sim.plified.com

Chris Pollock

Chris Pollock - web developer & ecommerce entrepreneur
undivided… my thoughts on world, family, church, business, technology and Jesus Christ (all in all)

Mac OSX: Resize Image on Right Click

I resize a lot of images to the same size for use in my blog and on my web site.  This automator script allows you to quickly resize and image from the right click menu.

Resize Image on Right Click - Automator

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Add Google Reader Link Back Into Gmail with Chrome Extension

I installed the Minimalist Gmail plugin (thanks to Life Hacker). The great part about this extension is that it allows you to populate the Google links list with your own custom links.

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If you're one of the many user chagrined by Google's recent removal of the reader link in the Gmail header, this is a quick and easy way to get it back. Supposedly they are bringing it back, but until then enjoy the extension.

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Dual & Triple Monitors with a Mac Book Pro – Matrox DualHead2Go

When I pondered my conversion to Mac, one of the biggest issues for me was the ability to operate two large computer monitors side by side.  As a developer this is a huge issue for me, so you can imagine my dismay when after going to the Apple store and talking to “genius” they simply turned around and Googled my question (something I had obviously done many times before).  After looking around I did discover that there was a device that would do what I was looking for. 

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This tutorial applies strictly to Mac Book pros (Mine was new in Sept of 2011 and is running 10.6.5).  If you’re using a desktop mac or another mac book I can’t promise similar results but here’s what I did.

The Device

The device that allows you to go dual and even triple screen on your mac book is the Matrox DualHead2Go DP Edition.  Some of the other device versions will work, but they won’t give you the resolutions you want to run 24” inch monitors.  If you want to go big on you monitors you’re going to need to use the DP (display port) edition.

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The Adapters

Because I was operating DVI monitors I needed three different adapters!  2 DP to DVI adapters to connect the unit to the monitors and 1 Mini DP to DP adapter to connect the Mac to the Matrox unit.  I definitely didn’t appreciate all the extra costs of the adapters, but I was a man on a mission so I did it anyways.

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Mini DP to DP Adapter

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The Software

The software Matrox PowerDesk allows you to tell the OS what monitor (laptop or “dual screen”) should be the primary.

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Little Annoyance, but Working Great!

One of the primary annoyances is that it treats the dual monitor setup form the device as a single monitor, so you can see that the task bar is completely stretched out across the top.  This really doesn’t cause too much pain except when I need to get to the file menu and I’m using the left monitor.

On the other hand the great part about this is you can stack a ton of stuff in your application bar at the bottom – fill it up as it will stretch all the way across the bottom if it needs to. 

Lots of cords need to be plugged in when you “dock” your mac, but nothing too overwhelming there.

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Other Tips

You’ll need a USB hub.  The Matrox unit takes up the mini display port AND A USB port for power. 

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Overall

Overall I’m very pleased with the results.  I work primarily off the two main monitors, but I can put secondary applications like script logs and skype on the less dominant lap top monitor.  If you are a developer you’ll definitely benefit from this arrangement.  Also, if you like my desk, check out this post.. I made it myself.

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Stand and Work!

On my company blog I posted a complete step by step processes with videos of a standing desk that I built.  As a programmer I do a lot of sitting and the standing desk is a great way to get out of the seat and be productive.  Learn more about this project: Simplified Building – Standing Desk

Standing Desk - Finished! Standing at the Desk

Standing Desk - Finished!

Standing Desk - Finished!

Standing Desk - Finished!

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Laptop cooling stand – Keep your lap cool

I bought a new Dell Vostro a couple months back.  I really like it.  But what I realized the very first day is that I was going to need something to pad and cool my lap.  The laptop runs hot and was no fun to have on my lap after about 15 minutes.  I had seen one of my friends using a laptop stand, so I knew they existed.  I went on a search and found what I believe to be the perfect laptop stand.

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It’s 1) affordable, 2) one piece 3) nice looking, 4) covered in fabric 5) angled perfectly 6) convenient to store and use.  Like I said, it’s the perfect laptop stand.  I have been so pleased with it I haven’t removed it from the bottom of the computer since I bought it.  It works great if I’m on the couch or at a table.  I highly recommend the ALLSOP Cool Channel Notebook Stand, purchase your by clicking on the link below (I’ll make a little dough).

