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Applications Useful stuff Web/Tech

Cautionary tale about clearing your browser history

I cleared my Firefox cache in an attempt to resolve a slow performance issue. Boy, I didn’t realise how much I rely on my browser history to get things done every day.

I should have persisted with the performance issue …

Categories
Applications Games

Playing Dungeons and Dragons with Discord

I really enjoyed this Sly Flourish video about how to play Dungeons and Dragons with Discord:

I play DnD with my wife and daughter at home, so I don’t have an immediate need for this. At the same time, there are loads of people who find themselves playing remotely, so this is a compelling option.

Other tools

Even though we play in person, I’ve been using a number of digital tools to help manage our games.

DnD Beyond

I’ve been using DnD Beyond quite a bit lately. I’m trying out the paid, Master Tier subscription to manage our campaign. The subscription enables me to create encounters based on the characters’ levels (that translates into somewhat more accurate difficulty estimates).

I also like that I can share the digital books that I’ve purchased.

The Combat Tracker is terrific, and helps managing initiative, and monster damage a lot easier. This works hand-in-hand with the Encounter Builder. I’ve realised that creating encounters from within the campaign manager/page allows me to create campaign-specific encounters.

The DnD Beyond character sheets are also terrific. I only use the online version for my character, and my wife has switched over to that version for the most part, too.

The new digital dice are really nice too. I’m looking forward to trying those out too (although I think I prefer physical dice on the whole).

Notion

Notion has been really useful for my campaign notes, and tracking the party’s progress through a campaign. I add maps, tables to track overall encounters, XP awards, and even individual encounters (there’s some overlap here with the DnD Beyond Combat Tracker).

Options like inline tables, internal links, and other Notion blocks are proving to be really helpful, although I’d like to build page templates that I can start a new adventure with.

There are a number of terrific digital tools available to us. They add to in-person games too, and can really enhance online game play if you can’t meet up to play your games.


Image credit: Jack B on Unsplash

Categories
Applications Social Web Telecoms

Google Wave 2.0?

According to Ars Technica

Integrating the service into Gmail is an aggressive move and something we haven’t seen the company do since the Google+ days. Reportedly a lot more integrations are coming in the future—the G Suite team apparently wants to make some kind of “new unified communications app” that merges features from Gmail, Drive, Google Chat, and Google Meet.

Google Meet, Google’s Zoom competitor, gets wider Gmail integration

Is “Google Wave” still taken?

Categories
Blogs and blogging Coding Design Education People Tutorials

How Wes Bos built his new site

I’ve followed Wes Bos for a couple years now. I bought several of his courses, and look forward to when I have time to do his Beginner JavaScript — Learn JavaScript from Scratch course. He recently rebuilt his personal site using Gatsby.JS, and published both a post and a video explaining how he did it:

The details of his site are pretty technical, and the code is available on GitHub if you want to fork the repo, and take a closer look yourself.

I don’t see myself reproducing what he’s done, and building a new site for myself in the foreseeable future. That said, I have tremendous respect for Wes Bos, and how he approaches his work.

He shares openly, offers pricing for his courses that make it much more affordable (I especially appreciate that), and he produces really good quality content.

If you’re interested in how to build a really fast, static site using the Gatsby.JS framework, definitely take a look at his post and video tour. If you’re interested in learning how to code in JavaScript and JavaScript frameworks like React, check out his courses.


Featured image credit: Wes Bos (I took this version from his GitHub repo).

Categories
Applications

Exploring Notion as an Evernote alternative

I found myself exploring Notion as an Evernote alernative again, yesterday. I looked at it briefly about a year ago, and it didn’t seem like something that was worth switching to at the time. After all, I’ve been using Evernote for years, and given how much I was using Evernote, I wasn’t sure that investing in a new service was worth it.

My prompt to explore Notion originated in my thoughts about my Dungeons and Dragons adventure notes, and my curiosity about it as a possible replacement for my handwritten notes (handwritten notes leave me feeling a little twitchy because there aren’t any backups).

An example of my adventure notes

I found a couple great discussions online about the tools that other DMs use for their adventures. Popular options include OneNote, Evernote, a number of services designed for role-playing games, and Google Drive.

I found a couple discussions about Notion as an option, too. One reddit user posted an intriguing Notion page template that they use for their adventure notes.

What I like about Notion

There’s a lot to like about Notion. It uses blocks, much like the WordPress Editor, to insert different types of content into your pages. Evernote supports some options, but my inability to add media from other sources (or even, in some cases, directly), feels somewhat limiting when I want to create richer notes.

