The flipboard mode of Internet Explorer 11

A large part of content I consume these days is through Flipboard. I like how I am able to read through the articles with minimum noise around the content itself (menus, ads, widgets, etc.). The remaining content comes from various blogs and sites. I have always wished there was a way to consume this content without any distractions. There are apps available for tablets and phones. But sometimes using these apps is restrictive compared to the free flowing nature of a browser (even more so when on a PC).

Internet Explorer 11 has something of a solution (it is good, but not perfect). I call it the flipboard mode – but Microsoft calls it (I think) the ‘reading mode’. It only works in IE11 Metro/Modern mode, though.
That however is no longer a problem due to how Metro/Modern apps are now integrated in the desktop view. And I believe, this feature is also available on IE11 for Windows Phone 8.1 onward. Let’s talk about the feature.

Whenever you are on an article on a blog or a website, and IE11 thinks that it can show this in the reading mode, the address bar of the browser starts showing a little button labeled “Read”. Here you can see it below:

readClicking this button immediately reloads the content on that page, minus the menus, header, ads, etc. The layout adjusts well to the size of the Internet Explorer window (full-screen, snapped, etc.). Making it easier to read the content. Below are before-after screenshots of an article this blog, and of an article on wired.com.

Without reading mode (blog.gadodia.net)

hgb

With reading mode (blog.gadodia.net)

hga

Without reading mode (wired.com)

wb

With reading mode (wired.com)

waAs you can see, the difference is immense. I love this feature. But as things go, nothing in life is perfect. This feature does have its problems – on some sites, or articles, it messes up the pictures embedded in the article (either showing them in the wrong place, or not showing them at all). So, it is not good for reading picture heavy articles.

Thanks to this, I am often switching from Chrome to IE11 to read long articles.

Inbox Zero, revisited – how to handle large amounts of incoming email

Years ago, I wrote about how I had created a plan to achieve Inbox Zero. For some months, that did work for me. However, as time went by, I was receiving evermore emails and soon my system failed, with tons of unread, unprocessed emails piling up in my inbox. So, a few months ago, I setup a new system. This achieves that same core purpose of Inbox Zero, but a little differently.

The goal I set out to achieve was to make sure that I addressed, read, processed all email I needed to in a timely manner… WITHOUT having to sort through all the email that may not be important enough to address in a timely manner. I am going to call this the “Three Folder System”.

It is simple, and it is based on 3 rules (1 of them is a more a set of rules). I created 3 folders in my Inbox; they are called:

  • To me
  • CC me
  • Important

As it is obvious, the first rule moves all email which has my email ID (or any aliases) in the “to” field, to the folder “To me”. The second rule does the same for any email in which I am in the “cc/bcc”.

The third rule is a set of rules where I move to the “important” folder any mail I receive in which I am not in a To or CC (where a mail is sent to distribution groups, etc.) but the email is either:

  • sent by certain people (my bosses, key sales people in the company, my wife, etc.)
  • or sent by anyone to critical distribution groups (important organizational functions or projects that I am monitoring)

Now, everyday I make sure that there are no unread mails left in these 3 folders. And any mail that I can’t work on right away, I flag as a TO-DO item. Every week I make sure that I don’t have any unread email left in the remaining emails (which don’t make it to these folders) – by typically just scanning over the subjects of these emails and the first few lines.

I go through TO-DO items as soon as I can based on the time I have on hand. Automatically, the most urgent matters are given the highest priority in terms of sorting them out – which sometimes means that some of the less urgent ones have to wait for a long time before getting done. But the system works.

I hope it continues to work forever.

Getting Chomecast to work on Netgear R6300

I bought a Chromecast – and I didn’t look at the list of routers that are incompatible with Chromecast. Mine is one of them – the Netgear R6300. I only found out when the simple sounding steps from Google didn’t get me going – I couldn’t configure it as it seems that it just won’t connect to my wifi.

Finally, I managed to. I did several things (not sure which one worked, perhaps it was a combination of them all). Here they are – all of them, maybe one of these works for you as well:

  • First of all, I disabled the 5GHz (a/n/ac) option on my router leaving only the 2.4GHz (b/g/n) option.
  • I set all the flags that various blogs on the Internet suggested (but that didn’t work).
  • Then after an hour of tinkering with various settings, I realized that the computer I was using to setup the Chromecast had some strange networking setup itself – due to the fact that I run Hyper-V to run VMs, I had bridge connections setup. I deleted those (which broke my networking setup  on my computer and I had to re-setup everything). Anyway, after cleaning up the bridge connections, I gave it another try – and bam, it worked.

Now, I have not had the courage to go and try turning on the various things I turned off on my router – too much time wasted on this already – so, I continue to operate this. I think I can safely configure Hyper-V again because now that the Chromecast device knows how to connect to the router, it doesn’t need my computer anymore.

Oh yeah, I am already loving the convenience and simplicity of Chromecast. Maybe, I will write an app for it now that the SDK is open.

