Monthly Archives: February 2009

How Can I Sync Bookmarks Across All Browsers? [Ask Lifehacker]

Dear Lifehacker,
How can I sync favorites in Opera, IE7, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox? Is there any way to do it, beside manually export everyone and then painfully editing the HTML?

Best Regards from a Daily Reader

Dear Daily Reader,

For Firefox and Internet Explorer, at least, we’ll whole-heartedly recommend the newly IE-friendly and Safari-friendly Foxmarks. It doesn’t have the password support of its Firefox iterations, but it does do an admirably swift job of keeping your bookmarks and toolbar favorites synced up in the background.

As for Chrome and Opera, well, that’s a trickier task. If you’re using all four browsers equally, you might want to consider using the long-standing, well-tested Delicious as your primary bookmarking tool, since its accessible from anywhere, keeps everything in sync with or without your action, and has handy bookmark bar tools for reading and saving bookmarks from any browser. When you import your bookmarks from any browser, they’ll be set to private by default, saving you a whole bunch of work. The minor pain is that new bookmarks can’t be set to private by default (correct me if I’m wrong, readers!), but it’s truly the only way to keep your bookmarks in sync without a lot of import/export/save shuffling.

Unless, of course, one of our readers have a smart solution for shuttling or syncing each browser's HTML bookmark files around—maybe an AutoHotKey script? A clever use of syncing tool Dropbox, similar to how we utilize it as the ultimate password syncer?

Peace and soul,


Run Silverlight Plug-In on Google Chrome [Google Chrome]

For those Google Chrome users who need access to one or two Silverlight sites, a Microsoft developer offers a file-tweaking work-around to get access to certain sites.

The Chrome/Silverlight hack requires grabbing a few .js files normally intended for Silverlight developers and tweaking them to have Silverlight sites accept and provide content to Chrome. By downloading the .js files and modifying them a bit, you should be able to access, as the developer rates it, “most” Silverlight apps, but your mileage will certainly vary.

Automatically Clean Up Your Downloads Folder with Belvedere [File Management]

Over at his home away from ‘hacker, the How-To Geek has put together an excellent guide to automatically cleaning your downloads folder with Belvedere, Lifehacker’s very own automated file management tool.

Of course, we gave you a cursory overview of how to use Belvedere on the download page, but the Geek’s guide suggests a few smart rules you can set up for cleaning old ZIP and EXE downloads, moving images to your Pictures folder, music to your Music folder, and so on. We’re obviously big fans of Belvedere (and so are you, it seems), so it’s nice to see a step-by-step guide to putting it to good use.

Of course, Download management isn’t all you can do with Belvedere. If you’ve got your own favorite use for the automated file manager, let’s hear about it in the comments.

Get Hulu Content on Your TV without Hulu’s Help [Hulu]

Let’s say a certain web site you liked went and did something kind of stupid, and now the TV shows you were watching legitimately on your actual TV have suddenly disappeared. Guess what? There are other options.

That's right, there's BitTorrent—the file sharing protocol that so many people were using before they were finally offered a content provider-approved method of watching the shows they love. In the end, it wasn't about the commercials—it was about the convenience. People were happy to watch Hulu on their TVs via Boxee, and yeah, sit through the Hulu commercials, because it was more convenient than hassling with BitTorrent downloads. It’s not about piracy or “stealing” from content providers because people are malicious like that; it’s about convenience.

Let’s say that I’m already paying for cable, but I didn’t watch the show when it aired. Sure, I could watch it on Hulu on my laptop, but I want to watch it on my TV. And why shouldn’t I be able to? What’s the difference between serving ads through my monitor and my HDTV? I’ll still sit through them, because they’re more convenient than the alternative. Yeah, more convenient than BitTorrent. Or at least it was.

But BitTorrent’s not that inconvenient, especially after Hulu’s content providers reject progress in favor of their tried and true one-step-forward, two-steps-back philosophy of progress. BitTorrent is easy to get the hang of, people.

