way.

Being productive is less of a decision and more of a lifestyle. You need to get into the habit of being productive and just like any habit, you need to follow certain routines in order to get into that mode.

The best way to compile a list (well, it’s not always the best way, but in most of the cases it is) of favourite things to do in order to be productive or in order to achieve anything, is to outsource the wisdom, and this is what the Buffer team did. The famous social scheduling and tracking website asked its Twitter followers what they do in order to be, and remain, productive, and here are a few insights shared by its followers (most of the insights are predictable, but it always helps to go over them again and again):

  • Get outside and play – Spending some time in nature is the best way to recharge your batteries and stay productive. It’s same as having outdoors activity and exercise. In fact this is a good way of spending time with your kids, with your spouse or partner or even with your dog.
  • Reflect everyday – What you value the most and where you need to spend more of your time and energies?
  • Eat the frog first thing in the morning – No, you don’t need to head to the nearest swamp, it merely means complete the toughest, most repulsive task the first thing in the morning so the rest of the day seems like a cakewalk and hence, fun filled.
  • Maintain a tasks list – It works for some and doesn’t work for some, it depends on how serious and sincere you are while creating, maintaining and executing your tasks list.
  • Take a nap whenever you feel like it – Although it might not be possible for most of the office going population because normally an office has a routine and people dozing off during work time isn’t taken in good spirit by the employer or by the boss, if you are fortunate enough to work from home, you can devise your routine in such a manner that you can take a nap whenever you’re feeling drained. You might be wasting lots of productive time while trying to fight off your need to go to sleep.

Read the remaining blog post here

 

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How to create hyperlinks to different notes in Evernote

As you go on using Evernote – the most widely used notetaking application available for practically every platform – you end up creating 100s of notes and there comes a time when tracking them and relating them to each other can become an impossible task. You can solve this problem by hyperlinking to different notes. Yes, just as you can create hyperlinks in your HTML and wordprocessing documents, you can also create hyperlinks in Evernote.

Suppose you have created a following note, title “Description list”:

  • Description one
  • Description two
  • Description three
  • Description four

And then you have created notes titled “Description one”, “Description two”, and so on.

You would like to create an Evernote hyperlink in “Description list”, for instance for “Description one” to the note that actually contains information about “Description one”.

In order to create the hyperlink, of course, you need the link. This is how you do it.

Go to the note you want to link to, and right click it

Copy Evernote hyperlink to clipboard

As you can see in the above image, you can copy the hyperlink to the clipboard.

Then go to the Evernote note from where you want to create the hyperlink and select the text, and then after selecting the text, right click

This way you can create multiple hyperlinks between your various Evernote notes.

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How to bypass the pattern lock on your Android phone or tablet

In order to keep your Android device secure you can either use a pin or a pattern lock to make sure that unauthorized people cannot access it. When you use a pattern lock the screen looks somewhat like this:

Android phone pattern lock

But what if you forget the pattern lock? You forget what pattern you had saved in order to be able to access your Android phone or tablet? Without remembering, your phone is rendered useless.

If you cannot pass through the pattern lock, you may need to reset your device. This will uninstall all the applications that you have installed and wipe off the related data, which you don’t want to do.

Bypassing the pattern lock with the help of your Gmail account

Almost every Android device has an associated Gmail account with it. Even if you haven’t been checking your Gmail messages on your phone or tablet, there is a great possibility that you have installed a few applications from Google Play, and if that is the case, you must have created a Google account profile in your Android device. This will come to your rescue now.

An android phone gives you 5 chances and after that it asks you to wait for 30 seconds before you can try again. There is also an icon called “Forget Pattern” and if you touch it, you are prompted to enter your Gmail credentials. Once you have entered the correct Gmail credentials, you are prompted to create a new pattern lock. Once you have done it, you can access your Android phone or tablet.

What if there is no Gmail account associated with Android phone?

Then this link has some nice instructions on how to bypass the pattern lock at the system level but it requires lots of technical know-how and you should be at least a bit familiar with flashing Android files.

In case you want to save some time and you can live with losing your phone data, the best option is to reset your phone. There are different button combinations that you need to press in order to reset your phone to its factory defaults. Refer to your device-specific documentation for that.

Image source

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How to block Facebook app requests

Just because you have added some people to your friends list on Facebook, they consider it their birthright to send you app requests. Do you often get updates exhorting you to join this app or that app. Remember those Farmville requests that drove you mad?

You may also like to read How to block or disable all Facebook ads.

To be fair, sometimes your friends don’t send you app requests purposely – many websites these days allow people to login using Facebook authorization. When they do that, they are asked whether they would like to send a notification to all their friends, and since they are unaware of the implications, they end up sending app requests to all their friends.

If you’re really fed up, you can block these Facebook app requests. All you have to do is

Login to your Facebook account.

Click the gear icon in the top right corner and then click “Account Settings”

On the left-hand side you will see “Notifications” Click it.

Facebook apps notifications settings
click image to enlarge

Click “Edit”

Facebook apps notifications checkboxes
Click image to enlarge

You can uncheck all the checkboxes for the applications whose app requests you want to block.

What about all those pesky friends who keep sending you Facebook app requests?

Click the gear icon on the top right corner and then again click “Account Settings”

On the left-hand side you will see “Blocking” Click it.

Facebook block users app invites
Click image to enlarge

In this section you can add all the names of the friends from home you want to block Facebook app requests.

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How to install Android apps that are not on Google Apps or Google Play

Although you may find Android apps for practically every need of yours, there might be some instances when the app that you want to use hasn’t been added to Google Apps. Right now Google Play allows you to install apps very easily – all you have to do is search for the app and click the “Install” icon. The second option is simply going to https://play.google.com and installing the app of your choice from there.

Third-party android apps

But what if the app does not exist on Google Apps? Sometimes it is one of those latest releases that hasn’t yet appeared in the Google Play, and may be due to some other reason, Google has rejected the app despite the fact that it is a highly useful piece of software. In such a case you need to download an APK file – this extension is for Android application installation files. But before you can download and install this file, you need to change settings in your phone or tablet so that it allows you to install applications that don’t belong to Google Play.

For that, go to your home screen, and from there, go to “Settings”. In order to go to settings you can also look for a gear icon either somewhere on your home screen, in the quick launch section, or somewhere where all your application icons can be found.

Then go to “Security” and under the “Device Administration” section you will find these checkboxes:

You need to check the “Unknown sources” checkbox to allow installation of apps from sources other than the Google Play store. It is also prudent to check, if it is unchecked, the box in front of “Verify apps” so that your device blocks or warns before installing apps that may cause harm.

Once these settings are modified, you can straightaway download the APK file onto your Android phone or tablet by visiting the link through your browser. Once the file is downloaded, you can normally find it in the “Downloads” folder that, if you haven’t changed your system settings, should be on your device drive. Once you have found the downloaded installation file, simply tap it and it starts installing.

In case you don’t know or don’t feel like downloading the APK file directly to your device, you can first download it on your computer and from there you can move the file to your Android phone or tablet. In order to move the file to your device from computer, you can hook it up with a USB cable. If you don’t want to go to all that trouble, you can install AirDroid (which is available on Google Play) which allows you to move files between your PC and your device without a USB cable connection.

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How to use Google Drive to host your website

Do you want to host a basic website but neither you want to use a commercial web hosting service nor you want to have advertising banners popping up here and there when people visit your website? You can host it on Google Drive. You won’t be able to do it with a cool-sounding URL, but once your webpages are uploaded, you will be able to share them with anybody you feel like, anywhere in the world.

You can host your website for free on Google Drive because if you have a Gmail account or a Google account, you already have access to your Google Drive.

When you host your website on Google Drive you can upload HTML, JavaScript, CSS and image files. For your own convenience, just make sure that you keep all the files in a single folder. Also remember one more thing, you should post a very basic website on Google Drive and in case you need to host a business website, then you should definitely go for a commercial web host.

In order to host your website on Google Drive you first need to create a new folder. After you have created the folder, you have to share it publicly.

Share Google drive folder publicly

In the proceeding pop-up screen, click “Change…” in front of “Private-Only the people listed below can access”

Changing public sharing settings of a Google drive folder

After this folder has been declared “Public” you can upload all the newly-created webpages including HTML, JavaScript, CSS and image files.

Once the files are uploaded click the main HTML file and you come across the following window:

When you click “Open” you get this screen:

In the above screen you need to click “Preview” and once you click this, your page is loaded and you can get the link from the URL bar. This link you can share with everybody.

Google drive hosted website URL
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How to re-energize yourself with a power nap

Have you ever felt amazed when you dozed off just for about 10 minutes in the afternoon and then woke up bright and fully charged up ready to take on the world? You just had a power nap. Such sleep for a short duration is known to re-energize both your body and mind and help you focus and concentrate for the next 5 to 6 hours.

Taking a power nap

A power nap is a sleep of a very short duration that doesn’t last beyond deep sleep or slow-wave sleep. It normally limits you to the stage of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, enabling you to remain alert after waking up. The concept of taking a short sleep is very popular in many countries, especially Spanish countries where it is called “afternoon siesta”. Many offices and organizations in European countries allow their employees to take a short nap after lunch to re-energize themselves and get on with their remaining activities.

There is a very interesting anecdote about the great painter Salvador Dali. He used to take his power nap in his chair with one of his arms dangling over the side holding a spoon with a plate placed underneath. The moment he fell asleep, the spoon would fall on the plate and the clatter would wake him up. He was a big fan of this technique of re-energizing himself with a brief power nap.

What should be the duration of a power nap?

It depends. As the above-mentioned Salvador Dali anecdote illustrates, it doesn’t even have to be more than a few minutes. The moment he fell asleep the spoon would fall and the clatter would wake him up. How much time do you think he got for his power nap? Hardly a minute or two.

Many people claim that when they wake up the moment they fall asleep, they feel fresh, alert and full of energy. They experience a marked improvement in their concentration, creativity and retention.

The ideal time for a power nap is around 10 minutes. Beyond that, for example 30 minutes can make you groggy for a while. A sleep of 60 minutes no longer remains within the realms of power napping and it is normally taken by those people who haven’t been getting good sleep at night.

Nonetheless, there are different benefits associated with different durations of a power nap. A 10-20-minute sleep is good for alertness. Catching a few blinks for more than 20 but less than 30 minutes boosts your memory and enhances creativity. If you want to improve your decision-making then you need a longer nap of 60-90 minutes. But these are just theoretical speculations. In a busy schedule, you should mostly focus on 10-20-minute power nap.

In fact many people believe that a power nap can be a good substitute for people who can’t get enough sleep due to whatever reason. Experts have gone to the extent of advising people to have a series of power naps of 10-20 minutes instead of getting a full night’s sleep, although not much research has been done on this.

How to take a power nap

You don’t need to lie under your quilt in a comfy bed. All you need is a comfortable place where you can simply recline in such a manner that you don’t fall even if you let your body completely lose. Some people can doze off in a moving train, in a restaurant or in an office but some require a quiet place. If your office chair is comfortable, you can even use that.

If you’re driving a car and you’re feeling really tired and you need to take a quick nap, park your car somewhere safe, completely shut off the engine and put on the handbrake. You can roll up the windows if you don’t feel safe. Set your phone alarm to 15 minutes and then go off to sleep.

The ideal time for a power nap is in the afternoon when you have spent a good part of the day working hard and you have just had lunch. Your body needs energy to digest your lunch and this is a time when less energy is sent to the brain making you lethargic and sleep-prone.

If you find it hard to take a power nap under bright lights, you can wear dark glasses over your eyes or you can simply put your handkerchief on them.

Consuming caffeine just before taking your power nap can be highly beneficial according to some studies. This is also called a caffeine nap. Although caffeine is supposed to make you alert, the effect takes around 40 minutes to kick in so if you are feeling sleepy and you have caffeine you are not immediately going to feel re-energized. People recommend that just when you are about to finish your cup set your alarm to 15 minutes and go to sleep immediately after finishing your coffee.

Finally the basic idea is developing a schedule. You may not succeed at power napping in the beginning. You will have to learn by hit-and-trial. Give yourself at least a week before you can have a power nap that really re-energizes you. In the meantime make sure you

  • Find yourself a good, comfortable and peaceful spot for your power nap
  • Make sure that you sleep for just 10-20 minutes and there is some mechanism that wakes you up
  • Have your power nap in the afternoon because after lunch you normally feel drowsy and sleepy because your body is busy digesting the food
  • Cover your eyes so that the lighting around you doesn’t disturb you
  • Play some soothing music if that can be arranged
  • Avoid getting too comfortable

Image source

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How to use Dropbox to backup your files

Dropbox provides you cloud storage and file synchronization services. When you use the service, all your important files including data, music and videos are backed up in the cloud and then synced across your devices where you have installed the Dropbox interface. Whereas most people use Dropbox to synchronize their important files, you can also use a service simply to backup important files so that even if they are lost on your computer or another device, you can always download them from the cloud.

Why backup your files with Dropbox?

Well, there is no hard-hitting reason why you should particularly use Dropbox and not any other cloud drive like Google Drive but since you are already using the service, why not use it to backup your files also, if it is possible?

Uploading files to Dropbox

There is an interesting feature in Dropbox and that is often unknown to regular users: you can upload files to Dropbox instead of sinking them. What’s the difference?

The problem with syncing is, if you delete your file at one location – whether intentionally or unintentionally – the latest information is synced across your devices, and this means that the file is deleted everywhere. This is not good if it is an important file and you should have taken a backup. Dropbox allows you to “upload” files rather than syncing them so that even if you delete them on your computer, they will still be there in the cloud. This way you can use the service to take regular backups of your files.

In order to upload the files rather than syncing them, you should first create a new folder, something like “cloud backup”. Sometimes, unless you’re totally familiar with the web-based Dropbox interface, it may be difficult to find out how to create a new folder. Here is the icon:

Create new folder icon in Dropbox

You can hover your cursor over other icons to know what purpose they solve. Once you have created a new folder, go to the folder first, and then you can click the upload file icon (the icon with the blue up arrow in the above image).

Dropbox web uploader

That is it, the files that you manually upload using the online interface remain there even if you delete the files on your computer. This way you can use Dropbox as your backup drive if you have got plenty of space over there.

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How to have your WordPress “Recent Posts” sidebar listing in custom order

Whether you’re using WordPress to manage your website or your blog, you must have a sidebar (even the footer, for that matter) where you have listed your recent blog posts or webpages. By default, the WordPress gives you a widget that you can drag and drop on the sidebar with maximum 15 recent posts. This is a great way to showcase your latest content, but what if you don’t want to arrange your recent posts chronologically reversed? What happens is that your latest blog post appears at the top, then the second one appears after that, and so on, with the last one appearing at the 15th spot (provided you have selected the maximum number of recent blog posts to be displayed).

Here is a plug-in called “Latest Posts with Order Option” that creates a widget inside your WordPress admin area that you can simply drag and drop on the sidebar to create a custom order latest posts section. Once installed, this widget lets you arrange your sidebar post links alphabetically, according to the ID, and of course, date of publication.

Small note of caution: Right now this plug-in seems to be a bit buggy. When I tried on my own blog it applies its own heading format to the widget title, unlike the usual class defined for widget areas. Other than this, if you want to play around with this plug-in, you can do so.

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How to avoid a hangover after heavy drinking, and how to deal with it

A terrible hangover can totally spoil all the fun that you had last night, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Excessive alcohol consumption does have its effects but if it is once in a while, the only problem you stand to face is the hangover that happens when you wake up in the morning. You may suffer from nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps. You may also experience excessive dehydration, fatigue and weakness. You may suffer from lots of sweating, vertigo, sensitivity to light and sound and a wayward concentration. Psychologically, you may feel depressed, irritable or hyper.

Very bad hangover

Does everybody face these symptoms? Not necessarily. It depends on how used you are to taking alcohol, how much you took, what all you drank and ate before, while and after having drinks, and of course your general physical constitution. But it definitely is a common problem and it can be easily taken care of by the following:

Keep yourself thoroughly hydrated

Your sugar level shoots up when you have had a good dose of alcohol and this dehydrates your body, triggering all the ill effects of dehydration. Most of the tissues in your brain are made up of water (or watery substance) and they shrink during bouts of dehydration causing pressure on the brain. You can counter this by having lots of liquid – preferably water – before the drinks and even while having drinks. If you can stomach it, you should also drink some milk because it coats the lining of your stomach and prevents it from absorbing as much alcohol as it would otherwise. If nothing else, it promotes general well-being so you should have milk anyway.

Do some healthy eating before you hit the bottle

Drinking alcohol empty stomach makes your stomach absorb it faster, causing you discomfort. A full stomach is less liable to transfer the ill effects of alcohol to your body compared to an empty stomach. According to doctors, food helps to reduce the formation of acetaldehyde caused by alcohol consumption, in your stomach. Acetaldehyde, incidentally is known as among the chief factors behind devastating hangovers. Give yourself a good dose of carbohydrates. You can also consume healthy fats by eating food containing fatty acids such as salman and trout. If you have no problem eating junk food, you can splurge on pizza and pasta or even an Indian paratha.

Have your vitamins

While alcohol runs amok in your body, your body uses up lots of vitamins and other nutrients to metabolize alcohol. Alcohol directly destroys B vitamins. As your liver has to work harder it requires all the vitamins and nutrients your body at its disposal. Hence it is advised that before jumping on the binge, you pop in some pills of B complex, B6 or B12.