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How To: Build a Custom Ergonomic Computer Desk

As a web developer, I spend LOTS of time at the keyboard.   For me, having an ergonomic computer desk is an absolute essential.  Recently, making the transition to working full time for myself, I decided that I needed a quality computer desk that would be adjustable and ergonomic.  I quickly found myself frustrated with the high cost of ergonomic desks on the market.

Researching desks started to give me an idea of what I did and did not want in a computer desk.  After a discussion with a friend I decided to make the plunge into building a desk to fit my needs.

Basic Strategy

I'm not a woodworker at heart, so I knew I needed to keep the construction of the desk simple.  I decided to build the desk legs and foundation using Kee Klamp fittings and fence post.  The aesthetic look isn't for everyone, but it makes construction MUCH EASIER. Building the foundation of the desk is as simple as cutting some pipe and using an Allen wrench.

For the desk top I used a custom cut piece of MDF that I primed, painted and sealed (a must if you are using MDF).

To make the desk ergonomic I custom cut some of the remaining MDF into a keyboard tray and bought an articulating keyboard adjustable unit.

Getting Started

The first thing I did was make a plan.  I drew out several sketches on some graph paper to see how I wanted the desktop surface to look.  Having a particular space in mind, I made one side of the desk longer than the other.

Here's my drawing:

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Cutting the Top

After I had my design, I marked the outline onto a  4×8 sheet of MDF.  I used the top of a coffee can as a stencil for my rounded corners.

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I supported it on saw horses and made the first couple of straight cuts with a circular saw.  I used a straight edge to guide the circular saw so that the edges were perfectly straight.

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Then I used a HIGH QUALITY jig saw with a SHARP BLADE to cut out the curves and corners.

TIP: You need to be careful with how you support MDF — it is not as study as plywood and could crack if mishandled.

TIP: I borrowed a high quality jig saw. The performance of a high quality jig saw with a sharp blade is astounding compared to a cheaper unit.

An idea I got while cutting the desk was to include a section in the back for cord management.  I cut out an inch deep section in the back of the desk to accommodate power cords and various cables running off the desk.

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With that, the initial cut of the top was finished.

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At this point the desk had a rough edge.  I wanted a nice rounded edge.  Thankfully, a friend of mine had a high quality router.  With a simple pass around the edge, the desk top went from a rough cut piece of material to a smooth edged desktop.

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Attaching the Base

At this point we were ready to start attaching the fittings that would connect the legs to the desk top.  I spaced out the Kee Klamp L61-7 fittings on the bottom of the desktop and screwed them in with 3/4" #10 wood screws.

The fence post was cut (you can use a pipe cutter or a sawz-all — or just have the home center do it for you) to just under the desktop height (measure a height that works for you) and then attached to the fittings.

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A Word About Kee Klamp Fittings and Fence Post

I chose to use Kee Klamp fittings on this project for several reasons.

1. They are easy to use.  I'm not a carpenter, so it was a quick and easy way to build a study foundation for a desk that would look good.  Kee Klamp fittings slip onto pipe and then "bite down" into the pipe with a set screw.  Normally they are used as an alternative to welding in the handrail world, but they work great for all sorts of DIY projects as well.

2. I am partner in a company that distributes them so I get a pretty good discount on them (if you're a DIYer, mention this post and I'll cut you a small discount on the parts).  They can be expensive, but when you consider the time and resources saved in other areas I think they are "worth" the investment.  Literally, it took me minutes to get the desk upright once the desktop was cut out.

3. The Aluminum fittings (Kee Lite) have some aesthetic value for a modern looking office.

4. The size 7 (1 1/4") fittings work well with fence post.  I used about 3 1/2 – 8 foot lengths of galvanized fence posts that can be obtained at any home store.  Fence post is a lot cheaper than the using galvanized schedule 40 pipe (not to mention it's easier to work with too).