Upset users can easily follow our beginner’s guide to BitTorrent, and spice up their skills with our intermediate guide. If they’re really savvy, they can even do their best to protect their privacy from prying eyes. But it doesn’t end there!

BitTorrent users can subscribe to shows and automatically download them as soon as they’re available using tools like the previously mentioned Ted or by setting up feeds in their BitTorrent client of choice with sites like previously mentioned FeedMyTorrents. It’s not hard, trust us.

Keep in mind, we're not saying "Go pirate every Hulu show now that Hulu won't let you watch it the way you want to." But that is what people will do. Everyone watching Hulu through Boxee is an early adopter—they know how to make things work. The point is—as O'Reilly's Mark Hedlund articulated better than we could:

I’m sure Hulu is totally pissed. They pretty much said just that in a somewhat more stilted way. The real insult, though, is calling the people who made them cut Boxee off "content providers." They might as well have told the studios they are the moral equivalent of the guy schlepping reels around the projector booth. Someone will win this war eventually, they seem to be saying, and you could have helped make it us. Now you have a choice: someone else — not you, someone smart — will win instead, or you can change your mind.

That’s pretty much my view, too. DVDs (mentioned in the note at the start) became a big boon for the studios, once their crazy ideas about self-destructing Divx discs went the way of the Dodo. The studios have a very long history of betting against technology people want, and on technology people don’t want. This is just another such case. The technology people want always wins in the end — no duh — and usually benefits the businesses who fought that technology to the death. Here's hoping the technology people want — Boxee — doesn't wind up benefiting the studios fighting it now.

Did you feel the sting from the Hulu block—whether it was the Boxee or block? Let's hear your reaction in the comments.


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Xcode Expert Preference Settings

Beyond the settings you can access from the Preferences menu of Xcode, there are a number of configurable options that can be set using the defaults command from a terminal window.
Two of the settings that I have configured are to beep when a left bracket ( ] ) is entered without a matching right bracket, […]

Jump to a New Career with a Killer Resume and Plan [How To]

Whether you're suddenly unemployed or just looking to change up, starting out in a new career is daunting. Take our advice on how to write—and plan—your way into a new field.

Photo by Yo Spiff.

Why switch careers?

Blogger, career writer, and Brazen Careerist founder Penelope Trunk knows from jumping ship. From her own ups and downs at work, both office-based and freelance, she’s compiled a (relatively) low-stress approach to making the switch. More important: She lists reasons why you should and shouldn’t move on:

Here are some bad reasons to switch careers:
1. You hate your boss. (Switch jobs, not careers.)
2. You want more prestige. (Get a therapist – you’re having a confidence crisis, not a career crisis.)
3. You want to meet new people. (Try going to a bar, or Club Med. What you really want is to get a life. Pick up a hobby.)

Here are some good reasons to switch careers:
1. You want a role that is more creative, more analytic or more management-oriented.
2. You want to live in a location that does not accommodate your current career.
3. You want more flexibility or fewer hours.

Drafting the resume

Now that you’ve set your mind to making the big move, let’s talk text.

Alexandra Levit, career specialist and author of How’d You Score That Gig?, graciously offered to provide some guidance on writing a resume for a new career path:

  • Getting past the minimum requirements: Use a functional format that lists achievements by general skill area. Most fields want your transferable skills, like project management and client relations.

    For example, if you spent a few years working at a toy store, but you want to get into architecture, you might highlight a project management skill and say that you managed a semi-annual special parents night, which included activities geared toward 150 regular customers. You should also focus on results you've achieved rather than job responsibilities—so instead of just saying that you sold infant-related toys and merchandise, you could say that you were named as the top infant toy salesperson, generating revenues of approx. $20K. By doing these things, you show that you have the right combination of talent and skills to get the job done, even if you don't have specific experience in that industry.