Avoid mixing soda and whiskey

It’s fun to have whiskey or scotch with a good dose of fizz but the carbonated concoction simply pushes the gas along with the alcohol past your stomach and into your intestines. The problem with this is your small intestine is very good at absorbing alcohol and other stuff. This gets deposited at all the wrong places in the body, resulting in a terrible hangover.

Since we are on fizzy drinks, fizzy champagne can also give you trouble: the carbon dioxide contained within the bubbles speeds up delivery of alcohol to your system.

Stick to lighter alcoholic beverages

Dark alcohols such as whiskey, rum, bourbon and tequila contain toxins called congeners – a byproduct of fermentation. These are also found in cheap liquor. So if possible, stick to vodka the next time you’re planning to drink.

Avoid coffee and tea in the morning if you have a hangover

When you’re having a hangover your body is already dehydrated and caffeine can further exacerbate the situation. It may provide you instant relief but in a while it will increase the feeling of nausea and woolly headedness. If you really feel like drinking something other than water, try to have some sports drink because it can quickly replenish what you might have lost while consuming alcohol.

Eat a good breakfast

Even if you are feeling miserable and the sight of food makes you feel pukish, eat as much food as you can. An empty stomach is a playground for a lasting hangover. The food will give you nourishment and if it contains fat it will counter the ill effects of the alcohol. Although there is no medical proof, the more starchy, fatty and greasy your breakfast is, the sooner your hangover gets over.

Have soluble paracetamol if it helps

A paracetamol will ease your headache. Have a soluble one so that it quickly reaches your bloodstream. Make sure that you mix it with plenty of water rather than with tea or coffee.

Give your body some rest

The alcohol has ravaged your body and it needs some time to recover. So don’t try to rush into feeling better, because you are not going to. You will feel weak, shaky and disoriented and they are normal symptoms of a good old hangover. The steps listed above, especially about drinking water and having a good breakfast, and even having a paracetamol may provide you some comfort, but eventually you will need some good rest for at least a few hours.

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How to use numeric functions in MySQL

Whether it is MySQL or any other standard database management system, it is often advised that values that can be calculated shouldn’t be stored permanently in a database. This is because as the base numbers (the numbers that are used for calculations) change, so will their calculations. Additionally, performing mathematical calculations right there is much faster than repeatedly fetching database values from the server. So it is better to perform calculations as and when needed rather than storing them and retrieving them using normal MySQL functions.

This nice article on using the basic MySQL numeric functions illustrates the usage of three widely used mathematical functions namely ABS(), POW() and ROUND(). The article uses real-world examples such as calculating annualized returns on an investment.

Here is a list of all mathematical functions available in MySQL.

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How to replace the broken or cracked screen of your smartphone or tablet

Sooner or later you’re going to drop your smartphone or tablet or you’re going to drop something heavy on it (something like, whether a knife drops on a melon or a melon drops on a knife) it is your touchscreen that is going to bear the brunt. Not only does breaking, your touchscreen can develop scratches that makes it practically impossible to view the contents of your screen. Whatever is the reason, many people often have to buy a new smartphone or a new tablet because their screen seems beyond salvation.

Broken smartphone screen

Here is an interesting article that explains, step-by-step, how you can replace a broken, cracked or heavily scratched touchscreen of your smartphone or tablet, totally eliminating the need to purchase a new device. The highlight of the article is that even if you are not much into repairing broken phones you can do it yourself. All you need to do is, understand the basic dynamics of how a smartphone or a tablet is assembled, how various components are organized and most importantly, from where you can buy an appropriate touchscreen for your device.

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How to read more books despite having a busy schedule

Books aren’t just for entertainment. This article on Fast Company rightly says that human beings have been capturing their wisdom and knowledge in various forms of writings and expressions for 5000 years now and most of the things that bother you right now have already been provided a solution for by much smarter guys and girls, even as late as a couple of thousand years ago.

Reading more books

Reading books isn’t always, as already mentioned above, about entertainment. You learn a lot when you read books. You gain wisdom, you grow smarter and you know lots of things other people don’t know. You get in-depth knowledge of the subjects you are interested in. Even your writing improves when you’re constantly reading. People who read books regularly are much smarter than you.

You know all that, don’t you?

Still, somehow you don’t get any time to read books. You are constantly busy. Every other thing in the world takes precedence over reading a book. You would like to read. If you could help, you would read 3-4 books every month. Than what stops you? Is a time?

Time could be a big factor, but you need a bit of organization if you want to read many books despite having a busy schedule. Here are a few things you can do:

Switch to digital books

You like the feel of the paper books, right? That old world charm. That smell that takes you back to your childhood. That feeling of the hardcover in your hand. Well, if everything was so charming, you wouldn’t be reading this blog post. No matter how esoteric conventional books are, the point is you are not reading them. The material doesn’t matter, what matters is the mind.

Aside from the fact that digital books are more environment friendly compared to paper books (as of contemporary knowledge, we might be in for a surprise if new findings come out), it’s a lot easier to carry digital books. You can carry “thousands of books” in whatever device you own. People are found reading books on their iPhones, iPads and various versions of Android tablets and smart phones. It is just a matter of getting used to it. If the glare of your tablet or phone causes you strain, you can purchase the Kindle reader or the Nook reader, although many think why spend so much money on a book reader when you can buy so many more books with the same amount of money? Well, it depends on how much disposable money you have but in case you decide to buy one of the e-book readers supporting the i-ink technology (that doesn’t reflect light and almost simulates the normal paper print) you should buy it as soon as you can.

Whether you read your digital books or ebook on a device like Kindle or your smartphone or tablet, the moot point is the convenience. If not thousands, you can easily carry scores of books. No matter how many books you carry, the weight is always going to be equivalent to the device you have. The moment you feel like reading, you can just take out the device, and start reading, whether you are travelling or sitting idly somewhere.

Always carry a book with you

When you carry a book with you, eventually you start reading it. Besides, you never know when you may have to wait somewhere and with nothing to do, you can start reading the book you have with you. You can read your book when you’re standing in a queue. You can read it when you’re waiting for your bus (just make sure that you don’t get so engrossed that you miss the bus). Again, if you find carrying a conventional book bulky, you can use your tablet or smartphone.

Take your book reading seriously

Think of it as an investment. Mental and intellectual growth is as important as financial growth and physical health. Once you start reading regularly, your entire attitude changes drastically. You are more open-minded, or at least you can think of something from different point of views. Regular reading helps you emotionally as well as professionally. If you are a writer for a person whose livelihood depends on how much he or she knows of a particular subject, then regular reading is all the more important. So take reading books seriously so that you can specially take out time and read your books.

Join reading groups

Reading groups are not very practical for serious readers, but if you just want to get into the habit of reading regularly, you should definitely join a reading group. The only problem is almost all the members of the group have to read a particular book and this may pose a problem if everybody is reading fiction and you want to read non-fiction or the other way around. So spend some time finding an appropriate group to develop your reading habit and only then join.

Stop wasting time on unproductive activities and devote that time to reading instead

Are you spending lots of time on Facebook and Twitter meaninglessly going through updates of your friends and colleagues? You are gaining nothing. By watching funny videos, cute photographs and the photographs of your friends enjoying at various exotic locations you don’t grow intelligent. You grow intelligent by reading books. Monitor your time and just see how much time you are wasting on various social networking websites. Stop this activity outright. You will be amazed how much time you have at your hand. The same goes for watching TV. There is a reason why it is called the “idiot box”.

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How to disable a WordPress plug-in if you cannot log into the admin area

This blog post explains a nice way of disabling your WordPress plug-ins in case something has gone wrong with your blog and you are unable to log into your admin area in order to rectify the problem. In most of the cases it is the plug-ins that cause problems in a typical WordPress blog unless something has happened at the server end. In such cases, if you can login to your admin area you can first deactivate all your plug-ins and then activate them one by one to see exactly at what point the problem begins to manifest.

WordPress error due to plug-ins

Or sometimes you cannot log into your WordPress admin area. So if you cannot login how can you disable the plug-ins and unless you can disable the plug-ins, how can you rectify the problem?

The best way to do is, according to the above-linked blog post, login to your FTP account (using one of your favorite FTP clients installed on your desktop, or using your web host’s Control Panel file manager), go to your /wp-content/ folder and rename your “plugins” folder to something like “pluginsss”. The basic idea is, when WordPress looks for this folder, it shouldn’t be able to find it.

Then go back to your browser window and go to the page that you use to log into the admin section of your WordPress blog. This time you should be able to login (if one of the plug-ins were causing the problem, that is) with a slew of errors saying that the plug-in files were not found. Since WordPress cannot find plug-in files, it disables all the plug-ins.

Then you can go back to your FTP account and rename “pluginsss” to “plugins”.

Then go back to your WordPress admin area and when you go to the plug-ins section, you will see that all the plug-ins are there but right now they are disabled or deactivated. You can enable the plug-ins one by one and see exactly which plug-in is causing the problem.

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How to buffer or preload YouTube videos completely before watching them

Remember there was a time when we could buffer entire YouTube videos before watching them or playing them? That was a time when the Internet speeds used to be slow and the video would pause multiple times while playing and this would be very annoying. So you would click the pause button and do some other stuff while your video buffered so that later on you could play it without pauses.

It no longer happens. When you pause a long YouTube video, it stops buffering after sometime. This is because YouTube uses a feature called Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP or simply, DASH. This is also called MPEG-DASH.

In order to optimize streaming over HTTP web servers, longer videos are fragmented into shorter videos of different degrees of quality. Then these videos are streamed according to your connection, the availability of the server and a horde of other factors. Basically what it means is, when you’re watching a video on YouTube, you’re not watching a single video, but a series of the same video broken into different parts. That is why when you try to preload a YouTube video, just a particular part is buffered and after that it stops.

How do you overcome this? Although the technology is developed for your benefit, sometimes when you are not able to buffer the entire video this can pose a problem, especially when you have to scroll left and right in quick successions to view different frames of the same video.

You need to install a browser extension called “YouTube Center”. This extension is available in every major browser but Google Chrome, maybe because Google doesn’t want you to preload or buffer YouTube videos. Nonetheless, in order to install YouTube Center in Chrome you will first need to download the script from this link, and save it somewhere on your computer.

Once you have downloaded and saved YouTubeCenter.crx, open the “Extensions” section of your Google Chrome browser and simply drag-and-drop this file onto that page. Just make sure you have checked the “Developer mode” checkbox at the top-right corner before you try to install the extension. That’s it, the extension is installed.

Now when you visit YouTube, you are prompted to make some changes to the way you use YouTube. Even if you have initially skipped the customization screen there is now an icon on your YouTube page (top-right corner, the gear icon) that you can click and open up the Center Dashboard.

As I have mentioned above in order to buffer or preload your YouTube videos completely before watching them, you need to somehow disable DASH. In YouTube Center here is the checkbox:

That’s it. Once you have unchecked the “DASH” option you simply have to close the window and from now onwards you will be able to buffer your YouTube videos in their entirety.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to make the best use of the cloud technology

The cloud technology is here to stay and as we move towards better connectivity and faster processing more and more of our activities will involve constant interaction with the cloud.

Best use of cloud services

Whether you talk about cloud-based data or cloud-based applications, the biggest benefit of switching over to the cloud is that you need to rely less and less on a single device. For instance, if you are storing your data in the cloud it is no longer restricted to your computer, laptop or the mobile device of your choice. Provided you have the application that can access and process that data, you can access it from any device hooked to the Internet.

The same goes with applications. Long gone are the days when you had to install expensive and resource hungry applications on your desktop. Most of the cloud-based applications require just a browser and occasionally, a few plug-ins and extensions. Precisely this is why recently Google launched a browser-only laptop called Google Chromebook that is entirely browser-based. The moment you switch on the laptop, the browser is loaded automatically and every saving and processing happens in the cloud.

The cloud technology is not new. Have you been using web-based email for the past 15 years? Well, you have been using a cloud-based application. Similarly services like YouTube and Flickr save your media files in the cloud. These days even mainstream applications like Word processing, photo editing and database management, that previously used to work only on desktops, are available through their cloud-based interfaces.

Anyway, the most prevalent use of the cloud is online storage. By now you must have heard about services like Dropbox and Google Drive. These services let you save your files in the cloud with automatic syncing so that your files become available on multiple devices without you having to copy them from here today. Just imagine, you are in Beijing and while working there you store all your files in the Dropbox folder using one of the local machines. Then you go to New York, leaving the machine behind, you login to your Dropbox account and all your files are there. The same is true for Google Drive.

But just like any technology, the cloud technology comes with its own pitfalls and just like any technology, you need to take some measures to ensure the safety of your data. Here are a few things you can do to make the best use of the cloud technology:

Take backups regularly, in fact multiple backups

Just because you have uploaded all your precious files and images and videos to Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud or one of the Amazon services it does not mean you can forget about them and live a peaceful existence. Recently one of the senior Wire magazine writers lost all his data that he had stored in the cloud when his accounts were hacked. Known people are more prone to being hacked because, well, they are known, but it does not mean that you cannot be a target of hacking. And it is not just about hiking, a catastrophe can happen at their data centres and you may lose all the files and you may never recover them if you have not backed them up. Most of the cloud backup services are quite inexpensive so you can use multiple services to backup your data. If possible you should also routinely backup your data locally in a USB drive.

Spread your data across multiple regions

Data centers can be prone to natural disasters. They can be hit by hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. They can also be affected by regional strives such as wars and social unrest. So if you have mission-critical data it is advisable that you use different cloud services to host an backup your data and make sure that these services are situated in various parts of the country, and preferably, in various parts of the globe.

Use stronger passwords

Also, do not use the same password, and if you can manage, not even the same email ID to manage your multiple cloud-based data backup services simply because in case test one email ID is hacked, the hacker will be able to access all your backups.

These are the basic measures you can take to keep your data safe and secure in the cloud.

You may also like to read How to create a strong password and remember it.

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Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan
Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to stop an email that you have just sent in Gmail

Email, it is often said, is like the arrow that has left the bow, or the bullet that has left the gun – it cannot be brought back once it is released into the infinite wilderness of the World Wide Web.

Does it happen that immediately after sending the email you realize that you should not have sent it yet? Do you wish that there was some way you can stop the email that you have just sent midway so that you can altogether abandon the idea of sending it, or modify it further? Or maybe the email intended for your girlfriend mistakenly was sent to your wife (or an email intended for your boyfriend mistakenly was sent to your husband). Whatever is the case, within a particular limit, you can undo the email you have just sent in Gmail. Yes, Gmail allows you to stop an email from going to the recipient even if you have clicked the “Send” button.

The feature that allows you to recall the email that you have just sent is already present in Gmail, it is just that you have to activate it. For this to happen, click on the “Settings” (that looks like a gear) icon on the right-hand side near the top, while you are logged into your Gmail account.

A further drop-down menu gives you different options; click “Settings” again. You are taken to a choice of tabs labeled as “General”, “Labels”, “Inbox”, and so on. One of such tabs is “Labs” where Gmail developers put all the latest tools they are toying with so that you can test them out even as they are not available as integral Gmail tools. Click “Labs” and scroll down until you reach this portion:

In case you want to “Enable” it, check the appropriate radio button and then click “Save Changes”.

This section, although, activates the Gmail undo feature, it does not yet allow you to set the time interval within which you can cancel the sending of an email. After you have clicked “Save Changes” you will most probably be redirected to the inbox.

Again click the gearbox icon and then click “Settings” and this time go to the “General” tab if you are not already there (you must be). Scroll down (if you need to) unless you come across this particular section:

This is where you get to decide for how many seconds Gmail must hold your message before it is sent. Suppose you set 30 seconds. This means if within those 30 seconds if you click “Undo”, the sending of your email will be cancelled. The upper limit is yet 30 seconds because maybe it’s been observed that it is within these 30 seconds that people mostly realize that they should not have sent the email they have just sent. And maybe it is some server limitation. As far as this feature goes, you cannot set Gmail to undo the email sending beyond 30 seconds.

Above explained is a feature that is available in Gmail itself and this can help you stop an email that you have just sent, even for just a period of 30 seconds.

If you are looking for an external plug-in, you can try out Boomerang for Gmail. It is a browser extension available for all major browsers that allows you to send your emails later in Gmail so that in case you want to cancel sending them, you have got plenty of time to do that.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to remove old Android devices from Google Play

If you regularly use gadgets then most probably you are already on your second or third-generation Android device (if you are not a big Apple fan). Than it can also be easily assumed that you frequently use Google Play to download your apps or manage your existing apps.

Google play icon

When you use the Google apps Play store you need to add your existing device such as your tablet or your smartphone to your Google Play account. In fact you do not have to manually go there and add your device, as soon as you log onto your Google Play account (using your registered email ID) from your new tablet or smartphone the devices automatically added to your account. After doing this if, preferably from your computer, you go to your Google Play account you see the device under your account.

After logging into your Google Play account you need to click the gear-shaped “Settings” icon that appears on the right-hand side near the top. In the subsequent drop down menu click “Settings”.

It immediately shows you a tabular list of all the devices attached to your Google Play account. In the “Visibility” column you can see there is a checkbox for making individual devices visible and invisible.

