How to get started with Twitter

I have several friends who "just don’t get" Twitter.  And I know why – they are not USING Twitter.  They are just looking at the Public Timeline and wondering, "Why do I care about this crap"?

And that is fair.  But that isn’t Twitter.  At least not the best of Twitter.

Twitter becomes interesting (and useful) when you follow people that have similar interests, people who make you laugh, people who make you think, or you get similar people following you.  To accomplish that you have to be actively involved in Twitter – that doesn’t mean running it 24/7.  It does mean getting involved though.

I have four uniquely different groups of Twitter Friends.  Those that follow me for a variety of reasons, those I follow for business, those I follow to learn from, and those I follow to have fun with. It is easy for me to separate the three groups – because I pay attention to them based on the time of day.  During the day, I focus on people I learn from, and people I am invested in from a work standpoint.  Late at night I like to have fun with another group (although many individuals cross-over).

If you are just starting on Twitter you need to find interesting, and interested people.  Two quick ways to do that:

1) Go to and type in a keyword you are interested in – like WiFi, or Microsoft.  Follow some of the people you see Tweeting things you find interesting.  Rinse and repeat.

2) Find people close to you – it is always nice to know that a Freeway is closed, or that school is canceled tomorrow.  Or even that a tornado is headed your way.  You can find people in your area on  Don’t narrow your search too tightly – search for your city, or the nearest large city to start.  Again, find people that say interesting things and follow them. Rinse and repeat.

Twitter will ONLY work for you if you follow people – and don’t worry – you can always UN-follow them later.

But don’t stare as the public timeline flies past your screen and tell me you "don’t get it".  You can’t learn programming by clicking on executables, and you can’t learn to bake by eating donuts!

If you "don’t get" Twitter then you are lazy – or scared of "following" – or you just don’t want to get it.

And if those three things do not apply to you, and you still don’t get it – call me – let me help.  But first you need to follow at least 50 people. If you can’t find 50 interesting people on Twitter you are not trying.

PS – Download a Twitter Client Application – like Twhirl.  It takes your focus away from the public timeline and focuses on you, and your friends, and followers – and their friends (which may quickly turn into your friends).

Really.  Don’t dismiss this too quickly. 

Twitter and Track


Update – as of today, 29MAY08 Twitter Track is disabled. I will update this post when it is turned back on.

Twitter has been described as a “micro-blogging tool”. And it is that. It is also a chat client.

And it is an extremely useful research tool. By tracking specific keywords (your company name for example) you can obtain a near-real-time feed anytime anyone on Twitter mentions your company.

First, the “Track” command. According to the Twitter FAQ:

What is tracking?
Tracking is an SMS or IM only feature that allows you to receive all twitters that match a word you’re tracking. For example, if you send track Obama, you will receive all updates that match “Obama.” All updates sent from tracking will begin with parenthesis. You can easily stop getting these messages by sending untrack Obama.

So using track is quite simple. From your cell phone your could use a Twitter Mobile Client and send Twitter a message like “track Microsoft” and you would receive a message every time Microsoft is mentioned. Of course, receiving an update every time someone mentions Microsoft is probably not what you want to do on your cell phone.

talk_logo And that is where GTalk comes in. GTalk is a Google Chat Client. And it works wonderfully with the Twitter Track function.

And if you have a GMail account (get one here for free) GTalk can also automatically archive all of your “Tweets and Tracks” into your GMail account.

After downloading and installing GTalk (and creating an account) you can now add Twitter to GTalk You do this on by going to the Settings page and clicking on the “Devices” tab.


Enter your GMail address and select GTalk from the drop-down menu.

Click “Save”


You will be prompted to send a unique code back to Twitter from within GTalk


Just type in the code in the GTalk Chat window (after selecting from the user list) and press enter.


Nearly instantly (assuming GTalk/Twitter are both functioning) you will receive a response from Twitter.

Now you are set.


To track something (Microsoft for example), just type “track microsoft” into the chat window. Twitter replies letting you know it heard your request. And as you can see, it took only seconds to get a result.

