Being more efficient with Google Chrome’s search engines feature

Google Chrome completely broke the mould when it was released in 2008. One of the many ways it did this was with the “omnibox”. Today, this feature is ubiquitous in all web browsers (such that you probably don’t even know what the omnibox is!), but it’s where you can enter a web address, or enter a term and search for that term, all from one convenient place (before that, there were separate boxes for each function – I know, crazy times!).

You set a default search engine so that if what you enter in the omnibox is not a valid URL, it will search that search engine for whatever you entered.

And that is where most people’s usage of the omnibox stops. However, there is a way that you can search all sorts of sites with great ease, something that I’ve been doing for many years, and which saves me a great deal of time instead of bouncing around various sites unnecessarily.

Choosing the right privacy tools

I try to stay on top of privacy issues, and I’m probably ahead of most people, but I’m also far from a leader in this area. Life is just too busy to stay on top of all of it.

Today however, I came across a website, which lists online privacy tools. It was surprisingly thorough and easy to navigate. All of the tools are sorted into categories (such as VPNs, web browsers, online maps, messaging clients etc.), and each tool has a very brief write-up of what sets them apart, and a simple rating.

How to automatically approve shifts in Microsoft Teams

Since COVID-19 came along and required us to have more space between people, it has been necessary to find tools which allow us to limit the number of people that work together in a given space.

As an Office Manager, I quickly found the Shifts tool in Microsoft Teams. It proved really promising, but after giving it a shot for a few weeks, I quickly found its biggest pain point: Teams requires you to approve a shift that someone signs up for.

That’s a necessary and useful step in many industries, such as hospitality, however, in my case, I wanted to create a set number of open shifts, to limit occupancy of our office to 25%, and just have people sign up for them on a first-come, first-served basis, but the manager approval step quickly became a bottleneck, especially when people were looking to come to the office on short notice.

I finally found a solution that I just tested which removes the manager approval step by automatically approving shift requests.

The Social Dilemma

“We live in a world in which a tree is worth more, financially, dead than alive, in a world in which a whale is worth more dead than live. For so long as our economy works in that way and corporations go unregulated, they’re going to continue to destroy trees, to kill whales, to mine the earth, and to continue to pull oil out of the ground, even though we know it is destroying the planet, and we know that it’s going to leave a worse world for future generations.

This is short term thinking based on this religion of profit at all costs, as if somehow, magically, each corporation acting in its selfish interest is going to produce the best result. This has been affecting the environment for a long time. What’s frightening and what hopefully is the last straw that will make us wake up as a civilization to how flawed this theory has been in the first place is to see that now we’re the tree, we’re the whale. Our attention can be mined. We are more profitable to a corporation if we’re spending our time staring at a screen, staring at an ad, than if we’re spending that time living our life in a rich way. And so we’re seeing the results of that. We’re seeing corporations using powerful artificial intelligence to outsmart us and figure out how to pull our attention toward the things they want us to look at rather than the things that are most consistent with our goals and our values and our lives.”

– The Social Dilemma

Use a Raspberry Pi to provide Dynamic DNS to your home network via Cloudflare

I have a home network that I routinely have need to access from remote locations. Up until now, I’ve just made do, by waiting to handle the tasks when I’m at home, or by physically going home in order to access the network.

The reason that accessing your home network from anywhere outside the home is problematic is because you most likely don’t have a static IP address from your ISP. That means that your IP address of your modem changes frequently, so if you want to even begin to access your home network from a distance, you need to know the address to reach it. When it changes all the time, that can be a problem. That’s where dynamic DNS comes in.

Dynamic DNS is a service that allows you to channel your ever-changing IP address to a static domain name. The idea is that even though your IP address changes all the time, you can enter a given domain name and that will point you to the correct IP address. When your IP address changes, you update the DNS for the domain name and it still gets you to your home network.

Create direct link to chat in Microsoft Teams without going through browser

A screenshot of a project dashboard for an engineering project in Microsoft OneNote

Lately, for my engineering projects, I’ve been creating “project dashboards” in OneNote for colleagues to find all of the key information, contacts and documents for the project.

I wanted to be able to link the names of key people directly to a chat window in Microsoft Teams to that you can just start chatting with them immediately.

I found a few guides online which recommend a URL scheme utilising https://teams.microsoft.com. I tested it out and it does indeed work, but it does so by opening a browser window first. Not only does this add to the delay, but it means opening extraneous tabs which need to be closed again. Since I’m all about efficiency, I wanted to find a way around that.

What Trump can teach us about Constitutional Law

I feel it is my civic duty to share with you my absolute favourite new podcast: What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law, or Trump Con Law for short.

Before you see the word Trump and instantly start forming opinions for yourself about what this podcast is, let me inform you. The beauty of this podcast is that it gives a really deep dive into constitutional law with a lot of case law, assuming that you have next to no knowledge of the Constitution, and the topics are prompted by the things that Trump says or does; that is, it takes current affairs, and looks at how the Constitution applies to them and provides the case law that establishes the precedents.

One of the main values of bringing Trump into the equation is not too rally behind him, or rail against him, but rather to give us context for these constitutional principles and how they apply to our lives.

Why I returned my Nest in favour of an Ecobee

I got a Nest thermostat about 18 months ago. I wanted to take advantage of its smart home capabilities and to use that to help reduce our electricity usage (both for its cost benefits and for the good it does the environment).

Nest seemed like a great choice. With all of the great rebates that were on offer to us in the Portland area, we paid very little for it, and we were excited about how we could customise our thermostat to do whatever we wanted.

Except, we couldn’t.

How to get trip data from Automatic into Google Maps

I’ve had Automatic for a few years now and it’s quietly been collecting a wealth of information about my driving habits. Usually, I’ve never had too much reason to want to use it in great detail, but after my cross-country road trip, moving from St. Petersburg, FL to Portland, OR, I really wanted to recall my route and use it to illustrate my travels.

I didn’t know until I started digging into it just how hard that is to do. Automatic stores the paths (routes) that you take as an encoded polyline, which makes sense for them, as it reduces the size of this information considerably, however it makes the data really hard to utilise and manipulate.

Here’s an example of what an encoded polyline looks like:

{[email protected][email protected]@[email protected]@[email protected]

Any idea what to do with that? Yeah. Nor did I. But after some perseverance (because I really wanted to use that data from my 4,100-mile trip!), I figured out a solution.