There is no particular method of “deleting” the devices permanently, but by checking and unchecking the check boxes you can decide which device shows up in your management dashboard and which does not. Using this very same interface you can also change the names of the devices because sometimes Google Play cannot figure out the real name of your device. Simply click the “Edit” button on extreme right in order to rename your device. This will be helpful if you are using multiple Android devices simultaneously with your account and you need to selectively install and uninstall applications.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

What is link building and how to increase your website traffic with backlinks

Although there are many ways you can increase traffic to your website one of the most prominent ways of doing this is carrying out a sustained link building campaign and getting as many backlinks for your website or blog as possible. But what is link building and what are backlinks?

Link building graphic

Link building and backlinks explained

There was a time, late 90’s early 2000’s, when you could enjoy good rankings by creating lots of keyword-centric content. This was good, until people started overdoing it. At a particular point people were simply creating nonsense in the name of publishing “optimized content”. Lots of junk began to show up in search results. Than the search engines, especially Google, started using backlinks to evaluate your rankings. A backlink is when someone links to your homepage or one of the pages of your website from his or her website or blog.

Suppose you have a website with the URL http://yourwebsite.com and I have a website http://mywebsite.com. If you link from your website to my website from one of your pages, you give me a backlink.

Backlink example

If I link to your website from my website then I give you a backlink. The link has to be within the <a></a> tag so that it appears as a hyperlink. The backlink can be more beneficial if the hypertext you use for the hyperlink contains words that explain exactly what my website stands for. Take for instance HowToPlaza; if you link to this website from your website with something like “an online resource for how-to tutorials, articles and blog posts” rather than simply HowToPlaza it will be more beneficial to this website.

Anyway, this is just one backlink. Suppose there are 50 web owners or bloggers who link to http://mywebsite.com. What does it tell the search engines? It tells them that this website is so good that 50 web owners and bloggers have linked to it. This is because when you link to someone or something, you put your reputation at stake. You do not just blindly link to various websites. It tells the search engines that my website contains valuable content and I deserve better search engine rankings for related keywords. It is sort of word-of-mouth recommendation expressed in terms of backlinks. The more backlinks you have got, the better are your search engine ranking prospects.

The only thing you need to take care of is that the backlinks coming to your website need to come from people who already enjoy a good reputation with search engines. This means they themselves must be having quality backlinks coming to their own websites. This is to ensure that they are not spammy websites or just link farms. Only if they have good reputation with search engines they will be able to send some of their reputation to your website by back linking to you.

But how do you get people to link to your website or blog? People will not simply do that. You need to reach out to them or you need to make it possible for them to find you. This process of enabling people to link to your website, or creating opportunities for people to give you more and more backlinks, is called “link building”. Your link building campaign involves creating right conditions for people to link back to your website.

Increasing your website traffic with link building

Your backlinks increase your website traffic in two ways: direct traffic and indirect traffic.

Direct traffic is like when you come across a link on another website, you click that link and then go to the hyperlinked website. If you have a backlink from a high-traffic website then there is a possibility that you will get lots of direct traffic from that website. As people come across your link on a particular website, they click that link and then they come to your website.

Through your link building campaign (encouraging people to link to your website) you also provide an opportunity to the visitors of that particular website (the website that is linking to you) to further link to your website from their own respective websites. It can turn out to be a chain reaction. This is how sometimes links go viral. A particular link is found on a particular website and then from that website the link is used by the visitors on their own websites, and so on. For many website owners and SEO marketing experts, this is a dream come true.

Indirect traffic can come in the form of improved search engine rankings. As more and more high-authority websites link to you your search engine rankings begin to improve and hence you get more search engine traffic.

Getting more and more quality backlinks

This topic deserves a complete, dedicated blog post but the gist of the entire effort is, providing enough reason for people to link to your website. Why would they link to your website? Unless they are your relatives and close friends, they are not going to do it for the sake of love. There has to be some value. This value comes from the quality of content and your authority over your subject. People normally link to your website because of you (they respect your expertise and authority) and because of your content (they find your content really useful).

The more valuable content you have the more reason you give to other website owners to link to you. In order to link to you, first of all they have to find you. How do they find you? Through search engines, but for that you need better search engine rankings and you are most probably seeking backlinks to improve your search engine rankings, so it may become a vicious loop. But do not worry about that. Focus on creating lots of high-value optimized content on a regular basis. Start interacting with people (who may be influential in your field) on social networking websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus. Leave useful comments on various forums and blogs. Offer to write guest blog posts for successful blogs. Increase visibility on the Internet and this way you can get quality backlinks for your website.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to automatically save your WordPress backup to Dropbox

Dropbox is becoming the de facto storage place for many people. Since you might be storing every critical file in Dropbox, then why not save your WordPress backup files there too?

WordPress to Dropbox

Benefits of saving your WordPress backup to Dropbox

There are advantages and disadvantages of using practically everything in the world. But here we are just going to focus on the benefits of using Dropbox as your backup destination for WordPress files. Hopefully you realize how important it is to take regular backups of your WordPress data, especially the blog posts you have been publishing with so much effort and dedication. Just imagine, the server of the web hosting company suddenly crashes and everything goes down the drain. If your business or your revenue depends on your blog, this can be a disaster.

On the other hand, if you regularly backup your WordPress, you can quickly restore your blog using the same web host or another service.

Right now you can use various backup plug-ins with WordPress. These plug-ins can automatically email the backup files to your chosen email ID on a routine basis (you can set the interval). You can store the backup on your local drive. You can take the backup manually as well as automatically.

The first benefit of using Dropbox as your WordPress backup is something that is applicable to every file that you store there – you can access it from everywhere. Suppose you urgently need the backup file but if you have been storing your backup files on a particular computer or laptop and if that particular computer or laptop is not there with you, you are stuck. On the other hand if you have been storing your WordPress backup in your Dropbox folder then all you need to do is log into your Dropbox account and download the file.

Then, Dropbox is always more secure compared to your own drive as the data is stored on multiple servers.

Backing up your WordPress to Dropbox

Although there are many plug-ins that you can use to take backups, in this blog post we are going to have a look at BackWPUp. It is one of the most comprehensive WordPress backup tools available. It allows you to define what sort of backup you want (database backup, XML export, installed plug-ins list, et cetera), the filename pattern that you want to use, the compression technology and the destination where the backup must be sent.

The interface is quite intuitive. Once you have installed the plug-in, a new menu option appears on the left-hand side bar. In BackWPUp you define “jobs”. So the first time you use this plug-in, you will need to create a new job and in that job you are going to select various options so that your files are not only backed up automatically, they are also stored in your Dropbox folder.

Of course before you can use the Dropbox feature, you will need to authenticate BackWPUp with the cloud storage service. In the dashboard setup it is not very clear how to do it. Or, as it is shown in the above screen once you have chosen Dropbox as your backup destination, when you click the “Save changes” button it does not prompt you to authenticate. Although it adds a new tab at the top with “To: Dropbox” as label. Go there

Dropbox allows you to authenticate in the sandbox mode so that your entire folder is not available to the external application. Click this button and the application is authenticated.

You can explore other tabs in order to initiate backups automatically or manually.

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Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to stop your computer from slowing down over time

When you have just bought a new computer it seems to work magically fast. Every program loads instantaneously and even the heaviest applications work like a breeze. Sometimes you can also manage this by completely formatting your computer and reinstalling everything. But as the years go by, sometimes, even as the months go by, your computer begins to slow down. Very soon, although you can run more advanced applications, it more or less fees like the same old computer you had previously. Even for regular programs you have to wait patiently for the hourglass to vanish and the screen to load.

Why does this happen?

Computer slowing down

You may or may not be responsible for this. Normally the computer slows down as you continuously install and uninstall applications. Whether you use the inbuilt setup program of the application to install and uninstall, or use the Windows default interface, a program, once installed, even when it has been uninstalled, leaves its traces. If nothing else, it messes up with your registry – the feature that helps your computer make sense of all the files and their associations.

Even when you don’t routinely install and uninstall applications, all your legal software goes through regular updates – due to the Internet these days it happens automatically in most of the cases – and this means the advanced versions of the same software are consuming more resources of your machine.

If you haven’t installed any antivirus tool than lots of malware, spyware and viruses may have gotten installed on your computer while you are surfing the net. Previously when we were not constantly connected to the web, we used to be more careful while using unknown diskettes and USB drives. These days as soon as you fire up your computer you are automatically connected to the Internet so you don’t even realize what sort of stuff is being downloaded and installed unless you have some mechanism to stop it. This can slow down your computer considerably.

What should you do? Listed below are a few things that can help you keep your computer running faster. Please remember that sooner or later it will begin to get slow but you can considerably delay the slowing down process by using your machine properly.

Maintain the original configuration as much as possible

Do you really need all those applications you install on your computer? Sometimes you cannot help it, especially if you need software applications for your business, or in order to help your kids do their homework. But don’t install applications just for the sake of checking them out. It’s not worth it. It not only wastes your time (checking out various software applications doesn’t make sense unless you are a technology consultant and you make your living off it) it also spoils your registry information. Be very choosy when you install applications or when you allow your family members to install other computer applications. Make it a rule that unless it is extremely important, nobody installs applications on your computer.

Try to find cloud-based alternatives for your desktop applications

Do you know that many computers these days come with just a browser because every possible application that an average household may ever need is available on the Internet. Take for instance Google Docs; it provides you basic wordprocessing, spreadsheets, and it even allows you to create presentations. So whether you want to maintain your accounts or you want to create a presentation, you don’t need to install something heavy like MS Office or even Libre Office. In the same vein in order to do basic editing of images and photographs there are many online tools available. Just make an audit of your computer and find out which resource-heavy applications on your computer can be replaced by their cloud-counterparts. 80% of the features of your desktop applications you never even use.

Keep your registry up-to-date

Your registry file keeps track of which file is associated with which program. It basically knows the entire neighborhood of your computer. As you randomly install and uninstall computer applications many files are left un-related. Although registry entries of these files may exist, your registry file may not know what to do with these files even though it constantly has to go through these files. Programs like CCleaner can help you clean up your registry to a great extent. Another good program is “PC Tuneup Utilities” that not only keeps your registry file healthy but it also allows you to control the execution of various programs so that you are in full command.

Have a good antivirus installed

As already mentioned above it was easier to keep your computer virus-free in the pre-Internet days even without antivirus software (as long as you didn’t allow people to use alien diskettes) but these days an antivirus utility is as important as having a browser. Various viruses, spyware and malware are so active on the Internet that sometimes they installed on your computer the moment you go online. This is why it is extremely important that you install reputed antivirus software and also keep its virus database files updated on a regular basis.

Get your computer cleaned up regularly

The overheating of your fan can also slow down your computer and so can other components that have become dirty. Do you work in a dusty environment, or very humid? Even if you think that your environment is totally clean, you should get a professional open up your computer and clean it up every 6-7 months.

Format and restore your computer at least once a year

You don’t have to do it on your own if you’re not familiar with the activity. You can contact your neighborhood computer repair service and ask them to format your hard drive and clean install everything. Of course it can be a tedious process especially when you have to take backup. That is why it is very important that you routinely backup your data.

These are a few activities that can keep your computer running faster for a longer time.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to make good use of your old computer

Have you got an old computer lying around that you don’t want to discard simply because it is still working in one way or another? With some adjustments and tweaks, you can make a good use of it, whether for yourself, or for someone else. First of all you have to understand that no matter how old a computer there is, it can always be useful to someone. Not everybody is looking for a quad core processor and a supercharged graphic card and not everybody requires a 21 or 32 inch flat monitor. Even if you are not the “old computer giving” types, you can use the computer for yourself, or someone in your family can make better use of it, for instance, your mom, or even your granny.

Good use of old computer

Good use of your old computer

Listed below are a few things you can do to make good use of your old computer:

Install a less resource-hungry operating system

Ubuntu, for instance. It is one of the most widely used open source operating systems based on Linux, but completely GUI. Provided you are not fully dependent upon Windows environment, you won’t even notice the difference in many cases. The greatest advantage of installing Ubuntu, or one of its greatest versions is that you can also use it on computers with older configurations. This blog post explains how you can install LXDE, one of the lightest Linux distros available, on a very old computer. You may also like to read How to choose the best Linux distro for you.

Convert your old computer into a server

You may think, now why would you require a server? Suppose there are multiple computers and laptops in your household and sometimes people need to access common files. Instead of investing money in something like Dropbox or even Google Drive, why not just create your own server where you can put all the commonly accessed files, such as music and video files and then connect every device to it? It is not as difficult or geeky as it may sound initially. Here is a nice blog post that explains how to convert your old computer into a server.

Use it for running old games

Remember those Windows 98 and even DOS games? If you are still crazy about those games, you can format your disk if it contains a higher version of the operating system and then you can install one of those antiquated operating systems. There are many websites on the Internet from where you can install computer games of the yore.

Use it as a storage system

It is similar to the above point that talks about converting your old computer into a server, but in this case you don’t necessarily have to connect all your devices to this computer. You can simply use it to store files that you require but you don’t use them often such as old movies and MP3 songs. With a little bit of investment in cables and docks, you can even hook your old computer to your TV and output all the video files to it.

Make your old computer available to distributed computing

There are many distributed computing projects you can get involved in. These are basically megaprojects that require to connect to multiple computers through a network (for example, SETI). It doesn’t matter what operating system you are using.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to be amazingly productive by getting up early in the morning

Here is a nice article titled why productive people get up insanely early. Although we all have creative energy spurts at different parts of the day, various studies have repeatedly proven that it’s the people who get up very early in the morning who spend amazingly productive lives. I am personally a big fan of getting up early in the morning, although my ideal time is not as early as 4 AM (this might also be because my family’s current lifestyle doesn’t allow me to go to bed around 8 PM). I can increase my productivity almost 300-500% simply by starting my work at 7 AM. By the time it is 12 PM, most of my creative work is done.

Early-morning productivity

Early-morning productivity

When you get up early in the morning, you get a head start. Just imagine, people normally start doing work at around 9:30 AM or 10 AM, and by that time, you have already achieved a significant portion of your work. Of course it is an advantage if you work on your own from home – if everybody comes to office at 9:30 AM, you cannot reach there at 7:30 AM and start working. The logic of getting up early in the morning – really early – mostly applies to people who don’t have to align their activities with the others.

The evolutionary reason for getting up at the crack of dawn

Electricity, and consequently, lighting, is a recent development. Before that, it made sense to take advantage of the sunlight as much as possible. Just imagine, you need to work when there is light, and then you waste a few hours of this light sleeping. So people used to get up with the sun and wind up when the sun went down. In the darkness they could just have food, spend time with the family in the candlelit environs of their homes, maybe get drunk, and then go to sleep. By 7:30 PM or 8 PM, it was as seriously a night as these days we experience at 2:30 AM. Consequently, people could get up at the crack of dawn quite easily.

Our lifestyles have changed. It’s difficult for us to get up really early because we cannot go to bed really early. We have ample lighting and if we want, we can go on working throughout the night without even realizing that it is night.

Getting amazingly productive by getting up early in the morning

  • You should be a morning person: Let’s accept, some people are simply not morning people, and I have a few people around me. It is not that they are lazy or anything, their bodies have different ways of reacting to getting up. When I have had my sleep of 6-7 hours, I awaken alert. I don’t feel like going back to sleep. I can wake up, get refreshed, have a cup of tea, and start my work within 45 minutes. But if you can’t, don’t fret. It’s not about sticking to a time, it’s about utilizing your energy to reach optimal productivity.
  • Get your preferred amount of sleep: Sleep deprivation can take its toll on productivity. You may also like to read How to cope with sleep deprivation. So there is no use getting up early in the morning if you didn’t go to bed on time. Getting up at five in the morning after going to bed at 12 is going to make you very unproductive. If this is the case, more important is getting a full night’s sleep rather than trying to prove a point.
  • Make it into a gradual process: Your body develops its own schedule according to your lifestyle. You can’t change your lifestyle just in a couple of days, and even if you try, your body has its own scheme. All of a sudden you can’t decide one day that you are going to change your sleeping pattern. It has to be a slow process. Maybe a few days you won’t be able to sleep on time. Even if you fall asleep, you may wake up in the middle of the night, spending the rest of the night awake. Take all these eventualities into consideration. It will take you at least a week to steer your lifestyle in such a manner that you are able to get up early in the morning without having adverse side effects.
  • Make the maximum use of your productive time: Once you have gotten to getting up early in the morning, you will feel very energized and productive. Don’t waste that time checking emails, posting on Facebook and arguing with people on Twitter. These are not productivity-boosting activities. If you normally don’t have time-critical emails to reply, avoid checking them until noon. Put your phone somewhere else. Ask your family members not to disturb you.
  • Develop a routine and then stick to it: Our body and mind love routines. Try to develop one in the morning. Get up, do a little exercise, have a bath, groom yourself for the day, have a good breakfast, pray if you want and play some soothing music in the background when you start doing your work.
  • Make your environment comfortable: Lots of clutter creates senseless noise in your brain and this will tire you soon. Cleanup your workplace. Open the window of your room if it is not very cold. Let the chirping of the birds and the morning breeze come in if you don’t live in an extremely cold place.
  • Accomplish your most challenging tasks the first: Don’t procrastinate when it comes to doing difficult tasks. Postponing them can be a big drain on your productivity. Important tasks are those without which your remaining tasks hold no meaning – unless those important tasks are taken care of, you cannot call your day productive. So take them by their horns. This will also free you up intellectually and you will be able to become more productive.

