jpegMini: One Simple Step to a Faster Website

TLDR;

If you have a website, you should be using jpegMini. It is an amazing tool that decreases the size of (JPEG) image files without decreasing the visual quality of the images.

Why Does the Size of My Image Files Matter?

When someone visits a web page in a browser (ex. Google Chrome or Internet Explorer) the browser downloads all the files associated with that specific page to the local computer. The larger the files, the longer it takes for the download to complete. The web page can’t be fully loaded into the browser until the download is complete.

Most people won’t wait long for a page to load – after a few seconds most will browse to another website that offers the same information faster.

Decreasing the size of your images decreases the amount of data the browser needs to download which makes the page load faster and results in happy people (your viewers).

What Makes jpegMini So Special?

Some of the most popular options for reducing image file size are compressing, resizing, and (automatically) intelligently choosing images. Google has a great article explaining these and other methods of optimizing images.

jpegMini can be used alone or in combination with some or all of the above mentioned options and it will deliver size reduction even after all of the other options are run.

jpegMini uses complex algorithms to reduce the amount of data in the image while maintaining the same visual appearance. Essentially, the algorithms exploit the way our vision works – we don’t see perfectly and thus two similar images can appear identical to us.

Lets take a look at how this works in real life. I downloaded this image of a baby from Pixabay at 1920×1280 pixels. It is 521 KB in size. I run it through jpegMini and the file is now 226 KB – a 55%+ reduction in size! Try comparing the picture I linked to above with the jpegMini optimized file below.[1] Can you tell the difference? I didn’t think so!

Photo of Baby Sitting on Table Optimized by jpegMini

jpegMini is Free / Super Affordable!

You can download jpegMini for free and use it to optimize up to twenty images each day! This is more than enough for most small/medium sites.

If you want to optimize more images on a daily basis or simply express your appreciation for a great product, a license is $20.

There are several other options with jpegMini, most beyond what the average site requires – but these are also reasonably priced.

Do I Have to Be a Super Geek to Use jpegMini?

jpegMini is one of the simplest applications to use ever. Launch the application then drag and drop the file(s) you want optimized onto the application. Wait a few seconds and the files will be optimized and can be uploaded and used just like any other JPEG file on your website.

Conclusion

jpegMini is an awesome application that will help you reduce image size and thus reduce the load time of your website resulting in happy people. The application is easy to use and the price is right – what are you waiting for!

 

  1. [1]This image is smaller than the original image in canvas size. If you click on the image you can see the image at its full size.

Logos Offering 24 Free Books for Theological Studies

I just want to throw this out there, Logos is doing an advent giveaway in which they are giving away twenty-four different biblical resources that can be utilized in their Logos software.A drawing of books standing next to each other

You don’t have Logos? Good news, you can get the base install for free.

You don’t have to worry about having missed any of the free volumes either, each volume is unveiled on a separate day but the past volumes are also available (till the end of advent).

Note: Logos focuses on academic resources, I wouldn’t recommend these books to those beginning biblical studies (whether as a lay person or academically) with the exception of the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary.

Thus far the selection has included:

  • Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Hebrews – Based on the New Living Translation. This is a good commentary to have.
  • N.T. Wright’s Scripture and the Authority of God. – Wright is one of the most controversial and well-known contemporary theologians.
  • Calvin’s Calvinism (2 Volumes) – John Calvin was one of the most famous theologians of the Protestant Reformation and his thought has been integral to much of present-day theology.
  • Tabletalk Magazine Bundle: Christian History (11 Issues) – Covers the second to twelfth centuries of Christian history.

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow’s offers will be!

P.S. There are also a few other books Logos offers for free. Of these I’d most highly recommend :

  • Faithlife Study Bible – A constantly growing digital study bible. A great resource, fairly friendly for any reader.
  • Lexham Bible Dictionary – An awesome, constantly growing dictionary of the Bible. You don’t need to throw away those old, old print dictionaries you may have, but refer to the Lexham Bible Dictionary first to ensure you are learning about the latest studies. I find developments in understanding the Greek language and archaeological studies especially fascinating!
  • Crucial Questions Series (20 Volumes) by R.C. Sproul – I haven’t read these volumes myself, but Sproul has a solid reputation. His thought is from the Reformed school, which means an emphasis on predestination over free-will.
  • The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition – The Society for Biblical Languages (SBL) is well-known for its quality resources. If you want to read the New Testament in Greek, this can be a great Greek version to read.