The best books for children under 4 years of age

Our daughter turned four recently. Ever since she was a little baby, she has always liked books. She had books which were soft toys. Therefore it is no surprise that whenever I am looking to buy something for her, more often than not, it is a new book. If you are a parent, you know that it is hard to judge which books to buy for your child, and you often turn to reviews on the Internet. Well, this is one such review. It is not a top 10 list, or anything. I just thought that out of the scores of books she has and has enjoyed in the last 4 years, I will put here some of the ones that not only she liked the most, but were also a pleasure to read to her as a parent. Here goes (in no particular order, really).

(all titles are linked to Amazon – feel free to buy them from wherever convenient (including your local bookstore)).

GruffaloThe Gruffalo

This is the best book that you can get for your child. No doubt. In general, Julia Donaldson is a very safe bet anyway. But not all her books worked for us and some we have held off from buying till our daughter is a little older. But this one, and the sequel are her favorite books by far.

These books made such an impact for her, that we also bought the two movies that were made from these titles from iTunes. The various characters in these books are good enough to spin off so many stories at bed time – they fire our imagination as well.

Strongly recommended.

Gruffalos ChildThe Gruffalo’s Child

Every bit as good as The Gruffalo. Maybe even better. “Aha-oho, tracks in the snow. Whose are these tracks and where do they go” – the number of times I hear our daughter say this is insane.

The story is a beautiful continuation of the earlier story. The primary character is now The Gruffalo’s Child – out to look for the big bad mouse, despite his father telling him that “no Gruffalo should ever set foot in the deep dark wood“.

Just go and get it.

Cave BabyCave Baby

Yet another Julia Donaldson book. And this one is simply beautiful. I have to say it again – it is simply beautiful. It is a huge pleasure to read this book to our daughter, and she also loves all the animals in this book.

And she is specifically scared of the big brown bear. Like the Gruffalo books, this one also takes the child on an adventure which is great (because there is always the excitement of what happens next – even though you are reading it to her for the 100th time).

Super get it.

The Monsters MonsterThe Monsters’ Monster

This book is so cute. The little monsters look like such cute monsters (only as our children look like monsters). This book is a story about not being monsters for a while and enjoying life. Like Cave Baby, this book is also very beautifully illustrated.

Lessons can be learned from the book and applied in real life.

Get this book and all you will say to me is “Dank You”.

Where the Wild Things Are

Where the Wild Things Are

This one is of course a classic. Sometimes when our daughter is being every bit a monster she can be, the question we ask is whether she is being a Wild Thing. She knows if she says yes, then she gets sent to her room like in the book.

She comes back to this again and again.

 

Giraffes cant DanceGiraffes Can’t Dance

As I was typing this post up, my daughter walked up, saw all the pictures, and said, “where’s my giraffe book”.

Well, here it is. Another book that she really likes. Full of jungle animals.

This and a number of books by the same authors are also her favorites, and they really are very good. Look them up and buy them.

This post took forever to publish – I noticed that this sat in draft mode for a few months and I had forgotten about it. Well, here it is now. I would have added more books, and maybe I will come back and update it one day or add another post.

My iPhone 5s is not visible in Windows Explorer

iPhone 5sThis one was a bit frustrating and I feel like hitting someone after the solution presented itself. So, I recently upgraded to the iPhone 5s from my iPhone 4s. Now, I wanted to move all my pictures and videos from my old iPhone to the new one, and one way to do that is to copy from the old one to the new one using the Windows Explorer. So, I went to do that, and fired up my Windows Explorer on Windows 8.1 (also recently upgraded).

I could see my old iPhone in the Explorer (from which I promptly copied all the photos/videos on my hard disk). Now when I plugged in the new phone, it couldn’t be seen. It would be available in iTunes, but not in Windows Explorer. I was frustrated to say the least. Online search mostly pointed me towards problems with USB drivers, or problems with Windows 8, or problems with USB ports. After several restarts, and testing this on every USB port on my desktop (there are like 8 of them), I knew that the problem must be something else, and I gave up for a while.

The next day, I plugged in the new iPhone on to the computer (I also use the USB cable from the computer to charge my phone), and what do you know – my computer recognized my new iPhone. So, what changed?

I will tell you what changed: I had taken a picture with the iPhone.

So, if your brand new iPhone is not showing up in Windows Explorer, take a picture. I think what happens is that since the only thing you can access is the photos folder from the Windows Explorer, when it is empty, the iPhone doesn’t show up to Windows as a camera device.

Well problem solved. If your iPhone 5s (or any other iPhone) is not showing up in Windows Explorer – before going crazy testing USB drivers, etc. please just take a photo with your iPhone camera. Also, BTW, it has to be a photo taken from that iPhone (I had some photos on the device which had synced through iCloud’s photo stream feature, and those don’t count).

I wish I had taken a picture yesterday instead of today.

"… tech …. fun .. bizarre … india …. pictures ….. anything in the world …."