Starting a morning routine can be quite challenging, at least in the beginning, so be prepared for that. You really need to want that, that is, getting up early in the morning at the crack of dawn. It’s a habit that can change your entire lifestyle, but once you can adapt yourself according to it, you will feel amazingly productive.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to improve your click through rate (CTR) by 200%

Do you know that you can improve your CTR by 200% by simply changing the language of your title and your description?

Even if you are able to improve your search engine rankings and many of your blog and website URLs have begun to appear on the first page of the search engine results, it isn’t necessary that all the people who find you there are going to click your links. The number of times your link appears in front of people divided by the number of times people click your link is called its CTR – click-through ratio.

It’s your search engine rankings combined with your click-through ratio that eventually decides how effective your SEO efforts have been. That’s why the importance of effective copywriting can never be sidelined. In the meantime you may also like to read 10 steps to improve your organic search engine rankings.

Your CTR depends on

  • Your search engine rankings (if people are not able to see it, how are they going to click it?)
  • The title of your link
  • The description of your link

If people aren’t clicking your link, it doesn’t matter how outstandingly you have performed in your SEO efforts. By the end of the day what matters is how much traffic you are able to draw. If your title and your description aren’t convincing enough, the search engine rankings do not matter.

So how to improve your CTR – click through ratio 200%?

If you are experiencing good search engine rankings, let us assume that you are following the convention of using your primary keywords in the title tag and also prominently, in your description. So there is no need going over that.

What remains to be taken care of is the language and the message you convey. Is it convincing enough? Do people really think that your link provides what they’re looking for? This is very important. If they think your link doesn’t contain the information they’re looking for, they’re not going to click. Your title needs to be very convincing.

Take for instance the title of this blog post. The moment you come across it, you realize two things: it shows you how to improve your CTR, and it also shows you how much you can improve by following the suggestions in this blog post. If you want to know exactly this, you immediately know that the blog post may provide you that. I use the word “may” because you can also be misled.

Your language must address to the person looking for the information. It should sound enthusiastic – if you aren’t feeling excited about your link, how do you expect people to feel excited about it? Don’t make hyperbolic claims but make your offer as convincing as possible. Highlight the most overwhelming benefit of visiting the link and quantify the benefit as much as possible. In fact this is something that even I have been missing – unless you able to quantify what you’re delivering, people aren’t convinced much.

Use action words. It is not bad to actually tell people to “visit this website immediately” – use various expressions to convey the urgency.

The basic tenets of effective copywriting apply to writing even creating your page titles and descriptions. You spend lots of time creating your AdWords campaigns? When you are creating your AdWords campaigns you know that how crucial your CTR can be (the more people click your ads, the less you have to pay for the same position). Take your organic SEO with the same seriousness. Along with trying to improve your search engine rankings, also try to improve your CTR.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to find your lost or stolen Android phone even if no tracking app is installed

Lost your Android phone or tablet and wondering how to find it or at least track it where it is? Ideally such a feature should be activated on your phone when you haven’t lost it, but if you have already lost the phone, is there a chance to know its whereabouts? Yes there are.

So here we are going to discuss two case scenarios: you have got an app installed which can help you track your Android phone, or you don’t have an app.

Lost android phone

Lost your Android phone or tablet?

Let’s discuss what happens when you haven’t installed any app and you have lost your Android phone.

Finding or tracking your lost Android phone with the help of the IMEI number

Such a situation can also be divided into two parts: you were able to note down your phone’s IMEI number (International Mobile Equipment Identity Number); you don’t have this number with you. It is a unique number and this number belongs to only your device. Recently the market was flooded by Chinese phones that didn’t carry these numbers and therefore people stopped buying them.

How do you find your IMEI number? It should be printed on the backside of your phone. If it isn’t there, launch your phone app and dial the following number *#06#. This will display you the IMEI number of your phone.

Sometimes dialing this number doesn’t show you the IMEI number. Then you can directly access it by first going to Settings, then “About device” and then to “Status”. Here somewhere listed is your IMEI number.

Once you have this number, store it safely somewhere so that you can locate it in case you have lost your phone or tablet.

When you go to the police station to file an FIR, you also provide this number to them so that it can be included in the report.

Then you need to pass on this FIR along with the IMEI number to your service provider who then will be able to track your phone and let you know where it is. No matter who is using the phone and no matter what SIM card they are using, the phone will be trackable. The phone can tracked even if the phone is switched off. Once the phone is located, you can also request your service provider to block it so that nobody can use it.

This is one way of finding your lost Android phone or tablet.

Finding or trekking your Android phone or tablet without your IMEI number

What about if you don’t have your IMEI number?

Lost Android phone icon

Then you can remotely install an app called Android Lost. You can simply log onto your Google Play account and remotely install the app on your mobile phone. Again, if you haven’t yet lost your phone, you can register your device by launching the app, otherwise you can send a registration SMS from the website to your mobile phone in order to activate the app. Once the app is activated you can

  • Read your SMS messages and you can also send them to your email
  • In case you feel that although you have lost the phone but nobody has stolen it and it must be lying somewhere in your house or in the office premises, you can remotely set off an alarm so that you or someone else can hear it and find it
  • You can lock the phone so that whoever has the phone is unable to use it
  • In case you want to remove your personal data, you can wipe it off your Android phone

Using your PC or laptop you can go to the website and log in using your Google credentials (these should be the same credentials that you use to download and install the app remotely).

Check out their website in order to learn more about what all you can do once you have installed the app on your lost phone.

Many tablets don’t have SIM cards or dedicated phone numbers where you can send an SMS message in order to activate the app. In that case you first need to remotely install AndroidLost Jumpstart. Only after installing this app you should install Android Lost. This will automatically activate the application once it is installed.

Tracking your lost Android phone using Avast antivirus software

Avast! antivirus protection

If you have got the Avast antivirus software on your Android device and you haven’t lost your device yet.

Just go to the application dashboard and activate the Avast anti-theft module. If it isn’t installed, you will need to download it from Google Play first and install it.

Once Avast anti-theft module is installed, you will need to enter your name, a 6 digit pin (save it somewhere so that you can retrieve it in case your phone or tablet is lost), and your friend’s or family member’s phone number (with all international codes). Tap “Continue”.

After this you are prompted to create or set up an Avast! account on the website. This is a good time to connect your device to their website. If you are already registered, simply enter your login details, if you are not, you will need to create a new account.

Once you have connected your device, you’re all set. In case there are some issues, you notice a button in the confirmation screen that says “Issues!”. Tap on it in order to resolve those issues. In most of the cases the primary warning is that you haven’t set Avast anti-theft as the device administrator. If you don’t do that, you won’t be able to wipe the data off your device in case you have lost your device. Also if you have taken care of this issue, the person who is in possession of your device won’t be able to uninstall the anti-theft feature.

After this, from your PC you can go to the Avast website, log into your account and there you can see all the details regarding your phone:

Avast! anti-theft dashboard


Click to enlarge
Avast! anti-theft dashboard

When you need to track your phone, simply come back to this particular screen, from the drop-down menu (where the red arrow is pointing to) “Choose command” you can select the appropriate action that you want to carry out.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to choose the best Linux distro for you

There was a time when Linux was just for geeks and nerds. The regular folks, in the olden days stuck to DOS, and then they quietly started using the various versions of Windows operating system. Until came Ubuntu. It is one of the best GUI-based Linux distros and once you have installed it you can use your computer or your laptop just the way you use in Windows. In fact many claim that Ubuntu is far better compared to Windows.

But Ubuntu isn’t the only Linux distro available to the hoi polloi. There are more than 50 Linux distributions according to this great review. So how do you choose?

Linux distributions

Linux distributions

It depends on your hardware and if the choice of hardware doesn’t matter (because you have the latest), then the choice hinges upon the variety of software applications you require.

The main problem with various Linux distros is that they normally don’t work out of the box, as you can manage with Windows. Installing Linux operating systems like Ubuntu is quite easy and straightforward, and provided you are careful about the various options, you can install it without even spoiling your current Windows installation. The problem comes when you actually get down to using it. Even a small thing as launching your browser and connecting to the Internet can become a problem for some.

Over a long period of time you get used to using big and small applications in your Windows version and you feel quite uncomfortable when all these applications are not available in one of the Linux distros and even if there are alternatives, they require lots of command line knowledge. In that sense, so far, Ubuntu is best for you. Go to the original link mentioned above to read about other Linux distributions that you may like to try on your computer.

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How to hide your IP address for anonymous web surfing

You would like to hide your IP address for many reasons, including anonymous web surfing. Government agencies, businesses, hackers and sundry prying eyes use your IP address to know from which geographic region you are accessing the Internet in general and websites in particular.

Would you like to see what your IP address is? Visit Whatsmyip.org to know that.

Why would you like to hide that information?

  • You are working against the government or you are working on something that can get you arrested provided the law enforcement agencies know where you are located
  • You write on highly controversial topics in this upsets lots of enemies who would like to track you down and beat some sense into you
  • You want to access websites that people of your type of IP address have no business accessing
  • You don’t want businesses to use your IP address to target their ads according to your location. You also don’t want to be able to track what websites you visit and what sort of content you normally access from your computer
  • You are paranoid

Although personally I would never advise you to work against your government or do such stuff that demands anonymous web surfing, sometimes it can be helpful. So this blog post is for those people who just want to dabble with anonymity for, at the least, just playing around with the idea, and at the most, for scholarly purposes.

At the outset I would like to tell you that there is no foolproof way to hide your IP address unless you are a super geek or work in a high-profile cyber cell and have access to very expensive tools and software applications. But for normal folks, the information contained within this blog post should be helpful.

Can hiding your IP address slow down your web surfing?

Yes, sometimes it can. It’s like, you are re-routing all the traffic so it is going to take some toll but mostly it is going to be imperceptible. For instance, if you are surfing the web through a proxy server (when you use a proxy server then the IP address of that server becomes your IP address) your browsing speed depends on their proxy server. The same goes for a VPN (virtual private network) although they are comparatively faster.

On with hiding your IP address

There are multiple ways you can hide your IP address.

The most prominent these days is downloading and installing Tor. According to the website:

Individuals use Tor to keep websites from tracking them and their family members, or to connect to news sites, instant messaging services, or the like when these are blocked by their local Internet providers. Tor’s hidden services let users publish web sites and other services without needing to reveal the location of the site. Individuals also use Tor for socially sensitive communication: chat rooms and web forums for rape and abuse survivors, or people with illnesses.

Then it goes on to explaining how journalists interact with whistleblowers and dissidents using the same method.

You can explore their website to know more about the software. The best option, according to them, if you want to remain really anonymous, is to install their custom-built Tor browser.

The easiest way to hide your IP address is using any of the easily available web proxy services on the Internet, for instance hidemyass.com. Once you start using their service your IP address and your location is totally hidden from hackers, spies and advertisers. You may also find it useful while trying to access websites that might be blocked in your region. Suppose there is political censorship in your country and certain information is not allowed to reach you. In such case scenarios you can quickly use one of these web proxy servers to access such websites.

Running a virtual private network is another good option. A VPN has different definitions and applications – it depends on who is explaining – but from the perspective of this blog post, it can be used to securely access websites while hiding your identity and encrypting your data. There is a very well-written article on why you should start using a VPN and how to select the best option for yourself or your business.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to uninstall Ubuntu if Windows is already there

You probably installed Ubuntu on your Windows machine just to check out the open-source operating system everybody loves to talk about and boast about but you have realized that it is not your cup of tea. There are many applications and features that you have gotten used to in Windows that are either not available in Ubuntu, or it is very difficult to install them and then tweak them. There is still lots of command line stuff that you need to do in Ubuntu in order to make it work according to your preferences and this requires you to know lots of Linux commands.

People who are already comfortable with Linux commands may not find it difficult to use Ubuntu, but if you started using your computer way after people were using DOS, Linux and other such operating systems, you will find it tedious and difficult to use long strings of commands just to download programs from various repositories and then install them. Sometimes it even doesn’t seem worth it.

Another problem many people have faced is that even when they have finally gotten to using Ubuntu, suddenly there is a program that simply refuses to work. All these nags are forcing many people to either uninstall Ubuntu completely, or just let it be there when Windows becomes the primary operating system again.

Why would you uninstall Ubuntu?

Frankly, there is no big reason to uninstall it if you have got lots of space and it is simply on another partition. It normally does not hog your system resources while it is just there. So there is no need to get rid of it even if you don’t need it. You would only uninstall if you are in dire need of more space. Once you have installed Ubuntu it takes over your bootup sequence and your computer boots in Ubuntu. You can easily change the sequence so that your computer boots up using Windows. You may like to read How to change the boot sequence or grub boot order in Ubuntu — slightly old blog post, but you can use the information from there

Getting to the uninstallation part

There are two ways people install Ubuntu on their machines as dual boot up (having Ubuntu and Windows running on the same machine).

One way is installing Ubuntu from within Windows just like any other program and your computer turns into a dual booting machine. It means your computer can be booted from Windows as well as Ubuntu and it depends on your preference. The program needed to install Ubuntu from within Windows is called Wubi. If you use this, then uninstalling Ubuntu is simply a breeze. You can use the Wubi uninstaller.

Ubuntu Wubi menu

Ubuntu Wubi menu

The real problem comes when you installed Ubuntu from outside of Windows – booting your computer from an Ubuntu DVD and then creating a separate partition for installing the operating system. Then it becomes quite a tricky task to achieve. This article on Make Use of has done a better job of explaining how to uninstall Ubuntu from a Windows-running dual booting machine.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to make better use of technology as an NGO

Technology for NGOs

Better use of technology for NGOs

NGOs are always hard pressed for cash so they can always make better use of technology provided they know what to do. Every office these days has computers and a broadband connection. It’s the software and additional technologies that are often very costly and hence act as a deterrent towards a better use.

Whether it is communication or collaboration as the cash-strapped NGO you don’t need to spend much money on them. Listed below are the free resources that help you make better use of technology.

Document collaboration

It’s amazing many people working in NGOs don’t know that in order to collaborate they don’t have to be at a single location. Google docs allows you to collaborate from multiple locations. Even from different cities, different states and different countries. Your team members can work on a single document simultaneously. Whether you’re looking for word processing to create reports and articles for your maintaining spreadsheets, or even if you are preparing presentations, multiple people can work from their respective locations on single documents.

Free video conferencing

With web cams easily available (some computer monitors and laptop monitors have web cams embedded into their frames) video conferencing is not an expensive affair. You can either download and install Skype on your computer or you can also use Google Hangout. In fact Google Hangout is much better when many people are involved in the video conference from multiple locations. So the next time you need to meet the members of your NGO who are at different locations, all they need to have is a computer or a laptop with a broadband connection and a web cam and you can have face-to-face conversations. People can even participate from their web enabled smart phones and tablets. You can also video conference while collaborating on documents, for that matter.

Another benefit of using Google Hangout is that you can record the entire conference and save it on YouTube so that people who are somehow unable to attend the conference can view it later on.

Collective notetaking

While video conferencing or collaborating on documents if you need to save web clips and other information you can use EverNote. It is the most famous notetaking application.

Storing commonly accessed files in the cloud

Sometimes many people need to access your documents and it doesn’t make sense to email them to and fro. You can save all the important documents needed by everybody in Dropbox or Google Drive. Both come with introductory free accounts with sufficient amount of space. You can install interfaces from both of them on your local hard drive so that you don’t have to access the web each time you need to access your files. They are automatically kept synchronized across multiple devices

Video hosting

YouTube is not just for killing time and watching cute cat videos. You can upload videos of your NGO activities. Suppose you are attending an important workshop and you would like other members to listen to a particular presentation or a lecture. You can record a video and afterwards you can upload it on YouTube at no extra cost. You can also create a YouTube channel for your NGO for broadcasting similar videos regularly.

Open source operating system with every possible application you may ever need

If you want to save money on license fee you can download and install another operating system on all your windows-based computers and laptops. Ubuntu is a great GUI-based operating system that many consider far better than Windows. All the applications such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, video conferencing, chatting, image editing, etc. are available in Ubuntu. All you have to do is download an Ubuntu ISO file, burn it on a DVD and then use the same DVD to install the operating system on multiple computers. You can also run it parallel to your existing Windows operating system.

Project management

Want to instill a sense of focus, accountability and urgency among your NGO members? One of the best free project management tools is do.com. You can create new projects, include members in the projects, assign tasks to different members, set deadlines, and track their individual performances without any cost.

Free web hosting and site building[h]

Google Sites allows you to build basic websites and even host them free of cost. So if you have been contemplating getting a website for your NGO, you can use this free Google service and have a website within a couple of hours, or even less, depending upon your immediate requirement.

Free branded email

Branded email makes more impact compared to free email services such as Yahoo mail and Gmail. Suppose you are running an NGO website called http://myngo.org It makes more sense to have an email something like donate@myngo.org rather than simply having donate@gmail.com. Google apps allows you to do that. Setting up a branded email ID using Google apps requires some degree of technical help, but a little bit of documentation can help. You may like to read How to use Google apps to manage your business email (nothing to worry about business, you can apply the same information for setting up your NGO email ID)

Using VoIP to make free telephone calls

This might not be as handy as it may seem initially, but if both the caller and the call recipient has Wi-Fi as well as smart phones such as the iPhone or one of the Samsung galaxy phones, Skype can be installed and used to make Skype-to-Skype calls.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to look beautiful with a disability

Being beautiful isn’t just for those who don’t have any physical disability. Anybody can look beautiful, lovable and wanted. This is not just a pep talk, it is a reality that very few people realize. Many people snigger at the thought that “it’s the inner beauty that matters” failing to realize why such thoughts are immortal.