For example, my options for adding content in the Evernote Web editor (probably on the leading edge of where the editor is going) look like this:

By contrast, I can embed a YouTube video in Notion much like I can do this in WordPress:

I keep mentioning the WordPress editor. The reason for the comparisons is that I really like using the block editor to add different types of content to my posts and pages. It’s a remarkably flexible editor that gives anyone the ability to create some really interesting, and complex layouts, pretty easily.

Some of the other Notion features that I enjoy, and that I’d love to see in Evernote (or any similar service I use) include –

  • Support for Markdown;
  • The ability to link to individual blocks on a page;
  • The option to create a wide variety of page types, including simpler databases that I could refer back to later in other pages; and
  • Frankly, Notion is cheaper than Evernote (almost $20 a year cheaper relative to the Evernote Premium plan that I’m on).

I also like how easy it is to import my notebooks from Evernote into Notion. I ran a test import of my DnD notebook, and it generated a really handy index page with links to the individual “notes” (or sub-pages):

Room for improvement

All that said, moving to Notion isn’t an easy decision. For one thing, Notion lacks the powerful search features that Evernote has. Evernote will not only search your notes’ text, it also does OCR-based searches on your note attachments.

This is an extremely useful feature because it means that all of those PDFs, and images containing some sort of text, become searchable. This isn’t the case with Notion, currently. They are working on improving search, but OCR is probably a way off:

https://twitter.com/NotionHQ/status/1245123301694779393?s=20

I also use the Evernote add-on for Gmail to quickly archive emails that I want to refer to down the line. I don’t see a similar option for Notion, or even an email address that I can forward emails to.

A small issue that I noticed is that I also can’t change the storage location for Notion on my Android device. I made the mistake of buying a phone with 32GB of storage, so space on the device is at a premium.

Not being able to move the app’s storage to the SD card on the phone is a challenge.

Can Notion replace Evernote (for me)?

Currently, I’m not sure. I still want to spend more time experimenting with Notion, and may use it to create my next DnD adventure as a sort of “real life” test.

The search feature limitation is, well, a limitation. I add PDFs to my notes because I want to reference them later. Many of them are already searchable, so not being able to tap into the text that’s there already isn’t ideal.

For now, though, I like what I see, and it’s certainly worth exploring further. If the search feature is updated to at least include PDFs with searchable text, Notion starts to become a pretty compelling alternative to Evernote.

My Evernote Premium subscription is up for renewal in June, so I have a little time to decide whether to continue.

If anything, the (sneaky) credit that Notion gives users switching from Evernote makes a Personal plan that much more affordable, so switching is pretty easy, once I make the decision (on a related note, here’s a helpful perspective: Switching From Evernote To Notion – Alex Svanevik – Medium).

Categories
Education Mindsets

If the coronavirus doesn’t kill us, distance learning just might

The speed at which many schools have closed, and kids and educators have had to switch to distance learning platforms have caused quite a bit of frustration, especially for parents overwhelmed with the sudden influx of messages.

Here’s a funny (and true) rant from an Israeli mother who found herself overwhelmed by the flood of messages on WhatsApp, and expectations from teachers that she (and we) be able to fill the gap left by in-person learning.

The Internet can be a tremendous distance learning platform. It just takes some planning to deliver a more rational, and accessible distance learning system.

On a related note, my wife and I are compiling distance learning resources over at our Stuff to Teach Your Kids site. So head over there to see what’s available to your kids:

Categories
Education Wellbeing

Why soap is the nemesis of the coronavirus

You already know that we should wash our hands (frequently) for at least 20 seconds, but do you know why soap is so effective against the coronavirus? Here’s a great explanation from Vox:

On a related note, it’s also worth watching this video:

A quote from the video that stands out for me is this one:

To slow the virus down, you need to act as if you already have it …

Why fighting the coronavirus depends on you

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Giorgio Trovato
Categories
Applications

Brave browser seems to protect our privacy the most

I’ve been curious about the Brave browser for a little while now, and I’ve switched to Brave for any Chromium-based browser stuff I do (testing, browsing on sites that don’t support Firefox, and so on).

I found this Ars Technica post interesting. They summarise a study into browsers and privacy, and found that Brave probably protects our privacy the most:

Specifically, the study examined the browsers’ sending of data—including unique identifiers and details related to typed URLs—that could be used to track users over time. The findings put the browsers into three categories with Brave getting the highest ranking, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari receiving a medium ranking, and Edge and Yandex lagging behind the rest.

Study ranks the privacy of major browsers. Here are the findings | Ars Technica

I still default to Firefox (specifically Firefox Developer Edition). At the same time, I’m happy to keep exploring the Brave alternative.