Building the Base

The base consisted of six uprights with a pipe running between each of the uprights. The cross supports made the entire unit very stable.  They are necessary so that the horizontal forces on the desk (like when moving it) are not placed upon the MDF.  I think without the cross supports it would be easy for the MDF top to crack and break.

The pipe is held in the fittings with a set screw that is tightened down with a standard allen wrench.

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Here the cross supports are added with Kee Klamp L10-7 Fittings.  They were staggered in height for even greater stability.   Once the desk is in its final location the fittings can be adjusted and retightened.

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Painting the Desk

Painting the MDF desktop is a must. Without paint, the first time you set a glass of water on your desk you'll really wish you hadn't!  The MDF grain swells very easily and also continues to put off dust.

I painted the desk top in a thee part process.

1) Primed with a NON WATER BASED – BIN Primer
2) Painted with an Indoor Latex Paint
3) Finished with a Polycrylic to provide a protective finish.

I put one coat of primer on the surface and two on the edges, sanding lightly in between each coat.  I also wiped the surfaces down with a tack cloth.  Using a mini roller made the paint go on quickly and smoothly.

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When I was painting both sides (for the keyboard tray and shelves), I supported them with nails driven into the saw horses.  This allowed minimal damage to the underside of the painted surface.

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Here is the paint and Polycrylic that I used.

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Finished Painting:

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Finishing Touches

At this point the basic desk was done.  Now the only thing that needed to be added was the keyboard tray.  I ordered an articulating unit from www.ergoindemand.com.  I found their customer service people very helpful.

Here is the unit I ordered.

Here is the desk in place, ready for keyboard tray.

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Once the desk is in place, I adjusted the cross pieces to make sure that they were spaced properly and evenly.

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First I screwed the unit into the bottom of the keyboard tray.

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Then I screwed the track onto the bottom of the desk.

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The keyboard tray slid right into the track and worked perfectly.

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The cord management cut also worked very well.

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In order to keep the pipe from ruining the floor, I also added some plastic pipe end caps to make the desk easier to move around.

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Admiring the Finished Product

To finish it off I laid down some laminate floor so that my chair would roll.   I made the extra shelves out of MDF in hopes of using them down the road (that'll be another post).

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Desk setup with 22" wide screen monitors and ergonomic mouse and keyboard.

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At the time of writing I have been using the setup for about two weeks and am very happy with how everything turned out.

Counting the Cost

I mentioned that this was cheaper than buying your own ergonomic desk.  The cheapest ergonomic desk that I could find was around $600 (not including shipping), so what did this desk cost:

  1. 1pc. – 3/4” thick 4×8 MDF – $25
  2. 10pc. – L10-7 Tee Fitting – $80
  3. 6pc. -  L61-7 Flange – $65
  4. 6pc – 77-7 Plastic Plug – $9
  5. 4pc – 8ft Fence Post – $35
  6. Various Paint Supplies – $30
  7. Articulating Keyboard Unit – $100

Total Cost: ~ $350

$350 is NOT Cheap, but it is less expensive than the ergonomic desks that I could find on the market.  Of course that also doesn't include the fact that you get the satisfaction of building it yourself and customizing the desk to fit your space.

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Slick Looking Gmail HTML Signature (Update 1)

With a little bit of HTML and a Mozilla Firefox plugin you can make a pretty slick looking HTML signature for Gmail.

Here is what mine looks like

 

Chris Pollock
cwpollock@gmail.com

my blog | LinkedIn | flickr | del.icio.us

1. Firefox is Required. If you haven't made the switch.. go for it.

2. Download a Firefox Plugin called: Black Canvas Gmail Signatures. You may need to login the the Firefox plugin site to download and install the plugin.  Install and restart your browser.

3. Prepare the HTML. It helps to know a bit about HTML, but if you don't feel free to use my snippet below, inserting your own information where appropriate.