Whether you have had a disability for ages or you have just acquired it recently due to an accident or an illness, it is not the end of the road. Of course circumstances have changed and you have to look at life with a new perspective and no matter what everybody says, you might be feeling in the dumps and that’s all right. You might even be feeling ugly, even that is all right.

The problem comes when you give up totally on being beautiful simply because you have a disability and somehow you cannot relate to it. The problem might not just be with you. Even the outlook of the society is quite negative in this regard. Fortunately, things are changing. These days you have wheelchair beauty pageants. Some of you may have also seen the TV serial “Push Girls” that is about these 4 very attractive girls on wheelchairs. More and more people are using disability and sexuality in the same sentence without feeling awkward or ill at ease. There are multiple disability dating websites.

Whether you want to look beautiful or not is all in your mind. Primarily your thoughts and your attitude decide how you look. Take for instance, this photograph of Stephen Hawkin’s

A smiling Stephen Hawking

A smiling Stephen Hawking

Despite having severe disability (he has motor neuron disease) this is often termed as, non-condescendingly, one of the most beautiful smiles in the world simply because of his inner beauty and his outlook towards life, towards the world, and towards the universe. Do you know that he can only use the tip of a single finger? You may also like to read 10 Cool Things You Didn’t Know about Stephen Hawking

In order to look and feel beautiful first of all you must change the conventional definition of beauty that is constantly being beamed by advertising agencies. You don’t need to look like a quintessential model in order to look beautiful.

No matter how you look, no matter how your face and your body look, you can be beautiful. Here are a few things you need to do:

Get rid of negative thoughts about yourself

Less confident people have this strange look of hopelessness that prevents them from looking the way they actually are. Have belief in yourself. Even if in the beginning it has to be a conscious effort, don’t feel discouraged. Be at peace. We all have our place in the universe. People are miserable because they cannot figure out what the place is. Start looking for it and it will show on your face.

Get rid of negative thoughts about others

Are you constantly feeling resentful? Are you constantly judging people how they treat you? You always hold other people responsible for your condition? Negative thoughts create a negative aura around you. Even if it is not directly visible, it has an effect on how you look and how you present yourself to others.

Take care of your personal hygiene and grooming

Being a person with disability doesn’t mean that people don’t want you to look clean, well groomed and presentable. Grooming is a big part of looking beautiful and this holds true for everybody. Try to look on the Internet for the photograph of celebrities who haven’t applied makeup.

Mila Kunis without makeup

Mila Kunis without makeup

I’m not saying that you have to apply makeup everyday. But comb you hair, wash yourself regularly if you can manage, keep your face clean, brush your teeth and trim your nails. Choose your clothes carefully if it is up to you and even if it is not up to you, let it be known that you would like to wear clothes of your choice.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Have you started neglecting your waistline simply because you don’t see yourself getting off your wheelchair? Whether you are walking, lying on your bed or sitting in your wheelchair, that flab around your waist is visible to everybody. Again, sometimes you can help it, sometimes you cannot. But if you can, try to lose weight if you are overweight. Do some physical exercises. Eat healthy food. When you’re feeling healthy your skin has a natural glow and your body looks relaxed and flexible.

Don’t be overly conscious of your looks

Needlessly worrying about your looks only makes it worse. Whatever is your physical disposition, however your face looks, you cannot change them. So why make it worse? Just relax. By simply relaxing, you can improve your looks by 20-30%. Even when people react in a stupid manner, it is their problem, not your. You have a disability and it is a part of you. It is not an appendage that you can get rid of. You cannot suddenly get rid of your disability in a room full of people. Even if somebody comes in front of you, ridicules you, laughs at you, makes fun of you or imitates you, you cannot change yourself; you have to face that situation. So why needlessly worry about it and spoil your mood, and consequently, your looks? That person will eventually get bored and move on. Of course if you want to bang your wheelchair into him or her or if you want to hit him or her with your crutch, go ahead and do it. Just don’t feel miserable about yourself.

Life is what you make of it, and so is your beauty. You don’t need to have a sixpack. You don’t need an hourglass figure. Whatever disability you have, in order to look beautiful, you need to feel beautiful.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to save data when Windows is crashed

First of all you should know the difference between “Windows is crashed” and your hard disk is crashed. One is an operating system and hence a software problem and the other is a hardware problem. Software and operating system problems can be easily resolved, and there is no reason to panic. Hardware problems on the other hand, may require expert help. Whatever is the case, you can always save your data.

Your operating system has corrupted or crashed if you cannot boot your system. In this blog post I’m not discussing how you should find out whether your Windows has crashed or not, when I’m writing this, I’m assuming that you already know.

It always helps when you’re already prepared, but even if you are not prepared, and your Windows has crashed, you can still save your data. If you’re reading this blog post it means you have access to a computer or a laptop (even if you are reading this from your smart phone or a tablet, you’re going to require a computer).

The easiest way to save your data (assuming your hard disk is still working) is to have an Ubuntu installation CD or DVD. Ubuntu is an open source operating system based on Linux but it is giving tough competition to every sort of Windows-based operating system. You can download the ISO file and then burn it on a DVD. Once you have burned the ISO file, it becomes a bootable DVD. Even if your Windows operating system hasn’t crashed yet, it is a good idea to download the ISO file from the Ubuntu website, burn it on a DVD, label it and keep it somewhere safe so that you can save your data in the hour of need.

Before you can run your DVD in the damaged computer you will need to access your BIOS to instruct the computer that it should boot from the DVD rather than from the hard disk (that is, it should seek boot-related files from your DVD and not from your primary hard disk where your crashed Windows resides).

In most of the computers you can access the BIOS section by pressing Del (when you have just started your computer somewhere in the corner appears “Press DEL to enter BIOS”, or something like that). Some computers and laptops have different keys for entering the BIOS setup so you may have to find that out.

Once you are there in the BIOS setup you would have to go to the section that allows you to change the boot sequence. Once you have changed the sequence, save the new settings and exit BIOS setup.

Your computer reboots and if your Ubuntu DVD is already there in the drive, your computer should fire up from there.

After booting it begins installing the new operating system, but don’t worry, it won’t install unless you want to.

From this screen select “Try Ubuntu without any change to your computer” and it will be run from your DVD. Once it is running you get the following screen:

Ubuntu screen from DVD

This is the Ubuntu desktop icon that you have to click in order to access something similar to “My Computer” in Windows.

If you have multiple partitions on your computer, all the partitions should be visible on the left-hand side bar. Click the relevant drive and you will be able to access its contents.

Once you can access the drives, you can save your data on a USB hard disk or whenever you feel like.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

10 steps to improve your organic search engine rankings

Organic search engine rankings

Improving organic search engine rankings may require lots of time and effort, but once they begin to show results, they are more long-lasting compared to the search engine spikes that you may experience due to some random back links and one of your links going viral on social networking websites.

What do we exactly mean by organic search engine rankings?

There are two ways you can get traffic from search engines: by natural, organic listings, or by paying for your placements, a la Adwords campaign in Google.

For paid placements, as the name suggests, you have to pay for visibility. Most of such programs are PPC-based, that is, you pay for every click sent your way. Whether your listings appear at the top on the first page, or at the bottom on the first page, or somewhere on the second or third page, depends on how much you are ready to pay per click. The more you pay, the higher your rankings. Although in Google Adwords if your ads perform well, eventually you can pay less per click for even higher rankings but whether you pay more or for less, you need to pay for every click and after a while it can become very costly.

Organic search engine rankings on the other hand, don’t require you to pay for every click. So once you have improved your rankings, whether you received one click, 1000 clicks or for that matter 100,000 clicks, you don’t have to pay anything. This is the overwhelming benefit of improving your organic search engine rankings. But how do you do that? How do you improve your rankings naturally? Listed below are 10 most relevant things you can do to improve your search engine rankings organically.

  1. Publish high-quality content: Your content is the most important aspect of your rankings. Search engines rank you for your content – for its quality, for the value it provides and also for its popularity. You need to create content that people want to consume and also want to share. They will only share it if they like it and if they think that it will add value to the lives of their friends and colleagues. In order to improve your organic search engine rankings, publishing high-quality content is the first, and the most important step.
  2. Stick to a publishing routine: Content publishing shouldn’t be in spikes and sparks. Just like any other professional publication, you should publish high-quality blogs and articles under your domain on a regular basis. This is because once you have set up a schedule, the search engine crawlers begin visiting your domain with the concurrent regularity. For instance, if you publish one blog post every day, your website or blog will be indexed every day. If you publish multiple times every day, your content is crawled and indexed multiple times every day. If you publish once a week, the content is crawled and indexed accordingly. So maintain a schedule for better crawling and indexing.
  3. Focus on a niche readership: If you try to provide value to everybody, you end up providing value to none. Instead of becoming a horizontal source, try to become a vertical source. Choose the subject and then cover every topic under it. The more focused you get, the better rankings your website enjoys.
  4. Focus on your primary keywords: In order to rank well for your keywords, you have to create content using those keywords. Don’t go overboard because you can end up being penalized, but use your primary and secondary keywords in a natural manner, as many times as possible. You may also like to read How to select the right keywords for SEO.
  5. Use your keywords in title and description: Your title is something that appears as hyperlink in search results. It has been established beyond doubt that people click those links more that contain the keywords they have just searched for. So it’s very important that you strategically use your keywords in the title of your webpage or blog post as well as for the description meta tag.
  6. Focus on longtail keywords: While carrying out searches people rarely use single words. They tend to use sentences or at least expressions containing 5-6 words. For instance, if you want to improve your organic search engine rankings, you wouldn’t just search for “organic search engine rankings”. In the same manner, if you’re looking for a plumbing service, you won’t just search for “plumbing service”, you will search for “plumbing service in LA” if you happen to live in LA. That is how people carry out searches so while focusing on your primary keywords you should also focus on optimizing your content for longer sentences.
  7. Link to your other articles and blog posts while creating new content: Interlinking is very important when it comes to making your content accessible to both humans as well as search engine crawlers. Whenever there is an opportunity, link to an existing blog post or article under your domain, preferably your keywords in the hypertext that you use.
  8. Use SEO friendly URLs: The links, or the permalinks, or the URLs should have your keywords. This is more important when you’re using a CMS in order to publish content. Instead of your URL being http://yourdomain.com/index.php?p=34 it is better to have something like http://yourdomain.com/seo-friendly-urls if you are writing a blog post or an article on the same topic.
  9. Share your content on social networking websites: More and more search engines these days showcase content from social networking websites such as Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes content links that don’t enjoy good organic search engine rankings on their own begin showing up via their social networking website listings.
  10. Improve your popularity rank: Author rank these days is as important as Page Rank (page rank means how many high-quality websites link to your blog or website). Try to establish yourself as an authority. Become a sort of to figure. This isn’t as hard as it may seem initially. If you constantly publish high-quality content on your blog or on your website and then share your content under your social networking profiles, eventually people begin to recognize you and they begin to relate you to your field. This way your face becomes recognizable. Eventually people begin to link to your content not because of its quality (no, this is not recommended, but this is the reality of the world) but because of your name, and this in turn has a massive impact on your organic search engine rankings.
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How to use custom fonts in WordPress

Would you like to use custom fonts in WordPress? But what exactly are custom fonts?

When people see your website or blog, whether you are using WordPress or any other CMS, only those fonts installed on their computers are rendered. For instance, if you use Verdana on your website and they don’t have this font installed on their computer, this font rendering will be replaced by another font. This is why, when you’re mentioning what fonts to use in your stylesheet, you normally mention multiple fonts like this:

p{
font-family:Georgia, “Times New Roman”, Times, serif
}

This means that your first choice is Georgia, but in case this font is not installed on the user’s computer, then “Times New Roman” should be used.

But what if you want the user to experience the exact font you want to use on your WordPress website irrespective of whether the font is installed on his or her computer or not? You use a custom font.

For instance if you look at the header of the blog here, you will notice that “The How to Do Things Blog” uses a bit unusual font (it is a custom font). This point is normally not found on people’s computers. It’s name is advent-Re.

In order to use a custom font in WordPress you can do two things:

  • You can upload it a font onto the theme folder of your WordPress blog
  • You can use one of the online font repositories such as Google Fonts and link to one of their fonts directly from your CSS file.

Every WordPress blog theme has its own style.css file and it is in this file that you define the layout of your blog and also get to decide what fonts and their sizes your blog or website is going to use.

There are different types of fonts, some are compatible and some are not. If you’re looking for a compatible font, use an OTF font as it can be rendered on practically every platform.

For this example let us use advent-Re.otf as it is already there and you can see it in effect.

Using one of your preferred FTP clients, you need to upload this font into the theme folder of your WordPress blog. Once it has been uploaded, it’s path should be:

/blog-path/wp-content/themes/your-current-theme/advent-Re.otf

After you have uploaded the font, you need to instruct your style.css file to make it ready for use. Use the following code:

@font-face {
font-family: advent-Re;
src: url(‘advent-Re.otf’);
}

Once these lines of code are included, you can use this font as any other font. For example, if you want to use it with your <h1> tag:

h1{
        font-family: advent-Re;
}

What if you want to use one of the Google fonts. It is even easier. You don’t have to upload any font and you can directly link to it either from your header.php file or through your style.css.

Just go to Google fonts, find the custom font that you would like to use on your WordPress blog or website, and preferably click the “Quick Use” icon.

Quick use Google font icon

On the following page there are different sections marked as 1, 2, 3 and 4. Go to 3.

There are different tabs. If you copy paste the contents of the first “Standard” tab you will have to put this line in the header.php file within <head></head>.

The second tab, @import allows you to use the font from your style.css file.

Some people also prefer to use JavaScript, but you shouldn’t unnecessarily use JavaScript routines so let us skip that.

Once you have referenced to the font directly you can use it in the user manner using the stylesheet definition font-family: font-name.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to change the WordPress admin name in MySQL

One among the biggest reasons why WordPress websites easily get hacked is that most people have “admin” as their admin name (although the latest versions of WordPress installation allow you to enter your own admin name). So once a person who wants to hack into your website or blog knows that your admin name is “admin”, all he or she has to do is try out different passwords. You may also like to read How to create a strong password and remember it.

The problem is, WordPress declares that once you have chosen your admin name, you cannot change it. It is true for the WordPress dashboard interface, but if you can access your MySQL database directly you can easily change your admin name.

Remember that, even a small thing can wreck havoc with your blog or website, so you have to be really careful while accessing your actual MySQL database that controls your WordPress setup and its content.

You will first need to go to your web hosting control panel. Once you are there, locate an icon or a link that allows you to go to the PHPMyAdmin section.

If you’re not sure what username or password you use for your MySQL server, you can download your wp-config.php from the root folder of your blog or website where your WordPress blog files are hosted and open the file in some text editor. There you will find the exact name of the database that you are using for that particular blog or website, the user name, and the password. In order to log into your PHPMyAdmin section you may or may not require your MySQL username or password (it depends on how your web host has configured your MySQL server ).

Once you are in PHPMyAdmin click the appropriate database (in case you have defined multiple databases) and then you need to click “wp_users” (it is the database table that contains information regarding various users registered under your setup).

At the top there are various tabs; you need to go to “Browse” if you aren’t already there. At the top of the table must be the row that contains the details of the admin.

Editing WordPress login name in PHPMyAdmin

Click “Edit” and you come across the screen that allows you to change “user_login”. If you want you can also change other details but avoid changing the password if you are not sure what encryption to use while manually entering password in a MySQL database table. You should better do it via the WordPress change password interface.

That’s it. Click “Go” and you have saved the user_login. This is going to be your new admin name.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to limit the number of login attempts in WordPress

While reading about how to make your WordPress hosted website or blog more secure, I came across this nice plug-in that limits the number of login attempts in WordPress. What does that mean?

On an averagely successful (getting 5000-8000 visitors every day) website using a CMS there are multiple login attempts every hour. People are constantly trying to log into your website simply to cause trouble. They might not even gain anything substantial out of the activity, but just because they can hack into your website, they will do it and destroy your data. Just imagine working on a blog for multiple years and suddenly you find that all your blog posts have been wiped out. Devastating. And it happens to people on a recurring basis.

The tragedy is, it can be easily avoided by taking some precautions, and one of such precautions is limiting the number of login attempts. It means if somebody tries to log into your WordPress website or blog by trying out various username and password combinations, after a few attempts, there is a lockout, which means no further login attempts for a set period of time. Multiple login attempts can be carried out via an automated script or manually.

In order to stop people from attempting to log into your WordPress blog or website multiple times you need to install this plug-in, called Limit Login Attempts. Once installed, and once activated, you will have to go to Settings of your WordPress dashboard screen and then from there “Limit Login Attempts” and you come to the following screen:

Limit Login Attempts Settings

It tells you up till now how many lockouts have been implemented (how many times it was tried to log into your WordPress blog or website and lockout was invoked).

Under Options you can decide how many retries you want to allow and for how many minutes you want the lockout to last. There is also a checkbox where you can decide after how many tries an e-mail must be sent to the admin that somebody is regularly trying to log in. After making all the entries you can click “Change Options” and you have successfully limited the number of login attempts in WordPress.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

From where can you download the preview version of Windows 8.1

Would you like to try out the latest Windows 8.1 in real-time? Microsoft has released a preview version of the operating system so that users can download and install it and provide feedback.