Now How Do I Use This Old Scanner Again? NAPS2!

I have an old beast for a printer/scanner. It is nine years old in human years, which is like one hundred in technology years, but it gets the job done.

One problem I’ve run into repeatedly over the years is that of scanning software. At some point in the distant past the software that came with the scanner disappeared. Yes, one can still download the drivers off of the manufacturers site – but I’m talking about the software that makes the scanning process easier and more robust. Usually this software is from a third party company and thus the manufacturer’s site doesn’t include it as a download. So what is one to do?

Not Another PDF Scanner 2 ScreenshotYou’d think there must be tons of free software options out there for such a simple and fundamental application – you’d be surprised (at least I was). Over the years I’ve used numerous different applications to scan – some commercial trials (FileCenter being my preferred one, but way too expensive for an occasional scan) and lots of crappy free programs.

Well, no more. There is now an excellent, free, and open source option available called NAPS2 (Not Another PDF Scanner 2).

What makes it so great? I’m glad you asked!

  • File Format Support – It can create PDF, TIFF, JPEG, PNG, and other file types (I find the PDF support especially useful for multi-page documents).
  • Automatic Document Feeder / Duplex Support – ADF means that it can handle multiple pages without requiring user intervention and duplex means it can handle double-sided documents also without user intervention.
  • Simple Scan Management – Rotate pages, straighten images, crop, etc.
  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR) – Supports identifying the text in scanned documents.
  • Powerful – Need to automate your scanning using a command-line interface? How about distribute it via Group Policy? No problem.

Geeking Out: I Love Cloud9!

Introduction

LOVE Cloud9.

For the unGeeky

Me: Cloud9 is a development environment.

You: Great, that was singularly unhelpful.

Me: A development environment is the way one configures one’s computer to run the various applications used in programming (writing an application).

You: And this is so great because?

Me: Because setting up a development environment can be time consuming. There are usually a number of different applications you need to install and configuration changes that need to be made before the development environment is ready to use. For example, if you want to develop a PHP application (Wikipedia and WordPress are built on this) you’ll need an application to write code in as well as a web server to run the application. Most likely you’ll also need a database server to store all the data your PHP application works with.

In addition, programming can be messy and you may mess up your development environment and want to reinstall your Operating System (e.g. Windows, Mac OS X, Linux) – in which case you’ll have to do a bunch of work all over again to setup your development environment.

Personally, I like to have separate “workspaces” (aka development environments) for different projects. I may be writing a WordPress plugin in one development environment, experimenting with Node.js (currently one of the “hot” technologies), and have another project or two floating around. It helps me to keep things organized when my “workspace” only has the files related to the project I’m working on currently – and if I make any changes to configurations (e.g. to the web server) they will only effect this one project and not any other projects I am working on.

If you are looking to try out programming I’d recommend codeacademy and once you’ve got the swing of things, use Cloud9.

For the Geeky

Cloud9 provides a dockerized instance of Ubuntu preconfigured for development and a web-based IDE. It has prebuilt configurations for Node.js, LAMP, Python/Django, Ruby, C++, WordPress, Meteor, and HTML5.

Cloud9 IDE Screenshot
Screenshot from the Cloud9 IDE. Don’t be scared, you don’t have to have this many windows open at once.

For free you can create multiple workspaces, each workspace having 1 CPU, 512 MB of RAM, and 1 GB of HDD.

The IDE includes code completion, a JS/Node.js debugger, and a number of other features you can read about on their site.

It integrates seamlessly with Github and Bitbucket, allows you to share workspaces with others, provides a publicly accessible URL (if desired) so you can show off your application, and so on.

Looking to do a little WordPress development? You can have a workspace setup in under five minutes!

Ohh, and did I mention that the Code9 IDE is available via GitHub?

WinDirStat: What is Hogging All My Hard Drive?

An older software application, but a freebie and a goodie, is WinDirStat. If you ever find yourself running low on storage space on your hard drive – this application will quickly and intuitively give you a peak into what is consuming all that space.

Before you go out buying a bigger hard drive, using WinDirStat to see if there isn’t (and there probably is) some unneeded files or applications consuming major amounts of disk space.

Warning: You can totally ruin your computer by deleting the wrong files – so don’t go deleting files you aren’t sure about!