 <table><tbody><tr><td>
<img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2363/2237613114_5ff587490a_o.jpg" />
</td><td></td><td>
<div style="padding-right: 5px; padding-left: 5px;
font-size: 11px; padding-bottom: 5px; color: #666666;
padding-top: 5px"><strong>Chris Pollock</strong>
 <br />
<a href="mailto:cwpollock@gmail.com">cwpollock@gmail.com</a>
<div style="font-size: 10px">
<a href="http://sim.plified.com">my blog</a> |
<a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/chrispollock">LinkedIn</a> |
<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pollocks">flickr</a> |
 <a href="http://del.icio.us/cwpollock">del.icio.us</a>
</div></div></td></tr><tr></tr></tbody></table>

I created a thumbnail avatar (50 by 50 pixels) and uploaded it to Flickr. You'll want to replace the image with your own image. To get the picture URL, click on "All Sizes" on your photo page and get the URL in the text box at the bottom of the page. You can also replace your own list of links below your name and email.

When creating this code you might want to assemble it in a text editor. Notepad will do.

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4. After you've installed the plugin , you will see a "create signature" button next to your email address when you go to compose a message. The first time you compose, click that link and add the HTML code that you prepared. Click "Save Signature" and you should be set to go.  If you need more assistance using the plugin, check out the author’s web site.

The new plugin also allows for multiple signatures for the same account, this is a great feature.  I am sure that it could be used to make “templated response” emails.  Great addition!

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Productivity: Todist Sidebar

In a recent post I talked about Todoist, a hierarchical todo program that has a simple yet effective interface for creating layers of todo items.  Recently another milestone was passed for todoist: the addition of a firefox sidebar.

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Context is a Beautiful Thing

One of the great things about the side bar is that it can be brought up in the context of another site.  As a web developer I can put the site I’m working on in a tab, and I can bring up the todoist sidebar right next to it (see above).  This helps me keep the tasks I am working on in context of site.  Great feature!

Bookmark Integration

The Todoist Sidebar knows what tab you are on.  So it’s author has included a new button:

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Clicking the "Add link" button will create a new todo item with that link.  Again, as a web developer this is a great addition.  I can use it to catalog pages I need to work on in a given project (For example: to document bugs as I find them)

Gmail Integration

Integration with Gmail is always a winning factor in my book.  The todoist side bar “automagically” knows when you have an email open your selected tab.  The button changes from “Add link” to “Add email”

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Clicking the "Add email" adds a “Gmail” link as a new todo item, giving you a direct link to the email open in your Firefox tab.  Again, as a web developer a lot of my project communication comes through email.  Using todoist I can quickly translate that email into a todo item in my project.

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Gmail Productivity: Macros (Keyboard Shortcuts)

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Recently I posted about some productivity tips for Gmail.  I also uncovered an additional productivity enhancer: Gmail Macros.  Gmail macros adds additional (and easy to remember) keyboard shortcuts to gmail.  I’ve been using it for about a week.  My favorite aspect is the ability to quickly with a few key strokes to add a label to an email.  It speeds up the cataloging of my emails tremendously.

Initially I had some trouble with using this script with the Remember the Milk plugin for Gmail.  Well, my hat is off to the script owner who very quickly posted a fix.

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Things I see

Walk about near Ugley.PhotoIs there anything more springy than daffodils? £2 at Tesco is hard to pass up. #englandtrip2017 #springIMG_1560.JPGIMG_1537.JPGIMG_1567.JPGIMG_1614.JPGIMG_1608.JPGPhotoOliver PowerLucas power!Big bathtub fun. #lifewithboysTucked himself in like this on my bed this morning :relieved:#lifewithboysNeat tree in bloom. Looked like pussy willow blooms but this when opened. Bees were covered with pollen. #englandtrip2017English spring and a big swing. #englandtrip2017

Chris Pollock

Web Developer - proficient in both PHP and ASP.NET.
Rochester, New York

View my web developement site.

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My Pictures

Walk about near Ugley.PhotoIs there anything more springy than daffodils? £2 at Tesco is hard to pass up. #englandtrip2017 #springIMG_1560.JPGIMG_1537.JPGIMG_1567.JPGIMG_1614.JPGIMG_1608.JPGPhotoOliver PowerLucas power!Big bathtub fun. #lifewithboysTucked himself in like this on my bed this morning :relieved:#lifewithboysNeat tree in bloom. Looked like pussy willow blooms but this when opened. Bees were covered with pollen. #englandtrip2017English spring and a big swing. #englandtrip2017