Windows 8.1

Before you download Windows 8.1 a note of caution: remember that it is not the final software so it might be full of bugs and discrepancies. So don’t install it for serious work and definitely take backup if you’re going to use your main computer or laptop to try out the latest Windows version.

You may also check out the Preview FAQ section on the Microsoft website to make sure that your hardware is compatible with the latest version.

Installing Windows 8.1 Preview will be like installing a complete system because there is no going back. If you want to go back to the previous version of Windows you will require a complete restore of your system.

There are two ways you can download Windows 8.1 preview version. Here is the direct link from where you can download the ISO file. Once you have downloaded the file, double-tap or double-click the file and once it opens up, double-tap or double-click setup.exe. After this the usual stuff follows that you have to do when installing an operating system.

The second method is downloading it through the Windows Store. This way you don’t have to download the ISO file and you can straightaway upgrade your existing version of Windows.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to create a photo watermark for free

A photo watermark is a near-transparent text that people put on their photos so that the real owner can be identified and the photographs that people upload on their blogs or social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, are not used commercially without the knowledge of the owners. See for example, this photograph that has a watermark on it:

Photograph with istockphoto watermark

As you can see, the iStockphoto watermark has been superimposed to convey that this photo belongs to the company.

Why people use the photo watermark?

As mentioned in the first paragraph you don’t want people to use your photographs professionally without giving you credit. You must have spent lots of money and effort getting those photographs clicked and you should be deservedly compensated for them. So you can put watermarked versions of your photographs and if people want to use your photographs after paying you or after giving you credit, you can perhaps give them the photo without the watermark. This is the basic reason why people have a photo watermark.

You can also use it as a branding tool if you’re going to post your photographs on multiple photo hosting websites and other places. When people look at these photos, they will also see your name. If you are an aspiring photographer, this is a good way of spreading your name around.

Putting a photo watermark for free

Although there are great many online tools that help you create a photo watermark for free, since most of your photographs might be on your computer it will be a great hassle to first upload these photographs and then do the watermark thing. Photoshop can be a good option, but this is an expensive software so I will advise you to download and install Photoscape.

Photoscape, despite being free, is a great image editing application that, along with doing many things, also allows you to put text on your photographs and images. A good thing about putting text using Photoscape is that you can decide the transparency of the text. If you look at the above image from iStockphoto, you will see that it is almost transparent and it gives you full view of the original image. It is visible enough so that you cannot use the photograph without getting it removed.

After you have installed Photoscape open the image of your choice in it.

There is no particular “Open” menu option that helps you open images in Photoscape. You have to navigate to the folder where your images reside. The entire left hand sidebar is for that purpose. The moment you click on the exact folder, the thumbnails of the images appear at the bottom, on the left-hand side. Click on the image thumbnail and it is loaded.

The image manipulation menu appears at the bottom. You will have to select the “Object” tab.

Object tab in Photoscape

From here you can insert the text object.

Text object window in Photoscape

As you can see in the above image, you can set different attributes for the text including color, font type, border thickness and, opacity. You can move the “Opacity” slider to test how transparent you want to make the text. Once you are satisfied you can click “OK”. Once the text has been inserted, you can move it easily to your preferred location.

This is how a photo with a watermark created with the help of Photoscape appears.

Photo with watermark

Disclaimer: HowToPlaza does not own this photograph just because I have put the watermark on it.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

Dictation, speech recognition and voice to text in Google Chrome

If you really need a dictation software that can do a fair amount of speech recognition and voice-to-text you can use the inbuilt Web Speech API which is an integral part of the Google Chrome browser. Yes, all you need is a nice microphone that can clearly listen to your voice and you can dictate all you want.

Voice to text capabilities are much needed and up to now people have been using Dragon NaturallySpeaking of Nuance that has great dictation features. It even adapts itself according to your speech patterns. But it costs money, and in many regions it is still not available. Another problem is, it is not available in Ubuntu.

This is where this Google Chrome dictation and speech recognition feature can help you. All you have to do is install Dictation as a Google Chrome app and you’re ready to roll. Alternately, you can also use this direct link to do your dictation. I haven’t yet gotten to trying this feature in Ubuntu, but there should be no problem.

Once you have installed the app, in one of your Google Chrome quick launch screens, you will encounter this logo

Google Chrome dictation icon

When you click it, the speech recognition, the dictation feature is launched and you can start dictating. The voice-to-text feature is quite efficient considering it uses a web API to process your voice and then convert it to text.

Currently the dictation Google Chrome app does not have many features if you compare with a full-fledged dictation and voice recognition software such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking, but it is definitely far better than having nothing. With some practice you can reduce your typing by more than 70%.

Fundamental features of Google Chrome dictation and speech information API

In order to start dictating, you need to click “Start Dictation” at the bottom.

In order to start a new sentence, just say “new sentence” and a period is appended and the new sentence is started with first capital character.

Saying “new paragraph” inserts a line break.

When you need a break you can simply say, “stop listening” and the application will stop listening to you. Then, if you again want to start dictating, you can click “Start Dictation”

The notepad that the Google Chrome dictation app uses is editable as it has been created using HTML 5. In case you commit an error, you cannot automatically correct it using a voice command, you will have to do it manually.

Can you save the dictation data from your Google Chrome app?

Of course you can, otherwise there will be no use using the speech recognition feature. Whatever you type using the dictation software, it is auto saved; it means if you close the browser window and the next time you open it, the text will be there.

You can also export whatever you have dictated, according to a small documentation available on this blog post, to Dropbox or Google Drive but somehow it doesn’t seem to be working right now. Nonetheless, it is a great feature if you are desperately looking for the dictation software. Even right now if it doesn’t allow you to save, you can simply copy/paste the text and besides, the text is being constantly auto-saved.

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How to become a superhero

Becoming a superhero

What are the characteristics of a typical superhero? He or she performs superhuman tasks? Aside from reversing the rotation of the earth, saving the world from aliens and confronting the mutated villains, what other things make you extraordinary and catapult you into the league of superheroes?

Becoming a superhero doesn’t mean you need to accidentally fall into a tank full of exotic chemicals, or get bitten by a spider exposed to radiation or get hit by lightning at exactly the moment that is ripe for such transformations. Even in your day-to-day life, you can become a superhero. In fact, the superheroes that you read about in your comic or watch in the movies are there just for entertainment and perhaps, to revitalize our collective imagination, but other than that, they don’t solve much purpose. Then what’s the use of becoming one?

What are the traits of a superhero? He or she takes risks that normally people don’t take? He or she comes up with solutions that are unthinkable. Instead of working for himself or herself, he or she works for the greater good of the world. He or she is creative beyond the realms of the ordinary.

This aptly written article in Huffington Post illustrates how you can become a superhero without going through the preternatural trials and tribulations mentioned in the second paragraph above.

All superpowers are hyperbole of human character traits. They’d have to be, since humans are the ones who gave them to heroes in the first place. For example, Iceman’s and Pyro’s personalities in X-Men: The Last Stand reflect their supernatural abilities; Iceman is, for lack of a better word, cool and collected, whereas Pyro is unruly and volatile. Comic Con fans will hate me for proposing this, but if we imagine X-Men without superpowers, those characters would likely lead us through an exciting plot as plain humans.

Listed below are real world traits that you can develop in order to become a superhero.

Open your doors and windows to imagination

There is a reason why our world is trapped in a rut. People don’t use their imagination and insight; they want to do the tried and tested things. There is a great scarcity of people who can form ideas out of thin air and when people are able to do that, they become extraordinary. They are in great demand and people admire them to the extent of making them superheroes. This imagination doesn’t need to manifest in a groundbreaking perspective. Even the way you help your kid does his or her homework can make you an imagination superhero.

Show compassion and help people

We are becoming human islands at an alarming rate. Compassion these days is rare to see and experience. Provide comfort to those who are going through a misfortune. Be with someone who is lonely. Make a sad person laugh. Show someone the beauty of the world. Give someone a hug. Help someone at the hour of need and for that person, you are the real superhero.

Build your endurance and achieve superhuman feats

World-class athletes achieve superhuman feats. They can run extraordinarily fast. They can jump great heights. They can hit their mark with awesome accuracy. They can climb mountains and cross rivers single-handedly. It doesn’t come easy. You have to build endurance and in order to build that endurance, you have to work really hard, extraordinarily hard. This makes you extraordinary.

Trust your intuition

We all have intuitive powers, but not everybody trusts them. Do you ever have a gut feeling that something is going to go wrong or right but you ignored it because you don’t believe in your self? And then, you are amazed when that thing actually happens? The person you love deeply feels hungry and you bring something to eat without even giving it a thought and not even knowing that person is hungry? Does it ever happen that you and the person sitting beside you have the same thought and say the same thing exactly at the same moment? Science hasn’t been able to to figure out intuition but we all have it. You can, with practice, train yourself to trust your intuition and use it to your advantage. People around you will think that you have superhuman powers.

Empathize with people

Providing support to people during difficulty is well and good, but empathy is something that is not often experienced. Empathy means understanding what the person is going through. Why you cannot step into the shoes of that person, you can try to understand why that person feels miserable. Even if you cannot help in a big way, just being around in case that person needs you, can make a very big difference.

Overcome your fears

Fear plays a very important role in the way we live our lives. You may not realize it consciously, it is your fear that shapes your everyday decisions. Do you want to ask for a raise but the fear of a “no” from your boss stops you from doing that? Do you want to tell someone that you love him or her but the fear of rejection stops you? Do you want to dress in a certain manner but the fear of being ridiculed puts barriers in front of you? Do you want to move on in life but the fear of losing the company of your friends or siblings holds you back? We all have our individual fears that stop us from achieving our potential. Since the entire world seems to be driven by fear, those who can overcome their fear are the ones called brave. A brave person is not someone who doesn’t feel fear, a brave person is the one who does what he or she has to do despite the fear. You become a superhero when you overcome your fear and don’t let it stop you from doing what you want to do, what needs to be done.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan
Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to make a blog post sticky in WordPress

You want to make a blog post sticky in WordPress when you want that particular blog post to remain at the top position of your blog home page or main page. This way it remains accessible to all the traffic that comes to your blog homepage for a long time.

Normally what happens is, the blog posts on your homepage are arranged in a chronological order, with the latest blog post appearing at the top, and the blog post before it underneath, and so on. What it means is, the moment you publish your new post, the existing post moves downwards. If you have set your blog to publish 10 latest blog posts on your homepage the moment you publish the 11th blog post the 10th blog post that was once at the top, vanishes from the first page. When you want a particular blog post to be sticky, you not only want it to remain on the first page for as long as you want, but you also want it to appear at the top of all the blog posts no matter in what order the blog posts are organized.

Previously you needed a plug-in to make a blog post sticky, but no longer. All you have to do is, create a new blog post, or open an existing blog post. Then go to the “Publish” section (in case you are trying to make an existing blog post sticky, the “Publish” button will appear as “Update”) and look out for “Visibility”:

Publish section in the dashboard of WordPress

Click on “Edit” and another set of options opens up:

Sticky blog post option in WordPress

Here you can see the “Stick this post to the front page” checkbox. In case you want this post to be sticky, check this box and then click “OK”

That’s it. Once you publish the blog post, it will remain there at the top unless you uncheck this checkbox and save the blog post again.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to complete all tasks on your to-do list

Completing your to-do lists

Have you been creating your to-do lists without ever completing even 30% of the tasks you list? With an onslaught of task management (to-do list management) applications and services available for your computers and mobile devices (for instance any.do) it can be quite exciting creating long lists of things you want to accomplish in a day or a week. Even assigning different tasks to different calendar dates can charge you up.

But in most of the cases, the to-do lists remain uncompleted and unfinished. You never get to tick them off. Assuming that you are serious about your work, do you know what is the biggest culprit?

This short video on Fast Company calls it your big ugly frog, the most daunting, the most difficult task that you need to achieve in order to make your day successful. And since it is such a difficult task, it ends up dominating all the other tasks. This is how discouragement begins to seep in. Since you cannot complete this task, even the other tasks remain incomplete and unfinished. This particular task is the big spoiler. This sabotages your entire to-do list for the day. What do you do? You eat this big ugly frog the first thing in the morning. Once you have eaten this frog, that is, once you have dealt with this particular daunting task, the remaining tasks no longer remain a big deal, you can easily complete them.

It will be further helpful if you know in advance which big ugly frog you have to eat the first thing in the morning if you can identify it the night before.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to overcome laziness and increase your productivity

Overcome laziness

Laziness might be one of the greatest reasons why you’re not able to achieve your true potential. It saps your energies and it stops you from being optimally productive. It can be a great productivity killer. The problem with laziness is, in most of the cases it is not even intended. You don’t actually want to be lazy. It just happens to encapsulate you within its thick miasma that somehow you cannot penetrate. In order to be successful in your life, you need to overcome laziness and increase your productivity.

This well-written blog post elucidates 15 ways you can overcome your laziness. Some of the highlights are (there are some points that don’t appear in the original blog post):

Get rid of your habit of procrastination

A lot of your laziness may stem from your habit to procrastinate. It means postponing your most important tasks perpetually. Get to the real stuff right now and complete it. Don’t even think of postponing it. A prominent trait of procrastination is needlessly spending time on unproductive things like checking social media updates, leaving comments on various websites, reading seemingly informative articles and blog posts and collecting various bits of wisdom that you’re never going to refer to or use. All these activities, although make you feel as if you’re doing something important, are not contributing towards your overall growth. Your overall growth happens when you do the real work. For instance, if you have a big project going on and you are spending your time leaving comments on your friend’s photograph on Facebook, you have a big case of procrastination.

Set a well-defined deadline

Setting a deadline will only help you if you are true to your self. For instance, if today is Tuesday and you set your deadline as Friday, then you should make sure that your work is done by Friday.

Divide bigger tasks into smaller ones

This can be the greatest way to overcome laziness. Most of the laziness that comes from procrastination normally originates from the overbearing aspect of the tasks that need to be completed. If you’re working on a big project, for instance, creating an inventory solution, divide it into smaller, easily doable tasks and then just focus on those tasks rather than the complete project. Focus on a module or a function.

Always know what you have to do

Maintain a tasks list on a calendar of things that you need to do. If you just have a broad picture of what needs to be done, you never know actually what you should be doing right now, and when this is not clear, you tend to procrastinate and this leads to laziness. When you know exactly what you’re supposed to do then you don’t have to spend your energies and tire yourself trying to figure that out. You will also feel more motivated once you know what you need to do right now.

Interact with highly busy and motivated people regularly

It is very easy to feel lazy, drained and unproductive if you keep on living in your own isolated world and if everybody around you has the same tendency. If you want to get out of the loop and if you think that your current environment isn’t as conducive as it should be, seek out people who are driven, motivated, hard-working and action oriented. In the beginning, if your reputation precedes you they may try to ignore you, or avoid you but don’t let it make you feel let down.

Share your problem with your friends and family members

Don’t feel ashamed of your laziness. Although it is not an attribute that you can proudly wear on your sleeve, this is certainly a problem and at one time or another, every person goes through it, so they will understand. Let it be known to people around you that you are trying to overcome laziness and increase your productivity and you want their support. You want encouragement and you want them to help you remain focused.

Think of the benefit of working hard

Working hard always yields results sooner or later – it depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you want to lose 50 or 100 pounds it will take time accordingly. If you want to be a highly sought after financial adviser, then first you will need to deliver advice that performs exceptionally well and in order to achieve that, you will have to study and work.

Get to the root cause of the problem

Maybe laziness is not your real problem. Maybe you’re always in a state of low energy. How much sleep do you get? What do you have in breakfast? Do you do lots of physical activity? Do you drink lots of water? Are you going through a bad relationship? Is there a person around you who is always putting you down? All these things can drain your energy and motivation and a desire to work hard. These things have got nothing to do with laziness. Who knows, you might be depressed and you don’t even know it. Try to change your diet. Increase your energy level by eating good and exercising regularly (you will feel bad in the beginning, but gradually it will improve if you persist). Seek medical help or counseling if you think you’re going through depression.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to make your Wi-Fi connection available to only selected devices

Do you think that somebody is stealing your bandwidth? If you have an unlimited account (well, there is never an unlimited account), you may not feel the pinch in terms of bandwidth costs, but it can be a nagging experience if you have to feel speed bumps because people who are not supposed to use your broadband connection are using it. Another problem can be, whenever relatives come to visit with their own laptops and devices, they hook onto your connection, causing needless nuisance. Do you know that you can make your Wi-Fi connection available to only selected devices?

By default, your Wi-Fi router makes your connection available to everybody, provided they have access to your SSID and authentication key. Your SSID is easily visible to all those in the vicinity of your Wi-Fi router. Some can also get hold of your authentication key with their resourcefulness. On the other hand, if you have the ability to provide your Wi-Fi connection to only a selected few devices, this problem immediately vanishes. How do you do that?

For most of the Wi-Fi routers you can access the management interface by typing 192.168.1.1 in your browser. It will ask for admin name and password that you should have. Once you have logged in, go to the wireless connection management area. From there there must be a subsection called “Wireless MAC Address Filter”. You will need to tweak information in this section.