WinDirStat Screenshot

SaveUp: Get Money for Saving Money?

SaveUp is an interesting site. You associate a few of your bank accounts (credit, debit, school loans) to SaveUp and they then give you “credits” based on the amount you pay down. These “credits” can then be utilized to enter raffles or play various lottery-esque games. It takes maybe ten minutes to setup the first time and then perhaps two minutes a day to enter the various contests. I haven’t won anything yet – but I am competing for one of the biggest prizes ($50k).

Five Dollar Bill.
Five Dollar Bill.

This site could be useful for anyone, but I’d considered it especially useful for anyone who has a lottery card buying habit – here you can essentially do a lottery without spending any money…save a few bucks – still have the opportunity to win a few more.

What You Didn’t Know About Your Local Library.

Growing up I went to a tiny local library. Its hours were sporadic and it sprawled over the first floor of an 1800’s residential home that had been retrofitted for that use. It was a very, very small library – but I loved it.

© Icyimage | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images
© Icyimage | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

We’d make forays into Greenville to visit what became their much bigger library after they added a beautiful new addition and which also offered computers – which we could use to play games, etc. (I’m not sure the internet was an option for the first few years). Once in a while we’d even travel all the way down to Bethlehem to the monster library (which actually is decent sized, but not all that large).

Libraries where a second home for me. My mom would drop me off at one and I would stay for hours and hours. The library was a source of almost infinite knowledge – especially in those pre-internet days…and I loved knowledge.

I don’t go to libraries nearly as much these days – mainly because most of the information is now at my fingertips (and I don’t read fiction much)…but libraries aren’t relegated to irrelevance. They still house numerous books that provide deeper insights into a topic, they can get their hands on almost any book you could want (but don’t want to buy), and they offer a number of programs for children and adults – usually with an educational twist.

My local library is now the Langhorne branch. They’ve really done a beautiful job refurbishing the library – giving it a more coffeehouse/relaxing aesthetic. They have 10-20 computers that are available for public use and meeting rooms for special activities. Its a nice library – and if you want to make a trip out of the house – the library is an enjoyable (and free) place to go.

Ohh, and don’t forget about wireless internet access. Most libraries now offer free wireless internet access…and as the “Resources” page on the Bucks County Libraries’ website informs me – you can get access 24/7 by being just outside the library. Haha, this was kind of surprising – it sounds like they are inviting folks to come sit in the parking lot at all hours of the night? My guess is that in practicality, you might have a police officer visiting you one or more times during the night to see what you were up to…

In any case, what I really want to talk about is the digital resources that libraries make available. I can’t tell you exactly what resources are available at your library – but I will share with you some of the resources available through my library and I’d suggest that many (most?) libraries have similar offerings available…and they can be accessed directly from the comfort of your home (usually).

Magazines

Via Zinio my library offers access to a vast array of magazines in digital format. Here is a list of a few representative titles (but there are many, many more): AppleMagazine, Astronomy, Backpacker, Country Home, Bicycling, Billboard Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, Car and Driver, Consumer Reports, Cosmopolitan, Discover, Elle, Esquire, Field & Stream, Forbes, Fortean Times, Harvard’s Business Review, Ladies Home Journal, Men’s Health, National Geographic, Newsweek, O, PC Gamer, PC Magazine, PCWorld, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Redbook, Rolling Stone, The Economist, Us Weekly…oh boy, excuse me while I go lose myself permanently in the vast amount of quality reading material available!

Auto Repair

The libraries offer a number of resources called the “POWER Library” – this is probably available at most Pennsylvania libraries. One of these resources is an “Auto Repair Reference Center.” This is a treasure trove of information. Look up your specific vehicle’s model and see detailed instructions with images of how to perform various repairs and maintenance on your vehicle – or watch videos that explain how different components of vehicles work! Need to get an idea of what a repair is going to cost you? This can help on that front as well.

eBooks and Audio Books

The selection is much more limited than is available in the physical library – but that doesn’t keep there from being some excellent options available – you can’t argue with the convenience of never having to leave your home, wait in a line, or worry about late fees.

You’ll find books by Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code), John Grisham (the all-star of legal thrillers), Lee Child, George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones), J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings), Mitch Albom (The Five People You Meet in Heaven), J.K. Rowling (of Harry Potter fame), and Ted Dekker (Christian thriller author) amongst the many fiction titles available.