To stop tracking type “untrack microsoft”.

You can also correspond with all of your Twitter friends with GTalk. Let me know you got this working by sending “@kr8tr – Tracking is set up” or something similar to me!

Of course, for normal Twitter use, I recommend Twhirl – and Adobe AIR-based application that has a lot more bells and whistles for Twitter.

And soon you’ll be able to use Track in Twhirl as well.

Final notes on Track – it does NOT pay attention to punctuation, so Tracking “@kr8tr” is the same as Tracking “kr8tr”. Track also ignores CASE.

And as of now, there is no filtering in Track – so you will get every instance of the word you track, even if it includes words you would rather not see. I expect this to be addressed (at least at the Twitter client level) very soon. In fact, the CEO of Seesmic was interviewed on The Gillmor Gang and committed to adding these features to Twhirl very soon.

FreeNAS Tutorial for Windows Users – Part 6 – Adding a Drive

Since I get a lot of searches for various FreeNAS "stuff" I keep an eye out for trends, and add to this series when I see people looking for specific information.

Lately I have seen a lot of people searching for "adding another drive to FreeNAS", so here is a brief tutorial.

I am using a virtual machine, with a virtual disk to create the screen shots – don’t let that bother you – it’s the exact same process with a "real" computer and a physical drive!

I am assuming that you know how to physically install a hard drive.  If not, do a search for "installing second hard disk" in your favorite search engine.

fn1 Open the admin window in your browser and select "Disks: Management" from the sidebar.  You will see a screen similar to the image at the left.  Note that you have to click the little "plus-circle" (highlighted in yellow) to add a drive.
fn2 The most critical thing now is to make sure you select your new drive.  Chances are it will be the only drive listed. 

Select the drive from the drop-down list.  Set your power preferences (I always allow the drive to sleep after 10 minutes and set "use minimum power with Standby" and "Minimum performance, Minimum acoustic output".  This allows you to save as much power as possible at the minor expense of having to wait a second for the drives to spin up when you access them.

Finally, select the File System type – if this is a new drive with no data on it, leave this blank.  We’ll format it in a second. If it is already formatted, and has data you wish to keep, then select the correct File System for the existing data and skip the formatting step below!

Click the "Add" button.

FN3 To save your changes click on the "Apply" button.
fn4 Assuming this is a new disk, it will need to be formatted.  Select Disk:Format from the navigation menu.

Select your new disk from the drop-down menu. Be very careful to select the correct disk – all data on it will be lost.

Leave the file system as "UFS" and type in a name for the disk (volume label).

Leave the minimum space alone and click  on "Format Disk".  Depending on the size of the disk this could take seconds, or minutes.  Once the process completes, go back to the Disk:Management.

fn5 As highlighted here, you can see that the disk is now "online".  You can now set up shares on the drive and start using it! 

For more information on setting up shares see Part Two of my FreeNAS Tutorial (link below).


You can find my FreeNAS posts/Tutorials here:

WordPress 2.5 issues

Besides my earlier post where I complained about the Widget/Sidebar interface, I have also found three people now who did not have their upgrades complete for some reason. It appears some files, specifically in the wp-admin folder, are NOT getting copied over on the first attempt.

If you see something flaky in the Admin Section (missing buttons, garbled screens, etc) then download WP 2.5 again (to make sure you had a “good” copy of the files) and then re-copy the files to your blog.

Also, Windows Live Writer, which was working fine before the upgrade, now gives me an error when I post. My post IS published to my blog, but WLW makes it appear as if it hasn’t been. I’ll look into this more later.

SyncToy v2.0 Beta – Command Line

I get a lot of Google Search hits for this information on SyncToy, so here it is. There is actually a separate executable for running command line options called SyncToyCmd (brilliant!).

Anyway, here is the info.

Usage: SyncToyCmd [-args]
All arguments are optional.
-R Run all folder pairs that are marked as Active for Run All.
-R<name> Run the named folder pair only.
-? Display this help.

SyncToyCmd -RMyFolderPair
SyncToyCmd -R