MAC address is Media Access Control used to access individual devices via the Wi-Fi connection. Each device has its own unique MAC address. Whether you have a computer, a laptop or a tablet PC it has its own MAC address.

Accessing MAC address of your device

The easiest way of finding your MAC address for a Windows 7 PC is,

  • Click the Start icon on your desktop
  • In the search box type “cmd” (without quotes) and press Enter
  • At the prompt, type “getmac” (without quotes) and press Enter

You will see two headers: Physical Address and Transport Name

Physical Address is your MAC address for your Windows 7 PC

For Samsung Galaxy go to Settings and then “About device” and then Status.

You will have to scroll a bit until you find “Wi-Fi MAC address”.

For your own specific device, you can easily search on Google how to find it’s MAC address.

Changing your Wi-Fi router settings

By default in every Wi-Fi router the Wireless MAC Address Filter is deactivated. In order to allow only particular devices to access your Wi-Fi connection, you will first need to activate this feature. For a quick description, this is how this particular section should look.

Using MAC address to give Wi-Fi access to only selected devices

After this, Save the settings and you are done. From now onwards, only the selected devices will be able to use your Wi-Fi connection.

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How to read more books in less time

Reading more books

Why do some people seem to have read every possible book you have heard of? It’s not that they don’t have jobs or the stay at home or they don’t do other fun activities. Despite being very active, socially as well as professionally, they get enough time to read the books they want to read. And not just reading books, they can also dig out the most important passages from the books and present them to you.

This blog post on Lifehacker throws some light on how some people achieve this. It again all boils down to organization.

Here are a few things you can do to read more books in less time (not all these points are included in the Lifehacker link):

Always keep a book by your side

When you have a book around you, sooner or later you start reading it. It keeps staring at you accusingly, constantly pricking your conscience. Then you have to pick it up, flip through the pages, and eventually, read it. Jokes apart, having a book around is the best way to make yourself read it.

If you can afford, use an e-book reader

Aside from its environmental plus points, an e-book reader allows you to carry, to use a cliché, 100s of books at a time. Mind you, this can be distracting – having lots of choices delays decision-making – but the good thing is, reading a book on an e-book reader is quite convenient. You don’t have to manage hundreds of pages. You can create annotations. You can immediately look up words that you don’t understand (most e-book readers these days come with their own preloaded dictionary)

If you have an Android tablet then you don’t even have to purchase a dedicated e-book reader like Kindle or Nook. You can simply install an e-book reading app and read your collection.

Keep a list of books you want to read handy

In many cases we don’t know what books you want to read. You either come across the names of the books while reading other articles and blog posts, or from your friends, and even while reading other books. Take the initiative and prepare a list of books you would like to read. Also have an inventory of books that you already have so that you don’t purchase particular books multiple times by mistake. If you want to read many books you can also maintain a spreadsheet with different columns of books that you are about to read and the books that you have already read.

Consider book reading important

Just as physical health is important, so is mental health. Reading is good for your mind. Of course there are many people who don’t have enough time to build physical as well as mental health, but what I mean to say is, if you want to read more books, then you have to take your book reading seriously. Allocate some time. Even if it’s 10 minutes that you can take out of your busy schedule, use those 10 minutes to read. Weekends can be a good time to read books. There are some people who go on holidays especially to read books.

Join a book reading club

If self-motivation – when it comes to reading books – doesn’t come to you on its own, you can join some off-line or online reading group or club. There are many. The good thing about joining a group is that everybody decides to read a particular book and once everybody has read it they talk about it. This kindles enough interest and this is also a highly engaging exercise. Besides, doing an activity with a group is always more entertaining than doing it on your own.

The author of the above-mentioned blog post also suggests how you can save notes from the books you read. He advises you to use Evernote which is an excellent notetaking application. This will especially come handy if you’re reading books off your tablet where you can run multiple applications simultaneously.

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How does 2.5 billion years old water taste?

2.5 billion-year-old water

Recently a team of scientists stumbled upon a cache of water nearly 1.5 miles under the earth’s surface in Canada. The water, trapped in the various layers of granite-like rocks, is known to be around 2.5 billion years old. It may give the scientists a peek into the super-ancient life that may have sustained itself in this water. It’s rarest of the rare opportunities. And what does one of the scientists, Barbara Sherwood Lollar does? She drinks a portion of that water.

Remember how even a one-week old water tastes? Obviously it tastes stagnant and smelly, and we are advised against consuming old, stagnant water as it may give us some stomach infection. So when even a one-week old water can give us stomachaches just imagine what a sip of 2.5 billion-year-old water can do. Actually it can be a good theme for a horror flick in which a super-ancient parasite begins to grow inside the belly of a scientist who has this weird fetish for billion-year-old water and then wrecks havoc in the world.

Anyway, this is how Dr. Lollar describes the taste of the water:

I have to admit I have tasted it from time to time. It tastes terrible. It is much saltier than seawater. You would definitely not want to drink this stuff. It’s probably not a good idea to put this potentially 2.5 billion-year-old water of indeterminate makeup into my mouth…. you know, again.

So the doctor hasn’t just tasted the water once to further the cause of science, she has tasted it “from time to time”. Come to think of it, how precious and expensive that water must be. And she is drinking it up. What if no water is left for research?

But how does such sort of water get trapped within the layers of the rocks and grows so ancient? In an interview published in the LA Times, Dr. Lollar explains:

The rocks in the Timmins mine formed about 2.6 billion years ago on what was an ancient ocean floor. Some of the water trapped in them could be remnants of ocean water that was in contact with the rock when it formed, and some of the water probably moved through cracks in the rock over time and then got stuck there.

So how do they know the age of water trapped within these rocks?

That came about from a technique that our colleagues at the University of Manchester in England have refined. The longer a fluid sits in the Earth over time, the more it interacts with the rock and creates radiogenic isotopes of the noble gases. By measuring the radiogenic isotopes in the water, we get an estimate of how old it is. These are some of the most radiogenic-rich waters that have ever been identified.

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How to access someone’s passwords without hacking

I wish I had known this a couple of years ago when my father’s friend was suspecting that his wife was having an affair behind his back. He wanted to know from me how he could hack into his wife’s e-mail address so that he could find out what was going on between her and her paramour. Of course I had no idea back then. He provided me information, like his wife used Windows 7 and the Google Chrome browser.

Do you know you can access someone’s passwords without having to hack into the main database? In Google Chrome all the passwords are stored locally, especially when you’re the only person using the computer and you have set your browser to remember your login details. And all the passwords means all the passwords. Here is how to do it by simply using the GUI of Google Chrome. All you need is a few minutes of access to the computer or laptop used by the person whose passwords you are trying to find. The “auto-fill” feature of the browser makes things quite easier, but it also leaves you unable to ameteur hacking. Anyway, here is what you need to do.

Click the Settings icon of the Google Chrome browser

The settings icon in Google Chrome

In the subsequent drop down menu, click Settings.

At the bottom of the proceeding screen you can see “Show advanced settings”; click it.

Passwords and forms

Go to the “Passwords and forms” section and click “Manage saved passwords”.

The pop-up that comes up displays all the login links and their respective user names and passwords. I have drawn a gray box over login links and user names just so that people don’t start trying to hack into my accounts. This is how the pop-up appears:

All you need to do is, click on the particular link and when it is focused, click “Show”. It actually shows you the password as text.

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How to effectively leave comments on other blogs

Commenting on other blogs

In the beginning days of blogging comments used to be a big thing. People used to spend as much time commenting on other blogs as writing for their own blogs. The comments section of popular blogs used to be great hubs of interactions and ideas. Sometimes the comments appearing on the blog used to get more popular than the blog post itself.

But then soon spammers took over, realizing the link building potential of the activity. Although popular blogging platforms like WordPress developed anti-comment-spam plug-ins and almost every serious blogger used them, commenting began to lose its charm because of excessive noise and the shady tactics people used to garner back links.

Nonetheless, commenting on other blogs can be highly rewarding especially when you do it for the sake of engagement and interaction. Of course as a business owner you wouldn’t spend your time meaninglessly engaging in conversations on other blogs when you could be spending that valuable time building your business or at least generating content for your own blog or website. So yes, commenting on other blogs can get you traffic too, and even improve your search engine rankings, although not directly.

Why should you leave comments on other blogs

If commenting no longer has search engine benefits (most bloggers these days use the “rel=NoFollow” tag to discourage spammers) why should you spend your time leaving comments on other blogs. If you are interested in leaving comments just for the sake of improving your search engine rankings, then forget about it, this is an activity you shouldn’t waste your time on. You would like to leave comments on other blogs to

  • Interact with other members of your professional community
  • Become known among a wider audience
  • Share valuable input and hence increase your brand value
  • Network with blog publishers so that someday they will eagerly publish a guest post from you
  • Encourage other people to visit your blog

For many online entrepreneurs these are very important reasons to leave comments on other blogs.

The art of leaving comments

  • Leave a comment only when you have something valuable to say. Avoid commenting if your comment is going to seem hollow and forced. Remember that a meaningless comment can be more harmful than not leaving a comment.
  • Express the difference of opinion politely. If you’re going to express something contrary to what the blogger has written, be mindful of the fact that the blogger has spent a considerable amount of time trying to explain his or her point of view. So certainly some degree of emotion is involved. Instead of straightaway contradicting the blogger, politely present an alternative point of view. The same goes for other commenters. The blog publisher would not like it if his or her visitors feel insulted on his or her blog.
  • Keep it short. There is no reason to go on and on (after all it is a comment and not a complete blog post) if you can make a point within a couple of sentences.
  • Be mindful of spelling and grammar. Just because you’re writing in the comments section doesn’t mean you don’t care about spellings and grammar. Remember that your comment is a representation of you or your business. People will immediately relate you to the way you express yourself. Also if you use proper language it means you respect the blogger and other people there.
  • Use your links in the right context. It’s okay to sometimes use your links but don’t do that unnecessarily, out of context. Use your own links only when they add further value to your comment or if you have written on the same topic (or on something another commenter is talking about) on your own blog.
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How to get great blog topic ideas from social media

Are you fast running out of great blog topic ideas? The problem with regular blogging is you have to come up with highly useful and engaging topics on a regular basis and sooner or later it becomes quite a task. Whether you are writing for your own blog or writing for another blog as a content writer, it is the lack of good topics that turns into a formidable speedbump on the way to successful blogging. Social media can provide you the needed succor, and not just that, it can open the floodgates of nonstop blogging in fact.

Social media is constantly buzzing with conversations whether your preferred platform is Facebook or Twitter. There is practically no topic under the sun that is not discussed on social media. It’s all about getting hold of the useful threads and following them closely.

But isn’t social media a big waste of time?

It depends on from where you look at it. People who have no clue of what’s going on, call it a waste of time. Those who can recognize its potential call it a revolution in terms of society, commerce and business. The biggest strength of social media is engagement, but that’s a totally different topic.

So how do you get great blog topic ideas from social media?

Follow right conversations and the right people

As mentioned above people talk about everything on social media and it literally means everything. So you need to be careful what conversations you participate in and follow. You can follow relevant conversations by following the right people. The people who talk about your topic or subject, people who have gained an authority over your subject and have plenty to say about it. They will constantly give you new ideas. Suppose you maintain a blog on personal growth. Then you will be following life coaches, personal growth speakers and consultants, motivational speakers and such. Of course you will also be following people who might not be leaders in their fields, but who regularly articulate their views.

Participate in conversations

Your mind always needs stimulation. Although lots of stimulation comes by reading, you can augment it and turn it into action by actually participating in the ongoing conversations. Express yourself. Introduce different angles to the same topic. Ask questions and provide answers. Help people if you are in the position to provide that help. As you talk more and more about your topic new ideas will automatically begin to appear in your mind.

Be regular

Don’t just be present on social media when you have something really compelling to say. Allocate certain amount of time and be there even if you have got nothing important to say. Suppose you have decided to log on to your twitter account between 6-7 PM. Be there at this time everyday. Try to say something, and if you haven’t got anything to say, simply observe what people are talking about.

Use tools to monitor conversations

For example, if you use Hootsuite it lets you create dedicated columns to track conversations and trends. Suppose you want to follow conversations involving “personal growth” and #personalgrowth. You can create a column with this keyword and hash tag. A good thing about this method is even if you’re not following particular people, when they talk about this particular subject, their updates appear in your timeline. Since you are creating a separate, dedicated column your home timeline remains unaffected.

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How to improve your keyword research with the help of Google Trends

Google trends logo

Efficient keyword targeting is one of the most vital parts of creating optimized content. If you don’t focus on the right keywords, the right audience never gets to your website or blog as far as search engines are concerned and this can really make a dent in your revenue. So if most of your traffic comes from search engines then you need to be very careful while you are researching for keywords.

Although there are numerous keyword research tools available on the Internet, this blog post on Business 2 Community suggests you can also use Google Trends to find the keywords that can drive targeted traffic to your website or blog.

Have you ever used Google Trends?

Of course it is a publicly available service provided by Google and it tells you how often a particular search term is used and then it is also compared with the overall search-volume across various regions of the world. So suppose you want to know what are trends for searching for the key phrase “how-to articles” (sadly there isn’t much data on this particular search term) you can find it out on Google Trends. It will tell you how many searches have been carried out using a particular search expression, in which regions of the world it is searched for the most, and so on.

So how does Google Trends help you in your keyword research, and why use it?

You should use it because first of all, it is free as well as efficient, and second, you don’t need to register yourself to any particular service in order to use this tool.

Although it won’t necessarily tell you which keywords to use for your business, if you have multiple keywords to compare, it will definitely tell you which keywords people are using these days.

Since by profession I am a content writer, I will explain this with my own example. I want to know what search terms people use in order to find a business like mine and my options can be “content writer”, “online copywriter”, and “website writer”.

Go to Google Trends and enter these terms separated by commas, and search for them. The graphic presented below will tell you that these days people search for “content writer” the most. “Website writer” used to be a hotter term around 2005, but gradually it started coming down and “content writer” began rising up. So I should focus more on optimizing my website for “content writer”. “Online copywriter”, as you can see, is an favorite among people looking for a professional content writer.

Since basically it throws light on search trends, it can give you a fair idea of with what intensity people are using the keywords and search terms you are planning to use in your marketing campaign.

Just as it tells you which keywords are being used the most, it can also tell you which keywords are being used the least and if you want to compete against the least competitive keywords, you can make use of this tool even then.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to do voice-to-text dictation in Ubuntu

Online dictation microphone

If you depend on voice-to-text dictation for your day-to-day work you miss this feature badly in Ubuntu. In Windows 7 you can either use the inbuilt dictation feature that is bundled with the operating system or you can use a highly efficient dictation software called Dragon NaturallySpeaking from Nuance. DNS is available for both Windows and Mac (even for mobile devices) but sadly it is not available for Ubuntu.

There are many people who are able to run Dragon NaturallySpeaking by installing Wine in Ubuntu (it creates a parallel Windows environment within Ubuntu) but it rarely works and requires lots of knowledge of Linux-based commands.

Another option is installing VirtualBox, then installing Windows in it and then installing DNS in it. Whether you use Wine or VirtualBox there is a more than 90% chance that you’re not going to be able to dictate in Ubuntu. Since Canonical seems nowhere near to developing a dictation feature for Ubuntu and neither Nuance is showing any interest, are you stuck with Windows, especially when you cannot do without dictation?

This Online Dictation tool can help you. It is nowhere near Dragon NaturallySpeaking or even the Windows inbuilt dictation feature, it is better than having nothing. If you speak slowly and clearly, you can achieve a greater level of efficiency and accuracy. Unlike DNS it doesn’t learn from your speaking patterns and it doesn’t even have a dictionary but if you cannot manage without dictation and you are hell-bent upon using Ubuntu then so far it is your best voice-to-text dictation solution for the Linux environment.

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How to create blog headlines that attract more people

Compelling blog headlines

A majority of traffic that comes to your blog comes due to your headline. Whether people see your blog headline on a social networking websites like Twitter or Facebook or among search engine results, it’s your blog headline that catches their attention and makes them click the link and come to your blog.

Millions of words have been written to explain how to create compelling headlines for your blog posts and web pages, but still it remains one of the most challenging parts of publishing content. Many content creation endeavors are stunted because people cannot come up with appropriate headlines.

Think what your readers are looking for while creating headlines

Remember that you are creating a blog post for people to read, and not just for your amusement. People are looking for something they need. They are looking for a solution to their current problem. The need might be urgent, or casual. There might not even be a problem. May be you are offering something that amuses and entertains people. Whatever you are offering, specify that in your headline. Suppose you want to tell people how to create a simple website in 5 minutes. Your headline options could be:

How to create a website in 5 minutes

The fastest way of creating a website

Have a website in 5 minutes

The quickest way to having your own website

As you can see, the above-mentioned headlines cater to people wanting to create a website really fast. You wouldn’t use these headlines if you want to write about how to create an e-commerce website. Be very specific and always be mindful of whom you are targeting.

Don’t neglect the main keywords your users will use

Search is still the greatest means of finding content, whether it is done on search engines or social networking/media websites. It means your rankings matter. Although your rankings don’t just depend on optimized content (they also depend on the quality of backinks) using your main keywords at strategic locations can have a big impact on your final search engine rankings.