And what about for us non-fiction buffs? How about Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts, David Perlmutter’s Grain Brain, Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson, Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live (I recommend), Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Body,  and so on.

Tutoring

Need help with a school subject? There is plenty of free tutoring available – including through Brainfuse – for K through College covering Science, English, Math, Social Studies, and Writing. Instead of guessing at your homework – or your child’s homework – here is a chance to improve your understanding and grades.

So Much More…

And there are all sorts of other resources as well as you can see here. Legal, research, film, continuing education. So go check out your local library’s website and see what vast resources have been sitting untapped at your fingertips!

Free Caller ID for Your Android Smartphone

I hate the phone. I hate phone calls. I hate when I don’t know who is calling me – especially b/c that usually means it is a REALLY important call or that it is a telemarketing call. I’ve been using Contactive for a while now and it is pretty amazing – and the price is nice too (FREE).

Contactive Free Caller ID App for Android Image
The Contactive Android smartphone app provides effective crowdsourced caller ID for free.

Contactive pops up when an incoming call is occurring and shows the name of the person or organization calling, the phone number, and associated social network profiles. It integrates with a number of social networks to ensure that it has the fullest amount of contact info. available about your contacts – so even if someone isn’t in your phone’s address book, if they are your friend on a social network, Contactive can use social network info. to identify them.

Contactive uses a crowdsourced model for building its database of caller IDs. When a call is completed it allows you to choose if the caller ID was correct and if it wasn’t to recommend the correct name. Personally, I love this. There is something so satisfying about typing in the name of an annoying telemarketing company after they call…knowing that now every user of Contactive will never again have to be bothered.

To learn more about Contactive you can visit their website or go to the Google Play page to download the app right now.

Faithlife Study Bible (ITS FREE!)

I’ve been a pretty huge fan of the NLT Study Bible – and still am…but the Faithlife Study Bible by the folks over at Logos is garnering some of my attention as well.

Logos is primarily known for its Logos Bible Software – some of the premier software for academics and ministry “professionals” studying the Scriptures.

Faithlife Study Bible's Beta Logo.
Faithlife Study Bible’s Beta Logo.

The Faithlife Study Bible (FSB) isn’t a book you can purchase – rather it is available digitally – on the web, on iOS, Android, or the Kindle Fire. It integrates with Logos Bible Software and Vyrso eBooks – so anywhere you can use these, you can use it.

What I love about the FSB – and what I’ve been saying needs to happen for some time now – is that the FSB keeps growing. It isn’t a static entity. They are constantly adding new resources and notes to the Bible!

Ohh, and did I mention the Faithlife Study Bible is free? Yup, no strings attached, free. They are giving away 2.5 million copies – which I hope is a “gimmick” to get folks to download it now and that when they hit 2.5 million copies that they will continue to give it away for free…It would actually make business sense for them to do so imho, as individuals who come to love the FSB will be much more likely to purchase their Logos and Vyrso products.

And in fact, the stinkers make the FSB a non-annoying advertising tool for their Logos products already. You get tons of information in the FSB, but if you want an even more in-depth look at a topic they link out to various resources they have available that contain more in-depth information – but those you have to pay for. See, sneaky…but a great way to win new customers – and they aren’t giving a crappy product away just to get additional product purchases – the FSB is a robust resource in and of itself.

So what exactly does the FSB include? First off, it uses the Lexham English Bible (LEB) as the underlying bible translation. This translation is part of Logos’ publishing arm – which creates “digital first” products. The LEB is a new English translation of the Scriptures. The LEB is included free with FSB, but the FSB can be used with other translations as well (including the ESV, KJV, NKJV, NRSV, NASB95, and NIV2011).

It currently includes (and remember, this is always expanding) over 240 photos of biblical locales, over 35 videos, and over 120 infographics, timelines, and tables…and let me tell you, these are not you sub-par infographics, timelines, etc. one finds littered across the internet!

It also includes the Lexham Bible Dictionary (another “digital first” publication by Logos) which has over 2,700 articles on a variety of biblical topics.

There are a bunch of other features I haven’t explored too much – including some powerful community options to facilitate group study of Scripture (e.g. by a church or small group). Hopefully this has been enough to whet your appetite – go get your free copy of the FSB now. You won’t regret it.