  • Avoid looking like a job-hopper: Hold each job for at least a year before you consider a change. Individuals who switch more often become known as chronic job jumpers, and employers either consciously or subconsciously avoid these candidates. Especially in this competitive climate, when a hiring manager sees a resume listing four jobs in three years, he won’t wait to hear your explanation. He’ll think that you can’t hold down a job, and he will move on to the next person.

    If you do have a history of moving around a lot, I suggest removing the months from your chronology line. For example, saying that you worked at a place from 2007-2008 sounds a lot more palatable than November 2007-March 2008. Also, if you have JUST quit a job or have been laid off, say that you have been at your last position from 2006 to present.

As for the rest of your text, we’ll recommend one of the five tactics we’ve suggested to rebuild your resume: Start with a list of reasons why you’re great, then distill it into your resume. All the other stuff—fonts, vertical bars, exact wording of "coffee-grabbing intern"—is just finesse. Start with a blank text editor or sheet of paper, and start throwing down whatever skills you have that the others don't. By doing so, you form the basis for a punchy, concise resume, and (bonus!) you hone your talking points for your interview. Photo by emdot.

Now onto the cover letter, often as important in getitng a hiring manager’s attention:

Don’t bore your next employer with your layoff story

Cynthia Shapiro, career strategist and author of What Does Somebody Have to Do to Get a Job Around Here?, points out to the Wall Street Journal that taking the time to explain your layoff not only wastes cover letter space, but won’t win you many sympathy points these days, as there are a lot of layoff stories to be told.

When applying, avoid expressing bitterness or self-pity. Many layoff victims send cover letters that blame the economy for their job loss, says Ms. Shapiro. There’s no need to even point out the fact that you’ve been laid off. “If your last work day was in October, your résumé will say that,” she explains.

Photo by sunshinecity.

In the same article, an IBM hiring manager notes that in a crowded, competitive group of candidates for a consulting job, what helped her pick the winner was a “can-do attitude.” More importantly, that applicant didn’t make a lot of requests, requirements, or pitch themselves for an exact job doing a precise thing. Get the job first, then work your way into the working environment you dream of.

What to expect (and plan for)

Not to keep hitting on the suck-it-up nail, but crossing into an entirely new realm of experience and work probably requires a bit of sacrifice. To jump-start a stalled job search, you might have to start humble and work your way into career confidence.

Career specialist Levit explains that process in detail for us:

  • Ease into a new career one foot at a time: Perhaps this means earning a paycheck at a more attainable job while doing a part-time internship in your new field, or taking an adult education class or workshop on the weekend. The only way to find out if you’re passionate about something is to try it – ideally with as little risk as you can manage.
  • Remember that any progress is good progress: In the quest to uncover a source of meaningful work, your worst enemy is inertia. Make an effort to do one thing, like e-mailing a networking contact or attending an event, every morning, every day, or before you do something else—that moves you a bit closer to your big-picture goal.
  • Have realistic expectations: Even if you’re lucky enough to finally get and hold a job in your dream career, there’s no such thing as the perfect work situation; dream job doesn’t mean “cushy” job. As your mom always told you, anything worth having in this world requires some effort. There will be some days you feel like shutting the alarm off and going back to sleep, especially if you’re being made to do grunt work at first, but many more ahead where you feel more energized by the prospect of work than you ever thought possible!

Your advice

If you've successfully gone from apples to oranges in your career, or even just from apples to different-colored, slightly sweeter apples, by all means—tell us how you got there in the comments.

iPodME Converts Your Video to iPod Friendly Format [Downloads]

Windows only: If you’re looking for a fire-and-forget video converter to help stock your iPod, iPodME is a dead simple and lightweight tool for bulk converting your video files.