Using your primary keywords in your headline also keeps you focused. Take for example the above mentioned headlines (about creating a website fast): there are many keywords in these headlines, viz., “create website fast” and their variations. Since most of your prospective readers will be using these words to look for the information it’s better to put these words in the title itself so that it easily gets found (various search engines still use text in your title to decide how to rank your specific links).

Another benefit of using your main keywords in your headlines is that it has been observed that people tend to click those links most that contain words that they have just used to carry out a search.

Create shorter headlines

Shorter headlines are not just crisp they are also easier to share on social networking websites like Twitter. With 140-character limit, every character matters and if you want people to retweet your link you also need to let them insert their own comments. There are plenty of URL shortening services but as of now there is no service that can shorten headlines without losing their meaning.

While creating your blog posts make sure you spend ample amount of time on the headline because it is your headline that is going to draw most of the traffic from various sources.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to embed a tweet into a web page or a blog post

You may need to embed a particular tweet from an expert, a journalist or a celebrity into your webpage or blog post. In most of the cases people take the screenshot and then use the image to show the tweet. The benefit of taking a screenshot is that even if the original tweet is deleted, you still have the image on your blog or webpage. Many political campaigners save tweets of their opponents to use their utterances against them in order to contradict them.

A screenshot of a tweet may look like this:

Tweet screenshot

But the problem with using the screenshot is that the tweet that you embed is simply an image and hence all the hyperlinks appearing within are not clickable.

On the other hand if you can embed the actual tweet all the live elements that come with that tweet can be clicked upon and used. Embedding a tweet is quite simple. All you have to do is, locate the tweet that you want to embed.

Once you have located the tweet, you need to click “Expand” and after expanding you need to click “Details”.

Tweet details

In the proceeding page you can see “Embed this Tweet”.

Embed tweet link

When you click “Embed this Tweet”, in the proceeding window under the “HTML” tab you can get the code that you will need to embed this tweet into your blog post or webpage. As you can see in the image below, you can also decide how to align the embedded tweet

Embed tweet code

You simply need to copy the source code and then paste it wherever you want the tweet to appear. The final, fully clickable tweet appears like this:

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How to select the best to-do tasks management app for your specific needs

To do mobile apps

A good thing about these days is that you have an application for practically every thing you want to do. For instance, instead of the heavy binders or unmanageable yellow notes, these days you can use to-do list management applications on your desktop, laptop, tablet PCs as well as smart phones. The problem is, which app is the best for you? This blog post on Mashable reviews a few of them.

Although your productivity ultimately depends on your desire to improve yourself, a task management app can help you organize your activities and let you track your progress. It will give you great high if you can tick mark all the tasks that you have listed as “completed”.

The choice of the application depends on the device that you use and the platform that you prefer. If you mostly work on your computer then you would choose something that you can use to your PC interface. You can use the paper sticky notes. Windows 7 these days comes with its own little application that lets you create multiple sticky notes and place them everywhere on your desktop.

For Tablet PCs and smart phones the choice of applications is quite big, but among the most widely used is Astrid, which is available for multiple mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS. A good thing about Astrid is that if you login using your Google ID (for instance your Gmail), all your tasks are synchronized in the cloud. This way whether you’re working on a mobile device or your PC/laptop, you can access the interface and manage your tasks list. The free version is sufficient for most of the requirements, but if you want more razzmatazz, even the paid version is quite cheap. The application has a great interface, in fact, the best in this arena.

Surprisingly, the blog post mentioned above hasn’t covered Any.Do which too is an excellent task management application. In fact many people will find it better than Astrid. In spite of having a minimalistic interface it uses all the contemporary animation trickery to make using the application as enjoyable as possible. It also comes with its own Chrome extension that enables you to access your tasks even from your computer.

Remember the Milk or RIM is one of the oldest task management applications. Initially it used to be just a website (in the pre-smartphone era) but these days you can download mobile applications and use the service from your smart phone and tablet too. It is also available on multiple platforms but it has some quirks. Having said that, people who have already been using this service for many years, would find it easier to continue with the service even on their phones and tablets.

If you’re looking for something really simple, you have Todo.txt from Gina Tripani (of the Life Hacker fame) that manages your to-do list using a simple text file and then saving that text file in your Dropbox folder.

Some people also prefer to use their e-mail service to manage their tasks, as Anthony Casalena shares in this Lifehacker interview.

Various task management applications come with different features but while selecting the best to-do tasks management application you need to decide exactly how you will be using them. For example, why I use Astrid is because it lets me scheduled tasks according to my preference (dates, times, priority and in the various lists).

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How to use Google AuthorRank to improve your search engine rankings

Author rank and SEO

Some time back we learned how to set up your Google authorship so that your content on various websites (and also on your own website or blog) can be associated with your Google profile. Establishing your authorship also helps you in improving your author rank and this further improves your search engine rankings.

What is author rank?

Remember Page Rank (PR)? When people were constantly able to manipulate their search engine rankings by putting misleading content on their webpages, Google came up with Page Rank that would make it practically impossible to rank well without getting endorsements from people who were already trusted by Google. Somehow people also outmaneuvered the page rank. Social networking has brought the individual at the forefront of validation and endorsement, and hence the author rank. If you have a good author rank your links will get SEO advantage.

It is always easy to improve your page rank by placing links over various websites. Author rank is hard to get because it solely depends on your authority and recognition level over several websites, preferably Google Plus. The more people promote your content, the more people interact with you, the more people seek you for advice, the better author rank you have. Actually this is quite natural. Even in the normal three-dimensional world, what you say has a wider reach if you are a famous person and if you are respected for your knowledge and wisdom. For instance, people will listen to Stephen Hawking about the string theory more seriously than they would listen to you or me. He has already developed his author rank, as far as this field is concerned.

As it should be amply clear by now, AuthorRank up till now is totally a Google game because it primarily wants you to use Google Plus as much as possible. The more active you are on Google Plus, the better is your author rank.

How to improve your SEO with your author rank

Of course the straightforward answer is working hard on improving your author rank. A great thing about the author rank is that it empowers individual rather than a business or an organization. Up till now businesses with big money have been able to get SEO benefits by pumping lots of targeted content into their websites. As a small business, or even a self-employed person it is humanly not possible to create hundreds of webpages and blog posts in a day. But by improving your author rank, you can get an advantage over big businesses because this is something they will have to compete at their writers’ level instead of merely on the basis of their content.

Here are a few things you can do to improve your AuthorRank, and consequently, your SEO.

  • Set up your Google authorship on your blog or website: This is the first step and it has already been explained in the blog post linked to above. This way, Google will be able to associate the content that you publish to your authorship.
  • Publish content regularly: Your authority increases as you share more and more of your knowledge through your regular writing. Focus on your subject matter and share as much information as possible so that Google gets to index your multiple links and associate them with your author profile. Regularly publishing content on your blog or website also gives you lots of material to share on social media and social networking websites and create meaningful content over there.
  • Increase your outreach: Interact with people so that they get to know you. You can use platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to start communicating with other publishers and influencers so that they know what you are publishing. Especially try to interact with people already enjoying a higher AuthorRank because validations and endorsements coming from them will have more value compared to those that enjoy a lower AuthorRank.

With the promotion of author rank Google has hit multiple birds with a single stone (metaphorically, I mean no harm to birds). Aside from encouraging people to use Google Plus as much as possible it is also basing rankings on individual reputations rather than content manipulations.

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How to use Google analytics data in Microsoft Excel

Import Google analytics data into excel

Google analytics has a great interface and there are numerous reports that you can generate as a business as well as an analytics expert. But are you getting exactly what you want to see? There are many businesses that have highly unique data analysis needs that are not met by the interface presented by Google analytics. Besides, instead of just viewing the data, they would like to manipulate it, and use it to generate their own graphs and reports.

This is where it makes sense to use Google analytics data in Microsoft Excel. Excel has a great repository of pre-defined functions that you can use to twist the analytics data in any form and create business intelligence magic.

Why would you use Google analytics with MS Excel?

As already mentioned above, you want to do much more than what the Google analytics interface currently provides. For instance:

  • Use an interface that you are already familiar with
  • You can combine data from multiple data sources to create highly complex reports and graphs
  • Use Excel formulas, charts and pivot tables to get a deeper insight of the Google analytics data
  • Share the worksheets with other Excel users without giving them access to your Google analytics account
  • Build custom VBA queries and macros and save them within the worksheets for repeat use.

Using Google analytics API to connect it with Microsoft Excel

According to this article on Search Engine Land that aims to teach you how to make Google analytics interact with your Excel spreadsheet, in plain English, there are many plug-ins available that eliminate the various complexities involved in such ventures. Just like any web service these days, Google analytics also provides an API that enthusiastic software developers can use to fetch information from the service and present it to the client application. One of such plug-ins is, appropriately named, Excellent Analytics.

Quit Microsoft Excel if it is running right now.

Once you have downloaded the installation files you will need to run it. It will ask you to check whether .Net etc. is installed or not, but we assume that it is installed. Once the installation is done, you can launch Microsoft Excel. When you launch it for the first time after installing Excellent Analytics it warns you against installing an unauthorized and unverified application. It is safe to click “Install”.

Once installed, you get a new “Excellent Analytics” tab with its unique buttons.

It goes without saying that in order to use this plug-in you need to have a pre-existing Google analytics account. If you don’t have, then there is a long procedure of creating one, associating websites and creating various profiles. But if you already have a functional Google analytics account, you can enter your credentials by first clicking the “Account” (extreme left on your Excel window under the Excellent Analytics tab)

Once you have verified yourself you are automatically taken to the window that lets you create a query. It has various interface components that you can use to create a query. Once you have selected what you want to see, you can click “Execute”

A good thing about the “Execute” button is that if you have chosen insufficient parameters, a tooltip appears to tell you that.

Of course if you haven’t had much experience using various analytics interfaces it may seem a bit confusing but eventually you get used to creating queries that you really want.

Here is a nice blog post on SEOMoz that explains, step-by-step, how to create a functional query in Microsoft Excel using the Google analytics API plug-in Excellent Analytics.

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How to search on Google like an expert

Expert Google search

For how long have you been using Google for your daily dose of searches? It is a highly powerful search engine but since most of us search using simple text strings, finding what you want is a matter of chance. Just like any database, Google has its share of commands that you can use to not only narrow down your search, but also find exactly what you’re looking for.

The problem with the usual searching is (something like “web designers in Wisconsin”) that whereas it can solve your basic needs, it cannot handle complex searches, something like, the number of computers sold in a particular country within a particular year range. Or sometimes, you just want results from a single website, for instance NYTimes.com.

You can use this blog post as a ready reference whenever you want to find something really complex on Google.com. Here are a few such formats you can use:

Searching for exact phrase

Normally when you search you don’t use quotes, something like white bunnies. This way Google finds out everything containing white, everything containing bunnies, everything containing bunnies and white, and everything containing white bunnies, or its various combinations.

If you want to find webpages just containing white bunnies, you need to use quotes, like, “white bunnies”. This way only those webpages will be shown that actually contain the phrase “white bunnies”.

Excluding certain words

Suppose you want to find “white bunnies” but the word “America” shouldn’t appear on the pages. For this you would use the following search expression:

“white bunnies” -America

Searching within a website

Suppose you want to find all the articles that have appeared in NYTimes.com about white bunnies but the article shouldn’t contain the word America.

site: NYTimes.com “white bunnies” -America

Searching similar words or synonyms

Let us say you want to find web designers who are also bloggers or writers, or something like that. You would use the following search expression:

“web designers” ~blogger

Searching for text that is used as anchor text

This will be good for your SEO research. Suppose you want to use how many people have used “online help” as hypertext, or anchor text. You use the following search expression

allinanchor:”online help”

Searching by file type

Are you looking for PowerPoint presentations on community-based rehabilitation? Here is how you do it:

filetype:ppt “community-based rehabilitation”

Searching text in the title

In your normal search Google finds everything whether the text appears on the webpage, in the description or within the title. Suppose you want to find some webpages that contain the phrase “business consultant” in the title. This is how you do it

allintitle: business consultant

Searching by author

Want to know what Salman Rushdie has to say about “Satanic verses”? You can search for the following

author: “Salman Rushdie” “Satanic verses”

Searching for time range

Want to find out what Salman Rushdie has said about “Satanic verses” within the years 2011 and 2012? You will do the following search

author: “Salman Rushdie” “Satanic verses” 2011..2012

Looking for definitions

Want to know what ELISA means? You search for it in the following manner:

define: ELISA

Searching for a wildcard character

This you might already be familiar with you: remember when you search for file names but you aren’t sure of exactly what those names would be? For instance if you want to find a GIF file in a particular folder, in Windows you just search for “art*.gif”.

Something of similar sort can be done on Google search too.

“Last night * was at home”

This searches for “last night”, “was at home” and whatever lies between these two phrases.

Searching with “or” operator

If you search for “writer or blogger” it will find you webpages that contain either “writer” or “blogger”, or both. But it won’t find pages that neither contain “writer” nor “blogger”.

Using Google search for calculations

Don’t have your calculator nearby and don’t want to open another application while you are working in your browser? Simply go to Google.com and search for the calculation and it will do the job for you. For instance

((3456 43245)/45)*35.7

can be simply searched for, for the calculation.

You can see the complete list of search expressions in terms you can use on Google search on this Google Guide link.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

Save a web page straight to a PDF file

Do you know that every modern browser these days allows you to save webpages straight to PDF files? Yes, you no longer require an external PDF program to achieve the same task.

Although you can do this in all major browsers (especially if you use Ubuntu), we will see how you can do this in Google Chrome. Open a web page you would like to save as PDF file.

In Chrome these days the menu icon looks like this:

Chrome menu button

When you click this button you will have to go to “Print…”

Chrome print menu

You are presented with a screen where you can select which printer you want to use for printing.

Choosing the right printer button in Chrome

In the preceding screen you can select “Save as PDF”

Save as PDF in Google Chrome

That’s it. Once you click the “Save” button you will be prompted to select the name of the file and by that name your webpage will be saved as a PDF file.

Home » Articles posted by Amrit Hallan

How to build links for your website as a small business

Link building has had a bad reputation because of link farms and all those spurious “seo-experts” who constantly tell you that link building is penacea for all search engine ranking problems.

What exactly is link building?

Link building is a sort of endorsement. When people link to your website or blog, they do it because they want visitors to visit your link and benefit from the wonderful content you are producing. It’s a way of telling, “Look, here is another wonderful resource you may like to check out.”

There was a time when Google used to rank websites merely on the basis of three things, or rather four things: the textual content on your webpage, the title of your webpage, the description and keywords. This was a great way of ranking well, till people started exploiting it. With little effort you could create pages like that and misdirect visitors as well as search engines. So search engine engineers thought, there should be another way of ranking links. And what would be better way than humans themselves promoting particular links?

So no matter how well you optimized your website, unless other people endorsed it, linked to it, the search engines didn’t see any value in it. Your website could only rank well if you had high-quality content, plus lots of incoming links. So link building became an activity that involved getting links back to your website.

Of course this method was also open to exploitation as people started creating websites merely for linking back to the websites that would pay them. Hence came into existence, as far as Google goes, the Page Rank (PR).

Page rank is the number that Google assigns to websites that are of very high quality and the quality as well as credentials have been validated by other trusted and respected web publishers. It is something like this: blogger A is already respected by Google. He enjoys a very high page rank. He finds that blogger B is also doing some great work and therefore links to him. Similarly, there is another great blogger C who also links to B. Blogger B, consequently begins to enjoy a higher page rank. The more people with good page rank link to blogger B, the higher page rank he gets. Similarly, if blogger B, who now enjoys a good page rank, links to blogger D, blogger D also begins to get good page rank. So the ranking began to depend on who is linking to you.

People can exploit this also, but this normally works. Link building in true sense means getting links from bloggers and website publishers who enjoy a good page rank.

Building links for your website as a small business

Bigger businesses have a money advantage. They can pump in lots of money in producing tons of content and some of this content goes viral on social media and social networking websites, earning them 100s of back links. They can also advertise all over the web. Building links for them is not a problem.

As a small business you have budgetary constraints so instead of depending on money, you need to depend on your social skills. This blog post on SEOMoz rightly says, that instead of building links, you build relationships.

In the times of social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google plus, relationship building and networking isn’t as difficult as it used to be a few years ago. The thing is, search engines discourage you from buying links. They insist that the links coming to your website must be voluntary.

If you are producing great content, people don’t have any problem linking to you. But how do they find you? They find you by knowing you.

Building relationships shouldn’t be confused with spamming people or irritating them by needlessly bombarding them with messages. Engage them in conversations. Observe them when they normally come online, what sort of conversations they seed or participate in and what sort of questions they ask. Do you have answers to their queries? If yes, provide them without being overbearing. Let them gradually get familiar to you and your presence. Show to them that you are interested in their topic.

Relationship building is a time-consuming process so you will have to be careful whom you are approaching. Make a list of 50 people you would like to interact with on an ongoing basis and don’t just create the list randomly. Do some research. Observe various people interacting on Twitter and Facebook. Since it won’t be logically possible for you to interact with everybody, just choose five people to interact with per day and make sure you drop them a message.

You will need to keep this in mind that it is an ongoing process. Some people may respond and some people may show an attitude – doesn’t matter. Your intention must be clear. They are successful, but you too are working hard. One day they were in the same position and they too were making an effort to better themselves. If they don’t respond, either they don’t have time or they’re not interested in what you have to say. Move on.

Read more on the original blog post linked above.