iPodME is a completely portable standalone application—a GUI wrapper of the venerable ffmpeg for the curious among you. Operation is as simple as running the application, dragging and dropping a list of video files you want to convert onto it, and adjusting the basic video settings. You can select the video dimensions and the quality using the plain English metric provided–slow, quality or turbo, size for instance—to determine the conversion speed. If you dig into the options menu you can also tweak the process priority. The default for the application is to take advantage of idle cycles and back off when you're actually attempting to do work. Using the fast, quality setting and leaving it on the default of idle, it took approximately one hour to convert 20 episodes of Fraggle Rock into iPod-compatible MP4 files. An unexpected bonus in such a small package is support for SRT subtitle files, if you have them for your favorite foreign media you can embed them as you convert. If you’d like more fine tuned control over your video conversions, check out the candidates in the Hive Five Best Media Converters and the Top 10 Free Video Rippers, Encoders, and Converters to fulfill your tweaking needs.

PropertyShark Dishes the Dirt on Your Future Home [Real Estate]

PropertyShark is an astoundingly detailed real estate search engine. By aggregating public records, it provides an in-depth look at individual homes, and the real deal on your potential new neighborhood.

Enter an address into one of the markets currently covered by PropertyShark—it's unfortunately a little coast-centric at the moment, without much middle-of-the-country coverage. If PropertyShark can access the direct records of the property it will do so; if not, you get a summary of the surrounding area using a nearest-neighbor system. You can review a dizzying amount of information, like the current owners, most recent sale, sales history, assessments, and taxes. There are multiple maps that show how the building you searched for stacks up against the surrounding area, how tall surrounding buildings are, how frequently buildings have been sold, and much more. You can also review charts of the neighborhood with all kinds of breakdowns, such as percentage of households with families and age distributions.

PropertyShark is a handy tool for getting a feel for the neighborhood before investing the time and footwork into actually visiting it. It’s a free service, based on public records.

Todo.txt CLI Manages Your Tasks from the Command Line [Lifehacker Code]

Dozens of fancy point-and-click task managers promise to organize your to-do list, but so often power users find that nothing outdoes that trusty old classic: the todo.txt file.

If you’re a command line lover who skips checkboxes and drop-downs to dash off notes and tasks in a regular old text file, or you’re intrigued by the idea and wish your todo.txt chops were stronger, read on.

I’ve been a heavy todo.txt user for years. Back in 2006, I started developing a command line interface (CLI) to my todo.txt which lets me add to and check off items without launching a full-on text editor. Three years of daily (or at least weekly) use later, version 2.0 of the script is now available. It offers basic to advanced commands for managing your todo.txt and other text files you might use to capture information, like ideas.txt or maybelater.txt. Let’s take a look.

Who This Is Meant For: If you’re comfortable working in the terminal, changing permissions on a file, and working with Unix-style text commands, then the todo.txt CLI is for you. If you don't spend a good amount of time at the command line—either in the Terminal on your Mac, or using a Unix command line or emulator on Windows—you're going to think this whole thing is arcane and confusing. (In that case, we highly recommend getting organized with Remember the Milk. If you want to boost your command line chops on Windows, check out our introduction to Cygwin.)

You’ve already got CLI religion? Good. Let’s get started on some hot todo.txt command line action.

Quick Start Guide:

  1. Download the Todo.txt CLI 2.0 zip file and extract it. You’ll get two files. Place both todo.cfg (the configuration file) and in your home directory.
  2. Open the todo.cfg file with your text editor of choice. Set the TODO_DIR variable to the right path for your setup. For example, on my Windows PC, this line reads:
    TODO_DIR="C:/Documents and Settings/gina/My Documents"
    On my Mac, this line reads:
  3. Make the file executable by using the command: chmod +x
  4. (OPTIONAL) Alias the letter t to to save keystrokes while you use it. In your ~/.bash_profile file, add the line:
    alias t='~/'

Now you’re ready to put this script to work!

Basic Usage

Before we start, keep in mind that this CLI isn’t trying to reinvent the text editor. If you want to do big bulk edits to a lot of items in your todo.txt, just open it up in your favorite text editor to do so. But for quick, one-hit access to add items, mark items as complete, or slice and dice your list by project or priority, is for you.

For example, to add a line to your todo.txt file, at the command line, type:

$ t add "Pick up milk"

Add a few more items for good measure:

$ t add "Pick up the dry cleaning"
$ t add "Clean out the inbox"

Now, to see all the items on your list, use:

$ t ls

The output will look like this:

$ t ls
03 Clean out the inbox
01 Pick up milk
02 Pick up the dry cleaning
TODO: 3 tasks in C:/Documents and Settings/gina/My Documents/todo.txt.

Now, you can reference each item by its ID—which is actually the line number it lives at in the todo.txt file. For instance, to prioritize task 1 to the highest level—priority A—use this command:

$ t pri 1 A

To mark task 2 as complete, use‘s do action:

$ t do 2

Since a video is worth a million words, see this in action in this screencast demonstration of a to-do list you might find for a crew member on Battlestar Galactica. (Go full-screen to see what’s being typed more clearly.)

If this video clip isn’t clear enough for you, try this alternate high-res location.

Advanced Usage

Once you’ve got the basics of working with your todo.txt down, it’s time to dive into more advanced tricks. Here are a few more things this CLI can do.

  • Replace or delete a task; append or prepend text to a line. When you want to re-word a task or add a context, project, or additional info to it, use the replace, append, and prepend actions to do so. For example, add “ready at 3PM” to your “Pick up the dry cleaning task” with this command:

    $ t append 2 "ready at 3PM"

  • See all the contexts and projects in your list. If you’re using the + and @ sign format to signify projects and contexts, use the listcon and listproj (or lsc and lsprj for short) commands to see a short list of all your contexts or projects in your todo.txt.
  • Move items from your todo.txt to another text file. Say you've decided that the "Learn how to speak French" task is actually something you're not quite committed to doing—yet. Use‘s mv command to zip that task from todo.txt to another text file in your todo directory. For example, this command will move it into a maybelater.txt file:

    $ t move 10 maybelater.txt

  • List the contents of another text file. Since I got so used to working with todo.txt this way, there’s now support for working with other text files. For example, you can list the contents of your maybelater.txt file using the command:

    $ t listfile maybelater.txt

    Likewise, you can add a line to another file using:

    $ t addto ideas.txt "My bright idea"

    You can also search the contents of another text file by adding a keyword after the list command, ala:

    $ t lf ideas.txt apple

See all the options available to you using the -h command. The full usage manual is available here.

Further Info and Related Projects

The todo.txt CLI has lived over at its official homepage,, for years now, and although I haven’t posted an update there since 2006, an active mailing list of over 500 members is still going strong. Since this project is open source, happily several other todo.txt projects have sprung up over the years, including Task, which offers even more features than my little script does.

If you’re a programmer who wants to add to this script or a user with questions or ideas about the todo.txt CLI, either post them here or consider joining the mailing list for support. For a full history of this script's development—including its three-year hiatus—see its full changelog.

Think using a command line interface to a text file is insane or fantastic (or both)? Tried out todo.txt? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Gina Trapani, Lifehacker’s founding editor, is still married to her todo.txt file even after a sordid affair with Remember the Milk. Her weekly feature, Smarterware, appears every Wednesday on Lifehacker. Subscribe to the Smarterware tag feed to get new installments in your newsreader.

Command-line Fu: post and vote on command-line snippets

Command-line Fu

Here’s a great resource for command-line geeks; you can browse and vote on snippets that people have posted and upload your own:

Command-Line-Fu is the place to record those command-line gems that you return to again and again.

Delete that bloated snippets file you’ve been using and share your personal repository with the world. That way others can gain from your CLI wisdom and you from theirs too. All commands can be commented on and discussed – digg-esque voting is also encouraged so the best float to the top.

Command-line Fu [via Free Like GNU]

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